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Weekend review

Red Devils march on as things go from bad to worse for Wenger

By Chris Burton.   Last Updated: 19/09/11 2:03pm

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Manchester United maintained their 100 per cent start to the season, Manchester City slipped up and it was a weekend to forget for Liverpool and Arsenal.

All three of the top flight newcomers won on the same day for the first time since 2007, while Everton and Sunderland picked up welcome successes.

The Premier League weekend kicked off at Ewood Park and an enthralling encounter between Blackburn and Arsenal provided thrills and spills aplenty. Seven goals were plundered in an end-to-end encounter, with the wind and rain doing little to dampen the spirits of Rovers boss Steve Kean. He desperately needed a win to ease the pressure on his shoulders, following a protest by a section of the home support, and he duly picked up three precious points in a 4-3 victory. Arsenal twice took the lead in the first half, with Gervinho breaking the deadlock on 10 minutes and Mikel Arteta notching his first for the club shortly after the half-hour mark. Rovers refused to lie down, though, with Yakubu's 25th minute strike ensuring they remained in contention at the interval. The Gunners imploded in the second half, as Alex Song and Laurent Koscielny put through their own net, while Yakubu bagged his second of the game. Marouane Chamakh stepped off the bench to hand the visitors a late lifeline, but they were unable to find a leveller and Arsene Wenger's men now find themselves sat 17th in the table with just four points taken from their five games so far.

Saturday proved to be a productive day for the Premier League new boys, with victories secured by Queens Park Rangers, Norwich and Swansea. QPR put in arguably the most polished display, as they disposed of Wolves 3-0 at Molineux. Joey Barton led from the front for Neil Warnock's men, with his eighth-minute opener setting the tone. Alejandro Faurlin doubled Rangers' lead two minutes later, with some scintillating football suggesting Warnock's summer transfer business is set to pay handsome dividends. One of his new recruits, DJ Campbell, put the seal on an impressive all-round performance three minutes from time.


Swansea were also 3-0 victors over the weekend, as they swept West Brom aside. The Swans launched a promotion push on the back of their home form last season and will be delighted to have secured their first three-point haul in the top flight. The Liberty Stadium proved to be a fortress too far for the Baggies, as they started slowly and never recovered. Paul Scharner's clumsy lunge on Joe Allen allowed Scott Sinclair to open the scoring from the spot, and the Swans were suddenly in full flight. Leroy Lita headed home a second on 24 minutes, before turning provider four minutes into the second half as his nod down was converted by Nathan Dyer.

Norwich were unable to make it a clean sweep of 3-0 wins, but they will have few complaints about leaving the Reebok Stadium on the right side of a 2-1 scoreline. The Canaries were able to take full advantage of some shambolic defending from Bolton to open up an unassailable lead. Anthony Pilkington bundled them in front on 37 minutes and Bradley Johnson powered home a classy header five minutes later. Bolton were staring a fifth successive home defeat in the face and saw their cause hindered further on the stroke of half-time when Ivan Klasnic saw red for butting Marc Tierney. Norwich shot themselves in the foot when they conceded a fifth penalty in as many games, but Martin Petrov's well-struck spot kick proved to be little more than a consolation for the hosts.

Elsewhere, Everton recovered from falling a goal behind to see off Wigan 3-1 at Goodison Park. Franco Di Santo edged the Latics in front with a deflected effort on 31 minutes, but Roberto Martinez's men were unable to hold on to that lead. Phil Jagielka restored parity inside two minutes and it appeared as though the spoils would be shared as the contest edged towards the final few minutes. There was, however, to be a late sting in the tail as Apostolos Vellios and Royston Drenthe netted their first goals in English football to ensure the points would be staying on Merseyside.

The final game on Saturday saw Aston Villa held 1-1 at home by Newcastle. Gabriel Agbonlahor appears to be closing in on the form that made him an England international not all that long ago, and he was among the goals again this weekend. He stroked home after 13 minutes, handing Villa the perfect start. Both sides had opportunities to add to the scoring in the first half, but a leveller did not arrive until the 57th minute. Leon Best was the man in the right place at the right time for the Magpies as he crashed the ball past Shay Given at the second time of asking. Villa's keeper put in another eye-catching performance, with Yohan Cabaye left cursing the Republic of Ireland international at the final whistle following a fantastic late stop.

Glaring miss

Sunday brought another hatful of goals, with Manchester United and Chelsea providing four in an eagerly-anticipated clash at Old Trafford. The Red Devils were in inspired mood once again as they cemented their standing at the top of the table. Chris Smalling was allowed to waltz in at the back post to nod them in front after just eight minutes, blowing the game wide open. Both sides contributed to a thoroughly entertaining encounter thereafter, with Nani's spectacular strike eight minutes before half-time marking a particular high point. The in-form Wayne Rooney then rolled in a third for the hosts shortly before the interval, leaving Chelsea to contemplate whether they were about to go the same was as Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams. Fernando Torres finally ended his goal drought inside the opening 60 seconds of the second half, but it was to be another day to forget for the Spaniard. He could, and should, have had a hat-trick, with one glaring miss after rounding David de Gea handing another crushing blow to his confidence. Torres' misdemeanour arrived after Rooney had shanked a penalty well wide of the target, with his standing foot giving way as he struck the ball. In the end it did not matter as United secured a fifth straight win in the league.

Manchester City were unable to preserve their own perfect start to the campaign as they suffered an uncharacteristic wobble at Fulham. Roberto Mancini's side looked to be heading for another three points after Sergio Aguero added another two goals to his impressive tally. The Argentine is already looking like money well spent, with the target found eight times in just five outings. His efforts were not enough at Craven Cottage, though, as Fulham staged a stirring fightback. Bobby Zamora hauled the Cottagers back into the game 10 minutes into the second half and City started to rock. Danny Murphy then saw a speculative strike take a wicked deflection on 75 minutes, with his effort nesting in the bottom corner after leaving Joe Hart wrong-footed. City remain second but Mancini has admitted that he needs more players if they are to compete on multiple fronts.

Tottenham have recovered well from opening defeats to United and City to pick up back-to-back wins, and their latest success has sent out an ominous message to the rest of the division. They put four past Liverpool at White Hart Lane, the side expected to be their closest challengers for a top-four finish this season. The Reds did not help their own cause as Charlie Adam and Martin Skrtel both saw red, but Harry Redknapp's side ruthlessly saw off the nine men. They led through Luka Modric's stunning opener by the time Liverpool saw their numbers reduced. Jermain Defoe then fired home shortly after Skrtel's dismissal and Emmanuel Adebayor displayed Lionel Messi-esque touch and poise to bag a second half brace and wrap up the points.

Sunderland will hope that their season is now up and running after claiming their first victory of the campaign in comprehensive style. Stoke were put to the sword at the Stadium of Light, with the goal-hungry Black Cats netting four times without reply. A rare effort from Titus Bramble put Sunderland on their way, before an own goal from Jonathan Woodgate had them two up inside 11 minutes. Things got even worse for the Potters before the break, as Craig Gardner saw a shot loop over Asmir Begovic and all but end the game as a contest. Sunderland took their foot off the gas after the interval, but were able to add a fourth shortly before the hour mark as Sebastian Larsson swept home a free-kick.

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