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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019

Premier League review: Villas-Boas breathes again

Andre Villas-Boas may have been able to loosen the noose around his neck but things only got tighter at the bottom as Wigan and Wolves both claimed draws while others floundered.

Lampard celebrates a landmark goal
Lampard celebrates a landmark goal

A DAY OF extremes at the two ends of the Premier League: Andre Villas-Boas was finally able to loosen his collar but things only got tighter at the bottom, with only one point now separating 16th from 20th.

Chelsea, though, temporarily jumped back into the Champions League places thanks to an ultimately convincing performance against Bolton Wanderers. Although it was a somewhat typical display given that Chelsea occasionally looked like a proper team but still someway off a finished article, they eventually pressed home to win 3-0. Even more encouraging, the goals were a symbolic mix of the old and new after a last few weeks in which the club in general – and particularly Villas-Boas – struggled between the two.

To open the scoring, David Luiz surged forward to finish superbly. He may not be the most focused defender in the world but, in terms of striking a ball, he must be one of the best in the world. Soon after, in a move that was vintage Chelsea, Frank Lampard hit a corner for Didier Drogba to hammer home a header. Finally, Juan Mata cross superbly for Lampard to sidefoot home. For once, it all came together.

Admirably, Lampard’s goal marked the ninth season in a row in which he has scored at least 10. Quite a record for a midfielder.

Chelsea’s situation was also eased by the fact Newcastle squandered a real chance in a number of ways. First, they could have really put pressure on Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea with a win – and even temporarily moved into the top four – and, second, they had also been comfortably 2-0 ahead only to be pegged back.

Newcastle were absolutely cruising as Papa Cisse and then Jonas Gutierrez – with a supreme long-range strike – had put them in front. To give Wolves and their stand-in manager Terry Connor credit, though, they sensed an opportunity and exploited it. First, Matt Jarvis pegged Newcastle back with a deflected effort. Then, Kevin Doyle swept home from close range. A supreme result for Wolves given the circumstances, and one which also deflected a lot of the mid-week criticism.

That result  made things all the more interesting in the relegation battle as Wigan also drew 0-0 at home Aston Villa to really narrow the gap. Indeed, it was only a brilliant Shay Given save that denied both Franco Di Santo and Wigan the win that would have seen them finally leap out of the drop zone.

Despite a performance that was generally insipid from Roberto Martinez’s side, though, they could gain heart from the travails of Bolton, Blackburn Rovers and QPR.

Rovers were easily brushed aside 3-0 by Manchester City in what must have been one of the most one-sided games in Premier League history. Blackburn barely had a shot as City amassed 82% possession, with Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko eventually making good on it.

QPR, meanwhile, lost their seventh home game of the season and had their fifth man sent off at Loftus Road this season as Samba Diakite received an eventual red  for two separate atrocious tackles. Pavel Pogrebnyak’s seventh minute-strike ultimately proved the only goal of the game.

The most surprising result of the day, however, probably meant the least as Sunderland crashed to a 4-0 defeat away to West Brom. Ireland’s own Keith Andrews rounded off the scoring.

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