MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Mario Balotelli of Manchester City is congratulated by his team mates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on October 23, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

English Premier League, Week 9: Manchester City Defeat United 6-1 In Stunning Performance

Manchester City put in an absolutely spectacular performance almost too good for words on Sunday afternoon, with Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko netting two each while James Milner and David Silva put on creative clinics.

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The Art of Rationalization, Or Reasons To Be Cheerful

Yeah, but it didn't really matter, because there was this, and there was this, and no, I'm not crying, I've just got something in my eye, and this too, and could I have a glass of water?


QPR Vs. Chelsea, 2011 Premier League: Full Time, Rangers Nick Odd, Improbable Win

I'm not entirely sure what I just watched, but I believe it was a football match. Queens Park Rangers have three more points than they had two hours ago after defeating Chelsea by a score of 1-0, but it was hardly a conventional 1-0 victory. QPR were certainly not the better team on the night, and while referee Chris Foy didn't lose the match for Chelsea - they more or less did that themselves with some awful mistakes - he made things a lot harder on them with some questionable decisions.

The Blues finished with nine men, with one of the two sendings off being unquestionably legitimate. But, let's start from the top. The goal came in the 10th minute, on a penalty kick. David Luiz shoved down Heidar Helguson in the box and Foy correctly granted a penalty, which Helguson converted. A terrible start for Chelsea, but no controversy.

Then, controversy! In the 33rd minute, Jose Bosingwa was sent off for a last man 'challenge' on Shawn Wright-Phillips. In reality, his challenge was a shoulder to shoulder tussle, in which SWP fell over because he is an elf. Straight red for Bosingwa, and Chelsea were down to 10 men.

They would go down to nine in the 41st minute, and this red card was one that they couldn't complain about. Didier Drogba went two footed, high and studs up into the legs of Adel Taarabt, and was correctly shown a straight red card. This sent Chelsea into halftime with nine men, down a goal and with seemingly no way to get back into the match.

Incredibly, Chelsea were the much better side in the second half. Neil Warnock inexplicably withdrew Taarabt, basically his only creative player, in the 61st minute to defend his 1-0 lead. At home, against nine men. You really can't make this stuff up.

David Luiz, the man at fault for QPR's goal, was absolutely immense in the second half, winning every defensive challenge. He went down in the box after apparently getting fouled in the 74th minute, but Foy wasn't having it. In all honestly, Luiz probably deserved a penalty. In the 83rd minute, he attempted an audacious overhead kick that was deflected by Frank Lampard and over the crossbar.

The Blues threw everyone forward and seemingly almost found an equalizer about a dozen times, but the ball just wouldn't hit the back of the net. QPR somehow escape with a win, and Andre Villas-Boas' men won't be happy with the officiating performance of Chris Foy on the afternoon.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: City Earn Legendary 6-1 Win

Well that was a thing. Manchester United hosted Manchester City at Old Trafford, and, one suspects, everyone was expecting a closely fought game, perhaps a draw. And that's kind of what we got. Only the score finished 6-1 in favour of Manchester City after goals from Mario Balotelli, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero, Darren Fletcher, Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Edin Dzeko. Find me someone who was predicting a five-goal margin of victory and I'll find you someone who regrets not putting money on it.

Anyway, the first half gave us little indication of the drama that was to come. United were in control of the game but couldn't do much against City's defence, which was keeping them out admirably, but the visitors were barely able to touch the ball and when Balotelli's opener came, it was very much against the run of play. James Milner scampered down the right and then cut the ball back to the top of the box. Balotelli lay in wait, and stroked a first-time shot past a helpless David de Gea to make it 1-0.

That's how it would stay through halftime, but Johnny Evans was clearly bored of a tight match and decided to go ahead and get himself sent off immediately after the restart when he denied Balotelli a clear goalscoring opportunity with a foul at the top of the box. It didn't take long before City struck again, with Milner again providing Balotelli an assist, driving a low cross across the face of goal after some fine work by David Silva to set the Italian up for his second.

United's defending was appalling after the red card (and it wasn't great before Evans was sent off either) and it didn't come as much of a surprise when the third arrived through Sergio Aguero after Micah Richards found himself in space down the right. The right back slid the ball across the top of the six yard box, and Aguero slammed home. By this point, David de Gea was having a distinctly bad day.

It only got slightly better when he saved from substitute Edin Dzeko, and when Darren Fletcher made it 3-1 late on (with a fantastic long range goal, it must be said)  things weren't looking too calamitous. And then, disaster. The defence went to sleep on a free kick, allowing both Joleon Lescott and Dzeko free reign at the back post. The ball eventually went in off Dzeko's knee. City weren't finished at 4-1, though, netting twice in stoppage time through David Silva and then Dzeko again, both racing clear of a flagging United back line to clip past de Gea, who's probably feeling pretty annoyed right now.

Sir Alex Ferguson is probably even more annoyed. City go five points clear at the top of the table with a legendary win, and they've now scored more goals this season than they managed in the 06/07 campaign. Goodness me. Title favourites?


Arsenal Vs. Stoke City, 2011 Premier League: Robin Reliant Does It Again

There isn’t much more one can say about Robin van Persie. The Arsenal captain scored another 2 goals this afternoon, to make it 25 goals in 26 Premier League appearances in 2011 and to turn 1-1 into 3-1 for Arsenal. The fact that his two goals came in little under 25 minutes makes his performance all the more remarkable.

Arsenal started well, holding onto the ball well, and dealt with Rory Delap’s long throws with ease. Marouane Chamakh had a free header from Mikel Arteta’s corner, but headed wide. Aaron Ramsey played a wonderful chip into Gervinho’s run, but the Ivorian winger couldn’t quite bring the pass under control. No matter though; minutes later, Ramsey tried the same routine from an even closer angle, and Gervinho brought it down before rounding Asmir Begovic and tucking away for 1-0.

Arsenal’s weakness at set pieces, though, came back to bite them. For some reason, Lee Mason gave Stoke a free kick when Laurent Koscielny jumped above Peter Crouch. Whelan’s ball to the right was headed across by Shawcross, headed back in by Walters and tapped home by Crouch. Not a foul, but, the only blemish on the Arsenal defence who dealt with set pieces fairly well. Moments later, Arsenal should’ve had a penalty; Andy Wilkinson grabbed Marouane Chamakh from behind and brought him down. It was more of a foul than the one Mason gave, highlighting the inconsistencies that make him one of the worst referees in the League.

Arsenal passed and tried to probe their way through Stoke’s defence in the second half, but the game was crying out for Robin van Persie. On he came, for the ineffectual Chamakh, and almost immediately, he scored. Gervinho did ever so well to beat Marc Wilson, get to the byline and cutback for van Persie, who’s shot beat was hard enough so that Begovic could only get a touch. It was the kind of goal van Persie has been scoring a lot recently, showing his superb poaching instincts to go along with his Bergkamp-esque creativity and passing range.

van Persie added a second 9 minutes later. Arshavin played a superb pass to put Gervinho in, who slid for van Persie who again hit his shot hard enough so that Begovic could only get a touch. 3-1, and all 3 points for Arsenal, making it 6 wins out of 7 for the team supposedly "in crisis".

Arsenal move up to 7th, just 2 points behind Liverpool and 4 behind Newcastle, while Stoke drop to 9th.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: Darren Fletcher Pulls One Back

With Mario Balotelli off the pitch, it's time for Edin Dzeko to have some fun, and he adds injury to Manchester United's insult by stomping on Phil Jones' ankle, who then lands badly and jars his knee. There's a lot of Phil Jones to try to land safely, and the one looked rather painful. Minutes later, Dzeko is then denied by a good save from David de Gea after a gorgeous ball from David Silva, the goalkeeper kicking the shot behind for a corner.

Oh, and Patrice Evra managed to avoid picking up a second booking and a sending off by miraculously not being yellow carded for a bad foul on Dzeko, Chris Smalling getting booked for an early transgression instead. And then, somehow, the hosts get themselves on the scoresheet, Darren Fletcher picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, finding himself not being closed down, and guiding a neat shot into the top corner of Joe Hart's goal. Huh. 3-1 To Manchester City, though, and ten minutes left, so the game is probably done.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: Sergio Aguero Makes It 3-0 City

Well that's Manchester United vs. Manchester City done and dusted, and this is now a rout at Old Trafford. It's not Mario Balotelli who scores this time, and it's not James Milner who provides the assist, but otherwise it's a near carbon copy of goal number two, with Micah Richards being found in huge space on the City right (where has Patrice Evra gone?) and the right back is able to play a ball across the face of David de Gea's goal for Sergio Aguero to tap in to make it 3-0.

With the match won, Roberto Mancini withdraws Mario Balotelli for Edin Dzeko, probably worried about another yellow card for his explosive young striker, and the Bosnian's first touch sees him fizz a shot just wide of de Gea's left post. This is already a special result for City, but they're not done yet - they could get four or five goals if they want now.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: Balotelli Gets Brace, Makes It 2-0

What an absolutely lovely goal by Manchester City. David Silva is having trouble making progress in the penalty area and could go down, but stays on his feet for long enough to see James Milner running in behind him and finds the England midfielder with a deft flick that unlocks the entire Manchester United defence. Milner, who's been excellent so far this season, slams the ball across the face of goal for Mario Balotelli to tap in. Sadly, the striker does not take off his shirt again, denying us what would probably have been the greatest red card since Frederick Kanoute against Cesc Fabregas yesterday.

Anyway, 2-0 City, and United look well and truly screwed there. Sir Alex Ferguson's answer is apparently some combination of Phil Jones and Javier Hernandez. They probably won't help much - City are all over their hosts here. It wouldn't come as a huge surprise if they grabbed another couple of goals before all's said and done at Old Trafford.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: Johnny Evans Sent Off

We're back underway in the second half of Manchester United vs. Manchester City, and about twenty seconds had gone by before something big happened. Johnny Evans let Mario Balotelli get in behind him and the defender opts to seize his arm and hold him back at the top of the penalty box, with nobody else between the goalscorer and David de Gea. Balotelli thinks about it, sizing up the situation, realises what would happen if he didn't stay on his feet, and stops trying to, going down in a heap.

That's a clear red card, and Mark Clattenburg has very little chance but to send the defender off, which puts United down to ten men. Fortunately for the hosts, it's just barely outside the penalty box, and Balotelli smacks the free kick straight into the wall. But they're down 1-0 to their arch-rivals and will have to play an entire half with ten men. They're in some trouble here.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: 1-0 To City At The Break

Wayne Rooney and Nani go down in the penalty area and start baying for a spot kick, but referee Mark Clattenburg doesn't give it because they have in fact fouled each other, which is a new one - the Portuguese winger got in Rooney's way, tripping him up, and true to his... baser instincts decided to go down in a heap as well on contact. That was only slightly less funny that the defending on Mario Balotelli's opening goal for Manchester City.

Anyway, that's the half now, and you'd have to say it was a very good one for City. They've looked dangerous (and scored, of course), and have basically been able to completely nullify Manchester United's threat despite the hosts having a good deal of possession. It's hard to counterattack when six players are staying deep all of the time - Roberto Mancini might have been playing for a draw here but he's got better than that lined up right now: 1-0 City at half time.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: Mario Balotelli Gives City Lead

Manchester City have taken the lead at Old Trafford and it's very much against the run of play. The ball is fed left where James Milner and David Silva combine, and the former's cut back to the top of David de Gea's penalty box is met by Balotelli, whose anger at the very thought of the ball being near him is palpable. He takes said anger out of Manchester United, sliding a first-time shot quite beautifully into the bottom corner to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. City hadn't really done anything before that goal, but they've been very much the happier team since, with United now entirely on the back foot.

After scoring, the Italian lifted up his shirt to reveal a t-shirt with the slogan 'Why Always Me?' I wonder if he was talking about him burning his own house down or being unmarked by the United defence?


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League: Lineups

Manchester United make three changes to the side that drew with Liverpool last weekend. Wayne Rooney, Nani and Anderson all come in, while Park Ji-Sung, Phil Jones and Ryan Giggs drop to the bench. United are playing in presumably a 4-4-2, but Rooney can drop of and help the midfield out if needed.

There are two surprises for Manchester City. Neither Samir Nasri nor Edin Dzeko start, with James Milner starting along with Mario Balotelli, who starts despite setting his house on fire in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Manchester United: De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Nani, Anderson, Fletcher, Young; Rooney, Welbeck

Manchester City: Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Barry, Milner; Silva, Toure Yaya, Balotelli; Aguero

The key battle will be in midfield. Will Manchester United, with their two of Fletcher and Anderson, be able to close down City’s three and not allow them to create chances, or will Silva and Aguero run rings around the midfield and back four. If United are able to stop David Silva, it’ll make it easier for them to get a positive result this afternoon.


Liverpool Vs. Norwich, 2011 Premier League: Canaries Battle To Draw At Anfield

Liverpool are supposed to be winning their matches at Anfield against newly-promoted teams, especially with talisman Steven Gerrard returned to the midfield. 1-1 home draws are reserved for title chasers like Manchester United, not relegation fodder like Norwich City. And yet, a 1-1 draw is what they got against the Canaries today despite being utterly dominant in all phases of the game, registering 29 shots and hitting the post three times.

John Ruddy was in fine form but Liverpool should have scored more goals - the fact that they were just 1-0 up at halftime (that coming via a Craig Bellamy strike after Peter Walton sensibly allowed played to continue when Luis Suarez was fouled) was a bit of a joke. That wasn't a safe margin with Norwich always a threat to conjure up a goal, and when Charlie Adam coughed up the ball on the Liverpool left things went rather downhill. Said ball made its way to the head of Grant Holt in the centre of the penalty box. The striker's job was made rather easier by the fact that Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson and Jamie Carragher had all managed to run into each other trying to claim the ball, and the match was level.

Norwich had chances to go ahead, with Reina pulling off a good save just a few minutes later to prevent Holt from getting his brace, but the real drama was at the other end of the pitch, when both Andy Carroll and Suarez should have put the hosts in the least during the dying seconds of the match. Carroll's header went wide, however, while Suarez's flick was pushed over by Ruddy, and Liverpool would have to settle for a draw, putting them four points behind fourth place Newcastle.


Newcastle Vs. Wigan, 2011 Premier League: Magpies Earn Narrow 1-0 Win

Newcastle continued their string of strong results to start the 2011/12 season with a home win against struggling Wigan Athletic, but they weren't exactly convincing in earning those three points, especially when you consider how spectacular the Magpies looked during the 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur last week.

Wigan were allowed an astonishing amount of possession at St. James' Park, and if a lesser goalkeeper than Tim Krul manned the sticks for the hosts the Latics could easily have gone ahead in the first half. Fortunately for Newcastle, Krul was up to the task, beating away Victor Moses' volley in spectacular fashion to keep the score level with just five minutes gone.

Alan Pardew's men were never in complete control of the match, but that didn't matter as they struck late in the second half thanks to Yohan Cabaye, who curled a shot around the impressive Ali Al-Habsi from the edge of the area with 80 minutes gone. There was time enough for Wigan to mount a few more raids into home territory and they should probably have equalised when a Moses cross got through the Newcastle defence but also magically avoided every Blue shirt in the box, and the hosts walked away the with three points. Unconvincing? Yes. But at the end of the day, it doesn't much matter.


Bolton Vs. Sunderland, 2011 Premier League: Trotters Lose At Home Again

Bolton Wanderers have had the excuse of a tough schedule rather explaining their terrible form so far this season, but things don't get too much softer than facing a struggling Sunderland at home and Owen Coyle's men completely failed to take advantage of their opportunity to claw their way into semi-respectability. That's not to say they were comprehensively outplayed by the visitors, because they weren't*, and they deserved better than a 2-0 loss, but realistically this team should be playing far better at the Reebok Stadium, and this result puts Coyle very much on the chopping block.

*Damning with faint praise, that.

Things were fairly quiet for most of the match, with both teams' attacks struggling for fluency against staunch defences. Sunderland had the better of things, but they was hardly overwhelming, and it wasn't until very late in the second half when they finally breached Jussi Jaaskelainen's net, with Stephane Sessegnon scoring a beautiful goal after picking up a loose ball from a corner. Bolton's fightback inevitably left space for a counterattack, and on-loan striker Nicklas Bendtner secured the points for the Black Cats when he slipped a cool finish past Jaaskelainen in injury time following a quick break.


Aston Villa Vs. West Bromwich Albion, 2011 Premier League: Full Time, Baggies Steal Three Points In Derby

Aston Villa will feel aggrieved that they had a man unjustifiably sent off in their local derby match against West Bromwich Albion, but they only have themselves to blame for the poor set piece defending that ultimately gave the Baggies a massive 2-1 win. That's not to excuse referee Philip Dowd, who made a shocking decision to send off Chris Hurd in the 35th minute, but the Villans could have easily held on for a point if they could have just cleared their lines on corners.

Villa appeared to be in good position to get a win early, when Gabriel Agbonlahor won a penalty in the 23rd minute, drawing a foul from West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster. Darren Bent stepped up and converted, giving his side a 1-0 lead.

The game changed when Hurd was sent off for an alleged stomp in the box that was neither intentional, nor a stomp in the 35th minute, but Chris Brunt badly missed a penalty to his left, completely missing the goal. Brunt would redeem himself, however, sending a brilliant corner kick into the box in the 45th minute. Jonas Olsson got his head to the ball and powered it into the back of the net, leveling the match at 1-1 before halftime.

WBA's ultimate winner came on another corner in the 57th minute, and Villa's marking was shocking. However, that's not to take anything away from the goal scorer, Paul Scharner, who hit an absolutely brilliant finish on a volley from close range. 

Both teams had their opportunities at the end as the final five minutes was a seriously up and down affair, but Villa couldn't find an equalizer and Peter Odemwingie hilariously whiffed on a golden opportunity at the other end. 2-1 was the final score, and Roy Hodgson will go home a very happy man.


Wolverhampton Vs. Swansea, 2011 Premier League: Late Goals Seal 2-2 Draw For Wolves

Swansea City's road form isn't great, but it looked as though they'd overcome their problems with a neat performance at the Molineax against Wolverhampton Wanderers, going ahead 2-0 in the first half with Danny Graham latching onto a long ball forward and slipping a shot past Wayne Hennesey before turning provider and setting up Joe Allen for a close range finish.

With the Swans in total control, it didn't look as though Wolves were going to get anything whatsoever from the match at halftime. However, after a spell of early pressure from the visitors, who were perhaps unlucky not to add to their tally, Mich McCarthy's men took charge, eventually getting the breakthrough they needed after Michel Vorm couldn't take a Sam Vokes effort cleanly, allowing Kevin Doyle to steal in, and the comeback was complete just two minutes later with Jamie O'Hara picking up a cutback from the striker to sweep him the equaliser.

Rough for Swansea, of course, but that was a spirited comeback by Wolves, who didn't give up when it looked as though all was lost.


Manchester United Vs. Manchester City, 2011 English Premier League Week 9: Derby Decides Top Spot

Manchester City look to make their case for the Premier League title as they face off against Manchester United at Old Trafford.


Luis Suarez And Other Liverpool Players Good Fantasy Bets - Never Manage Alone

Do you play fantasy English Premier League? If you don't, you are either a fun sucker (one who sucks fun out of situations) or someone who knows that they are genetically predisposed to gambling problems. If neither applies to you and you do play fantasy Premier League, Never Manage Alone is a fantastic resource for all things fantasy Premier League. This week, they're high on Liverpool and on Luis Suarez in particular. First of all, here's Neal Thurman on why Suarez is a good pickup in your fantasy league this week.

He probably should have scored against United last weekend and didn't but the important thing was that even in a week where he didn't score and played tough opposition, he yielded solid phantom points. This week the match-up is a lot easier which should make him more valuable.     

That matchup is against Norwich City, and it might be worth picking up some other Liverpool players in your league as well. Nik Argiropoulos explains.

Liverpool haven't always been convincing this season but they should've taken 3 points against Manchester United at Anfield last weekend, and with Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard plus the Anfield crowd behind them, they should have too much quality for Norwich.

But, be careful who you pick up. There are injuries and suspensions to take into account.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will be without the suspended Lucas (5 bookings) and has to decide whether he sticks with Martin Kelly at right-back or bring in the returning Glen Johnson. My hope is that he continues with the youngster, who I feel is already a better defender than Johnson will ever be. Jordan Henderson will surely come in for Lucas after an impressive cameo against Manchester United and it'll be Andy Carroll vs Dirk Kuyt in the race to partner Luis Suarez

For all things fantasy footie, be sure to check out Never Manage Alone. And for more on the Reds in the build-up to their match against Norwich City, head over to Anfield Asylum.

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