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Sep 22, 2012

Chelsea stay on top, Saints win

Chelsea ensured they will finish the weekend top of the Premier League table as they extended their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, while there were also victories for Everton, Southampton, Fulham and West Brom.

• Chelsea yet to click into gear
•  Premier League gallery Photo Gallery

Roberto Di Matteo saw his Chelsea side throw away a two-goal advantage during the midweek clash with Juventus, but they found a late winner to avoid another hiccup against Stoke as the Blues triumphed 1-0. John Terry was left on the bench as Di Matteo started Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata in his attack, but it was the unlikely figure of Ashley Cole who proved the 85th-minute hero.

Stoke, who are without a win in 11 Premier League games, were first to threaten at Stamford Bridge, Jon Walters hitting the woodwork after meeting a set-piece. At the other end Fernando Torres strode onto an opening for Chelsea, but after controlling superbly on his chest he took a complete air shot as the danger dissipated.

Oscar received a caution for diving as the Blues began to get desperate, and it almost got worse for Chelsea when Peter Crouch nearly connected with a Charlie Adam corner. Di Matteo responded by throwing on Victor Moses while Stoke turned to Michael Owen, and Moses certainly lifted Chelsea's attacking emphasis.

With time running out, and Stoke camped in their own area, Chelsea finally found a breakthrough, with Cole dinking home Mata's pass for a goal any No. 9 would have been proud of.

Everton had temporarily moved joint-top of the table in Saturday's early kick-off at Swansea, taking a 3-0 victory away from The Liberty Stadium on a day when little went right for the home side, who had Nathan Dyer sent off. In a meeting of two teams who have both impressed in the early stages of the 2012-13 campaign, it was Everton who looked a cut above their hosts, netting through Victor Anichebe, Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini.

The Merseysiders took the lead in the 21st minute against a team to whom they have never lost in any competition, with Fellaini nodding Leighton Baines' cross into the path of Anichebe, who smashed his close-range finish past Michel Vorm. The lead was then doubled moments before half-time as Steven Pienaar this time played a starring role, delivering a perfectly-timed early cross low into the path of the unmarked Mirallas, who netted at the second attempt.

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup introduced Dyer at half-time, but he lasted less than 15 minutes after picking up two bookings in the space of three minutes. And after a plethora of missed chances for the away side, Everton finally killed the game off eight minutes from time through Fellaini.

Southampton are no longer winless upon their return to the top-flight after they produced a stirring comeback to beat Aston Villa 4-1 at St Mary's. Record signing Gaston Ramirez was given his first start by Saints, and it was his pass that created the winner for Nathaniel Clyne after Rickie Lambert had cancelled out Darren Bent's opener.

Villa's 36th-minute breakthrough, from Bent, was somewhat fortunate in its arrival as Stephen Ireland's mishit shot was diverted home by the predatory England forward.

Saints had to wait until just before the hour for an equaliser, which came when Lambert controlled and rifled home from the edge of the box to notch his third league goal of the campaign. Clyne then struck the winner five minutes later after latching onto Ramirez's first-time pass, before Ciaran Clark was credited with an own goal as Southampton clinched the three points. Lambert's injury-time penalty capped off a memorable afternoon.

Reading are now bottom after they failed to take anything from their away trip to West Brom. The Royals have picked up a solitary point so far this season and were deservedly beaten 1-0 at the Hawthorns.

Alex McCarthy was much the busier keeper as he twice denied James Morrison with top drawer saves to keep Reading on level terms. But he was eventually beaten by Romelu Lukaku 19 minutes from time, when the on-loan Chelsea man capitalised on Shane Long's nod-down to rifle home.

Elsewhere, West Ham continued life without Andy Carroll with a 1-1 draw against Sunderland at Upton Park. The visitors needed less than 10 minutes to open the scoring through Steven Fletcher, but were denied their first win by a last-gasp Kevin Nolan leveller.

Fletcher is proving to be one of the signings of the summer for Sunderland, netting his fourth Premier League goal since making the switch from Wolves, and it came laced in class as he received Sebastian Larsson's delivery and guided the ball beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen. However, West Ham maintained relentless pressure towards the full-time whistle and got their reward through Nolan.

And at the DW Stadium, Wigan were haunted by former striker Hugo Rodallega as Fulham won 2-1. Dimitar Berbatov was inspired for the Cottagers and he created the first with a lovely dink that allowed Rodallega to head past Ali Al-Habsi.

Jordi Gomez rightly had a second-half strike chalked out for offside as Wigan attempted to level, but Mauro Boselli's unfortunate deflection allowed Damien Duff to kill off the comeback.

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