Chelsea 4-1 Norwich
Torres and Hazard in the goals as Di Matteo’s men go four points clear
The Blues cemented their position atop the Premier League with a convincing win against Chris Hughton's side, despite the visitors opening the scoring through Grant Holt
Chelsea maintained their position at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable 4-1 win over Norwich on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors opened the scoring against the run of play through Grant Holt but were pegged back minutes later by Fernando Torres’ header, before the hosts quickly capitalised with Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard getting on the scoresheet before half-time.
The Blues dominated the second period in similar fashion but were forced to wait until the 75th minute for their fourth goal, as Branislav Ivanovic volleyed emphatically home.
Despite both being at the centre of controversy this week, Chelsea duo Ashley Cole and John Terry started the game, as Roberto Di Matteo made just three changes from his side’s midweek Champions League win over Nordsjaelland.
Meanwhile, after seeing his Norwich side beaten 5-2 in their last Premier League outing, Chris Hughton understandably made five changes, including handing Alexander Tettey his first Premier League start.
Given their last game ended in a 4-0 win, it was unsurprising to see Chelsea begin the encounter in confident mood, stroking the ball around a nervous-looking Norwich. And the hosts almost had reward for their early domination but saw Torres dither after beating the offside trap, allowing Leon Barnett back in to snuff out the danger.
That let off seemed to spark Norwich to life, but few inside Stamford Bridge would have expected the Canaries to go up the other end and grab the first goal with 11 minutes on the clock. Wes Hoolahan’s floated ball into the far post found Barnett, who had remained forward from a set-piece, and the defender coolly nodded down for Holt to finish with aplomb.
That goal had doubtless come against the run of play, even at such an early stage, but the Blues wasted little time in amending the injustice. Just four minutes later a clever Juan Mata backheel allowed Ivanovic to cross from the right and Torres made no mistake this time, directing his header into the corner after getting a run on Barnett.
The fragile nature of Norwich’s confidence ensured that it would not take long for the league leaders to get another golden chance, and so it proved as Lampard doubled his side’s lead in the 22nd minute. Torres saw his athletic bicycle kick attempt repelled by Russell Martin but the ball fell straight to the 34-year-old midfielder, who smashed home from his customary position on the edge of the box.
The visitors made a valiant attempt to muster a way back into the game but saw their opponents evidence their superior cutting edge just seconds after defending a corner at the other end. The Blues cleared their lines as far as Mata, who led the charge up the pitch before intelligently sliding the ball into Hazard for the Belgian to slot past John Ruddy.
Despite some occasional defensive lapses, Di Matteo’s men were well worth their half-time lead and came out for the second period in similar mood. However, the visitors had clearly been rebuked by their manager and showed a defensive steel that had been sorely lacking in the first 45 minutes.
Regardless, the west London side got apt reward for their patience with 15 minutes remaining as Mata brilliantly controlled an over-hit cross in the box, teeing up Ivanovic to strike first-time beyond Ruddy.
The hosts engaged in some exhibition football from that point onwards but failed to add to their lead as Norwich desperately hung on.
Manchester City 3-0 Sunderland
Kolarov, Aguero & Milner ensure normal service is resumed for Mancini's champions
The rampant hosts cast aside their recent troubles to post their most commanding performance of the season in a one-sided demolition of the Black Cats
Manchester City returned to form in some style against Sunderland with a 3-0 win at the Etihad Stadium. A classy Aleksander Kolarov free-kick in the first half set the tone and further goals from substitute Sergio Aguero and a late strike from James Milner set the seal on the three points and the champions' first clean sheet of the season.
Roberto Mancini rang the changes after his charges were fortunate to escape with a draw in their Champions League match against Dortmund in midweek, including Micah Richards in place of skipper Vincent Kompany, who missed out with a calf knock.
The visitors made just one change from their first victory over the season against Wigan last Saturday with Carlos Cueller in for Titus Bramble in the heart of the Black Cats defence.
Cueller did not take long to make an impression and it was not one he will remember fondly. With just four minutes gone, the Spaniard loitered too long in possession and only a desperate lunge on Carlos Tevez stopped the Argentinian from having a shot on goal. Cueller was booked for his troubles and then had to watch City defender Kolarov glide a 25-yard free kick with his left foot over the wall and into the roof of the net.
Sunderland found themselves behind for the first time this season but the early setback did not seem to upset them. They are always well organised under Martin O’Neill and soon gained a foothold with Stephane Sessegnon volleying just over from the edge of the box.
City were subdued for long periods in the opening period, but they have the attacking prowess to unlock the stuffiest of rearguards. Kolarov was proving an unlikely danger and almost grabbed his second when McClean deflected a Tevez pass into the Serb’s path, but he shot straight at Simon Mignolet.
Kolarov was more in evidence in the attacking third than in his customary defensive role, and after having a goalbound free-kick appear to strike Craig Gardner on the arm on the edge of the box, he sent a vicious volley just over the bar.
Steven Fletcher had been well marshalled by the City defence, but the Scot, who had scored all Sunderland’s five goals this season, showed his capabilities just after the break with a volley from a tight angle that Richards did well to block.
Normal service was soon resumed, though, and Colback blocked a goalbound Richards header before the defender’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Danny Rose.
City were cranking up the pressure and the subdued Balotelli was just inches away from connecting with a Kolarov cross. It was the Italian’s last action before being replaced by Aguero.
It proved to be an inspired switch as within four minutes, City had doubled their lead. Silva found Kolarov in space on the left and the Serb’s darting cross was met at the front post by the Uruguayan who diverted the ball into the corner of the net from eight yards.
Tevez then pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box and after Mignolet had been coaxed to close him down, the Argentine picked out Silva who sent a deft chip that struck the bar.
The home side wrapped up the points in injury time when Milner's vicious free-kick from a tight angle dipped and deceived Mignolet in the Black Cats goal to seal a convincing win.
West Ham 1-3 Arsenal
Giroud, Walcott & Cazorla strikes move Gunners up to fifth
Mohamed Diame's solo goal gave the Hammers the lead but Wenger's side rallied impressively, equalising just before half-time before capitalising on their dominance late in the game
Arsenal moved up to fifth in the Premier League as they came from a goal behind to beat West Ham 3-1 thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and a fine strike from Santi Cazorla.
Mohamed Diame opened the scoring against the run of play, brilliantly beating Aaron Ramsey and curling into the top corner before Giroud displayed his predatory instincts by stabbing home Lukas Podolski's low cross.
The Frenchman turned provider as he threaded Walcott in on goal for the 23-year-old to put the Gunners ahead, before Cazorla thundered a 20-yard effort in to seal all three points.
Arsene Wenger shuffled his pack following Wednesday night's 3-1 win over Olympiakos, recalling Giroud and Aaron Ramsey as well as bringing Per Mertesacker in to help counter the threat of Andy Carroll, who was given a start ahead of Carlton Cole by Sam Allardyce.
Giroud, who was still chasing his first Premier League goal, tested Jussi Jaaskelainen at his near post in the second minute and this early chance fostered a dominant opening 20 minutes for Wenger's team.
However, on a rare break forward for the hosts, George McCartney advanced from left-back and rolled a ball into Diame's feet.
The powerful Senegalese midfielder sized up Ramsey before knocking the ball past him as the Welshman pressed too tightly. From almost the byline and inside the box, Diame's next touch was of the highest quality as he bent a rising shot past Vito Mannone and into the top corner.
Diame though, had picked up a booking for celebrating with the home support, and was very fortunate not to receive his marching orders on the 28th minute as he clattered into Mikel Arteta in midfield.
The 25-year-old did survive a dismissal but he was the villain as he tried to pluck a ball out from the sky on the halfway line. Arteta pounced and Giroud swept the ball wide to Podolski who took a touch before delivering a splendid low cross into the six-yard box for the waiting Frenchman to poke home.
The half-time break helped West Ham recuperate their lost momentum and although Arsenal remained in control of possession, the Hammers appeared more direct and threatening. Matt Jarvis half-volleyed over the bar before Carroll leapt above Mannone but could only nod wide of an empty goal when he should have scored.
The game was pockmarked by injuries to Ricardo Vaz Te, Guy Demel and Mertesacker and it was a wonder that Mannone came away unscathed after several bruising collisions. But he will be pleased to have witnessed the closing stages as Arsenal turned the screw.
First, Giroud sent substitute Walcott in on goal, leaving the England international the space to calmly slot low past Jaaskelainen with 13 minutes remaining. As the Hammers pressed for an equaliser, Walcott stole possession and handed the ball to Cazorla, who had described this game as "fundamental" to the club's title chances, and he composed himself before rifling an unstoppable 20-yard shot into the top corner.
With that, Wenger's team had averted a potential banana skin and sealed a valuable three points in an impressive comeback.