Team Of The Week
Steve Simonsen didn't have time to develop nerves about Stoke City's trip to White Hart Lane. The Potters keeper was thrown in to the starting line-up 20 minutes prior to kick-off with Thomas Sorensen succumbing to flu and the back-up man spoiled Harry Rednkapp's one-year anniversary at the Lane with a vintage display. He was kept busy - splendid saves denied Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon as Spurs ran rampant, with the pick of his stops coming in the second half, a sharp drop to his right parrying a goal-bound Robbie Keane effort. Glenn Whelan did the rest for Stoke five minutes from time.
Wolves dragged Aston Villa down from the giddy heights of their win over Chelsea with a hard-fought draw played out in the Midlands derby. Jody Craddock was a stand-out at the back for Mick McCarthy's men at Molineux, a Terry Butcher-esque head bandage (the result of last week's head clash with Joseph Yobo) failing to deter him from the task of silencing John Carew whose miserable afternoon was ended by Martin O'Neill with 20 minutes remaining.
Jamie Carragher's frank assessment of his fallibilities prior to Liverpool's vital clash with Manchester United was in keeping with the no-nonsense manner of his defensive play but he can pat himself on the back after a fine turn against the champions. United fans will argue he should have walked for his tackle on ex-team mate Michael Owen but there was no disputing the importance of Carragher's presence as United failed to find a way past the Liverpool rearguard.
Gary Cahill helped himself to Bolton's second goal in their thrilling 3-2 win over Everton as The Trotters won at the Reebok for the first time since April. Cahill leapt over namesake Tim and Sylvain Distin to head home Matty Taylor's free-kick for his second Premier League goal of the season.
A goal against Atletico Madrid in midweek stemmed talk of a Frank Lampard Chelsea goal drought and the England man must have been licking his lips in anticipation of Blackburn Rovers' weekend visit to the Bridge. Two goals - the opening strike his first from open play this season, the second a perfunctory penalty dispatch - made it eight goals from 16 games against Rovers for Lampard who was the ringmaster of a merciless whipping of Sam Allardyce's weary travellers.
Joe Cole danced back on the Stamford Bridge stage after a nine-month absence and a sparkling performance at the head of Chelsea's diamond derided any concerns about his match fitness. He fluffed his lines in the opening minute, missing a simple chance to head home after Lampard picked him out, but his passing, dribbling and vision were at the heart of Chelsea's relentless pounding of Blackburn. Cole's return could be like a new signing for Carlo Ancelotti and there won't be too many of those at Stamford Bridge for a while.
Birmingham City's new owner Carson Yeung was busily pressing flesh prior to the Blues match against Sunderland and he will have enjoyed what he saw of his new charges. Alex McLeish opted for a 4-4-2 with James McFadden providing busy support to the front duo of Christian Benitez and Cameron Jerome. The latter's clever flick found the Scotsman on the edge of the area, a deceptive turn inside and a neatly placed shot later and Birmingham's lead against a Lee Cattermole-less Sunderland was doubled.
The slight frame of Yossi Benayoun skims across Premier League playing surfaces with a grace that belies the threat his forward play carries and Manchester United were the latest side to be on the receiving end of this deadly will-o-the wisp. Benayoun's perfectly threaded pass was gleefully accepted by Fernando Torres to apply his own expert brand of finishing and send Liverpool on their way to a much-needed win. Benayoun's appetite for the game led him all along the right-hand flank where his passing vision and neat runs were a constant menace to United.
Saturday saw the Turf Moor faithful experience a home defeat for the first time in the Premier League and after Manchester United, Everton and Sunderland were dismissed empty-handed Burnley's 100% home record was finally ended by their unfashionable neighbours Wigan. Colombian flare was the difference in this Lancashire derby with hitman Hugo Rodallega netting two decisive goals - a slip from a wounded Beast allowing the Latics striker to fire into an empty net, the second a cannoning shot past Jensen's replacement Diego Penny.
Arsenal slipped to a surprise draw at Upton Park as two late goals from the Hammers undid the good work of Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman scored Arsenal's first and sent over a perfectly judged corner for William Gallas to head home the second but defensive lapses from Alex Song and Vito Mannone at the other end allowed West Ham back into the game.
Louis Saha gave hope to Everton with a screamer from 25 yards to buoy the Toffees before half-time and leave them trailing 2-1. The pace of Saha's effort took the Bolton defence by surprise as it bulleted past Jussi Jaaskelainen but it was a moment of brilliance in an otherwise disappointing afternoon for David Moyes' team.
Liverpool responded in emphatic style to the mounting criticism that had followed their worst run of results in 22 years and their 2-0 win over Manchester United has strengthened Rafa Benitez's hand just when he needed it most. Deprived of Steven Gerrard, Benitez marshalled his troops to earn a deserved win which claws Liverpool back into contention for the title. Defeat would have flattened those hopes and Benitez must now look to harness and build on the confidence this win has brought to his side.