Coverage: The Short Fuse (Arsenal)
Arsenal have typically had issues with Blackburn's physicality over the past few years, especially at Ewood Park. The Gunners, fresh off a 6-0 mauling of Blackpool at the Emirates, played their usual game, shuffling the ball around the midfield while looking to open up the defence with the movement of Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie. Meanwhile Rovers played route one, and were actually reasonably effective in the first half, causing particular problems down the Arsenal right. A Theo Walcott goal broke the deadlock twenty minutes into the first half, but Blackburn replied within ten minutes after a long ball to El-Hadji Diouf led to an easy tap-in for his namesake Mame Biram Diouf. The score would stay level through half time, but the Gunners retook their lead after a lucky deflection presented Andrei Arshavin with an open net from six yards out. The Russian didn't miss, sealing another three points for Arsenal, but an ankle injury to van Persie means that it comes with a cost.
"We exposed them defensively several times in the first half, but we couldn't quite find the finish or the final ball."
-Sam Allardyce, Blackburn Manager
I like to think of this as Allardyce making fun of Arsene Wenger's typical 'we just lost' interview.
Fulham 2-2 Blackpool
Coverage: Cottagers Confidential (Fulham)
Bobby Zamora and Fulham threatened to spoil Bloomfield Road's first ever Premier League game, but an incredible finish saw both teams take a deserved draw from the match. Fulham's away form is becoming legendary in the depths of its misery, and the Cottagers squandered a one goal lead with just twenty minutes to go and must have been deeply relieved when Dickson Etuhu's run culminated in a neat clipped finish past Matthew Gilks with just three minutes of the ninety to play. After going down, Blackpool kept themselves in the game and were rewarded with two goals in quick succession, Fulham John Pantsil first seeing a deflected effort bounce off his shin and into his own net before debutant Luke Varney capped a day to remember with a classy first-time finish. Blackpool were set for a historic win before Etuhu's late equaliser quieted the crowd.
"These might be the only four points we get but I don't care."
-Blackpool manager Ian Holloway
At least he knows where he stands.
The shock result of the weekend as Wigan came away from White Hart Lane with all three points. The Latics had lost last year's corresponding fixture by a score of 9-1, and with eighteen goals conceded to none scored over their last three games, those expecting a rout could probably be forgiven. Although Spurs were unlucky not to score, Wigan fashioned several chances throughout a thrilling match, taking the lead during the 80th minute courtesy of Hugo Rodallega. Spurs were listless throughout, but they rallied after going down, forcing Wigan to hold on tight for the final ten minutes (and much of the second half, truth be told). Astonishingly, they managed to, thanks in no small part to Ali al-Habsi in goal, who put in a fine performance.
"They were prepared to give their lives for each other."
-Wigan manager Roberto Martinez
i.e. Charles N'Zogbia did not play.
Wolves came into the game with the intent of disrupting Newcastle's midfield so as to starve their strikers of service. By and large, it worked - Joey Barton was ineffective, primarily due to the rough treatment he received at the hands of the Wolves midfield, and Andy Carroll was quiet all game. The deadlock was broken in the 43rd minute as Sylvan Ebanks-Blake run onto a throughball, shrugged off Jame Perch at right-back, and hammered the ball home from inside the box. If the Molineaux faithful were expecting a victory, though, they were to be denied. In the 63rd minute Carroll was finally able to get on the end of a set piece to power in a headed equaliser, and things nearly got worse for the home side as a fine save from Marcus Hahnemann was all that prevented Newcastle from going ahead soon afterwards. Wolves steadied the ship, though, and saw out the rest of the game; both teams coming away with a very credible draw.
"I'm thinking of changing our name to Aardvark Wanderers."
-Mick McCarthy, Wolves manager.
Mick McCarthy's plans to be at the top of the table at least once a year have been revealed. Excellent.
Coverage: The Busby Babe (United)
Business as usual at Old Trafford as United steamrollered poor West Ham, who've now been outscored 9-1 over their past three matches. Although their pressing game caused United problems early on, an individual error cost the Hammers severely as Jonathan Spector made a mess of a challenge inside the box to give the home side a penalty. Wayne Rooney, desperate to score his first goal in months, took the spot kick to give United the lead, but other than the penalty conversion he was more or less missing - not a good sign for United or England. As the game wore on, West Ham's discipline wavered and they allowed themselves to be dominated for most of the second half.
"It was a great team effort but we should have scored more."
-Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
Apparently he thinks he's managing Chelsea!
A stirring two goal comeback by 10-man Bolton Wanderers frustrated Birmingham, who should have had the game well in hand by the time that Robbie Blake scored an unlikely late equaliser with an exquisitely taken free kick. City got off to a fast start, scoring through Roger Johnson in the fourth minute before Bolton's keeper Jurri Jaaskelainen took offence to a challenge from Johnson and was sent off after retaliating with a slap. Craig Gardner brought his goal tally on the season to three in the 50th minute before a soft penalty gave Bolton a lifeline, which they capitalised upon courtesy to that little bit of magic from Blake - and perhaps a little help from the referee.
"It feels like defeat. We're pretty sore about it."
-Alex McLeish, Birmingham manager
At one point Birmingham's win probability stood at 98.3%. Oops.
A tight game at Villa Park was just about edged through Luke Young's early strike. Villa fielded a more defensive team than usual, with Nigel Reo-Coker starting in Stephen Ireland's usual spot. Reo-Coker had an excellent match, and Villa were able to weather significant pressure from the Toffees whilst still looking extremely dangerous on the attack. Ashley Young in particular was on fine form, the England winger setting up his namesake's goal and coming close several times to adding to the scoresheet. A heroic rearguard action over the final twenty minutes of the game secured the points for Villa, but things might have been very different had Stephen Pienaar found the net rather than the crossbar with his elegant curler in the eighteenth minute.
Fernando Torres opened his account for the season with a well-taken right footed volley past Scott Carson in the 64th minute, and the spell of Liverpool dominance that followed was in stark comparison to the miserable overall effort against the Baggies. West Brom dealt fairly effortlessly with Liverpool's disjointed attack, but found the defence a tougher nut to crack, leaving the game as a somewhat boring, cagey affair. In the 85th minute Albion midfielder James Morrison was sent off, ending the match as a competition. Liverpool must be worried about their inability to break down much weaker competition, especially at home.
"Being brutally honest [Liverpool] haven't brought any top-class players in to replace the ones they have sold."
-Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez
What he said.
Coverage: Bitter and Blue (City)
Darren Bent became the first man to best Joe Hart this year with a stoppage time penalty, but the game will be remembered for Carlos Tevez's astonishing first-half miss. With Simon Mignolet and the entire Sunderland defence out of the picture thanks to Yaya Toure's magnificent run forwards, Tevez spooned over the gaping goal with his right foot from just twelve yards out. It was the tale of the first half, as City were totally dominant throughout but failed to convert their possession into goals. Sunderland came out for the second 45 a changed teams and used their physicality to batter the Champions League hopefuls, grinding down City with a relentless attack and forcing Mancini to reshuffle his team - but it was all to prove for naught after Micah Richards gave away a last minute penalty.