Carlo Ancelotti witnessed first-hand the strong nature of English football as his unbeaten Chelsea side faced a physical Stoke outfit. The imposing figures Ricardo Fuller and Dave Kitson up-front caused John Terry and Ivanovic a host of problems all afternoon.
It was one of StokeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s giants that opened the scoring at the Britannia Stadium just past the half hour mark. Abdoulaye Faye ventured forward and met an in swinging cross from Glenn Whelan. Cech started to run off his line before backtracking but it was too late. Faye looped a header into the vacant Chelsea goal.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis would have wanted to get his troops in at half time as soon as possible to install new instructions for the second half. But thanks to injury stoppages there was a lengthy amount of added time. Didier Drogba availed of the additional minutes pouncing on a disguised Frank Lampard pass and immediately firing past Thomas Sorensen.
The second half saw the away side blitz StokeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s half with constant waves of counter attacks. A tiring home defence managed to withstand ChelseaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best efforts until the last 20 seconds of the game. A long throw from Beletti landed in the box with Essien, who promptly squared to Malouda. The French winger blasted a shot through the hands of Sorensen to snatch all three points for the London side and continue their 100% record.
Darren Bent kept pace with his old partner Jermaine Defoe at Spurs with a brace against Hull City at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon. It took his goal tally to four and ensured Sunderland crept up the table to the lofty heights of seventh place.
Bent was presented with an easy chance to put away his third goal of the season. Hull midfielder Craig Fagan handled the ball inside the box. The England marksman blasted his penalty past Myhill. A minute before half time the Tigers drew level. A vulnerable Black Cats defence allowed Zayate to creep in and nod home an equaliser from six yards out.
The parity between the two sides didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t last for long. An outstanding strike from Andy Reid put the home side in front once more. Bent added a third after he was left in acres of space on the right, and was allowed to canter towards goal, driving a fearsome shot past Myhill.
Inevitably Michael Turner got on the score sheet against his old club. He escaped the attentions of Zayate and headed past his former team-mate Myhill. It was a textbook header from Turner, a trait that had become synonymous with the player throughout his Hull days.
Harry Redknapp persisted with Peter Crouch partnering Jermaine Defoe up-front while Robbie Keane was assigned the graveyard shift on the left wing. It was a tactical decision that contributed to the failure of Spurs to impose themselves on the UnitedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defence. Jermaine DefoeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s goal after 40 seconds proved a false dawn for the home side. An immediate attack from Spurs saw the ball pumped into the away sideÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s box. Nemanja Vidic challenged Crouch in the air but only succeeded in knocking the ball down to the in-form Defoe.
The striker outrageously attempted a bicycle kick with his back to goal which dropped into the net past a stationary Ben Foster. Tackles from Wilson Palacios and Paul Scholes ensured the tie reverted to a scrappy affair. Indeed a needless free kick conceded by Palacios allowed the mercurial left foot of Ryan Giggs a sight on goal.
The Welshman whipped a delicious free kick into the right corner of Carlo CudiciniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s net. The Italian was unable to prevent the United equaliser.
Despite the inevitable chorus of jeers, Dimitar Berbatov was enjoying one of his best performances in a red shirt. The Bulgarian displayed some of the guile and grace which had earned him rave reviews while at White Hart Lane.
An Evra cross found a surging run by Rooney whose effort was blocked by Cudicini. The resulting rebound presented Berbatov with an empty net to aim at but Bassong cleared off the line before the Bulgarian blazed the resulting chance over the bar. Manchester United did finally reap the rewards of a sustained period of pressure. A speculative ‘Scholes special’ was cleared by King but only to the awaiting Anderson who rifled a low drive past a helpless Cudicini to edge the away side into the lead just before half time.
The fortuitous sending off of Paul Scholes for a clash with Palacios could not inspire Tottenham to a revival. They resulted to long hopeful balls which were easily cleared. The arrival of Kranjcar for Keane should have added an injection of flair into the Spurs side. But the Croatian proved largely ineffective. Indeed it was the away side that looked more dangerous despite their one man disadvantage.
A decisive long range pass from the impressive Darren Fletcher found Rooney who easily left Alan Hutton in his wake, subsequently slotting the ball through the legs of Cuidicini and into the gaping net. United professionally finished the match out, snuffing out any infrequent attacks. The result brought to an end TottenhamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perfect start with United rising to second in the league.
The elation of an opening day victory at Villa Park soon turned to despair as Wigan failed to build on a successful start under new manager Roberto Martinez. Gianfranco Zola meanwhile, was looking to secure a second away victory of the season.
A Hugo Rodallega strike was all that separated the two teams. A snappy interchange between Charles NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Zogbia and Mario Melchiot on the right wing, led to a cross from NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Zogbia. It found Jason Koumas but the WelshmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s effort was well saved by Robert Green. But the current England number one was helpless in preventing Rodallega steering home the rebound on 55 minutes.
On the stroke of half time, Carlton Cole rounded Chris Kirland ready to roll the ball into the empty net, only for Alan Wiley to blow time on the first half much to the anguish of Cole and his team-mates. It was a bizarre decision by the referee who deemed the 45 minutes was up despite Cole bearing down on an empty net.
Unfortunately for the Hammers they were unable to put the ball in the net during the second half. Scott Parker and Allesandro Diamanti came close but Kirkland was rarely troubled. It saw Wigan rise to tenth while West Ham dropped to twelfth.
Alex McLeish and Martin OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill have a history when it comes to local derbies. The pair swapped SPL titles in their respective time at Rangers and Celtic. OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill claimed victory last time the pair met in 2008.
The athletic Aston Villa side produced the better share of chances. James Milner enjoyed a couple of early sightings on goal but failed to convert his chances. The England midfielder created a chance for Gabriel Agbonlahor but the striker headed wide of the goal. The only notable chance for Birmingham came when Fahey flashed a shot across goal but ultimately wide of the post.
The introduction of John Carew proved a tactical masterstroke by Martin OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill. The giant Norwegian had an instant impact. An Ashley Young free kick found the head of Carew who nodded the ball on to Agbonlahor. The striker made no mistake on this occasion heading firmly past Joe Hart.
The electric paced striker should have made it two. He streaked clear in the Birmingham half but was only able to fire over the crossbar. Villa was content to hit their city rivals on the counter attack. Milner and Carew combined to set the target man free. However as Carew drew Hart out, he failed to find Milner with the killer ball.
It invited increased pressure from the home side in the final moments of the game. Hart ventured forward to seek an unlikely equaliser for his side. But OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢NeillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s men held out to claim a third consecutive victory.
The final game of the weekend’s fixtures was held at Craven Cottage as the two sides directly above Portsmouth at the bottom of the table met. Fulham, who boasted an intimidating home record last season, were looking to get back to winning ways at the Cottage after their defeat to Chelsea a couple of weeks ago.
The first half saw a poor showing from the home side who rarely threatened Tim Howard in the Everton goal. So it was no surprise when the away side took the lead. A floated curling cross from full back Leighton Baines was met by the head of Tim Cahill who directed his header past debutant goalkeeper Stockdale.
A few wise words from Fulham manager Roy Hodgson inspired a comeback in the second half for the home side. Phil Neville conceded a free kick on the edge of his box. After Danny MurphyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s original attempt was blocked by the wall, Paul Konchesky fizzed an effort at Tim HowardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s goal. It took a wicked deflection deceiving the keeper to level matters.
Damien Duff had the final say in the game. The Irishman received the ball in midfield and ran directly at Baines. A cunning decoy run for Andy Johnson opened up the space to allow Duff to dip onto his favoured left foot. Baines failed to send him down the right and the former Chelsea player sent a scorching shot past Howard to claim all three points for the Cottagers.
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