A year of shocks ends with a couple more

Struggling Blackburn Rovers rock Man United at the top while Chelsea’s results go from bad to even worse.

Blackburn Rovers were the unlikely winners at Old Trafford as they lifted spirits of under pressure boss Keane [AFP] 

The first few months of the 2011/2012 English Premier League season have been anything but predictable.

The end of the year delivered us a glut of goals, a healthy dose of controversy and some of the best football in the Premier League’s history, however, results are proving more difficult to predict than ever before.

Manchester United’s 8-2 victory over Arsenal and Manchester City’s 6-1 defeat of United have shocked and delighted football fans worldwide while Fulham have surprised Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers upset Arsenal. 

Rovers were at it again on Saturday pulling off another surprising win, this time against United at Old Trafford.

Results and fixtures

Saturday December 31

 Man Utd 2-3 Blackburn
 Bolton 1-1 Wolves
 Chelsea 1-3 Aston Villa   Arsenal 1-0 QPR
 Norwich 1-1 Fulham
 Stoke 2-2 Wigan
 Swansea 1-1 Tottenham

Sunday January 1

 West Brom v Everton
 Sunderland v Man City

In arguably the biggest surprise of the season so far Rovers stunned United 3-2 to ruin Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday.

United had erased a 2-0 deficit through two second-half goals by Dimitar Berbatov, but Grant Hanley took advantage of a mistake by goalkeeper David de Gea to score the winner from a corner in the 80th minute.

The 20-year-old Hanley beat De Gea in the air to get his head on the ball and then headed it into the net with a second effort to secure a victory that eases the pressure on under-fire Blackburn manager Steve Kean.

The result prevented United from ending the year atop the standings, as they remain behind crosstown rival Manchester City on goal difference.

“We’ve lost two terrible goals in the game, and we can’t do that in a game like this,”‘ said Ferguson, who earlier marked his birthday by pledging to stay in his job for at least another three years.

Two other results went league leaders Man City’s way with third placed Tottenham only managing a 1-1 draw against Swansea and Chelsea falling to a shock 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa.

Tottenham missed the chance to close within four points of the Premier League summit after being held to a draw.

Rafael van der Vaart gave Spurs the lead just before half time after capitalising on a defensive error from Joe Allen to sweep home with the help of a deflection from Ashley Williams.

Swansea had not managed to pick up a single point this season after conceding the first goal, but the hosts bucked the trend when goalkeeper Brad Friedel hesitated when dealing with a late deflected Angel Rangel cross for Scott Sinclair to nip in and equalise.

    Andre Villas-Boas will have to turn club’s fortunes around quickly if he is to last at Chelsea [AFP] 

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas is unlikely to enjoy New Year’s Eve after another disappointing result on the back of draws with Fulham, Tottenham and Wigan.  

Chelsea had also gone ahead in their game at Stamford Bridge when striker Didier Drogba notched his 150th league goal for the club with a 23rd-minute penalty before Villa equalised five minutes later through Stephen Ireland.

Fernando Torres hit the bar for the west London side before Villa struck twice in three minutes through Stilian Petrov and
Darren Bent to inflict a fifth defeat of the season on Chelsea.

The defeat pushed the London club out of the Premier League top four after Arsenal claimed all three points against QPR.

Arsenal jumped above Chelsea after Robin van Persie scored his 35th league goal of the calendar year in a 1-0 win at home to QPR.

Having squandered several chances to score in the first half, the Netherlands striker finally broke the deadlock on the hour at the Emirates Stadium.

He darted through the QPR defence to meet Andrei Arshavin’s through ball before slotting past QPR goalkeeper Radek Cerny.

Late drama

Ben Watson came off the bench to salvage a 2-2 draw with a late penalty for 10-man Wigan in a dramatic finish against Stoke.

Victor Moses put the struggling Latics ahead on the stroke of halftime, but Gary Caldwell was then sent off for deliberate handball in the 76th minute and Jonathan Walters converted the resulting penalty to draw eighth-placed Stoke level.

Stoke thought they had secured three points when substitute Cameron Jerome made it 2-1 in the 84th, but Watson then converted a spot kick in the 87th with his first touch, after Ryan Shotton had been penalised for a tug on Hugo Rodallega’s shirt.

Norwich’s Simeon Jackson also came off the bench to grab a late equaliser as Norwich rescued a 1-1 draw against Fulham.

Portugal forward Orlando Sa had netted after just six minutes to put the visitors on course for a rare away win. But Norwich continued to press, and Jackson nodded in Elliott Bennett’s right-wing cross five minute into added time to earn Paul Lambert’s side a share of the points.

Sam Ricketts marked his return from a 10-month injury layoff with a superb goal for Bolton in a 1-1 draw against Wolves.

The fullback was making his first appearance since rupturing an Achilles in February, and gave the hosts the lead with a curling shot into the far corner from 25 yards in the 22nd minute.

Stephen Ward sent a hard strike against the crossbar for Wolves before the visitors levelled less than four minutes into the second half when Steven Fletcher headed home Matt Jarvis’ free kick.

Bolton remain bottom of the table with 13 points with Blackburn on 14 and Wigan on 15.

Man City have the chance to move three points ahead of Man United if they beat Sunderland on Sunday, however, after a year like 2011, nobody should take this for granted.

Let’s hope the shocks continue long into 2012. 

Source : News Agencies

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