An intoxicating day of Premier League action on Saturday ended with leaders Manchester United beaten for the first time this season, title rivals Arsenal blowing a 4-0 lead and a record 41 goals across eight games.
United’s 29-match unbeaten league was halted by bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers, who claimed a deserved 2-1 victory at Molineux, although the damage was minimized by Arsenal’s astonishing capitulation in a 4-4 draw at Newcastle United.
When Nani gave United a third-minute lead at Molineux in the evening match it appeared Alex Ferguson’s side were set to extend their unbeaten league run to a club-record 30 matches stretching back to last April’s home defeat by Chelsea.
However, a day of hat-tricks, penalties, late goals and the general mayhem that makes the Premier League such a hit worldwide provided one final twist in the shape of George Elokobi and Kevin Doyle, who each scored before halftime to seal a famous three points for Mick McCarthy’s struggling Midlands club.
“We are disappointed, particularly after going in front so early in the game,” Ferguson said. “The result was caused by bad play at set-pieces. That is the nuts and bolts of it and we don’t dispute that.”
Arsenal’s players on the way home from the North East would have breathed a sigh of relief at the scoreline.
The surprise result meant United’s hopes of emulating Arsenal’s 2003-2004 “Invincibles” team, who went through the whole season unbeaten, had been thwarted.
It would also have lightened the mood after they conceded four goals in the last 22 minutes at St James’ Park after Abou Diaby’s sending off sparked a second-half meltdown, culminating in Cheik Tiote’s late screamer for Newcastle.
“At 4-1 we panicked a bit,” Wenger told Sky Sports, saying the match careered out of his side’s control after Diaby’s controversial sending off for a shove on Joey Barton following a robust tackle by the Newcastle midfielder. “I think Diaby was too nervous in his reaction, but Barton should have been sent off too for the tackle.”
United are top with 54 points from 25 games above Arsenal, who have 50 while Manchester City, for whom the ever-reliable Carlos Tevez bagged a hat-trick on his 27th birthday in a 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion, are on 49 from 26. Chelsea are fourth with 44 from 24 games.
Fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur also have 44 after substitute Niko Kranjcar’s last-gasp winner in a 2-1 home victory over Bolton Wanderers.
The goal glut began at lunchtime with Stoke City’s 3-2 win against Sunderland and continued unrestrained throughout the day with Louis Saha scoring four times in Everton’s 5-3 home win against Blackpool, Wigan Athletic beating Blackburn Rovers 4-3 and Fulham and Aston Villa drawing 2-2 at Villa Park.
The previous record tally of goals in a single Premier League day was 36 on Nov. 27 last year.
Nani gave United a third-minute lead after a mesmerizing run from the right ended with him blasting a shot past Wayne Hennessey, but United were strangely fragile.
Elokobi headed his first league goal in English soccer to level soon after and Doyle touched in from close-range five minutes before halftime for what proved the winner.
Arsenal’s failure to hold a lead was on another scale entirely. Theo Walcott fired them ahead in the first minute at Newcastle and Johan Djourou headed a second soon after before Van Persie’s double had some disenchanted home fans heading toward the exits with barely half-an-hour on the clock.
They could hardly be blamed. A 4-0 halftime deficit against free-flowing Arsenal, and with no recognized striker after Andy Carroll’s ￡35 million move to Liverpool, hardly looked like an enticing prospect for the most optimistic Geordie.
However, Diaby’s 50th minute sending off for pushing Barton and Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan turned the tide against the visitors, who fell apart spectacularly after Barton’s 68th-minute penalty gave Newcastle a glimmer of hope.
Leon Best halved Arsenal’s lead with a low shot past Wojciech Szczesny and when the ’keeper fouled Mike Williamson, Barton stepped up to convert his second penalty.
Newcastle laid siege to Arsenal’s goal and Tiote unleashed a stunning 20m volley with three minutes of normal time remaining to spark wild celebrations from Newcastle’s fans.
Fickle winds produced farcical scenes yesterday on day two of the America’s Cup challenger series in Auckland, as the so-called “flying” yachts spent almost as much time in the water as above it. “I’m not sure today is a really accurate read because it’s so puffy, it’s shifty,” British sailing legend Ben Ainslie said after his Ineos Team UK maintained their perfect start to the Prada Cup series with a third straight win. The series would determine which of the 23m yachts — which fly above the water balanced on hi-tech foil arms — would challenge defending champion Team New Zealand for
Transgender athletes are to have an ally in the White House next week, as they seek to participate as their identified gender in high school and college sports — although state legislatures, the US Congress and the courts are all expected to have their say this year, too. Attorneys on both sides say they expect US president-elect Joe Biden’s Department of Education to switch sides in two key legal battles — one in Connecticut, the other in Idaho — that could go a long way in determining whether transgender athletes are treated by the sex on their birth certificates or by
DOUBLES VICTORY: The men’s doubles pairing of Taiwanese Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin downed Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, and face South Koreans today Men’s badminton world No. 2 Chou Tien-chen yesterday marched into the semi-finals of the Thailand Open, defeating younger opponent Lee Zii-jia 21-17, 21-15 after a rally, while Tai Tzu-ying had no trouble getting past her Canadian opponent in the women’s singles. The top male Taiwanese credited calm and focus in securing his win after briefly falling behind against his 22-year-old Malaysian opponent. “I think I had more patience against him and I won most of the long rallies,” the 31-year-old Chou said of Lee. “He wanted to attack [too much] and maybe he lost some focus,” Chou said. In today’s semi-finals, second-seeded Chou faces
DOUBLE VISION: The men’s duo of Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin downed the South Korean pairing of Choi Sol-gyu and Seo Seung-jae to secure their place in the final Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying yesterday easily defeated Mia Blichfeldt in her women’s singles match to advance to the finals of the Yonex Thailand Open in Bangkok, while Chou Tien-chen crashed out of the tournament. Tai quickly ousted world No. 18 Blicheldt, of Denmark, in 34 minutes, winning 21-8, 23-21. The world No. 1 today must overcome Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who took down An Se-young of South Korea yesterday 21-18, 21-16. In men’s singles, Taiwan’s Chou fell to Hong Kong’s Angus Ng Ka Long after a tough 66 minutes of play. While Chou, the world No. 2, bested Ng in the first set,