Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mixed Emotions For Big Three As Chelsea End Slump

Tonight featured three of the traditional big four in the Premier League as Chelsea finally ended a run of 6 winless games with a win over a gritty Bolton side. Bolton would have leapped Chelsea to 5th if they had won but found no way through a stubborn Chelsea defence as they held out for a slender 1-0 victory.

 Chelsea vs Bolton 1-0

It was Bolton who looked the better side in the first half, defending imperiously and were arguably the better side, with Chelsea failing to materialise anything. Chances were limited in this very tight encounter and Chelsea never looked like ending their worst run of form for over ten years.

But in the second half everything changed. On 61 minutes, Michael Essien barged his way through midfield and slipped through the narrowly onside Drogba who then crossed for Malouda to slot home into an empty net. It was undeserved for the hosts but it gave them a glimmer of hope. Bolton were a totally different side in the second half, with everything they had worked for in the first evaporating and it inevitably put them in a state of panic.

Chelsea held on to what looked like an unlikely victory as they leapfrogged London rivals Tottenham, back into 4th and came to within 2 points of Arsenal.

Wigan vs Arsenal 2-2

Arsenal were next up as they travelled to Wigan as they looked to end the night joint top of the table. It turned out to be an enthralling encounter as Arsenal were pegged back late on to draw 2-2. Arsenal were expected to tromp the Latics but that never say die attitude kicked in and Arsenal dropped valuable points in their quest to capture a title for the first time in six years.

It all started in the 17th minute. An Arsenal corner was counter attacked by Wigan as they moved the ball quickly and then Charles N'Zogbia ran half the pitch, dodging and weaving his way through before he was subsequently fouled by Laurent Koscielny who has endured a turbulent time since his arrival. Ben Watson calmly walked up and tucked it away superbly beyond Fabianski's reach, as the Latics were in dreamland. But that ecstasy was short-lived when in the 39th minute Chamakh lobbed over for Bentder, before Andrey Arshavin produced an expert finish from the rebound.

The Gunners then took the lead on the stroke of half time. Arshavin this time turned provider and sent Bendter, rather luckily, through one on one and he finished, beating Al-habsi at his near post.

But the drama had yet to conclude. A Wigan corner was met by the head of Steven Caldwell, who netted his first goal of the season. It may go down as an o.g. by Laurent Koscielny as on second viewing, he had actually got the head to it.

Arsenal continued to apply pressure but the Latics held on for a famous 2-2 draw. Wenger will be frustrated with this considering his team couldn't build on their scuppering of struggling Chelsea.

Liverpool vs Wolves 0-1

This game was a must win for either club. A win for Wolves would increase their chances of Premier League survival, while Liverpool could really do with a win under their belt in order to get their season up and running. Liverpool have endured a considerable amount of hardship under Roy Hodgson and it continued here against lowly Wolves at Anfield, in front of 41,614 hopeful fans.

Liverpool were boosted by the return of their influential captain Steven Gerrard as they looked to finally gain some momentum in the league. Wolves who had not won at Anfield in a massive 26 years were hoping for any kind of result to help them of the bottom of the table.

It was an entertaining game from the off, with Wolves looking the stronger of the two early on. The Wolves defence were nearly caught asleep as a quick free kick by Fernando Torres released Raul Meireles but he could only shoot at keeper Wayne Hennesey as the Wolves defence once again showed their defensive weakness. The first half belonged to Wolves as their passing at times resembled a certain Barcelona but they failed to find an end product.

The second half was controversial in it's own right and on 56 minutes Wolves took the lead. Irishman Stephen Ward pounced on a defensive error between  Kyrgiakos and Skrtel as he gave Wolves the slimmest of leads. In truth, Liverpool never looked like winning, or even scoring a goal as they succumbed to their third defeat in four games. There were cries among Anfield once again, some even shouting "Daglish" as a possible replacement for under fire Hodgson.

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