zaterdag 25 augustus 2012

Premier League - Saturday - August 25

Manchester United 3-2 Fulham
Van Persie & Kagawa score as hosts secure first win of season
The Netherlands international struck a sensational goal on his full debut as the Red Devils came from behind to secure victory, but saw Wayne Rooney stretchered off late on

Manchester United vs Fulham

Manchester United sealed their first Premier League points of the season with a 3-2 victory over Fulham, but were made to work hard by Martin Jol's men.

Damien Duff gave the visitors a shock lead from a clever set-piece with just minutes on the clock, but Robin van Persie’s brilliant equaliser got United back on terms only moments later. The hosts then appeared to be cruising after Shinji Kagawa and Rafael increased their lead but an own goal from Nemanja Vidic following confusion in the goalmouth provided a nervy ending.

Sir Alex Ferguson provided an early shock in making Wayne Rooney the most high-profile casualty from Monday’s loss to Everton, with Van Persie making his full debut as the forward’s replacement. Meanwhile, Nani missed out on a place in the squad entirely as Ashley Young and Valencia took their place on the flanks, with Rafael occupying the right-back role previously filled by the Ecuadorian. Veteran Paul Scholes also made way in central midfield for the younger legs of Anderson, whilst Danny Welbeck had to be content with a substitute’s role.

Visiting boss Martin Jol made just one change following his side’s 5-0 win on the opening day, with 21-year-old Matthew Briggs coming in for the injured John Arne Riise at left-back. American forward Clint Dempsey, who is still strongly linked with a move to Liverpool, was left out of the squad yet again.

United will doubtless have spoken of the importance of getting a good start as they looked to bounce back from defeat to the Toffees, but what followed certainly will not have been part of that script. Some clever work from Mladen Petric on the left-hand side tempted the returning Rafael into a needless foul just outside the box with just minutes on the clock. Bryan Ruiz stepped up to take the free-kick and his clever, low delivery caught the hosts’ backline napping and allowed Duff to capitalise as he side-footed into the bottom corner.

The Old Trafford crowd was unsurprisingly stunned into silence, but the Red Devils rarely dwell on such matters. Kagawa was the architect as United carved out a chance in immediate reply but, unfortunately for the Manchester side, the No.7’s cross was beyond the arriving strikers.

The hosts continued to push up against a Fulham team which dropped continually deeper seemingly in the belief that they had scored too early, and thus it was no surprise to see United get back on terms by just the 12th minute.  A patient build-up from Ferguson’s men allowed Evra into space on the left and, though the full-back’s poor cross was not particularly begging to be put in, debutant Van Persie did just that.

Quite how the Dutchman flicked the high, bouncing ball into the far corner on the half volley with such precision may well have been beyond the home fans – and Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal – but it is not something which seemed to overly concern them as they welcomed their latest acquisition with a rapturous celebration.

That strike settled the hosts into their usual rhythm of relentlessly attacking at Old Trafford, but the chances were not as forthcoming as Fulham began to tighten up and grow into the game. However, it was the Cottagers’ wastefulness in going forward which led to United’s next big chance in the 25th minute.

Briggs’ burst forward from left-back ended in a poor pass inside and United’s subsequent counterattack, heavily orchestrated by Kagawa, allowed Young to sneak in behind Fulham’s defence only to shoot hopelessly over the bar from close range.

Though Sir Alex Ferguson will have been pleased with the comfortable nature of the game with half-time approaching, the determination of Fulham’s backline might have provided a concern until it was broken in fortunate circumstances. The visitors may have thought they had done enough to clear a corner from the right-hand side which was nodded away to the edge of the box, but Cleverley’s thunderous drive proved too hot to handle for Mark Schwarzer and provided Kagawa with the easiest  of tap-ins on his home debut.

Though they had been handed a slice of luck with the goal, the manner in which they capitalised on it underlined the ruthless mentality of so many Ferguson sides. A fine passing move released Young on the left again and the former Aston Villa man dinked intelligently to the far post for the approaching Rafael to nod home and put his side 3-1 up.

That goal may have given the Brazilian defender confidence, but just moments later he evidenced the side of his game which so often attracts criticism. Alex Kacaniklic muscled his way beyond the full-back on the left and, though Petric’s overhead effort from the subsequent cross was thwarted, only two incredible saves from De Gea could prevent Damien Duff and Petric again from getting the Cottagers back into the game.
And that missed chance proved the last contribution Jol’s side could make before the half-time whistle saw United go in as deserved leaders.

The game got back underway on a more even keel with the Cottagers appearing to have been subjected to their own version of ‘the hairdryer’ at half-time, but United were equal to their visitors’ attempts to get further up the pitch in a quiet first 15 minutes of the second period.

The decreasing tempo appeared to suit the London outfit, and their increasing grip on the game was underlined as they grabbed an unlikely goal with 65 minutes on the clock. A hopeful ball into the box from the left-hand side tempted De Gea into a needless attempt at a punch, and the Spaniard found himself sandwiched between Vidic and Petric with the ball coming off the former’s heel and bouncing into the goal.

Fulham were clearly buoyed by the goal and almost got themselves back on terms after a run from Dembele saw the Belgian find space in the box to force De Gea into an excellent reaction save. But that mini-revival appeared short-lived, with the introduction of Rooney and Welbeck from the bench in place of Young and Kagawa giving the hosts further impetus.

However, despite the arrival of such illustrious attacking talents, the Red Devils failed to add to their tally and even nearly surrendered two of their points in the dying seconds as De Gea was forced into a reaction save to keep out a drive from the edge of the box.

Chelsea 2-0 Newcastle
Hazard & Torres goals keep Blues top of Premier League
The attacking duo shone again and combined twice for first half strikes that saw off the Magpies and made it three top flight wins out of three for Roberto Di Matteo's side

Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres inspired Chelsea to a routine victory over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge

The attacking pair scored a goal each, with Hazard handing the Blues the lead from the penalty spot after Torres had been fouled by Vurnon Anita.

The Spaniard then found the top corner from 18 yards with a shot struck sweetly with the outside of his boot after his new team-mate had laid the ball off with a neat back-heel.

Newcastle improved after the break but chances remained few and far between, with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse kept largely at bay as Roberto Di Matteo's side returned to the top of the Premier League table.

Chelsea started the game without two of their most experienced players, as defender John Terry was ruled out due to a neck injury and Frank Lampard was left on the bench. Gary Cahill and David Luiz were therefore partnered at centre-back, with Raul Meireles alongside John Obi Mikel in midfield.

Anita made his first Premier League start in midfield for Newcastle, with Cheick Tiote unavailable with a knee injury. Fabricio Coloccini returned to the defence after a thigh strain.

The Blues introduced new signings Cesar Azpilicueta and Victor Moses to the Stamford Bridge faithful before kick-off but once the whistle had been blown all eyes, once again, were on Hazard.

The Belgian was the brightest light of a muted opening quarter of an hour and as Torres grew into the game Chelsea began to ask more questions of the Newcastle defence.

Anita's transition to English football, unfortunately for Newcastle, was not to be quite as smooth as Hazard's and when Torres skipped into the box the Dutch midfielder caught him on the knee with a wild swing of his left boot.

The referee, Phil Dowd, rightly pointed to the spot and Hazard, needing only a short run-up, coolly swept the resulting penalty into the bottom corner to Tim Krul's right.

Chelsea kept a firm grip on the first half thereafter. Torres was unfairly penalised for diving after knocking the ball past Coloccini, who caught the Spaniard as he continued his run, although Jonas Gutierrez likely would have retrieved the ball first regardless.

Cisse and Ba plugged away in attack at the other end while Hatem Ben Arfa hinted sporadically that he could be a threat, but Chelsea coped comfortably even in the absence of Terry.

Di Matteo's team remained patient and gave Newcastle a mountain to climb on the stroke of half-time. Unsurprisingly, Hazard was involved again, and his combinations with Torres are giving Chelsea fans reason to be increasingly cheerful.

The duo will combine for more goals after this one but not many will be of better quality. Hazard received the striker's pass on the edge of the box and, turning away from goal, completed the one-two by back-heeling into his path. Torres was left with little space in which to manoeuvre but instinctively struck a shot with the outside of his boot that flew into the top corner.

Newcastle's chances of playing their way back into the game after the break appeared remote, though Ben Arfa engineered enough space to shoot narrowly wide from the edge of the box and Ba saw a shot from a tight angle saved.

They did have more of a share of possession, however, although Torres' counter-attacking runs continued to prove dangerous and Coloccini, Santon and Anita all needed to either cut out through passes or halt the 28-year-old's progress in the Magpies' half.

With his side unable to create anything meaningful in open play, Alan Pardew turned to substitute and set-piece specialist Ryan Taylor shortly after the hour mark and the change very nearly – and perhaps should have – paid dividends. The full-back curled in a superb free-kick from the left that Cisse could only head over the bar from point blank range.

Bertrand flashed a vicious 20-yard shot past Krul's far post, with a corner awarded despite the Dutchman's claims to the contrary, and Ba should have done better when he shot too close to Cech from 12 yards after miscuing his initial effort.

The victory never looked in much doubt and Chelsea saw out proceedings to make it three league wins out of three in 2012-13.


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