Villa's win at Arsenal was proper reward for a positive performance that saw them create the best chances. Its opening goal, however, owed something to the luck of Arsenal defender Gael Clichy heading past his own goalkeeper with 20 minutes left off a cross from Ashley Young, who'd missed a first-half penalty. Gabriel Agbonlahor added a second 10 minutes later, finishing well after running on to an almighty through-ball from Martin Laursen. Villa's American keeper Brad Friedel made an important first-half save from Cesc Fabregas.
"I felt overall Villa were the better side," confessed Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. "Villa played very well, but we were not sharp or incisive enough. I always say the first sign of quality is consistency, so this was frustrating after beating Manchester United." Villa manager Martin O'Neill, meanwhile, noted that his side was "terrific from start to finish. It was a case of the players staying strong, being positive and having a real belief that we could win."
Dempsey was a starter in the home win over Tottenham Hotspur, and the U.S. forward brought a fine, one-handed save out of Spurs' Brazilian keeper Heurelho Gomes in the first half. But the Tottenham stopper was again the focus of attention when he fumbled a straightforward cross-shot from winger Simon Davies into his own net. Andy Johnson scored a second from close range, and a lateFraizer Campbellgoal for Spurs turned out to be nothing more than decoration for the scoreboard. Dempsey was subbed out on 87 minutes to warm applause from the home fans.
Redknapp, whose unbeaten streak at the helm was snapped by the defeat, conceded of Davies' effort that "it was a farcical goal, but he's my goalkeeper. He's got to do the job. This is the situation I have. His record at PSV Eindhoven tells you he was a world-class goalkeeper. He made some great saves after the goal, so I have got to keep believing in him and stay with him." Fulham boss Roy Hodgsonwas in a generous mood to his players: "The way we played and the amount of pressure we put on the Spurs defense, I don't think we've got any reason to do other than pat ourselves on the back."
Elsewhere, there were predictable wins for the front-runners. Chelsea stayed top after a 3-0 road win at West Bromwich Albion on goals from Jose Bosingwa and another double from Nicolas Anelka. "Against these teams you're putting your finger in the dike at times," sighed Albion boss Tony Mowbray. Liverpool won a slightly strange 2-0 game at Bolton, where both sides seemed intent on outdoing the other in terms of missing easy chances. Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard, both with headers, were the two players who managed to score on either side of halftime.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored two free kicks in Manchester United's 5-0 thumping of Stoke City, taking him to 101 goals for the club. Stoke hit the crossbar with the score at 1-0 following one of their trademark long throw-ins from Rory Delap, but were otherwise unable to stop further efforts from Michael Carrick, 17-year-old debutant Danny Welbeck and Dimitar Berbatov. "We have done quite well against the other big clubs this season," said Stoke manager Tony Pulis, "but once we had to chase the game, United just picked us off."
Sunderland staged an unlikely second-half comeback at Blackburn to win 2-1 on goals from Trinidad & Tobago international Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse. "At halftime, we questioned the players in terms of how badly they wanted it and their character," said Sunderland manager Roy Keane (translation: paint was peeling off the locker room wall), "and credit to the lads for that second half performance." His Blackburn counterpart Paul Ince did his best to match him down the corridor: "I have just had a go at the players as I am upset and angry. We could have been three or four goals ahead by halftime. It was a diabolical performance and the players should be a bit embarrassed by what happened."
The rest of the results were ties. Newcastle United was held 2-2 by Wigan Athletic, Hull hosted Manchester City in a lively game that ended the same way (Stephen Ireland scored twice for City), Tim Howard and Everton lost a late lead at home to Middlesbrough to finish at 1-1, while West Ham and Portsmouth fought out the weekend's loan goalless draw.
Leader Chelsea and second-place Liverpool are both eight points clear of Manchester United, which has played one game less. Blackburn, Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion occupy the bottom three spots.
Goals scored: 28 in 10 games (2.8 per game)