League leaders Chelsea beat second placed Charlton 2-0 to maintain their 100% start to the season, ending their opponents’ unbeaten record in the process.
After spurning a series of gilt edged chances in the first half , Charlton were punished, after the break. Hernan Crespo scored Chelsea’s opener, cleverly evading his marker to head home Damien Duff’s right wing cross.
Arjen Robben added a second 5 minutes later. With Addicks full back Luke Young having shown him inside on his favoured left-foot, the Dutchman curled a looping shot over the head of Stephen Anderson, the Charlton goalkeeper, effectively settling proceedings.
Speaking after the game, Charlton manager Alan Curbishly conceded that it is going to take “something fantastic” not only to beat, but merely to score against the reigning champions who, according to assistant coach Steve Clarke, can still find “another gear”.
Meanwhile, both Liverpool and Manchester United lost ground to the Blues after playing out a lacklustre 0-0 draw at Anfield. It is the first time since the inception of the Premiership that the fixture has failed to yield a goal.
United coach Sir Alex Ferguson was correct when he said, after the match, that, for all the “composure” and “professionalism” his team exhibited, they lacked a decisive cutting edge. With their full backs tucking inside, and their wingers often playing deep inside their own half, Liverpool denied United’s attacking triumvirate any real space in which to manoeuvre, thus stifling the Red Devil’ principle sources of creativity.
The visitors best chance came late in the first half when, after latching on to Ronaldo’s through ball, Van Nistlerooy flicked a deft chip just over Reina’s crossbar.
Liverpool, for their part, were confined to speculative long range efforts, with Gerrard’s 25-yard drive in the second half proving the best of a rather bad bunch.
Elsewhere, United’s cross-city rivals relinquished their 13 match unbeaten run after losing 1-0 to a typically well-drilled Bolton side, who leap leapfrogged their opponents into 4th place in the table.
The match was settled in the final minute, courtesy of Gary Speed’s penalty, which was awarded after Manchester City defender Richard Dunn, in what manager Stuart Pearce described as a “moment of madness”, raised his hands to stop Henrik Pederson meeting Nakata’s left wing centre.
The result was harsh for Pearce’s men, who hit the crossbar all of three times, through Sibierski, Mills and Musampa respectively.
Aston Villa recovered well from their 4 – 0 defeat away to West Ham last week to draw 1-1 at home to Tottenham.
After an impressive display – particularly in the first half, when manager David O’Leary rightly contended that they could have been “3 – 0 up in the first 8 minutes” – Aston Villa were denied all three points by a virtuoso late strike from substitute Robbie Keane – a player who O’Leary forked out £13m for, when he was in charge of Leeds United.
True to recent form, Villa took the lead within the first 5 minutes, when loanee James Milner capitalized on Michael Carrick’s nonchalant pass to drill home from 20 yards.
After Baros and Ridgewell had squandered further opportunities, the away team spurned the chance to restore parity before the interval, when Jermaine Defoe’s penalty was comfortably saved by Thomas Sorenson in the Villa goal.
Tottenham had the better of the second half, and, in the end, justly earned a share of the spoils.
And Villa’s aforementioned conquerors made it two wins on the bounce, this time foiling local rivals Fulham 2-1 in an eventful game at Craven Cottage.
After hitting the bar in the first half, West Ham’s Marlon Harewood netted his fourth goal in two games after the break, turning Zat Knight to lob in from close range.
However for all his skill and craftsmanship in creating it, the in-form striker will not be awarded his team’s second: his blistering 18 yard drive clipped Tony Warner’s right hand post, only to rebound off the head of the sprawling keeper for an own goal.
Louis Boa Morte reduced the deficit 25 minutes from time, curling in a left footed shot from deep on the right wing but, for all their hard work and endeavour, Fulham could not break West Ham’s resistance, and went d0own to only their second home defeat in the last fourteen matches
Newly-promoted Wigan have now gone three games unbeaten after holding a perfunctory, defensive-minded Middelsborough to a 1-1 draw at the JJB Stadium.
The away side took the lead in the 14th minute through Yakubu, after Mark Viduka had flicked on Abel Xavier’s outswinging free kick, enabling the burly Nigerian striker to slot home from six yards.
Rather than building on their lead, however, Boro were content to sit back, and were duly punished 20 minutes from time when substitute Henri Camara made the most of a defensive mix-0up between Eghiou and Southgate, to equalize for the Latics.
While they may have have gained their first Premiership point of the season, fellow promotees Sunderland were denied their first top flight victory since December 15, 2002, after West Brom’s Zoltan Gera took advantage of some poor marking to head home from a corner kick in the last minute, ensuring that the game finished 1-1.
“I cannot describe in words how it feels to concede in the last minute”, said Sunderland coach Mick McCarthy,
“for us to get that opportunity, and not defend a corner properly is unacceptable…it has knocked the stuffing out of us”
The Black Cats had the better of the first half; the Baggies the second. And, it took Sunderland a mere seven minutes to capitalize on this early pressure when Gary Breen rose high to meet Whitehead’s corner. However, after Jonathan Greening skied a shot over the bar (which, in any case, was offside), West Brom became better attuned to the game and, ultimately, deserved a point.
There was better news for Sunderland’s fellow Teesiders, however, as Newcastle United secured a 3 – 0 victory away to Blackburn Rovers, with both Alan Shearer and Michael Owen getting among the goals.
34-year-old Shearer opened the scoring, recording his first goal in 25 hours of Premiership football to put the Magpies 1-0 up seven minutes into the second half with a blistering free kick .
Owen added a second shortly afterwards, rising high to meet Charles N’Zogbia’s lilting cross.
The young Frenchman made it 3 – 0 to the visitors with five minutes remaining, beating the offside trap to slot home from close range.
Newcastle’s victory was somewhat tainted, though, by the fact that Stephen Taylor, the club’s young centre back, received a red card after a foul on ex-Newcastle striker Craig Bellamy.
Despite playing all of the second half with a one-man advantage, Portsmouth could only muster a 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Birmingham.
After petulantly kicking out at Pompey striker Dario Silva, Birmingham’s on-loan midfielder Nicky Butt received his marching orders from referee Dermot Gallagher, whom his manager, Steve Bruce, excoriated after the game.
“In my day the referee would have just had a quiet word…we are in danger of ruining the game as a spectacle with decisions like that,” complained Bruce.
Both goals were scored prior to the sending off in the opening six minutes. Portsmouth took the lead after four, through Lumana Lua Lua, after the Congolese striker connected with Laurent Robert’s corner, before Birmingham equalized through Jiri Jarosik two minutes later.