No revenge for Villas-Boas as Chelsea crush Spurs 4-2
Juan Mata on brilliant form as Chelsea, while Rio Ferdinand gets into trouble with Alex Ferguson
THE GAP is widening between the top three and the rest of the Premier League after a day in which Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs all won. Four points now separate third place Manchester City from Everton who are fourth.
Chelsea continue to set the pace with the Blues crushing Tottenham 4-2 at White Hart Lane. There was to be no revenge for Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas, sacked by Chelsea at the start of the year, but the Portuguese was gracious in defeat. “There was individual brilliance from Oscar, Mata and Hazard,” said Villas-Boas. "I think the kind of form Chelsea are showing is what we saw from Manchester City last year.”
Chelsea were without John Terry – banned for four matches for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand - but they took the absence of their captain in their stride. Gary Cahill gave the visitors the lead on 17 minutes with a wonderful volley before Spurs fought back after the interval with goals from William Gallas and Jermain Defoe.
But any hopes Spurs had of becoming the first side to inflict a league defeat on Chelsea this season were extinguished in a brutal final quarter. The magnificent Juan Mata struck twice in four minutes before Daniel Sturridge added a fourth – thanks to Mata’s perseverence - in the dying seconds of a pulsating match.
There was a similar scoreline at Old Trafford where Manchester United saw off Stoke to consolidate their position in second place, four points behind Chelsea.
Not for the first time this season, United conceded the first goal (Rooney putting into his own net), but they soon came good. Twice Rooney found the right net, while there were also goals for Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck. Michael Kightly scored a second for Stoke, the result of poor defending from Rio Ferdinand.
Ferdinand was later criticised by Alex Ferguson, not for his defending but for his refusal to wear an anti-racism T-shirt before kick-off. The United player, brother of Anton, declined to take part in the FA’s campaign because he believes the game’s governing body is merely paying lip service to the problem of racism in English football.
Asked what he thought of Ferdinand’s stance, Ferguson replied: "I am disappointed… It is embarrassing for me. He will be dealt with, no doubt about that."
There was nearly embarrassment for Manchester City against West Brom, with the Sky Blues leaving it late to pinch three points from the Hawthorns.
West Brom took the lead on 67 minutes through Shane Long but the reigning champions showed their mettle in the final ten minutes despite being a man down after James Milner’s first-half dismissal. Substitute Eden Dzeko levelled with a header and then the Bosnian striker stroked home Sergio Aguero’s pass on the stroke of full-time.
“I thought we played well, stood up to Manchester City, but they showed when they went to 10 men that they are champions for a reason,” said the Baggies’ boss, Steve Clarke.
Elsewhere and Arsenal’s descent into mid-table mediocrity continued with a 1-0 defeat away at Norwich. It was the Canaries’ first win of the season and they had Grant Holt to thank, the veteran striker firing home on 19 minutes after Alexander Tettey's shot had been blocked by Vito Mannone.
The Gunners now lie ninth, ten points behind Chelsea and below the likes of Fulham and West Ham. “It was a disappointing performance on our side,” conceded Arsene Wenger. “It was the first time of the season we were way below par.”
On a day Wenger will wish to forget, the Arsenal manager also saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain limp off with a hip injury that will sideline him for their midweek Champions League clash against Schalke.
In other results, a goal from Chris Baird was enough to see Fulham home against Aston Villla, a victory that lifts the Cottagers into eighth spot, one place behind London rivals West Ham who thrashed Southampton 4-1 with Mark Noble scoring twice.
Swansea beat Wigan 2-1 while Liverpool secured their first home win of the Premier League season with a 1-0 defeat of Reading. Raheem Sterling scored the all-important goal and Red’s boss Brendan Rodgers couldn’t hide his relief. “What gave me comfort was the ability and mindset of the players,” said Rodgers. “They have kept working and you have seen the perseverance, but you never want it to run and today was important."