Monday, October 1, 2007

EPL Result: Everton 2-0 Middlesbrough

Everton2 - 0Middlesbrough
7'Joleon Lescott 1 - 0
58'Steven Pienaar2 - 0


Mikel Arteta proved just how crucial he is to the Everton cause by returning to inspire a 2-0 Premier League victory over Middlesbrough.

As well as having a hand in goals from free-scoring defender Joleon Lescott and a first in English football for the on-loan Steven Pienaar, the Spanish midfielder was outstanding throughout on his comeback from injury.

He was sorely missed in last weekend's defeat at Aston Villa and the UEFA Cup first round first leg draw against Metalist Kharkiv and was simply too cute for Boro.

The visitors lacked such a figure, but of more concern would have been their impotence in attack, with Mido and Lee Dong-Gook failing to impress.

Arteta was one of five changes to the Everton side beaten 2-0 at Villa Park, with Ayegbeni Yakubu given the nod to start against his former side after scoring in the midweek Carling Cup victory at Sheffield Wednesday.

Tim Howard reclaimed his place in goal and James McFadden and Alan Stubbs were also retained from Wednesday's Hillsborough success.

Boro made two changes from their last league outing, recalling skipper George Boateng and Dong-Gook Lee for the injured Julio Arca and Tuncay Sanli.

Without a home win since the opening-day victory against Wigan and deprived of the misfiring Andrew Johnson (groin), Everton were looking to bounce back from two straight league defeats.

Boro were also struggling for form, having not won in their last three in all competitions.

It was not a fixture which traditionally promised a glut of goals, yet the sides boasted just one Barclays Premier League clean sheet between them this term.

It did not take long for the scoring to begin either, Arteta proving his worth with a testing eighth-minute corner which Yakubu glanced goalward.

Jonathan Woodgate headed off the line but Lescott was first to react, nodding the rebound into the opposite corner of the net.

Five minutes later and Boro wasted a glorious opportunity to level. Mido headed a cross down to the unmarked Gary O'Neil, who had time to steady himself but still scuffed his finish straight at Tim Howard.

Both sides were then guilty of glaring headed misses, Yakubu first when he somehow sent over a pinpoint Leighton Baines cross following a clever corner routine.

Lee followed when his effort from O'Neil's centre cannoned off the crossbar.

Yakubu's volleyed snapshot was straight down Mark Schwarzer's throat and the Nigerian's next contribution was a dive on the edge of the area for which he escaped a booking.

Schwarzer had to be more alert to clasp a deflected drive by the excellent Arteta.

It was meant to be Ladies Day at Goodison Park but there was nothing ladylike about O'Neil's ankle-crunching challenge on Pienaar for which the midfielder was rightly cautioned.

Pienaar almost exacted revenge in the correct manner but he too failed to send a header on target, Tony Hibbert supplying the cross.

McFadden finally did test the goalkeeper from Baines' centre but his aerial effort lacked any power.

It sparked Everton's most dominant spell of first half but their finishing continued to leave something to be desired.

Boateng added his name to the growing list of poor headers after the break when he mistimed his jump for Stewart Downing's corner.

Lee again demonstrated why he had failed to find the net in 14 previous Premier League appearances by volleying well wide.

And the South Korean betrayed his frustration with a crude challenge on Lescott, earning him a yellow card.

Moments later, his side controversially fell two behind.

Pienaar injured Boateng winning the ball 30 yards from goal, and the Boro skipper was still hobbling when Arteta broke into the box before squaring for the South African to slide a low finish across Schwarzer and into the net.

A raft of substitutions followed, Boro boss Gareth Southgate perhaps sending a message to both Mido and Lee by withdrawing both and deploying David Wheater as a makeshift centre-forward.

It had little effect, with opposite number David Moyes afforded the luxury in stoppage-time of bringing off Arteta to a richly-deserved standing ovation.



EPL Result: Birmingham 0-1 Man Utd

Birmingham0 - 1Manchester United
0 - 1Cristiano Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo's first goal of the Barclays Premier League campaign secured a fifth successive league win for Manchester United at St Andrews as Birmingham succumbed 1-0.

But his side were pushed all the way by Steve Bruce's battlers before climbing back into second spot - two points adrift of Arsenal, who also have a game in hand.

Ronaldo, in what was his 100th league start, settled the issue six minutes into the second half and United have now kept five successive clean sheets in the competition since losing the Manchester derby.

It was also their fourth 1-0 league win of the campaign and they have achieved their lofty position in the table despite scoring only seven times in eight games.

But Birmingham can consider themselves unfortunate not to have claimed a share of the spoils and were the more threatening side in the opening 45 minutes.

United seemed nervous at the back during the first half apart from a majestic performance by Rio Ferdinand.

The irony of the outcome would not have been lost on Bruce after Blues were heavily criticised for a defensive performance in earning a goalless draw at Liverpool last weekend.

On this occasion, his side caused the Red Devils all kinds of problems. Olivier Kapo and Gary McSheffrey created several good chances - but ended up with no reward.

Birmingham made an enterprising start and United keeper Edwin van der Sar was twice called into action in the first two minutes.

A mistake by Paul Scholes allowed Cameron Jerome a free run at the United goal and his fierce left-footed drive from 20 yards out was turned around the post by the Dutchman.

Then Van der Sar had to react smartly to cling on to Franck Queudrue's glancing header from the resulting corner by Sebastian Larsson.

The first real threat to the home side came when a long clearance from Van der Sar found its way to Wayne Rooney in plenty of space to the right of the Blues box.

The England striker tried to chip Northern Ireland keeper Maik Taylor, but he had come racing off his line to narrow the angle and managed to block his attempt.

Queudrue became the first player to be booked for a challenge on Ronaldo.

Rio Ferdinand came to United's rescue after 17 minutes when he cleared a downward header from Gary McSheffrey off the line from Larsson's cross.

Ronaldo was causing Birmingham problems and one shot from a narrow angle flew straight at a relieved Taylor after good play by Giggs and Brown.

A misplaced clearance by Van der Sar, when well off his line, flew straight to the lively Jerome.

The former Cardiff player tried to make the Dutchman pay for his error, but he failed to get enough height into his shot and Michael Carrick was able to make the block.

Taylor anticipated a pass from Rooney into the path of Ronaldo and saved bravely at his feet, but Birmingham deserved to be on level terms at the break.

United were forced into a half-time substitution with Van der Sar apparently still troubled by the first-half ankle knock and replaced by Tomasz Kuszczak.

After 51 minutes, Ronaldo broke the deadlock with his first league goal of the campaign.

There seemed little danger when Ferdinand played the ball forward just inside the Blues area, but Queudrue hesitated when he should have cleared and Ronaldo took full advantage. He surged forward and coolly took the ball around Taylor before firing home.

Birmingham tried to retaliate and Kuszczak needed two attempts to gather a low volley from McSheffrey.

But the former West Brom keeper made an excellent save to turn another McSheffrey pile-driver around the post after it took a deflection off Ferdinand.

McSheffrey was only just off target with the resulting inswinging free-kick from a narrow angle.

Ronaldo could have settled the issue but dragged his shot just wide and in the last few seconds Kuszczak kept out a drive from Blues substitute Garry O'Connor.



EPL Result: Wigan 0-1 Liverpool

Wigan0 - 1Liverpool
0 - 1Yossi Benayoun


Yossi Benayoun ended Liverpool's mini crisis with the only goal of the game as Wigan suffered a 17th defeat in 17 matches against the Barclays Premier League's fabled 'big four'.

Liverpool had endured goalless draws in their previous two league games, sparking much criticism of boss Rafael Benitez's rotation policy.

In the end it was substitute Benayoun, a £5million buy from West Ham in the summer, who netted a 75th minute winner for his first league goal for the Reds.

From Wigan's perspective, it was another brave yet fruitless performance against one of the big boys as they have still to take a point off Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United since they were promoted to the top flight in 2005.

At least this was a dramatic improvement on the corresponding fixture last season, when they were 4-0 down at the interval.

On that occasion they were torn apart from the opening whistle, primarily due to the pace of former striker Craig Bellamy, to which the Latics could find no answer.

There was no Bellamy this time around - sold to West Ham in the summer - but instead there was Fernando Torres, the club record £26million replacement.

There had been a great debate surrounding Torres in the build-up to this encounter due to Benitez's continual rotation of his stars.

Torres had sat on the bench for the previous two league matches in which Liverpool had failed to score at Portsmouth and at home to Birmingham.

Benitez then handed the Spain international a start in the midweek Carling Cup tie at Reading, and he responded with a hat-trick.

That prompted speculation as to whether Benitez should play the 23-year-old from the off against Wigan and he ultimately opted to pair him with Dirk Kuyt.

He had Liverpool's three best chances in an opening 45 minutes in which goalkeeper Jose Reina was a virtual spectator.

That was due to Wigan being deprived of their two first-choice strikers, with Antoine Sibierski, a late withdrawal with a hamstring problem, joining Emile Heskey on the sidelines.

That led to boss Chris Hutchings handing Julius Aghahowa his first start this season alongside Marcus Bent, and the lack of cohesion and understanding between the duo was alarming.

After Wigan had started brightly, Liverpool edged into the game with every minute that passed and after Jermaine Pennant and John Arne Riise had shots blocked, Torres took over.

His first effort in the 25th minute was scuffed after Kuyt had delightfully cushioned a downward header to a Pennant cross into his path, giving Kirkland a comfortable take.

His second on the half hour came after a woeful error from life-long Reds fan Jason Koumas, who sprayed a pass along the halfway line directly to Kuyt.

The Holland forward immediately set Torres clear, and after outpacing Emmerson Boyce, he stabbed a shot goalwards that was blocked at point-blank range by Kirkland.

Wigan were then fortunate as the ricochet sprang off the Spaniard and rebounded inches past the left-hand post.

The spectacular followed from Torres two minutes later with a scissor kick that was just wide after rising to meet a right-wing ball from Alvaro Arbeloa, with Wigan's defence nowhere.

But then after the break Torres went missing as Wigan played with a fierce determination to their game, in particular with Titus Bramble an immense presence in defence.

Bent did have the ball in the net in the 50th minute, but it was controversially ruled out, stifling his delight.

Aghahowa, running back when the ball was played in by Josip Skoko, was offside, but not Bent, who was three yards on when the cross was delivered.

Koumas forced Reina into his only meaningful save of the game five minutes later, before a combination of Kirkland and Skoko denied Kuyt soon after.

As the game started to swing from end to end, an ungainly flick from Paul Scharner as he beat Reina to a Koumas ball over the top finished agonisingly wide.

Then, after Gerrard had screamed a 25-yard drive narrowly past the right-hand post, the Reds finally broke the deadlock 15 minutes from time.

Benayoun, on for Fabio Aurelio in the 56th minute, had plenty of work to do in picking up the ball a few yards outside the Wigan area.

But with an innocuous flick he gave himself time and space before beating Kirkland with a low shot.

Wigan, though, should have taken a point, only for Aghahowa to bury a six-yard header to a Koumas cross inches wide in the first of three minutes of injury time.



EPL Result: West Ham 0-1 Arsenal

West Ham0 - 1Arsenal
0 - 1Robin Van Persie


Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal maintained their superb start to the season with a hard-earned 1-0 win at West Ham.

Robin van Persie's close-range header on 13 minutes proved enough for an eighth straight victory.

West Ham, though, had their chances - the best of which fell to England hopeful Dean Ashton - but they also were indebted to keeper Rob Green, who made a string a fine saves.

The Hammers have performed well against Arsenal in recent meetings - winning both games last season as they escaped the drop. However, the Gunners are currently in blistering form and again started brightly.

Inside the opening two minutes Arsenal broke quickly down the left, with Abou Diaby cutting the ball back to Emmanuel Adebayor, who drilled a low shot just wide from 15 yards.

West Ham, though, soon rallied and former Gunner Freddie Ljungberg was unfortunate to be flagged offside when collecting a quick backheel from Ashton on the edge of the Arsenal box.

The England hopeful was then sent clear himself, only to again be called up by the referee's assistant on the far side.

Ashton was leading the West Ham line with plenty of aggression, and turned to drill a 20-yard shot just over.

Arsenal, though, were ahead on 13 minutes.

Adebayor held the ball up well on the right side of the area and fed a pass out to Alexander Hleb.

His centre flew across the six-yard box, where van Persie arrived on queue at the far post to glance a header past Green, who was at full stretch and could only push the ball onto the post and in.

The goal silenced the home crowd, and after such a positive start the Hammers suddenly looked disjointed.

As the half-hour approached, West Ham were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men following an X-rated challenge by Mark Noble on Hleb.

The Belarus midfielder, just back from a knee problem, had to be carried off with what looked like a similar injury and was replaced by Emmanuel Eboue.

Arsenal were incensed, but referee Alan Wiley deemed a yellow card sufficient punishment.

West Ham continued to try to take the match to Arsenal, but the visitors were playing with a high defensive line and used the offside trap well.

When the hosts did get in behind, they could not find a telling cross into the danger zone.

At the other end, Lee Bowyer was penalised for handball just outside the area on the right.

Van Persie struck his effort goalwards, which Green palmed behind.

Mathieu Flamini tried his luck with a low, 20-yard strike which the West Ham keeper got down well to stop.

The hosts replaced Scott Parker, who looked to have picked up a knock, at the restart and were then quickly forced into another change when Anton Ferdinand hobbled off and Danny Gabbidon came on.

Van Persie came within inches of putting the visitors 2-0 ahead on 54 minutes.

The Dutchman side-stepped marker Gabbidon on the edge of the area, and drilled his shot towards the top left-hand corner.

Green was again at full stretch and got his fingertips to the ball, which this time bounced back off the post and away.

Moments later it should have been 1-1 after Bowyer chipped the ball into the area from the right.

Ashton had timed his run perfectly to get a free header at the back post, only to then nod it straight at a grateful Manuel Almunia.

This was a good spell for West Ham. Ljungberg did get the ball into the net when he collected Henri Camara's slide pass - but was flagged offside in what looked a marginal call.

However, Arsenal were dangerous on the break.

Van Persie and Adebayor exchanged passes on the edge of the West Ham box, which sent the Togo striker clear and Green came to the rescue with a fine reaction save low to his left.

Arsenal full-back Gael Clichy was the next man to force a good save from Green, the England international again at full stretch to turn the ball behind.

The Gunners made a change with 12 minutes left when Gilberto replaced Adebayor, who looked to have a dead leg, before Green once more pushed a goal-bound strike behind, this time from Flamini.

Van Persie booted a downward header from Ashton clear in front of his own net as the Gunners closed out the match - including four minutes of stoppage time - to stay ahead of the chasing pack.



EPL Result: Sunderland 1-2 Blackburn

Sunderland1 - 2Blackburn
0 - 1David Bentley
0 - 2Roque Santa Cruz
'Grant Leadbitter1 - 2


Mark Hughes came out on top in the battle of the Manchester United old boys as Blackburn cruised to a 2-1 victory at Sunderland.

Two goals in as many second-half minutes sent Roy Keane's men tumbling to defeat as the Black Cats were served a reminder of just how difficult life in the Barclays Premier League can be.

David Bentley pounced on a rebound to open the scoring from close range on 53 minutes and Roque Santa Cruz smashed home his fifth goal of the season two minutes later as the home side were sliced open again.

Indeed, Bentley, who was booed throughout by the home fans and treated with little ceremony by the defenders he repeatedly tormented, should have made it 3-0 when he was played in by the impressive Santa Cruz.

Sunderland finished the game with four strikers on the pitch and sparked hopes of another late fightback when Grant Leadbitter capped a fine individual display with a sweet 90th-minute strike.

But they lacked the inspiration to open Rovers up often enough to make an impact on a day when they were more soundly beaten than the scoreline suggests in front of a crowd of 41,252.

However, things might have been different had referee Peter Walton pointed to the spot four minutes before the break, after Michael Chopra had gone down under Brad Friedel's challenge.

Former United team-mates Keane and Hughes never took a backward step during their playing days, and it was no surprise that the teams they sent out scrapped and fought their way through a tight first 45 minutes.

The quality of Tugay, David Dunn and Bentley in Blackburn's midfield gave them a foundation upon which to build, and they perhaps enjoyed the greater share of the possession during the opening period.

However, what Sunderland lack in craft and guile, they make up for in grit and determination, and the half's better chances came their way.

Youngster Leadbitter and last weekend's goal hero, Liam Miller, were their driving force, with the former making a nuisance of himself from the right wing despite having to leave the pitch temporarily after taking an accidental kick in the head from Dunn.

Leadbitter saw four first-half shots blocked and another saved by Brad Friedel, who also had to keep out another long-range effort from Miller.

For their part, Rovers failed to test Craig Gordon unduly at the other end, the Scot saving from Christopher Samba's low 23rd-minute drive seconds after seeing Danny Higginbotham deflect Santa Cruz's header over the bar.

But he was left hopelessly exposed on 38 minutes when Nyron Nosworthy failed to clear Bentley's blocked effort and Matt Derbyshire span to fire just wide of the far post.

Chopra, who scored in each of his first two games for the Black Cats, was left to bemoan a controversial decision four minutes before the break when he went down under Friedel's challenge as he ran on to Miller's through-ball.

Mr Walton took his time as the American held his breath, but then infuriated the former Newcastle striker and the home fans when he awarded only a corner.

Rovers resumed in enterprising fashion and Dunn and Aaron Mokoena both failed to make the most of early half-chances.

But they felled their hosts with a devastating blow inside two action-packed minutes.

Santa Cruz was allowed to carve his way into the penalty area and 53 minutes to fire in a shot which was blocked by Danny Higginbotham.

However, the ball dropped invitingly to Bentley, who needed no second invitation to thump it past the stranded Gordon.

Worse was to come for the home side after 55 minutes when Higginbotham left his back-pass woefully short and Brett Emerton ran through to force a good save from Gordon before turning the ball back across goal for Santa Cruz to help himself.

Sunderland's plight might have been irredeemable three minutes later when the impressive Santa Cruz broke to feed Bentley, who stepped inside before seeing his stabbed shot blocked by Gordon.

Leadbitter never really tested Friedel with a 62nd-minute free-kick, and Keane made his move three minutes later, withdrawing Ross Wallace, Dwight Yorke and Chopra to send on David Connolly, Daryl Murphy and Roy O'Donovan.

Hughes decided to introduce Morten Gamst Pedersen in place of Derbyshire at the same time, although with four strikers on the pitch, it was Sunderland who took the initiative.

However, it was not until the final minute of the game that they gave themselves any hope when Leadbitter's superb right-footed strike sparked a frenzied, but ultimately fruitless, late assault.



EPL Result: Portsmouth 7-4 Reading

7 - 4Reading
7'Benjani Mwaruwari1 - 0
37'Benjani Mwaruwari2 - 0
2 - 1Stephen Hunt
2 - 2Dave Kitson
55'Hermann Hreidarsson3 - 2
3 - 2Nicky Shorey (pen miss)
70'Benjani Mwaruwari4 - 2
75'Niko Kranjcar5 - 2
5 - 3Shane Long
81'Sean Davis6 - 3
90'Sulley Muntari (pen)7 - 3
7 - 4Nicky Shorey


Portsmouth went goal crazy at Fratton Park, with Benjani Mwaruwari netting a hat-trick in a 7-4 demolition of Reading that now represents the Barclays Premier League's highest-scoring game.

The Royals had only beaten Pompey once in the past 25 years but cannot have defended any worse in any of those previous encounters.

Goals from Stephen Hunt and Dave Kitson actually cancelled out Benjani's first-half double, but Steve Coppell's side were soon buried under an avalanche of replies.

Hermann Hreidarsson headed Pompey back ahead, Benjani's third was followed by a fine strike from Nico Kranjcar and, after substitute Shane Long had pulled one back for Reading, Sean Davis netted a long-rang shot, before Sulley Muntari made it 7-3 from the spot.

Nicky Shorey had the last word with a deflected fourth for the visitors.

A knee injury had robbed Portsmouth of top-scorer Kanu and, despite his Carling Cup winner at Burnley in midweek, England international David Nugent found himself still on the bench as Benjani was chosen to replace the Nigerian up front.

Harry Redknapp's judgement was soon proved to be correct, however, as the Zimbabwean opened the scoring after just seven minutes.

James Harper had lost the ball to Papa Bouba Diop and Benjani, having sent John Utaka into a crossing position on the left, completed the move by dispatching his colleague's delivery to the back post from close range.

Reading goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann had remained rooted to his line on that occasion, but when he came out to claim Kranjcar's corner, the American succeeded only in spilling it into Diop's path and was mightily relieved when the Senegal international could only hook the loose ball wide.

Kranjcar was the first half's most lively performer, running at opponents at will but could not hit the target himself, screwing one effort wide from a good position in the box before blasting another well over.

Diop's 30-yard shot forced Hahnemann into a diving save, before Benjani made it 2-0 in the 37th minute.

Reading had been slow to react for the first goal and were caught out from their own attack this time as Diop's ball from inside his own half found the recalled front man.

Shorey and Ivar Ingimarsson were both unable to impede his progress, before Hahnemann was beaten with a well-placed drive from just outside the box.

The lead was no more than Pompey had deserved and Hahnemann somehow deflected Glen Johnson's shot over after Benjani's header had set up the defender at point-blank range.

Davis sent a long-range shot just over, but the last word of the half belonged to Reading when Hunt pulled a goal back in stoppage time.

Liam Rosenior and Kitson set it up with the former sending a cross over David James and the latter reacting to prod the ball goalwards when it had bounced down off the cross bar.

Sylvain Distin managed to block on the line, but Hunt followed up smartly to nod home.

Reading usually concede goals shortly after half-time, but this time Kitson scored one, with James' rash rush out of his box allowing it to take place in the 48th minute.

The England goalkeeper never looked likely to reach Hunt's ball from his own half and Kitson, having taken it past him, located the empty net with a perfectly-placed shot from a tight angle on the left.

Pompey reacted strongly and Reading were fortunate to scramble the ball away after Utaka's cross had gone over Hahnemann.

Harper fired a good chance over at the other end, but when Diop had a diving header ruled out for offside the reprieve was shortlived for the visitors as Hreidarsson made it 3-2 in the 55th minute.

Again Hahnemann appeared to be at fault, allowing the Pompey defender to beat him to Distin's cross and head home from eight yards out.

James made amends for his earlier error by saving Shorey's penalty after Diop had needlessly controlled the ball with an arm in the box.

Exactly why a striker did not take it remains unknown, but the home fans reacted rapturously with chants of 'England's Number One'.

Benjani made sure the match ball was his with a fine solo clincher with 20 minutes remaining. Sulley Muntari put him through and, with defenders trailing, he made the task of taking the ball round Hahnemann and finding the empty net look easy.

Kranjcar made it 5-2 with a headed conversion of a Davis cross, but Long's reply - a deflection of a Harper shot with 10 minutes remaining - was quickly followed by Pompey's sixth from Davis.

Muntari scored the seventh from the spot in stoppage time after Kranjcar had been fouled by Rosenior.

Shorey fired home a deflected fourth before the final whistle ended the mayhem.



EPL Result: Derby 1-1 Bolton: Miller hits first Derby goal

Derby County1 - 1Bolton
19'Kenny Miller1 - 0
1 - 1Nicolas Anelka


Derby keeper Stephen Bywater may have the most thankless job in the Barclays Premier League, but he proved his immense value with a stunning double save to secure a 1-1 draw at Pride Park.

Bywater had seen 20 goals sail past him in just seven league games to date, but he showed he has lost none of his confidence when he denied Bolton's Christian Wilhelmsson and Nicolas Anelka late on.

First, Bywater dived to parry Wilhelmsson's drive before somehow recovering to tip Anelka's fierce follow-up onto the underside of the bar and deny fellow strugglers Bolton a priceless victory.

Kenny Miller had given the home side a 19th-minute lead in a ragged and nervy tussle between the division's bottom two before Anelka's fortunate 32nd-minute equaliser, which took a heavy deflection off Claude Davis.

With Jussi Jaaskelainen also on top form at the other end to deny Miller a second goal, Bolton boss Sammy Lee will ultimately have breathed a sigh of relief that his side avoided defeat and possibly safeguarded his job in the process.

Until the late drama the Rams had looked the most likely winners from the start, and they had the first chance in the third minute when Stephen Pearson cut through the visitors' defence but scuffed his shot wide.

Bolton responded almost immediately through Ricardo Gardner, who got round the back of the home defence, only to send in a low cross which proved too strong for Kevin Davies in the box.

It was easy to see why these two sides were propping up the table table as each toiled admirably but plainly lacked quality and the nerves associated with such a crucial occasion were evident for all to see.

The home side broke through with a rare moment of class, Steve Howard chesting down Tyrone Mears' long ball and crossing for Miller to drill the ball low past Jaaskelainen.

Bolton's responses were sporadic and scarcely looked like giving Bywater more to worry about.

Anelka and Joey O'Brien both saw long-range efforts sail well wide of target, before the French striker finally seized upon a stroke of good fortune to snatch his side's equaliser.

Anelka moved to the edge of the Rams box and fired a shot which Bywater appeared to have covered, before it took a wicked deflection off Davis and squirmed into the far corner of the net.

Kevin Nolan went close to giving the visitors the lead five minutes from the break when Dean Leacock attempted a tight back-pass under pressure and Nolan nipped in but could only hit the side-netting.

Derby dominated the opening stages of the second half and came agonisingly close to going back ahead in the 49th minute, when another low Miller drive was brilliantly blocked by Jaaskelainen.

The Rams kept pressing, but as four goals from their seven previous matches testified, a second was going to be hard to come by. James McEveley's long-range effort was deflected behind, and Miller blazed over from an Eddie Lewis cross.

Anxious to turn the momentum of the match back in his favour, Lee made his first change in the 59th minute, replacing Davies with fellow striker Wilhelmsson.

The ever lively El-Hadji Diouf caught the Rams defence sleeping with his cross which trickled across the face of goal in the 62nd minute, but much to his obvious frustration there was no-one to poke the ball home.

Rams boss Billy Davies responded by introducing his young star Giles Barnes in place of David Jones in the 63rd minute in the hope of capitalising on his side's evident superiority since the break.

Wilhelmsson had his first chance for the visitors in the 67th minute when he cut into the left side of the Rams box, but his low shot was comfortably saved by Bywater.

Bywater was back in action in the 79th minute with his stunning saves from Wilhelmsson and Anelka, before Pearson booted Nolan's follow-up off the line to save a precious point.



EPL Result: Chelsea 0-0 Fulham

Chelsea0 - 0Fulham


Chelsea lost captain John Terry with a suspected fractured cheekbone as Avram Grant's first home game in charge ended in stalemate and controversy.

The goalless draw with neighbours Fulham saw Chelsea take their unbeaten home league run to 67 games, but it was their fourth successive Premier League game without scoring.

To compound matters for Chelsea, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, playing his first game since injuring his knee against Aston Villa in early September, was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 73rd minute.

England captain Terry would miss up to six weeks if the injury is confirmed as a broken cheekbone, meaning he would miss the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia.

His absence would also be a massive blow to Grant as he bids to turn Chelsea's fortunes around.

He was already without England winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, absent after pulling a hamstring against Hull in the Carling Cup in midweek, and Michael Essien - also injured.

The Israeli was given a warm welcome by the Chelsea fans as he took his place in the home dugout for the first time.

But they turned on billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, who was sat in the upper tier of the Shed stand among the fans.

As their frustrations boiled over, they could be seen shouting Jose Mourinho's name in his face as the bemused Russian looked on.

Before the game, fans had distributed leaflets demanding the return of Jose Mourinho as coach and revealed plans to stage a protest walkout at half-time, which did not materialise.

Grant's attacking style was quickly evident, with Salomon Kalou setting up Andriy Shevchenko to fire an 18-yard effort over the bar.

But in the third minute there was cause for concern when captain Terry required lengthy treatment after an accidental clash of heads with Fulham's Clinton Dempsey.

Chelsea were quickly on the offensive, but Fulham demonstrated they could be a danger on the break when a cross from Alexei Smertin was headed narrowly wide by Dempsey in the 14th minute.

In the 19th minute Claude Makelele set up Andriy Shevchenko on the edge of the penalty area, but again the Ukraine striker's effort posed little threat to Fulham keeper Kasey Keller, who collected the ball with ease.

Joe Cole was the next to try his luck for the Blues when he sent a low drive towards the left corner of the net, but Keller managed to deal with the pace of the ball quite comfortably.

There was plenty of attacking endeavour and desire from Chelsea but little in terms of real threat.

Drogba's return provided the midfielders with a focal point, but the striker had largely been kept under control by Carlos Bocanegra and Aaron Hughes.

Shevchenko, rested for the Carling Cup win over Hull in midweek, combined with Kalou in the 32nd minute, but the Ukraine striker again saw his shot whistle wide of the post.

Moments later a low cross from Joe Cole eluded the Fulham defence and Drogba at the far post as Chelsea increased the pressure on the visitors.

Drogba felt he had been fouled as he went for the ball and was booked by referee Martin Atkinson as a result of his protests.

Four minutes before the break, a cross from Shevchenko caused Fulham's defence a moment of panic, but neither Terry or Drogba could capitalise on the opportunity, with the Ivorian finally heading into the side-netting.

Chelsea lost captain Terry with at the interval and he was replaced by Brazilian centre-back Alex.

But the mass walkout by fans did not appear to happen with the majority of the 41,837 crowd remaining in their seats.

Chelsea almost started the second half with a goal when Joe Cole's cross was met by Kalou on the edge of the six-yard box.

But the former Feyenoord striker's shot was superbly saved by Keller, who pushed the ball on to the post.

Drogba brought another fine save out of Keller in the 58th minute when he left fly from 20 yards.

Kalou was next to squander a chance to break the deadlock when he headed a cross from Ashley Cole wide of the target from eight yards.

It was clearly not Chelsea's afternoon as Kalou headed a free-kick from Makelele wide of the target in the 68th minute and then Joe Cole sent a shot inches beyond the far post moments later.

Chelsea's problems worsened in the 73rd minute when Drogba was shown the red card for a lunge on Chris Baird.

Drogba, who had been yellow-carded for dissent in the first half, was sent off for a second bookable offence that will mean a one-match ban instead of three.

Paul Konchesky almost stole all three points for Fulham five minutes from time, but Cech pulled off a fine save to deny him and Chelsea were booed off by their fans at the end.



EPL Result: Man City 3-1 Newcastle

Manchester City3 - 1Newcastle
29' - 1Obafemi Martins
38'Martin Petrov1 - 1
47'Emile Mpenza2 - 1
87'Blumer Elano3 - 1


Elano led Newcastle a merry dance at Eastlands as Manchester City roared back to record a fourth successive Premier League home win.

The Brazilian midfielder had already established himself as a clear man-of-the-match with an inspired display of cultured passing in a pulsating contest when he strode up to rocket home the 86th-minute free-kick which guaranteed Sven-Goran Eriksson's men their 3-1 victory. Eriksson has steadfastly refused to set any targets for his team despite their amazing start to the campaign.

But on this evidence they look viable top-six contenders, even if their chances of matching Manchester United and Arsenal, whom they joined at the top of the table, no matter how briefly, are slender.

Certainly, after two years of drab fare under Stuart Pearce, City are not complaining and it should not be long before the empty seats which have become such a regular feature of recent home games are filled.

Although Eriksson's men had recorded single-goal victories in all their previous home games this season, it always seemed unlikely that run would continue against a Newcastle side packed with talent, even without Michael Owen, but without an away clean sheet in 10 months.

The return of Shay Given was a big call by Magpies boss Sam Allardyce given how well Stephen Harper has been doing, but the Republic of Ireland star justified the decision with a string of excellent saves, most notably to deny Elano and Ireland either side of the two first-half goals.

Eriksson certainly swooped under the radar when he splashed out £8million of Thaksin Shinawatra's cash on the 26-year-old Elano, who had been strutting his stuff in relative obscurity at Shakhtar Donetsk.

A international regular for Brazil, Elano has a touch of class well beyond the norm. His vision and touch are a delight to see and his promptings kept Newcastle's defence on their toes.

Aside from the inspired volley which brought an equally impressive response from Given, Elano also sent Ireland scurrying away twice, spotting off-the-ball runs that had gone completely unnoticed by beleaguered Magpies left-back Charles N'Zogbia.

On the first occasion, Ireland kept his nerve and rolled a cross to the far post which invited Petrov's clinical finish.

The second should really have seen City snatch an interval lead, but Given stood strong and blocked his fellow countryman's effort with his chest.

Without doubt, Given was the busier keeper, but England Under-21 international Joe Hart, preferred to Kasper Schmeichel by Eriksson, was hardly unemployed.

The £800,000 signing from Shrewsbury could so easily have been embarrassed when a poor first touch left the ball rolling agonisingly along the line as he was momentarily stranded the other side of his post.

Hart kept his cool in admirable fashion and was able to clear, which was just as well as by that stage he had already been beaten by Martins.

Micah Richards has barely put a foot wrong during his astonishing rise to international stardom over the past 18 month, but the City defender found himself on the wrong side of Martins as Geremi lifted a hopeful pass to the edge of the box and the half yard of space was all the Nigerian required to control, then finish in sublime fashion.

Richards had earlier escaped a rash challenge on James Milner, which could easily have presented Newcastle with a penalty, so it seems the 19-year-old is not infallible after all.

Both Eriksson and Allardyce would have wanted to make a flying start to the second period, but only the Swede got his wish as City seized the initiative within 90 seconds of the re-start.

N'Zogbia's unhappy day continued with an aimless header towards the touchline which Petrov was on to in a flash, outpacing Steven Taylor down the left flank before delivering a pin-point cross. With N'Zogbia still out of position, Mpenza was totally unmarked as he stooped to finish.

Newcastle gradually increased the pace as they hunted an equaliser, but the major threat was on their goal.

It took a just-legal challenge by Habib Beye on Richards to deny the youngster a clear run on goal. Then, when City countered once more, Richards stepped inside Jose Enrique but scuffed his shot badly.

Mpenza volleyed Ireland's cross wide, then had a shot blocked by Rozenhal as a frenetic contest reached a suitably frantic finish, with Elano providing the fitting ending.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carling Cup Result: West Brom 2-4 Cardiff

West Brom2 - 4Cardiff
0 - 1Robbie Fowler
0 - 2Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
0 - 3Robbie Fowler (pen)
0 - 4Trevor Sinclair
33'Ishmael Miller1 - 4
87'Ishmael Miller (pen)2 - 4


West Brom were dumped out of the Carling Cup 4-2 as Cardiff's old guard ran riot in their third round tie at The Hawthorns.

Robbie Fowler opened the scoring after only four minutes, before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink unleashed an unstoppable second from fully 30 yards midway through the first half.

Baggies fans were left shell-shocked as Fowler grabbed his second from the penalty spot and Trevor Sinclair got in on the act to put the visitors 4-0 up inside the opening half an hour.

Ishmael Miller grabbed a brace for Albion either side of the break to put a respectable slant on the scoreline, but it was not enough to prevent Cardiff claiming their first away win over West Brom since 1957.

Baggies boss Tony Mowbray rang the changes for the tie, resting seven players who were included in Albion's starting line-up for Saturday's 3-2 victory over Scunthorpe.

Cardiff, however, fielded an almost identical side to the one held at home by Preston, Paul Parry the only casualty after Glenn Loovens completed his recovery from a foot injury.

And the decision to field a near full-strength XI paid dividends almost immediately as Fowler netted his third goal in two games for the South Wales club.

Stephen McPhail broke free down the left wing and whipped in an inviting cross for the ex-Liverpool striker, who swept the ball into the top corner from 12 yards out.

The strike ended Albion's impressive record of over nine hours without conceding at The Hawthorns, and the home side's reponse would have left Mowbray fuming.

Gavin Rae cut in from the right and fed Hasselbaink, who turned quickly before firing a powerful effort into the top corner from distance.

Fowler added a third from the penalty spot just four minutes later after defender Shelton Martis brought down Joe Ledley in the area.

Matters went from bad to worse for Baggies as Sinclair popped up to fire home from close range, before Miller gave the hosts some hope at the break with a well-taken effort after Craig Beattie's shot rebounded off a post.

Mowbray was forced to adopt a new gameplan at the interval and both Jonathan Greening and Andrade Filipe Teixeira were introduced to add an attacking element.

And the changes almost bore fruit within the opening three minutes of the second half as Teixeira fired wide from six yards when he really should have scored.

Chris Brunt was next to try his luck with a great free-kick that drifted narrowly wide as Albion looked for a quick route back into the game.

As the half wore on, the hosts threw more bodies forward and both Brunt and Martin Albrechtsen could only watch as their efforts were kept out by a resilient Cardiff defence.

The home side were doing all the pressing in the closing stages, and Miller deservedly grabbed his and Albion's second of the night from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Chris Gunter.

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