Expecting Manchester United to step up their game in yesterday’s early Premier League kickoff, they were second best for much of the game at Aston Villa.
Aston Villa, who’ve started slow under Gerard Houllier were the better side in what was a poor opening 70 minutes to the game. A foul by Wes Brown in his own penalty area brought the game into life, when Ashley Young converted the penalty. Aston Villa looked to have the points in the bag when Marc Albrighton finished off a great counter attack to double their lead.
The mistake Aston Villa made after that was to sit on their 2 goal lead. The pressure took its toll, firstly with a great strike from Federico Macheda, and then Nemanja Vidic rescued a point with a late diving header, converting a Nani cross who was put under pressure by a striker, Nathan Delfouneso. Forunately I laid Aston Villa at 2-1, although had backed Manchester United before kickoff against a Villa side with several inexperienced players in the starting lineup.
In the 3 o’clock Saturday kickoffs, I was expecting a Manchester City victory to nil over Birmingham City at Eastlands. Once again, they played with one striker; Carlos Tevez who has now gone 4 games without a goal in the league. Manchester City haven’t scored at home in their last 3 league games either. Perhaps Roberto Mancini may consider dropping his three defensive midfielder strategy and put in an extra striker?
A few cheeky lays of West Ham, Wolves and Newcastle gave me some credit on Saturday, as did laying Liverpool in the evening kickoff.
Then came today’s final game of the Premier League weekend. Chelsea at home to Sunderland. Chelsea who had scored 39 consecutive league goals at Stamford Bridge since they last conceded at home. Sunderland had lost their last 11 meetings with Chelsea including a 7-2 thrashing here last season. Darrent Bent is out injured, so only Asamoah Gyan had scored for Sunderland this season before kickoff. A win to nil looked like a sensible bet right?
John Terry’s absence was clearly a big loss for Chelsea, whom had a makeshift central defence consisting of Branislav Ivanovic and Paulo Ferreira. Essentially, their defence was four full backs. Credit to Sunderland, who came to Stamford Bridge with 2 strikers despite the absence of Darren Bent. Both Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck played very well today, causing Chelsea no ends of problems, mainly on the counter attack. Both players got their names on the scoresheet too in the second half, after Nedum Onuoha’s solo run had given Sunderland the lead before half time.
Prior to falling behind, Petr Cech had made a number of good saves to keep the score goalless. Chelsea rarely threatened the Sunderland goal. Boudewijn Zenden was another standout player for Sunderland in this game – playing both well in defence and attack on the left wing.
Following Arsenal’s 2-1 victory at Everton today, they have cut Chelsea’s lead to 2 points at the top of the Premier League. Manchester United can now be content with their point at Aston Villa, the same total that Chelsea got in that fixture. The 11 times Premier League winners are now 3 points behind Chelsea. Arsenal, the biggest winners this week. Manchester City should consider themselves the biggest losers of the chasing pack as they only cut Chelsea’s deficit to 6 points. Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspu3 all 3 points short of 4th place City.