Reporters' notebook

The Premier League returned after the international break and, here, Sky Sports looks at some of the talking points from the domestic action

Last Updated: 17/09/12 11:00am

  • Share:

Sky Bet

Stoke City 1 Manchester City 1

Matt Briggs

Manchester City will look back on Saturday's tussle with Stoke and Peter Couch's controversial goal as two points dropped, but in truth they left their charge for victory too late.

Asmir Begovic made a brilliant late stop to deny Javi Garcia his second goal of the game and Ryan Shawcross heroically cleared off the line from Edin Dzeko with the last kick of the game, but City were below par in the second half as a whole.

After dominating the first period and eventually levelling through Garcia, Roberto Mancini's men were disappointing after the break and Stoke's resolve deservedly earned them a point.

New boy Garcia had a fine debut on a ground where reputations are rarely respected. The former Benfica man was a dominant figure in midfield and with an eye for goal he will be a useful acquisition for City as they bid to retain their Premier League crown. Mancini will have been slightly worried, though, by City's ineffectiveness in attack with both Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez kept quiet by Stoke's rearguard. Sergio Aguero was missing once again, but reports of his impending return will cheer up the City boss.

Stoke meanwhile, put in a trademark battling performance and made it four draws from four games in the Premier League. They proved they will be a tough nut to crack this season, but goals could be hard to come by. Michael Owen made a late appearance as a substitute and when he gets his match fitness he will surely be looking to replace the ineffective Jon Walters.

Stoke's other debutant, Steven Nzonzi, made a strong start to his Potters career and looked assured in possession and strong in the tackle and he could well become a firm favourite with the Potters faithful.

Norwich City 0 West Ham United 0

Simon Crawford

This was a game that had everything but a goal as two committed sides delivered a rousing encounter at Carrow Road.

There were chances at both ends, full-blooded tackles and no shortage of skill in what was a terrific advert for the Premier League.

Norwich will feel the most disappointed at not emerging with all three points having created the better chances.

And they will also argue they should have had a first-half penalty when James Collins brought down Andrew Surman right on the edge of the box.

But referee Chris Foy deemed it to be a free-kick which came to nothing and Collins escaped with a booking.

Young substitute Harry Kane might have won it late on but lacked the composure to stick the ball away, but overall a 0-0 draw that was worth the admission money.

Arsenal 6 Southampton 1

Jon Holmes

Was this rout a sign that the Gunners will be more ruthless this season after all? Having squandered a host of chances against Sunderland and Stoke in their first two Premier League games, Arsenal went to Liverpool and were clinical on the counter-attack when it mattered, scoring twice from five shots on target in total. The possession stats against Saints at the Emirates were 50-50, yet Arsene Wenger's had nine shots on target and ended up with six goals - impressive even if Jos Hooiveld and Nathaniel Clyne both put the ball through their own net. There were some classic Arsenal moments - Mikel Arteta lifting the ball coolly over the left-back for Gervinho's first goal, Santi Cazorla's sublime first touch in midfield after a long clearance and er, a Gunners goalkeeper dropping a clanger (sorry Wojciech). The midweek trip to out-of-form Montpellier should hold no fears and then it's clashes with champions Man City at the Etihad on Sunday, before Chelsea come calling at the end of the month. This was an ideal warm-up for those fixtures, and bodes well.

Fulham 3 West Bromwich Albion 0

Lewis Rutledge

All eyes were on Dimitar Berbatov before kick-off and he did not disappoint the Craven Cottage faithful on his home debut, but perhaps the most pleasing aspect of his performance was the work he put in for the team and the early signs are that Martin Jol could have pulled off one of the signings of the summer.

There were other impressive displays for Fulham, too, with Sascha Riether really catching the eye at right-back and Alex Kacaniklic a bright spark on the left wing, while Steve Sidwell and Chris Baird were effective in the heart of midfield.

For West Brom, this was a disappointing setback after going unbeaten through their first three games, and they contributed to their own downfall in several ways, most obviously when Peter Odemwingie was shown a straight red card for an idiotic kick at Riether.

The Baggies were already on the back foot at the time, though, and it was their lack of adventure that had allowed Fulham to take control as they retreated far too deep into their own territory almost from the first whistle.

Aston Villa 2 Swansea City 0

Raz Mirza

Aston Villa secured their first win of the season and their first home win since March with a hard fought victory against a talented Swansea side.

The 2-0 win was a well-deserved three points for Paul Lambert's side, who fought like lions from the first whistle until the last.

New skipper Ron Vlaar kept the backline together and the big Dutch defender was committed to the cause with some full blooded challenges, which the home fans enjoyed immensely.

Full-back Matthew Lowton does not seem too phased at having to play in front of huge stadiums week in, week out, despite making the jump up from League One with Sheffield United to the Premier League and took his goal very well.

The youngster impressed on the day, as did goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The American kept his goalkeeping jersey ahead of Shay Given and he was mightily impressive as he made a couple of outstanding stops to deny Ashley Williams from close-range and then Nathan Dyer from distance.

Villa are a different unit under Lambert than they were last season under Alex McLeish and the whole atmosphere at the ground has changed with the home supporters given renewed optimism ahead of promises to be an exciting season ahead.

Michael Laudrup was clearly unhappy as his Swansea side failed to keep enough possession to really hurt Villa, although the credit has to go the home side for hunting their opponents down and forcing them into errors.

Sunderland 1 Liverpool 1

Pete O'Rourke

There were some encouraging signs from Liverpool and how they will play under Brendan Rodgers in the draw at Sunderland.

The Reds dominated for long proceedings of the game and really would have taken all three points at the Stadium of Light with a bit of luck.

Sunderland scored from their only real attempt of the game when Steven Fletcher converted Craig Gardner's inviting cross, but Luis Suarez scored a deserved equaliser for the visitors.

Liverpool twice struck the woodwork in the second half through Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard, but the big concern for Rodgers is his side's failure to take their chances.

This was a game they should have won, but they look toothless in attack with Fabio Borini still trying to settle in and Rodgers short of forward options.

Sunderland will be happy with the point, but like Liverpool they look like they will struggle for goals this season unless they can get more service to Fletcher.

Reading 1 Tottenham 3

Andy Schooler

Spurs claimed their first win of the season at a canter. They were clearly the better side for the vast majority of this match and while their fans would have been worrying that the game had not been put to bed with 20 minutes to go, any other result would have been an injustice.

Jermain Defoe produced another livewire display, one which leaves you wondering how he has struggled to nail down a regular starting slot at White Hart Lane in the past. Andre Villas-Boas may not have captured a renowned goalscorer in the transfer window but if Defoe continues in this form it will not be a problem.

In midfield, Gylfi Sigurdsson shone, particularly in the first half when he set up the first goal, while at the back William Gallas and new boy Jan Vertonghen hardly put a foot wrong.

Having said that, Reading's attack offered very little. Adam Le Fondre spiced things up a little in the second half and will surely get a start in the Royals' next game. However, they were susceptible at the back and goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, in for the dropped Adam Federici, produced a basic error which will have boss Brian McDermott wondering if he made the right choice. Based on this evidence, Reading - already second bottom - face a long, hard winter.Manchester United 4 Wigan 0

Mark Buckingham

Danny Welbeck is in danger of replacing Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young as a player who has a reputation of going to ground too easily in search of penalties. After not getting a decision in England's draw with Ukraine in midweek, Welbeck did 'earn' United the chance of an early lead when he hit the deck as Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi came out to meet him. There was nothing in the challenge, and there was perhaps a sense of justice about the fact Al Habsi saved Javier Hernandez's penalty.

Alexander Buttner enjoyed a satisfactory debut for United, having a hand in Hernandez's goal before scoring himself and keeping a clean sheet. As Sir Alex Ferguson said afterwards, the Dutch left-back is 'raw and has a lot of rough edges', and it is probably too early to say he could be the long-term replacement for Patrice Evra. However, he displayed a willing attitude and looks the type of player to improve markedly the more he plays in the Premier League.

The contrast in pace between United's performance in the first half and second half was noticeable, with a distinct lack of tempo evident before the break. It is something that can happen to United at home, particularly when Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs all start in midfield. However, the trio helped to inject pace after the interval, with Scholes marking his 700th appearance for United with the opening goal.

Nick Powell has been tipped to fill Scholes' boots in the long term at Old Trafford and he marked his United debut with the fourth goal. It bore some of Scholes' trademarks, with a little jink on the edge of the box before a thumping right-footed drive flew past Al Habsi. Getting bits of experience here and there in the top flight, like in this game, will only aid Powell's development.

If there was a contrast between the first half and second half for United, the same can be said for Wigan, whose defensive performance after the break bordered on the inept. Though there were a couple of occasions when United got in behind in the first half, Wigan were generally compact and organised, but the second half was a mess, with players out of position, shying away from challenges and Al Habsi at fault for a couple of goals.

Queens Park Rangers 0 Chelsea 0

Peter Fraser

Anton Ferdinand's pre-match refusal to shake hands with John Terry or Ashley Cole overshadowed this 0-0 draw in which the action after the kick-off will not go down as a classic London derby.

Amid all the blood and thunder, neither side really did enough to win the game at Loftus Road and Eden Hazard wasted the best chance in the final minutes when scooping a horrible miss over the crossbar.

Hazard's performance was probably his worst since joining Chelsea as he faded after a bright start, but the high standards he has set in his time in England were evident in a wonderful backheel to Terry in the second half.

The performance of Fernando Torres will be a slight worry for Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo after the Spaniard cut an isolated and sluggish figure before storming down the tunnel after his late substitution.

  • Share:


Most Popular


Lessons for England

Lessons for England

The 3-4-3 formation, Lallana's vital role and Michael Keane's audition. Five lessons from England's defeat to Germany.

Boxing's football ground fights

Boxing's football ground fights

Kell Brook will defend his world title against Errol Spence Jr at his beloved Bramall Lane, joining a dream dozen to have boxed at football grounds.

WATCH & PLAY: Offside or on?

WATCH & PLAY: Offside or on?

If you were handed the offside flag, how do you think you'd get on? As part of Support The Ref week, we're testing your decision-making...