Liverpool’s 22-year-old striker Neil Mellor snatched a dramatic last gasp winner to stun Arsenal in the Premiership’s top match this weekend.
The defeat leaves the champions five points adrift of Chelsea, who 24 hours earlier, won comfortably at Charlton.
At the other end of the table Martin Jol finally collected his first victory as Tottenham manager with an excellent victory over in-form Middlesbrough. Southampton continue to stutter though and a home draw with Crystal Palace means they are just two points above the bottom.
The capacity crowd at Anfield were treated to a classic. In a typically high tempo encounter Gerrard beautifully created the opening for Alonso to fire them ahead just before the interval but Arsenal hit back after the break with an equally well worked move involving Pires and Henry that Vieira finished off with a delicate chip.
With seconds remaining though Mellor crashed home a loose ball from 25 yards to clinch three vital points for Benitez’s side and condemn Arsenal to their second defeat of the season. It was Mellor’s first league goal for The Reds.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez said: “I think we were almost perfect in the first half – with and without the ball.”
Arsenal’s forthcoming clash with Chelsea on 12 December now takes on even greater significance. The Blues emphatic 4-0 victory at London neighbours Charlton included two second half strikes from John Terry who has now scored five goals this season, the same number as £24.5m signing Didier Drogba.
Manchester United’s trip to West Brom saw recently appointed manager Bryan Robson pitting his wits against his old boss Sir Alex Fergusson. After an excellent 1-1 draw at Arsenal the previous week West Brom started brightly and it was not until Paul Scholes lashed home United’s first after 53 minutes that the visitors began to impose their dominance. Two more from van Nistelrooy, his 12th of the season, and then Scholes again sealed the victory and moved United ominously into fourth spot – just four points behind Arsenal.
Everton continue to defy the sceptics with a 1-1 at Newcastle. Craig Bellamy raced clear to fire the Geordies ahead after only 5 minutes but Newcastle failed to build on their early domination and by the time Lee Carsley curled home a superb 56th minute free kick, Everton were in the ascendancy.
Both sides could have taken all three points in an exciting end-to-end match. Marcus Bent rounded Shay Given only to slide his shot into the side netting and Bellamy was somehow denied by Pitsone’s block from only 5 yards out.
Middlesbrough were forced to play the second half at White Hart Lane with only ten men after Franck Queudrue was dismissed for a two footed challenge on Noe Pamarot. Boss Steve McClaren confirmed that he would be appealing against the decision.
“I’ve seen it a few times now and I feel the red card wasn’t deserved,” said McLaren. “The decision was made too quickly. He didn’t have to make it that quickly and he spoilt the game as a spectacle.”
Spurs were quick to capitalize on the extra man advantage, Jermaine Defoe nipping into convert Pedro Mendes’ cross after 49 minutes. Fredi Kanoute charged down Schwarzer’s attempted clearance with 14 minutes remaining to seal Martin Jol’s first league since replacing Jacques Santini earlier this month.
A home draw with Norwich was greeted with frustration by Birmingham’s fans. They have now only won once at St Andrew’s in eight attempts this season. Clinton Morrison had given them the lead with his first league goal of the season after 9 minutes but Norwich had the better of the second half and Darren Huckerby’s fourth of the season deservedly gave the Canaries a share of the spoils. Norwich have only been beaten five times this season, the same number of times as Liverpool, but remain second from bottom with their ninth draw.
Portsmouth’s first away win of the season was overshadowed by a spitting incident. Bolton’s El-Hadji Diouf was fined £5,000 by a Glasgow court for spitting at a Celtic fan whilst playing with Liverpool and on Saturday he repeated the offence, this time on Pompy’s Arjan de Zeeuw.
Bolton have acted swiftly by issuing a statement condoning the incident, publicly apologizing to fans and de Zeeuw and ,not least, fining the player a maximum two weeks wages. Criticism for the Senegalise striker, on-loan for the season from Liverpool, has come from all quarters and officials have similarly praised de Zeeuw for not reacting to the provocation.
De Zeeuw said: “We were leading 1-0 and I was not going to get sent off for it even though I felt like punching him in the face.”
De Zeeuw scored the winner just before half time to move Portsmouth into 11th spot.
Aston Villa’s fine recent run was brought to an end at Manchester City. The home team were dominant throughout and first-half goals from Macken and Wright-Phillips secured a 2-0 win.
Villa’s Juan Pablo Angel saw his second half penalty saved by David James and Lee Hendrie was dismissed for an apparent head-butting incident on Danny Mills. Footage has since shown that no contact was made by Hendrie and referee Mike Riley has agreed to review the decision.
The third Premiership red-card this weekend was issued to Zac Knight of Fulham. Knight deliberately scooped the ball away from Paul Dickov as the striker was bearing down on goal duing Blackburn’s 2-0 win at Craven Cottage. Dickov calmly slotted home the resulting penalty to add to Paul Gallagher’s 2nd league goal of the season to secure Blackburn’s first away win this season in the league.
Under-firte Southampton boss Steve Wigley tried to remain upbeat after a 2-2 home draw with Crystal Palace. The Saints have only lost one in their last six but remain third from bottom having twice having had to come from behind.
Wigley said: “Hard times go with the job but I’ve not thought about leaving – it’s a pressure but I’m coping. And with James Beattie, Antti Niemi, Matthew Oakley, Michael Svensson and Neil McCann to return, I’m confident that we’ll get out of our problems.”
Three goals in six minutes at the start of the second half set this game alight. Kevin Philips cancelled out Andy Johnson’s ninth of the season before Wayne Routledge’s deflected effort put Palace back in front. Andreas Jakobsson rescued a point for Southampton though with his first of the season.
By Gary Edwards