Last week I talked about champions Chelsea being frustrated by one of the minnows of the Premier League before emerging with an inconceivable 6-0 win. I didn’t in my wildest dreams believe I’d be repeating myself this week.
Chelsea’s second-half performance at the DW Stadium was by all accounts a procession, but they had been more than matched in chances and commitment by a determined Wigan side keen to erase the memory of an embarrassing 4-0 home loss to Blackpool on the opening weekend.
Unfortunately for Roberto Martinez’s side they collapsed after falling a couple of goals behind, a situation all-too-familiar to the Spaniard. Indeed you only have to go back to the end of last season to find an example of a Latics capitulation at the hands of the same opponents who defeated them on Saturday.
Amazingly, this was not the only case of a team racing to a flattering 6-0 win in a game they might have drawn or even lost. Aston Villa looked to be cruising against Newcastle in the early stages, but John Carew’s penalty miss (not the first or last of the weekend, but more on that later) seemed to provide a catalyst for the Toon Army to wake up and run away with the tie.
Chris Hughton’s side displayed a flair and counter-attacking verve completely absent in their relegation campaign two seasons ago, and if the 3-0 scoreline at half-time was generous, they never looked in danger of relinquishing their lead. The manner in which Newcastle cruised through the second half suggests they will have few concerns come May, and in Andy Carroll they have a striker capable of tucking away the chances squandered by the likes of Shola Ameobi in the past.
There was, believe it or not, a third 6-0 game this weekend. The only difference as far as Arsenal’s triumph over Blackpool is concerned is that the hosts were fully deserving of the crushing victory. Of course things may have been different if Ian Evatt had not scythed down Marouane Chamakh before the break, but the Tangerines already knew they were going to be in for a long afternoon.
It was, it seems, a week of missed penalties. Of the six awarded only two were converted, by Mark Noble and Andrei Arshavin. And Noble’s goal came only after West Ham team-mate Carlton Cole had sent a feeble effort into the hands of Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. In a classic game of two halves, the Finn’s save ensured the Trotters ended a West Ham-dominated first period on level terms before outplaying their opponents after the break to emerge with a 3-1 victory.
Just as costly a penalty miss was Nani’s for Manchester United against Fulham. With four minutes left on the clock he had the opportunity to make the game safe, but David Stockdale pulled off an impressive save and Brede Hangeland’s late header allowed Mark Hughes’ side to escape with a 2-2 draw.
What is it with English goalkeepers and penalty saves? The day before Stockdale’s heroics, former United number one Ben Foster tipped Morten Gamst Pedersen’s spot-kick onto the woodwork, paving the way for his Birmingham side to edge past Blackburn 2-1. The hero at the other end was Craig Gardner, a young man enjoying his football after making the move across England’s second city from rivals Villa.
If English goalkeepers provided one of the main talking points this summer, another was provided by the argument for or against goal-line technology. It would of course only be a matter of time until that particular debate reared its ugly head once more, and the Britannia Stadium was the setting for the source of pub debates across the country.
Did Jonathan Walters’ late effort cross the line? Probably. Would sensors or cameras have confirmed whether a goal should have been awarded? Possibly. With a clear view of the incident, should Chris Foy have made a decision himself rather than delegating to an unsighted linesman? Definitely.
While Stoke may have lost their opening two games, they still look like an established Premier League team, and Mick McCarthy’s Wolves are looking to follow their example. While many (myself included) tipped Wolves to struggle, they already seem a more solid outfit than they did last season, as demonstrated by a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Everton at Goodison Park. One of their problems last campaign was their strikers’ lack of confidence in front of goal, so Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s equaliser will have done him a world of good at this early stage.
Speaking of strikers looking to benefit from an early-season pick-me-up, Peter Odemwingie got his West Bromwich Albion career off to the perfect start, netting the winner against Sunderland. Perhaps just as important for Baggies boss Roberto di Matteo was the clean sheet, erasing the memories of the opening-day defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Finally, one of the advantages of writing my round-up on a Monday night is that I can comment on the final match in this round of fixtures. Manchester City’s victory over Liverpool was as comfortable as they come, and a perfect present for watching owner Sheikh Mansour. With Carlos Tevez getting into his goalscoring stride and James Milner slotting into the first-team as if he had been at Eastlands for years, City look capable of a top-four finish if not better.
Team of the week (4-3-2-1):
Jaaskelainen (Bolton); Richards (Man City), Roger Johnson (Birmingham), Williamson (Newcastle), Cole (Chelsea); Scholes (Man Utd), Henry (Wolves), Gardner (Birmingham); Walcott (Arsenal), Adam Johnson (Man City); Carroll (Newcastle)