LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Antonio Valencia of Manchester United (R) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on January 22, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Premier League, Week 22: Manchester United Defeats Arsenal 2-1

In a match that featured a slow opening 40 minutes and a brilliant final 50, Manchester United defeated Arsenal through a late winner by Danny Welbeck.

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Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Gunners Downed By Valencia And Welbeck

Manchester United broke Arsenal hearts with a late goal to complete a rather epic double over their north London rivals. No, it wasn't the 8-2 hammering of August, but this was pretty devastating in its own right. The Gunners were clearly outplayed in the first half and deservedly went down a goal after Ryan Giggs swung the ball in for Antonio Valencia to head past Wojciech Szczesny, but the hosts replied in the second half.

Although Robin van Persie's miss after Tomas Rosicky had carved open the United defence was a minor atrocity, it was a clear sign that Arsenal were coming back into things. Better, after all, to create chances and miss them than not create anything at all, which was the story of the first half. A goal was coming, and it looked like the hosts were going to be the ones getting it, despite Danny Welbeck coming very close to making it 2-0 before Per Mertesacker cleared expertly off the line.

When Arsenal's time to strike came, it did so with lightninght speed, the ball taking about six touches between Laurent Koscielny winning possession off Rafael da Silva in his own penalty box and van Persie slotting home brilliantly at the far post, a first-time effort following a gorgeous reverse pass by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was a great moment for Arsenal, and one which was instantly defused when Arsene Wenger opted to remove Oxlade-Chamberlain for Andrei Arshavin.

It was an unpopular move (Robin van Persie shouted out in dismay when he saw who was coming on and off), and one that was to backfire as Arshavin had some involvement in Danny Welbeck's 81st minute, failing to track or challenge Valencia as he caused chaos on the right wing before linking up with Park Ji-Sung and cutting the ball back for Welbeck in the centre. With the whole goal to aim for, he couldn't miss. He didn't.

With the 2-1 loss, Arsenal remain in fifth, five points back of fourth place Chelsea. 36 points from 22 games is the Gunners' worst showing since Wenger took over more than a decade ago, and the pressure is building fast on the long-term manager. United, meanwhile, keep pace with Manchester City in second - they're just three points back of the top spot.

For more on Arsenal and United, check out The Short Fuse and The Busby Babe respectively.


Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Danny Welbeck Makes It 2-1

Seconds after taking off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal came quite close to being down another winger. Some neat play around Anders Lindegaard's box ends up with Theo Walcott going into a flying challenge with the goalkeeper. The England man lost, ending up flying head over heels and smacking his face quite hard into the Emirates turf. That, in medical terminology, looked like an ouchy. Walcott's on the ground for some time but after some treatment manages to continue.

Instead of losing a winger, however, Arsenal have ended up down a goal. Lackadaisical defending by Andrei Arshavin allowed Park Ji-Sung and Antonio Valencia to combine, and the latter pulled back for Danny Welbeck with basically an open goal to aim at. The striker makes no mistake, blasting past Wojciech Szczesny to put Manchester United back in the driver's seat. That's pretty unfortunate for Arsenal - they've looked the more likely to score since Robin van Persie's equaliser and have had a good second half, but this is right back to square one.


Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Robin Van Persie Draws Arsenal Level

What a goal by Robin van Persie! The Dutchman makes up for his earlier miss with an excellent counterattacking goal. Wayne Rooney and Rafael da Silva look like causing the Arsenal back line real problems, but Laurent Koscielny steps up, wins the ball, and immediately picks out Tomas Rosicky. The Czech midfielder passes forward to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who takes a few touches before sending in a beautiful reverse pass to van Persie, making a diagonal run towards the left. Arsenal's captain hits it first time, with Anders Lindegaard able to do little more than tip the brilliantly-aimed shot onto his far post and in.

So, it's 1-1 and the Gunners are right back in the game. Both teams can win this now, and there are fifteen minutes left. What does Arsene Wenger do? He takes off Oxlade-Chamberlain, his best attacking player, and replaces him with Andrei Arshavin. The crowd at the Emirates, so delirious after the goal, is unhappy. Meanwhile, Nani limps off after a Koscielny stamp, but it looks like he'll be ok.


Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Antonio Valencia Gives United Halftime Lead

Yeah, that was coming. Manchester United are 1-0 up over Arsenal and it's all about the wingers. Nani and Ryan Giggs combine to tear apart poor Johan Djourou, and Giggs spots Antonio Valencia's late run towards the back post. A sweet cross finds the Ecuadorian unmarked two yards out, and it's simplicity itself for Valencia to nod home to give the visitors the lead. Where Thomas Vermaelen was, I'm not really sure.

That goal, incidentally, came in first half stoppage time and was virtually the last action of a half which featured little but said goal and Phil Jones managing to get himself hurt while marking Theo Walcott. It's not been a great advert for Premier League football, but the goal will change things - Arsenal are going to have to commit more to the attack rather than simply relying on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to try to do everything on his own. Robin van Persie will have to do more if the Gunners are taking anything away from this one.


Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Phil Jones Injured, Stretchered Off

That's a huge blow for Manchester United and it came from absolutely nothing. No, it's not a goal - it's worse. Right back Phil Jones has gone down in a heap while trying to keep pace with Theo Walcott, and worse, he collapsed with no contact whatsoever. The resultant attack is eventually cleaned up by Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, but Jones is in huge distress and a stretcher is signalled for. It looks as though it's an ankle injury, but we'll have more news on that later.

Rafael da Silva is the man to replace the teenager (and a very competent replacement at that), and he immediately gets involved as Arsenal look to break down the left with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A flying tackle from the newly-introduced Brazilian stops the attack in its tracks, and United will be looking to calm down after a relatively poor start. The visitors might be down one of their better players, but it's still 0-0 and 11 vs. 11, so anything can happen.


Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Lineups

Time for the weekend's biggest match. While Manchester City vs. Tottenham may have had more ramifications at the top of the table, it can't compete with the raw emotion of Arsenal vs. Manchester United. Arsenal are wounded but wanting to take revenge after the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford, and with United once again being forced to field a fairly weak midfield they may well get it. Rio Ferdinand does not make the lineup, meaning that Robin van Persie gets to go against Johnny Evans and Phil Jones. Could be interesting.

Arsenal lineup (4-3-3): Wojciech Szczesny; Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Johan Djourou; Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott.

Arsenal substitutes from: Manuel Almunia, Park Chu-Young, Sebastian Squillaci, Andrei Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Ignasi Miquel, Nico Yennaris.

Manchester United lineup (4-4-1-1): Anders Lindegaard; Patrice Evra, Johnny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling; Nani, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia; Danny Welbeck; Wayne Rooney.

Manchester United substitutes from: David de Gea, Rafael da Silva, Fabio da Silva, Paul Scholes, Park Ji-Sung, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez.


Manchester City Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2012 Premier League: Late Penalty Sees City Win Odd Game

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur contrived to put all of the excitement of an entire football match into a period spanning no more than ten second-half minutes and then injury time. Quite why they did this is unclear, because it meant the rest of the game was fairly dire, but it made for interesting watching thanks to the five goals scored when the teams were actually doing anything interesting.

After nothing happened for almost an hour, the game burst to life when Samir Nasri raced onto a through ball played by David Silva and lashed past Brad Friedel, and City looked set to seal an easy win when a corner kick was bundled home by Joleon Lescott. Spurs weren't planning on going down without a fight, though, and a terrible attempted back header by ersatz centre back Stefan Savic gifted Jermain Defoe with the chance to race around Joe Hart and roll into an empty net.

The visitors were right back in the game at 2-1, and better was to come. Nothing much looked like happening when Gareth Bale received the ball at the edge of the box, but the Welsh dangerman opened up his body beautifully and sent a curling effort that dipped over Hart's outstretched hand and made the score 2-2.

At this point, both teams apparently decided that they were bored of playing, and the rest of regular time was marked only by Lescott elbowing Younes Kaboul in the face for no reason as well as a possibly deliberate Mario Balotelli stamp on Scott Parker's heroic head of heroic hair. Neither looked very fun for anyone except Lescott and Balotelli. The time between the four goals, incidentally, was a mere nine minutes.

With neither team looking threatening all the way into injury time, it fell upon Bale to bring things back to life. The winger burst through the City centre, skipping clear of the defenders and squared for Defoe to tap in, but the pass was a little too far ahead of the striker and he was only able to divert it inches past the post. Then the ball went up the other end and Balotelli managed to goad Ledley King into fouling him in the penalty box.

It was Balotelli who ended up with the chance to preserve City's 100% home league record. He took the spot beautifully, and the home side won 3-2. Big, big win there, and City are now six points clear at the top of the table - at least until Manchester United take on Arsenal momentarily.


Manchester City Vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Goal Flurry Brings Us To 2-2

A poor match finally got a much-needed spark at the Etihad Stadium where absolutely everything is happening. After there being one shot on target in the opening 56 minutes, four goals were scored in the next nine, and it's now Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur.

First up was the hitherto invisible Samir Nasri, who burst into the centre with a clever diagonal run before being expertly picked out by David Silva's through ball before blasting the ball straight past Brad Friedel. Two minutes later the league leaders' advantage had been doubled when Joleon Lescott somehow contrived to bundle in a corner without knowing where the ball was.

It looked like game over for Spurs, but they came roaring right back when Jermain Defoe capitalised on a hideous Stefan Savic error to round Joe Hart and roll into an empty net, and then Gareth Bale drew the visitors level shortly thereafter with a lovely first-time curler that the England goalkeeper couldn't quite keep out. This sure did get interesting in a hurry.


Manchester City Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2012 Premier League: Scoreless At The Half

A crucial match in the Premier League between two very capable teams is completely unsurprisingly a snoozefest so far. We're now at the halfway point in Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur, and here's what's happened so far as first place hosts third:

  • Per Soccernet, there has been one (1) shot on goal despite there being 27 billion pounds worth (approximation) of attacking talent on the field.
  • Said shot was by Sergio Aguero and was right at Brad Friedel. Analysts are so starved of anything interesting to say that they call it a good save.
  • City are playing possession football while Spurs are trying to hold possession and hit their hosts on the break. The only problem is that the possession figures at 48-52.
  • Edin Dzeko tackled Aguero as he was trying to shoot. Again. Clearly Kun isn't in the Bosnian's fantasy team.
  • At one point Gael Clichy was booked for blocking a Kyle Walker throw-in by walking up to the right back and raising his hands in a textbook basketball block.
  • This game has been awful.

Arsenal Vs. Manchester United, 2012 Premier League: Hobbled Gunners After Revenge

Arsenal look to avenge the most embarrassing loss anywhere in the Premier League this season when they host Manchester United on Sunday.


Manchester City Vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2012 Premier League: Lineups

Well, what a Super Sunday this should turn out to be! There are no real surprises in the lineups -- the Toure brothers are missing due to the Africa Cup of Nations, while Emmanuel Adebayor can't play for Spurs due to his loan from City. Here are your lineups:

Manchester City Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Micah Richards, Stefan Savic, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy; James Milner, Gareth Barry; Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri; Edin Dzeko

Manchester City Bench: Costel Pantilimon, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Nedum Onuoha, Nigel De Jong, Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli

Tottenham Hotspur Starting XI (4-4-1-1) Brad Friedel; Kyle Walker, Younes Kaboul, Ledley King, Benoit Assou-Ekotto; Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric, Scott Parker, Gareth Bale; Rafael Van der Vaart; Jermain Defoe.

Spurs Bench: Carlo Cudicini, Sebastien Bassong, Michael Dawson, Niko Kranjcar, Jake Livermore, Steven Pienaar, Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Game Date/Time: Sunday, January 22, 8:30 AM ET, 1:30 PM local

Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England

TV: Fox Soccer Channel (USA, English), Fox Deportes (USA, Spanish), SkySports 1 (UK), Sportsnet World (Canada)


Manchester City Vs. Tottenham, 2012 Premier League Week 22: Big Matchup At The Top Of The Table

Manchester City take on Tottenham Hotspur in the first of two huge Sunday matches.


Bolton Wanderers Vs. Liverpool, 2012 Premier League: Reds Terrible In Defeat

The 'Sky Six' has been broken. Liverpool have struggled and played dull football for most of the season, but this was perhaps their worst performance yet, and it's become obvious that they are no longer in the category of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Save for one great run and finish by Craig Bellamy, there were very few positives to take out of the match against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium. The home side was just flat-out better, and they were just solid, not spectacular, in a 3-1 victory.

Bolton's three goal-scorers were Mark Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker and Gretar Steinsson, which should tell you just about everything you need to know about this match. All three goals came on brilliant finishes, but also on abysmal defending. Davies' goal came just three minutes on a brilliant run and finish in and Reo-Coker made it 2-0 from close range in the 29th minute.

Bellamy's goal was an impressive one. Running onto an Andy Carroll header, the speedy Welshman took the ball 40 yards before finishing past Adam Bogdan in the 36th minute. That would be their last goal, however, and there felt like there was no way back for the Reds when Steinsson netted a nice half-volley goal off of a corner kick in the 50th minute.

Liverpool look allergic to the penalty area, and Kenny Dalglish has a lot of work to do to get anything positive out of this season.

For more on the two teams, check out Bolton blog Lion Of Vienna Suite as well as Liverpool blogs Anfield Asylum and The Offside Liverpool.


Everton Vs. Blackburn, 2012 Premier League: Draw A Fair Result In Sloppy Game

While other teams were having fun and/or playing good football in the Premier League, Everton and Blackburn Rovers were not doing a whole lot of either. This game probably should have been accompanied by a 90-minute loop of Yakety Sax as countless chances were wasted and defenders fell all over each other. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, as there were two occasions in this game where attackers did not trip on their own feet.

Tim Cahill scored the opener in the 24th minute, his first goal since December of 2010. Marouane Fellaini provided the assist, but handled the ball to bring it down before passing to Cahill, which the referee didn't spot.

David Goodwillie was the man who found the Blackburn equalizer on the end of a comedy of errors by the Everton defense and goalkeeper Tim Howard. On a set piece, Howard came out for the ball and completely whiffed. Cahill attempted to clear off the line, but cleared right to Goodwillie, who finished. The defense was nowhere to be found.

Fellaini had two golden chances to win the game for his team from inside of 10 yards in stoppage time and managed to put neither of them over the goal line. It was the perfect end to a poorly played match.

For more on the Toffees, head over to Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey.


Fulham Vs. Newcastle United, 2012 Premier League: Clint Dempsey Scores Hat Trick In 5-2 Win

Fulham and Newcastle played a rather lifeless first half of football, finally brought out of their sleepy and conservative strategies by an absolutely stunning 43rd minute goal from Danny Guthrie. The Newcastle midfielder hit a ridiculous shot from 25 yards that almost broke the back of the net, sending Newcastle into halftime up 1-0. From then on, it was Clint Dempsey and Fulham's game.

The equalizer came on a penalty by Danny Murphy, drawn by Andy Johnson in the 52nd minute. The go-ahead goal was a sloppy and slightly lucky one, with Dempsey touching a saved Bobby Zamora shot into the back of the net with his midsection in the 59th minute. That gave his team a lead that they would not relinquish, as they went on to win 5-2.

Dempsey's second was much better, a great right-footed strike to the far post from 15 yards in the 65th. The fourth goal was also a penalty, and an incorrectly given one at that. Johnson dove comically when Tim Krul made incidental contact and the spot kick was inexplicably given, with Zamora converting.

Hatem Ben Arfa pulled one back with an absolutely brilliant 85th minute goal, but the Cottagers would have the last laugh. Their fifth was the goal that completed Dempsey's hat trick, with the American finishing off a pass by Zamora on a counter attack in the 89th minute.

For more on the two teams, check out Fulham FC blog Cottagers Confidential and Newcastle Untied blog Coming Home Newcastle.


Wolverhampton Wanders Vs. Aston Villa, 2012 Premier League: Robbie Keane Defeats One Of His Boyhood Clubs

Robbie Keane's brace lead Aston Villa over 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers in an exciting West Midlands Derby.


Sunderland Vs. Swansea City, 2012 Premier League: MON's Fantastic Run Continues

Once threatened by the drop and in the drop zone, Sunderland are now comfortably mid-table after yet another win under new manager Martin O'Neill. In typical MON style, they didn't play the prettiest or most open game, but frustrated Swansea City, defended well and scored two brilliant goals. The Swans had 70 percent possession, but Sunderland executed their gameplan well and deserved their 2-0 win.

It was always going to be a tough road back for Swansea after Stephane Sessegnon's 14th minute goal. At the end of a brilliant give-and-go with James McClean at the edge of the penalty area, Sessegnon placed a brilliant strike into the top corner at the far post from a narrow angle. From then until the end, the game featured mostly half-chances and shots on target. Craig Gardner sealed the win with a brilliant half-volley goal in the 85th minute, assisted by Sessegnon.

This game had one unfortunate incident before the first goal in which Angel Rangel kicked Nicklas Bendtner in the face. Bendtner was subbed off and left the pitch covering his eye, appearing to have his vision impaired to some degree.

For more on the Black Cats, check out Sunderland AFC blog Roker Report.


Norwich City Vs. Chelsea, 2012 Premier League: Zzzzzzzzz

Quite often, there are games in the Premier League where a mid-to-lower table side squeaks out a draw against one of the big sides because of some great defending and/or an unlucky goal. The big team batters the goal and gets tons of bodies into the box, but can't find the breakthrough. This was not one of those games.

Instead, Chelsea were impossibly boring against Norwich City at Carrow Road. They were the better side, but hardly looked like they were very capable of scoring a goal in a dull 0-0 draw. John Ruddy didn't have to make any stunning saves and there were no dramatic clearances off the line.

Fernando Torres missed one sitter and didn't have a great game, but this result can't be blamed on his poor finishing. The entire team was poor. Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge, who have had excellent seasons, did very little for the Blues on Saturday afternoon.

Frank Lampard had to come out injured in the 37th minute, and his replacement Florent Malouda did not perform well. Torres got subbed out for Romelu Lukaku in the 77th minute and the teenager was better than the £50 million man. But hey, Michael Essien got another quick substitute appearance, so that was cool.

Chelsea are very much out of the title race at this point. Their goal should probably be third place and automatic qualification for Champions League, though their main worry has to be holding off Arsenal and keeping the Gunners out of the top four.

For more on the Blues, check out Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History.

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