Premier League round-up

Image: Robin van Persie's goal keeps Manchester United clear of City at the summit

It's as you were at the Premier League summit as both Manchester clubs won maximum spoils but Chelsea had to settle for a draw again.

United and City continue to set the pace; Chelsea drop home points again

After a congested night of Premier League action that saw all but four of the top flight's sides in action, it is a case of as you were at the summit as both Manchester clubs took maximum spoils while Chelsea toiled again. Manchester United were perfunctory rather than scintillating as they claimed a 1-0 defeat of West Ham, while the same could be said of neighbours City's 2-0 win on their travels to Wigan. For Chelsea it gets no better for Rafael Benitez as the Stamford Bridge faithful were left less than enamoured with a goalless stalemate against Fulham, while Everton and Arsenal could not be separated in an altogether more engaging 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. West Brom's dream start to the campaign came to a crashing halt at Swansea City, Liverpool's improved form of late fell short at Tottenham, while Southampton and Norwich had to share the points at St Mary's. Newcastle continue to struggle as they took the lead at Stoke City but eventually fell to a late 2-1 defeat. The quickest Premier League goal of the season was delivered at Old Trafford as West Ham lasted just 33 seconds before Robin van Persie gave Manchester United the lead. It would be cruel to say this was a contest that was exciting for 33 seconds but not untruthful. James Collins' lunging effort to block the Dutchman's attempt to guide the ball towards goal had only the effect of sending it spinning over Jussi Jaakelainen. United looked to be playing within themselves pretty much thereafter as they dominated possession but lacked the craft and vigour to further threaten the scoreline. For their part, West Ham never lacked commitment but posed a threat only sporadically as a set-piece looked their only likely route to goal. Manchester City continue to keep the pace at the business end of the table thanks to a three-point haul gleaned from the shortest of trips to Wigan. For large spells of an all North West affair Wigan were a match for the champions but once Mario Balotelli, handed a rare start, broke their resistance with his first league goal of the season there was only ever to be one winner. Ali Al Habsi will win the Latics more points than he loses them, but was badly at fault when he spilled Gareth Barry's pulled effort on 68 minutes to allow Balotelli to convert at the second attempt. If City's first was scrappy their second was spectacular as James Milner, a second half replacement for Javi Garcia, unleashed a howitzer from range to give Al Habsi not a prayer. Benitez's second game as Chelsea manager proved to be even more turgid than his first, as the misfiring Blues were held at home by notoriously poor travellers Fulham. There were no repeats of the 'Benitez out' placards of the weekend but it was telling that half-time chants of 'bring him on' to greet Charlie Cooke's appearance were only semi tongue-in-cheek. The Chelsea faithful had to settle for the introduction of Juan Mata, a surprise omission from Benitez's starting XI, but it was John Arne Riise who was guilty of squandering a gilt-edged opportunity midway through the half. Fernando Torres was equally profligate as he failed to register late on but in truth had Chelsea taken anything more than a point from an instantly forgettable West London derby, it would have been more than they deserved. Theo Walcott marked his return to Arsenal's starting line-up after a two-game absence through injury with the first goal of the night as he caught Everton napping after just 53 seconds. After feeding the ball into Aaron Ramsey on the edge of Everton's box he ran around his team-mate before taking a reverse pass into his stride, to beat Tim Howard with a clipped finish that took a significant deflection off Tony Hibbert. It was a lead they held until just shy of the half hour mark as Marouane Fellaini, back from suspension, registered with a curling daisy-cutter from the edge of the area that punished some slack Bacary Sagna passing. Sylvain Distin went close to completing the turnaround with a powerful second half header only to be denied by Wojciech Szczesny's fine stop. Gareth Bale proved unplayable for Tottenham's first goal at home to Liverpool as his rampaging run down the left flank saw him bulldoze past Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel before teeing up a simple finish for Aaron Lennon. With Liverpool struggling to find anything like the form that had seen them go on an eight-game unbeaten run in the league prior to their trip south, it was no surprise when Bale, courtesy of a deflected free-kick, extended Tottenham's advantage in the 16th minute. Lacking any real inspiration Liverpool owed their route back into the contest to a large slice of good fortune as Lennon's clearance off the line from Gerrard's header smashed off the face of Bale for the most comical of own goals after the break. It was to prove a false dawn as Spurs saw out the game to claim a deserved victory. Southampton's acclimatisation to life back in the big time slowed somewhat after a recent revival as they could only draw at home to Norwich. Predictably it was Rickie Lambert who broke the deadlock at St Mary's, albeit in controversial circumstances, when the ball appeared to come off his arm before he stabbed in from close range Adam Lallana's set-piece. If Norwich felt hard done to by the manner in which they fell behind there was more than a hint of fortune about their leveller, as Robert Snodgrass' tepid free-kick beat Southampton's less than convincing Paulo Gazzaniga at his near post on the stroke of half-time. After what was the most insipid of first periods at the Britannia Stadium just two minutes were needed after the interval for Newcastle to break the deadlock at Stoke. City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic will be disappointed with his part in proceedings as he spilled Demba Ba's effort from range to allow Papiss Cisse to snap up the rebound. Begovic redeemed himself thereafter as wastefulness from Newcastle ensured Stoke were never out of the contest and so it proved with nine minutes left when from substitute Cameron Jerome's pinpoint cross Jon Walters delivered an equally impressive header. Jerome was not done there though, far from it, as his next contribution proved to be the winner. Walters' lofted pass saw Kenwyne Jones, another substitute, nod into the path of Stoke's super-sub to guide a low finish past Tim Krul. Confidence in the West Brom camp could not have been higher as they headed to Swansea chasing a fifth consecutive top flight win for the first time in 34 years, but within 11 minutes they found themselves two goals down. Michael Laudrup's Swans were at their fluid best from the start at the Liberty Stadium and it was top goalscorer Miguel Michu's ninth goal of the season, a close range finish from Pablo Hernandez's pull-back, that gave the home side a ninth minute lead. Two minutes later and Swansea got the second goal their incisive and probing passing deserved as the in-form Hernandez's cross was somewhat fortuitously converted, as Jonas Olsson's challenge saw the ball rebound off Wayne Routledge and past Boaz Myhill. It got worse for the bedraggled Baggies before half-time as for a third time they were opened up down Swansea's left, as Ben Davies' low cross was converted by Routledge's unconventional but ultimately effective finish. Equally effective was the snapshot Romelu Lukaku produced from Chris Brunt's corner to reduce the deficit at the end of an engaging half. It proved to be the scantest of consolations as there were no further changes to the scoresheet in a more subdued second period.

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