English Premier League 2011, Week 6: Norwich City Outplay Sunderland En Route To Three Points

A very late own goal by Richard Dunne cancelled out a Barry Bannan penalty to see Queens Park Rangers earn a deserved draw at home.

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Norwich City Vs. Sunderland, 2011 Premier League: Full Time, Canaries Notch Important Win

Norwich City are likely to be in a relegation battle all season long, but their up to ninth in the table, thanks to an impressive win over Sunderland on Monday night. The Canaries now have two wins and eight points from six points in their first Premier League campaign in quite some time, and this is one their fans will be proud of.

Leon Barnett opened the scoring on the 31st minute, finishing from close range to put his team ahead 1-0, assisted by Elliott Bennett following an impressive run into the box. The two teams went into the locker rooms at halftime with the Canaries leading 1-0, but they would double their lead instantly after the break, with Steve Morison heading in a Marc Tierney cross in the 48th minute.

Sunderland would get one back in the 86th minute through a fantastic shot by Kieran Richardson, who has a bit of a knock for firing in powerful shots from reasonably long range, but they were unable to muster enough strength to find another goal. The 2-1 score might be mildly flattering to Sunderland, who did not look like the best version of themselves on the night by any stretch of the imagination. They have just one Premier League win and an incredibly disappointing record considering their theoretical talent level.


Queens Park Rangers Vs. Aston Villa, 2011 Premier League: Late Villa Own Goal Means 1-1 Draw

This was hardly Aston Villa's finest game, but Villa fans will be feeling desperately unlucky to throw away two points right at the death. Most would admit they they never had much business being ahead in the first place, however - Queens Park Rangers were by far the better side in the first half and should have been miles ahead by the interval, the penalty to give Villa the lead was very soft, and Alan Hutton twice handled the ball in the box to give the home side two legitimate penalty shouts. It was only justice, then, that Richard Dunne had the misfortune of taking a Stephen Warnock clearance to the thigh and inadvertently bouncing the ball past Shay Given and into the back of his own net in the dying seconds of the match.

The first half featured a very strong performance by the hosts and a completely anonymous one from Villa. Nearly every outfield player in claret and blue were miserable, while Adel Taraabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips stole the show for QPR, with the former rattling Given's post in the early stages with a sumptuous strike. It was Patrick Kenny, however, who had to pull off the save of the half when Barry Bannan stroked a 44th minute free kick towards his top corner, the goalkeeper flinging himself to his left to bat the ball away. It was Villa's first shot of the half.

The visitors were much improved after the break - they almost had to be - and Bannan was at the heart of everything, weaving pretty patterns with his passing from the right flank. It wasn't long before Villa were ahead thanks to an eagle-eyed Michael Oliver spotting a nigh-invisible shirt pull by Armand Traore on Gabby Agbonlahor in the penalty area. Bannan stepped up to take the spot kick, and rolled the ball into the back of the net, despite Kenny guessing the right way.

With Villa in the ascendancy, one might have expected them to try to kill off the game, but Bannan was withdrawn due to some sort of injury after 70 minutes and the visitors spent the rest of the match on the back foot. They were incredibly fortunate in Oliver ignoring two clear-cut handball calls on Alan Hutton in the Villa box, somewhat less lucky to fail to score on their occasional penetrating counterattack and pretty miserably unlucky to concede a last minute own goal despite QPR being down to ten men (Traore, for a second bookable offence).

The point was no less than the hosts deserved for a good all-around game, of course, but Villa's failure to hold an important lead has struck once again.


Stoke City Vs. Manchester United: Potters Hold Champions To 1-1 Draw

So much for Manchester United's 100 percent record. The defending champions had never dropped a Premier League point to Stoke City, despite more or less every other team having major issues with earning wins at the Britannia Stadium. Now they have, thanks to a strong performance by the hosts, who dealt with going behind to a neat Nani goal in the 26th minute in true Stoke fashion - by bombarding David de Gea and the United defence with crosses and waiting for them to make mistakes.

Despite the aforementioned de Gea putting in some great saves against both Andy Wilkinson and Jonathan Walters, they managed to get several errors out of him in the second half. Peter Crouch made the most out of one, slipping past Phil Jones from a corner to nod past the Spanish goalkeeper, who really ought to have come out for the ball. However, that wasn't Stoke's only (or even best) chance of the game, and the hosts had every opportunity to take all three points from their guests, and were probably the better side overall. They failed to take them, with Crouch guilty of missing from point blank range after escaping from Rio Ferdinand, and the match finished 1-1.

United opened up a two-point cushion over arch-rivals Manchester City last weekend with their win over Chelsea, but that's evaporated here, and even Chelsea are hot on their tails, just three points behind. Maybe this race will be interesting after all.


Stoke City Vs. Manchester United: United Hold 1-0 Halftime Lead

Manchester United lost Javier Hernandez to injury very early on - and they left Wayne Rooney out of the squad entirely - but they haven't missed either of them that much. Nani has been in superb form all season and once again has contributed a vital goal to the United cause. The Portuguese winger ripped straight through the heart of Stoke City's bewildered defence after exchanging a 1-2 with Darren Fletcher, dashing into the penalty area before sending a shot past Asmir Begovic to give the champions a 1-0 lead.

It's not gone entirely United's way though, and the have David de Gea to thank for two superb saves that have kept the score level, with a strong hand beating away an Andy Wilkinson shot as Stoke looked to reply to the opener straight from kickoff and then a dive to cover his right corner when Jonathan Walters looked to have scored. Also, Nani missed an open goal but since he's not Fernando Torres we're not going to make a big deal of it.


Stoke City Vs. Manchester United, 2011 Premier League: Javier Hernandez Injury Hits United Early

It's been a jam-packed opening spell at the Britannia Stadium, where Stoke City are hosting Manchester United. Rory Delap has already made sure that new goalkeeper David de Gea is familiar with the concept of a howitzer throw, and while the 20-year-old survive the encounter (barely) things would go slightly worse for another youngster exposed to a Stokeing shortly thereafter - Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez has been forced off due to injury thanks to the combined efforts of Jonathan Woodgate and Asmir Begovic.

The Mexican striker was racing clear after a through ball and was about to plant a shot past Begovic and open the scoring when Woodgate, sprinting back, stuck a foot between his legs, tapping the ball and tripping his opponent in the process. Chicharito went flying into Begovic and landed awkwardly on his head. After a lengthy spell on the ground, Hernandez came back into the match, but considering his migraine problems this year it was never worth keeping him on the field and he was withdrawn for Michael Owen as soon as the veteran had finished warming. It's unfortunate news for United and fans of exciting football, especially after Chicharito had made a quick recovery from a mauling at the hands of Ashley Cole last week as well.

I'm not sure how that wasn't a penalty, either.


English Premier League 2011, Week 6: 10-Man Chelsea Earn Big Win Over Swansea; Arsenal, Liverpool And Tottenham Each Earn 3 Points

Oh, Fernando Torres. The striker just can't have a good day, can he? First he scores a peach against Manchester United to put the Blues back into the match at Old Trafford last weekend before missing an open goal to take them right back out of it, and then against Swansea City he scores a brilliant opener, launches the attack for the second goal and gets himself sent off for a two-footed lunge on poor Mark Gower. Fortunately for Torres, this time it doesn't hurt the Blues at all - they'd earn a 4-1 win thanks to a Ramires brace and a Didier Drogba cameo goal.

Arsenal finally put in their first convincing performance of the season in demolishing Bolton Wanderers, with Robin van Persie scoring his 99th and 100th Premier League goals to give the hosts a 2-0 lead, with his twin strikes sandwiching a straight red card to David Wheater which ruined any chance the Trotters had of getting a result. Alex Song would round things out with a last-minute goal, and the Gunners eased some of the pressure with a 3-0 win.

Tottenham Hotspur were also the beneficiaries of a sending off after going 2-0 up against a miserable Wigan Athletic only to let the hosts mount a second-half fightback. Mohamed Diame's goal inspired what looked as though it could have been a revival in the Latic's fortunes, but a second yellow card to Steve Gohouri curtailed that in a bit of a hurry. Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart were the goalscorers for Spurs.

Yet another red card showed up in the Newcastle United-Blackburn Rovers match at St. James' Park, although it didn't look as though Blackburn had much hope of a miracle revival after doing down 3-1 (mostly thanks to a hattrick by the magnificent Demba Ba) when Martin Olssen was dismissed in the 69th minute. So, despite that huge home win over Arsenal, Blackburn are still terrible. Who knew?

West Bromwich Albion vs. Fulham didn't have any red cards. It also didn't have any anything.

Liverpool came close to blowing a 2-0 lead against Wolverhampton Wanderers (no red cards here, either!), going up in the first half thanks to a very early and deeply unfortunate own goal by Roger Johnson and then a Luis Suarez strike in the 38th minute before Wolves began pegging them back. Steven Fletcher netted shortly after half time and then the Reds were forced to endure an embarrassing onslaught, finishing with fewer shots and less possession than their lowly visitors. However, they did finish with three more points, so that nice.


Manchester City Vs. Everton Live, 2011 Premier League: Full Time, Citizens Eventually Break Through

Everton didn't make things easy on Manchester City at Eastlands on Saturday, but the quality of the Citizens eventually shined through. The Toffees defended brilliantly throughout the match and didn't look like conceding for the first 60 minutes of the game. Then, a couple of changes - one by each team - completely altered the game. Mario Balotelli came on for Edin Dzeko in the 60th minute, then Tim Cahill was forced out with an injury in the 66th. It was all City from there, and they cruised to a 2-0 victory.

Cahill was doing brilliantly to win headers and come back and defend from his lone striker position, but the game changed considerably when he came off. His departure, combined with the mobility of Balotelli gave City an edge. The Italian international scored with his second touch of the ball in the 68th minute, assisted by Sergio Aguero.

The real highlight of the game came in the 89th minute, when James Milner sealed the deal with City's second goal. It was Milner's first goal in the Premier League in a City shirt, but the finish wasn't the highlight. Instead, it was David Silva's unbelievable through ball that cut through the Everton defense with ease, giving Milner little work to do.

City now sit on top of the table, while Everton could drop out of the top half with later results.

We've got coverage of all of the games in the Premier League this week in our English Premier League Week 6 StoryStream. For more on the two teams, check out Manchester City blog Bitter And Blue and Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey. For more on the entire world of football, bookmark SB Nation Soccer.

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