It was a weekend for ruthless finishers as chance creation took second fiddle to chance conversion. Three high profile match-ups saw teams with all the shots fall short to teams with all the goals.
Clint Dempsey’s goal proved to be the winner in Tottenham’s first victory at Old Trafford since 1989. His side was quick to strike, as Jan Vertonghen gave Spurs the lead just two minutes into play. Gareth Bale doubled the lead in the 32nd minute as the visitors took advantage of a Manchester United side reeling from the early onslaught and struggling to deal with the energy of their opponents.
The defining period of the game proved to last just four minutes, as United came out firing in the second half, lifted by the introduction of Wayne Rooney. Goals in the 51st and 53rd minutes looked to spark United into life, but Dempsey’s goal between them in the 52nd minute proved decisive.
Tottenham had to fight to hold onto that lead as they spent the remainder of the game pinned back into their own half by United. Nowhere was their defensive posture more apparent than the lopsided possession stats, which favored United 74% to 26%. The home side also produced more shots, 16 total and seven on target whereas Tottenham was limited to 10 and four. Staunch defensive work and efficient finishing locked up the three points and an historic win.
Arsene Wenger’s frustrated sideline tantrums were well earned against Chelsea. Despite playing solid enough defense in open play, he was forced to watch as his side conceded two goals from two set pieces. Each was the result of a careless tackle by center back and captain Thomas Vermaelen and generally poor organization.
The Gunners started brightly enough, and Chelsea’s first goal came against the run of play. It looked like the home side might rally as Gervinho produced a fine finish in the 42nd minute to square things up before halftime. Unfortunately for the home fans, a second set piece goal from almost an identical position as the first shortly into the second half was enough to knock the wind out of Arsenal’s sails.
What many thought could prove a statement game for the Gunners proved to be just that, only for Chelsea. The Blues, despite holding the short end of the possession stick and taking only 10 shots to Arsenal’s 17, finished the chances they took, converting two of their three shots on target all game. They walk away as winners at the Emirates and clear league frontrunners.
Newcastle once again found itself the beneficiary of a controversial call in the 83rd minute, with Reading looking bound for its first win of the season. In the game’s final minutes, Magpies forward Demba Ba stole a point for the away side with what appeared to be a headed equalizer. Except that the ball missed his head and hit his hand instead.
It was a harsh way for the Royals to drop points at home, especially at the hands of Alan Pardew. They looked to make it an embarrassing result for their former manager, who just signed an eight-year contract with Newcastle, after Jimmy Kebe and Noel Hunt tallied second-half goals to give them a 2-1 lead. Ba had managed to tally an equalizer in the 58th minute before his ridiculous second goal in the final 10.
Numerically, Reading was much the better side, giving Newcastle 53% of possession but dominating in front of goal. The Royals produced 16 shots, and five on target, compared with just nine for Newcastle, who scored with their only two shots on goal.
What trends did you notice this week? Let us know in the comments.