The misery continued for Liverpool, Manchester City is starting to find real form and now looks like a title challenger and Manchester United and Chelsea suffered setbacks as the Premiership got back to business following the international break.
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Arsenal, Tottenham and Bolton all got wins Saturday to keep up the pace.
Sunday’s lessons: Chelsea is going to have its hands full keeping City at bay while the new Liverpool owners may well be wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into.
It wasn’t simply that Everton won the Merseyside derby, 2-0. It was the way they won it, making Liverpool look downright ordinary for so long that even a late burst by John Henry’s new toy looked out of place.
Roy Hodgson put on a brave face, but what else is the beleagured manager supposed to do? Nobody else can see much good in his outfit right now.
Carlos Tevez powered Manchester City past a Blackpool bunch that still hasn’t figured out that it has no business even being in this league. For much of the first half Blackpool gave as good as it got and when Marlon Harewood headed a 78th-minute equalizer there was still hope for a shock result. Tevez crushed that 60 seconds later and David Silva scored a goal of quite remarkable brilliance to make a late Blackpool strike mere window dressing on the 3-2 final.
Manchester United simply tossed away the full three points against West Bromwich Albion, allowing two quick second half goals, both coming off rare mistakes in the back, and fell to fourth place with the 2-2 draw.
The Red Devils had roared out to an early lead behind Mexican starlet Javier Hernandez’ fifth minute strike, so Nani’s goal twenty minutes later seemed to signal a routine day at Old Trafford. Instead, in the space of five minutes, WBA came back to steal a point, first seeing United defender Patrice Evra bundle the ball into his own net; then gleefully watching keeper Edwin van der Sar make a rare gaffe, to give Somen Tchoyi a free chance.
At Villa Park, an injury-depleted Chelsea could only muster a 0-0 draw in a game that grew in stature as time elapsed. Nicolas Anelka and Branislav Ivanovic both hit the frame for Chelsea, while Stephen Ireland and Ciaran Clark did the same for Aston Villa. But the biggest miss came with no time left on the clock, when Petr Cech made a heroic intervention to deny Nigel Reo-Coker a sure winner. Full credit to Cech, but Reo-Coker surely could have done better than to stab the ball past an open goal. While Chelsea remain atop the Premiership table, Brad Friedel’s Villa moved to eighth.
Arsenal tipped Birmingham 2-1 in an ill-tempered game that was decided by Marouane Chamakh. Birmingham first went up thanks to Nikola Zigic’s free header but a dubious penalty given after the Moroccan went down in the area allowed Samir Nasri to level. Chamakh then won the game with a lovely goal at the start of the second half. The game was marred by the ejection of young English starlet Jack Wilshere for a dangerous tackle late on Zigic.
Elsewhere, Clint Dempsey set up Fulham’s goal, but it would not be enough to hold off Tottenham, 2-1 winners thanks to Tom Huddlestone’s late strike. That goal was initially ruled to be offside by the linesman, but ref Mike Dean overruled his assistant, giving Spurs the three points. Eddie Johnson was a late sub for the Cottagers.
Stuart Holden and Bolton got a solid 2-1 win over Stoke while Marcus Hahnemann’s Wolverhampton slumped to fellow cellar-dwellers West Ham in an insipid 1-1 draw. Jonathan Spector remains on the outs for the Hammers.
In Germany, the unbeaten run ended for FSV Mainz, beaten at home 1-0 by Hamburg SV, so Borussia Dortmund, a Friday winner at 1. FC Koln, joined Mainz atop the Bundesliga. Mainz was seeking a record eighth straight win at the start of a German season but Peruvian Jose Paolo Guerrero’s last-minute goal ended the string.
Jermaine Jones’ Schalke got a tough 2-2 draw with Stuttgart, thanks to a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar penalty equalizer after the visitors had twice led. Jones was suspended for the game.
Bayern Munich hammered Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover 3-0, all three from Mario Gomez; DaMarcus Beasley dressed, but did not leave the Hannover bench. On Sunday, Michael Bradley‘s Borussia Moenchengladbach scored first at Hoffenheim but collapsed in the second half, conceding the equalizer in 40 seconds to Dema Ba, eventually losing, 3-1. The unhappiest man in the Bundesliga likely will have been Wolfsburg manager Steve McClaren. He watched Leverkusen score three in the last 18 minutes to rally from 2-0 down to win 3-2, then quickly nipped into the tunnel at the final whistle.
In Spain, Real Madrid got a pair of goals from Gonzalo Higuain, two from Cristiano Ronaldo and the usual silky playmaking from Mesut Ozil to crush Malaga, so sits on top of La Liga this morning. But Jozy Altidore‘s Villarreal can overtake them Monday if they collect all three points on the road in Alicante against Hercules.
The big match in Spain was decided by Carlos Puyol’s header off a Xavi cross in the second half as Barcelona edged Valencia, 2-1. Valencia had begun the weekend in first place and took a first half lead through Pablo. Andres Iniesta got Barca level before Puyol did a reprise of his World Cup goal that sunk Germany last summer.
In Italy, AC Milan gained a gritty 3-1 win over Chievo, but lost the top slot Sunday to Lazio, who downed Bari 2-0. Two goals from Alexandre Pato and a capper from Robinho gave the Rossoneri a taste of the top for at least a day. There continues to be no room for Oguchi Onyewu, who didn’t even make the bench.
Inter Milan made the sometimes-tricky trip to Sardinia and nipped Cagliari, 1-0 Sunday while Juventus found its scoring touch and powered past Lecce, 4-0.
In France, Charlie Davies’ rehab was overshadowed by his arrest for speeding last week, an event made more bizarre by his teammate’s confession that Davies was not actually driving. Then Montpellier hung a 2-0 defeat on Sochaux to add to the misery. Carlos Bocanegra‘s St. Etienne led early, but Nice won 2-1 on the Riviera. That meant a 0-0 draw at Lens was enough to keep Rennes atop the standings.
In Holland, Ajax warmed up for its Champions League match against Auxerre with 3-0 ease, Uruguyan Luis Suarez one of the scorers against NAC Breda. For its part, Auxerre was beaten 1-0 at home by Bordeaux.
And in Scotland, Maurice Edu and Rangers maintained their form with a 4-1 win over Motherwell and now must get ready for the visit of Valencia on Wednesday. Celtic was taken to the limit Sunday at Tannadice, but a pair of Gary Hooper goals were decisive in a 2-1 Hoops’ win over Dundee United. That means Celtic and Rangers, both perfect at 8-0-0, meet next Sunday in the first Old Firm clash of 2010-11. Celtic will be at home.
Jamie Trecker is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclay’s Premier League.