WIGAN, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: Edin Dzeko of Manchester City celebrates with his team mates after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Manchester City at the DW Stadium on January 16, 2012 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Premier League, Week 21: Manchester City Fail To Impress, Beat Wigan Anyway

It wasn't a vintage performance from Manchester City against Wigan Athletic, but it was enough to get three points from the DW Stadium, with Edin Dzeko scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win.

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Wigan Vs. Man City, 2012 Premier League: City Win 1-0

A Manchester City team firing on all cylinders would have made very light work of Roberto Martinez's Wigan Athletic, home or away. A City team missing some of their most influential players and performing sleepily on top of that? Turns out they still win, but it's far more laboured.

After a rough start, Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko got the visitors on the scoresheet with an extremely well-taken backwards header from a corner kick, but relatively poor finishing (and, in one bizarre moment, a last-ditch tackle on Sergio Aguero by Dzeko) prevented them from adding to the lead. Wigan, for their part, were unable to seriously threaten Joe Hart save for one opportunity early in the second half when the England number one foiled James McCarthy, and the outcome was never seriously in doubt in the game's final stages despite the score being close.

Despite being unimpressive, City were still good enough to re-establish their three point lead over Manchester United, which is all anyone really could have asked for from. Wigan remain bottom after one of their patented 'spirited, but not quite good enough' displays.


Swansea Vs. Arsenal, 2012 Premier League: Swans Win 3-2 Thriller

Arsenal became the first visiting team to score two goals at the Liberty Stadium, but it wasn't enough to get any points off of a rampant Swansea City, who showed incredible resilience in coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to down the Gunners 3-2. It was, of course, Robin van Persie who got things going for the visitors, scoring in the 5th minute after a neat through ball from Andrei Arshavin and some neat footwork that culminated in a dinked finish over Michael Vorm.

If the Swans were supposed to be intimidated by the early goal, they failed to follow the script, winning a penalty when Kieran Dyer kicked Aaron Ramsey in the leg* 11 minutes after van Persie's opener and then converting via Scott Sinclair, whose bottom corner shot was so perfectly place that Wojciech Szczesny had no chance of stopping it even though he dove the right way.

*In real time, it looked as though Ramsey had clipped Dyer, but slow motion replays clearly show it was the other way around.

Halftime saw the introduction of Gylfi Sigurdsson to the Swansea midfield, and that led to the hosts completely controlling the match. While Thierry Henry was warming up along the touchline, Arsenal were rocked by another goal - Joe Allen feeding a pass to Dyer through a confused back line and the move was finished off with a scorching shot. At 2-1 and with the Swans dominant, Arsenal looked in grave danger of losing, but a well-taken Theo Walcott goal against the run of play gave the Gunners reason to hope for some points from the match.

That optimism lasted less than a minute, with Danny Graham replying in spectacular fashion 45 seconds later as the striker raced onto a pass and slotted past Szczesny from a difficult angle to make it 3-2. A late flurry of Arsenal attempts were thwarted via a combination of Arsenal's finishing and good work from Michel Vorm, and the Londoners never looked like getting an equaliser (which they wouldn't have deserved).

Arsene Wenger and company now find themselves four points behind Chelsea for that vital fourth Champions League spot, and with a tough stretch of games coming up they could well be in some trouble now. Swansea, meanwhile, jump into the top half of the table. It doesn't look like they're going anywhere.


Newcastle Vs. QPR, 2012 Premier League: Debut Defeat For Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes's debut as Queens Park Rangers manager didn't go much better than most of Neil Warnock's reign as the former Fulham boss was condemned to a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United thanks to a first-half goal from Leon Best. It was, however, a reasonable encouraging performance from the relegation-threatened side against a team entrenched in the top half. They made it difficult for the hosts, testing Tim Krul on a number of occasions, and on another day might have snatched a draw or even taken all three points.

For Newcastle, the day came with some negatives. Best's goal - a cool far-post finish that broke a months-long goal drought for the striker - came only after star midfielder Yohan Cabaye was forced to leave the pitch via stretcher following a nasty challenge by Shaun Derry, and the overall performance was at best messy. Compared to the side that thrashed Manchester United the last time out, this was a poor display, but it was just about good enough to get the full points. Whether the rest of January will be as easy is an open question.


WBA Vs. Norwich, 2012 Premier League: Big Win For Canaries

West Bromwich Albion's miserable run continued against Norwich City as they were beaten at the Hawthorns by an impressive Canaries side. Both teams played reasonably well, but it was West Brom who came out of the gates fastest, hitting the crossbar through a vicious Peter Odemwingie effort and seeing James Morrison's half-volley cleared off the line shortly thereafter.

Norwich too found woodwork, but it was hardly deliberate - a badly-shanked clearance from goalkeeper Ben Foster smacked into Steve Morison and bounced off the bottom of the post. The hosts were still pushing for more, but they were caught on the break by the Canaries, who managed to equalise thanks to a well-worked play that culminated in an Andrew Surman volleyed goal shortly before the halftime whistle.

West Brom were able to get back into the match after the introduction of Shane Long, who levelled from the spot shortly after the hour mark, but they were again caught by Norwich against the run of play when Morison nodded past Foster with 11 minutes to go to make the final score 2-1. It's a heartbreaking loss for an unlucky West Brom side, but Paul Lambert's men played perfectly, drawing their hosts out and then hitting them hard on the counter.


Tottenham Hotspur Vs. Wolverhampton, 2012 Premier League: Wolves Earn Shock Point

White Hart Lane's been something of a fortress recently, so Wolverhampton's visit was something Tottenham Hotspur must have been relishing. With a chance to go joint top of the table with Manchester City, Spurs must have been expecting a comfortable win. Instead, they were thwarted by some combination of strong Wolves play and some pretty poor officiating.

The opening goal should not have been. The visitors were awarded a phantom corner kick and Spurs' centre halves, perhaps aggrieved by the decision, went to sleep, allowing Rodger Johnson to steal in with a powerful header. Brad Friedel could only parry and Steven Fletcher was on hand to give Wolves a shock lead. At the other end of the pitch, Wayne Hennessey was doing his utmost to keep a clean sheet (with some help from the linesman, who ruled Emmanuel Adebayor unfairly offside when the Togo striker had the ball in the back of the net).

It took a piece of magic to finally beat Hennessey, and it provided by the inimitable Luka Modric, who hammered home a long-range effort to draw the teams level shortly after halftime. Spurs pressed on for the winner, but Wolves held out for a 1-1 draw and an impressive point.


Liverpool Vs. Stoke City, 2012 Premier League: Well That Was Terrible

This was a game that featured two shots on target. I don't really want to write about it, but needs must soooo... Liverpool and Stoke played at Anfield today. It was pretty bad - Stoke were perfectly content to sit back and watch their hosts clumsily attempt to build something resembling an attack. Kenny Dalglish's strategy, on the other hand, appeared to be to bore the Potters to death with long-range shooting and once he had lured his opponents into a false sense of security he'd do nothing about it whatsoever.

So, that wasn't a recipe for a very good game. Liverpool were playing badly enough that the introduction of Andy Carroll may actually have made them better, but they still didn't really look like threatening at any point and Stoke kept the clean sheet and got the point they so thoroughly deserved. So, that's more dropped points at home for Liverpool, and any hope of them challenging Arsenal and Chelsea for the final Champions League spot appears to be shot. Yaaawn.


Blackburn Rovers Vs. Fulham, 2012 Premier League: 10-Man Rovers Thump Fulham

Blackburn Rovers overcame losing Yakubu to a straight red card early in the first half to absolutely thump a miserable Fulham side at Ewood Park. Despite seeing their leading scorer dismissed following a silly high challenge on Danny Murphy in the 23rd minute, the hosts regrouped and struck in devastating fashion on either side of the interval. Morten Gamst Peterson lashed a brilliant free kick in first half injury time to give Rovers a surprise lead, and Fulham were still reeling when David Dunn poked a rebound past David Stockdale within a minute of the second half kicking off.

Damien Duff pulled a goal back for the visitors after weaving his way into the box and dispatching Paul Robinson with a nice right-footed shot, and although Fulham pressed for an equaliser it was Blackburn who got the next goal as substitute Mauro Formica finished things off with ten minutes to play. A 3-1 loss to a full-strength Blackburn would be bad enough for the Cottagers, but when they were playing against ten men for more than an hour? Martin Jol is not going to be a happy man. Steve Kean's bunch, on the other hand, will be thrilled at having finally hauled themselves out of the relegation zone. Maybe there's life in this Blackburn season yet?


Aston Villa Vs. Everton, 2012 Premier League: Deserved Draw For Toffees

Two struggling sides in Aston Villa and Everton clashed at Villa Park, and although it was the visitors who were forced to come from behind it was they who were broadly more impressive. Shay Given was forced to work entirely too hard on his return to Alex McLeish's side, and he was superb despite his six-week layoff with a hamstring injury, pulling off a series of excellent first-half saves to keep the scoreline level.

Darren Bent took full advantage of his teammate's heroics in net, scoring following Everton's failure to deal with a Mark Albrighton cross, but it was a goal generally against the run of play. Super-sub Victor Anichebe would deservedly draw the visitors level within fifteen minutes of Bent's opener following a good pass from Landon Donovan. Villa attempted a late rally, but Tim Howard and the Toffees defence were equal to the chance and Everton ended up coming away from their visit to Birmingham with a share of the spoils, a good result following embarrassment against Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers.


Chelsea Vs. Sunderland, 2012 Premier League: Blues Hang On Thanks To Poor Finishing

Chelsea defeated Sunderland 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but the game was certainly more eventful than that score suggests. Both teams missed a number of chances, referee Phil Dowd had a shocker, Fernando Torres was brilliant and Michael Essien made his return to Premiership football with a substitute appearance.

Frank Lampard scored the first and only goal in the 13th minute, but he didn't know anything about it. Torres provided the 'assist' with an absolutely brilliant volley that rattled off the crossbar. After deflecting off the woodwork, the ball hit Lampard and went into the back of the net, giving Chelsea a lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

Torres had a couple of very legitimate penalty shouts in the second half, but was given neither of them. In fact, he was booked for simulation on one occasion where he had very clearly been fouled. Sunderland had plenty of chances to capitalize on this good fortune and score at the other end, but they squandered all of their chances, with both Nicklas Bendtner and Craig Gardner missing golden opportunities.

Chelsea won't feel great about their play and Sunderland won't feel great about their finishing, but a win for the Blues was probably a fair result, even if it should have gone quite a bit differently.

For more on the two teams, check out Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History and Sunderland AFC blog Roker Report.


Manchester United Vs. Bolton, 2012 Premier League: Red Devils Coast To Victory

Manchester United were always expected to defeat Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford, but after their two bad losses against Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, their supporters will likely be relieved that the worst is behind them. Bolton may have received a glimpse into what life without Gary Cahill will be like, as their defense was very poor in a 3-0 Red Devils win.

Incredibly, it should have been a lot worse. Danny Welbeck drew a penalty in the 21st minute, when he got behind the defense and was shoved in the back by Zat Knight. It was an obvious case of clear denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, and how Knight wasn't sent off is a mystery. Miraculously, Adam Bogdan made a terrific save on Wayne Rooney's penalty attempt.

The teams looked set to head into the half tied 0-0 before Paul Scholes put his team up in the 45th minute, scoring a poacher's goal at the back post after a Nani cross was deflected. Following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry, Scholes netted in his second game of his improbable comeback that will likely result in Chelsea phoning up Claude Makelele very soon.

Things were a little easier for United in the second half, and they finished off the game with a couple of brilliant goals. Welbeck scored in the 74th, slotting a calm finish by Bodgan after a through ball by Rooney. Michael Carrick sealed up the win with a brilliant strike in the 83rd minute, scoring from just outside the penalty area.

For more on the two teams, check out Manchester United blog The Busby Babe and Bolton Wanderers blog Lion Of Vienna Suite.

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