The English Premier League clicked smoothly back into gear this weekend after the international break helped to stall the early season momentum. Chelsea continued their defence of the EPL crown with a very professional victory over struggling West Ham. The champions have welcomed back Michael Essien this season following a long injury lay off and the Ghanaian weighed in with two of Chelsea’s three goals in this London derby. Essien’s brace helped to make up for the loss of Frank Lampard; the Englishman will be missing for at least another week following a hernia operation. Another high profile error by Robert Green in the West Ham goal led to Saloman Kalou claiming the other goal for the blues as West Ham’s nightmare start continues. The Hammers desperately need to start picking up points soon or they could be in for a very long season.
Arsenal brushed aside Bolton Wanderers by four goals to one at The Emirates, goals from Koscielny, Chamakh, Song and Vela saw off the Trotters who had earlier equalized Koscienly’s opener with a goal from Swede Johan Elmander. Gary Cahill was unluckily dismissed on 64 minutes from a clumsy tackle on the Moroccan Chamakh and the Gunners never looked back from there, only goalkeeper Bogdan kept Bolton in touch. The fourth Arsenal goal from Carlos Vela has to be a contender for goal of the season, the Mexican Vela rounding off an Arsenal move comprising of twenty five passes with a resounding finish. As the winter draws in around the Premier League we will see if the Gunners have the staying power to stick with the heavyweights of Chelsea and Manchester United, whilst their can be no question marks surrounding their attacking play, defensively Arsenal are still someway short of their rivals, it is vital that Manuel Almunia cuts out the errors that have plagued him since he took over the number one jersey.
The game of the weekend came at Goodison Park as Everton snatched a late, dramatic point, coming from 3-1 down against Wayne Rooney-less Manchester United. United themselves came from behind as Darren Fletcher’s excellent equaliser cancelled out Steven Piennar’s opener for the hosts. Vidic put the Reds ahead just after half time and Dimitar Berbatov punished some woeful Everton defending with a sublime finish past Tim Howard for United’s third. The toffee’s never seemed out of the game and although Manchester United could have put the Merseysiders to the sword late on goals from Tim Cahill and then Mikel Arteta bagged an unlikely point for Everton. Wayne Rooney’s absence from the United line up, whilst notable in light of the allegations about his private life, should not be allowed to take anything away from a pulsating, end to end game played between two honest teams. Although it will come as little consolation to Ferguson’s men, this was a fine advert for the English Premier League.
Elsewhere the competitive nature of the EPL came to the fore again as top four hopefuls Manchester City and Tottenham both dropped precious points against Blackburn and West Brom respectively. Joe Hart’s dreadful mistake on twenty five minutes allowed Nikola Kalinic to roll the ball home from the edge of the City box before Patrick Vieira grabbed an equaliser for the home side. City dominated for large parts of the game but couldn’t find a way past a resolute Rovers, Chris Samba in particular was outstanding, preserving his side’s point valiantly.
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In the end Tottenham had Carlo Cudicini to thank as they held on for a point at the Hawthorns. West Brom had the lion’s share of the proceedings and perhaps should have taken all three points, only Cudicini kept the Baggies at bay. Tottenham had led through Luca Modric’s well taken goal before Chris Brunt got Albion back in the game.
Staying with teams with Champions League aspirations, Blackpool took all three points from their away trip to Newcastle United, a Charlie Adam penalty and an injury time goal from DJ Campbell helped the Tangerines a massive result at St. James’ Park. At the other end Blackpool keeper Matt Gilks made a string of top class saves to keep his team in the game and manager Ian Holloway’s ambitious and free flowing style of football was rewarded with an outstanding away victory.
The Premier League is back, and although the champions are already firmly entrenched at the top of the table, we are in for a fascinating season.