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Welcome to the third weekend of the Premier League system. Apologies for the delay today. A few gremlins in the system (or, rather, our internet connection).

We’re under way at Villa Park where it’s Aston Villa 0-0 Wolves.

Aston Villa v Wolves

Can Shay Given and Mick McCarthy thwart the new-found attacking guile of their old mentor Mick McCarthy?

Can Wolves claim a second successive win at Villa Park – and thereby maintain their unexpected 100% start to the season?

Wigan v QPR

Can Wigan finally pick up a win against a newly promoted side? All of their opening three games have come against the teams that came up.

Was QPR’s victory at Everton an early-season aberration or a sign of things to come?

Blackburn Rovers v Everton

What will give in the duel of the two teams with the most dismal start to the season so far?

Chelsea v Norwich

Andre Villas-Boas’s time at Stamford Bridge has been stuttering rather than stunning so far. With the signing of Juan Mata, will we begin to see the emphatic football he’s become famous for given the openness of Norwich?

Is it too much to expect Norwich to maintain their unbeaten start at such a daunting ground?

Indeed, will Paul Lambert’s team approach this game in the same manner as their previous two?

Swansea v Sunderland

Having failed to score in their opening two games, can the attacking Swansea break this unusual duck at the top level?

After such a busy summer, can Steve Bruce prove that he is indeed a manager capable of taking a team to the next level? Last season was the first time he finished in the bottom half of the Premier League. In that sense, it’s important they make a statement against a newly-promoted side.

Liverpool v Bolton

Will the win over Arsenal give Liverpool sufficient confidence to dominate an entire game in the manner they didn’t against Sunderland?

Will the speculation around Gary Cahill cause any problems in a defence that can frustrate Liverpool? In saying that, though, it was Zat Knight that looked creakiest against Manchester City last week.

Liverpool look more fluid with Luis Suarez on his own up front. Likely to partner Andy Carroll today, can the two prove as productive together?

Giovanni Trapattoni is at Villa Park today, where it’s still 0-0. As Sean Marum asks us, wonder will he have a word with Stephen Ireland… or even Jamie O’Hara.

The latter unlikely given that he seems to favour England.

We’re underway at Wigan-QPR now too.

Cards on the table time. Our predictions for today (and we are putting our money where are mouth is… by betting):

Aston Villa 1-1 Wolves

Blackburn 1-1 Everton

Chelsea 2-1 Norwich

Liverpool 2-1 Bolton

Swansea 1-1 Sunderland

Wigan 2-1 QPR

There’s 37 minutes gone at Villa Park and it’s still

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

Agbonlahor has threatened but a pretty flat game now. The empty look of the crowd is, apparently, down to the Rugby League final.

At the JJB, Shaun Derry forces a fine save for QPR from Ali Al Habsi. That was at least 30 yards out.

OH! The divine Adel Taarabt curls an effort off the Wigan post. QPR on top at the moment.

This is an appalling game thus far at Villa Park. There’s really no other description.

In the Carling Cup draw, which is bizarrely taking place right now, Manchester United have been drawn away to Leeds United while Chelsea will host Fulham. Grudges.

Carling Cup so far:

Arsenal v Shrewsbury

Chelsea v Fulham

Brighton v Liverpool

Nottingham Forest v Newcastle

Manchester City v Birmingham

Half-time at Villa Park. Still 0-0. Thank Christ that’s over.

The Carling Cup draw in full (why is this taking place on a Saturday afternoon?)

Cardiff City v Leicester City
Wolves v Millwall
Chelsea v Fulham
Aldershot Town or Carlisle United v Rochdale
Arsenal v Shrewsbury Town
Burnley v MK Dons
Leeds United v Manchester United
Brighton v Liverpool
Nottingham Forest v Newcastle United
Manchester City v Birmingham City
Blackburn Rovers v Leyton Orient or Bristol Rovers
Swindon Town or Southampton v Charlton or Preston North End
Everton v West Brom
Crystal Palace or Wigan v Middlesbrough
Aston Villa v Bolton Wanderers
Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur

That ‘Tinie Tempah song’ that Sky use: the only passable bit of the song is when Tinie doesn’t sing. As soon as he starts, it’s dire.

According to BBC, Arsenal set to sign Monaco’s Park Chu-Young. Hits a mean free-kick.

The Villa-Wolves players back out on the team. With any luck, we might see a forward pass in the second half.

Here’s where Villa could do with Stephen Ireland though. Bit of spark and creativity… if he’s in the right frame of mind.

Victor Moses should have scored for Wigan! Put clean through and hit straight at Paddy Kenny. Should have been 1-0.

GOAL!

Wigan 1-0 QPR

A superb goal from Franco di Santo, who volleys into the top corner.

The game at Villa Park has restarted and livned up a bit. Gabi Agbonlahor forced a save from Wayne Hennessy, with the keeper then holding Charles N’Zogbia’s free-kick.

Villa looking a lot sharper second half.

Adel Taarabt hits the post for a SECOND time at Wigan. His free-kick takes a deflection and but Al-Habsi manages to turn it onto the frame of the goal.

Half-time: WIGAN 1-0 QPR

Agbonlahor’s strike fizzes acrossthe Wolves box as Villa get closer and closer to an opener.

Young Herd forces a fine save from Hennessy with a strong header from Agbonlahor’s cross. Only a matter of time, surely.

Wayne Hennessy is really keeping Wolves in this.

An Irish role-reversal there. Richard Dunne met a corner forcefully there, only for Kevin Doyle to clear it offer the line.

For Wolves, Kevin Foley is coming on for Matt Jarvis. Stephen Hunt goes off for George Elokobi. Not Hunt’s best game.

Wolves coming back into the game now slightly. Will Villa rue not taking at least one of those chances.

Fine tweet from @FootballRamble (who are worth a follow, if you don’t already).

Villa sub Barry Bannan sounds like a super hero’s alias.

In the meantime, despite the fact both clubs are playing in separate areas of England this afternoon, Luke Young has joined QPR from Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee.

Richard Dunne has been immense today. Great news for Ireland. Winning everything in the air. Looking close to his imposing best.

Hennessy makes ANOTHER fine stop to prevent a Villa opportunity. Without doubt the man of the match so far.

Premier League goal average update: 41 goals in 21 games.

That’s 1.95 goals a game.

Bent narrowly heads over with an admirable effort after a fine cross from Bannan.

Potential penalty call for Wolves there as Stephen Ward is bundled over at the corner of the Villa box.

Moment of danger now for Villa as Wolves have a free right at edge of the box, nicely positioned.

Dunne with ANOTHER headed clearance. He must have won every aerial challenge today.

In great contrast to the preceding 80 minutes, Wolves have looked like snatching the last 10.

But that’s it.

FULL-TIME: Aston Villa 0-0 Wolves.

First goalless draw in this fixture since September 1975… but one of a number in the Premier League so far this season.

But there’s a GOAL at Wigan!

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

Di Santo scores again, rifling the ball into the top corner after nicking it from Hugo Rodallega.

Without meaning to belittle them (and keeping in mind last season’s struggles), this good start to the season could go a long way to seeing Wolves avoid any kind of relegation battle. Seven points is almost a quarter of the way to last season’s safety margin.

And now Ireland’s Conor Sammon comes on to replace match-winner Franco Di Santo.

QPR hit the frame of the goal for the third time. This time Taarabt the provider rather than the finisher. Bruno Perone heads his cross off the bar.

And now Al-Basi tips Taarabt’s free-kick over the bar. What a game the playmaker’s had, but with no end product.

The Chelsea team to face Norwich: Hilario, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda, Torres, Drogba

[caption id="attachment_211496" align="alignnone" width="266" caption="Can Fernando Torres open his account for the season against Norwich today?"][/caption]

FULL-TIME: Wigan 2-0 QPR

Teams so far today:

Blackburn: Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Givet, Olsson, Emerton, Nzonzi, Dunn, Pedersen, Hoilett, Roberts
Everton: Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Osman, Heitinga, Arteta, Barkley, Fellaini, Anichebe

Chelsea: Hilario, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Lampard, Drogba, Torres, Malouda
Norwich: Ruddy, Barnett, De Laet, Whitbread, Naughton, Hoolahan, Bradley Johnson, Crofts, Tierney, Holt, Chris Martin

Sky talking to Steven Reid now. Great to see his career back on the up and in the Premier League after it came close to ending.

Swansea: Vorm, Williams, Taylor, Caulker, Rangel, Britton, Sinclair, Dyer, Routledge, Graham, Agustien
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Cattermole, Larsson, Gardner, Colback, Gyan, Sessegnon

John O’Shea makes his debut for Sunderland.

The biggest line-up news of the day, though, is that Didier Drogba starts alongside Fernando Torres. Which is bad news for me… I stuck Anelka into my team this week expecting him after last week’s goal.

Wow. Just flicked over to the one-over eliminator on the cricket. I don’t hate cricket or anything of the sort. But this was described to me as “cricket’s version of a penalty shoot-out”. It’s a lot more boring.

Two of our predictions have come in for (in result if not scoreline): Aston Villa drew with Wolves, Wigan beat QPR.

Here were our others for today:

Chelsea 2-1 Norwich

Blackburn 1-1 Everton

Swansea 1-1 Sunderland

Liverpool 2-1 Bolton

Juan Mata introduced to the Stamford Bridge crowd before kick-off. Given Chelsea’s starting XI, I’d expect him to come off the bench to make an impact second half.

That’s a weird theme tune Chelsea come out to. So low-key.

And the three o’clocks are… UNDER WAY

Chris Sutton the last Norwich player to score at Stamford Bridge… which is as much as he did for Chelsea during his actual time as a home player there.

First strike on goal as Ramires forces a save. There already looks like a lot more space for Chelsea.

Norwich are not pushing or pressing Chelsea at all. You’d fear for them.

GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Norwich

Bosingwa lets fly.

Banter there between Villas-Boas and Paolo Ferreira as the manager tells his reserve full-back to warm up.

Brilliant strike from Bosingwa, a clean strike into the top corner from 25 yards. He was completely unchallenged though. Acres of space.

John O’Shea hits the bar for Sunderland with a header from the edge of the box. Larsson with the cross.

There was a zone of exclusion around Bosingwa for that goal.

At Ewood Park – unsurprisingly – it sounds even duller than Villa-Wolves this morning.

10 mins gone, and the scores are:

CHELSEA 1-0 Norwich (Bosingwa)

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

BLACKBURN ROVERS 0-0 EVERTON

According to InfostradaLive, Chelsea are unbeaten in 61 league matches against promoted sides – won 54, drew 7.

Blackburn might have had a penalty there as Gael Givet goes down in the Everton box. None given though.

Paul Lambert: quite fond of telling people that, yes, he has won a European Cup with a non-British club.

David Dunn hits the post for Blackburn. Worrying for Everton.

Norwich actually knocking it about nicely now, with a triangle making a fool of Malouda.

Michael Vorm continues his fine start to his Premier League career with Swansea by saving a one-on-one against Asamoah Gyan.

Torres and Drogba almost linking up there. Torres smartly cutting back inside before playing a through-ball for the Ivorian. Just evaded him. Promising for Chelsea, though.

20 mins scorers:

CHELSEA 1-0 NORWICH CITY (Bosingwa)

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

BLACKBURN ROVERS 0-0 EVERTON

Full-times:

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

Vorm with another save from Gyan. Sunderland well on top at Swansea.

Chelsea are utterly comfortable here.

Three goals in five games so far today.

Obligatory sarcastic comment about most exciting league in the world etc etc

Oh. Nervous moment for Chelsea there as Norwich broke well and Hilario was forced to save well from Hoolahan. Poor from John Terry who had the ball slipped the wronf side of him.

Solid save from Hilario as Holt heads down well.

Interesting. After just 30 minutes, Zak Whitbreak comes off for Norwich for Pilkington. Norwich going to reshape. Three at the back not working.

Scott Sinclair smacks the post for Swansea with Mignolet completely beaten.

30 mins scorers:

CHELSEA 1-0 NORWICH CITY (Bosingwa)

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

BLACKBURN ROVERS 0-0 EVERTON

Full-times:

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

Bit of worry for Chelsea this that Norwich are beginning to get at them.

Swansea in the ascendancy now against Sunderland.

Nothing going right for Blackburn at the moment. Despite the fact they were dominant against Everton, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Dunn – who had both been crucial to that – have both gone off injured. Mauro Formica and Radosav Petrovic come on.

Drogba, finally, with a better effort from a free-kick. Still a yard over the bar though.

OH! Swansea should have claimed their first Premier League goal there, Danny Graham nodding wide from six yards.

Mikel shoots over from distance. Chelsea beginning to re-assert a bit of control in the closing minutes of the half.

Half-time scorers:

CHELSEA 1-0 NORWICH CITY (Bosingwa)

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

BLACKBURN ROVERS 0-0 EVERTON

Full-times:

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

Chelsea winning but not yet convincing. They are passing though and you feel that, when Villas-Boas’s instructions start to sink in and he brings in a few of his style of players, they’ll be much more fluid.

Norwich, to be fair though, have grown into the game having started far too respectfully.

No changes for Chelsea second half. Would have thought they might introduce Mata or Anelka… particularly for the ineffective Malouda.

A penalty to Blacburn which has been MISSED by Junior Hoilet.

Tim Howard gets down low to the right to save it. Perhaps justice done since Mauro Formica was, eh, “streetwise” in winning it.

Ivanovic heads just wide from a Lampard corner.

New signing Lukaku warming up for Chelsea.

Tim Howard with a hero’s display, stopping Blackburn again. Jason Roberts perhaps should have scored from six yards out though.

Apparent Liverpool team to play Bolton, Carroll dropped according to this:

Reina, Kelly, Carra, Agger, Enrique, Downing, Henderson, Adam, Lucas, Kuyt, Suarez

Wesley Hoolahan comes off for Norwich, Morison on. 60 minutes gone.

60 minutes gone:

CHELSEA 1-0 NORWICH CITY

BLACKBURN 0-0 EVERTON

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

Full-times:

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

From Infostrada Sports:

Of six penalties in the Premier League this season only one has been scored (17%). Average conversion of penalties last 10 seasons was just under 78%.

GOAL! Chelsea 1-1 Norwich

Calamity in Chelsea defence between Hilario and Ivanovic, and Grant Holt expertly hooks ball over them to claim a not-unexpected equaliser.

Back to penalties though. We’ve said it before and we will say it again: there is no excuse for a pro missing a penalty.

It’s physically impossible for a goalkeeper to reach the top corner unless he’s standing by the post. Like golfers and so many other sports, players should train themselves to hit that top corner without fail.

Chelsea have been laborious and lacking spark. Norwich deserve that for their dynamism.

And now Drogba is on the ground, looks out cold. Worrying. Anelka about to come on.

As is Mata for Malouda. The Spaniard makes his debut.

Drogba still out cold. Not nice to see.

Baines threatens Blackburn, at last, with a fizzing strike. Robinson saves.

Well he was their main goal route last year.

Conor Wickham about to come on for Sunderland, who badly need a different angle of attack against Swansea. Gyan has been poor today. Lacks sharpness.

Likely to be about seven minutes stoppage time between Chelsea-Norwich at this rate.

John Terry shows his courage – and, for once, that’s not a snarky joke – as he brilliantly blocks a breakaway Norwich attack. Chelsea playing a ludicrous line though.

Everton should be ahead! Fellaini shoots over from 16 yards despite being preented with an open goal.

In the Championship, Ireland and Manchester United’s Robbie Brady gives Hull the lead against Reading. Glorious long-range strike. He’s on loan there for the season.

Torres might have gone there. A petulant kick out when he’s already on a booking.

David Goodwillie hits the post for Blackburn only a minute after coming on. That game has certainly livened up.

Chelsea are just coughing up chances here.

At Swansea, Vorm saves from Gyan. Again.

Penalty Chelsea.

Very sloppy from Norwich as they allow Chelsea to surge right through them, with goalkeeper Ruddy eventually getting a red for upturning Ramires. The midfielder was clean through on goal… but the touch which would have taken him past Ruddy was very heavy.

This game is probably going to go to the 100th minute. Norwich just bringing on keeper Rudd. For Ruddy.

Lampard scores. Straight down the middle.

CHELSEA 2-1 Norwich.

80 mins:

CHELSEA 2-1 NORWICH

BLACKBURN 0-0 EVERTON

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

Full-Times:

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

Lukaku comes on for Torres. Not a good day for the Spaniard. A good day for his replacement, though, as he fulfils a childhood dream – apparently – of turning out for Chelsea.

He’s shown some hunger already though.

Blackburn MISS a second penalty. This time Formica hits the post.

And there’s Lukaku at the other end, clearing with a header. Fine cameo from the young man.

WHAT A MISS from Ivanovic. Fine Mata cross that hung in the air. Perfect cross in fact, tright height, right weight, right position… but the unmarked Ivanovic heads wide from four yards.

11 minutes added time at Stamford Bridge.

Both Mata and Lukaku have been impressive in their brief time on the pitch.

Cahill STARTS for Bolton at Anfield.

Bolton: Jassklainen, Steinson, Robinson, Cahill, Knight, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Eages, Petrov, Davies, Klasnic

90th-minute penalty to Everton.

GOAL! Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Everton

Arteta with the penalty.

Everton don’t deserve this win. But, after failing to capitalise on a performane like that, Blackburn look doomed. Nothing going right for them.

Final score: BLACKBURN 0-1 EVERTON

FULL-TIME: Swansea 0-0 Sunderland

Worse for Blackburn: Everton’s penalty shouldn’t have been given. Samba harshly penalised for jumping with Fellaini for long through.

GOAL! Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City

Mata scores on his debut, capitalising on an atrocious back-pass to finish smartly from an angle.

FULL-TIME Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City

And all of those full-times:

ASTON VILLA 0-0 WOLVES

BLACKBURN ROVERS 0-1 EVERTON

CHELSEA 3-1 NORWICH CITY

SWANSEA 0-0 SUNDERLAND

WIGAN 2-0 QPR

Final thoughts:

  • We’ve seen a glimpse of Chelsea’s future. If still only a slight one. For at least 70 minutes against Norwich, they were laborious and lacking in spark. Norwich were full value for their 1-1 draw and looked capable of getting another as they grew into the game. Then, however, Villas-Boas brought on Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku and their attack took on a completely different complexion. More fluid and lively. Lukaku showed a hunger missing in many of Chelsea’s older heads; Mata a spark and invention that was otherwise absent. Despite his few minutes on the pitch, the Spaniard delivered a perfect cross – that Branko Ivanovic really should have finished – as well as a smart finish to open his account. Ramires also adds a different drive in midfield. This, clearly, is the Chelsea Villas-Boas wants to create.
  • There are still a few concerns though. Their defence is clearly not comfortably with that high line and coughed up a worrying amount of chances. Florent Malouda, despite last week’s goal, has seemingly lost any impetus or variation. Worse, Torres has seemingly waned from his sharper performances in the first two weeks.
  • Blackburn look doomed. To be fair, they could take heart from the manner of their performance today. But not the nature of the defeat. Nothing is going right for them. Despite Rovers dominating the game, Everton ultimately did what they couldn’t. After Blackburn had missed two penalties, Arteta converted his. In the last minute. After a dubious decision in the first place. With the likes of that going on, you wonder what chance you have.
  • On that note, though, the penalty-conversion rate has been a disgrace this season. Three from nine. We’ve said it before and will continue to do so. A professional player missing a penalty is inexcusable. A goalkeeper can physically not reach the top corner of the net unless he is standing by the post – which is obviously ludicrous. As such, players should train to be able to hit that top corner flawlessly.
  • Of course, the missed penalties only tie in to a wider trend: the lack of goals in the Premier League. Today saw another three 0-0 draws – in other words, the majority of matches. It’s hard to put forward any reason for this. Many of the games, after all, have been open. Swansea against Sunderland today certainly was. Some have said it’s down to disrupted pre-season schedules (although that generally favours attackers since games become more open). Others have said that teams need time to gel after a spate of pre-season signings. And that looks to particularly be the case with Sunderland. All in all, though, the goals-per-game rate is barely two a match. So much for the most exciting league in the world.

Didier Drogba has been brought to hospital but, mercifully, has regained consciousness.

Liverpool-Bolton about to start.

We’ve gone for Liverpool to win 2-1.

The big team news is Carroll doesn’t start for Liverpool; Cahill does for Bolton

And we’re off at Anfield.

Interesting. According to OptaJoe, Bolton have scored with 38% of their attempts at goal, the best conversion rate in the Premier League this season.

Liverpool have started brightly enough in front of a raucous Anfield. Adam slipping one or two nice balls through.

OH Downing! Break on for Liverpool, clean through… and takes an atrociously heavy touch that allows a clean block from Robinson.

Quite interesting – and unprecedented – the way Steven Gerrard has almost completely fallen out of the Liverpool narrative while absent.

Good news: no serious injury to Drogba. Just concussion apparently.

GOAL! Liverpool 1-0 Bolton

Jordan Henderson with a fine finish after Jussi Jaaskelainen had kept out Suarez’s volley.

That should do wonders for Henderson’s confidence after a relatively unconvincing start.

Sorry, it was Downing who Jaaskelainen saved from initially. But after a beautifully weighted ball from Suarez.

Oof. Petrov forces good block from Reina with a terrific volley. Very open game.

Very open game this. Goals in it.

Suarez has now played two brilliant balls down that left wing. He really is the complete modern striker.

The Uruguayan perhaps should have done better there though. Fine ball over the top from Charlie Adam to find him, but couldn’t get a decent touch on it, with only the keeper to beat.

A supreme ball across from Henderson. Flashed across goal from by-line. Just evaded Kuyt.

Skrtel rises above Bolton defence but an easy catch for Jaaskelainen.

The one caveat for Liverpool to this dynamic opening display: it was exactly how they started against Sunderland only to lose spark after they failed to score a second.

Suarez’s movement causes problems for Bolton again. But, in a lot of space, he elects to chip over Jaaskelainen… but also over the bar.

Kuyt and Suarez – so far – look a much better partnership than Carroll and Suarez.

Skrtel comes on for the injured Kelly. It was obviously Agger with that header earlier. Not Skrtel.

Liverpool have been impressive but loose… and Bolton look capable of a reply.

Bolton beginning to come into the game.

Sebastian Coates in the stand as he awaits completing his move to Liverpool. Hugely promising by all accounts.

Fine run through Liverpool’s defence by Mark Davis but could only produce a feeble finish as space ran out.

Penalty shout for Liverpool there as Steinsson might have had handled it inside the box from Downing’s attempted touch by him.

Referee Lee Probert appears to be vindicated by TV: he was just outside the box.

Half-time: LIVERPOOL 1-0 BOLTON

Liverpool impressive and should have scored more than one… but may rue that since they also look quite loose.

Another Liverpool penalty shout. Knight brought down Suarez… but challenge took place outside the box. Should have been a free then… but Liverpool get nothing.

Liverpool start the half energetically, Steinsson blocking Adam’s shot.

GOAL! Liverpool 2-0 Bolton

Skrtel powers in an Adam corner.

Brilliant run and header from Skrtel… but what was Zat Knight doing?

GOAL! Liverpool 3-0 Bolton

It’s turned into a rout. Two in a minute as Adam hits a low shot with his right past Jaaskelainen.

No danger of Liverpool losing momentum in this one. They’ve picked up where they left off in the 30th minute. Rampant at the moment and quite impressive.

An interesting moment in the 60th minute there as a completely open Suarez waited and waited for Henderson to deliver the killer ball. Henderson plays safe pass and apologises.

ANOTHER penalty shout for Liverpool as Robinson gets Suarez rather than the ball with the Uruguayan shaping to shoot.

Andy Carroll coming on for Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez for Henderson.

Suarez gets a standing ovation.

Great Downing cross flashes across the box. Carroll should have been more mobile there to meet it.

Another lovely give-and-go from Liverpool. Downing incisive down right. Still 3-0.

GOAL! Liverpool 3-1 Bolton

Lack of concentration from Carragher as Petrov steals ball, takes it on beautifully and forces chance for Klasnic to finish.

Full-time: LIVERPOOL 3-1 SUNDERLAND

Final thoughts:

  • This was the kind of display Liverpool fans had designs on when Kenny Dalglish returned. For the vast majority of their 3-1 win over Bolton, they were vibrant and utterly rampant. Stewart Downing was causing all kinds of problems, Charlie Adam was producing piercing ball after piercing ball and Dirk Kuyt was dynamic. But the most important thing, of course, was how all 11 individuals linked up. This was a supreme team performance from Liverpool, which would have been crowned by Suarez’s narrow strike wide – after a glorious move – in the 67th minute. And more’s the pity because that would have been a fitting way to finish it. The Uruguayan was the key to everything. Most of Liverpool’s moves came off because of his runs and he also supplied two glorious passes down the line of his own. A truly complete modern striker.
  • The big caveat to this though: both Liverpool and Suarez looked even sharper than usual today because it was Kuyt – rather than Carroll – who was partnering him. This is not a criticism of Carroll or another pop at his price tag. But, for the moment, he just doesn’t fully fit the team. With Kuyt complementing Saurez, they produce better angles and interchanges. Because, again, as soon as Carroll came on, the team attempted to hit his head much more often. But that may not be to his strengths. At one stage Downing played a supreme cross from the left that simply invited a surging run and header. Carroll remained immobile. If Liverpool are truly to have a tilt at the title – although, even after today’s display, that may be premature – then Dalglish may have to make a bit if hard decision. Carroll may have to be kept aside as an impact sub, with Kuyt and Suarez instead fully integrated.
  • That finish to open the scoring will also do Jordan Henderson’s confidence the world of good. Previously shaky, he was much more assured thereafter. But still not totally confident. There was a telling moment in the 60th minute when Suarez ran around the side and was awaiting a killer pass, yet Henderson instead went for the safe option and apologised. If both Henderson and his team are to move on to the next dimension, then he’ll have to lift his game to that level.
  • If Owen Coyle is to lose Gary Cahill, then he’ll have to sign two replacements not one. His central defensive partner, Zat Knight, was abysmal today. And only carrying on last week’s form. At the moment, he’s a liability.
  • We’ve seen a glimpse of Chelsea’s future. If still only a slight one. For at least 70 minutes against Norwich, they were laborious and lacking in spark. Norwich were full value for their 1-1 draw and looked capable of getting another as they grew into the game. Then, however, Villas-Boas brought on Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku and their attack took on a completely different complexion. More fluid and lively. Lukaku showed a hunger missing in many of Chelsea’s older heads; Mata a spark and invention that was otherwise absent. Despite his few minutes on the pitch, the Spaniard delivered a perfect cross – that Branko Ivanovic really should have finished – as well as a smart finish to open his account. Ramires also adds a different drive in midfield. This, clearly, is the Chelsea Villas-Boas wants to create.
  • There are still a few concerns though. Their defence is clearly not comfortably with that high line and coughed up a worrying amount of chances. Florent Malouda, despite last week’s goal, has seemingly lost any impetus or variation. Worse, Torres has seemingly waned from his sharper performances in the first two weeks.
  • Blackburn look doomed. To be fair, they could take heart from the manner of their performance today. But not the nature of the defeat. Nothing is going right for them. Despite Rovers dominating the game, Everton ultimately did what they couldn’t. After Blackburn had missed two penalties, Arteta converted his. In the last minute. After a dubious decision in the first place. With the likes of that going on, you wonder what chance you have.
  • On that note, though, the penalty-conversion rate has been a disgrace this season. Three from nine. We’ve said it before and will continue to do so. A professional player missing a penalty is inexcusable. A goalkeeper can physically not reach the top corner of the net unless he is standing by the post – which is obviously ludicrous. As such, players should train to be able to hit that top corner flawlessly.
  • Of course, the missed penalties only tie in to a wider trend: the lack of goals in the Premier League. Today saw another three 0-0 draws – in other words, half the matches. It’s hard to put forward any reason for this. Many of the games, after all, have been open. Swansea against Sunderland today certainly was. Some have said it’s down to disrupted pre-season schedules (although that generally favours attackers since games become more open). Others have said that teams need time to gel after a spate of pre-season signings. And that looks to particularly be the case with Sunderland. All in all, though, the goals-per-game rate is barely two a match. So much for the most exciting league in the world.

Hello, and welcome to our 4:30am kick-off: Fiji vs. Namibia. We’ve just heard the anthems.

Fiji are just performing the Cibi (their version of the Haka), which is pretty flipping intimidating… mind you, these guys could probably make the Macarena frightening enough to induce incontinence.

The teams are as follows:

Fiji– Murimurivalu, Goneva, Lovabalavu, Bai, Nalaga, Luveniyali, Kenatale; Ma’afu, Veikoso, Manu, Nakarawa, Lewaravu, Waqaniburoto, Ravulo, Telei.

Namibia– Botha, Dames, Van Wyk, Van Zyl, Marais, Kotze, Jantjies; Redelinghuys, Horn, Larson, Koll, Esterhuyse, Du Plessis, Burger, Nieuwenhuis.

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