For the second weekend running, Manchester United contrived to throw away a two-goal lead against opponents from Merseyside, but this time they had the resolve to snatch a late victory over Liverpool.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side looked to be cruising before Dimitar Berbatov netted an early contender for goal of the season, but Steven Gerrard then proceeded to punish needless fouls with two quickfire dead-ball goals to draw the visitors level.
While the timing of recent equalisers for Fulham and Everton had given United little time to respond, on this occasion they had more than 20 minutes to find a winner. And Berbatov was the man to provide the crucial goal, completing his first hat-trick in United colours.
The three points kept the Red Devils third in the table, now level on points with an Arsenal side who threw away an almost-certain victory against Sunderland.
While Cesc Fabregas’ opener was a little lucky, there was nothing fortuitous about the marvellous display of possession football displayed by the visitors at the Stadium of Light.
Even when Alex Song’s dismissal reduced Arsenal to 10 men, they continued to play like they were the side with the one-man advantage, running their opponents ragged and creating more than enough chances to win the game.
But Tomas Rosicky spurned the best of those chances when he fired a penalty high over Simon Mignolet’s crossbar, and Arsenal only had themselves to blame when Darren Bent fired home a stoppage-time equaliser.
The result at the Stadium of Light allowed Chelsea to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points. Their 4-0 win over Blackpool also brings their goal difference to a remarkable +20 after just five games.
The tie at Stamford Bridge was over by half-time, allowing Carlo Ancelotti to rest some of his stars ahead of next week’s visit to the City of Manchester Stadium, and Nicolas Anelka will be eager to feature against his former club after being deemed surplus to requirements for Sunday’s encounter.
Next week’s opponents Manchester City will go into the game on the back of a much-needed away victory at Wigan, during which Carlos Tevez returned to goalscoring ways.
City’s captain has been guilty of the odd embarrassing miss this season, but the Argentinian’s confidence seemed unaffected as he brilliantly chipped over Ali Al-Habsi to open the scoring.
Roberto Mancini will also be happy to see Yaya Toure notch his first goal for the club – City look to have firepower all the way through their squad, with Toure the ninth different player to find the net for them this season.
Wigan now find themselves in the unenviable position of looking up at all three promoted teams, after impressive wins for West Brom and Newcastle on Saturday took the duo up to seven points.
While both will be delighted with the weekend’s travails, the Baggies’ win is even sweeter for having come against local rivals Birmingham.
A stirring second-half comeback helped Roberto Di Matteo’s side emerge with all three points, after netting three in a Premier League game for the first time since May 2009.
Meanwhile, Newcastle saw off an Everton side still yet to win a league game this season, thanks to a stunning strike from Hatem Ben Arfa on his full debut for the club.
Everton, missing the injured Tim Cahill, will need to pick up the pace soon to avoid being drawn into a relegation scrap.
Two sides with similar ambitions, Stoke and West Ham, played out a 1-1 draw in a game with more attacking verve than one might expect from two teams struggling at the wrong end of the table.
The Hammers led through Scott Parker’s scrambled goal before another Rob Green error allowed Kenwyne Jones to equalise, but both sides had chances to win what proved to be a very open game.
West Ham’s next game is at home to Tottenham, who banished talk of a Champions League hangover by displaying great stamina to see off bogey side Wolves.
Despite the 3-1 defeat, Mick McCarthy will be buoyed by the goalscoring return of record signing Steven Fletcher, who could well ensure a comfortable season for the midlanders if he continues in this vein of form.
Fulham could certainly do with a goalscorer of Fletcher’s ability, especially with Bobby Zamora ruled out for several months. But Mark Hughes’ men kept up their unbeaten record with a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.
Hosts Blackburn, whose manager Sam Allardyce was hoping to demonstrate his credentials for Europe’s top jobs, will need to concentrate on holding on to a lead – they have now scored first in four of their five Premier League games, but only have five points to show for their efforts.
In the weekend’s remaining game, Aston Villa hosted Bolton in a match full of players looking to stake their claim for a place in Fabio Capello’s next England squad.
Ashley Young, who impressed in August’s friendly against Hungary, showed his class with a cracking free-kick, while Kevin Davies, who has all-but admitted defeat in his quest for a call-up, might be thinking of revising that statement after firing home his first goal of the season at Villa Park. With Jermain Defoe injured and Carlton Cole low on confidence and form, now might be the time for Davies to earn that long-awaited England cap.
Team of the week (4-2-3-1):
Friedel (Aston Villa); Jacobsen (West Ham), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Squillaci (Arsenal), Zabaleta (Man City); Yaya Toure (Man City), van der Vaart (Tottenham); Pennant (Stoke), Jarvis (Wolves), Malouda (Chelsea); Berbatov (Man Utd)
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