In a weekend that saw four red cards – and it could have been more – in three matches involving top-four teams, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City all recorded vital victories. Chelsea were less fortunate in having two players sent off in their 1-0 away loss to Aston Villa.
Before we get into this please vote!
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR vs ARSENAL
Arsenal’s 1-0 win away at Spurs was always going to be a hotly-contested affair, especially after Tim Shwerwood gave his players a thorough going-over following their 4-0 loss away to Chelsea last weekend.
Thomas Rosicky’s thunderbolt within the first two minutes of the North-London derby settled the tie, though Spurs certainly deserved more from the game, given their dominance in most aspects of the match. The home side took 17 shots at goal compared to Arsenal’s 7, while Spurs were also better in respect to possession, passing, corners and crosses.
Nacer Chadli should undoubtedly have done better with his close-range effort after Arsenal ‘keeper Szczesny failed to collect a speculative cross into the box. Had Laurent Koscielny not had his wits about him, the result may have been very different indeed, though Chadli could also be criticized for not keeping his cool with Szczesny out of position.
Emmanuel Adebayor had a couple of opportunities to draw Spurs level against his former employers, but those were half-chances at best. His work rate was excellent, but he ultimately failed to make it count.
Tim Sherwood seemed sufficiently pleased with his side’s performance overall, and even Arsene Wenger admitted that Spurs had done enough to deserve at least a point from the match.
MANCHESTER UNITED vs LIVERPOOL
Where Tottenham showed grit and desire in the North-London derby in spite of their loss, Manchester United were simply outthought and outclassed by a Liverpool outfit riding a wave of confidence.
United battled well enough for the first 15 minutes or so before Liverpool simply upped the tempo to stamp their authority on the match. This paid dividends shortly after the half-hour mark when Rafael handled Daniel Sturridge’s cross to Luis Suarez inside the penalty area. Steven Gerrard again held his nerve with a near-perfect spot kick into the side netting, which would probably have had the beating of David De Gea even if the United ‘keeper guessed correctly.
United tried to rally for the last ten minutes of the first half, but their only meaningful scoring opportunity fell to Wayne Rooney. His double effort was first well saved by Liverpool stopper, Simon Mignolet, and then by Martin Skrtel who did well to get in the way of Rooney’s follow-up left foot volley.
After the break Liverpool really turned the screws with another Gerrard penalty within a minute of the restart – Phil Jones the guilty party this time for his shoulder-charge on Joe Allen at the edge of the United area – and from there the writing really was on the wall for United. From that moment, it seemed only a matter of time before Liverpool found their third to help bury United’s chances of European action next season.
Sturridge’s miss-hit shot found Luis Suarez on-side in the United penalty area late on for the Uruguayan to calmly slot past an isolated De Gea. Liverpool’s victory maintains their League title aspirations, while Man United again appear deflated and a mere shadow of the team they were last season – at best.
What concerns me most about David Moyes and Manchester United is the post-match interview. Moyes, rightly in some respects, stated that Liverpool were the better team, but it’s his resigned demeanor in that interview that should give United fans chills.
I had stated in a previous article (The Plight of Manchester United) how Moyes has changed his tune over the course of the campaign – early in the season confidently saying United were still title challengers, then he was certain of a top-four finish, and now to complete resignation that they were outdone by tough opposition and that they’d simply “do their best to finish the season as high as possible.”
Furthermore, Moyes seems incapable of berating his players for poor performances – something few managers in the top-flight have an issue with. By all means, he should support and defend his players to the hilt, but there should also come a time when Fergusons famous ‘hairdryer treatment’ is called for.
Even Jose Mourinho stated “I made eleven mistakes today” following a loss in the early part of the season.
Be under no illusions though – David Moyes is now on borrowed time as Manchester United manager. One home victory against top-seven opposition is a desperate record for any team with European aspirations, and even more so for a team that were league champions barely a year ago.
Title chasers, Manchester City travel to Old Trafford in a little over a week and will be champing at the bit in anticipation of that fixture. They will unquestionably look to capitalize on United’s confidence shortfall in the wake of this defeat and United’s possible exit at the hands of Olympiakos in mid-week.
HULL CITY vs MANCHESTER CITY
With all due respect to Man City, I do feel they were fortunate to have come away from Hull with a 2-0 victory, especially following captain Vincent Kompany’s early dismissal. David Silva’s brilliance, combined with City’s unyielding defense won the day for The Citizens.
Fortuitous, perhaps, but with going down to ten men and coming away with all three points is the sort of victory league titles are built on.
Hull outplayed the title hopefuls in every statistical facet of the match, from possession to shots at goal and even passing, other than the one statistic that truly counts: goals scored. David Silva scored the opening goal, a pin-point curling effort around the goalkeeper, barely minutes after Kompany’s exit to deliver a hammer blow to Hull’s hopes of a win.
City did well to absorb sustained pressure from the home side, and even escaped a sound penalty appeal, before Silva masterminded Man City’s second goal – this time a deft through-ball into Edin Dzeko’s path, who comfortably beat Hull goalkeeper McGregor to secure all three points.
With up to three games in hand over the teams above them, and given Chelsea’s slip-up, Manchester City remain favorites to claim their second league title in three seasons.
ASTON VILLA vs CHELSEA
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea ended a run of 14 unbeaten matches as they faltered against Aston Villa at the weekend. Mourinho, in subsequent interviews, has sought to deflect the spotlight away from his players and their indiscretions to take the heat himself.
To be fair, referee Chris Foy’s decision to send Willian off was diabolical in my opinion, though at the same time he could have exercised greater caution having been on a yellow card at the time. The second in-game sending off of Ramires, however, cannot be argued – his tackle on Karim El Ahmadi is described by many as a leg-breaker.
Chelsea’s recklessness aside, Fabian Delph’s goal was quite something, and is a serious contender for goal of the season. Marc Albrighton’s return ball to Delph was played behind the midfielder and his skillful back-heal found the far corner of the net. Sublime.
This defeat provides Liverpool with the opportunity to close within a point of Chelsea, and as mentioned before, City’s three games in hand and nine points on offer puts them in a prime position to return to the Premier League summit.
This is the most exciting Premier League season in recent memory – indeed since Man City’s last-minute winner to claim their last title. This term’s run-in could be just as close, if not closer, given that four teams as oppose to two, are all within touching distance of raising the Barclays Premier League trophy aloft.
I love this game!