Premier league review: 41 goals as Newcastle surge
Day of football madness as Arsenal draw 4-4 and Wolves beat Man United
It will go down as one of the most extraordinary days in the history of the Premier League, the madness on the pitch just five days after the madness off the pitch that saw over £120m of transfers on the final day of the transfer window.
There were a record 41 goals in eight Premier League matches on Saturday, eight of them at St James' Park where Newcastle staged one of the most remarkable comebacks ever against Arsenal. Just as astonishing, however, were events at Molineux where bottom-placed Wolves ended Manchester United's 29-game unbeaten run in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory that keeps the title race alive and kicking.
With their match against Wolves match an evening kick-off, United knew that victory would extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points and they began like a team on a mission. Nani put them one up after just three minutes with a surging run that left George Elokobi for dead and ended with the Portuguese winger firing past Wayne Hennessey in the Wolves goal.
A rout looked likely when, a couple of minutes later, Rooney wasted a great chance to extend the lead with a weak shot that Hennessey gratefully gathered. And then from nowhere came the Wolves' equaliser on ten minutes, Elokobi making amends for losing Nani by rising to head home a Matt Jarvis corner.
Nani and Dimitar Berbatov had opportunities to restore United's lead but both were squandered and there was no such profligacy from the hosts when Nenad Milijas's free-kick on the right flank swung into the United area. Kevin Doyle and Elokobi out-jumped the United defence and it was Doyle who got the crucial touch, nodding the ball past the despairing Edwin van der Sar to put Wolves 2-1 up five minutes before the break
Twice in recent weeks – against Blackpool in the league and Southampton in the FA Cup – United have come from behind to win matches in the second half but there was to be no repeat this time as Wolves clung on for one of the most famous wins of recent years.
United boss Alex Ferguson was magnanimous in defeat, saying: "I said before the game, I do think Wolves are in a false position. They are a handful at the set-pieces, as it proved."
Nonetheless Ferguson was full of praise for his players after watching his side suffer their first league defeat of the season. "The players have done us proud. It was an opportunity for us to continue the great run we've been on, but the consistency we have shown in the last two months has been terrific."
Ferguson's angst at seeing his side lose would have been tempered by events at St James' Park where Arsenal roared to a 4-0 half-time lead only to see Newcastle stage an incredible comeback in the second half to take a share of the points. Theo Walcott opened the Gunners' account in the first minute and two minutes later they were two up when Johan Djourou headed home.
Robin van Persie made it 3-0 on ten minutes and the Dutchman then added his second on 26 minutes as Newcastle fans looked on in disbelief. Some walked out at half-time but most supporters remained and were rewarded with a magnificent comeback.
The catalyst was the dismissal on 50 minutes of Abou Diaby, the Arsenal midfielder getting his marching orders for manhandling Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan. Suddenly Newcastle refound their confidence but it wasn't until 68 minutes they found the net when Barton scored a penalty after Laurent Koscielny's foul on Leon Best.
Best made it 4-2 on 75 minutes and then eight minutes later Barton converted another penalty – Koscielny this time fouling Mike Williamson – to ensure a nerve-wracking final few minutes for all concerned. And the unimaginable happened three minutes from the end when Cheik Tiote fired home from the edge of the box after the shambolic Arsenal defence failed to deal with a free-kick.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger looked in a state of shock afterwards when he appeared before the media, admitting that he didn't know how his players would respond to such a heavy blow: "Psychologically the damage is a bit bigger tonight because everybody is of course very, very disappointed in the dressing room but only the future will tell.
"I thought we were too worried about protecting our lead, down to 10 men instead of continuing to play and reigniting the pressure but I feel we were very unlucky with some decisions as well but I cannot do anything about that."
Wenger refused to say too much about the decisions that went against Arsenal but one of his players vented his fury on Twitter. Writing on the social networking tool, Jack Wilshere wanted to know why Diaby had been sent off but not Nolan for an alleged foul on Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny: "Inconsistent refereeing needs to stop. Its killing the game. If Diaby goes..Whats the difference between that and Nolan on our keeper!?? #joke"
Meanwhile, results elsewhere keep the title race wide open with Manchester City's 3-0 defeat of West Brom meaning the Sky Blues remain in third but they are now just one point behind Arsenal and five shy of United. Tottenham's 2-1 defeat of Bolton brings them level on points with Chelsea (who play Liverpool today) while Sunderland lost ground on the leading pack, losing 3-2 away at Stoke.
At the other end of the table, Everton moved further out of the relegation zone with a thrilling 5-3 victory against Blackpool - Louis Saha scoring four for the Tofffees – and Wigan's 4-3 defeat of Blackburn lifts them out of the bottom three. Finally the midtable clash between Aston Villa and Fulham ended all-square at 2-2. ·