BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Michael Essien and John Terry (R) of Chelsea leave the pitch at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on October 16, 2010 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

English Premier League Week 8 Weekend Review: Chelsea, Manchester United Held To Draws While Liverpool Fall To Everton In Merseyside Derby

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Fulham 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs Back To Grinding Out Wins

On Saturday, Tottenham accomplished what no other team this season had yet to do: Beat Fulham. Sure, victory may have come as a result of a controversial goal, but Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, and Tom Huddlestone all had great performances. Yet Kevin McCauley of Cartilage Free Captain believes Spurs are back to their old methods of grinding out wins:

Well, are we back to being the Spurs side that grinds out victories in matches where we don’t play our best? It would seem that way after two 2-1 victories over Aston Villa and Fulham. Once again, Spurs had some obvious deficiencies and didn’t play their best football, but were able to grind out a victory against a formidable opponent regardless.

For more regarding the Spurs win over Fulham, as well as for a look at how Spurs have done thus far this season, visit SB Nation’s Tottenham blog, Cartilage Free Captain.

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Manchester United 2-2 West Brom: United Far Adrift Of Title Hopes

While Manchester United are used to dropping points on the road this season, they certainly aren’t used to dropping them at Old Trafford. While United still haven’t lost this season, when up 2-0 against West Bromwich Albion at the half on Saturday, no wonder supporters seem a bit down about the club’s title hopes. The Busby Babe muses over their team’s draw at home

United’s passing was poor and their control had deserted them much the way the fans were deserting, scampering towards the exits despite United’s long history of late shows. You could just see it wasn’t on the card this time. Another two points dropped from a winning position against weaker opposition. This time at Old Trafford though. Still no losses on the season for United but they are a long way adrift of Chelsea so early in the season and nothing kills a title challenge faster than dropping points to weaker sides.

For more on the draw with West Brom, as well as thoughts on Wayne Rooney’s possible exit, visit SB Nation’s Manchester United blog, The Busby Babe.

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Blackpool 2-3 Manchester City: City Now Expect To Snatch Goals, Victory

While Blackpool dominated much of the first half of Manchester City’s visit to Bloomfield Road, both attacking the Citizens and keeping them away from goal, City fans never really doubted that their team would score. Danny Pugsley of Bitter and Blue shares his thoughts on the victory over the Tangerines:

However, whereas games and seasons past, there would be a hope that you could snatch a goal, or grab an equaliser, but now there is expectation. Even playing as poorly and disjointed as we were, there was a belief that the victory could be obtained. How times change eh?

For more on the weekend’s match, as well as player rankings, visit SB Nation’s Manchester City blog, Bitter and Blue

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Fulham 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Controversial Goal By Tom Huddlestone Keeps Fulham Fans Talking

Fulham were handed their first loss of the season at home this weekend, when a controversial Tom Huddlestone goal was allowed to stand despite the linesman flagging William Gallas for being offside. Russ Goldman of Cottagers Confidential gives his thoughts on the Spurs win:

This was a tough way for Fulham to get their first loss. I am sure this controversial goal will be talked for some time by Fulham fans. However, I have to give credit to Spurs as they played a great match and probably deserved the win.

For more on the match against Tottenham, visit SB Nation’s Fulham blog, Cottagers Confidential.

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Everton 2-0 Liverpool: Toffees Pull Off A Convincing Derby Victory

With their new owners watching at Goodison Park, Liverpool had to be hoping for a good showing against Everton. Instead, the Reds barely made an impression in the first half, and barely threatened in the second. Royal Blue Mersey had this to say about Everton’s dominance:

As convincing a derby win as you will see in a long time, Everton over-ran Liverpool for much of the game and grabbed a vital three points that sees the Toffees leap up to mid table and keeps the Reds second from bottom.

For more on the Everton win over Liverpool, visit SB Nation’s Everton blog, Royal Blue Mersey.

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Aston Villa 0-0 Chelsea: A Match Not Of Two Halfs, But Four Quaters

While Chelsea looked fairly toothless in the first half of their match at Aston Villa, Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement of Gael Kakuta with Yuri Zhirkov gave the Blues more room to attack in the second half, forcing Villa to sit deeper in their own half. Graham MacAree of We Ain’t Got No History talks about the changes both teams made late in Saturday’s match:

Chelsea were looking very dangerous, and Anelka was starting to link up with Ferreira down the right side as well. Anelka troubled Friedel with a low snap shot and missed a pretty good opportunity well high and wide of the far post, but for the most part attacks were ending with desperate Villa lunges at the final ball. By the 70th minute Houllier was looking for new outlets to relieve pressure while Ancelotti was trying to add even more width to Chelsea as well as finding a more attacking midfielder to deploy in the place of a largely disappointing Ramires. Nathan Delfouneso was Villa’s choice, Bosingwa and McEachran Chelsea’s.

For a full recap of Chelsea’s draw with Aston Villa, as well as an analysis of play and a wonderfully designed formation chart, visit SB Nation’s Chelsea blog, We Ain’t Got No History.

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Aston Villa 0-0 Chelsea: Villa Should Not Be Frustrated By Squandered Chances, Draw

Had Stephen Ireland not missed by inches, or Nigel Reo-Coker gone just wide, or even if Petr Cech hadn’t parried away John Carew’s shot, Aston Villa could have beaten Chelsea at Villa Park for the second season in a row. Yet neither the squad nor the supporters should be displeased with a draw, but rather should be encouraged by the progress being made by Gerard Houllier, according to Aaron Campeau at 7500 to Holte.

Villa began the game in a 4-2-3-1, matching Chelsea’s numbers in the center and putting Stephen Ireland in a position to be an asset rather than a liability. The plan was quite clearly to attack and attack hard early on and it very nearly paid off. When Chelsea switched to a more attacking style and finding holes in Villa’s midfield, Houllier switched up the emphasis and played the defense and holding mids deeper.

For more on the Villa-Chelsea match, as well as details on Marc Albrighton’s sleeping habits and how to buy an Aston Villa toothbrush, visit SB Nation’s Aston Villa blog, 7500 to Holte.

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Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City: Arsenal Could Have Had More But For Lack Of Finishing

Be honest, Arsenal fans: How often have you heard a version of this sentiment, laid out by Ted Harwood in The Short Fuse’s match report?:

It was a match that Arsenal could easily have won about 12-0 but for the lack of sharpness at the edge of the 18-yard box

Fortunately, despite that lack of finishing, Arsenal did beat Birmingham City and remain third in the table. For more on Saturday’s match, visit SB Nation’s Arsenal blog, The Short Fuse.

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English Premier League Week 8 Weekend Review: Chelsea, Manchester United Held To Draws While Liverpool Fall To Everton In Merseyside Derby

To look at the top five in Premier League football is to believe that little has changed-after all, these are the teams most were predicting to be in those slots before the season began. Yet surprises remain in the top division of English football.

To the astonishment of many, Chelsea came away from the weekend's matches with just one point. Sure, they had their share of injuries, but so did opponents Aston Villa, and holding the league leaders to a 0-0 draw is impressive, especially for a club still looking to settle down and find its footing in the league. Gerard Houllier's men started the match applying plenty of pressure on the visitors, but both Stephen Ireland and John Carew squandered efforts in front of goal. Still, Villa were able to contain Chelsea in midfield for most of the first half, and even though much of the second was played in the home side's area, tight defending meant that the Blues were unable to find a goal for the second time this season. Chelsea's Nicholas Anelka and Branislav Ivanovic both hit woodwork, as did Villa's young substitute Ciaran Clark, and although Villa supporters should be happy with their well-deserved point against the champions, they could have done without Nigel Reo-Coker's wasted chance in the last minute, with the midfielder finding himself one on one with Petr Cech and still managing to shoot wide.

Aston Villa are left in eighth place, hoping for more goals to erase their negative goal difference born by the 6-0 defeat at Newcastle. Speaking of Newcastle, they were nearly undone by visiting Wigan, but the Latics finally allowed goals away from home and the match finished at 2-2. Charles N'Zogbia scored a brace inside two first half minutes, and although Newcastle pulled one back in the second half, it looked as though Wigan would walk away with all three points. Instead, Fabricio Coloccini headed home the equalizer in the fourth minute of injury time. That's five points in three matches for Wigan, not too shabby for the team most predicted would be relegated this season.

Instead it's West Ham and Wolverhampton that are desperately trying to claw their way out of the bottom three, although their 1-1 draw did little to help either team's chances. Once again, goalkeeper Robert Green distinguished himself, although not in a way West Ham supporters appreciate. Stephen Ward's shot was barely pushed out by Green, putting it at the feet of Matt Jarvis, who sent it into the net. Then the physical play of Wolves resulted in the equalizer, with Kevin Foley dragging down Victor Obinna in the box, and Mark Noble stepping to the spot to put away the equalizer.

Wolves and West Ham are separated in the relegation zone by one club: Liverpool. Those hoping that a change in ownership would bring about a miraculous turnaround in form were sadly disappointed Sunday morning, when Everton won this season's first Merseyside Derby 2-0. Goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta had the home fans taunting the new Liverpool owners with chants of, "Going down, going down." Many reds supporters, seeking a new target to blame, pointed at the poor form of Fernando Torres, but anyone pinning the loss on the Spaniard might want to examine just how many balls actually made their way to the striker.

The second Sunday match, Manchester City at Blackpool, saw the hosts applying plenty of pressure in the first half while closing down the second-placed team in the league. It took the introduction of David Silva in the 66th minute to bring about a goal, and that goal came almost instantly, with Silva setting up the first goal of Carlos Tevez-a controversial goal, considering replays showed the Argentinean to be offside. The goal was completely against the run of play, and soon the Tangerines scored a deserved equalizer off a backwards header by Marlon Harewood. Unfortunately for the home side, they forgot how to defend, and immediately allowed another Carlos Tevez goal. Silva added to the tally with his first Premier League goal, and although Charles Taylor-Fletcher added a second in injury time, Blackpool still lost 2-3.

The only other team to lose at home this weekend was Fulham, with Tottenham Hotspur breaking the Cottagers' undefeated start to the season. The home side took the lead in the 30th minute when Clint Dempsey set up Diomansy Kamara for the goal. But Spurs equalized immediately when Rafael Van der Vaart sent a shot into the crossbar, the Dutchman's shot dropping down to the feet of Roman Pavlyuchenko, who stuck the ball in the net. It was the visitors' go-ahead goal that got the tongues a-wagging and Fulham supporters a-shouting. Tom Huddlestone scored the winner, but the linesman had his flag up for William Gallas, who attempted to touch the ball as it headed into the net. The referee overruled his assistant and the goal stood, with Fulham finally falling, 1-2.

While Manchester United didn't lose at home, they sure made a valiant effort. Within five minutes, Javier Hernandez scored off keeper Scott Carson's error, and Nani capitalized on a slip-up by Nickey Shorey to send United into the second half up 2-0. But the tables turned and suddenly the visitors were the ones being gifted, first by an own goal by Patrice Evra, second by a keeping error by Edwin Van der Sar that allowed Somen Tchoyi to tap the ball into the net. United just don't seem to want to win, allowing the match to finish at 2-2.

Arsenal, victims themselves of West Brom earlier this season, took advantage of United's loss to slip into second place for about twelve hours. The Gunners found themselves down once again at the Emirates when Birmingham City striker Nikola Zigic headed home a Kevin Fahey cross, but Samir Nasri equalized through a Scott Dann penalty on Marouane Chamakh. There may have been doubts about the penalty being awarded-although there was obvious contact on Chamakh, he was on his way down anyway-but there was no controversy over Chamakh's second-half goal. A cheeky backheel from Alex Song sent the ball to Jack Wilshere, immediately moving it on to Chamakh, who spun around Carr and danced past keeper Ben Foster to put the ball in the net. Unfortunately, this bit of brilliance was overshadowed by Wilshere's dirty tackle on Zigic in added time, with the youngster being handed a straight red. The red card perfectly complemented Arsene Wenger's program notes calling for clarification on the rules regarding bad tackles.

Finally, Bolton Wanderers are having a go of it this season, claiming three points in a 2-1 victory over Stoke City to find themselves seventh in the table. Lee Chung-Yong opened the scoring for the home side, but the Potters fought back-albeit not in the physical manner they've been accused of-hitting the bar and sending shots at Trotter keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. Stoke found their equalizer in the second half, via Rory Delap, who found his long-throws closed down by Bolton, and so had to use his feet to score his first goal since January 2009. Oddly enough, a throw-in proved to be the death of Stoke when the visitors failed to clear Gretar Steinsson's effort, and Ivan Klasnic pounced to drive home the winner. Klasnic went from hero to minor villain soon after he scored, however, somehow picking up two yellow cards - and therefore getting himself sent off - during injury time.

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