Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
After an excruciating fortnight of anticipation, football fans across the country finally got a chance to see their deadline day signings in action as Premier League football returned.
Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City
The weekend’s action started with the mouth-watering encounter from the Emriates as Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal hosted the champions.
Following his heroics for England last Monday, much of the pre-game talk had been dominated by the arrival of Danny Welbeck to north London. The former Manchester United star has been a real crowd splitter, with praise and criticisms coming in equal measures. Not much has changed after what was a decent but unspectacular debut.
However, there was plenty of action in the lunchtime kick-off as two of the decision’s top sides treated us to a real feast of football. It may have been a record breaking summer of transfer activity but many would argue that Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero is still the league’s best striker. The Argentina star didn’t take much time to underline that feeling.
Ageuro opened the scoring with a tidy finish from a Jesus Navas pass to give City a half-time. The Gunners seem thicker skinned than previous seasons, though, and Wenger’s men came out much stronger after the break.
Goals from Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez, who notched his third in three games, quickly turned the game on its head and temporarily looked to give Arsenal a rare win against top four opposition. Those dreams were dashed by a late Martin Demichelis equaliser, which ensured the visitors took a share of the spoils.
Despite their grit and determination, though, it does mean that the champions have now picked up just one point from the past two matches.
Chelsea 4-2 Swansea City
That lunchtime draw offered Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea the perfect opportunity to further cement their position as early pacesetters. However, they were up against a Swansea City side who also entered Saturday’s showdown with a 100% record.
And it was Garry Monk’s Welshmen that took an early lead as John Terry’s 11th minute own goal stunned the Stamford Bridge. However, a dominant home side pulled level in the dying embers of the first-half as Diego Costa converted cooly from yet another Cesc Fabregas assist.
Chelsea’s Spanish duo have linked up superbly since joining Mourinho’s revolution this summer and they combined together once more to put the hosts in front shortly after half-time. Costa then completed his hat-trick 25 minutes from the end by latching on to a Ramires pass. The former Atletico Madrid hero becomes only the second man in Premier League history to score in each of his first four matches.
A perfect day for Chelsea was then completed by debutant Loic Remy, who scored within 10 minutes of coming off the bench. Even a late consolation from Jonjo Shelvey couldn’t dampen the home side’s mood as they maintained their perfect start to pull clear at the Premier League summit.
Southampton 4-0 Newcastle United
Whilst Mourinho is enjoying a dream start to 2014/15, Newcastle’s Alan Pardew is already skating on extremely thin ice and the Premier League’s second longest serving manager could be facing an imminent sack.
Speculation surrounding Pardew’s future was already writhe before Saturday’s mauling at St Mary’s but it wasn’t only the result that has the alarm bells ringing. Newcastle were well off the pace against Ronald Koeman’s Saints and it didn’t take long for the hosts to assert their dominance.
An early brace by summer signing Graziano Pelle had fired Saints into an early 2-0 lead and the contest was effectively ended when Jack Cork added a third just nine minutes after the interval. Southampton saved the best for last, though, as Morgan Schneiderlin’s 90th minute curler compounded the Magpies’ misery.
Many questions were raised following Southampton’s summer exodus but Koeman’s men are already playing with cohesion and sit pretty in fourth at this stage of the season.
Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa
Another club that is performing well beyond expectation is Aston Villa. Paul Lambert’s men had picked up seven points from their opening three outings and headed to Merseyside in particularly buoyant mood.
Anfield has been a happy hunting ground for Villa in recent years and it took Gabby Agbonlahor just nine minutes to take advantage of some very indecisive defending by the home defence. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will be bitterly disappointed by his team’s inability to clear from that corner but will be equally worry about the Reds lack of creativity.
With Daniel Sturridge injured and Raheem Sterling benched, Liverpool looked bereft of ideas in the final and third. This manifested itself in a number of pot luck attempts and the final statistics of one shot on target from 18 tells a story in itself.
As for the Villains, they move up to second and are already proving their doubters wrong.
West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Everton
It hasn’t been such a productive start for Midlands rivals West Brom though. The Baggies fell to a second successive defeat as Roberto Martinez’s side clinched a first win of the new season.
In fairness to Everton, they had played both Chelsea and Arsenal in their opening three fixtures but they made no mistake of churning out a comfortable victory at the Hawthorns. It took the Toffees just two minutes to pile the pressure on a hapless home side as former Baggie Romelu Lukaku curled a peach past Ben Foster.
The former England goalkeeper couldn’t be held culpable for that stunning opener but was at fault for Everton’s second as he dived straight over a tame Kevin Mirallas effort. Defeat means that Alan Irvine is still searching for a first league win as West Brom manager and sections of the Hawthorns faithful are reportedly already calling for his head.
Elsewhere on Saturday
Early goals was a common theme in Saturday’s 3PM matches, particularly at the Stadium of Light where Sunderland and Spurs both scored within four minutes.
Tottenham had stuck an early lead through Nacir Chadli’s confident drive only to be pegged back immediately. A mazy run from winger Adam Johnson proved too hot to handle for the Spurs defence and the Sunderland man definitely deserved a slice of luck with the shot.
The second-half started in a very similar circumstances as the visitors re-established their lead as Christian Eriksen bundled home. However, Harry Kane’s late own goal ensured that the hosts didn’t leave empty handed.
At Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace and Burnley shared a particularly dull stalemate in which the biggest storyline was an injury to Clarets striker Danny Ings. Manager Sean Dyche will be praying for good news as it is hard to see the newly-promoted club survive without the goals of their England U21 star.
Fellow new boys Leicester don’t seem to be suffering that problem, though, as Leonardo Ulloa converted from Paul Konchesky’s cross to net the only goal against Stoke. Not many teams leave the Britannia Stadium with three points and Nigel Pearson’s men are already showing themselves to be a very capable unit.
Unfortunately for Harry Redknapp, the same cannot be said for the leagues third recent addition.
Manchester United 4-0 QPR
Of all the deadline day signings, the headlines had been dominated by the arrival of Radamel Falcao to Manchester United.
However, the Old Trafford faithful were only treated to a glimpse of their newest idol as manager Louis van Gaal opted to start him from the bench. The real big news, though, came from the Dutchman’s decision to bin the previously unsuccessful 3-5-2 in favour of a 4-4-2 diamond.
The diamond proved to be a stroke of genius and allowed record signing Angel di Maria to link up with the equally creative Juan Mata and fellow summer additions Ander Herrera and Daley Blind. The new-look midfield dominated from the off, barely given QPR a sniff all afternoon.
It was Di Maria who opened the scoring midway through the first-half with a curling free-kick that travelled down the corridor of uncertainty to evade everyone, including Hoops custodian Robert Green. The visitors task became even harder when Herrera added the second on 36 minutes and the contest was ended just before the break as captain Wayne Rooney found the bottom corner with a low effort.
The result was already well and truly over but Di Maria still found time to provide another assist as he picked out Mata on 58 minutes and the Spaniard duly converted to complete the rout.
Falcao was introduced late on and could have completed a perfect day in the closing minutes. However, he saw his rebound saved by Green’s legs to keep the scoring at four. Nevertheless, Van Gaal will be pleased with his team’s efforts, especially after an extremely turbulent start, and will now be looking to guide the 13-time Premier League champions back towards the summit of English football.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but Red Devils fans will be far happier after that performance and can now begin to see light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.
The weekend’s action concludes with West Ham United’s trip to the KC Stadium – will Hull’s deadline day signing Mo Diame haunt his former employers or can the Happy Hammers clinch a second away win? It should be an intriguing climax to the weekend.