EPL Weekend Round-Up
Manchester United returned to the top of the English Premier League standings after their six-goal demolition of Newcastle United.
The champions returned the summit after Arsenal were surprisingly held to a home draw by Birmingham City. Chelsea defeated Tottenham Hotspur in one of two London derby clashes on Saturday, while Liverpool left it late to salvage a point at Middlesbrough.
The race to avoid relegation looks to be heating up, as weekend results now have no less than four clubs on 20 points at the wrong end of the table.
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Blackburn Rovers
Jason Roberts had his revenge on Gary Megson when scoring a last-gasp goal to give Blackburn Rovers a 2-1 Lancashire derby win over Bolton Wanderers at The Reebok Stadium.
Megson once famously remarked of Roberts that ‘You are talking about a man who spelt his name wrongly on his transfer request’ after the two had a falling out at West Bromwich Albion, but Roberts made him eat his words when running from his own half and finishing past Jussi Jaaskelainen in dramatic fashion.
In a game that had been illuminated by a quite stunning strike from Bolton’s Kevin Nolan that will be a real contender for goal of the season, Blackburn had to fight back from a goal down and Christopher Samba drew them level with a header before Roberts’ late intervention.
Sunderland 2-0 Portsmouth
Kieran Richardson struck a first-half brace and hit the bar in the second 45 minutes, as he led Sunderland to a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Portsmouth.
In a game often devoid of inspiration, Richardson settled the game with two bursts into the box reminiscent of manager Roy Keane at his pomp.
The former Manchester United midfielder opened the scoring after 33 minutes, rushing into the box to turn home Kenwyne Jones' pull-back from close range. He then sealed victory with a powerful run into the box and neat finish with his right foot.
Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham City
Arsenal’s dextrous felines played with Birmingham like a cat does with a mouse but occasionally the prize is elusive, the attacker underestimates its plucky prey and rues their complacency.
Garry O’Connor was the cat's whiskers - his second-half equalizer saw Blues courtesy of a 1-1 draw become only the second team to deny The Gunners a home win in the league this season.
Cesc Fabregas invariably pulled the strings once more, wearing the expression as he always does of the cat who got the cream, but Emmanuel Adebayor’s 21st minute penalty was all Arsene Wenger's side had to show for their tantalizing show.
Aston Villa 3-1 Reading
Aston Villa bounced back from their FA Cup defeat to Manchester United with a polished 3-1 home victory over Reading.
A brace of goals from John Carew and a header from Martin Laursen secured the three points against a Reading side, who looked limited in attack and frail in the defence of set-pieces.
There was a touch of controversy to the first two goals, but Villa held sway for large portions of the game and were full value for the three points, despite James Harper's late consolation.
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham’s miserable record at Stamford Bridge stretched further on Saturday, as they continued winless at the West London ground since 1990, going down 2-0 against Chelsea.
The Blues are now unbeaten in 74 EPL games at home and their display against their guests provided solid evidence of why that record stands strong.
Juliano Belletti fired in a scorching long-range drive from 30 yards after barely 20 minutes and Shaun Wright-Phillips made sure of the points late on with a low shot from the edge of the area.
Derby County 0-1 Wigan Athletic
Antoine Sibierski came off the bench to fire the Wigan winner, as the drop moves nearer for Derby following a 1-0 defeat at Pride Park.
Any hopes Derby boss Paul Jewell had of a rare win were dealt a huge blow when the already-booked Claude Davis was sent off for a clumsy challenge on Marcus Bent.
The industrious Wigan striker then supplied the pass to Sibierski, which resulted in an unstoppable shot from 20 yards with eight minutes remaining to heap further misery on The Rams.
Everton 1-0 Manchester City
Sven Goran Eriksson’s Manchester City side left Goodison Park having been served a timely reminder that their UEFA Champions League ambitions will not be realized easily this season, after Everton triumphed 1-0 in a clash of the EPL’s supposed ‘best-of-the-rest.’
Joleon Lescott continued his rich vein of form at both ends of the pitch, as he scored the decisive goal midway through the first half, with City failing to mount a credible case for the shares to have been spoiled.
Eriksson’s foreign legion huffed and puffed without ever looking likely to draw level, with the game more notable for the performances of the homegrown contingent amidst a bevy of continental imports.
Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle United
Manchester United hit six second-half goals and could have hit twice that, as they returned to the top of the EPL in menacing style on Saturday evening, handing managerless Newcastle United a 6-0 hiding at Old Trafford.
Cristiano Ronaldo, almost inevitably, topped the bill as he hit his first United hat-trick, Carlos Tevez chipped in with a brace and there was even space for an emphatic Rio Ferdinand finish. To add insult to injury, Newcastle had former United favourite Alan Smith sent off at the death for foul and abusive language.
United thoroughly dominated from the off, but should still have gone in a goal behind at the break after they failed to score and Michael Owen had a goal wrongly ruled out.
Middlesbrough 1-1 Liverpool
Fernando Torres 17th goal of the season salvaged a point for Liverpool, as Rafa Benitez’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by Middlesbrough at The Riverside.
Boro had taken the lead on 26 minutes through skipper George Boateng, who finished off a move he started after linking with Stewart Downing and Jeremie Aliadiere.
However, not for the first time of a deeply disappointing season, Torres rescued Liverpool. The Spaniard netted a screamer from 25 yards after receiving a pass from substitute Ryan Babel.
West Ham United 2-1 Fulham
West Ham grabbed all three points on Saturday, following a deserved 2-1 win over an uninspired Fulham side at Upton Park.
Simon Davies scored the opener for Fulham. The Welshman whipped in a 25-yard free kick that failed to find a team-mate and drifted across Carlos Bocanegra and West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green and into the far corner.
The Hammers, however, turned the game around when Dean Ashton levelled the scores with a fine header and Anton Ferdinand bagged the winner just past the midway point of the second half.