The EPL is the most exciting league in the world because of its unpredictability, and the weekend was full of surprises. Leaders Chelsea dropped points at Old Trafford but Manchester City failed to make up some ground as West Ham dealt a blow to their title aspirations. Liverpool’s indifferent form continued with a stalemate against Hull at Anfield, while Newcastle shocked Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Adam Dow has the EPL Wrap Up for Matchday Nine.
Robin van Persie scored a dramatic equaliser well into injury time to salvage a point for Manchester United and ensured that Chelsea would not open up an eight point gap on title rivals Manchester City.
Didier Drogba’s 53rd minute header from Cesc Fabregas’ corner looked like it had given Chelsea their 8th win from 9 games, but Van Persie’s late intervention at the Stretford End sparked wild celebrations for most of the crowd at Old Trafford.
Jose Mourinho was visibly distressed at the performance of Phil Dowd throughout, and this was heightened when Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a foul on Angel Di Maria, which earned him a second yellow card.
Di Maria took the resulting free kick and though Thibaut Courtois saved well from Marouane Fellaini, United’s stand-in skipper was on hand to smash home the rebound from seven yards.
Chelsea were without star striker Diego Costa and Loic Remy was also injured, which left 36-year-old Drogba leading the line. The Ivorian might have lost a little speed but he was a menace throughout, holding the ball up well to link with Chelsea’s creative players behind him.
Mourinho will not be pleased with conceding such a late goal, especially as the Blues controlled the game for large periods. They were unable to convert that to the scoreboard though, and ultimately it told as United applied the pressure late on.
Despite the late goal, Chelsea remain four points clear of second-placed Southampton, but perhaps more crucially, six ahead of Manchester City.
Much of the pre-match coverage focused on the tactical battle between old colleagues Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal but neither side could finish clinically in the first half.
Chris Smalling did drag Branislav Ivanovic to the ground from Fabregas’ delivery inside the penalty area but Dowd gave nothing and the sides went into the dressing room at 0-0.
Courtois and David De Gea were excellent throughout, and they made crucial saves from Van Persie and Hazard respectively.
The deadlock was broken when Drogba took advantage of the marking mismatch as he outjumped Rafael, and Van Persie was unable to keep the ball out at the near post.
The Dutchman was to have the final say however, firing home in injury time after a scramble in Chelsea’s box following Ivanovic’s dismissal.
Diafra Sakho scored for West Ham for the sixth game in a row as Manchester City‘s pursuit of leaders Chelsea suffered a major setback.
City started the day five points behind Chelsea and were looking to close the gap ahead of the Blues’ trip to Old Trafford, but they fell behind after 21 minutes.
Alex Song, on loan from Barcelona, fed Enner Valencia, who did well to square for Morgan Amalfitano, and the Frenchman was left with a simple tap-in following Zabaleta’s slip.
Sergio Aguero missed an absolute sitter in the second half, firing into the woodwork, and Yaya Toure curled one onto the corner of the goalposts in an off day in front of goal for the champions.
City were made to pay for not taking their chances as Aaron Cresswell delivered for Sakho at the back post, and the Senegalese striker headed in. Joe Hart looked to have scrambled the ball away but the goal line technology ensured the Hammers doubled their lead after 75 minutes.
David Silva pulled a goal back for City almost immediately with a mazy run culminating in a fantastic curling effort with 13 minutes remaining but West Ham held firm to record a famous victory – much to the delight of manager Sam Allardyce.
City looked a different side to the one that destroyed Tottenham last weekend, perhaps rocked by their midweek draw with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
The visitors predictably had most of the ball, but the Hammers were guilty of wasting chances too, with Stewart Downing twice going close and Valencia and Collins missing opportunities.
Aguero, who scored four goals last week against Spurs, should have scored in the second half and was earlier denied by a diving save from Adrian, who tipped the Argentine’s effort onto the bar.
Silva eventually pulled a goal back with a fantastic run and goal and Adrian denied Jovetic in injury time to frustrate City and earn three points for West Ham.
Elsewhere, Liverpool and Hull City played out a 0-0 draw at Anfield. Mario Balotelli was the centre of attention after again failing to net his first league goal for the Reds. Hull manager Steve Bruce will be thrilled by his team’s performance after also securing a point on their travels away to Arsenal last weekend.
A goal from Sadio Mane was enough for Southampton to edge Stoke City 1-0 at St Mary’s Stadium. Graziano Pelle’s strike rebounded off the goalpost and Mane was first to react to take Saints above Manchester City and into second position, just four points off Chelsea.
Two awful defensive mistakes from Sunderland gifted Arsenal a 2-0 victory at the Stadium of Light. Wes Brown tried to pass the ball back to his Vito Mannone but scuffed the pass and Alexis Sanchez took full control, running at the Sunderland keeper and chipping over the Italian. It was a nightmare afternoon for Mannone, who dawdled too long on the ball in his own area and Sanchez pounced again to double Arsenal’s lead and complete the scoring.
A Saido Berahino penalty in injury time rescued a point for West Bromwich Albion against Crystal Palace. Palace led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Brede Hangeland and Mile Jedinak, who scored a penalty on the stroke of halftime after Pocognoli fouled Yannick Bolasie. Victor Anichebe headed in just after halftime from a corner but the goal should have been disallowed, as Craig Dawson elbowed Julian Speroni in the lead-up. The Argentinian keeper was replaced by Wayne Hennessey, who couldn’t keep out Berahino’s penalty after Palace captain Jedinak inexplicably fouled Anichebe in the area.
Swansea returned to the winners circle as Wilfried Bony scored both goals in a 2-0 victory over Leicester City. Bony was twice on the end of sublime team moves to end the Swans’ run of five games without a win following three wins in their opening three matches. The Foxes are now just a point off the relegation spots.
Everton recorded their first ever victory at Turf Moor with a 3-1 win over Burnley. Samuel Eto’o headed in Leighton Baines’ cross but an awful error from Romelu Lukaku gifted Danny Ings the equaliser. Lukaku soon atoned for his mistake with a scuffed effort that beat Tom Heaton and Eto’o made the game safe in the 85th minute with a curling shot from 25 yards. Eto’o was denied his hat-trick in injury time by the post after rounding Heaton.
Newcastle stunned Tottenham at White Hart Lane, recording a come from behind 2-1 victory. Emmanuel Adebayor headed in the opener after 18 minutes but the halftime introduction of Sammy Ameobi proved a stroke of genius from Alan Pardew, with the young striker scoring just 8 seconds after the interval. Remy Cabella teed up Ayoze Perez, who scored his first Newcastle goal with half an hour remaining, and the Magpies kept Tottenham out to take all three points.
Finally, QPR moved themselves off the bottom of the EPL table with a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa. Goals in each half from Charlie Austin were enough for Rangers to win at Loftus Road and relieve some of the pressure on Harry Redknapp in what has been a very difficult week for the club.