United And Chelsea
December 31, 2011 by staff
United And Chelsea, Table-topping Manchester City enjoyed the dream end to 2011 as most of their main title rivals dropped points: Manchester United were beaten by Blackburn, Tottenham could only draw at Swansea, while Aston Villa conquered Chelsea.
Manchester United blew the chance to end 2011 on top of the Premier League table as Blackburn profited from David de Gea’s late howler to earn a stunning 3-2 victory at Old Trafford. United fell 2-0 behind thanks to a brace from Yakubu – the first coming from the penalty spot – but two goals from Dimitar Berbatov pulled them level with 25 minutes to play, before Grant Hanley claimed a late winner after De Gea made a hash of a corner.
Manchester City, who play at Sunderland on Sunday, will now begin 2012 at the summit of the Premier League – and, on his 70th birthday, that will be an unpalatable truth for Sir Alex Ferguson. Blackburn boss Steve Kean looked to be hanging onto his job by a thread when Rovers lost 2-1 to Bolton before Christmas, but since then they have taken four points from trips to Anfield and Old Trafford.
Chelsea fell out of the Champions League places after throwing away a winning position in a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. Following an open start to the match, with Chelsea pushing forward and Villa looking dangerous on the counter, it was the hosts who took the lead on 22 minutes, as Didier Drogba slotted home from the penalty for his 150th goal in a Chelsea strip.
But the Blues’ advantage lasted just six minutes before Stephen Ireland scored at the second attempt – the first seemed to be thwarted by John Terry’s arm – having been set up by a cross from Charles N’Zogbia.
Fernando Torres entered the action in the second half and, with virtually his first touch, rattled the crossbar with a 30-yard strike. Chelsea were looking short of ideas, however, and from one of their many incisive counter-attacks Villa took the lead in the 83rd minute, Stiliyan Petrov coolly beating Petr Cech a couple of minutes before Darren Bent put the seal on the win.
Tottenham’s title push was dented as a late equaliser from Scott Sinclair gave Swansea a 1-1 draw. The hosts’ resilient defence was punctured when Rafael van der Vaart netted on 44 minutes – just the fourth goal the Welsh side had conceded at the Liberty Stadium in the league. The Dutchman rifled in with the help of a deflection off Ashley Williams after Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s cutback was deflected invitingly into his path.
Van der Vaart and Parker both went off due to injury following the break, and in the absence of the latter Spurs lacked a steadying influence in midfield. Swansea took full advantage with 11 minutes left when an error from Brad Friedel allowed Sinclair to pounce and score.
Robin van Persie failed in his bid to equal Alan Shearer’s goalscoring record – but he did find the target as Arsenal beat QPR 1-0 at Emirates Stadium. The Netherlands international needed to hit two in order to equal Shearer’s mark of 36 in a calendar year, which was set in 1995. Although he fell short, his strike was enough to ensure Arsenal leapt to fourth place.
Following a lethargic start, Arsenal finally gathered some momentum towards the end of the first half – and after laying siege to the QPR goal in the early stages of the second half, Van Persie found the target on the hour after being slid in by Andrey Arshavin. Gervinho and Theo Walcott both wasted decent chances in the closing stages as the Gunners scraped over the line.
Gary Cahill started against Wolves at the Reebok Stadium, but was unable to inspire Bolton to a victory in what could be his final game for the club before completing a move to Chelsea. Trotters defender Sam Ricketts celebrated his return to the side after injury by curling in from 25 yards midway through the opening period, showing he has the quality to step into Cahill’s shoes. But Bolton’s defensive fragility was highlighted just minutes into the second half as Steven Fletcher easily lost marker Zat Knight to head in Matt Jarvis’ free-kick.
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