I am back with my hebdomadal write-up on the top teams of EPL. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to work on an article on a sport I played as a child (PS: am still trying to keep up). The Week 7 promised to give us some spectacular matches with the kind of fixtures lined up – and how it did!!! Without further chit-chat let’s jump into the action.
LIVERPPOOL BEAT WEST BROM
Liverpool 2 – 1 West Bromwich Albion
Apparently, life without Saurez hasn’t been an easy ride for the KOPs. 7 points in the first 6 games isn’t exactly what the fans dream of. Yes, the league is still young and there’s plenty to look forward to, however the initial setbacks prove to be crucial at the business end of the league.
Liverpool started the match with a 4-2-3-1 formation with the Lambert up-front; chosen over the priced Ballotelli. That did raise some eyebrows. Though, the Italian hasn’t been able to fill Saurezs’ shoes, Liverpool manager Rodgers says: ‘Balotelli was a calculated risk.’ Well, that’s that.
However, one of the summer signings for Liverpool proved to be worth it, when Adam Lallana broke the deadlock just before halftime after a brisk exchange of passes with Henderson. Lallana perfectly slotted the ball in the far post past Foster to give Liverpool a much needed lead.
The engaging first half ended with Liverpool being ahead; a consolation of sorts for the open deserved a goal. The Baggies though showed flashes of an attack failed to capitalize on any of their chances.
With just 10 minutes into the second half referee Michael Oliver made an interesting decision as he awarded a penalty to West Brom. The decision was somewhat controversial as the Baggies’ striker Berahino was brought down by Lovren just outside the box. The referee seemed convinced it was inside though. The Anfield faithfuls were understandably anxious with the decision and their anxiety was quickly transpired to horror when Berahino sent Mignolet on the wrong side and scored a stunner of a penalty. With the season already being this way, the last thing the Kop’s needed was harsh decisions coming their way.
Soon after the goal, Balotelli was summoned by Rodgers and the change seemed evident. Liverpool needed to win this to give their campaign a much needed kick.
5 minutes after the Baggies equalized Liverpool went back on top in an uncanny manner as Henderson scored. A bizarre set of events lead up to the goal. Just before the goal was scored Sterling went down in the box and evidently almost every player on the pitch looked up at the ref to see if he awards another penalty. I said almost because the supposed victim, Sterling, got back up and squared the ball for Henderson who then scored.
Balotelli came on just after the hour mark but failed to get on the scoring sheets again. Liverpool never really looked the team they were in the last season however, it was the precious 3 points that mattered today. Henderson had a terrific game and gave the KOPs a breather so as to say.
CITY LEAVE IT ‘TWO’ LATE
Aston Villa 0 – 2 Manchester City
A few stats before we get into the match. The last 10 matches between these two teams had produced a staggering 35 goals. That gives an average of almost 4 goals per game. The last time these teams played out a goal-less draw was back in 1994, that’s 2 decades ago. I guess this was enough for the pundits to predict a high-scoring and a high-tempo match. 0 – 2 doesn’t really get counted as the former, but yes the latter holds true for this match.
Villa, as they were for the Blues, were also the party spoilers for the Blue half of Manchester last season. The corresponding fixture in the previous season finished with an astonishing score-line of 3 – 2 in the favor of the side from the Midlands. Astonishing, because they had a mere 33% of possession in the whole match.
The Champions knew how important this match was with respect to the title challenge as their rivals Chelsea were 5 points ahead prior to the match and a drop of points would not be ideal at the start of the season.
The game started with a high tempo and continued to be the same till the referee blew the whistle for the first half. Yaya Toure who was exceptional last season and instrumental in leading City to their title had below average first half. Silva looked un-positioned; that’s what Pellegrini wanted I suppose and that was the plan to breach the Villa defense. Villa survived 3 back-to-back corner scares right before half-time and seemed resolute.
The second half started exactly where it was left from. The game had a crazy and engaging play but the only thing it lacked was a goal. Kun Aguero came close to scoring the opening goal but somehow he managed to hit the post. The ball ricocheted off the post that set-up a Villa counter only for Richardson to miss at the other end. This was end-to-end stuff and Pellegrini was vary of the Villa counter attack; he brought in Fernando just after the hour mark – a tactical sub to shield his defense. Lampard was already in for Fernandinho.
The champions took 81 minutes to break the ice and it required a moment of brilliance by the ingenious Yaya Toure. Up-till the 81st minute he had a mediocre game and it all changed with a low finish 25 yards out — a left footer from Toure.
That’s exactly what Champions do. Pellegrini’s tactical game-play finally came around. It didn’t take much time for Manchester city to wrap the match.
7 minutes later a thunderous strike from Aguero made it two goals for the good and 3 points in the bag for City.
UNITED EDGE PAST EVERTON
United’s shaky start to the season now seems to rub off. A second victory for Van Gaal on Sunday means the Red Devils are now joint 4th on the table equal on points with Swansea and Tottenham. The stats so as to say favored Everton as the Toffees had just lost 1 of their 5 previous matches with United. However, as they say, games are not won on paper.
Di Maria has truly been an Angel for United and his game has lifted the confidence around. The Red Devils though didn’t look at their attacking best, opened the scoring in the 27th minute as Mata set-up Di Maria who curled the ball past Howard.
On the stroke of half-time Everton were handed a lifeline has Luke Shaw brought Hibbert down in the box and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Baines who had a 100% record on penalties stepped in only to get this one horribly wrong. Da Gea kept United ahead.
10 minutes in the second half Everton came back in the game courtesy of a brilliant header by Naismith. Naismith has been stupendous for Everton this season. A Baines cross was directed perfectly by Naismith.
Everton looked dangerous in the next few minutes but were undone by Radamel Falcao. Super-awareness and presence shown by the striker who anticipated DI Maria’s effort 30 yards out. The finish gave Falcao his maiden United goal.
Everton looked a little dangerous only in the last 20 minutes of the game but failed to be threat. This win takes United in top 5 now and Everton now lie fourth from the bottom.
CHELSEA TWO GOOD FOR THE GOONERS
What do you expect when two undefeated heavy-weights clash early in the season? One can either expect fireworks or a dull goal-less draw. This match was none; rather I felt it was a passing spectacle of sorts.
I don’t need to introduce this London rivalry and how it has affected the respective teams in their title challenge. The once upon a time invincibles clashed with the so called invincibles on a lovely Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge. The bitter rivalry of the clubs hasn’t favored the Gooners in the recent past as they had registered only 4 wins in the last 26 matches against Chelsea. To top this of, Wenger has had a dismal record against Mourinho and is yet to register a win against him.
As I said earlier, none of the teams showed any attacking flair what so ever. Yes, Chelsea looked hungrier on and off the ball. Arsenal never looked in control of the game and looked out of ideas with the ball even.
Chelsea suffered an early setback when Courtois was substituted owing to head injury. Petr Cech filled in for him — another Chelsea legend.
The match actually required a lapse of concentration or a moment of magic to get started; and well that’s exactly what happened.
Arsenal hastily took a quick free kick in their own half; and this eventually lead to a Chelsea goal. The free kick taken quickly gave the Chelsea midfielders to have possession again and Hazard made one of his trademark runs. Koscielny brought him down and was lucky to get away with a Yellow Card.
Hazard himself stepped in to take the penalty. As cool as a cucumber he send Szczesny the wrong way to give Chelsea the important break.
The heat of the match even got to the managers as Wenger and Mourinho had spat of their own at the dugouts.
The first half finished with Chelsea being ahead and Arsenal chasing the game already.
Chelsea under Mourinho have always been criticized of shutting-down once taking the lead. The famous 1 – 0s of course. But this season has been a different story altogether. The addition of Costa and Fabregas has given Chelsea that attacking edge.
The second half had the same old story until another moment of magic from the former Arsenal player Fabregas gave Chelsea another goal to wrap up the match. Arsenal were caught napping as Fabregas gave an immaculate lofted pass to none other than Costa who chested the ball perfectly and lobbed it past Szczesny. Costa was quite the whole match but this moment of perfection gave a much needed relief for Chelsea. This goal takes his goal tally to 9 this season — A phenomenal start to his Chelsea career.
Arsenal looked pressing yet feeble and lacked play all around. They succumbed to their first loss this season and this takes them to 8th in the table, already 9 behind leaders Chelsea.
So that’s about it. An International Break for the players won’t allow me to write for the next week, but I’ll be back soon. Keep watching the EPL and keep reading this space.