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Bad news for Aston Villa as the club confirms that Darren Bent will miss the rest of the season after suffering a major ankle injury against Wigan Athletic.
Manchester United were anything but their best at Carrow Road, but ageless legends Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs rescued a victory for the Red Devils, keeping them in the title race with cross-town rivals Manchester City. Norwich City created more shots than their opponents and played extremely well -- perhaps they deserved a point -- but Giggs netted the winner in stoppage time to make it 2-1.
Scholes' opener came just seven minutes in on a well-timed run into the box. Nani hit a cross to the back post and Scholes was there to nod it in, giving United a perfect start. Norwich picked up their games after that and forced a couple of great saves out of David De Gea before they finally conceded. On a corner kick, Zak Whitbread knocked down the ball for Grant Holt, who netted the equalizer for the Canaries.
They looked to have a point they could be proud of until the 92nd minute, when Giggs tapped in cross from Ashley Young to give his team the victory. Norwich will feel hard done by, but they're still comfortably mid-table and can be proud of their performance.
What a bizarre game. Some awful defending from both sides led to seven goals at the Emirates, with Arsenal eventually emerging with a 5-2 win that pushes them back to fourth place in the Premier League. After 34 minutes, Tottenhum Hotspur were up 2-0, but the visitors never looked totally secure and it wasn't much of a surprise when an Arsenal blitz drew them level before halftime. What was perhaps more shocking was the second half, in which Spurs collapsed completely and Arsenal ran riot, claiming temporary bragging rights in London.
A 5-2 home win looked a long way off in the 4th minute when Louis Saha took advantage of a gaping hole in Arsenal's back line, sending a deflected effort past Wojciech Szczesny to make it 1-0. Half an hour later, a blatant dive from Gareth Bale won Spurs a penalty, although Szczesny strangely avoided the red card that seemed inevitable once Mike Dean pointed to the spot.
And then Arsenal struck back. Bale completely failed to mark Bacary Sagna on a Mikel Arteta cross, with the Arsenal fullback nodding the ball past Brad Friedel to make it 2-1 in the 39th minute. Robin van Persie, who has saved the Gunners' season over and over again, leveled before halftime with a sweet curling strike, and suddenly were were looking at a 2-2 scoreline that somehow flattered both teams.
Harry Redknapp responded by deploying Sandro and Rafael van der Vaart, but the substitutions backfired rather spectacularly when Tomas Rosicky finished off a fine move with a sweet near-post finish to make it 3-2 just after halftime. Spurs fans would have been hoping that that goal would wake their side up, but it did nothing of the sort, and Arsenal killed off their opponents with two lovely counterattacking goals from Theo Walcott, who was otherwise almost entirely pointless. The match finished 5-2, but not before Scott Parker was sent off for a second bookable offence - he'll miss next weekend's home game against Manchester United as a result.
It's a big win for Arsenal, who leapfrog Chelsea once more to go into 4th place in the league, but Tottenham are still in pretty good shape - they've got a seven-point cushion over both Chelsea and the Gunners, and despite a dreadful day for them I know who I'd take for 3rd place.
Well that was coming. Arsenal counterattack in brilliant fashion and get their fourth and fifth goals, both through Theo Walcott, who until the 65th minute had done approximately nothing positive in the entire match. For Walcott's first, Gareth Bale was dispossessed in the corner, and the ball made its way quickly to Robin van Persie, who drew in both Younes Kaboul and Ledley King to open up a huge gap in the Tottenham Hotspur defence, through which he played Walcott.
The young winger's first touch was atrocious, but he managed to recover to lift the ball over Brad Friedel and in at the far post to make it 4-2, and a few minutes later he was given a carbon copy of that opportunity to make it five after Alex Song threaded a lovely through ball past the Spurs back line. Again, he took it well, and Spurs, who led 2-0 at one point, are now down by three goals. That goal, incidentally, brings Arsenal above Chelsea and into 4th place in the Premier League.
Soooo, Arsenal's demise in this match has been pretty profoundly overstated. Just a few minutes have passed since the restart, but the Gunners are now in front, having come back from a 2-0 deficit 39 minutes in with three quick goals. This time, it's midfielder Tomas Rosicky who gets the goal, joining Bacary Sagna and Robin van Persie on the scoresheet to make it 3-2.
Tottenham Hotspur left their back line badly exposed, allowing Rosicky and Sagna to overlap against Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the latter firing in a great cross. Rosicky wasn't properly tracked, and he was able to fire in at the near post with a sweet left-footed finish. That's put the Emirates in a rather better mood, and you'd fancy Arsenal to finish this one out assuming no further calamities in their back line. That's a big assumption, however, and Spurs are still looking pretty dangerous when they go forward.
Harry Redknapp wasn't too happy with the way his team played in the first half - and he shouldn't be, considering that Arsenal are now level in a game where a really competent team would have completely put things to bed, and he's made some changes to compensate. Off go Louis Saha and Niko Kranjcar, on come Rafael van der Vaart and Sandro. That looks vaguely like a 4-2-3-1, which would make sense against Arsenal's midfield three, but we'll see.
The first real chance of the second half, despite the positive changes from Spurs, falls to Arsenal, whose attacking play is still proving very difficult for the visitors to deal with. Brad Friedel was just forced into an excellent save from a Yossi Benayoun effort - just why the Israeli was left by himself in the box is an open question, and that sort of defending is probably going to cost Spurs pretty dear at some point, if it hasn't already.
Well, that's the reply Arsenal were looking for. Bacary Sagna has taken advantage of some awful Tottenham Hotspur defending to halve the deficit, converting Mikel Arteta's cross with a powerful header that left Brad Friedel totally helpless. Just why Sagna had a free header is an open question - Gareth Bale should have been right on top of him but simply didn't bother marking him.
So that made it 2-1 to Tottenham, but there was more to come before half time. Robin van Persie, who had hit the post before the Sagna goal, was given a chance to shoot yet again and this time he took advantage of the opportunity, sending in a wonderful curling effort that a diving Friedel couldn't quite reach. That 2-0 lead lasted all of five minutes before the home side brought things back up to level pegging, and Spurs only have themselves to blame for some dire defending.
Well, that's 2-0 to Tottenham Hotspur now. Luka Modric plays a brilliant through ball to Gareth Bale, who bursts through the challenge of Kieran Gibbs (I have no idea what's going on with the centre backs) to go one on one with Wojciech Szczesny. Bale shuffles the ball to one side of the young goalkeeper's desperate challenge, leaving a leg danging and allowing Szczesny to bring him down with the faintest of touches. It looked like a dive from the Welsh winger, but it's either a yellow card for him or a penalty and a red. Mike Dean decides to average things out, offering only a penalty kick, which Emmanuel Adebayor rather happily converts.
Arsenal try to respond via Theo Walcott, who, given the opportunity to drive at Brad Friedel's goal, instead opts to pass to Robin van Persie, who is surrounded by four white shirts and is easily dispossessed. That's pretty much the story of Walcott's career so far.
Just as Arsenal look to be settling into a groove, Tottenham Hotspur show their stuff with a slick counterattack. Once again, the home side's centre backs go completely missing, and Louis Saha is able to play Emmanuel Adebayor right through the middle with only left back Kieran Gibbs able to stop him. With Gibbs tracking the striker, Gareth Bale, alone on the right, was probably a better option, but it went to Adebayor regardless and Gibbs was just about able to scramble it away, and which point Kyle Walker belted a long-range effort wide.
Things are getting pretty feisty at the Emirates, where Mike Dean is having a hard time keeping hold of the game. He's let about three awful tackles in a row go, but he can't allow Scott Parker to go in studs up on van Persie, so he shows yellow to the England midfielder and then Luka Modric for kicking the ball away (before he blew his whistle). The free kick is blocked, and then Laurent Koscielny joins the Spurs pair in the book for a foul on Parker... and now there's a penalty for Tottenham!
How on earth is that not 1-1? Arsenal go on the offensive once again and the Tottenham defence does a Vermaelen, going almost totally walkabout and leaving Robin van Persie unmarked in the middle. Six yards from goal. That's not generally a good thing, but Scott Parker manages to get a heroic block in to buy some time, and although the ball makes its way back to the Dutch striker, his second effort flashes inches wide of Brad Friedel's right post, with Kyle Walker very acrobatically not clearing the ball. Well then.
Anyway, Spurs are still by an large penned back in their half but for the occasional scurry forward, and they're having a hard time dealing with van Persie - he and Yossi Benayoun look like real threats today. Van Persie wins a corner with a decent long range shot, and Tomas Rosicky forces a fine save from Friedel from said set piece. This pressure's going to tell soon, surely?
Arsenal have responded reasonably well to going down 1-0 so early, and they're pouring pressure on Brad Friedel's goal. Some intelligent play from Yossi Benayoun splits open the Tottenham defence and results in Kieran Gibbs going over in the penalty box. Arsenal want the call from Mike Dean, but the left back was going over before any contact was made and the referee was having none of it.
Spurs were able to clear their lines following a corner, but the hosts go right back on the attack and have another penalty call (equally spurious) when they claim Scott Parker handles following some pinball in the box. Eventually Thomas Vermaelen eases the pressure when he blasts a long-range shot several miles wide.
At the other end of the pitch, Gareth Bale is guilty of an absolutely atrocious dive near the left touchline, which hoodwinks Dean and earns the visitors a free kick. Nothing comes of it, but Gunners fans won't be happy about two no-calls for penalties and then that shocking display from Bale. Now Spurs have a free kick very close to the edge of the box, which is eventually scrambled clear by Laurent Koscielny and Alex Song.
We're up and running at the Emirates Stadium, where Tottenham Hotspur, in white, have kicked us off. The visitors have a nine point lead in the table on Arsenal and immediately go on the attack with a foray into the Gunners half. It's stopped temporarily when Mikel Arteta gives Scott Parker a good kicking and then the offensive is broken up for good after a misplaced pass by Younes Kaboul. Tomas Rosicky responds by a searching pass, although in this case what it's searching for is some sort of target.
Spurs go forward again, with Luka Modric playing Kyle Walker down the right touchline. The England right back, spoiled for choice thanks to the runs of Emmanuel Adebayor and Louis Saha, chooses to pass instead ti Niko Kranjcar and the chance is lost... but not for long. Spurs grab the lead thanks to some hilariously bad play by Arsenal!
I'm not entirely sure what Thomas Vermaelen was doing there, but the Belgian centre back left acres of space for Saha to run onto in the middle, and the striker was played in my an excellent pass from Adebayor. Vermaelen tries to make up for his error, but all he can do is deflect Saha's shot past Wojciech Szczesny to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. That's really really awful defending there.
We'll be kicking off at the Emirates Stadium in just a little while, where high-flying Tottenham Hotspur travel to Arsenal as something perilously approaching favourites for the first time in Premier League history. The Gunners will be desperate for a win in order to keep pace with Chelsea in the battle for fourth place, while Spurs will be looking to cement their surprising status as title contenders - as well as earn a few more bragging rights.
Arsene Wenger has sprung a bit of a surprise in his starting eleven, opting to field Yossi Benayoun as a wide forward in place of Gervinho or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but there's nothing particularly out of the ordinary from Tottenham. With Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon not yet ready to start, Harry Redknapp's going with Louis Saha and Niko Kranjcar in their places.
Arsenal starting lineup (4-3-3): Wojciech Szczesny; Kieran Gibbs, Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna; Alex Song, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta; Yossi Benayoun, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott.
Substitutes from: Lukasz Fabianski, Park Chu-Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Carl Jenkinson, Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh, Ignasi Miquel.
Tottenham Hotspur starting lineup (4-4-2): Brad Freidel; Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Ledley King, Younes Kaboul, Kyle Walker; Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Scott Parker, Niko Kranjcar; Emmanuel Adebayor, Louis Saha.
Substitutes from: Carlo Cudicini, Michael Dawson, Danny Rose, Aaron Lennon, Sandro, Rafael van der Vaart, Jermaine Defoe.
Manchester United are in need of a win at Carrow Road, where Norwich have been good in their first season back in the Premier League.
Stan Kroenke will be at the Emirates to see first hand the divergence of fortune, with which his ownership has coincided, between the North London rivals.
Blackburn Rovers were utterly demolished at the Etihad Stadium in what may well have been the most one-sided game of the season. If not for some unfortunate finishing on Manchester City's part, the final score could easily have been in the double digits, but the league leaders ended up fairly happy with their 3-0 win.
It was obvious how the game was going to go as soon as the first minute, when Paul Robinson was forced into a flying save from a Mario Balotelli strike. A series of dangerous-looking City attacks somehow failed to find the net despite the hosts generating at least one clear-cut chance every few minutes, but Balotelli finally managed to break the deadlock just before the half hour mark with a deft volley from Aleksandar Kolarov's cross.
If City were hoping goal number one would open the floodgates, they were to be disappointed. Blackburn's luck held and the hosts couldn't convert until a howler from Robinson - who had otherwise been excellent - gifted Sergio Aguero with an open net 52 minutes in. The striker, seeing the goalkeeper virtually drop a corner kick onto his foot, made no mistake from eight yards, making it 2-0, and Edin Dzeko would finish up the job with a thumping header.
As for Blackburn, their first shot of the night was from outside the box in injury time. I'd say that sums up their performance, but this statistic does a better job: 22% of possession for the visitors.
Martin O'Neill's Sunderland renaissance met its first major roadbump as they were slaughtered at the Hawthorns by West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies set the tone early, going 1-0 up after three minutes via Peter Odemwingie, and they never looked back. James Morrison doubled their lead with an excellent header just before halftime, and Odemwingie wrapped things up just after the break with a well-placed finish beyond the reach of Simon Mignolet. Keith Andrews finished up the 4-0 win in injury time, leaving Sunderland with the first major setback since Steve Bruce left the club in November.
Basically, nothing happened in this game apart from Darren Bent injuring his Achilles, which looks like it could see the England striker missing much of the rest of the season. The game was only slightly less ugly than the injury, mostly because Aston Villa are incredibly boring. 0-0.
QPR slumped to yet another loss as they were beaten 1-0 by Fulham at Loftus Road. The Cottagers wasted no time in going ahead through Pavel Pobgranek, who rounded Paddy Kenny in the 7th minute to give the visitors the lead, and Rangers' cause was not helped by Samba Diakite picking up red card for a second bookable offence shortly after the half hour mark. QPR had a few chances to score - not least Shaun Wright-Phillips' late curling effort, but they couldn't find an equaliser, and probably didn't deserve one anyway.
Newcastle United's chances of playing top-four spoiler were seriously damaged on Saturday afternoon, as they dropped two points in a 2-2 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. James' Park. The Magpies were unlucky to give up both goals, but at the end of the day didn't do enough to create clear-cut chances against Wolves, who fought hard in the second half and earned a draw.
Papiss Cisse scored the opener just six minutes in after a bit of a scramble and some lucky bounces. The move started when Christophe Berra lost possession in his own half, and that eventually resulted in a shot by Cheik Tiote. His shot was blocked, but into the path of Cisse, who poked it in. Newcastle's second would come in the 18th minute through Jonas Gutierrez, whose shot from 20-yards out took a wicked deflection, giving Wayne Hennessey no chance to make a save.
Wolves would get a deflected goal of their own from Matt Jarvis in the 50th minute, with the deflection causing the ball to loop over the outstretched hand of Tim Krul and into the back of the net. The equalizer came in the 68th minute on a set piece, with the ball deflecting around like a pinball before Kevin Doyle finished the chance and rescued a point for his team.
Though Wolves got off to a bad start, caretaker manager Terry Connor will be happy with the result in his first game in charge. In the Premier League's tight five-way race to avoid the three relegation spots, one point was enough to move Wolves out of the bottom three. Newcastle are still in sixth, but are now three points behind Chelsea for fourth place.
For more on the Magpies, check out Newcastle United blog Coming Home Newcastle.
Chelsea were held by a solid Bolton Wanderers defense in the first half of their Premier League encounter, but the Blues looked much better in the second half and coasted to a 3-0 victory. The Wanderers midfield and attack didn't give much help to Tim Ream, David Wheater and goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, who were subjected to target practice. Chelsea had 26 shots and 13 on target as they ran over Bolton in the second half.
David Luiz put Chelsea ahead with a fantastic goal in the 48th minute. He started the move himself by winning possession back for his team, then continued forward and finished the move himself. After an exchange of passes, Luiz hit a fantastic shot past Bogdan at his far post from 15 yards out, looking like a center forward in the process.
Didier Drogba all but sealed the win with a great headed goal in the 61st minute off of a corner kick and Frank Lampard added the exclamation point with a simple close-range finish in the 79th minute, assisted by a Juan Mata cross.
League leaders Manchester City host Blackburn, United travels to face Norwich and Chelsea hosts Bolton in what could be one of the more important weekends of the Premier League season from top-to-bottom.
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