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Arsenal stuns Chelsea, United takes the derby
by Ian Plenderleith, December 1st, 2008 7:01AM
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[ENGLAND] With Liverpool not playing until Monday evening, Chelsea missed the chance to go three points clear when Arsenal came from behind to beat them 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on two superb goals by Robin van Persie. A Wayne Rooney rebound was enough to give Manchester United the win over city rival City, despite a red card for Cristiano Ronaldo. Tim Howard helped Everton to a handy road win at Tottenham, while Brad Friedel blanked Fulham and Clint Dempsey as Aston Villa dropped two home points.

It says something about Arsenal's erratic season when its victory at Chelsea qualifies as a major shock, but there was no doubting the quality of its comeback after a Johan Djourou own goal had given the home team a 1-0 halftime lead. Although replays showed that van Persie's first strike was narrowly offside, the shot alone deserved to count. And his second goal on the turn with his left foot just a few minutes later certainly merited the label "matchwinner." Arsenal moved back up to fourth, although it is still seven points behind the leading two, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari complained at length about the apparently missed offside decision. "We need a referee who comes to Stamford Bridge who referees for both sides, not just for one," he said. "We lost because one goal was not a goal, and it was a goal which changed the result. If we won, Arsenal would have been 13 points behind us and their championship would have been finished." And that's the edited version. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, called the result "a fantastic win. We've had a bad period in the League and we were 1-0 down and still won. There's no better test of character."

In the Manchester derby, Rooney won the game for United by scoring the game's only goal just before halftime, knocking home the rebound after City goalkeeper Joe Hart saved a shot from Michael Carrick. Cristiano Ronaldo's only contribution of the afternoon was a brace of yellow cards that saw him dismissed on 68 minutes when, for no apparent reason, he deliberately handballed a Rooney corner kick.

United manager Alex Ferguson tried to excuse his star pupil. "He tried to stop the ball from hitting his face," said Ferguson. "He thought he had heard a whistle, he got a little push as well, and it is not as if he punched the ball. The crowd played a part and he got sent off." City manager Mark Hughes had the perfect retort to that theory: "If he says the ball was going to hit him in the face, why didn't he head it?"

Both Dempsey's Fulham and Friedel's Aston Villa tied 0-0 for the second successive week, though this time they faced each other, Friedel twice saving off Dempsey efforts in a poor game. "You can analyze this game until you're blue in the face, but if you take your chances you win the game," Villa manager Martin O'Neill observed sagely. His Fulham counterpart Roy Hodgson declared himself pleased with his side's resolve. "Overall, I'm delighted with the players' attitude and approach and, in general, the team is getting better," he said. "We're not creating as many chances as I'd like, but I know that will come in time."

Another U.S. goalkeeper keeping his opponent off the score sheet was Howard for Everton in its 1-0 win at Tottenham through a deflected Steven Pienaar shot in the second half. Howard denied Roman Pavlyuchenko late on to secure the points, but although Everton moved up to seventh, it lost striker Yakubu for the rest of the season due to a ruptured Achilles.

"I think we owed it to the fans to put in a performance after the defeat against Wigan and we certainly did that," said Everton's manager David Moyes. Tottenham's Harry Redknapp thought his team "didn't work hard enough as runners to create space and openings for the pass so our possession wasn't good enough, and if you don't pass it well you don't give yourselves a chance." Unless you whack the ball upfield and rely on opposition defenders to make a mistake, which worked very well for Bolton during its 4-1 win at Sunderland.

It was a game that Sunderland manager Roy Keane found "very hard to take," admitting his team was punished for "three bad mistakes." The beneficiaries were Matthew Taylor, Gary Cahill and expensive Swedish signing Johan Elmander, who scored twice, giving Bolton an unlikely seven goals and six points from its two successive road games this past week. Also in the Northeast, Newcastle and Middlesbrough tied, 0-0, in a dire game at the Riverside.

Portsmouth and Blackburn staged a frenzied five-goal second half as Portsmouth came out the 3-2 winner. England strikers Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe put the home side 2-0 ahead, Rovers leveled thanks to Matt Derbyshire and Tugay Kerimoglu, then Portsmouth substitute Sean Davis won the game in the 79th minute, three minutes after entering the field. While Blackburn manager Paul Ince complained that his team had a third goal unfairly disallowed with the score at 2-2, Portsmouth's Tony Adams declared that, despite some poor defending, the win was "a relief. We were not very good in the first half. You can hear from my voice that I had to get into the guys a bit at halftime."

Wigan's Henri Kamara, after not scoring for two years, scored his second in a week as Athletic beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1. Promoted teams Stoke City and Hull City democratically shared two points and two goals. West Brom, Sunderland and Blackburn occupy the three relegation spots.

Goals scored weekend Nov. 29-30: 20 in nine games (2.22 per game)
Goals scored 2008-09 season: 387 in 148 games (2.61 per game)

MONDAY'S GAME: Liverpool vs. West Ham United (3 pm ET, live on Fox Soccer Channel)


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