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Liverpool failed to build on their three first half goals, while West Ham made no headway to getting back in the half. The second half at Anfield ended up and opportunity for Roy Hodgson to give time to the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Fabio Aurelio, closing out the match 3-0 victors. The result moved Liverpool ninth while keeping West Ham at the bottom of the league, allowing both teams to tread water in the English Premier League.
For West Ham, treading water has to stop. At least, that's the message from ownership, who put a seven-points-in-three-matches expectation on their manager. After those three matches, the Hammers have accumulated two points.
Now, the speculation's starting. Sky Sports' headline says "Grant future under scrutiny." The Guardian notes Liverpool's "stroll puts Avram Grant's future in jeopardy." As Sunday passes league followers will look for such speculation to change to reality, with most expecting the former Chelsea and Portsmouth boss to be excused.
Talking about anybody's job security is always dicey because you project the stresses of speculation onto your own life. Grant, however, has had expectations made clear. I'm not sure those expectations are fair given the squad he has, but any change of job status can't be too surprising, given West Ham's spot in the league. A large part of me wants to see Grant survive this performance, but given he knew what the stakes in this match, it does not speak well of his ability to prepare this team that the Hammers were routed.
Watching Liverpool take a 3-0, first half lead on West Ham United, I can't help but wonder if we're about to embark on the last 45 minutes of manager Avram Grant's career with the Hammers. Goals by Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt (PK) and Maxi Rodriguez have Liverpool in control and me wondering if Grant will leave the bench at full time to find one of David Gold's representative waiting with a plane ticket to Israel.
Over the last two weeks it's become known that Grant was told he needed seven points from three matches (Liverpool being the third) to secure his job. West Ham looks destined to gain only two points from the matches, set to stay last in league, should this result hold-up. While the Hammers have played some decent football at times, the results have been fair, leaving West Ham on track for the Championship.
Compounding today's poor performance is the strength of their opponent. Liverpool is at home and they do have that win over Chelsea (we're all clinging to in our memories), but they are coming off a series of poor performances that made this match winnable. Compound that with the absence of Steven Gerrard and today's three goal outburst reflects very poorly on Grant.
It makes it look as if his players don't care, and if you can't get your players to care about at match at Anfield, it's hard to justify your position.
Chelsea's run of poor results continued, though their 1-0 loss at Birmingham City took on a decidedly different look than their poor efforts against Liverpool and Sunderland. On Saturday, the league leaders battered Brum but could not get a ball past Ben Foster, failing to score for the third time in four matches.
Chelsea played without Michael Essien (suspended), Frank Lampard (abductor), and John Terry (back) but still dominated the match. While some contend numbers don't matter, the stats from the match at St. Andrews not only tell you who controlled the match but also hint at who would be more likely to win on other days. Chelsea held 62 percent of possession, used to build a 32-3 advantage in shots, 9-1 in shots on goal.
The one shot Birmingham had came in the first half, Lee Bowyer running onto a knock-down from Cameron Jerome, beating Petr Cech for the match's only goal. Alex, after a surprise recovery from an ankle injury, failed to track Bowyer though the left-center of the Chelsea line, giving the Brum attacker an easy chance on goal.
Chelsea stays on 28 points, now even with Manchester United after the Red Devils beat Wigan 2-0 at Old Trafford. It was a typical, mercurial performance from United, who ultimately posted a decisive victory after an uncertain first half. Park Ji-Sung recorded his third goal of the season, while a late goal from Javier Hernández, his fourth of the year, gave United their insurance.
Chelsea remains in first thanks to a six goal advantage in difference. Arsenal, thanks to their loss to Tottenham, stays two back.
The most impressive performance of the 10:00 a.m. Eastern starts came in Bolton, where the Trotters routed the visiting Magpies, 5-1. Kevin Davies scored twice from the spot, Lee Chung-Yong had a controversial goal (offside appeal), while Johan Elmander had a brace of his own. The Swedish striker is up to eight goals for the season, tying him with Andy Carroll (who also scored) for the league's lead, moving Bolton into fourth place (pending Manchester City's result, tomorrow).
Elsewhere, goals by Luke Varney and Marlon Harwood staked Blackpool to a 2-1 win over visiting Wolves, while a spot conversation by Matthew Etherington and two late John Walters goals move Stoke into eighth, defeating West Bromwich Albion 0-3.
Bolton Wanderers are pretty good. Likely to sit fourth at day's end, they don't need somebody half way across the world to make their case. Their performance today against Newcastle has been convincing enough.
Keep in mind: Newcastle was eighth coming into today's match. The Trotters have completely disregarded that, putting four goals on the Magpies, the last seeing Johan Elmander beat Fabricio Coloccini to a ball played behind the Newcastle line, slotting one past Tim Krul to give Bolton a 4-1, second half lead.
Minutes later, Coloccini had his revenge. Sort of. With both players pursuing a ball down the right flank, Coloccini swung his right arm at Elmander's face, making contact and sending the Swede to ground. The defender saw red, a rare occurrence from Howard Webb, and will be out at least three matches. Sol Campbell, immediately subbed on, could be set for his first stretch of time in the Magpies XI.
Elsewhere, Javier Hernández headed home a Rafael da Silva cross, giving Manchester United a 2-0 lead and giving an assist to a player whose put in one of his best shifts for the Red Devils. Wigan has been playing with nine men for the last 20 minutes.
Chelsea has kept Birmingham City pinned in their own end but has not been able to beat Ben Foster, who has made remarkable plays on Salomon Kalou (coming to challenge at the edge of the area) and Branislav Ivanovic (save) to keep his clean sheet.
Wolverhampton just took advantage of a Richard Kingson misplay to get a late Kevin Doyle goal, pulling them within one. The Ghanaian keeper could not get his feet under him after decided to try and challenge a cross. Doyle headed Wolves to within 2-1.
Stoke remains up 1-0 at The Hawthorns, Matthew Etherington's goal the only thing separating the Potters from West Brom.
Starting in the 59th minute at Old Trafford, Wigan Athletic lost two men in the span of three minute, leaving the Latics with nine men to face Manchester United. Roberto Martínez saw Antolin Alcarez sent off for picking up a second card. Then, three minutes later, a horror challenge from Hugo Rodallega saw the striker sent off.
Alcarez's sending off saw few objections. Having picked up a yellow mid-way through the first, the Paraguayan was given his matching orders for a foul on Darren Fletcher. Already down a goal, the captain's dismissal left Wigan down a man.
Three minutes later, Rodallega jumped with both legs extended into a 50-50 ball, batching Rafael da Silva and earning the obvious red card. De Silva proved fine on a play that could have dangerous, but Rodallega was deservedly dismissed.
With Wigan down to nine men, the match's drama centers less around the outcome than Wayne Rooney, who just elevated for a cross from da Silva, putting a strong effort over the cross bar. Rooney is making his first appearance in just over a month, being sidelines with an ankle injury.
Bolton went up three goals on Newcastle early in the second half, but the Magpies have quickly pulled one back to remain within striking distance at the Reebok. Elsewhere, Blackpool has scored a second, West Brom and Stoke
are still scoreless have just seen their first goal, while Manchester United is still in position to pick up three points on Chelsea.
In Bolton, Lee Chung-Yong and Kevin Davies combined to put Johan Elmander past Fabricio Coloccini, giving Tim Krul little chance to stop the Trotters' third goal. Two minutes later, Newcastle pulled one back. Some luck after Stuart Holden dispossessed Shola Ameobi saw Andy Carroll with the ball in the Bolton area. Carroll beat Jussi Jaaskelainen for his league-leading eighth goal of the season, making it 3-1, Bolton.
In Blackpool, Marlon Harewood scores just before halftime, giving the Seasiders a 2-0 lead over Wolves. While Wolverhampton have superficially looked Blackpool's equal, they've also failed to sufficiently threaten the worst defense in the league.
At The Hawthorns, West Brom has given up a penalty kick to Stoke, which was converted by Matthew Etherington. Stoke's climb up the league looks to continue, now up 1-0 at West Bromwich.
Manchester United is still up 1-0 over Wigan, but the news from Old Trafford has Wayne Rooney coming on for Federico Macheda in the 56th minute. United, playing a 4-3-3 today, will give Rooney room to run up top.
As expected, Manchester United has allowed Wigan Athletic their changes at Old Trafford, with Charles N'Zogbia looking his typical, dangerous self. Also as expected, Manchester United has taken advantage of stoppage time, scoring in first half's extra time to take a 1-0 lead to halftime.
The goal was almost too easy, a momentary slip from a Wigan side that has been decent through the first 45. A throw-in from the right side came to Park Ji-Sung who, from 28 yards out, floated a ball to the far post. With no pressure on Park, the midfielder was able to give Patrice Evra a perfect ball, with the United left back running between defenders to knock-in a rare goal.
With Arsenal having lost and Chelsea trailing at Birmingham City, a victory today could see Manchester United even on points at the top of the league at day's end. With the second half having just started at Old Trafford, United now need to avoid the type of second half collapse that has plagued their season.
Is it just men, or does Lee Chung-Yong seem to be involved in a disproportionate number of Bolton's goals? He isn't racking up assists or goals, but he always seems to be playing a ball into a danger area or making a run to crack a defense's left side. This may also be selection bias, as he's one of Bolton's few attackers that can run.
Regardless, Lee was undeniably in the middle of Bolton's second goal against Newcastle, tough controversially so. Lee appeared to be offside when a ball, leaving the Magpie area, came off Johan Elmander and went back into the Newcastle box. There stood Lee, apparently a shade offside, though the flag stayed down. Lee's ensuing shot went into the left side of Tim Krul's net, giving the Trotters a 2-0 lead.
Perhaps the goal is a better of karma, justice, or some other type of cosmic evening-out. Shortly after Bolton's first goal, Newcastle defender Mike Williamson appeared to headbutt Elmander way from the ball, putting the Swede on his back, apparently out cold. Clearly, Elmander was fine, but there were a few scary moments as training staff and officials tried to figure out what happened.
Williamson went unpunished for now, which may ultimately be misfortune. Because he wasn't carded, the league could still take retrospective action to address his foul.
Lee Bowyer's goal against Chelsea comes totally against the run of play in the 17th minute. A cross from the right side fell beautifully for Birmingham City, allowing Cameron Jerome to cushion the ball with his head. The header fell to Bowyer, who tucked it in from eight yards. The goal is the first for the midfielder in his last forty appearances.
Just 17 minutes in and Birmingham City have already exposed the weakness in Chelsea's defense. With John Terry out for an indefinite period of time, Branislav Ivanovic and Alex are paired in central defense, with Paulo Ferreira on the right. Alex allowed Bowyer plenty of space in which to work, while Ferreira did nothing to help prevent the goal.
While Chelsea are continuing to apply pressure at St. Andrews, with the normally tight Birmingham City defense looking a little exposed at the back. Fortunately for the home side, keeper Ben Foster has denied both Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole with two excellent saves.
Kevin Davies has put Bolton up early on Newcastle, with former Trotter Kevin Nolan gifting his former club a penalty kick within the first 20 minutes. The Newcastle midfielder's hand ball, resulting from a poor touch on a ball to the far right of the Magpie area, gave Bolton the spot kick, allowing the Trotters to take a 1-0 lead.
For Nolan, it was an embarrassing moment, his negligent play of a bouncing ball putting the ball onto this right elbow. Perhaps the play would have gone unnoticed were it not for Nolan's elbow obviously moving into the ball, leaving the official no choice but to make the call. Unchallenged on the play, Nolan has little reason beyond brain lapse for his mistake.
Elsewhere, Blackpool is up 1-0 on Wolverhampton after what the BBC called a "stunning" goal from Luke Varney. Per their description, Varney chest trapped a ball coming out of the Wolves area and, on the volley, dipped a ball over Marcus Hanhemann and under the cross bar, giving the Tangerines an early lead at Bloomfield Road.
It's no exaggeration to say that 45 minutes minutes into Saturday's North London Derby, a Tottenham Hotspur win at Arsenal was unfathomable. Not only were Spurs working against history, they were down 2-0, having been dominated in the first period. Having never won at Arsenal in the Premier League era, there was little reason beyond sporting chance to believe Spurs would come back.
Five minutes into the second half, a goal from Gareth Bale gave Spurs hope. Still, it seemed aberrational, and when Cesc Fabregas foolishly handled a direct kick in the box 16 minutes later, there was a surreal feel to Rafael van der Vaart pulling Spurs even. There was less of a "they can win this" air than "what's going on here."
That was the same reaction when Spurs went ahead, with Younes Kaboul converting a set piece in the 86th minute, giving Spurs their first ever win at the Emirates. At that point, Arsenal looked dead in the water, the camera catching their players, foreheads facing the field, turning to walk away from the winner they'd just allowed. There was no question, Arsenal was done. But had Spurs really won?
Even now, it seems surreal. I don't think we know how to react to Spurs winning this derby in this way. Had they come out and beat Arsenal like they did at White Hart Lane in April, we would have had 90 minutes of viewing to acclimate us to Spurs' superiority. Today's match, however, never afforded us that chance.
By the end of today's matches, we may have a grasp on the idea that Spurs have finally broken through on the road against the Big Four.
Tottenham Hotspur is on the verge of their first ever win at the Emirates, their first win at Arsenal in the Premier League era, after Younes Kaboul's 86th minute goal has given Spurs a 3-2 lead in the North London Derby. Winning a Rafael van der Vaart cross between two Arsenal defenders, Kaboul flicked a ball far post from six yards out to give Tottenham their first lead of the match.
Van der Vaart ball came from the right flank, 35 yards up the pitch, coming after a foul from Laurent Koscielny earned the Arsenal center back a yellow card. Van der Vaart's inswinging ball dropped at the edge of the six, targeting Kaboul at the right of goal. Kaboul climbed over Cesc Fabregas to win the ball, holding off Sebastian Squillaci behind him. The defender's flick went toward the back post, being Lukasz Fabianski for Spurs' third goal of the half.
Tottenham has not won at Arsenal since 1993, their last visit before the start of the Premier League. Complete dominated in the first half, Spurs got goals from Gareth Bale and van der Vaart to pull even. Now, Spurs on within minutes of a historic win.
Now in the 92nd minute, the match is still 3-2, Spurs.
A shocking turn of events at the Emirates has seen Tottenham Hotspur reverse Arsenal's dominant first half and pull even with the Gunners. A 67th minute penalty kick conversion from Rafael van der Vaart has the match tied 2-2, but the story after Tottenham's equalizer was the nature of the mistake that gifted Spurs their spot kick.
A questionable foul given 24 yards from goal say Younes Kaboul and van der Vaart standing over a direct kick, only a five man wall separating their ball from Gomes's goal. On the left side of the wall stood Fabregas and Marouane Chamakh, with both players lifting their right arm toward the ball after Kaboul's attempt.
It was an easy call for Phil Dowd, who immediately awarded Spurs a penalty kick. Surprisingly, Fabregas escaped without a card, given the nature of the hand ball.
On the kick, van der Vaart sent Gomes to the right before coolly putting the ball high into the goal's left. On his sixth goal of the year, van der Vaart pulled Spurs even at the Emirates, 2-2.
Now in the 77th minute, the score remains the same, Robin van Persie having come on for Marouane Chamakh.
An early second half goal has Tottenham Hotspur back to within one at Arsenal, with the halftime substitution of Jemain Defoe paying immediate dividends. While the diminutive Defoe is known for the work he does with the shot, it was an aerial contribution that was crucial to Gareth Bale's 50th minute goal.
The play started with a long ball played from the back by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the short Defoe forced to contest it. Luckily for Spurs, he was tracked from the right by left back Gael Clichy, leaving Arsenal's weakest aerial defender to contest the ball. Defoe won the ball, heading on for an oncoming Rafael van der Vaart, whose lay-off to Gareth Bale put the Welsh winger in on goal. With the outside of his left foot, Bale rolled the ball toward the far post of an charging Lukasz Fabianski, barely slotting it inside the upright.
It was Spurs first real attack of the match, though the execution made it seem Spurs had been unleashing those counters all match. Clichy's following Defoe toward the middle allowed van der Vaart to take Defoe's knock-down uncontested. Gareth Bale overlapped from his normal left wing position into the empty space, giving him a clear shot on goal. All the write, Arsenal's defenders were scurrying to cover the space vacated when Clichy tracked Defoe.
As a result, we have a one goal game at the Emirates, Arsenal still leading 2-1 in the 61st minute.
Aaron Lennon has not had a major impact on the match. Then again, few Spurs have, and the ones that have had negative impacts, with Tottenham Hostpur down 2-0 at Arsenal. With that in mind almost anybody could have been pulled-off at halftime by Harry Redknapp, but it's his right winger, still not fully healthy, that has been sacrificed for Jermain Defoe.
Early in the second half, the substitution looks to have moved Rafael van der Vaart from a central role out right, with Defoe playing high, Roman Pavlyuchenko now dropping slightly deeper.
With this being Tottenham's only chance, Spurs midfield problems look to persist. The midfield pairing of Luka Modric and Jermaine Jenas was ineffective in the first half, and with Wilson Palacios on Spurs' bench, the questions from Tottenham supports persist. What did Wilson Palacios do to Harry Redknapp? Why, especially with Tom Huddlestone out, is the Honduran collecting dust on the bench?
Tottenham has still failed to test Lukasz Fabianski in Arsenal's net, but with Marouane Chamakh's athletic finish in the 27th minute, Spurs find themselves down two, having yet to come into the match.
Arsenal's second goal started as a small break, with Andrei Arshavin receiving the ball to the left of the area, Spurs defense having been turned. As he was closed down by Alan Hutton, the Russian attacker played a left-footed ball to the edge of the six. Younes Kaboul seemed to be in good position to play the ball, but Chamakh stretched-out for the ball, got his right leg in from of Kaboul, and poked the ball into Gomes's net.
Like many goals are, Arsenal's second was a metaphor for how this match has gone. Whereas the first goal was the result of terrible defending, Chamakh's was a result of Spurs just not doing enough. Nobody did enough to stop the ball from going wide to Arshavin. Hutton can hardly be faulted for not getting out to play Arshavin's first touch, but he didn't get there. Kaboul seemed in the right place to defend Chamakh, but he misjudged the Arsenal striker's capabilities.
That's how most of this match has been. It's not that Tottenham has been incapable. It's more that they just haven't been able to match Arsenal. As a result, this has been one of the more convincing halves of the Gunners' season.
Now seven minutes before halftime, Arsenal remains up 2-0.
A great pass from Cesc Fabregas and a surgical conversion from Samir Nasri has Arsenal up 1-0 over Tottenham Hotspur in the 10th minute. The goal also has Tottenham Hotspur supporters asking "What the hell was that" after a surprisingly easy and direct goal permitted by a couple of errors from Spurs.
The biggest of those errors was from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the Spurs left back who let Samir Nasri beat him no a run behind the Spurs defense. Cutting in from the right flank, Nasri ran behind left-central defender Younnes Kaboul onto a pass lofted 40 yards by Fabregas. Nasri's touch put him into the box, forcing Gomes off his line with the Cameroonian defender well beaten.
Gomes did not get to the ball in time but forced Nasri to poke the ball past him from 15 yards out. The resulting ball looked to be going into touch, something Assou-Ekotto took for granted as he pulled-up on the play. Nasri, however, saw the play out, and from an angle of seemingly 20 degrees, put the ball just over the line from the left of goal.
Nasri's fifth league goal made an early goat out of Assou-Ekotto, but if you have a chance look at Rafael van der Vaart's defending on Cesc Fabregas on the ball that let to the goal. Five yards inside his own half, Fabregas felt no pressure as he set-up for the ball to Nasri. Meanwhile, van der Vaart stands flat footed, four yards away, with plenty of time to exert some pressure on the Arsenal playmaker.
Now in the 16th minute, Arsenal remains up 1-0.
Just moments from kick-off at the Emirates and the starting XIs have a couple of small surprises, one in each of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur's midfields. Whereas most expected Jack Wilshire to start for Arsenal and Wilson Palacios to get the nod for Spurs, each man finds himself on the substitutes bench as the first whistle blows.
For the Gunners, Denilson gets the nod along side Alexander Song in midfield. The Brazilian, who has spend much of the last year out of the starting lineup, has been impressive in a substitutes role in recent performances. The 22-year-old Brazilian makes his third start of the season.
Less of a surprise but still noteworthy, Laurent Koscielny returns to the starting lineup in Arsenal's central defense. The Frenchman starts along side countryman Sebastian Squillaci, with Johan Djourou moving to the bench.
For Spurs, Harry Redknapp's mysterious usage of Wilson Palacios continues. With Tom Huddlestone beginning a prolonged absence, the Honduran was expected to see more time. However, Palacios continued to be mysteriously excluded by Redknapp, with Jermaine Jenas getting the call along side Luka Modric, leaving Spurs with an obvious lack of protection in front of William Gallas and Younes Kaboul, a second choice central defense pairing forced into today's start.
Gallas is making his first return to The Emirates since his summer switch to Spurs.
Arsenal, Starting XI: Fabianski / Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy / Song, Denilson, Fabregas / Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin
Spurs, Starting XI: Gomes / Hutton, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto / Lennon, Jenas, Modric, Bale / van der Vaart, Pavlyuchenko.
They've met once before this season: Arsenal needing extra time to knock Spurs out of the League Cup. Today at 7:45 a.m. Eastern, Tottenham goes to the Emirates for the first North London Derby of the Premier League season, when a hobbled Spurs team look to extend their league winning streak over Arsenal to ... two.
The fact that Spurs are coming off a Premier League win over Arsenal is a rarity. Before their 2-1, April win over Arsenal, Tottenham's last victory over Arsenal came in 1999, another victory at White Hart Lane. Spurs have not won at Arsenal in the Premier League era, and if they're to reverse that course today, they'll have to do so without Tom Huddlestone, who starts a three month absence, while none of Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Ledley King are fully fit.
For Arsenal, today's will be a needed three points, the club having a chance to narrow their two point deficit on league leading but limping Chelsea. The Blues will be at another set of Blues, Birmingham City, one of six 11:00 a.m. Eastern start times. Still without Frank Lampard (abductor) and Michael Essien (suspension), Chelsea's walking wounded will be joined by John Terry, leaving them with largely the same team that last to Sunderland last Sunday.
Also amongst the 11:00 a.m. start times sees Manchester United hosting Wigan (with Wayne Rooney likely to be on the bench), Wolves at Blackpool, West Brom hosting Stoke, and Newcastle going to Bolton, a battle of the leagues' eighth and fifth place teams.
For more on the weekend's match-ups, check out the full preview of matchday 14. For now, here is the schedule of today's fixtures:
|Saturday||7:45 a.m.||Arsenal||Tottenham||3-1, Arsenal|
|10:00 a.m.||Birmingham City||Chelsea||1-1|
|Bolton Wanderers||Newcastle United||2-1, Bolton|
|Manchester United||Wigan Athletic||3-0, United|
|West Bromwich Albion||Stoke City||2-1, Brom|
|12:30 p.m.||Liverpool||West Ham United||2-1, West Ham
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