Manchester City Manager Roberto Mancini reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester City and FC Bayern Muenchen at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Premier League, Week 15: Chelsea And Manchester City Face Off Monday

Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool all won on the weekend while Spurs dropped all three points. The other two members of the Sky Six, Chelsea and Manchester City, meet on Monday.

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Monday's Clash With Manchester City Could See The Vindication Of Andre Villas-Boas

Andre Villas-Boas, his tactics and his players have been much maligned by the media this season. With a win over Manchester City, Chelsea can shut them up.


Chelsea Vs. Manchester City, 2011 Premier League Week 15: Preview, Time And TV Schedule

Chelsea and Manchester City face off in a high profile Premier League battle on Monday night


Stoke City Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2011 Premier League: Chris Foy Beats Spurs 2-1

A bizarre match between Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium has ended in that rarest of recent creatures: A defeat for Spurs. After the first half, which saw the home side absolutely demolish Harry Redknapp's merry band of lavender marauders, this would not have been a controversial result. After the second... well, let's just say that referee Chris Foy isn't the most popular man amongst Tottenham fans at present.

The game began in blistering fashion, and the visitors were absolutely overrun by the speed Stoke were playing at. Within 30 seconds, Brad Friedel was forced into a difficult stop on a Matthew Etherington shot, and more was to come from the former Tottenham winger. With twelve minutes gone, Peter Crouch did very well to turn and play Etherington in eight yards out, and with virtually an open goal to aim for the 30-year-old made no mistake in giving the hosts the lead.

Before the half was over, Spurs were facing a two-goal deficit. Stoke hadn't scored from a long throw-in all season, and with Rory Delap benched it seemed unlikely that that little streak would be snapped, but Ryan Shotton's delivery wasn't properly cleared and Etherington - again - was on hand to bury the rebound.

Tottenham were in trouble, and Redknapp rang in the changes. Off came Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who had been terrorised by Shotton all half. The anonymous Aaron Lennon was also withdrawn as Spurs switched to a somewhat unorthodox 3-4-1-2. Despite a spell of Stoke pressure early on, it worked. Tottenham's attack pushed the hosts deeper and deeper, and cracks were appearing well before Luka Modric won a penalty by tumbling over Glenn Whelan's leg*.

*And yes, he went down easy, which is exactly how you would go down if someone kicked you in the foot while you were running.

Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up to smash the ball past Thomas Sorenson and cut the deficit to one. Then... well, things go interesting.

Knowing that Chris Foy wouldn't dare give Spurs another penalty so quickly, Stoke began fouling in the penalty box, breaking up attacks by simply barging players off the ball or kicking them quite hard. Foy and his crew were completely unable to cope, and lost control of the match entirely. There was one ten second spell where Tottenham were denied two penalties, a Stoke red card (Ryan Shawcross elbowed the ball off the line) and had a completely legitimate Adebayor goal disallowed for offside. It was, as they say in the business, a complete farce.

If Spurs were fuming about calls going against them in Stoke's half of the pitch, they'd be even more annoyed by one near Brad Friedel's net. Younes Kaboul, who had been booked for dissent after appealing for one of those penalties, chased Jonathan Walters towards the corner and didn't touch him. Walters went down anyway, and as Kaboul was retrieving the ball for what he thought was a goal kick, he was instead flabbergasted to see a second yellow card appear, followed by a red.

With a man advantage, Stoke were never going to concede. They spent the rest of the match looking the more impressive side, although by this point both teams were so exhausted that the game was being played at walking pace, and the five minutes of injury time mostly saw everyone but the substitutes shuffling around pathetically. Full time came as a blessed relief, even for the losers.

So, Tottenham go down 2-1 and suddenly their third place slot is looking remarkably fragile. Arsenal are two points behind them; Chelsea three, and they've got an important few games coming up. Stoke, meanwhile, are Stoke.


Sunderland Vs. Blackburn Rovers, 2011 Premier League: Late Goals See Black Cats Win

Martin O'Neill's reign as Sunderland manager got off to a flying start as the Black Cats came from behind to beat Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light. On the face of things, that's not particularly impressive - the list of teams that can beat Blackburn this year includes half of MLS - but considering Sunderland have been merrily failing to beat teams that they should all season long, getting three points is a very welcome outcome.

It didn't look like a win was on the cards when Simon Vukcevic nodded the visitors into the lead in the 17th minute after Kieren Westwood failed to hold Chris Samba's driven attempt, and despite Sunderland having all of the possession they were completely unable to trouble Paul Robinson until very late on. The hosts were booed off at halftime and for good reason - they were unimaginative and sloppy in the attack in a match they were ostensibly dominating.

Relief came in the form of David Vaughan, hammering in from long range with barely five minutes gone, a beautiful strike that left Robinson absolutely helpless. And then, with injury time slipping away, Sebastian Larsson curled a gorgeous free kick over the wall and in off Robinson's right hand post to give Sunderland a vital win and send Martin O'Neill into raptures on the touchline.


West Bromwich Albion Vs. Wigan Athletic, 2011 Premier League: Latics Notch 2-1 Win

Wigan Athletic notched a rare win against Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion, hauling themselves (for the time being) out of the relegation zone after seeing off the Baggies 2-1 at the Hawthorns. The Latics were somewhat fortunate to get a result - West Brom grabbed the first goal of the game and the eventual winner came very much against the run of play - but it's difficult to imagine a Wigan win without some element of good fortune anyway, so we'll let that pass.

Steven Reid notched the opener with an exquisite free kick, putting the Baggies ahead 1-0, but the cheers barely had time to die down before Wigan winger Victor Moses sent in a neat curling effort past Ben Foster to level. At halftime, there'd been relatively little to distinguish the two sides, but the hosts came out all guns blazing, generating a slew of chances before a rare Wigan foray forward resulted in Reid bringing down Moses for a penalty.

Jordi Gomez sent Foster the wrong way to put the Latics in charge, and despite West Brom desperately pushing for an equaliser (they ended the game with 23 shots to Wigan's 10) they simply couldn't beat Ali Al-Habsi or the frame of the goal. That's seven points from the last three matches for Roberto Martinez and company, who might now dare to think they have a chance of survival.


Swansea City Vs. Fulham, 2011 Premier League: Fulham Beaten After Clint Dempsey Nightmare

American hero Clint Dempsey had a remarkably bad day at the office as his Fulham side were beaten 2-0 by Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. After an incredibly quiet first half which featured Swansea dominating possession but completely unable to threaten Mark Schwarzer's goal, Dempsey found himself incredibly unlucky in deflecting a long shot by Scott Sinclair past his helpless goalkeeper to open the scoring in the 56th minute.

Fulham replied by touching the football for what seemed like the first time all match, and the game opened up with chances at both ends. Michel Vorm, who could have taken a nap for the entire first half without anyone noticing, finally had work to do, saving well from Bryan Ruiz and Dempsey before substitute Kemy Agustien rattled the post to give the visitors a scare.

The real drama was yet to come though - in the 87th minute, Cottagers midfielder Kerim Frei was fouled in the box by Ashley Richards and Jon Moss had little choice but to give a penalty. Dempsey stepped up, hoping for his fifth league goal of the season, only to be denied the equaliser by a brilliant acrobatic save from Vorm. To cap off Fulham's night, Danny Graham made it 2-0 Swans at the death.

It's a painful loss for Fulham, who must have expected to get something out of the game after Moss blew for that late spot kick. It's difficult to understand why Martin Jol's men didn't press harder from the beginning rather than waiting for their hosts to score to attack. Had they played properly the whole game, things could have been very different.


Norwich City Vs. Newcastle United, 2011 Premier League: Newcastle Slump Continues, Canaries Win 4-2

The Newcastle United bubble has burst in spectacular fashion and Norwich City took full advantage of Alan Pardew's plight, coming out 4-2 victors in an entertaining clash at Carrow Road. The visitors, who until three matches prior had been one of the last two undefeated teams in the Premier League, had since hit a rough patch thanks to a vicious schedule, earning a solitary point from matches against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, and had also picked up a slew of injuries along the way, meaning they were forced to field a completely makeshift defence against the Canaries.

It didn't work. The opener came in controversial fashion: Tim Krul was adjudged to have taken the ball out of play, and the resultant corner ended up pinballing around the Newcastle box before being turned in by some combination of West Hoolahan and Danny Simpson. Demba Ba would strike back before half time with a neat finish from Yohan Cabaye's lovely through ball, but it didn't take Norwich long to reestablish their lead, with the Canaries striking twice in quick succession via the heads of Grant Holt and Steve Morrison to open up a 3-1 lead.

Things would go from bad to worse for the visitors shortly thereafter. Dan Gosling, who was already having a game probably best described as 'atrocious', upended Russell Martin with a dangerous tackle and with the midfielder already on a booking Martin Atkinson was left with little choice but to dismiss him. The irrepressible Ba managed to come up with a brilliant second goal, signifying that perhaps all was not lost, but instead of a comeback, Newcastle got to see Holt nodding past Krul in the final minutes of the game, putting a gloss on the scoreline and easing Norwich's fears.


Liverpool Vs. Queens Park Rangers, 2011 Premier League: Slender Win For Wasteful Reds

Liverpool looked to be on course for another night of missed opportunities at Anfield against Queens Park Rangers, but a Luis Suarez header restored a sense of normality around the ground and the Reds would emerge victorious. The match wasn't nearly as difficult as the 1-0 scoreline would seem to suggest - the hosts were by far the better side and only implausibly bad finishing prevented them from putting QPR to the sword.

Visiting goalkeeper Radek Cerny certainly gave Liverpool no help at all, putting on a marvelous first-half performance to deny Suarez as well as Maxi Rodriguez, but despite some terrific goalkeeping the hosts had more than enough chances to go ahead. Suarez was the man responsible for the misses, but he made up for them when Charlie Adam's corner picked him out at the near post and he nodded home for his first goal since the beginning of October.

QPR threatened late, but could never penetrate a Liverpool defence who were far more comfortable in defending the slim lead than they had any right to be, although they will feel somewhat aggreived that Lee Mason didn't give a penalty for a perceived foul on Alejandro Faurlin in the closing stages. Despite the late pressure from their guests, it was Kenny Dalglish's side who looked most likely to add to the scoresheet, and they nearly did just that when Craig Bellamy's effort clipped the bar in the very late stages.


Bolton Wanderers Vs. Aston Villa, 2011 Premier League: Villans Hold Out For First Away Win

Aston Villa got their first away win of the season but had it rough towards the end against a far from impressive Bolton Wanderers, who were consigned to - and I'm estimating here - their four thousandth defeath/poor performance of the season. Villa, who have been criticised for an insanely negative approach so far this season, started well, and always looked like scoring in the first half.

In fact, they managed twice, first when young and underutilised winger Marc Albrighton cut inside to turn home a Gabriel Agbonlahor cross and second when one of Stiliyan Petrov's trademark long-range efforts was diverted past a helpless Jussi Jaaskelainen just before the break. Bolton were a shambles, and it looked as though the visitors would absolutely cruise to a win.

That wasn't to be, as the hosts came out swinging and Villa gave ground, allowing Ivan Klasnic to scramble the ball past Brad Guzen to halve the deficit ten minutes after half time. From then on (a couple of spurned chances aside), the match resembled a grim holding action from Villa's perspective, and they just about managed to hold the Trotters off for a 2-1 win.

The result suits Villa, of course, but it's difficult to see how that performance encourages either side overly much.


Manchester United Vs. Wolverhampton, 2011 Premier League: United Cruise To 4-1 Win

Playing against Wolverhampton seems to be an effective way of ending a crisis. Manchester United, reeling after being dumped out of the Champions League in midweek, needed an emphatic win to get back on course, and that's exactly what the ended up with against Wolves at Old Trafford.

From the very beginning, it was the hosts who were well on top, with Mick McCarthy's men penned back in their own half and leaking chances like a sieve. An early goal seemed inevitable, and after some wastefulness in front of the net Nani finally put United ahead, dancing in from the left flank to slam a low 20-yard shot past Wayne Hennessey. Wayne Rooney, who had been mired in a goal drought, scored in similar fashion shortly thereafter, making it 2-0 before halftime.

Wolves, who had looked reasonably potent on the attack whenever they could get the ball out of their own half, gave their hosts a bit of a shock after the restart, with Kevin Jarvis making mincemeat of right back Chris Smalling (not for the first or last time) before dropping a cross onto the head of Steven Fletcher to make it 2-1. With United pegged back, the game got very messy and the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the match

It wasn't to last - Nani (who along with Antonio Valencia was absolutely brilliant all game) diverted in a low cross to bring it to 3-1, and Wayne Rooney supplied a fantastic finish on the turn to make it four. Things were comfortable enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to hand a debut to Ezekiel Fryers at left back, and he (and United) were able to finish out the game in fairly comfortable fashion.

The win cuts Manchester City's lead at the top of the table to just two points ahead of the leaders' trip to Stamford Bridge on Monday, and perhaps more importantly gives some indication that United are out of that awful run of performances which have seen them playing fairly miserable despite raking up the wins. As for Wolves, they played brightly, but would never have expected to get anything from a trip to Old Trafford. There are easier points to be had.


Arsenal Vs. Everton, 2011 Premier League: Robin Van Persie Wondergoal Gives Gunners Three Points

Arsenal had plenty of possession and were always on the front foot against Everton, but were hardly at their best on Saturday afternoon. That is, everyone but Robin van Persie was at their best. The Flying Dutchman netted his 18th goal of this season in all competitions and his 15th of the year in the Premier League with a brilliant 70th minute strike, giving his side a 1-0 victory.

Theo Walcott looked dangerous throughout the match and was the man responsible for most of Arsenal's best chances, but his finishing, crossing and decision making were very poor. He created a great opportunity in the 30th minute, but crossed when a shot was probably a better move, only for Gervinho to miss the shot. In the second half, he had a couple of bad back to back misses in the 54th and 55th minutes. Despite his fantastic play down the right wing, the final ball was never there and it appeared for a time that Everton could escape from the Emirates Stadium with a point.

That was, until the 70th minute, when Arsenal's star striker struck again. Running onto a fantastic ball over the top of the defense from Alex Song, van Persie hit a spectacular volley into the back of the net at the far post, beating Tim Howard with an unstoppable shot from 12 yards.

Van Persie will likely be named the man of the match for his jaw-dropping game-winning strike, but Alex Song was the key man for Arsenal throughout the match. He broke up a number of Everton moves forward, dictated the play in the center of the pitch and started most of Arsenal's attacking moves. His assist to van Persie was merely the icing on the cake. Arsenal go to fourth in the table with this win, one point ahead of Chelsea, who play on Monday. 

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