MANCHESTER UNITED vs. EVERTON: Man U refused to take their eyes off the prize despite Wednesday's mammoth sized Champions League encounter with Real Madrid on the horizon, and much like a week earlier the Red Devils were more blue-collar than business-like in their approach. After sending a shot foul from the sweet spot just ten minutes into the contest, the caped crusader Robin Van Persie made amends three minutes later when he spotted Ryan Giggs all by his lonesome at the top of the box, and the ancient wonder entered the record books by becoming the first player to record a goal in each of his 21 seasons. For good measure, Giggs also is the third oldest player to score a goal in Premiership history. RVP then made Everton RIP when he beat Tim Howard with his lethal left boot just seconds from intermission, and there would be no repeat of the season opener when Everton defeated MU 1-0 on a Marouane Fellaini strike; Sir Alex Ferguson certainly did his homework, and Phil Jones was more than up to the task of marking the afro-coiffed midfielder, performing so well he could likely report what brand underwear the Belgian was wearing. Manchester United 2, Everton 0.
SOUTHAMPTON vs. MANCHESTER CITY: Earlier in the week, Roberto Mancini brushed aside concerns that his team had fallen too far behind United in the race for Premiership supremacy much like a Massachusetts homeowner spent the weekend brushing snow off his automobile. But, as Ray Lewis said in response to a Rex Ryan boast, "a coach should not write checks that a team can't cash;" the defending champions saw their check bounce on this occasion, and charitable donations from midfielder Gareth Barry and netminder Joe Hart would seal their fate. Holding midfielder Yaya Toure is the heartbeat of Man City's inner being, but despite his return from the African Cup of Nations tournament, the team lacked flair as well as charisma. Mr. Mancini is advised to read a famous quote from John F Kennedy: Do not pray for easy lives, pray instead to be stronger men." Southampton 3, Manchester City 1.
CHELSEA vs. WIGAN: Rafael Benitez should be a politician, because no manager evokes such a stark contrast in opinion than Chelsea's interim field boss. His team possesses the personalties of Sybil, and occasionally the talent of Prince, but their performance on Saturday was fit for a king. Fernando Torres currently has an allergy to goals, but his passing skills are healthy; the Spaniard provided first aid when Ramires opened the scoring in the 23rd, and Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard, and Marko Marin later joined in the fun. Wigan has barely escaped the relegation dungeon the past two years, but this year I feel their luck will run out. Chelsea 4, Wigan 1.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR vs. NEWCASTLE UNITED: Do I respect Gareth Bale? Yes, and let me count the ways: his work-rate is first class, his drive and determination can never be questioned, his enthusiasm for his craft gets an A-plus, and he has the stamina of a marathoner. Molded together, Bale is the most underrated player in professional soccer, and the wonderful Welshman unleashed a fastball on the outside corner from a free kick position to open the scoring in the 5th minute. In the 24th, Newcastle tied the tied the game in knots when Moussa Sissoko spoon-fed Yoan Guffran from 12 yards away, and the Frenchman made no mistakes as his right-footed rocket deflected past a helpless Hugo Lloris. Sadly, though, Gouffran would exit the match early in the second half when his shin was gashed by Spurs defender Kyle Walker. The second half was hardly a Picasso, but that didn't stop Bale from splashing some much needed color on the proceedings. He would not be denied after bull-rushing his way past three Newcastle defenders, and he placed a slider past Tim Krul to give the home side a 2-1 advantage. Bale would have two solid opportunities to net a hat trick, but it wasn't to be. Tottenham 2, Newcastle 1.
SUNDERLAND vs. ARSENAL: The Gunners were firing blanks until the 37th minute, when Theo Wolcott picked out Santi Carzola at the left side of the box; his sinker on the outside corner found the strike zone, and it was 1-0 visitors. Holding the lead proved to be difficult after Carl Jenkinson was shown red in the 62nd, but Arsenal remained dangerous despite playing 10-on-11 and Wojciech Szczesny was a tower of power between the posts and crossbar. Arsenal 1, Sunderland 0.
NORWICH CITY vs. FULHAM: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Canaries entered the contest with just one goal in their previous five matches, and they put yet another goose egg on the scoreboard after 90 minutes of "action" in this one. Fulham 0, Norwich 0.
ASTON VILLA vs. WEST HAM UNITED: Aston Villa was winless in their last nine matches, and my Aunt Lee would describe them as a “hot mess.” Then again, James Brown once sang that “papa don't take no mess,” and AV manager Paul Lambert decreed that enough was enough. A penalty kick goal from an in-form Christian Benteke, his team-best 15th of the campaign, and a thread-the-needle free kick tally from Charles N'Zogbia gave the Villans all three points and some breathing space within the relegation zone atmosphere. Only a careless own-goal in the 84th denied American keeper Brad Guzan and the Villans of their first clean sheet since December 8th, 2012. Aston Villa 2, WHU 1.
STOKE vs. READING: Over an hour of slumber sprung to life in the 67th, when fullback Robert Huth placed his forehead on a Stoke corner kick to make it 1-0 home team. Sixteen minutes later, Cameron Jerome turned the game on its head with a spectacular individual effort; much like a basketball player will pivot and fake his defender out of position, Jerome did the same when he chested down a pass, spun, and unleashed a furious right-footed missile to double Stoke's pleasure. Adrian Mariappa provided a life preserver for Reading in the 83rd, but his goal proved to be too little, too late. Stoke 2, Reading 1.
SWANSEA CITY vs. QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Swansea striker Michu had a six-game goal scoring drought come to an end with a pair of tallies in the 8th and 67th minutes, and those scores would book-end goals from Angel Rangel and Pablo, but an ankle injury to in-form defender Chico Flores would be their lone buzz-kill. Meanwhile, Bobby Zamora's 48th minute strike was QPR's lone shining moment, but they were done wrong when referee Neil Swarbrick failed to witness a blatant handball within the Swansea penalty box. At least the Rangers have two full weeks to prepare for a visit from Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United. Swansea 4, QPR 1.
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