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While Chelsea dominated the ball, Aston Villa generated as many opportunities as their guests on Saturday. Those chances were ultimately irrelevant, with Villa and Chelsea playing to a scoreless draw.
Each team found the woodwork in the second half. Branislav Ivanovic was the first, hitting Brad Friedel’s right post off a corner. Nicolas Anelka would do the same late in the match, while Villa defender Ciaran Clark’s glancing header found Petr Cech’s left upright.
Though Chelsea looked out-of-sorts without Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, this was Aston Villa’s best performance since the season’s opening match. Nigel Reo-Coker proved a constant pest in midfield, while Stewart Downing put in a strong shift on the right wing.
Also of note for Chelsea was the return of José Bosingwa, the right back making a late appearance.
Chelsea moves to 19 points, five ahead of Manchester City, while Aston Villa sits on 11 points and eighth place.
Aston Villa been the equal of the league leaders, going to half time deservedly drawn with a Chelsea side that has yet to find its rhythm.
A strong half defensively from Stewart Downing, Nigel Reo-Coker and James Collins has contributed to Chelsea's problems, though the absences of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as well as potential replacements Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun has a bite-less Chelsea searching for options.
At the other end of the pitch, Aston Villa has been able to create chances for Stephen Ireland, augmenting multiple corner kick chances on which Villa was able put strong if fruitless headers toward net.
Chelsea will have an avenue to goal as the come out of half time, as defender Ciaran Clark, who replaced Richard Dunne 13 minutes into the match, has looked shaky. Minutes before half, Chelsea attack Gael Kakuta was able to tread a dangerous through ball between Clark and Collins, though Nicolas Anelka was unable to run onto the pass.
Chelsea came into today's match with a chance to go seven points clear of Manchester City, while a Aston Villa win would vault the home team into sixth place.
Thirteen minutes into Aston Villa's Saturday match against Chelsea, Richard Dunne was out with a foot injury, with Ciaran Clark sent to partner James Collins in central defense.
Dunne had left the pitch around the eight minute mark, with central midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker dropping to right back to fill-out the defense. Dunne was seen running along the sideline without his right boot on, but eventually Gerard Houllier decided to sub-off his veteran defender.
Villa and Chelsea remain scoreless through 18 minutes.
In the Championship, Portsmouth allow Watford to go ahead before grabbing two goals back and finishing 3-2. Derby take a decisive victory over Preston North End, winning 3-0. Sheffield United and Burnley score six goals in the second half, including two in stoppage time, to even out at 3-3. Sven-Goran Eriksson’s managerial debut at Leicester was slightly tarnished when Hull City’s Robert Koren equalized, leaving the score at 1-1.
In League One, Exeter City managed to hang on for a 2-1 win despite letting Carlisle back into the match. Brighton scored a flurry of goals in the second half, with home side Charlton falling 0-4. Petersborough-Swindon was a fun one, decided in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Kevin Amankwaah of Swindon Town scored an own goal. Whoopsies. Final score 5-4 to Petersborough.
Down to League Two where Macclesfield, down 0-2 to Oxford United at the half, scored three, including a brace from Paul Bolland, to find a 3-2 victory. Northampton, up 3-0 at the half via a hat-trick by Leon McKenzie, fell apart, with visitors Hereford scoring four in the second to leave the match at 3-4. Finally, another brace in the lower leagues, via Chris Zebroski, was not enough for Torquay United, who fell 3-4 to Bury.
Six matches at the English Premier League's 10:00 a.m. start time have left four teams with 14 points, slotted behind Chelsea in the table. While Manchester City's likely to break-up that group tomorrow, Saturday's early matches ended with bunching at the top of the league.
Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Spurs all sit on 14 points, four behind Chelsea, with West Brom sitting sixth with 12.
Striker Ivan Klasnic scored a 90th minute winner for Bolton against Stoke City, making the score 2-1, which was how the game would end. A ball fell to him in the center of the box and he coolly finished with his left foot to the far post, beating Thomas Sorenson. The win for Bolton moves them up to seventh place in the table at the moment.
Fabrico Coloccini has given Newcastle a point and snatched two vital points away from possible relegation battlers Wigan Athletic at St. James' Park. Andy Carroll's header off a corner fell to Coloccini who had an easy tap-in of a header to split the points and tie up the score at 2-2. The score ended the same and the match ended in a draw.
After an outstanding performance for Arsenal today, Jack Wilshere made an unwise decision to go in late on Nikola Zigic, landing on top of the Birmingham City player’s foot. Nasty challenge from the young midfielder.
Shola Ameobi has pulled a goal back for Newcastle United in the 72nd minute against Wigan Athletic to make the score 1-2. Jonas Gutierrez hit a cross across the box to Ameobi who finished easily with a very close range header from well inside the six yard box.
A corner kick taken to the left of Fulham’s goal was headed out to a lurking Tom Huddlestone, the Spurs midfielder taking one touch before letting loose a rocket into the right side of Mark Schwarzer’s net, giving Tottenham a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute of their match at Craven Cottage.
The goal was originally thought disallowed, with the linesman's flag up. The tally was eventually allowed to stand.
Huddlestone is one of the best ball strikers in the league, but goals of this nature – a 24-yard, perfectly placed strike through traffic – are usually the trade of Paul Scholes.
Huddlestone’s impression of the Premier League standard has Spurs in position for a valuable three points.
After Victor Obinna was brought-down in the Wolverhampton penalty area, West Ham's Mark Noble converted a 52nd minute penalty kick to bring the league bottom Hammers even with Wolves, 1-1 at the Molineux.
The match in Wolverhampton pits the league's two worst teams against each other, with Noble's goal equalizing Matt Jarvis's 10th minute opener.
Manchester United's best performance of the season has quickly turned into a story that's becoming too familiar, with West Brom pulling back two goals to drawn even at Old Trafford a mere ten minutes after intermission.
A foul given near the byline to the left of Manchester United's goal led to a chaotic West Brom tally minutes into the second half.
Chris Brunt's low drive from just outside the box, two yards from the line, eventually found the back of the net, though the goal has still not been credited to anybody, with the ball hitting a number of players before going off Patrice Evra and into the net. (Editor's note: The goal has been credited as an Evra own goal)
Minutes later, in the 55th minutes, an absolute howler from Edwin van der Sar saw the Dutch goalkeeper drop a looping cross from West Brom's left, with debutante Somen Tchoyi tapping in West Brom's equalizer.
Rory Delap has equalized for Stoke City at the Reebok Stadium in the 48th minute. Stoke City earned a corner kick and that corner kick resulted in a scramble. Eventually, the ball fell for Rory Delap around the six yard box and he made no mistake about finishing his chance.
What. A. Goal. Jack Wilshere sends the ball to Alex Song, who flicks a backheel right back to Wilshere. Wilshere sends it off the outside of his left foot to Marouane Chamakh, who performed the most gorgeous of pirouettes to dance past Stephen Carr and slide around Ben Foster before slipping the ball under the keeper’s outstretched arms to put it in the net.
While there have been quite a few goals in the Premier League this morning (five of them came within five minutes, I believe) it’s typically the lower leagues that give the most goals to English football fans.
In the Championship, Cardiff City put away Bristol City 3-2 in an impressive comeback, with Peter Whittingham celebrating his 200th career start by scoring the winner in the 78th minute. Scunthorpe went down 1-3 to Doncaster, while Derby are leading Preston 2-0 at the half. Leicester City, fighting to get out of relegation, scored in the third minute and are beating Hull City 1-0 at halftime.
Down to League One, where the impressive Richard Logan scored a brace inside three minutes to put Exeter City over Carlisle 2-0 going into the second half. Huddersfield leads Southampton 2-0, also at the half, but all the goals are coming via Petersborough v Swindon. Despite the home side being up 3-0 within 22 minutes, Swindon fought back and the score is 3-3 with 45 minutes left to play.
Everyone’s at half-time down in League Two, where Crewe, who have recently been scoring (and conceding) like crazy, are locked in a 0-0 draw with Southend. Northampton are up 3-0 on Hereford, and visitors Oxford United are beating Macclesfield 2-0.
Crossing fingers for more goals in the second half, starting now.
Halftime for the Premier League's early starts sees goals in all six matches:
Off-and-on over the last few seasons, Ryan Giggs has had hamstring problems, an injury that seems to have reoccurred today at Old Trafford.
Near the 40 minute mark of Manchester United's match against West Brom, Giggs - today's started at left wing - left the pitch. Although it was initially speculated United would try to get to halftime without a substitution, Darron Gibson was brought-on in the 43rd minute.
United continues to lead, 2-0.
Tottenham Hotspur's captain Ledley King has seen the lower half of his body fail him once again as he was taken off injured in the 40th minute at Craven Cottage. He was visibly limping for about two minutes before being taken off and his lack of mobility allowed Diomansy Kamara to create a wide open shot for himself. Thankfully for Spurs, his effort was well saved by Gomes. Shortly after the save, King was substituted off for Sebastien Bassong.
Scott Dann fouled Marouane Chamakh in mid-fall. While he may have been diving, the foul was clear, and Martin Atkinson made the correct call when he pointed to the spot. Samir Nasri stepped up and put away the penalty shot.
The first half hour of Tottenham Hotspur’s visit to Craven Cottage played out as a pact between two teams determined to draw. Thankfully, somebody forgot to tell Clint Dempsey
The Fulham attacker played a ball off his chest at the top of the box, dribbled to the left edge of the six yard box before played a ball across goal from strike partner Diomansy Kamara for an easy, right-footed finish, making it 1-0 in the 30th minute.
If the goal stunned Spurs, it didn’t show, as the visitors quickly found Rafael van der Vaart in the middle of the area. His trap-then-chip when off the crossbar, the rebound falling to a perfectly placed Roman Pavlyuchenko, who finished for the equalizer.
After 31 minutes, it was 1-1 in London.
Nikola Zigic, the giant tree of English football (everyone writing about him is required to note that he is taller than Peter Crouch), has scored his first goal in the Premier League. An inswinging cross from the Kevin Fahey on the Birmingham left found Zigic at the far post, where he climbed over two defenders to head it into the net. Fabianski could do nothing but dive, his fingers missing by inches.
South Korean international winger Lee Chung-Yong has put Bolton up 1-0 on Stoke City in the 22nd minute. His right footed shot to the upper ninety beat keeper Thomas Sorenson who could do little about the well-placed finish. The goal was unassisted.
Charles N'Zogbia has blown the game between Newcastle and Wigan wide open with two goals in the 22nd and 23rd minutes to give Wigan a 2-0 lead. Newcastle had struggled to create anything to start the match and their former left winger has put them to the sword. The first goal came on a header from the middle of the box and the second came from a left footed shot on the edge of the penalty area.
A slip, a giveaway by West Brom in midfield saw Nani charging at a scrambling back line, and after a pass to Dimitar Berbatov was returned to the Portuguese international, Manchester United had a 2-0 lead in the 26th minute.
While it’s been an open affair at Old Trafford, Manchester United has looked the more dangerous side, easily passing through West Brom’s defense for good scoring chances. While West Brom has also caused one or two gasps from the Manchester faithful, United could have been up more, particularly had Berbatov finished a sitter near the 20 minute mark.
It’s business as usual for Rob Green and West Ham. The visitors are down 1-0 at Wolverhampton off a keeper error. Stephen Ward’s cross was barely nudged out by Rob Green, allowing Matt Jarvis to drive it home from eight yards.
Nani's dipping free kick from 20 yards out was pushed back in front of goal by Scott Carson, a practically gifted goal for Javier Hernández, starting in place of Wayne Rooney. After five minutes at Old Trafford, Manchester United was up 1-0 over West Bromwich Albion.
West Brom came out strong, showing a lot of confidence against a United team that gave the Baggies too much space in the match's opening minutes. Manchester United soon woke-up and has since had a greater measure of control.
The eighth match day of the English Premier League season starts at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, with home fixtures for Manchester United and Arsenal highlighting the morning's matches. Taking center stage at the day's second (and last_ start time, league-leading Chelsea travels to the Midlands to take on Aston Villa.
In case you missed it, here was our weekend preview, with special focus on a handful of matches attached to the stream.
We'll be with you throughout the match day giving up updates on the action.
Here is the day's schedule:
|Saturday||10:00 a.m.||Arsenal||Birmingham City||3-1, Arsenal|
|Bolton Wanderers||Stoke City||2-1, Bolton|
|Manchester United||West Bromwich Albion||3-0, United|
|Newcastle United||Wigan Athletic||2-0, Newcastle|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||West Ham United||2-1, Wolves|
|12:30 p.m.||Aston Villa||Chelsea||1-1|
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