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Bolton came into Sunday's match against Everton having lost three of four, but after a convincing 2-0 win at the Reebok, the Trotters can be better described as having won two of three, now only one point back of Sunderland for England's seventh place. An early goal from Gary Cahill and a second half strike from Daniel Sturridge made the Trotters' margin, with Everton failing to compensate for the absence of Louis Saha.
Saha, who scored four last week against Blackpool, is out with a leg injury. In his place, David Moyes started Victor Anichebe. The Nigerian put in a good shift - strong with the ball at his feet, able to test the Trotter back line - though got little help. Tim Cahill, aside from a chance created for him by Leighton Baines in the first half, was a non-factor, while Jermaine Beckford was ineffectual when brought on late. All together, it was a relatively east day for Bolton `keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Bolton did not generate a lot of chances on Tim Howard, either, though those they did they executed well. The first goal, however, needs some fortunate to couple with the execution, with Gary Cahill's header from 14 yards out deflecting off John Heitenga, sending the ball to the opposite side of a diving Tim Howard.
But even after Bolton went up 1-0 after nine minutes, the match was played even. Only toward halftime did one team start to exhibit control, with Everton pushing Bolton deep while threatening to score from a cross. The match, though, went into halftime 1-0, with Eveton never able to regain momentum.
In the second half, it was another ball served into the box that created Bolton's second goal. David, on for the injured Zat Kniight sent a ball from the center circle into the middle of the Everton area, where Gary Cahill was able to win a ball before it was lifted high, just beyond the edge of the area. There, Lee Chung-Yong won a challenge, heading the ball back and into the right side of the box for Daniel Sturridge. The Chelsea loanee beat Howard to the far post with a left-footed shot, sealing the match for Bolton.
The Trotters now move to 36 points, staying in eighth place. Thanks to Tottenham's win yesterday at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland's lead over Bolton for seventh is one point, the two teams fighting for what could be England's last European football spot.
Everton's loss means the Toffees lose-out on a chance to join that race. Perhaps more importantly, David Moyes's side is only three points above the drop.
Daniel Sturridge had been a non-factor before the 67th minute at the Reebok. Then, the Chelsea loanee found himself alone with the ball to the right of Tim Howard's goal. A left-shooted shot from nine yards beat the Everton `keeper far post, giving Bolton a 2-0 lead.
The play started with a long ball played into the box by David Wheater. Gary Cahil looked to have won the ball, but an Everton challenge sent the ball into the air, dropping just outside the box for Lee Chung-Yong. The South Korean headed the ball backward and into the box for an unmarked Sturridge.
The goal gave Sturridge three goals in three for Bolton, the club he joined on a six-month loan at the end of the January window. To that point, Sturridge's match had been highlighted by miscommunication between himself and his partners in attack, but as is like as a strike in the Premier League, one moment of glory can forgive a multitude of sins. That moment has given Bolton a 2-0 lead, now in the final 20 minutes.
David Wheater, acquired from Middlesbrough in the January window, has come in under unfortunate circumstances at the Reebok, with an apparent knee injury incurred by Zat Knight forcing the withdrawal of Bolton's starting center half. Stretching with this right leg to block a shot by Victor Anichebe, the Trotter defender saw his Nigerian counterpart fall on the side of his leg, forcing the joint to bend at a strange angle.
Knight spent a few minutes on the pitch getting attention before walking gingerly to the sidelines while a corner was taken. At the next stoppage he tried to come back, but two steps into play was all he needed to know his knee was not working. Knight again collapsed to the field, this time to be removed by stretcher, with Wheater getting the call from Owen Coyle.
The injury comes in a relatively evenly played match, though Gary Cahill's early goal means Everton, at some point, will need to tip the scales. For now, the match remains 1-0, Bolton, at the half hour mark.
Gary Cahill has put Bolton ahead early, finishing a set piece with the help of a Stuart Holden ball and a John Heitenga deflection. Capitalizing on a generously given foul on Victor Anichebe, Bolton has taken a 1-0 lead at the Rebook in the 10th minute.
Anichebe was whistled for a foul on Bolton's left flank, a challenge that had commentators questioning whether an infraction should have been called. Thirty yards from goal, Holden lined up a ball that he curled toward the sport. Cahill headed cleanly toward goal, a redirection that sent goalkeeper Tim Howard diving left. However, the shot hit the right side of defender John Heitenga's body and went into the left of goal, giving Howard no chance.
Now in the 13th minute, both teams still appear to be coming into the match. Unfortunately for Everton, that introductory period has included a goal allowed, the Toffees now chasing the Trotters.
The squads for Everton's visit to Bolton have been released, though there are no real surprises. As revealed earlier this week, Everton will be without Louis Saha, an absence that brings Victor Anichebe into David Moyes's starting XI. Owen Coyle is staying with the team he chose at White Hart Lane last week, meaning the Trotters' starting XI has no room for Lee Chung-Yong or Fabrice Muamba.
Though the sides come into this match five places apart in the English Premier League table, only three points separate Everton from Bolton. Sitting eighth in league, Bolton will hope to use today's match to reverse a trend that's seem the lose three of four. Everton will look to build on last week's win over Blackpool where they were able to produce five goals.
Kick-off is 8:00 a.m. Eastern time from Lancashire.
Bolton, Starting XI: Jussi Jaaskelainen - Sam Ricketts, Gary Cahill, Zat Knight, Paul Robinson - Johan Elmander, Mark Davies, Stuart Holden, Matthew Taylor - Kevin Davies, Daniel Sturridge; Substitutes: Adam Bogdan, Fabrice Muamba, Martin Petrov, Ivan Klasnic, Rodrigo Moreno, Lee Chung-Yong, David Wheater
Everton Starting XI: Tim Howard - Phil Neville, John Heitenga, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines - Seamus Coleman, Mikel Arteta, Marouane Fellaini, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov - Tim Cahill, Victor Anichebe; Substitutes: Jan Mucha, Shane Duffy, Jose Baxter, Jermaine Beckford, Phil Jagielka, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman
Sunderland have given up more points from winning positions than any other team in the league so far this season. Tottenham Hotspur have gained more points from losing positions than... well, you've guessed it, any other team in the league so far this season. That Sunderland opened up the scoring with Asamoah Gyan's cooly-taken 11th minute goal, then, had less meaning than we might have imagined, and true to form Tottenham came storming right back. Michael Dawson equalised just before the brink of halftime with a header from a corner, and Nico Kranjcar completed the comeback with a superb volley from the edge of the area. Sunderland attempted to come back, but Kieran Richardson could only bounce a long-range attempt of his own off the top of Heurelio Gomes' crossbar in the dying minutes, with the Tottenham defence otherwise dealing with the waves of red and white attacks fairly comfortably.
Spurs have now won two games on the trot thanks to Kranjcar wonder-strikes, and this one has (at least temporarily) moved them ahead of Chelsea into 4th in the league. Sunderland, who were eying up a Champions League spot before the game, couldn't take advantage of Liverpool's slip against Wigan at Anfield - after the matches today it looks very much like there are only five Premier League teams with a reasonable chance to make it into Europe's top competition this season.
After a poor start to the match, Tottenham Hotspur have worked their way into the lead against Sunderland with two scrappy goals. Michael Dawson scored Spurs' opener on a corner kick just before the stroke of halftime. In the second half, 15 minutes in, Niko Kranjcar gave them the lead with a great volley, marking his second goal in as many games. While Spurs have been the much better team since the halftime break, Sunderland will feel hard done by to be trailing after a first half where they were the much better side.
A corner kick from Steven Pienaar created the first goal. While Michael Dawson was the man who scored it, William Gallas deserved much of the credit. Dawson rose up to head the ball, but Gallas ran across Craig Gordon and screened him, causing his sight lines to be blocked. The ball went between his legs and he had no idea until after it happened. It was like something out of a power play in hockey from Gallas.
The go-ahead goal was created by two players who rarely see the starting lineup for Tottenham, Sandro and Kranjcar. Sandro put in a cross from the right flank, which was headed out of the area. The ball fell to Kranjcar, who hit a fantastic volley and smoked the ball into the back of the net, much like his winner against Bolton.
Spurs haven't played great today, but the scoreboard is all that matters in the end. They have a 2-1 lead, and they'll be pleased with that regardless of how they came to get it.
Tottenham Hotspur are playing a makeshift lineup due to injuries and their mid-week Champions League match against AC Milan, and it's showing. The team looks like they've never played together - which they haven't - and Sunderland have capitalized on their early dominance through a fantastic goal by Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanaian international makes Steve Bruce look smarter for Darren Bent each time he steps out onto the pitch, and he has Sunderland in great position for three points and a run back up towards European places.
Kieran Richardson provided the assist on the goal, but his ball into the box from the left flank was only average. He left Gyan with a lot of work to do, but the forward made it look easy. He took a sublime first touch, easily turned William Gallas inside out, and placed the ball into the back of the net. The goal was Gyan's ninth in the league, an incredible stat considering the fact that he's only made 11 starts. He's more than justified his club record transfer fee so far, and he doesn't look likely to stop scoring.
After Aston Villa went up 1-0 in the 10th minute through a shot by Gabriel Agbonlahor, Blackpool equalized four minutes later through a header by Elliott Grandin. Despite the sending off of Jean Makoun in the 70th minute, the visitors managed to hang on to the 1-1 draw. The point for Blackpool ended the Tangerines' dismal run of five straight losses, while the Villa have managed just two points from their last three games.
The visitors got off to a great start through the run of Agbonlahor, who might not be as fast as he used to be (lay off the weights, dude) but still managed to beat two defenders and run around Blackpool keeper Richard Kingson to slot the ball into the far corner. But with the weakness of the Aston Villa defense, it seemed inevitable that the Seasiders would equalize, as they did just four minutes later. Grandin, unmarked at the near post, headed home Charlie Adam's corner.
Despite a flurry of end-to-end football for the rest of the first half, neither team could convert their chances. Blackpool came out determined in the second half, but neither Luke Varney or DJ Campbell could stop their shots from going wide. In the 70th minute, Howard Webb showed no hesitation when showing Villa newcomer Jean Makoun a red card after a late challenge on Campbell.
To preserve the point, Gerard Houllier brought in U.S. International Michael Bradley, giving the midfielder his debut in claret and blue. As expected, Blackpool kept up their attack, pinning the visitors in their half for most of the remaining twenty minutes. Yet it was Aston Villa that very nearly won the match. Ashley Young, who'd perhaps spouted off his mouth too many times to referee Webb, was denied a penalty shout in extra time, and then failed to put away Stewart Downing's cross in the last move of the game.
The draw puts Aston Villa behind their crosstown rivals Birmingham City at 15th place, with Blackpool just behind in 16th.
West Ham deserves credit for their comeback at the Hawthorns on Saturday. Just to get in the right mind space to pull back three goals is worthy of admiration. Two second half goals from Demba Ba and Carlton Cole gave the Hammers what could prove to be a valuable point (while avoiding a huge goal difference hit). While the draw keeps the Hammers in 19th place, it also keeps them within reach of 17th place West Brom, only two points away after the 3-3, Saturday draw.
But then there's West Brom's side of the story. The Baggies got goals from Graham Dorrans and Jerome Thomas within ten minutes. A Winston Reid own goal half-way through the period had them up three and cruising. The handful of missed opportunities to add to the lead looked destined for insignificance. With new manager Roy Hodgson in the stands, the Baggies were set to start the new era in West Bromwich on a good foot.
And of course, that didn't happen, a huge blow to the Baggies. If West Brom is going to stay up, West Ham is likely to be a team that's going to have to suffer at their expense. Yet West Brom not only failed to get three at home against them, they collapsed in the process.
Thankfully, Roy Hodgson will be on the job as of next week. Had he been on the sidelines today, it would have been an ominous start to his tenure. Then again, if he were on the sidelines, today's capitulation may not have happened.
There was a bit of a Red tide towards the end of the match - Fabio Aurelio and Martin Skrtel both contrived to wing the ball over Ali Al-Habsi's crossbar when they might easily have scored, and full debutant Luis Suarez did them one better by clattering said crossbar with a delicious free kick. However, Wigan defended fairly manfully, throwing their bodies in the way of more or less everything (including Suarez, for which Gary Caldwell should probably have been sent off) and preventing the home side from adding to Raul Meireles's superb first half volley.
Despite being very much on the back foot for the end of the match, Wigan were still full value for their point, playing expansive entertaining football before being rewarded with an equaliser from the left boot of Steve Gohouri following an Antonin Alcarez flick-on of Charles N'Zogbia's tasty cross. Saying the goal looked a shade offside would be a rather gross understatement, but it was allowed to stand, and it ultimately earned Wigan a point and cost Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool two.
Moments after West Bom had brought on a fifth defender, intent to bleed out the last minutes of their match with West Ham, the Hammers count an equalizer. In play built from a corner to the right of goal, West Ham eventually sent a cross to the left of the area for Demba Ba, already on the scoresheet. An athletic move from the recently acquired striker saw the Senegal international whip his right leg into a volley, driving it into the ground and up, into Boaz Myhill's goal. After 83 minutes, it was 3-3 at the Hawthorns.
The Baggies, in their first match after firing Roberto di Matteo last weekend, went into half time up 3-0, a scoreline that failed to reflect how much better West Brom had been than West Ham. Ba's goal early in the second has dictated the tone for this period, with Carlton Cole's goal bringing West Ham within one.
Now, the Hammers have found all the way back, and with the match currently in the 88th minute, the Hammers have plenty of time to complete their trick. But even if the score stays like this, West Ham has done extremely well to get back to 3-3.
The 2-0 scoreline doesn't come close to telling the whole story of this match as Arsenal dominated Wolverhampton Wanderers in their English Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. Robin Van Persie netted a brace, the first goal of which was stunning, while Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey did well to keep the scoreline respectable. Despite Van Persie's brace and the fact that Wolves lost the match, it wouldn't be ridiculous at all to call Hennessey the man of the match. He was absolutely spectacular, and he continues to justify getting starts over Marcus Hahnemann.
The win was a big one for Arsenal after Manchester United's derby victory, keeping them on the pace near the top of the EPL table. It was a good recovery for them after their embarrassing dropped points against Newcastle, who they allowed to come back from four goals down to notch a 4-4 draw. The Premier League is starting to look like a two horse race, with Arsenal and Manchester United quickly separating themselves from the rest of the group.
Wolves are in a different race, trying to avoid the drop. This loss will have hurt them, but no one would have expected them to take points at the Emirates. Their next two matches against West Bromwich Albion and Blackpool will provide much better evidence of whether or not Wolves are worthy of staying in the Premier League.
Why Frederic Piquionne started on the bench for West Ham is a mystery. Perhaps Avram Grant was looking to shake things up, though Piquionne has rarely been West Ham's problem. And as if to illustrate Grant's error, Piquionne created a goal within seconds of coming on, bringing West Ham to within one of West Brom after 58 minutes.
The goal came after a foul was given West Ham, 24 yards from goal, in the middle of the field. Mark Noble chipped a ball to the right side of the area where, remarkable, Piquionne was unmarked. Nobody was within six yards of him. The tall attacker headed the ball across goal, allowing Carlton Cole to redirect it in.
Though the England international was shaken up by a collision that occurred while he went for the all, Cole still brought his team within one. Now with the traveling East Enders having found their voices, West Ham is only down 3-2 to West Brom.
Well you can't say that that wasn't coming. Wigan find themselves level after Liverpool's defence only partially clear a free kick, allowing Charles N'Zogbia to swing in a tempting cross right back into Pepe Reina's box. The ball was flicked on to the far post, where Steve Gohouri was lurking - and surely offside - to stab home past the stranded goalkeeper. With 25 minutes left, the match is level at one apiece, and Jamie Carragher, to add insult to injury, picked up a booking for the foul that led to the initial free kick. Roberto Martinez has reacted to his stroke of good fortune by hauling off Victor Moses and replacing him with Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverly.
There's plenty of time for Liverpool to get the winner in the match, though (Maxi Rodriguez tried to reply with a curly free kick that missed by some margin), despite being pegged back by their less than illustrious opponents. Both teams will be going for it for the rest of the match, I suspect - one point does neither of them much good.
Early in the second half, West Ham has cut West Brom's lead to two and are now experiencing a surge, thanks to Demba Ba. The former Hoffenheim man, on the end of a long ball out of the back, overpowered his opposition, sending a West Brom defender to the ground at eight yards from goal. Trapping the ball and turning toward goal, Ba beat Boaz Myhill for his second West Ham goal, bringing his team within two, 3-1.
It's unlikely the goal will spur a West Ham comeback, given the hole the Hammers have dug for themselves. Additionally, though they've scored a goal, the Hammers still look like a collection of talented if independent pieces, all trying but not acting in unison.
That may be enough to make this match interesting. With 40 minutes to go, the Hammers have found reason for hope, now down only 3-1.
According to match announcer Ian Darke, Wolves had a mountain to climb when they were 1-0 down to Arsenal, and now that they are 2-0 down, that mountain is K2. It's hard to disagree with him, now that Robin Van Persie has netted a second half brace to put the Gunners 2-0 up on Wolverhampton Wanderers. Arsenal have had a flurry of chances and should probably be up closer to 5-0, but their second goal should seal the deal.
Additionally, while Arsenal should have scored their second goal much sooner, but this one was well worth the wait. It came on a fantastic counter-attack move, and Van Persie was left with much less work on this finish than he had on his opener. Alex Song started the break with a ball to Cesc Fabregas, who sprayed the ball wide to Theo Walcott. The speedy winger had all of the space and time in the world and eventually laid the ball across the box for Van Persie. He looked calm and composed as he collected the ball and finished, sealing his brace and a 2-0 lead for his team.
With more than a half hour remaining, it seems unlikely that the scoring is over. Arsenal look good to add another before full time.
Both sides have been playing some good football but it's Liverpool who go into the interval the happier, having scored via the boot of Raul Meireles in the 24th minute and also rattling the woodwork thanks to some fine work by new signing Luis Suarez. In stark contrast to Liverpool's recent outing at Stamford Bridge, this match is extremely open and end-to-end - in fact, Liverpool's goal may have come slightly against the run of play. Wigan have been threatening throughout the match and have given Pepe Reina a few nervous moments. Admittedly, the most worrying of said moments turned out to be thanks to an amusing handball from Hugo Rodallega, but the visitors are still making Liverpool's defence a little nervous.
For the neutral, it's been an excellent game, but the Anfield faithful will be praying for a second goal from their side in order to kill off the match before Wigan get any sneaky ideas about getting back into the game. As long as there's just one goal in it, Roberto Martinez's side have a reasonable chance of getting something out of the match.
Amidst the news that West Brom looks revitalized post-Roberto di Matteo is the day Winston Reid is having at the Hawthorns. The New Zealand international, getting a rare start in defense for West Ham, could have been called for two penalties already, had the official not taken pity on a side already down 2-0. Now, near the half hour mark, Reid has put one into his own net, making it 3-0, West Brom.
The goal came on a dead ball crossed in from the left. Graham Dorrans' service swung in toward the far post, though no Baggie was a the end of the ball. Winston Reid, however, was, sliding back toward his own goal. The ball dropped and hit Reid, deflecting directly into the West Ham goal.
Now just minutes before halftime, West Ham will need a Newcastlian comeback to get a point in what's being considered a relegation six pointer. To do so, the Hammers would be best served to completely scrap their first half plan, because 3-0 is actually a very fortunate score.
Just four minutes after Aston Villa opened the scoring through a lovely goal by Gabriel Agbonlahor, Blackpool are back on level terms at Bloomfield Road, the score at 1-1 after 14 minutes. Charlie Adam sent in the corner, which Villa, who have been horrible this season when faced with set pieces, defended atrociously. Elliott Grandin got the better of the claret and blue, heading home from the near post.
Two minutes later, from open play this time, Marlon Harewood provided the through ball in to Luke Varney, who nodded just wide of the near post. The match is really end to end at this point, with both sides able to create plenty of chances, while the weakness in each defense almost guaranteeing that the score won't stay as is.
Carlos Cuellar, having finally fought his way back into the Villa side, has come off with a hamstring injury. The Seasiders now have an opportunity to test the strength of James Collins, who actually scored the winner against them in the reverse fixture.
Liverpool are 1-0 up at Anfield and it's that man Raul Meireles again, who appears to be taking over Frank Lampard's mantle as the quintessential goalscoring midfielder. Fabio Aurelio's cross didn't look terribly dangerous before it found Meireles in space via a deflection, and the Portuguese sent a sweet volley crashing past Ali Al-Hamsi and into the back of the net. Less than four minutes later, Luis Suarez smacked an angle shot off the far post and out after waltzing into the area unchecked. The home side look very dangerous going forward. However, the match hasn't gone all Liverpool's way.
If anyone's doubting the value of tactics, the fact that Wigan Athletic have had more scoring chances in the first ten minutes at Anfield than Chelsea did against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. Pepe Reina remains untroubled in the and the Reds have (obviously) had their fair share of chances as well, but the game is much, much, much more open than the match last Sunday, where no less than eight central midfielders were going for the ball in the middle of the pitch. Wigan have a chance of getting back into the match despite the early setback.
Wolverhampton Wanderers don't exactly look up to doing to Arsenal what they did to Manchester United last week. It's only taken 16 minutes for the Gunners to take the lead, and they did so on an absolutely brilliant goal by Robin Van Persie. Unfortunately, this morning's Wayne Rooney goal kind of changed our expectations of what awesome is, but any other week, this would be goal of the week potential. It was at least an eight out of ten for RvP.
Much to the surprise of absolutely no one, Cesc Fabregas was the man who provided the assist. Drifting out a bit to the right, Fabregas sent a cross into the center of the penalty area from a deep position on the flank. Van Persie cut through the Wolves defense like a hot knife through butter and got onto the ball at the perfect time. He jumped and hit a sideways volley with his right foot, smoking the ball into the back of the net at the far post. The Gunners have a deserved lead, and it would be stunning to see them relinquish it.
Just 10 minutes in and Blackpool's notoriously shaky defense has already let them down, with Gabriel Agbonlahor scoring the first goal of the match and his second on the season. Aston Villa won the ball in midfield through a sliding challenging by newcomer Jean Makoun, who immediately sent the ball to Nigel Reo-Coker. The midfielder then sent the ball through to Darren Bent, who spied Agbonlahor open on the left. The speedy now-winger took the ball past two Tangerine shirts before going around Blackpool goalkeeper Richard Kingson. Agbonlahor shot from a tight angle, sending the ball, almost in slow motion, across the line and into the far corner. Had the ball not been perfect, Bent was waiting at the far post to tap it in.
With Blackpool's propensity to attack, and Aston Villa's uncanny ability to lose a lead, one has to expect that this match has at least one, and probably more, goals left in it.
With new manager Roy Hodgson in attendance, West Brom is looking like the team that creates a buzz at the start of the season. Goals by Graham Dorrans (his first in the Premier League) and Jerome Thomas have West Brom up two after eight minutes, with West Ham fortunate not to have fallen down by three.
The first goal came in the third minute. West Brom had started with more energy but, in that moment, was having trouble getting the ball into the final third. Finally, Peter Odemwingie sent a ball toward Dorrans no the left. The midfidler cut in and, on his right foot, blasted the opener high and to the left of Robert Green.
Moments later, Odenwingie nearly doubled West Brom's lead, a rebound of a shot from the left being put out to the middle of the area. The Nigerian attacker struck for the right post only to see his shot blocked by an unwitting Marc Antoine Fortuné.
But then, in the seventh minute, West Brom found their doubling goal. A ball played back from deep in West Ham's third saw Thomas run onto it with the defense collapsed too deep to obstruct. With the inside of his right foot, Thomas scored from 16 yards out, making it 2-0, Brom.
£23M Luis Suarez gets his first Liverpool start as the Reds take on Wigan Athletic at Anfield. The 3-6-1 that vanquished Chelsea is out, and a straight 4-4-2 is in as the home side looks to steamroll Roberto Martinez's Latics, who currently sit in the relegation zone and have never won a match at Anfield. Liverpool are England's form side at the moment, having moved up to 6th place and not conceded a goal for over 400 minutes. They've picked up more points over the last few weeks than any other team in the league. All signs are pointing to a fairly comfortable home win.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Johnson; Maxi, Lucas, Meireles, Aurelio; Suarez, Kuyt.
Subs: Gulacsi, Pacheco, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Ngog, Poulsen.
Wigan (4-2-3-1): Al Habsi; Gohouri, Gary Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa; N'Zogbia, Watson, McCarthy, Diame, Moses; Rodallega.
Subs: Pollitt, Di Santo, Steven Caldwell, Gomez, Cleverley, McArthur, Stam.
Some will remember the first 28 minutes of today's Manchester Derby, dwelling on the swath where Manchester City looked ambitious enough to compete, using that as reason to denigrate today's performance from Manchester United. Given the fact that United, as is their modus operandi, again did just enough to win, the Red Devils practically invite that criticism. Such critiques, however, are likely to overlook United's control of the match's last hour, limiting City to one decent chance throughout the match, downing their rivals in Saturday's derby, 2-1.
That City chance was not the one on which they scored, a second half moment of fortune that saw an innocuous Edin Dezko shot become dangerous after deflecting off David Silva's back. The chance came in the sixth minute, Silva through on goal via a surprisingly (and frequently) open channel between Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Great work from Edwin van der Sar forced Silva's eight yard shot just wide, with City never able to replicate the quality of that chance.
Instead, Manchester United slowly came into a match they have allowed their visitors to control early. By the half hour mark, the match was looking more like the previous derby, a 0-0 draw at Eastlands dominated by United. The league-leaders were controlling tempo and possession, finding an easy route through midfield down their left flank, where they used both Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney to get them into attack.
In the 41st minute, United broke through, though rather than building their goal through the left, the Red Devils went direct and through the middle. A long ball from the back led to an aerial challenge between Joleon Lescott and Rooney. The resulting ball came down for GIggs, coming in from the left, who played a hard pass to Nani, streaking in behind Lescott. Nani had beaten Pablo Zabaleta and, with his second touch, beat Joe Hart into the right of goal, sending United into half up 1-0.
In the second, United was less ambitious but as controlling, though they would have to shift gears after the David Silva tally. Twenty minutes into the half, just as you were starting to wonder how the managers would adjust to the game's last act, Shawn Wright-Phillips, having been brought on for Aleksandar Kolarov, played a ball along the ground from the right, into the penalty area, for Dzeko, who had been run past by the United line. The striker's only touch we a shot, seemingly headed for the middle of net, that deflected off a jumping and turning Silva, going into the left side of van der Sar's goal.
After the equalizer, the match resumed the even feel of the game's opening moments, a feeling that would swing toward United as the 80th minute approached. However, before the match could get there, Wayne Rooney would decide it with possibly the best goal of his career.
A ball played into United's final third was one-touched back into midfield, a slight miss-hit that looped toward Paul Scholes. The United midfielder immediately swung the ball wide right, where Nani was one-on-one with Pablo Zabaleta. Moments later the Portuguese sent a cross toward the left edge of the six. As the ball swung out, Wayne Rooney was able to create space from his mark (Micah Richards), eventually leaping with back-to-goal for the ball. Leaning back, Rooney lifted his right foot onto a shot into the upper-right corner of goal, giving United a 2-1 lead.
With little threat from City, United held that lead through stoppage time, giving them a seven point lead at the top of the table spending Arsenal's match with Wolves. City drops to eight off the pace, likely saying goodbye to their title hopes.
If this doesn't go down as Wayne Rooney's most memorable goal, it may go down as his best. An acrobatic effort from the middle of the City area saw the 5'9" Rooney elevate and bring his right foot up for a Nani cross, putting his shot into the upper right hand corner of goal. Goalkeeper Joe Hart had not chance to prevent Manchester United's go-ahead goal, the Red Devils up 2-1 after 78 minutes.
The play started with Rooney somewhat flubbing a ball played back to Paul Scholes at the edge of the attacking third. The midfielder quickly played a ball wide to Nani, who put a cross in toward the far post, where both Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs were.
The ball swung slightly, away from the edge of the six, allowing Rooney to create some space between himself and Micah Richards. The United forward jumped with his ball to goal, leaned back to bring his right leg up, and met the ball at the peak of his jump. A wonderful goal, brilliantly timed, put United ahead.
For the opening 20 minutes of the second half Manchested City had grabbed a bit more of the match and threatened a couple times, but didn't do enough to make it so Sir Alex Ferguson had no option but to make a change. Anderson, who has been whatever is worse than dreadful, was an obvious candidate to come off, but a 65th minute goal by City has forced United's hand. Playing at Old Trafford, the Red Devils are going after three points and they've made a change in search of it by bring Dimitar Berbatov on for Anderson.
When United got going forward, Anderson would often bring it to a halt. His runs were taking him away from dangerous spaces and his first touche ruined several attacking moves. Now, he is off and Berbatov will give the Red Devils an out and out striker to play next to an increasingly roaming Wayne Rooney. If nothing else, Berbatov's sublime skill can always pull a goal from nowhere.
Along the back, United will have to shore up the left side of their defense. Three of City's four best attacking moves of the second half came at the left side of United's defense and the goal came from a left-sided cross. Edin Dzeko's introduction for City has brightening the Citizens' play and United need a counter to it. Berbatov may be it.
Manchester City had not mustered a decent threat since David Silva threatened Edwin van der Sar in the match's first six minutes. Even after their equalizer went in, you could argument City has failed to amass any similar danger, though some good fortune has them even after 65 minutes. Silva, City's most creative player throughout, saw a Edin Dzeko shot go off his back and into the left half of United's goal, evening the match at one.
The chance came wit Shawn Wright-Phillips on the ball, on the right flank, 26 yards from goal. The City substitute rolled a ball into the area, finding another substitute, Dzeko stopping a forward run to drop behind a descending back line.
A right footed shot looks innocent, but with Silva jumping an turning in front of the shot, City got the break they needed. The ball went off the Spaniard, deflecting into the left of net, past a frozen van der Sar. Thus, after 65 minutes, the score was 101.
If the first substitution by Manchester City indicated a minor tactical adjustment, this one signals a major tactical adjustment. Roberto Mancini has given the people what they want, making the Manchester Derby infinitely more interesting by bringing in Edin Dzeko to challenge Manchester United's back line. The striker replaced midfielder James Milner, who on top of having a generally poor game, appeared to pick up an injury just before he was substituted. In case Mancini was planning on subbing off a different player for Dzeko, which seems unlikely, his hand was forced when Milner started limping around.
For the entirety of the second half to this point, much like the beginning of the first half, Manchester City have been in control, but well held by the Manchester United defense. Edin Dzeko could change this significantly. On top of his great touch and nose for goal, Dzeko adds an element to City's attack that they did not have before with his size. City are now lining up the way most neutrals wished they started the game, and they're probably about to look dangerous as a result.
Roberto Mancini didn't make any halftime changes to his Manchester City side, but his patience apparently wore out around the 50th minute. With Adam Johnson unavailable, Mancini has (hopefully) spiced up this edition of the Manchester Derby against Manchester United by bringing on Shawn Wright-Phillips for Aleksandar Kolarov.
So, everyone's progression of thinking. Almost everyone's first reaction was "SWP?!?" before they realized that Adam Johnson is injured and it's really not all that stupid. Then, everyone saw the fourth official's fancy flashing light board and went "Kolarov?" Pablo Zabaleta would seem to be the more logical switch, after having a poor first half. Kolarov could easily move from left midfield to left back, since he plays the latter position much more often. This is not to say Kolorov absolutely should not have been subbed - he's been average - but he's certainly been better than Zabaleta.
As a result of the substitution, David Silva is now playing much more on the left. Previously, he was a central player with freedom to roam around. This should mark a fairly significant tactical change.
The center of midfield and center of defense has been great for Manchester City, but despite being the much better team for the opening 30 minutes of the Manchester Derby, they trail Manchester United at halftime. Nani, despite being a major focus of Roberto Mancini's tactics, has been United's best attacking threat and was the man who scored the goal to put United up 1-0. Zabaleta was left in the dust on the goal, and it wasn't the first or last time he looked vulnerable. He's been an obvious weak link in City's defense.
Since we're already on the Negative Nancy train, we might as well discuss the other players who are failing to make a positive impact. Carlos Tevez hasn't been "bad," per se, but he hasn't made his normal impact. City have relied on him to do a lot this season, and average won't do, especially if Edin Dzeko isn't in the team. More "poor" than "average" has been James Milner, who is basically invisible. He's done nothing going forward and he's allowed Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra to have a more significant impact on the game than they should. United have been effective attacking down their left, which Milner is supposedly supposed to minimize.
That's the bad, but despite the negatives and the scoreline, there have been a lot of good things about Manchester City. Micah Richards has been great at right back while David Silva has had a serious impact on the game. He had a bad miss in the 6th minute, but other than that, he's been superb.
It was a half of two distinct parts, first and last, City's and United's, the dividing line dashed near the 28th minute. Unfortunately for Manchester City, their crosstown rivals found a goal in the part that was theirs, rendering mute the control they had over the match's first stanza. As a result, Manchester United carries a 1-0 win into halftime of the English Premier League's second Manchester Derby of the season.
The scoreline could be called harsh, but Nani's 40th minute, right-footed finish from the middle of the area was not United's only chance of the first half. The Portuguese winger also went high with a left-footed, 20 yarder early. Darren Fletcher nearly headed United in front in the middle of the half. United had three of the half's four best chances, a fact that should overshadow City's early dominance.
That dominance was highlighted by the influence of David Silva, who was a part of three early breaches of United's defense. Exploiting the channel between Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, Silva was able to put teammates into the area twice, once navigating the channel himself, an early chance that saw a left-footed shot from seven yards go just outside Edwin van der Sar's far post.
But City went quite over the last third of the half, a stretch within which United got their goal. With the second half approaching, United leads, 1-0.
Having been put on their heels by a good stretch of play by City, United began to close down the space and turn the match into one much like the one they and City played in November that resulted in a 0-0 draw. Then, with the match lacking much smoothness or open play, United turned to their tried and true man to put them ahead.
A long ball out of the back was knocked down by Wayne Rooney to Ryan Giggs and with a single touch Giggs changed the match. The 37-year-old played a beautiful first touch ball over the City defense to a sprinting Nani, who settled and touched the ball past a helpless Joe Hart for a 1-0 United edge.
The Red Devils will take their one-goal lead into the halftime break and have to feel confident about things. While they have been unable to establish much in the midfield and have been outplayed there, they've found a bit of space on the left and the long ball netted them a goal.
For their issues in the midfield, United's back line has been stout and Carlos Tevez may as well have retired or gone back to Argentina or whatever else is next. A fantastic performance from the defense has to give the Red Devils confidence, but the inevitable introduction of Dzeko will just make things more difficult if they cannot improve in the midfield.
Around the 28th minute of the first half, Manchester United start to assert control over their match against Manchester City. Twelve minutes later, they had their reward, with the play who had been United's most dangerous opening the scoring. The the 40th minute at Old Trafford, a right-footed shot from Nani, in the middle of the area, beat Joe Hart to the `keeper's left, making it 1-0, Manchester United.
The goal was created when a long ball played to the edge of United's attacking third saw Joleon Lescott and Wayne Rooney elevate to meet it. The resulting ball went down and to Ryan Giggs, no the left of attack, who's first touch was to Nani, running in behind Lescott from the right wing. The Portuguese winger, with room on Pablo Zabaleta, opened his right foot onto his second touch, beating Hart into the right of net.
Now moments before half time, City has regained some of the impetus they lost near the half's mid-way mark. Still, the score demains 1-0, United.
For the couple chances United has had going forward, they've been shaky at best in the center of the park and much closer to poor. David Silva should have put City ahead very early on when he was alone in on goal, but he put the shot past the post and City has found more possession going forward than they did at any point in the November clash between these two sides.
On both the left and right, City has had their way. Silva has been the best player on the pitch despite his bad miss and whether out by the touchline, cutting in or taking the ball to the end line, he's been a menace to United. On the left side, Aleksander Kolarov was assumed to be deployed in an attempt to help keep Nani under wraps and not only has he for the most part, but he's caused trouble going forward as well. Meanwhile, United hasn't been able to create much in the attack through the center and have gotten caught up playing long balls to Rooney.
The first time these two clubs met, United dominated possession in the center of the park. City was organized and content to get stuck in, especially Nigel de Jong, who is unavailable today due to an ankle injury. This time around, City have found success with the ball, especially on the wings and that early success on the wings has led to a bit more space in the center as the match has gone on.
One place United might try to turn the midfield tide is on the left. Patrice Evra has had some success pushing forward from his left back spot and twice got space near the end line. A few more runs like that might force Silva and the other City midfielders to track back a bit more, slowing down their attack.
Luckily for United, the back line has been steady and Chris Smalling has done well to close down some City chances. Despite winning the midfield battle, City have yet to generate much through the always dangerous Carlos Tevez thanks to the United back line's work.
Those who feared a replication on the season's first Manchester Derby will be relieved by the first 20 minutes at Old Trafford, with Manchester City not only showing some ambition going forward but having the better of play in the match's first minutes. Most noteably, City is exploiting the channel in the left side of United's defense - between Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Twice David Silva has fed players through the opening. Once, Silva was put in on goal, giong just wide of the far post with a sixth minute chance, the best of the match thus far.
When Manchester United has gained possession, they've been able to quickly move up the pitch down their left side, generating a number of corner kicks and once decent shot on goal, with Nani going high with his left from 20 yards up, the Portuguese cutting in after Wayne Rooney swung the ball in from the left flank. Unfortunately for United, such chances have failed to further present themselves, with the team's inability to win the ball back in midfield keeping them on the back foot.
But to this point, it has not hurt them on the scoresheet. Now into the 25th minute, the Manchester Derby is still 0-0.
The early minutes of the Manchester Derby have been more open than any handful of minutes from the first time United and City played (that doesn't mean better) and if one thing is clear it is that Wayne Rooney is going to grab himself a goal in this match. The striker has been active and lively in the early going and has gotten touches on the left, right and center already.
Rooney has found himself some open space already and one of his runs helped open space for Nani to come across to the center and let a hard shot go that has been United's best chance of the match. As Rooney's runs continue to create space for Nani and Anderson, the City back line will be forced to step forward and the organization at the back of the City defense could get shaky. That is when Rooney is going to pounce and put one in for the home side.
The only thing that could keep Rooney from notching one is the central midfield, which has been beaten routinely by a City midfield that looks much quicker. Sir Alex Ferguson might be regretting his choice to leave Michael Carrick on the bench.
It's early days in the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City, but there are plenty of things to talk about in the opening 15 minutes of the match. Unfortunately, those of us who like random cool things have been disappointed by the fact that City have opted to play their expected 4-5-1 with Aleksandar Kolarov on the left wing, as opposed to a 5-4-1. The goal seems to be to focus on and contain Nani, a strategy which has been moderately successful. As a result of Kolarov's presence, Nani is doing a lot of cutting in, and sometimes Rooney will drift right to account for this. Nani has had a couple of shots off target, but that's it for his impact. Roberto Mancini has achieved his goal in this department.
City's best two players so far have probably been David Silva and Micah Richards, despite a bad miss by Silva early in the game after a great exchange of quick passes set him up with an open shot on goal. The Spaniard has been absolutely everywhere and has been unsurprisingly influential in his free role. Meanwhile, Richards has had multiple chances to show off his superb athletic ability, keeping or winning 50-50 balls from United players - or a pair of United players - on multiple occasions.
The lineups are out pre-match for the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City, and both teams have some minor surprise inclusions and exclusions. United have included Ryan Giggs and Anderson in the lineup, notably omitting Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick. The bigger decisions have come from Manchester City, as Edin Dzeko has been left out, while Nigel De Jong has missed the match due to fitness issues. Interestingly enough, all of Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott, and Aleksandr Kolarov were selected. This implies that Kolarov will be playing on the left wing of a 4-5-1 variation, but what if Roberto Mancini's gone crazy?
If someone who was aware of the positions of all of the players in the City lineup because of reading about them and playing video games, but they knew nothing about the way City lined up, they might assume that they were actually attempting a 5-4-1. When you think about it, it isn't that crazy. Zabaleta and Kolarov are both good fits for the wing back spots, while Lescott and Richards are good fits for the outside central defense positions, which require the players to have good enough technical skills to be similar to useful fullbacks.
Almost certainly, City will go with a four man back line and Kolarov on the left, which is probably a tactic to help minimize the impact that Nani, potentially United's most dangerous player, has on the game. But, on the tiny off-chance that City go with three guys in the center of defense...who are you, Kenny Dalglish, and what have you done with my English Premier League?
The starting Xi's for the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford are in and both clubs have omitted a couple big name strikers. Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to start with the English Premier League's leader scorer Dimitar Berbatov on the bench, while Roberto Mancini will start without Edin Dzeko and keep him as an option later in the match.
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City's record under Mancini against United,, and Tottenham is one with few goals and while he hasn't gone with the most threatening attacking squad available to him, there are plenty of players who can create a goal or two. United has left Carrick on the bench, who was very strong for the Red Devils in their first match with the Citizens, but City is without Nigel de Jong, whose ankle injury will keep him from the opportunity to replicate a good showing when these two clubs met in November.
The first meeting of the season saw Manchester United put-on one of the campaign's best displays of passing, yet Roberto Mancini's style ended-up being decisive as City held-out for a 0-0 draw. This morning at Old Trafford, United gets another opportunity to break-through against the Citizen defense and in the process defend their four point lead at the top of the English Premier League.
Starting at 7:45 a.m. Eastern, the Manchester Derby is the first of eight matches on England's Saturday slate, with six of them kicking-ff at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Then, Arsenal will host Wolves, potential taking advance of a second successive United slip. Other 10:00 a.m. starts: Stoke City hosts Birmingham City, Blackburn welcomes Newcastle to Ewood, Aston Villa visits Blackpool, West Ham is at West Ham, and Liverpool takes on Wigan at Anfield.
The day concludes with Sunderland hosting Tottenham Hotspur, and as is the case each weekend in England, SB Nation Soccer has the live coverage. Stay with us throughout the day as we provide updates on all the day's action, starting at 7:45 a.m. Eastern: Manchester City's trip out to Old Trafford.
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