by TRAVIS CLARK
Will there ever be a Chelsea-Manchester United match-up that won't involve referee criticisms? Whenever Sir Alex and his side end up losing — especially in a match with such stakes — comments from the often critical Scotsman almost always lashes out at the ref shortly after the final whistle.
This time around was no different, as Ferguson felt slighted on the free kick leading up to Chelsea's goal, not to mention the questionable position/involvement of striker Didier Drogba. While decesions were contentious, United had infringements of their own. Of course Sir Alex fails to mention the karate kick delivered by Jonny Evans straight to Drogba's chest, or the fact that Evans scythed Roberto Carvalho down seconds after a whistle had been blown.
That doesn't make up for United's lack of a killer instinct in the final third, as the Red Devils seemed to rely too much on Wayne Rooney. It was a match where neither side was clearly dominant, and a lone goal from John Terry made up the difference at Stamford Bridge. The result puts Chelsea five points clear of Arsenal and United at the top of the table.
Arsenal 4, Wolverhampton 1
Mick McCarthy's hair surely went a shade whiter after this defensive performance. Despite more or less bossing proceedings in the game's opening stages, Wolves conceded two own goals in a desperate effort to lose this one as fast as possible. Ronald Zubar turned a corner kick into his own net, before an Eduardo chip glanced off the head of Jody Craddock, spiraling over an outstretched Wayne Hennessey to double the blow. Cesc Fabregas put the game out of reach with a vintage Arsenal tally — Bacary Sagna found Robin van Persie in the box, and the Dutch striker touched the ball perfectly into the Spaniard's path. By that point, it was all but over, with Andrey Arshavin adding the fourth, before Craddock punished some slack Arsenal defending late in the game.
Aston Villa 5, Bolton 1
Watch the highlights of this one if you want a perfect example of how not to defend. Who knows what Bolton were doing on a number of these Villa goals. Not to take anything away from the Villains, but Bolton let John Carew practically walk the ball into the front of the net. At one point, Bolton pulled one back to make it 2-1 before the half, but three goals in the second half ensured an easy win for Martin O'Neil. Bolton's defense stood around poor Jussi Jaaskelainen who ensured the result wasn't any worse.
Hull City 2, Stoke 1
The man with the best name in world soccer, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, saved the man with perhaps the most bizarre managerial reputation for at least the next two weeks. After Hull City went down 1-0 in the first half to Stoke, one couldn't help but ponder what Phil Brown would do when he's sacked. Perhaps he'd find solace in the tropical islands, nurturing that tan hide of his into a more natural glow. But plans for holiday were put on hold when Seyi Olofinjana struck in the 69th minute, cuing the Dutchman's heroics.
Everton 2, West Ham 1
Two clubs in need of a win, and the way the two played it was certainly evident. Everton has been struck by a death knell of injuries on par with city rivals Liverpool, but with an improving lineup took a 2-0 lead through some well worked goals. Tim Cahill set up Louis Saha, with the Frenchman doing most of the work on a sublime finish, before youngster Dan Gosling double the lead on the other side of the half. A comical own goal from Tony Hibbert ensured Everton faithful would have to wait to the final whistle before celebrating victory, but thanks to some profligacy from West Ham and Zavon Hines, walked away from Upton Park with all three points in hand.
Tottenham 2, Sunderland 0
It was Darren Bent's chance to get revenge on his old club. And while the Englishman's form has been good enough to appear on England's squad sheet for the friendly against Brazil, it wasn't good enough to beat Heurelho Gomes on a penalty he won after a blatant dive. Between Bent's wastefulness and the excellent play, Robbie Keane's early strike stood up as the difference, making Tom Huddlestone's sublime finish icing on Harry's cake.
Burnley 3, Manchester City 3
What a contrast in clubs. The deep-pocketed Citizens, backed by billionaires in Abu Dhabi, hosted minnows Burnley in what should have been a run away win for the home side, considering the wages earned on different sides. But Owen Coyle had his frisky side were up for the challenge, going 2-0 up through Graham Alexander and Steven Fletcher. Some atrocious defending by City cost them dearly, and would rear . The Citizens fought back, scoring the next three and appeared set for the full points. However, Wayne Bridge's failed clearance allowed David Nugent to set up Kevin McDonald's equalizer.
Blackburn 3, Portsmouth 1
If this one had ended on the first half whistle, Paul Hart's side had a chance at getting out of the drop zone. Up against relegation contenders Blackburn, Pompey couldn't keep the Rovers at bay. A Jason Roberts brace in the second half consigned Portsmouth to yet another road defeat.
Wigan 1, Fulham 1
Is there a more Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde side than Wigan? Despite having shocked Chelsea at home in September and finished on level terms with Manchester City, the Latics found a way to lose 4-0 against Portsmouth. Wigan even scored first in this one, as Emmerson Boyce scored in the 13th minute. Mark Schwarzer then proceeded to frustrate the Latics even further, setting the stage for a Fulham equalizer. On a Fulham free kick, Clint Dempsey was hauled down in the box by none other than Titus Bramble. Dempsey stepped up and beat Chris Kirkland with the spot kick, consigning the home side to just the single point.
What did you think of this weekend's EPL action? Is Chelsea the runaway favorite to win the title? Who among the relegation contenders can turn it around?
Share your thoughts below.