LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Emmanuel Adebayor of Spurs celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at White Hart Lane on November 21, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

English Premier League 2011, Week 12: Tottenham Brush Aside Aston Villa; Win 2-0

Tottenham had no problems in beating Aston Villa at home, scoring two first-half goals through Emmanuel Adebayor and then going on cruise control for the rest of the match.

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Tottenham Hotspur Vs. Aston Villa, 2011 Premier League: Hosts Cruise To 2-0 Win

Aston Villa tried a novel approach to dealing with the threat posed by Tottenham Hotspur's Gareth Bale when they visited Spurs at White Hart Lane on Monday: Field two right backs. It didn't work - Villa never looked anything like a competent side on either end of the pitch and Bale managed to set up a pair of first-half goals for Emmanuel Adebayor which would supply the game's final scoreline. Alex McLeish's men had no answer to the constant threat Spurs posed and barely threatened Brad Friedel's goal at the other end of the pitch, and on the few chances they had to score Darren Bent had something of a shocker in front of the net.

Spurs were fairly competent, although hardly scintillating. Although Addebayor got a brace, he was hardly sharp in front of goal (although his first, an instinctive overhead kick that flew past Shay Given, was impressive) and should have notched a hat-trick several times over. The defence had nothing to do, the midfield stopped Chris Herd and Stiliyan Petrov in their tracks (surprise!), and Tottenham looked like the Champions League-chasing team they are against a lower-mid-table Villa. Until and unless McLeish decides to try to treat his team as an actual attacking force, this is what's going to happen to them.


Chelsea Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: Liverpool Come Away With 2-1 Victory

When, oh when, will Chelsea's defensive woes end? At what point will Andre Villas-Boas decide to make changes to his backline? Or, worse, when will Roman Abramovich lose patience, and sack the Premier League's sexiest manager? AVB certainly doesn't deserve to be forced out, not this early, but with defensive lapses leading to both Liverpool goals, he'd do well to have a plan in place to remedy the situation.

The first Liverpool goal, after 35 minutes of play, came courtesy of an error by John Obi Mikel. The Chelsea midfielder took too much time on the ball, and the Liverpool pressure easily took it off his hands (feet?). Then came a fantastic exchange of passes between Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy, with Bellamy passing on to an unmarked Maxi Rodriguez on the left side. An quick finish, and Liverpool had a 1-0 lead.

At halftime, Villas-Boas changed things up a bit, bringing on Daniel Sturridge to replace the woeful Mikel. The Chelsea formation shifted to a 4-2-3-1, which served its intended purpose just ten minutes after the restart. Florent Malouda sent a great ball to the far post, causing the Red defense to fall to pieces. Both Sturridge and Juan Mata were left completely unmarked, but it was the former who tapped in the goal.

Alas, the Chelsea attack, despite looking much better in their revised formation, just couldn't find another goal. Malouda missed an absolute sitter in front of the net, somehow contriving to send the ball around the far post and out of play. Fernando Torres, on in place of Didier Drogba, was being his usual Torres self. Argue all you want about Nando's skills, but today the Blues needed a goal, and the striker wasn't there to provide.

Liverpool made their former player, and the rest of the Chelsea side, pay in the end. Dirk Kuyt sent a great long pass to the right side, where Glen Johnson was rushing forward. He easily rounded Ashley Cole, putting the ball in the back of the net in the 87th minute. With no answer from the home side, Liverpool took all three points, 2-1.


Chelsea Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: Glen Johnson Gives Liverpool A Late Lead

Glen Johnson has taken the lead back for Liverpool with a superb goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Dirk Kuyt picked up the ball in the back third of the pitch and delivered an outstanding cross to the right side of the pitch, freeing Johnson, who had acres of space. Ashley Cole came rushing in, intending to salvage the Blues' point, but Johnson simply took the ball around the defender to put it in the back of the net.

A disappointment for Chelsea, certainly, and the agitation of Andre Villas-Boas on the sidelines was readily apparent. The Portuguese manager sure seems to enjoy attacking football, but when the likes of Florent Malouda and Fernando Torres miss absolute sitters, it's probably time for AVB to focus a bit more on defense. Liverpool's first goal, courtesy of Maxi Rodriguez, came through a defensive error by John Obi Mikel -- how many more of these will Chelsea fans have to endure?


Chelsea Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: Daniel Sturridge Equalizes; AVB Is Smart

Perhaps this Andre Villas-Boas lad knows what he's doing! It's taken just 10 minutes for his substitution of Daniel Sturridge for John Obi Mikel to pay off. Chelsea and Liverpool are level at 1-1 after 55 minutes, thanks to a goal by Sturridge. Liverpool's defending on the move was absolutely terrible, but Chelsea still did well to get bodies into the box quickly, while the change in formation and player roles certainly contributed to the goal.

Following a bad giveaway in midfield, Chelsea took off on the counter, with even John Terry getting involved with an overlapping run on the left flank. Florent Malouda took the ball forward and swung a great ball into the back post, which no one was able to deal with. Sturridge AND Juan Mata found themselves completely unmarked at the back post, and Sturridge tapped in the goal.

From a Liverpool perspective, the goal was a terrible one to give up. Charlie Adam gave the ball away, Daniel Agger should have done something with the cross, and Luis Enrique completely lost Sturridge. A giant bucket of fail. It was a great move by Chelsea, but Kenny Dalglish will be dissatisfied with his team's total failure to do anything about it.


Chelsea Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: Halftime, Reds Lead 1-0

Andre Villas-Boas is going to have some work to do in the locker room, both with his tactics and his team talk. Chelsea trail Liverpool 1-0 at halftime, and it would be hard to argue that the Reds were not the better side. Maxi Rodriguez scored the game's only goal in the 35th minute, capitalizing on an error by John Obi Mikel.

Chelsea had the first real chance of the game in the 22nd minute, and a large number of people thought they scored it. On a direct free kick from 30 yards out, Didier Drogba hit a great strike up over the ball that dropped down quickly, then hit the post that keeps the net in place, three feet wide of the goal. Announcer Martin Tyler and half the ground thought it was in, and a bit of confusion ensued until television showed a replay.

The goal came when Mikel stood on the ball too long in his own half and let himself get stripped by Craig Bellamy. He passed to Suarez, who returned the pass in the center of the box. Bellamy spotted Maxi arriving late on the left hand side of the area and played a pass to the Argentinian, who finished the chance. Petr Cech's positioning was questionable, but Mikel was really the only man to blame for the goal.

There haven't been a ton of clear-cut chances in the first half, while both managers will have some things they are happy about going into the locker room. Liverpool will be the happier of the two sides, though, and not just because they have a lead. Chelsea have failed to get the ball to Juan Mata on a consistent basis, Frank Lampard is invisible, and David Luiz looks like a disaster waiting to happen.


Chelsea Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: John Obi Mikel Error Gifts Reds A Goal

Confession: As this goal was being scored, I was having an argument about whether or not John Obi Mikel should be starting in this game. While the argument was more about whether a player who plays his position is needed than it was about whether or not he is a good player, I feel vindicated! Liverpool lead Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge after 35 minutes, thanks to a goal by Maxi Rodriguez.

Mikel shouldn't have had any problem getting the ball up the pitch, but while in his own half and under pressure from Liverpool players, Mikel dallied on the ball and was stripped. What ensued was a fantastic exchange of passes between Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy, the latter of which had an opportunity to shoot. Instead, he laid the ball off to an unmarked Rodriguez on the left side of the penalty box, and he finished the chance.

While it would be a bit unfair to say Liverpool "deserved" the goal, they've probably been the better side so far. Chelsea's best chance came on a free kick and they look a bit slow at the moment.


Chelsea Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: Lineups

The biggest game of the Premier League weekend is here, as Chelsea put their title credentials on the line, while Liverpool do the same with their Champions League credentials. Of course, if Chelsea lose you will hear dozens of pundits say they are out of the title race. If Liverpool loses, you will hear dozens of pundits say they are not top four material. This is all absolute nonsense. To the team news!

Chelsea lineup (4-3-3): Cech; Cole, Terry, Luiz, Ivanovic; Mikel, Ramires, Lampard; Malouda, Drogba, Mata

Substitutes: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Romeu, Meireles, Sturridge, Anelka, Torres

Liverpool lineup (4-4-2): Reina; Enrique, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson; Rodriguez, Lucas, Adam, Kuyt; Bellamy, Suarez

Substitutes: Doni, Downing, Carroll, Carragher, Henderson, Kelly, Spearing

That Liverpool lineup could be all sorts of things. Don't be surprised if it's actually a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 with Maxi Rodriguez as the most advanced midfielder and Craig Bellamy as a left winger. Chelsea's biggest surprise omission is Raul Meireles, who is arguably their most athletic midfielder. 

Kickoff is at 11:00 am ET, 4:00 pm local time. You can catch the game on FOX Soccer Channel in the USA, Sky Sports 1 in the UK, and Rogers Sportsnet World in Canada.

We'll have live coverage of Chelsea vs. Liverpool in our English Premier League Week 12 StoryStream. For more on the Blues, check out Chelsea blog We Ain't Got No History. For more on the Reds, head over to Liverpool Blog Anfield Asylum. For more on the entire world of football, check out SB Nation Soccer.


Chelsea vs. Liverpool, 2011 English Premier League Week 12: Chelsea and Fernando Torres Looking For Redemption

Chelsea were on a poor run of form before the international break. The Blues will look to right the ship this weekend as Liverpool make a visit to Stamford Bridge.


Swansea City Vs. Manchester United, 2011 Premier League: Red Devils Win 1-0 In Poor Match

Manchester United have taken another three points to keep Manchester City from extending their lead at the top of the table, but they didn't exactly do it in impressive fashion. 'Chicharito' Javier Hernandez scored in the opening minutes of the game on a classic, gritty Chicharito goal, at which point the chances dried up. United did not have their first corner kick until the 87th minute and Swansea were the more ambitious side, but the Red Devils were able to hang on for a 1-0 win.

Ryan Giggs provided the assist with a low cross into the box from the left side of the area in the 11th minute. Hernandez provided a simple finish, and the goal was more about Swansea's incompetence than United's brilliance, as the giveaway that led to the goal was poor.

Swansea proceeded to attack down the right flank all first half, repeatedly abusing Patrice Evra. United's left back started the second half, but Alex Ferguson quickly realized that the Frenchman was not at his best and took him off for Fabio in the 51st minute. From that point until the end of the game, United defended much better.

The guests pushed bodies forward and tried to find an insurance goal late, but were unable to score. Three points is three points, though, and they'll be happy enough with the road win.


Premier League Saturday, Week 12: Wigan Vs. Blackburn Is Pants-On-Head Crazy; Everton, QPR and West Brom All Pick Up Wins

Everton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

A late penalty earned Everton all three points in a pulsating encounter at Goodison Park which saw the visitors go up early and totally against the run of play. Everton outshot Wolves 15-5 and were unfortunate to go down when Marouane Fellaini fouled David Edwards just inside/at the edge of the box. A penalty was awarded, and Stephen Hunt tucked it home.

The response was fairly quick, Phil Jagielka equalising with a header seven minutes later, but despite huge pressure applied by the hosts in the second half, Wolves' defence was uncompromising and it looked as though they were going to escape with a point. But then in the 83rd minute Everton won a soft call of their own when Stephen Ward was penalised for standing too close to Louis Saha, with Leighton Baines blasting home from the spot to give the Toffees a 2-1 win.

Stoke City vs. Queens Park Rangers

Stoke continued their miserable run of form with a 3-2 home loss against Queens Park Rangers, who overcame an early goal from Jonathan Walters and fired off three of their own (a brace from Heidar Helgusson and one from right back Luke Young). The hosts managed to pull back a goal when professional how-not-to-wear-a-mustache-model Ryan Shawcross bundled in a corner in the 64th minute, but QPR's defence held and they escaped the Britannia with the win.

Sunderland vs. Fulham

Both teams had fine chances to score in their encounter at the Stadium of Light, but neither Sunderland (denied by the woodwork repeatedly) not Fulham (denied by Clint Dempsey's unusually poor finishing) could get anything from the match. If either of Kieran Richardson's or Jack Colback's attempts had gone in rather than smack against the crossbar, we'd have had a very different game, but instead we had to settle for a 0-0 draw that became more and more boring as time went on.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Bolton Wanderers

Shane Long made the most out of his return to West Brom, scoring the winning goal in the second half against Bolton Wanderers to earn the Baggies all three points at the Hawthorns. The two sides had traded first half goals, with Jerome Thomas beating the offside trap and rounding Jussi Jaaskelainen while the Bolton defence stood around complaining before Ivan Klasnic leveled from the penalty spot. Although the match was level for half an hour following Klasnic's spot kick, West Brom kept putting on the pressure and it came as no surprise when Long rose to nod home a cross by Nicky Shorey to make it 2-1, which is how the game would stay.

Wigan Athletic vs. Blackburn Rovers

A topsy-turver thriller at the DW Stadium saw Wigan Athletic and ten-man Blackburn Rovers fight it out to a hilarious draw that featured a last minute penalty won by a goalkeeper and a goal that came from an illegal corner. Barely a minute into the match, Yakuba had put the visitors ahead after Gary Caldwell failed to deal with a long throw-in, but Jordi Gomez replied with a lovely long range clip and Caldwell made amends with a neat header to put the hosts 2-1 up.

The second half got incredibly odd - Morten Gamst Pederson decided to dribble a corner kick rather than pass it, a move that every referee save Neil Swarbrick would consider illegal, and the resultant cross was eventually tapped in by Junior Hoilet while Wigan's defence stood around in a state of confusion. The hosts did manage to get their noses back in front thanks to Albert Cruset discovering the secret of quantum teleportation and phasing the ball straight through Paul Robinson, but it was the Blackburn goalkeeper who had the last laugh, going up for a last minute do-or-die corner and being kicked in the head, earning a penalty which Yakubu converted to make it 3-3 just before full time blew.

Ok, maybe Robinson wasn't laughing. Being kicked in the head hurts.


Manchester City Vs. Newcastle United, 2011 Premier League: City Cruise To 3-1 Win

Newcastle United's unbeaten record has fallen - not entirely surprisingly - at the hands of Manchester City at the Eithad Stadium. Although the visitors started the game reasonably brightly, defending very well, they never looked likely to trouble Joe Hart and City were able to maintain possession and keep pushing forward, and eventually they got their breakthrough 41 minutes into the match, when Ryan Taylor blocked a Tim-Krul-bound shot with a raised right arm and Mario Balotelli nonchalantly rolled the ball into the back of the net. The Italy striker celebrated by being very angry.

The Ryan Taylor-shaped floodgates were open, and Newcastle couldn't close them again. Minutes later, the left back made an awful mistake in his own penalty area, allowing Micah Richards to steal in and poke the ball past Krul to give the hosts a 2-0 halftime lead. Things didn't get very much better in the second half, and it was Richards who once again terrorised Newcastle, earning a penalty when the rampaging right back was hauled down by Hatem Ben Arfa. With Balotelli off for David Silva, Sergio Aguero stepped up to take the spot kick, and the result was very similar apart from there being smiles involved.

City probably could have scored more goals, but three was enough and they backed off a little bit, even allowing Newcastle a late consolation goal when Joleon Lescott opted not to bother doing any defending and leaving Joe Hart alone againts Demba Ba and Ryan Gosling. The England goalkeeper did well to save Ba's initial effort, diving at the big striker's feet, but Gosling's subsequent tap in from two yards made the whole painful effort rather pointless.

Anyway, that late goal didn't matter, and City would see the game out pretty comfortably to win 3-1. City have now scored two or more goals in 14 straight league games, are in a commanding position atop the table, and no team has had a better start since the Premier League's inception. They look like they could win this thing.


Manchester City Vs. Newcastle, 2011 Premier League: City 2-0 Up At Halftime

It took longer than Roberto Mancini would have liked, but his Manchester City side had finnally been able to break down a stubborn Newcastle United defence - thanks mostly to the antics of Magpies left back Ryan Taylor, who managed to make two major mistakes in about as many minutes, conceding a penalty for the opener before being obliterated by Micah Richards for the second goal.

Before Mario Balotelli found the back of the net, Newcastle had been playing fairly well. Granted, City had most of the possession, but they weren't creating many chances (Sergio Aguero had buzzed a shot just over the bar on the turn, and Tim Krul had done well to keep a Balotelli header out) and whenever the visitors had the ball they were very positive with it, even drawing Joe Hart into a good save from Demba Ba.

And then Ryan Taylor stuck out his hand to stop Yaya Toure's shot, and things went rather rapidly downhill - Balotelli left Krul motionless as he rolled the ball into the back of the net and then a simple situation led to City doubling their lead, Ryan Taylor yielding to pressure from City right back Micah Richards in his own penalty area, allowing Richards to steer a neat finish beyond Krul to make it 2-0 right at the stroke of halftime.

So, it looks as though Newcastle are about to lose their first game of the season, unless something very odd happens.


Norwich City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League: Full Time, Gunners Win 2-1

The match wasn't as close as the score suggests and Arsenal should have won more comfortably, but they all count the same. The Gunners will be satisfied to walk away from Carrow Road with three points, thanks to their 2-1 win over Norwich City. Robin van Persie was brilliant yet again, scoring a brace, while the team around him performed brilliantly, save for a couple of bad apples.

One of them was Per Mertesacker, whose error lead to Norwich's goal. In the 16th minute, Mertesacker got himself between Steve Morison and a long ball and should have made an easy clearance. Instead, he allowed Morison to more or less run through him onto the ball, then finish off the chance to give his side a lead.

Van Persie would get the goal back quickly, scoring in the 26th minute to send the teams into halftime tied up at 1-1. Theo Walcott provided the cross, while Gervinho provided a combined shocking miss/dummy run to set up van Persie for an easy finish at the back post.

Gervinho should have had an easy hat trick in the second half, but miraculously missed all of his glorious chances. Van Persie made up for it, though, scoring the winner in the 59th minute. Collecting a through ball from Alex Song - who would have been man of the match if not for van Persie's brace - RvP chipped goalkeeper John Ruddy to score the goal. 

It should have been a bit easier for Arsenal, but with the exceptions of Gervinho's misses and Mertesacker's terrible defensive error, it was a great performance they can be proud of. The Gunners very easily could have won this match 5-0.


Manchester City Vs. Newcastle United, 2011 English Premier League Week 12: High-Flying Magpies Face Tough Test

Newcastle United find themselves in third place after 11 games played, but they run up against a tough opponent Saturday as they take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

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