UK: Same old story in England and Scotland
Just three weeks into the new season and it’s a case of as you were in England and Scotland as familiar names lie in the top spots in each league. In England champions Chelsea are the only team with a 100% record following their 2-0 victory over Stoke City at the weekend but familiar foes Manchester United and Arsenal FC aren’t far behind. In Scotland the two Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers, are the only teams with a perfect three wins from three games following wins over Motherwell and St. Johnstone respectively. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action as both leagues take a break for international week.
There doesn’t appear to be any stopping Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea team at the moment. Fourteen goals scored in their first three Barclays Premiership games shows that the firepower at the Stamford Bridge club’s disposal is as reliable as ever with last season’s Golden Boot winner Didier Drogba carrying on where he left off last season having scored four goals so far including a first day hat-trick against West Bromwich Albion. He was on the score sheet again on Saturday as Chelsea beat Stoke City 2-0 with Florent Malouda also joining the Ivorian on four goals for the season with his 31st minute strike to give the Blues the lead. Arsenal FC and Manchester United are two points behind the league leaders with the Gunners edging second place at the moment through a better goal difference. Arsenal’s coach Arsène Wenger got the better of his old adversary Sam Allardyce in Saturday’s early kick-off against Blackburn Rovers with Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin scoring the goals in a 2-1 win. Later that day Manchester United easily disposed of a West Ham United team who remain rooted to the bottom of the table following a 3-0 victory for the Red Devils in a game which saw Wayne Rooney’s first league goal since March.
Aston Villa went up to fourth place on Sunday with a narrow 1-0 win over Everton thanks to a Luke Young goal in the 9th minute which arguably gives caretaker boss Kevin McDonald a winning conclusion to his short spell as coach as an announcement on a new full-time coach seems to be imminent. Everton, on the other hand, have started the season poorly with one point from three games but were unfortunate not to take anything from Sunday’s game as they had more shots and possession than their hosts but for boss David Moyes the pressure could soon be on if results don’t improve in the very near future. Manchester City were confident of following up Monday’s 3-0 drubbing of Liverpool FC with a win away at Sunderland AFC but the game would go wrong for City on two fronts. Carlos Tevez missed an open goal in what was an embarrassing moment for the Argentine and he would later rue that miss as City eventually lost to a Marcus Bent penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time to give Steve Bruce’s team all of the points. Liverpool FC won their first league game on Sunday but laboured to a 1-0 win thanks to a sole Fernando Torres strike midway through the second half against West Bromwich Albion.
In other results this weekend Tottenham Hotspur, fresh from UEFA Champions League qualification, surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Wigan Athletic who had lost both their opening matches by 4-0 and 6-0 before going to White Hart Lane. Hugo Rodallega’s 79th minute goal took his side out of the bottom three and relieved some of the pressure on his boss Roberto Martínez. Blackpool FC continued their maiden Premiership adventure with their first home match of the season against Fulham FC and a famous win was on the cards before Dickson Etuhu’s late equalizer gave the West London side a share of the points in a lively 2-2 draw over Ian Holloway’s side who have a respectable four points from three matches. Two further matches ended in draws as Newcastle United scraped a point away at Wolverhampton Wanderers thanks to Andy Carroll’s fourth goal of the season in a 1-1 draw while on Sunday Bolton Wanders came from two goals down at home to Birmingham City to gain a welcome point in a 2-2 draw at the Reebok Stadium.
The Scottish Premier League has a familiar look to it after three matches with Glasgow Celtic leading their eternal rivals Rangers by goal difference after this weekend’s matches. After Rangers had come from behind to beat bottom club St Johnstone at Ibrox Park on Saturday it was important for Celtic boss Neil Lennon to keep up his 100% winning record in the SPL since taking over from Tony Mowbray at the end of last season. The Bhoys travelled to Fir Park to play Craig Brown’s Motherwell FC who, like Celtic, were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday in the play-off round. There were no goals in the first forty-five minutes of the match and the Celtic fans began to get impatient as the second half dragged on but then came the decisive moment in the 73rd minute after Celtic’s Shaun Maloney was brought down in the penalty area with Motherwell’s Steve Saunders shown a red card for his trouble. Daryl Murohy stepped up to score his first goal for Celtic to gift the Hoops a 1-0 win which allowed his team to leapfrog over Rangers at the top of the SPL. Rangers were on top after goals from Saša Papac and Kenny Millar gave the Gers all three points after coming from behind after St Johnstone’s Danny Grainger had scored an amazing goal to give the Perth-based side the lead. As usual the Old Firm take control of the league early on and nobody expects them to relinquish the leadership for the remainder of the season.
In the other SPL matches at the weekend the only other 100% record going into Matchday 3 was lost as Aberdeen FC, who had beaten Hamilton Academicals and St Johnstone in their opening two games, were surprisingly beaten at home by a Kilmarnock side who had yet to score a point before going to Pittodrie Stadium on Saturday. Jamie Hamill rounded Aberdeen keeper Mark Howard to slot the ball home two minutes into stoppage time to give Killie a much-needed first win of the season. Dundee United, who had high expectations following their Scottish Cup win last season, are second bottom in the table and remain without a win after Morgaro Gomis sneaked an equalizer five minutes from time in the Arabs’ 1-1 draw away at Hearts of Midlothian. Craig Dargo scored the only goal of the game as St Mirren won their first game of the season against a Hibernian side who have lost their last two games and are in a tight bunch of five clubs who have three points in the table. Another team to gain their first win of the season this weekend was Hamilton Academicals who beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 thanks to an opening minute goal by Dougie Imrie on Saturday.