A highly entertaining weekend in the Premier League. Actually, let me rephrase that, a remarkably entertaining weekend.
Most of that entertainment was to be found at the King Power Stadium, where Leicester demolished Manchester United 5-3. Utd started the game on fire and were two up within 16 minutes, courtesy of a Robin Van Persie header and an exquisite chip shot by Angel Di Maria. Leonardo Ulloa continued his fine start to Premier League life by pulling a goal back in the 17th minute, but Ander Herrera’s back-heel restored Utd’s two-goal advantage and the game seemed to be over.
However, driven by a powerhouse performance from debutant Jamie Vardy, Leicester fought their way back into the game. In truth, referee Mark Clattenburg has some explaining to do after giving an outrageously bad penalty decision in Leicester’s favour. David Nugent converted in the 62nd minute, igniting a resurgence that would heap further embarrassment on Utd’s plagued defence.
Utd’s collapse was on a par with a game I distinctly remember from April 1996, when Southampton beat them 6-3. A stark reminder to Louis Van Gaal that battering teams into submission is not likely to work as a singular tactic every week. Still, credit the manager for not making a meal out of a couple of dreadful decisions that led to Leicester goals. He knows – like we all do, that there’s no excuse for letting a 3-1 lead slip.
One defender who I’ve always rated highly, and cannot understand why Liverpool and Man Utd have ignored, is Joleon Lescott. The centre back formed an excellent partnership with Vincent Kompany at Man City and put in a Man of The Match performance for West Brom during their 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane. OK, he’s 32, but both clubs are crying out for that sort of experience at the moment.
A flaccid Spurs side were not the only ones to struggle after a week of European football, Liverpool suffered their third defeat of the season away to West Ham (3-1) and Everton lost at home to Crystal Palace (3-2). Individual errors continue to haunt both Merseyside clubs.
European football clearly has a big effect on teams not used to the travelling and few rest days in between. Personally, I think the Europa League should be scrapped. It has no prestige, while for most clubs attendances are a third of what’s normally expected and the prize money a quarter of what teams make from Champions League income.
Domestic leagues would be stronger and more competitive at the top end if those trying to break into the top four were not stifled by participation in such a meaningless competition.
Indeed, Arsenal were the only team to win this weekend following their European exploits. According to newspaper reports, Mesuz Ozil requested Arsene Wenger play him in his favoured number 10 role and the German responded with a rare goal and an assist during his team’s 3-0 victory. Having said that, it would have been a completely different game had a virus not swept through the Villa camp decking three players prior to kick-off. Many were in no fit state to play either, including Andreas Wiemann who could not make it past half time.
Biggest game of the weekend was Man City vs Chelsea, which, thankfully for those seeking a Premier League that’s not over within two months, ended in a draw. Manuel Pellegrini was frustrated by Chelsea’s defensive-minded tactics (surpise, surprise), especially after The Blues hit 10-man City on the break with a goal from Andre Scurrle on 71.
City equalised five minutes from time courtesy of ex-Chelsea legend, Frank Lampard. As soon as Lampard came on, the script was written.
Diego Costa is a joy to watch. Manhandled all afternoon, he didn’t dive around like a cissy and only took umbrage when Zabaleta clattered him late from behind. He is a dream striker, and any club would have him.
A goal from Victor Wanyama settled the score in a game between two of the Premier League’s best footballing sides, Swansea and Southampton. However, the away team was assisted by the uncharacteristic psychosis of striker Wilfred Bony, who looked coked-up prior to his Braveheart-style barge on Maya Yoshida - followed not much later by a scissor-kick from behind on the same player. Bony was red carded after 38 minutes.
Elsewhere, Alan Pardew’s neck was saved by two late goals from Papiss Cisse in a 2-2 draw against Hull. Lessons not learned from the FA Cup final, as Steve Bruce once again rues his side’s inability to hold onto a 2-0 lead.
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