16/17 Round up #3

Another weekend of Premier League action, and plenty more goals and talking points to discuss as we head into the international break.

Starting with the game at White Hart Lane between Spurs and Liverpool, the points were shared in a game where, at the start of the match, both teams would probably have taken a point.

A late first half penalty from James Milner followed by Danny Rose’s equalising strike saw the game finish 1-1, but Harry Kane’s failure to notch once again suggests that he may well be a slow starter – however, that may not matter as the English striker failed to score in his first six games last season – and still ended up as the Premier League’s top scorer.

Elsewhere, Chelsea continued their 100% start by easing past Burnley 3-0  through Eden Hazard, Willian and Victor Moses.

Hazard, who went from the PFA player of the year to biggest flop of they year, has more than hinted at a return to his scintillating 2014/15 form.

He offered glimpses at the end of last season with spectacular goals against Tottenham and Liverpool, whilst he had a mixed Euro 2016 campaign, playing well in most matches, but playing in a Belgian side lacking any sort of team spirit or togetherness as their tournament was curtailed by Wales in the quarter finals.

He has started this season with 2 goals in 3 games, and he looks like a man on a mission, taking the game to the opposition, threatening all the time, rather than keeping the ball for keeping the ball’s sake.

As for Jamie Vardy,  who had almost the exact opposite season last time out, the Foxes striker scored his first Premier League goal of the season with a brilliant goal as the champions saw off Swansea 2-1.

Next week Vardy will face Liverpool’s leaky defence, and if they press high, which we assume they almost certainly will, there will be gaps in behind for the pacey striker to exploit, so the Red’s defenders will have a lot on their plate.

Crystal Palace met Bournemouth at Selhurst park in another early kick-off, and Eddie Howe’s Cherries had the win robbed from them as Scott Dann cancelled out Josh King’s opener, equalising in the 93rd minute, after Yohan Cabaye had had a penalty saved by Artur Boruc after Mike Dean gave a penalty for what was clear shirt pulling in the box.

On transfer deadline day Bournemouth added Jack Wilshere to their side on loan, in if he stays fit, (and that is a big if) he could seamlessly slot into their style of play and help the South Coast side in their survival bid.

At Goodison Park a Leighton Baines penalty was tipped onto the post by Shay Given, only for the ball to cannon back of Given’s back and into the net, giving the Toffee’s their second win of the season against Stoke.

The Potters, who have finished 9th for the last three seasons, will struggle to repeat the feat this time round with the strengthening of clubs like Everton and Chelsea, who both finished below Stoke last season.

Southampton came from behind to draw with Sunderland, as Claude Puel’s men again started slowly, coming into the game after going a goal down.

Jay Rodriguez scored his first goal since March 2014, and after he stayed at the club following deadline day, (amid talks of a loan to West Brom) he could be a useful player for Saints as he looks to get his career back on track after some terrible injuries.

Arsenal claimed their first three points of the season with a comfortable 1-3 win at Watford, and with the additions of Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez, Arsene Wenger could finally be building a side that could finally challenge for the title – but, with the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea looking very strong this time, it might be too little too late, especially after a slow start.

The late kick-off saw Hull put in another solid defensive performance only for Marcus Rashford to continue proving people wrong by grabbing the only goal of the game in stoppage time, thus enabling United to continue their 100% start.

Rashford, who scored a hat-trick on his U21 debut, in my opinion, will be a star. He’s doing it against top defenders already, and with his searing pace and unbelievable skill, he doesn’t look like fading away in the coming years.

Finally, after West Brom drew 0-0 with Middlesbrough, Raheem Sterling continued to thrive under Pep with two impressive goals.

The young winger, who disappointed at the Euros and struggled towards the end of last season, is looking like a transformed player under Guardiola.

However, whilst that, along with the ever impressive form of Fernandinho, is great for City fans, star striker Sergio Aguero will miss this weekend’s Manchester Derby after elbowing West Ham’s Winston Reid.

It is expected that the promising Kalechi Iheanacho will be used in his place, but Nolito could also play as a striker, so the Jose v Pep face off could be even more tactically intriguing than we first thought.



16/17 Premier League Round up #1

With the first week of Premier League fixtures played, I welcome you to this season’s inaugural round up. And what a start.

We got underway with the champions Leicester facing relegation favourites Hull – surely the perfect opening fixture for the Foxes to start the campaign with.

Hull, with 13 fit senior players at their disposal, were forced to call up many youngsters from their academy in to the squad, and caretaker manager Mike Phelan had an unenviable task on his hands after Steve Bruce, who guided them to promotion via the play-offs last season, resigned due to a disagreement with the club’s controversial owner, Assem Allam.

So, surely, with all that against them, and the fact that they were facing the champions, the Tigers had no chance – but that’s why we love football – Leicester will tell you this; no matter what the odds, whether they are in your favour or against you, anything is possible – and after Robert Snodgrass’s winner, Hull won.

A well deserved, brilliant victory for Hull, and a relatively poor performance from Leicester, who spurned many good chances, with Jamie Vardy looking nowhere near as sharp as he was last season.

Still, whilst it may have been a huge result for the underdogs, and yes, we may well have written them off to early, their obvious lack of squad depth is a huge problem, and it remains to be seen whether Mike Phelan, who we have now been told could become Hull’s permanent manager, will be able to do the necessary job in his first ever spell as head coach.

Elsewhere, in an intriguing fixture between Everton and Tottenham in what was Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge of the Toffees, the score finished 1-1, after goals from Ross Barkley and Erik Lamela.

The only thing we really learnt from that game is that Harry Kane is once again failing to start a season well, after going goalless for the first six games of last season. Kane, who struggled to get on the ball and ended up coming deeper to receive it, was less of a threat, but what we know from last season is that patience is key – the English striker ended up being Premier League top scorer with 25 goals despite his early struggle.

Other 3 o’clock kick-offs saw Swansea beat Burnley with a goal from now permanent signing Leroy Fer, West Brom beat Crystal Palace by the same scoreline, Southampton draw 1-1 with Watford, and Middlesbrough draw 1-1 with Stoke.

At Selhurst Park it was a goal from Salomon Rondon that stole the points for the Baggies, and after a season of adapting to the Premier League, it could be Rondon’s year.

Southampton, who were outplayed by Watford in the first half and went in a goal down after Etienne Capoue’s strike, looked sharper in the second 45 minutes, and new signing Nathan Redmond, who was very impressive on his debut, scored a superb volley to make the score 1-1.

Pierre Emile-Hojberg, another of Southampton’s new signings, was also impressive after he came on, looking calm and composed on the ball whilst also playing with purpose and intent, so expect to see him thrive in English football this season.

Alvaro Negredo looks like a superb signing for newly promoted Middlesbrough, and after scoring on his debut, the Spaniard could be a key figure as Boro look to steer clear from relegation.

As for Stoke, although they have been consistent in recent years (2013/14 ninth, 2014/15 ninth, 2015/16 ninth) with the big clubs looking stronger again it is hard to see them improving on that position, and at the end of the season, they may look back on games like this and see them as two points dropped.

The late kick-off saw Pep Guardiola’s first taste of Premier League football as Manchester City scraped a 2-1 win against Sunderland.

The main tactical innovation we saw from Pep was the use of full-backs Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy in defensive midfield positions, although it remains unclear as to what the function of the idea was.

Of course, we must remember that Pep requires unbelievable attention to detail in his tactical instructions and the complexity of them can often be very difficult to understand for the players at first, so we should see them used to better effect as the season goes on.

They have now also played the first leg of their champions league qualifying play off round against Steaua Bucharest, and the 5-0 victory was much more assuring, with some outstanding football being played, and after I tipped Sergio Aguero to score a hat-trick, he duly did – despite missing two penalties.

I believe that, as long as he stays fit, with the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne around him, coupled with the fact that he is playing in a Pep Guardiola team who will play attacking football, Aguero should easily be the Premier League’s top scorer this season.

Super Sunday began with United’s trip to Bournemouth, and after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his debut with a goal in the Community Shield last week, he didn’t take long to add to it with his low strike making it 0-3 to the Red Devils before Adam Smith pulled one back for the Cherries.

Before Zlatan’s goal Juan Mata had opened the scoring, prompting further questions concerning his future at the club – could he actually stay despite his previously poor relationship with boss Jose Mourinho?

Wayne Rooney showed he can still score goals by making it 0-2 with a header, and a partnership of him and Pogba could be lethal.

Following that match we saw what was a truly unforgettable game at the Emirates, where Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have big things expected of them this season, lined up against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, with Wenger bidding for one last piece of glory in what could be his final season at the club.

And it was Wenger’s men who took the early advantage, when Theo Walcott, who had missed a penalty just moments before, coolly finished off a swift passing move to put the Gunners in front.

However, just when it looked like Arsenal would go in with the lead at half time, new Arsenal signing Rob Holding was caught holding Phillipe Coutinho (no pun intended), and it was the Brazilian who whipped a sensational free-kick right into the top corner from 25 yards out to draw Liverpool level.

Then three more stunning goals from Adam Lallana, Coutinho again and Sadio Mane on his debut put Liverpool 1-4 ahead, before Arsenal fought back and for a while looked like they might be able to salvage a point after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers had made the score 3-4.

Incredibly, 5 of the seven goals came from former Southampton players in the form of Walcott, Lallana, Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers whilst Coutinho, the source of the other two goals, almost signed for the Saints back in 2013.

Liverpool defenders Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren are also both former Saints, showing just how much of a force the South coast side could be if they didn’t continue to sell their best players.

Coutinho, who is easily one of if not the best player at Liverpool, is lacking just consistency in his game. We know how talented he is, and if he can get into the box more often like he did for his second goal, he should significantly help with Liverpool’s challenge for a top four place.

The final match of the opening weekend of Premier League football was a London derby between Anotnio Conte’s Chelsea, and Slaven Bilic’s West Ham.

Eden Hazard gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot before Hammers defender James Collins looked to have salvaged a point late on, only for Diego Costa to snatch the win for Chelseain the 89th minute.

The main talking point is whether or not Hazard will return to form after his dismal 2015/16 campaign.

Now, the first thing we have to remember is that Chelsea were awful aswell, and it wasn’t just him. Of course, back in 2014/15, when he won the PFA player of the year award, Chelsea were brilliant, and they cruised to the title.

They should, with the squad they have and Antonio Conte as manager, be a much better side this year, and Hazard should relish that, and Diego Costa, whose late strike proved to be the winner, could also show his 2014/15 form this time out.

After last season, 2016/17 has a lot to live up to, but it’s certainly started well. A surprise win for Hull, a goal for Zlatan, full-backs in midfield for Pep and a thriller between Southampton Old Boys and Southampton Old Boys has left us wanting even more, so roll on next week! After all, how can a league with Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic not be spectacular?


Ronaldo finally comes good for Portugal

After the conclusion of the Euro 2016 group stage, we can now look forward to a set of intriguing round of 16 fixtures in France.

Whilst being a mainly low scoring group stage, there were some good games, most notably the incredible clash between Hungary and Portugal, where a crazy 90 minutes saw the final score end 3-3.

With Portugal only picking up two points compared to Hungary’s 4 after the first two games, Ronaldo and his team mates had a point to prove, especially the former, as his missed penalty had cost his side in the 0-0 draw with Austria a few days earlier.

And it only got worse for the Portuguese as Zoltan Gera’s impressive half-volley put Hungary 1-0 in front.

However, after battling back to 1-1 at half time through Luis Nani, doubles from both Balazs Dzsudzsak and Cristiano Ronaldo saw a highly entertaining match finish 3-3.

In the other game in group F, minnows Iceland sealed qualification in 2nd place, helped by a 94th minute winner against Austria, the only team to crash out in that group.

That goal set up a tie with England for Iceland, whilst Portugal face Croatia and Hungary face Belgium.

As for Belgium themselves, they recovered from a 0-2 defeat to Italy in their opening match to win their next two matches and come second in their group and even though their defeat highlighted the fact that they are still failing to meet expectations against the more difficult teams, their two wins that followed were encouraging.

Also in their group were the Republic of Ireland and Sweden, and after the Republic of Ireland’s impressive victory over Italy, Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were sent home, and it now seems that Ibrahimovic will retire from international football, after failing in his last bid for glory.

As for England, whilst not topping the group, 2nd place and qualification is all that really matters, and after playing reasonably well in the three games, the main conclusion we can come to is that England need to be more clinical.

The Three Lions missed a catalogue of chances in the first game against Russia and that ended up costing them the win, whilst they had to wait until stoppage time for Daniel Sturridge to win Enlgand the match against Wales after more good opportunities had been spurned.

In the final game, the 0-0 draw with Slovakia dampened what had previously been a good mood in the England camp, but a round of 16 tie against Iceland isn’t much more than Roy Hodgson could have asked for, so there are plenty of positives to take from the first three games.

Looking at Wales, Gareth Bale scored in all three games as they topped the group with six points against the odds, and they’ll be happy to face Northern Ireland in the last 16, where they will definitely be favourites.

Still, Northern Ireland did very well to qualify from a group containing world champions Germany and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland, and their progression to the knockout stage means that all four home nations will be in the last 16 of the tournament.

Germany topped that group with three reasonable performances, whilst Poland, who came runners up, look extremely solid, and if they can get Lewandowski to start scoring, they could be a real force.

Champions Spain meanwhile will be disappointed to finish second in their group after winning their first two games, and as a result, they will have to face Italy in a tough match up, a game that will be a repeat of the 2012 final.

La Roja, who look better than in 2014 but not as good in 2012, will be contenders, but after their defeat to the impressive Croatia, they don’t seem to be quite at the required level.

Last but not least, hosts France came top of their group as late goals secured both of their first two wins against Romania and Albania respectively, but despite the good results, their defence does seem to be an issue they will have to address if they are to win the tournament, but a shutout in the 0-0 draw with Switzerland was encouraging.

So then, as we wave goodbye to Albania, Romania, Turkey, Czech Republic, Russia, Ukraine, Sweden and Austria, we can now focus on the knockout stages, as Ronaldo looks to build on his man of the match performance against Hungary, France look to build on their solid performance in the group and England look to build on their mixed form so far.

You can be sure to witness drama, goals and quality football, but you can’t be sure about who will go all the way at all, so don’t place any bets!

Dimitri Payet lights up the start of the Euros

Touch, glance, bang! Dimitri Payet’s stunning left-footed strike saved France late on in the opening match of Euro 2016, in a game that looked to be heading for a draw, before the West Ham playmaker sent the nation into sheer euphoria with his delightful winning goal.

After a goalless first half in which Payet had looked lively and N’golo Kante of Leicester had been impressive, it was Payet who whipped in an inviting cross for Olivier Giroud to head in early on in the second half.

However, just as the the French looked to be taking control of the game, a foul in the penalty area from Patrice Evra gave Bogdan Stancu a chance from 12 yards, and he made no mistake, levelling the tie.

Then, late on, Romania were left in shock as Payet pulled off a sensational left-footed strike from outside of the area to clinch the win in the tournament’s opening game for the hosts.

Of course, it didn’t all go to plan for Didier Deschamps’s side, but the three points were vital against a Romania side who are often tough to beat, and France can know go into their remaining group games against Albania and Switzerland knowing that they already have a win in the bag.

As for England, they started well against Russia, creating good chances, most notably an opening for Adam Lallana, but the first half finished 0-0, as England were left regretting their missed opportunities.

Still, when the goal finally did come as the game was reaching its latter stage, it was through a free-kick from Eric Dier, where Dier’s shot, a good effort, still prompted questions over Igor Akinveev’s goalkeeping, as he appeared to step to the side over the wall, before Dier proceeded to whip the ball towards the side that Akinveev was originally standing in.

Unfortunately, when it looked like England were just seeing out the last few minutes of stoppage time, Vasili Berezutsky’s looping header broke English hearts in the 92nd minute, and despite England’s impressive performance where Wayne Rooney shone in midfield, they were unable to start the tournament with a win.

After the game, there was much controversy as many people questioned Roy Hodgson over his decision to replace Wayne Ronney with Jack Wilshere, and also his decision to refuse to bring on Jamie Vardy at all, aswell as the fact that Harry Kane, England’s main hope in attack, was on corner duty.

Of course, if he can deliver good balls then it’s always useful to have him on corners, but seeing as he is an impressive poacher who can score a wide range of goals, it seems obvious that he should be in the box in those set-piece situations.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of positives to take from England’s opening game, but the fact that the Three Lions failed to collect three points, makes their tie with Wales this Thursday even more important.

Germany’s match up with Ukraine was a similar game, however after Shkodran Mustafi’s headed opener, rather than a late equaliser from Ukraine, their decision to put so many men forward in the hopes of an equaliser resulted in a sweeping counter-attack from Germany, rounded off by Bastian Schwienstieger as the Germans walked away with a 0-2 win, and, unlike England, three points.

One of the most intriguing fixtures that the group’s produced was the match up between Belgium and Italy, and with Belgium edging the pre match talk as favourites, Italy caused an upset with a 0-2 win with goals from Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle, as Belgium once again failed to live up to expectations.

This golden age in Belgian football is not an era that their current crop of talent, along with coach Marc Wilmots, are taking advantage of, and their football seems to lack a flow, as if they are almost a team of individual superstars who can’t play as a team.

Looking at the rest of the home nations, there were contrasting results, as Northern Ireland, suffered a 0-1 defeat to Poland, Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 with Sweden, in a game that they could have won, and a Gareth Bale free-kick inspired Wales to a 2-1 win over Slovakia.

Other games saw holders Spain have to wait until late on for Gerard Pique to head in the winner against Czech Republic, a stunning Luka Modric volley won the game against Turkey for Croatia, brothers Taulant and Granit Xhaxa faced off as Switzerland beat Albania 1-0, and in Group F, a group which, at first glance, seems to be less than interesting, contained many intriguing sub-plots.

First of all, Hungary, who haven’t reached a major finals for 30 years, faced rivals Austria, and with Austria going in as favourites, the tournament’s first upset came as Hungary triumphed 0-2 with two impressive goals, and after that, the tournament’s smallest nation, Iceland, faced off against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, and in another surprise result, Iceland cancelled out Portugal’s opener and held on for a draw in what will be a truly memorable day in their history.

Overall, it’s been an entertaining start to the Euro’s which still hasn’t featured a 0-0 yet, and you can be sure to expect much more entertainment to follow.


Round up #4 A true spectacle!

One of the most unpredictable and exciting weekends of Premier League football so far this season had pretty much everything. Debut goals, late drama, stunning strikes, and a celebration which resulted in the glasses of Jurgen Klopp breaking, along with the hearts of Norwich City.

Starting with that crazy game at Anfield, Liverpool opened the scoring in the 18th minute through Roberto Firmino, before Dieumerci Mbokani’s clever backheel put Norwich level just before the half hour mark. Then it was time for Steven Naismith to fire in a great finish from a difficult angle to mark his Canaries debut with a goal, and 9 minutes into the second half, Norwich went 3-1 up through a penalty by Wes Hoolahan. But this is where the game got crazy. In an unbelievable 20 minute spell, well taken goals from Jordan Henderson and James Milner either side of a fantasic team goal finished off neatly by Firmino for his second of game put Liverpool 3-4 up, but only for Sebastian Bassong to hit a pile-driving volley from the edge of the area to get what looked like the crucial equaliser in the 92nd minute. But, Liverpool kept going, and eventually, in 95th minute, Adam Lallana’s goal won a dramatic match at Carrow Road. Both of the late goals followed by somewhat over the top celebrations appeared very similar to the celebrations of last week in Everton’s 3-3 draw with Chelsea, but this time, the manager of the team that scored the even later goal unfortunately saw his glasses snap, a comical moment in a somewhat comical game.

Moving onto a game that, despite contrasting massively in terms of entertainment value, still had late drama, as Manchester United failed to build on last week’s derby win over Liverpool. In a game of few highlights, Charlie Austin marked his Southampton debut with a trademark header to win the game for his new side. Southampton have now won their last 3 games and sit eighth in the table, whereas United’s champions league hopes are looking increasingly unlikely now. Does something need to change?

The game at Selhurst Park saw high flying Tottenham turn around a 1-0 deficit after a Jan Vertonghen own goal put struggling Palace ahead. Mauricio Pochettino’s side had to wait until the 63rd minute to get an equaliser through a Harry Kane header, before a moment of true class saw Dele Alli put Spurs in front. Standing sideways to goal, Alli controlled a headed pass and cushioned the ball towards his chest. With his back to the defender, he flicked it over Joe Ledley’s head before swivelling and hitting the ball first time on the volley from twenty yards out past Wayne Hennessey into the bottom corner, for one of the best goals of the season. Nacer Chadli sealed the win late in stoppage time with a superb curling effort, and that sealed another important win for Tottenham.

Jamie Vardy ended a seven game drought with a brilliant goal as Leicester made light work of a Stoke side that you would have expected to give the Premier League leaders a real game at the King Power stadium. Danny Drinkwater’s deflected volley gave the foxes the lead with three minutes to go before half time, and Leicester built on that lead as Drinkwater’s inch-perfect pass found Jamie Vardy, whose delightful first touch took the ball around a helpless Jack Butland before he slotted the ball home into the empty net. Late on, an outrageous piece of skill by Riyad Mahrez bamboozled Stoke’s Phillip Wollschied before his scuffed shot fell on a plate for Leonardo Ulloa to tap in and secure a comfortable win for Leicester.

The Stadium of light saw Patrick Van Aanholt score for the fourth game in a row on Saturday, and despite the first two of that run being chalked off as own goals by the dubious goals panel, but, nevertheless, his goal, late in the first half, earned Sunderland a point after Benik Afobe scored his second goal for Bournemouth since his recent move from Wolves. This was a vital point for a Sunderland team who are still under huge pressure, sitting 19th in the table and 4 points way from safety, whereas Bournemouth, without being anywhere near safety, sit in a relatively comfortable position at 16th.

The final 3 o’clock game was nothing to get excited about in a game that finished 0-0, but, like Sunderland, it was an important point for Aston Villa against West Brom at the Hawthorns, especially as Aston Villa are still 8 points from safety at the foot of the table. As for the Baggies, they sit 14th below Chelsea, and are probably the highest place team with a threat of relegation.

Saturday’s football concluded with a thrilling match in the late kick off at Upton Park, where West Ham met Manchester City. West Ham ran out shock 1-2 winners in the reverse fixture this season, and they got off to the perfect start when Enner Valencia put them ahead after just 53 seconds. But, City bounced back well in the 9th minute as Sergio Aguero converted his penalty that he had won, but that was only before Valencia capatalised on poor defending to score his second goal of the game to put the Hammers back in front after 55 minutes. City showed courage to come back from behind again as Aguero scored again, this time with a brilliant finish, but you could argue that they rely too much on their talented Argentinian who is unreliable as he is often injured, but at second in the table, they are still among the favourites for the Premier League crown.

Sunday’s action began at the Emirates where Diego Costa’s goal gave Chelsea the double over Arsenal this season, but it wasn’t without controversy, as Per Mertesacker’s red card was highly debatable, as there appeared to be no contact at all with regard to his last man challenge on Costa, and despite the fact that he did still clearly make it difficult for Costa to go on and then score, it was definitely a dive by the Chelsea striker.

The weekend’s final game saw goals from Andre Ayew and Gylfi Sigurdsson either side of a Jack Cork own goal gave Swansea an important 3 points over a defensively struggling Everton side. Everton, despite their entertainment value and attacking qualities now sit 12th in the table, whilst Swansea are still under pressure despite being 15th.

And all just when we thought this Premier League season couldn’t get any better!

Round up #3 Rooney wins the derby!

Whilst Leicester miss the chance to go top, a Wayne Rooney goal wins the derby for Manchester United in another entertaining weekend of Premier League football (not that Liverpool vs Manchester United was entertaining at all). Apart from the disappointing derby, there was drama, great goals, and as usual, the inevitable goal from Patrick Van Aanholt, one of the Premier League’s hottest goalscorers around at the moment. (Yes, the Sunderland full back has scored three goals in his last three games now).

We shall begin the round up at Villa Park, where Leicester missed the chance to regain top spot (not that they knew it at the time). A beautiful lob from Jamie Vardy was just saved by Mark Bunn, but despite his best efforts, the goalkeeper could not keep out the follow up from Shinji Okazaki. Leicester then had the chance to solidify their lead from the spot following a controversial handball decision given against Villa’s Aly Cissokho, but Riyad Marez, who missed his last penalty, saw his tame effort saved by Bunn. Then in the second half Aston Villa striker Rudy Gestede’s deflected effort drew the league’s bottom team level, and that’s how it finished.

In the 3 o’clock kick offs, Southampton became the league’s only team to win their last two games as they defeated a lack-lustre West Brom side 3-0. James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring early on with a brilliant free-kick before the England U21 international then made it 2-0 with a penalty. In the second half, substitute Dusan Tadic finished from a tight angle to seal the points for Ronald Koeman’s side, who now face Manchester United and Arsenal in their next two games.

Also in the 3 o’clock kick offs, Manchester City cruised past a Crystal Palace team who have found themselves in some rare poor form in what has been a generally good season for Alan Pardew’s team. Fabian Delph’s long ranger opened the scoring after 21 minutes before two goals from Sergio Aguero either side of half time effectively ended the contest, but not before Aguero had time to set up David Silva late on for City’s fourth. City will now be hoping to put together a good run of form and really show their quality, because they undoubtedly have the best squad in the league, and they would be under-achieving if they were not to get there hands on their third title in five years.

The weekend’s biggest shock came at St. James’ Park as Newcastle, off the back of a 3-3 draw with Manchester United in midweek, saw off an in-form West Ham side who were beginning to look like real top four contenders. Early goals from Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum, before a goal from Nikica Jelavic meant that Newcastle won 2-1, and, before Swansea’s Monday night win over Watford, moved out of the relegation zone. A promising debut from Jonjo Shelvey was capped by a sixty yard pass to Daryl Janmaat in the move for Wijnaldum’s goal.

Meanwhile, the most dramatic match was at Stamford Bridge as a late John Terry goal earned Chelsea a point at the hands of Roberto Martinez’s Everton. Despite being a six goal thriller, we had to wait until the 50th minute for the game’s opening goal, which went in Everton’s favour in the form of a John Terry own goal. Kevin Mirallas then doubled their lead with a sweet strike just six minutes later, but a quick-fire Chelsea double through goals from Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas brought them level. Everton thought they had won it when Ramiro Funes Mori’s far post flick put them ahead in the 90th minute, but in the 98th minutes, John Terry scored at the right end with a cheeky flick to score one of the latest goals the Premier League has seen for years. Terry appeared to be offside though, prompting Everton manager Roberto Martinez to say, “Maybe refs need a bit of help. But to have a player two yards off in the box is unacceptable.” In closer inspection Terry was offside, but the Spaniard’s comments seem very harsh on the officials, and Martinez seems to be continuing the trend of criticizing officials that managers not only in Britain, but across the world seem to be doing right now, and have for some time. In this case, it was difficult for both the linesman and the referee to see whether the decisive pass to Terry came off a Everton or Chelsea head in the huge melee.

Down on the south coast, Bournemouth breezed past relegation rivals Norwich by three goals to nil as Benik Afobe scored his first Cherries goal following his move from Championship side Wolves. Dan Gosling opened the scoring in the 10th minute before Charlie Daniels, who put in a particularly impressive performance, made it two with a calm finish from the spot. Afobe then scored with 15 minutes to go to complete a confident win for Eddie Howe’s side.

In Saturday’s early kick off,  Tottenham came from behind to comfortably see off Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland, after Patrick Van Aanholt, not known for his goalscoring qualities, scored for the third game in a row to put the Black Cats in front. However, the joy only lasted for a couple of minutes  as Christian Eriksen levelled the scores. In the second half goals from Moussa Dembele, another from Eriksen and a penalty from Harry Kane secured a 4-1 win for Tottenham, who now sit fourth in the table. As for Sunderland, they are still 19th, and may have to pull off another great escape in order to stay in English football’s top division.

Sunday’s football didn’t quite live up to expectation, as before Jack Butland and Petr Cech produced stand out performances in Stoke vs Arsenal, a Wayne Rooney goal won the derby for United. That leaves Klopp’s Liverpool 9th and Manchester United fifth, and after the early optimism, the German is yet to make his mark on this Liverpool side.

In the Monday night football an Ashley Williams header secured a vital win for Swansea that keeps them out of the relegation zone, whilst Watford’s good form is seemingly drying up, with Deeney and Ighalo lacking service in the last few games.

Another entertaining weekend of football, but we are still left wondering if anybody does want to win the title. Will it be Arsenal, Leicester of Manchester City? All we can be sure of is that an exciting climax to the season awaits.


Mourinho misery! Round up #2

It was the weekend of Premier League football we’d all been waiting for, and despite not being quite the classic that many people had hoped, the situation is beginning to become much clearer, and what place better to start than the game at Upton Park on Saturday.

Mourinho’s Chelsea went into the game knowing that West Ham were no slouch – of course they had already beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City this season, and key players such as Dmitri Payet & co were firing at all cylinders. But the game couldn’t have started any worse for Jose – they went behind after 17 minutes due to a powerful strike by Mauro Zarate.

And it got worse for the blues as holding midfielder Nemanja Matic was sent off for two yellow cards inside nine minutes going into the break. At that point, you what have been forgiven for thinking that the interval would do Chelsea good, but Mourinho didn’t help their cause, after he went to speak to referee John Moss, and was sent to the stands for the remainder of the match as a result.

But it didn’t seem to matter when defender Gary Cahill pounced on an opportunity to level the score after 55 minutes, and it looked like Chelsea could push on and go for the winner until the 79th minute, when substitute Andy Carroll, who has suffered from many injuries in the past, headed home the winner, to complete Mourinho’s misery.

Elsewhere this Saturday, Aston villa lost yet another match, this time at the hands of Swansea,when despite leading through Jordan Ayew , goals from Gylfi Siggurdson and Andre Ayew (Jordan’s brother) turned the game on it’s head, and this result eventually lead to the sacking of manager Tim Sherwood. The away team also prevailed at Carrow Road where Salomon Rondon bagged another three points for West Bromwich Albion, and goals from Troy Deeney and Almen Abdi secured a win for Watford at the hands of Stoke.

Also on Saturday, Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy continued his hot streak for Leicester by making it ten goals for the season and seven games in a row in which he has scored, therefore resulting in a very good three points for the Foxes against a strong Crystal Palace side. Finishing 1-0, Leicester had finally pulled off a clean sheet for the first time this season, and they can now enjoy their pizza.

In the late kick-off, an impressive Arsenal side saw off Everton after goals from Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny gave them a 2-1 win, which temporarily resulted in them going top of the table, before the exciting Sunday fixtures took place.

We began with the Wear-Tyne derby, as Sam Allardyce incredibly carried  on a run of four Sunderland managers to face Newcastle in their second game in charge. What wasn’t set in stone though, was the fact that the other three managers had all won the derby in their second game in charge, but, after the disappointing defeat to West Brom last week, Big Sam didn’t let us down, with a comprehensive 3-0 win against their bitter rivals, just like when Paulo Di Canio took over. The big moment came in first half stoppage time when Fabricio Collocini fouled Steven Fletcher and therefore conceded a penalty and was sent off by referee Robert Madley. The decision to award a penalty for Collocini’s shoulder barge seemed fair, but Newcastle could argue that it did not warrant a sending off as it appeared that Steven Fletcher looked unlikely to win the ball ahead of goalkeeper Rob Elliot. Nevertheless, Newcastle were down to ten men and Adam Johnson confidently converted the penalty, making that his fourth goal in a Wear-Tyne derby. Later on in the second half, Billy Jones made sure of Yann M’Villa’s shot to extend their lead, before an exquisite pass by of all people, centre-back Younes Kaboul set up Steven Fletcher to seal the win.

Following this game was an even bigger game that everyone had been waiting for, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to the billing as a good defensive display from both teams resulted in the game finishing 0-0, and Manchester City regaining their spot at the top of the table in the derby with Man United. Due to David Silva and Sergio Aguero’s absence, Pellegrini deployed Wilfried Bony as striker and Yaya Toure ahead of Fernando and Fernandinho, with Raheem Sterling on the left and Kevin De Bruyne on the right. One of the possible reasons why this game finished 0-0 (other than the solid defensive performances) was that neither of their inform  players shone, De Bruyne unable to get much success against Marcus Rojo and likewise with Sterling against Antonio Valencia. It seemed as if the pair were crying out to be swapped, as Rojo’s intelligence allowed him to deal with De Bruyne, and Valencia was just as quick as Sterling, but Valencia isn’t as intelligent and therefore would have struggled to deal with the classy Belgian and Rojo lacks as much pace, and also wouldn’t have to been able to deal with Sterling. Pellegrini acted on this and sent De Bruyne out to the left and brought on the fresh legs and pace of Jesus Navas, but while the out of form Spanish winger struggled on the right, Louis Van Gaal countered the threat of De Bruyne by replacing Valencia with Matteo Darmian.

Going forward themselves United lacked creativity, but Anthony Martial had a positive performance on the left, and substitute Jesse Lingard hit the bar late on as the biggest chance of the game went begging.

Finishing off the weekend were Liverpool at home to Southampton, and Bournemouth vs Tottenham. In the game at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp’s men drew once again with the score 1-1, and the point for each team at the end of the game seemed fair. Christian Benteke looked to have given Klopp his first win as Liverpool boss with a superb header from James Milner’s cross, but their lead was cancelled out when Sadio Mane bundled the ball across the line after Gaston Ramirez’s header. Mane was later sent off for two quickfire yellow cards and will miss Southampton’s game against Bournemouth this Sunday as the match finished 1-1.

Finally in the game down on the South coast, despite taking an early lead through Matt Richie after just 49 seconds, goals from Moussa Dembele, Erik Lamela and a much needed hat-trick for Harry Kane eventually saw the game finish 1-5 to the visitors.

So, there you have it- City are still top of the table but Arsenal are following closely behind, things are getting worse for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, and the two sons of Abedi Pele scored against each other at Villa Park as Tim Sherwood became the third managerial casualty of the season!

First blood Manchester City! Round up #1

After two weeks of Premier League football, most fans will be trying to catch their breath after some of the shock results, classy goals and stunning individual performances. Opinions will have been swung, too, especially after Manchester City’s dominant performance against the champions earlier today.

City, who were not many people’s favourites for the title or even a good season at all this year, looked a billion dollars as some brilliant individual performances from well known heroes such as Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Vincent Kompany saw them take Chelsea apart, and in some style too, doing so with a resounding three nil scoreline as well!

Chelsea, who weren’t at it last week at home to Swansea, struggled to get into the game and only enjoyed a few good spells throughout the match. They may have only played three games this season (including the community shield), but having lost two and drawn one there is a sense of uncertainty lingering around Stamford bridge at the moment.

Blues fans are still yet to see much from loanee Radamel Falcao, who, in truth, everyone is wishing well in the Premier League this season after his disappointing spell with Manchester United. He has come on as a substitute in all three matches and failed to make and impact, therefore leading to the question of whether Mourinho should stick with his favoured system or shuffle the pack and try to bring Falcao into the starting line up. Seeing Falcao playing alongside Diego Costa once again and flourishing would be a breath of fresh air to Mourinho and the Chelsea faithful, and that could work well in a 4-1-2-1-2 system which would see Nemanja Matic play on his his own in the hole whilst Cesc Fabregas pushes up and Eden Hazard and Willian continue out wide. Of course, it is always difficult to experiment once the season has begun, but I’m sure many people involved with Chelsea FC would do anything to see Falcao playing lots of matches in a suited role, fit, and scoring goals.

In terms of what else has happened,  unfavoured Leicester have started very strongly with two wins out of two, and have looked very convincing, whereas Southampton, who weren’t expected to do quite as well this season haven’t started well, with two points dropped at Newcastle on the opening day and a poor 0-3 defeat at home to Everton six days later, the future doesn’t look quite so rosy for them. Looking at Arsenal, they will once again be playing catch up in the title race after another slow start, with a 0-2 defeat by West Ham and an unconvincing 2-1 victory against Crystal Palace. The somewhat good news for them though is that title rivals Chelsea have also started poorly.

Finally, it has been an encouraging start for Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United, with two games, two clean sheets and two wins for the Red Devils. So, after an exciting first two weeks of the premier League, it’s first blood to Manchester City. Roll on matchday three!