zondag 2 september 2012

Premier League Report

Manchester City 3-1 QPR
Mancini's men survive scare with Tevez in top form
Once again, the defending champions were pegged back at the Etihad Stadium but Edin Dzeko replied immediately to secure three points, with the Argentine later making the game safe

EPL - Manchester City v Queens Park Rangers, Jack Rodwell and  Andrew Johnson
Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez scored second-half goals as Manchester City secured a 3-1 victory over QPR, but once again the defending champions were temporarily pegged back at the Etihad Stadium.

Yaya Toure gave City a first-half lead in what was, for the most part, a one-sided fixture, finishing from the centre of the penalty area after an unfortunate deflection had diverted the ball directly into his path.

Not for the first time this season, however, the home crowd was stunned by the less illustrious visitors when Bobby Zamora converted from point blank range after good work from Andy Johnson.

It took City less than two minutes, though, to restore their advantage as Dzeko headed home Tevez's cross before the Argentine deflected his strike partner's shot into the back of the net in added time.

Roberto Mancini reverted to a 4-2-3-1 after the mixed success of his recent 3-5-2 experiment, with Dzeko starting in attack in the absence of Sergio Aguero. Mario Balotelli, despite his eye problem, was on the bench.

Esteban Granero made his debut for QPR, with Alejandro Faurlin making his first league appearance after a long-term knee injury alongside him. Andy Johnson partnered Bobby Zamora in attack.

It was one-way traffic from the start. Corners looked City's most likely route to goal in the early stages, with Dzeko missing the target with one attempt and seeing another cleared off the line.

QPR sat extremely deep in their own half and, in bizarre fashion, their best chance of the opening 15 minutes did not come courtesy of one of their own players. Jack Rodwell had Joe Hart scrambling after an attempted tackle in the middle of the pitch flew towards the City goal and narrowly over the crossbar.

Eventually, the set-plays paid off. When Tevez attempted to return Silva's deep corner to the centre of the box, a deflection took the ball into the path of Yaya Toure, who swept a shot home with his left boot from 10 yards.

Robert Green may find himself quickly ousted as QPR's first-choice goalkeeper when Julio Cesar becomes available to Mark Hughes but if not for an excellent save from the England international, Silva would have doubled the lead after wriggling through a number of defenders and stabbing the ball towards goal from close range.

Silva had another chance when he raced on to Aleksandr Kolarov's fine through pass but Fabio chased back quickly to block the Spaniard's shot.

Matters did not immediately improve for QPR after the break. Superb play between Silva and Pablo Zabaleta saw the right-back overlap his winger to run on to a delicate through ball that he curled on to the crossbar with his weaker left-foot from a tight angle.

Once again, though, the defensive shortcomings and carelessness that City have suffered from this season surfaced. QPR equalised with near enough their first chance of the entire encounter when Johnson robbed Silva of possession and forced an excellent save from Hart, leaving Zamora to tap in the rebound.

This time, unlike against Southampton two weeks earlier, they recovered by scoring the next goal. Tevez latched on to a pass down the left-hand side of the penalty area and fired a head-high cross that Dzeko nodded in from a yard or two out to score the 200th league goal of Mancini's 100 match-long reign.

QPR might have made it a less than impressive six goals conceded in three games when substitute Nedum Onuoha headed a corner back across the penalty area but Ryan Nelsen skewed a volley well wide.

Indeed, Hughes' team enjoyed by far their best spell of the match in the closing stages as City backed off into their own half, but could not carve out the last chance they needed to steal a point.

And Tevez added a gloss to the result after the visitors' attacks had petered out by diverting a wild Dzeko shot past the unfortunate Green.

Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal
Podolski & Cazorla strikes hand Gunners impressive Anfield victory
The visitors dominated in midfield and the result duly went their way as the two new signings combined brilliantly with one-twos either side of half-time to seal the points

Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker - Liverpool-Arsenal

First goals for Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla ensured that an impressive Arsenal saw off Liverpool 2-0 in their Premier League clash at Anfield.

Both strikes were the products of a brilliant combination between the two new signings, each taking a turn to finish off a one-two with each other, though Steven Gerrard's lazy pass set up the counter for the German's opener.

After being caught in a tug-of-war between the two clubs over the summer, Real Madrid loanee Nuri Sahin made his debut for the hosts in the absence of injured-again midfielder Lucas Leiva, though there were no strikers available on the bench for Brendan Rodgers.

Theo Walcott, subject of speculation but still at the club after deadline day, dropped to the bench while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started in midfield for the Gunners and Vito Mannone continued in goal.

Arsenal saw plenty of the ball in the early stages but Liverpool threatened first, Fabio Borini finding space from 30 yards out to swipe wide. It was a sign of the visitors' high defensive line which was nearly exploited moments later when Luis Suarez shot past Per Mertesacker, who could only clumsily tug him back for a booking.

The Reds came close after 12 minutes when, thanks to Carl Jenkinson awkwardly clearing behind, Daniel Agger failed to get his head on Gerrard’s corner. The Dane had been totally unmarked and should have put his side ahead.

Arsenal had the better of possession in an otherwise even period, Suarez being cut off in the box by Mertesacker when he did get forward, as the midfield base of Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby impressed.

The Spaniard was deservedly booked, though, when Raheem Sterling burst past him on a dangerous dribble, tripping him up when it was clear that the forward could not be caught. Gerrard's free kick, though, was wasted.

The captain was at fault, too, on the half hour when he lazily misplaced a pass in the Arsenal half. The Gunners brought the ball out on a swift counter, Cazorla racing through the middle before threading it through to Podolski, whose finish under pressure from the tracking-back Glen Johnson was as cool as it was accurate.

Liverpool, shocked, came close a few minutes later when the gambling Sterling stepped around a marker in the box and cut a high-difficulty shot against the outside of the post. The Anfield crowd appealed for a penalty when the 17-year-old went down in the box moments later but Mertesacker had got enough of the ball with a fine tackle.

Arsenal could have gone into the break two up if Olivier Giroud had not snatched at his effort lamely wide when played in by a neat pass down the inside-left channel, with the waiting Kieran Gibbs' unmarked status going unexploited. The visitors went into half-time deservedly leading, though.

Suarez tested Mertesacker five minutes after the break when he appealed for a push by the German in the box. There appeared to be some contact but the forward went down a little quickly; his reputation may have swayed the benefit of the doubt against him.

The pressure on the Uruguayan went up when Borini's withdrawal for Stewart Downing left him as the only remaining recognised striker for the Reds and he came close to rewarding that faith when Vito Mannone tipped over Liverpool’s first shot on target shortly before the hour mark.

Sterling continued to pose the most consistent threat for the hosts as they dominated proceedings in search of an equaliser, his jinking run and cross unrewarded with a missed header.

Cazorla came forward with a reminder of Arsenal's potency moments later, though, slicing a shot a whisker past the post as well as Reina’s outstretched hand, with the Gunners content to wait for opportunities on the counter.

The Spaniard got that opportunity in the 67th minute. It came from another fine combination with Podolski, the German this time taking his turn to play Cazorla in with a one-two. The import from Malaga picked it up and thrashed it off a helpless Reina into the net.

With Liverpool looking downcast and unlikely to overturn the visitors’ superiority, Gerrard was very lucky not to get at least a yellow card for a rasping challenge on Vermaelen, catching the Belgian’s leg when he had no hope of beating him to the ball. It should have made worse an already humbling showing from the veteran midfielder.

It seemed only a question of whether Arsenal would score any more and Giroud got in the hunt, being fended off well by Jose Enrique after nodding a set-piece over the bar from a decent position.

The Reds nearly got back in it with a late scramble, substitute Jonjo Shelvey forcing Mannone into a save, with Vermaelen on hand to smartly clear the rebound before the hosts could pounce. What further possession that Liverpool had was unpenetrative and Arsenal held on for their first league win of the season.


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