Mark Halsey got the big calls right despite the drama in United’s visit to Anfield, while another rivalry could have gone either way. Chelsea and Everton are two-faced, and see what strikers and keepers were on fire…
by Andrew Discenza
Referee Mark Halsey gets an A+ despite criticism for his decisions in Manchester United’s 2-1 win at Liverpool. A tribute to the Hillsborough disaster put the hotly contested match in perspective, but the Anfield faithful wasted no time in vilifying the referee over Jonjo Shelvey’s red card, a correct call for the dangerous studs-up challenge into the legs of Johnny Evans. The crowd was up in arms again, but both Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling were beaten to the ball before pleading for a penalty. Finally Mr. Halsey did point to the spot, but this time Glen Johnson had taken out his frustration on a goal-side Antonio Valencia.
It could so easily have been disaster for Arsenal’s influential duo. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone’s hopeless attempt to claim a corner gifted Joleon Lescott the opener, but he kept his side in the match with a stunning save to tip over Edin Dzeko’s wickedly dipping effort. Laurent Koscielny equalized late on with a clinical shot into the roof of the net, but nearly gave the game away when his panicked clearance went straight to Sergio Aguero, who rolled agonizingly wide.
Chelsea provided the good, the bad, and the ugly as they scraped a 1-0 win over Stoke. Ashley Cole scored his first goal in two years but you wouldn’t know it as he lifted the ball deftly over Asmir Begovic from close range. The most relieved player on the pitch was Fernando Torres, who seemed to shy away from his two best chances only to be bailed out by the veteran left back. It was a truly nasty piece of play however, when David Luiz flew studs up into the ankle of Jonathan Walters, and the Brazilian should feel lucky he was only booked.
Should David Moyes be concerned? Everton strolled 3-0 at Swansea, but missed a host of chances and lacked sharpness at crucial moments. Wayne Routledge left the goal at the mercy of Angel Rangel, who somehow directed his volley wide. Then Marouane Fellaini failed to finish off a flowing Everton move, launching over the bar after Victor Anichebe’s simple pass.
Demba Ba’s future at Newcastle may be in doubt but his form hasn’t faltered, and he took the winning goal with two composed touches. His compatriot Papiss Cisse, at the other end of the spectrum, sent a dreadfully poor penalty over the bar to show that the Magpies could be in trouble if Ba departs.
Rickie Lambert was the unexpected star of the week, leading Southampton to their first win since returning to the English top flight. He beat Brad Guzan with the power of his opener, before his vision led to the Saints’ next two goals. He capped off the performance by scoring an emphatic spot-kick, extending his streak to an impressive 26 straight penalties converted.
Goalkeepers at their best
Tottenham came from behind to win, but Brad Friedel kept them from being sunk early on by QPR. Clint Hill’s thunderous header needed a stiff wrist from the American keeper, who leapt soon after to deny Junior Hoilett’s volley across goal.
Kevin Nolan’s sensational overhead attempt looked destined for the net, only for Simon Mignolet to save by the very tips of his fingers.
Alex McCarthy reacted in a flash to keep James Morrison’s stunning first-time volley out of the bottom corner.
Steven Fletcher is a one-man goal machine for Sunderland. His clinical finish across the keeper was nearly enough to beat West Ham, and he has scored a league best four goals in four shots attempted.
Arsenal 2 – 2 Chelsea. Another big match for Arsenal, who will remain unbeaten despite the midfield wizardry of Mata, Hazard, and Oscar.
Fulham 0 – 2 Manchester City. With Aguero back, they’ll be too good.
Norwich 1 – 2 Liverpool. A much-needed chance for the Reds to get back to winning ways
Manchester United 3 – 2 Tottenham. These two teams usually put on a good show, but the points are usually United’s.
How I did last week: 3 for 4. Arsenal did draw at Manchester City, while Chelsea managed a win at home to Stoke. Red-hot Jermaine Defoe was indeed on the scoresheet as Tottenham netted two in a win over QPR, but Manchester United’s victory, although predicted, was much closer than anticipated.
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