There were many sub-plots running through this weekend’s full programme of Premier League fixtures, but for many the biggest story was the Manchester City debut of £27m man Edin Dzeko.
The Bosnian enjoyed an accomplished introduction to English football, made even more impressive by the fact that he hadn’t played in a month, but his appearance in a nervy 4-3 win over Wolves was overshadowed by a splendid individual goal from Carlos Tevez.
City’s visitors also played their part in one of the games of the weekend, and it could have been a different story if Matt Jarvis’ first-half shot had evaded the block of Aleksandr Kolarov and put Wolves 2-0 in front.
The only other top-six side in action on Saturday was Arsenal, who took advantage of a comically-bad West Ham debut from Wayne Bridge to cruise to a 3-0 victory.
Bridge was at fault for all three goals, two of which came from the boot of Robin van Persie, in what could yet prove Hammers boss Avram Grant’s last game in charge.
In a battle between two newly-promoted teams, West Brom edged past Blackpool to end a losing run which had threatened to drag them into the relegation zone.
Peter Odemwingie fired home the winner after getting the better of Craig Cathcart, and the Nigerian striker looks to have put his recent poor form behind him.
That victory lifted Albion above fellow-strugglers Fulham, who themselves had a previously-misfiring striker to thank for earning them a point at Wigan.
Andrew Johnson had not scored in the league since March 2009, and both he and manager Mark Hughes will hope yesterday’s late equaliser gives him the confidence to recapture the form which earned him a £10.5m move to Craven Cottage in 2008.
Hughes opposite number Roberto Martinez will also be pleased to see one of his strikers getting on the scoresheet. With Mauro Boselli’s departure on loan to Genoa, Hugo Rodallega will be under even more pressure to fire the Latics to safety.
After that 1-1 draw Wigan have two wins from their last 10 league games, a figure matched by Chelsea after Carlo Ancelotti’s side got the better of Blackburn at Stamford Bridge.
Branislav Ivanovic and Nicolas Anelka were on target, but just as important is the clean sheet, Chelsea’s first in three top-flight outings since the turn of the year.
Blackburn boss Steve Kean will have been disappointed at his side’s inability to build on an impressive win over Liverpool last time out, but they are unlikely to be looking over their shoulders too much during the remainder of the campaign.
The sixth game on Saturday saw Stoke City beat Bolton to move level with their opponents on 30 points. Matthew Etherington and Danny Higginbotham scored the goals, demonstrating that what the hosts lack in flair they make up for in long names.
After a flying start to the season, Bolton have now moved back into the mid-table pack thanks to a run of four points from their last six games.
Sunday’s four matches were optimistically billed as ‘super’ before kickoff, but there was far more grit than skill for the most part as they all ended level.
The best of Sunday’s action came at Anfield, where Kenny Dalglish had Dirk Kuyt to thank for avoiding the ignominy of three successive defeats since returning to the Liverpool hotseat.
Raul Meireles first strike for his new club gave the hosts a half-time lead, but Sylvain Distin and Jermaine Beckford looked like inflicting another body-blow on an already-painful season before Kuyt’s penalty – awarded for a foul by Tim Howard on Maxi Rodriguez – restored parity.
Despite surrendering top spot to Manchester City on Saturday, Manchester United returned to the top after an underwhelming goalless draw against Tottenham.
A harsh second-half red card for Rafael killed what spark was left in the game, as two teams afraid to lose ended up cancelling each other out.
Lunchtime kickoffs all-too-often take the sting out of local derbies, but at least Sunderland and Newcastle displayed some passion and commitment at the Stadium of Light.
The visitors squandered early chances but it still looked like Kevin Nolan’s second-half strike would secure a famous double over the Toon Army’s local rivals. However Asamoah Gyan had the last word, the £13m man drawing the teams level as the clock ticked down.
In the other midday kickoff, Birmingham and Aston Villa also drew 1-1. Again both goals came in the second period, with James Collins cancelling out Roger Johnson’s opener.
With strikers from both teams struggling for goals this season, it was perhaps no surprise that the two scorers were centre-backs, and Alex McLeish and Gerard Houllier may well invest in a new frontman before the transfer window closes.
Team of the week (4-3-1-2): Al-Habsi (Wigan); Ivanovic (Chelsea), Vidic (Man Utd), Coloccini (Newcastle), Kolarov (Man City); Mulumbu (West Brom), Ramires (Chelsea), Etuhu (Fulham); Tuncay (Stoke); van Persie (Arsenal), Tevez (Man City)