Tuesday, August 26, 2008

EPL Week 2 Review

English Premier League Round-Up: August 23, 24

Stoke win a thriller against Villa, while Liverpool stage a late comeback to see of Middlesbrough at Anfield. Tottenham continues loosing streak and Arsenal gave the 3 pointer to Fulham...

There was late drama at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Stoke City struck in the dying seconds against Aston Villa to claim victory in their first home game back in the Premier League. Tony Pulis's men needed a confidence-booster after their 3-1 opening day defeat at Bolton, and they got off to the best possible start through Liam Lawrence's 30th minute penalty. John Carew levelled up midway through the second half with a neat finish from Ashley Young's pass, but this didn't fluster the determined Potters. They had controlled much of the first half, continued their fine football in the second and regained the lead ten minutes from time. Lawrence threaded the ball through to Ricardo Fuller and the forward finished neatly from an acute angle to make it 2-1. Martin Laursen smashed home two minutes later to seemingly put the visitors on course for a point. But the Potters were not to be denied and, with just seconds left, Mamady Sidibe bundled home Rory Delap's long-throw to seal a sensational home debut for the Premier League new-boys.

There was also late drama at Anfield, where Liverpool came back from a goal behind to beat Middlesbrough 2-1. The afternoon started badly for Gareth Southgate's men as Ross Turnbull had to step in for Brad Jones, who injured his finger in the warm-up. However, Boro played the better football for long stretches and deservedly took the lead midway through the second half when Mido smashed into the bottom corner from 22 yards out. Liverpool continued to struggle as the match entered its closing stages, with Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane's partnership still not gelling. However, a stroke of luck turned things in their favour. Jamie Carragher hit a speculative effort from outside the box and a fortuitous deflection off Emmanuel Pogatetz took the ball into the net. Buoyed by the equaliser, the hosts then bossed the closing minutes and forced the winner in familiar circumstances. The ball broke to Steven Gerrard on the edge of the area, and the captain smashed home to keep his side's winning start to the season going.

There was also good news for a former Liverpool star at White Hart Lane, as Djibril Cisse scored the winner for Sunderland in his debut against Tottenham Hotspur. Following a goalless first half, the visitors took the lead ten minutes into the restart through Kieron Richardson's 20-yard stunner. Jermine Jenas levelled up not long after following some fine work from Luka Modric, but the hosts took their foot off the pedal after the goal, and were duly punished by the visitors. Just a matter of minutes after coming off the bench, Cisse headed in Daryl Murphy's cross to send the home team off at the full-time whistle to boos from the crowd.

Newcastle United followed up last week's solid 1-1 draw at Old Trafford with a 1-0 victory at home to Bolton Wanderers. The visitors missed the perfect chance to take the lead midway through the second half when Kevin Nolan saw a penalty saved well by Shay Given, and they were made to pay 20 minutes from time. Geremi put a fine cross in towards Michael Owen, and the England international, recently returned from injury, headed home to take his side into the upper echelons of the table.

Everton picked up their first points of the season with a hard-earned 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion. This game, like many on Saturday, didn't really spark into life until the second half, with the first goal arriving on 65 minutes when Leon Osman struck home from the edge of the area. Yakubu added the second with a neat header ten minutes later, and although the Baggies found one back through Roman Bednar's late penalty, there was not enough time to force an equaliser and halt their poor start to the new season.

Fulham recovered from last week's opening defeat with a surprise 1-0 win at home to Arsenal. New signing Andrew Johnson is still sidelined with injury, so it was left to Brede Hangeland to put the hosts ahead, the defender stabbing home Jimmy Bullard's corner early in the first half. The Gunners huffed and puffed as they looked for an equaliser, but despite having most of the possession they couldn't find the back of the net, and suffered their first defeat of the season in only their second game.

Hull City notched up another fine display as they forced a point in a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers. Paul Ince's side took the midway through the first half when Jason Roberts beat the offside trap to flick home. However, the Tigers struck back almost immediately with Richard Garcia heading past Paul Robinson. No further goals could be added as the match petered out in the second half, but both managers will be happy with a solid point.

Chelsea's former Barcelona star Deco repaid another chunk of his £8million transfer fee as Wigan Athletic were again sunk by an early goal. After conceding twice in the opening ten minutes at West Ham last week, the Latics held out for less than four minutes before the Portugal international fired in a stunning free kick. But the big spending London side found the going a lot tougher than they did in the 4-0 opening day win over Portsmouth and only a late save from Petr Cech denied the Latics a point.

Daniel Sturridge and Elano, with two goals, ensured that Manchester City polished off ten-man West Ham United at Eastlands with an assured display marred only by injuries to Micah Richards and Kelvin Etuhu. An initially pedestrian match exploded into life after a turgid opening spell when West Ham's Callum Davenport first deflected Stephen Ireland's shot off the line and then managed to chest Tal Ben Haim's follow-up effort on to the bar. The Hammers were further rattled after 21 minutes as City's workrate increased and they won a free-kick 25 yards from goal. Elano was brought down while trying to go past Matthew Etherington and Martin Petrov stepped up to thump a curling left-footer on to the right post and out of play, with Robert Green rooted to the spot.

Saturday 23rd, August 2008
Blackburn Rovers (1) 1 vs Hull City (1) 1
Fulham (1)1 vs Arsenal (0) 0
Liverpool (0)2 vs Middlesbrough (0) 1
Newcastle United (0) 1 vs Bolton Wanderers (0) 0
Stoke City (1) 3 vs Aston Villa (0) 2
Tottenham Hotspur (0) 1 vs Sunderland (0) 2
West Bromwich Albion (0) 1 vs Everton (0) 2
Sunday 24th, August 2008
Manchester City (0) 3 vs West Ham United (0) 0
Wigan Athletic (0) 0 vs Chelsea (1) 1

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