Premier League wrap: Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner seizes chance
Premier League wrap: Trevor Murray looks back at the mid-week fixtures as Arsenal and Liverpool pick up victories
United need rapid reinvention
David Moyes came face-to-face with his old club Everton on Wednesday as he sought to maintain his side’s 12-match unbeaten run in all competitions that started with an uninspiring 1-1 draw away to Shakhtar Donetsk at the beginning of October in the Champions League. In what was an exciting affair, both sides had plenty of chances to rustle the net throughout, but in the end it was an 86th-minute Bryan Oviedo goal that eventually proved the difference. Wayne Rooney once again did his utmost to provide an attacking threat for the Red Devils, constantly looking to create something out of nothing, but not even his efforts were enough to find a way past a towering Tim Howard in the Everton goal. United now sit 12 points adrift of league leaders Arsenal with plenty of catching-up left to do, but with the reigning Premier League champions falling to their first defeat at home against the Toffees since 1992, it doesn’t seem likely that they can turn everything around without some drastic reinvention. Should Moyes and Ed Woodward fail to make any significant moves in the January transfer window, it’s hard to envisage any form of upheaval in time to catch the break-away pack. As for Everton, they continue to look a side reborn under the guidance of Roberto Martinez. With Romelu Lukaku – who provided Oviedo with the assist – proving a handful week-in, week-out for any defence he confronts, it’s easy to see the Merseysiders pushing hard for a Champions League spot. And who knows, perhaps they’ll do so at the expense of United – stranger things have happened.
Bendtner rises to the occasion
Despite not featuring substantially since Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup back towards the end of October, Nicklas Bendtner looked incredibly fresh and energised in the red and white of Arsenal on Wednesday evening against Hull City. His early headed goal set the Gunners on the road to victory after only two minutes and allowed the home side ample time to play with the creative flair that they like. No doubt the Danish international will still find it difficult to find a way into the starting XI, with Olivier Giroud the preferred option to lead the line, but he certainly did his chances no harm with his midweek goal. After the first flew in, the fans at The Emirates could sit back and enjoy the hosts’ performance as they bossed the tie, with Mesut Ozil once again pulling the strings in midfield. The former Real Madrid star also got his name on the scoresheet after some good link-up play with Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the area played him through on goal – his smart finish a nice way to cap a fine performance. Tougher tasks await the north Londoners, but for now they’ll be content with top spot.
Chelsea keep the pressure on & City win again
The Stadium of Light can be a tricky venue to visit, as Manchester City will attest to following their 1-0 defeat there back in November, and so it proved on Wednesday night as Chelsea escaped by the skin of their teeth with a 4-3 win. An impressive, highly-inventive performance from Eden Hazard on the left wing for the Blues meant that Jose Mourinho’s men just about edged this dramatic, end-to-end affair, but Sunderland must receive credit for the way in which they performed. They showed great spirit and they never looked like giving up, even when all seemed lost. Phil Bardsley’s display best embodied that never-say-die attitude as he picked himself up to score just moments after he had turned into his own net. As for the visitors, they keep the heat on Arsenal, if only just about. Elsewhere on Wednesday, Manchester City did better than their cross-town rivals United by taking West Bromwich Albion’s scalp on a score-line of 3-2. Leading 3-0 with five minutes to go City were great value for the win, but Manuel Pellegrini should be worried that the Citizens conceded two late goals against inferior opposition – their apparent complacency creeping through is something he should keep a watchful eye on over the coming weeks.
Four-goal Suarez blows Norwich away
The absence of Sturridge during Liverpool’s 3-1 loss away to Hull recently, prompted doubts over their ability to perform consistently in his absence. After all, he had single-handedly guided them through their first bout of Premier League matches this season. Would Liverpool and Suarez be able to regain their form in his absence and do what Sturrudge did when the Uruguayan was unavailable? Judging from their emphatic 5-1 demolition of Norwich City during the week, the answer was a resounding yes. In preparation for next Summer’s World Cup, the 26-year-old has been in a rich vein of goal-scoring form which has seen him net 13 times this season, meaning the striker is bang on course to get the golden boot he so richly deserves. Impressively, Suarez isn’t just scoring, he’s doing so in style; each of his goals against the Canaries was an absolute peach. The win keeps them within touching distance of the top three and safely in a Champions League spot, and if they can overcome Tottenham after they welcome West Ham to Anfield, they can be quietly confident of maintaining contact until after the Christmas at the very least.