Liverpool leapfrogged Arsenal to the top of the table after a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Swansea City on Monday night. The match proved to be a massive test of character for the Merseysiders right from the very off as they had to fight back from 1-0 down as former Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey fired the home side into an early lead with his goal after just two minutes. And to be fair, the Reds past the test with flying colours – although much of their troubles were self-created. Despite the fact that they found themselves back in front before half-time, they looked unimaginative and toothless in attack for large periods of the game following Phillipe Coutinho’s substitution early after the interval. And although they are still in a great position after only four matches, their second-half display raised concerns over the lack of a real ball carrier in the absence of Coutinho -. Luis Suárez’s return can’t come quick enough. The Brazilian’s departure prompted Swansea to take control of the game and they soon found themselves level through Michu with plenty of time to spare to grab a winner. However, Liverpool held out valiantly and will have been happy to share the spoils. Nonetheless, in Steven Gerrard’s 400th match as captain, the Kop faithful would still have preferred not to see their midfield completely anonymous for the second period.
Manchester United found themselves involved in somewhat of a battle on Saturday afternoon against newly-promoted Crystal Palace as they failed to break the deadlock until right on the half-time whistle when Robin Van Persie scored from the spot. Later, Wayne Rooney curled home a marvelous free-kick from the edge of the area to further solidify their lead. For United fans, it will have been good to see both Rooney and Van Persie getting amongst the goals as it’s often been debated whether or not the two can play together. Granted, both strikes were from set-pieces, but Red Devils’ fans won’t complain about the three points they helped to secure. However, the big talking point of the match came before Van Persie’s penalty when Ashley Young was booked for diving. Replays clearly showed that the England international had sought to make contact with the defender to fabricate a foul in an effort to claim a set-piece. The former Villa did win the spot-kick minutes later which helped United grab the impetus before the break, changing the complexion of the tie. The incident has sparked a brand new debate on diving once again with former referee Graham Poll even claiming that a five-match ban should apply to all those guilty of simulation. If one thing is clear, however, it’s that diving comes in many different forms, and so it will prove stubborn to completely eradicate it from the game.
Manuel Pellegrini must be wondering exactly what’s going wrong with his current batch of players because they just can’t seem to gel. So far this season, they’ve looked uninspired, and that trend continued at the weekend as they drew against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. A patient, careful approach from the Sky Blues never really looked like threatening Mark Hughes’ men, as Stefan Jovetic and company were made to look quite ordinary at times. Understandably, the Citizens will be frustrated with how they’ve underperformed to date, because they know they have plenty of talent in the locker to dispatch teams like Stoke. Yet, despite glimpses of brilliance from Álvaro Negredo, it’s easy to see why the results aren’t going their way at the moment – City simply aren’t molding well together. At present, they look like a group of individuals rather than a team, and unless they can turn their fortunes around quickly, their upcoming European journey is likely to be over before they know it.
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