Mexico striker set to line up for Manchester United against Spurs after impressing with scoring run in Rooney’s absence.
|John Terry high-fives goalkeeper Petr Cech as Chelsea cement their place at the top of the league [GALLO/GETTY]|
Chelsea snatched a 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers with a late Branislav Ivanovic goal and Alex Song’s 88th-minute header secured a 1-0 home win for Arsenal over West Ham United in the English Premier League.
While the London duo were celebrating, there was a second successive defeat for Manchester City as they followed up last week’s 3-0 loss to Arsenal by going down 2-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Everton beat Stoke City 1-0 with Aiyegbeni Yakubu’s first goal of the season and Fulham defeated Wigan Athletic 2-0 with two goals for Clint Dempsey.
Chelsea lead the table with 25 points from 10 games, five ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United, who controversially beat Tottenham Hotspur later on Saturday.
Games a quarter of the way into the season against mid-table opposition can often decide the destiny of the title and three of the contenders may come to look back on October 30 as a key date.
Saturday October 30
Arsenal 1-0 West Ham
Sunday October 31
Aston Villa v Birmingham
Monday November 1
Blackpool v West Brom
Blackburn were well on top of a lacklustre Chelsea in the early stages and, after Petr Cech had made two good saves, took a deserved lead through Benjani Mwaruwari after 21 minutes.
Chelsea replied in a rare attack when Didier Drogba cushioned a header into the path of Nicolas Anelka who levelled six minutes before half time.
Chelsea, held 1-1 by Blackburn last season, awoke from their torpor after the break but struggled to create chances until Yuri Zhirkov’s pinpoint cross was headed home by Serbian defender Ivanovic, who was about to be substituted.
Arsenal dominated possession at the Emirates but after substitute Theo Walcott’s shot rebounded from a post into the arms of goalkeeper Rob Green they must have thought their luck was out.
With two minutes to go, however, Gael Clichy crossed for Song to nod in his third goal in a week.
“Song is amazing, he has added something to his game – he came as a centre back, becomes a defensive midfielder and now he’s playing like a striker,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told reporters.
“It was a battle and our side we needed to be patient, intelligent while their keeper, as usual, had a great game against us.”
Manchester City were all over Wolves initially but had only a 23rd-minute Emmanuel Adebayor penalty to show for their dominance and they were punished for their profligacy when Nenad Milijas blasted in from the edge of the box seven minutes later.
Poor City defending allowed midfielder David Edwards to force Wolves 2-1 up after 57 minutes and in a frantic last 30 minutes it was the Midlands side who came closest to further goals.
City manager Roberto Mancini was perplexed by the turnaround.
“We played very well for the first 15 minutes, some fantastic football, but after that I don’t know why we finished playing football,” he said.
“It’s important for me to understand why this happened today. At the moment I don’t understand it – I have to watch it.
“Maybe because we played well in the first 15 minutes we thought it was an easy game.
“But (an easy game) does not exist and in the end Wolves deserved to win the game.”
Nani’s goal in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday was, depending on your standpoint, either cheeky improvisation, a basic goalkeeping error or the result of incompetent refereeing.
United were seemingly on course for a routine 1-0 win courtesy of Nemanja Vidic’s 31st-minute header.
Six minutes from time Nani burst into the box and went to ground appealing in vain for a penalty and handling the ball in the process.
Referee Mark Clattenburg waved play on but Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes assumed that a free kick had been given for the handling offence and placed the ball near the six-yard box.
The Portuguese international, aware that the whistle had not sounded, nipped in and scored into the empty net for his fifth goal of the season.
Gomes and his team mates complained furiously but, after consulting with his linesman, the referee awarded the goal.
United manager Alex Ferguson was convinced the Brazilian keeper was at fault for the schoolboy error of not playing to the whistle.
“It was bizarre. No-one knew at the time what was wrong,” the United manager told ESPN.
“One minute the goalkeeper had the ball in his hands and next it’s in his net. Nani looked back and looked at the referee and the referee said play on, so what can he do but put the ball in the net?
“You can look at the referee and look at the linesmen and blame them, but the goalkeeper should know better. He’s an experienced goalkeeper. I thought he made a mess of it.
“The referee played on because the goalkeeper took possession of the ball. He then went to take a free kick thinking it was a foul. He made an error.”
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp took a different view.
“It was hand ball. He (Nani) put his hand on the ball and dragged it. He should have been booked for a deliberate handball,” Redknapp said.
“The referee has not seen it. The linesman has seen it that is why he has flagged. He’s gone over there and told him what he did and he should have disallowed the goal. Gomes put the ball down for a free kick. It’s obvious. Why would he stand there and leave the ball there after he saw him handball it?”