Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham CityDavid Young: This was a disappointing and frustrating game which bore more of a resemblance to a home performance from last season rather than this one. Birmingham came to defend but the Gunners, having taken the lead through a somewhat fortuitously-awarded penalty, should have killed the game. However, the vast amounts of possession held were not converted into goalscoring chances and the concession of a soft equaliser early in the second half allowed the Brummies to revert to their ultra-defensive Plan A. It was one of those matches where you sensed Arsenal were never going to score in open play even if the referee had played an hour of injury time instead of the measly three minutes he decided on. Certainly, Arsene Wenger will have to sharpen things up for the visit to Fulham next Saturday. This is now a game that Arsenal dare not lose.
Dan Hobbs: Arsenal away on the back of FA Cup defeat to Huddersfield: that'll mean no points and probably a heavy defeat, surely? Yet the players had different ideas and produced a magnificent performance, maybe helped by Arsenal being a little below par, and the team returned from London village with a heard-earned bonus point. On that basis, we look forward to three guaranteed points at home to Chelsea, then.
Aston Villa 3-1 ReadingJerrad Peters: Successful football teams have an identity. They win matches by playing within that identity - benefiting from the consistently good performances of key players. Point in case: Saturday's 3-1 triumph at home to Reading. With Martin Laursen's match-winner in the 55th minute, Villa notched their 20th goal from set-pieces this season. Ashley Young has developed into one of the Premier League's most feared set-piece specialists and is likely to get a look from Fabio Capello's new England set-up. On the opposite flank, meanwhile, Gabriel Agbonlahor absolutely menaced the Reading defense. His contribution, combined with that of Young, Carew, and the goal-scoring prowess of Laursen, bundled the identity of the club into a single match.
Paula Marcus: A weakened Reading side with only one central defender on the pitch struggled to cope with the attacking threat of Villa. Whilst the result was influenced by an offside goal and a corner that wasn't, the outcome was no more than Villa deserved. The tactics Reading used to try to compensate for Young and Agbonlahor saw them play five defensive players. This formation made for a dull game with little for the travelling fans to shout about bar Harper's consolation goal late on.
Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham HotspurDavid Esposto: New £15million signing Nicolas Anelka made an impressive debut as Juliano Belletti blasted in another rocket of a shot and Shaun Wright-Phillips reminded Fabio Capello that he is top class player when he gets a run of games. But all eyes were on Anelka, who was introduced as a second-half substitute, and the Frenchman was only denied a debut goal by the woodwork. I think his arrival makes us into genuine title contenders and we are creeping up on the leaders almost unnoticed.
Colin McCullough: After successive cup draws against what were essentially the reserve teams of Reading and Arsenal, Spurs were well beaten by a Chelsea side without Terry, Essien, Lampard and Drogba. The final score could have been much worse, with Anelka being denied a debut goal first by a great save from Cerny and then later by the crossbar, in fairness, Spurs were also without key players in the midfield, but this still must go down as a disappointing performance, with only one shot on target and - for once - nothing recorded in the 'goals for' column.
Derby County 0-1 Wigan AthleticRoderick Coustan: Robbie Savage's transfer was hard to swallow for a lot of fans, who can remember him prancing down the pitch for Leicester terrorising the Rams, his head turning on his neck several times, spewing and cackling, profanities and blasphemies... but captain Savage! As for the match a clumsy tackle from Claude Davis saw us reduced to 10 men. Wigan bring in super-sub Sibierski after 80 minutes, and he scores. Gutted!
Correspondent Wanted Substitute Antoine Sibierski broke Derby hearts by firing home a late winner with his first touch to give Wigan their first away win of the season and keep the club on course for Premier League survival. Under Steve Bruce, the Latics have taken 12 points from a possible 24 since his arrival.
Everton 1-0 Manchester CityTony Burns: After recent set-backs against Arsenal, Chelsea and Oldham, the Toffees bounced back in the league with a significant win over Manchester City that puts us in a great position in the race for fourth spot. The returning Arteta proved the difference between the two sides - teeing up Lescott for the only goal of the game as Everton moved into fifth place, level on points with City, Liverpool and Villa.
Wallace Poulter: A curious tactical decision and an offside Joleon Lescott were enough to give Everton the points in a clash of Champions League pretenders. Sven opted for an Elano and Castillo combination with Ireland relegated to the bench rather than playing Castillo up top, Elano in his customary attacking midfield role and dropping Vassell. City finally got it right in the second half, but failed to capitalize on their superiority and Lescott's 31st minute goal was the difference. That the Everton defender was marginally offside doesn't hide the fact that the Toffees were good value for their half time lead and City paid the price in not being able to come back.
Middlesbrough 1-1 LiverpoolDaniel Gray: Middlesbrough really should have won; the game turned on Stewart Downing's shot finding the post instead of the net. Liverpool were poor, though our young backline had much to do with that. Very encouraging, all in all.
Kevin Brodie: What can any Liverpool supporter say about that performance but just terrible. Out-thought and out-fought at the Riverside. Boro were not great by any great shakes but we didn't play football until an individual moment of genius from our only bright spot this season in Torres. Babel was very good when he came on, only to be moved up front for Kuyt to occupy the left side midfield role, which I just didn't get. Other below standard performers were Gerrard (who dropped his head every chance he got), Yossi and a tie between Voronin and Riise for the two worst players. Terrible performance by the players and the manager. Lucky to get a draw.
West Ham United 2-1 FulhamBilly Blagg: West Ham deservedly won this local derby, despite going behind early and, were it not for the form of Antti Niemi in the Fulham goal, could have won this more convincingly than they did. Best news for West Ham fans though was the form of Dean Ashton who led the front line superbly and, on another day, could have claimed a hat trick. This was proof, were it needed, that Curbishley's handling of the player has been spot on and Ashton's patchy form so far is because he is still not match fit from his long lay off last season.
Tom Wille: Another league match, another loss. Despite an early 8th minute goal from Simon Davies, Fulham failed to hold a lead and dropped a tough 2-1 match at Upton Park. Things looked promising for the Whites in the early going, but as we have witnessed all too often this season, Fulham have a hard time holding onto leads and Saturday was no different. The loss coupled with a Sunderland win on Sunday leaves Fulham five points into the relegation zone. Only Derby County has been worse than the Cottagers. New manager Roy Hodgson must find a way for Fulham to get a win or it could be lights out on the Premier League for he and his new team.
Sunderland 2-0 PortsmouthTim Shaw Soccernet reader Kieran Richardson proved the hero as he struck a potentially priceless first half double to sink Portsmouth at the Stadium of Light and cap a superb return to action after four months on the sidelines with a spinal injury. Richardson helped West Bromwich albion avoid the drop a few years ago and with him in the side and our other star man Kenwyn Jones up front Keano's Black Cats could yet avoid a return to the Championship.
Scott McLachlan: A turbulent few days saw Harry Redknapp finally go to the North East, but not for the reason the media and bookies thought. A patched up Pompey side, shorn of thier African stars, struggled badly against a nervous, but determined, Sunderland. Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin had very poor games against the battering ram of Kenwyn Jones and Sunderland grabbed two first half goals and held on through a frenetic second half. Pompey's squad badly needs bolstering.
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Blackburn RoversMatthew Kilsby: After some dreadful performances over the Christmas period and the sale of the best striker in the Premiership, this result and performance was horribly inevitable. Without a decent centre-half, a creative midfielder and a striker, I am very fearful for our chances of avoiding relegation. Hopefully all the money received for Anelka will go to new players and we'll see if Megson has any skill in the transfer market. Unfortunately, I expect only a fraction of that £15 million to be spent on bringing in new faces.
Alan Griffiths: Whatever Mark Hughes said at half time, he should have told the team before the game kicked off, for apart from Nolan's special goal of the month contribution, the first half was dire drivel by both Rovers and Bolton. At least in the second half Rovers turned up and looked more like a team, capable of playing football. The equaliser by Samba was well deserved as Rovers looked more like the team prepared to entertain the paying public and capped it off with a real comic strip, Roy of the Rovers winner. On as substitute, out of favour Jason Roberts, collected the ball in his own half, ran through the Bolton half brushing aside one player after another to fire the ball home. If the off form Rovers players can regain some confidence, then the season isn't over.
Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle UnitedCharlie Olsen Soccernet reader If any of our multiple chances in the first-half had gone in, or one of three obvious penaties were awarded, this could have been a double figures victory. As it was six goals in the second-half is impressive but probably doesn't show just how much on top United were. Ronaldo bagged his first hat-trick for the club while Tevez netted a brace and got his dummy out again - I wish he wouldn't do that celebration. Fabio Capello was in attendence but I expect Newcastle's Michael Owen wishes he hadn't been.
James Hughes Soccernet reader It was a bleak day at Old Trafford; no manager, no points and no first win at Old Trafford since 1972. Following Sam Allardyce's exit caretaker boss Nigel Pearson recalled fit again Stephen Carr, who started ahead of David Rozehnal, while Mark Viduka was relegated to the bench as James Milner returned. The first-half performance was poor but at least it was 0-0. In the second-half there was absolutely nothing good to report and six bad things. We need a new manager and quick.
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