Utd edge thriller; City held; Gunners stunned; Derby woe for Rafa
Manchester United prevailed in a seven-goal thriller, Manchester City were given a scare by Everton, but remain unbeaten, while Rafael Benitez and Chelsea endured another afternoon to forget.
Elsewhere, Queens Park Rangers remain in search of their first victory of the season, Arsenal did little to silence their critics, Liverpool picked up a welcome three-point haul on home soil, a Jermain Defoe double helped Tottenham to derby success and West Brom were condemned to back-to-back defeats.
Manchester United strengthened their grip on top spot following a thrilling encounter at Reading, with all of the goals at the Madejski Stadium arriving during a breathless first half. A tie which swung wildly from one extreme to the other offered an early indication as to what was in store when struggling Reading upset the form book by breaking the deadlock on eight minutes, with Hal Robson-Kanu showing great composure to take the ball on his chest and crack a volley high into the top corner. United levelled matters with a fine strike of their own on 13 minutes, as Anderson lashed past Adam Federici at his near post, and the Red Devils were in front three minutes later when Jay Tabb bundled into Jonny Evans and Wayne Rooney made no mistake from the spot. Sir Alex Ferguson would have expected his side to kick on from there, but United were pegged back by two headed goals from corners in the space of four minutes, with Nicky Shorey providing the ammunition for Adam Le Fondre and Sean Morrison. United have made a habit of coming from behind to pick up wins this season, though, and they had their noses back in front before the break. Rooney swept in his second of the game on the half-hour mark and four minutes later Robin van Persie beat the offside trap to roll in a fourth and send the Red Devils three points clear of the title-chasing pack.
It came as no surprise to see Marouane Fellaini take centre stage during Everton's trip to Manchester City, with the Belgian involved in the two major talking points as an entertaining encounter ended 1-1. City, who knew they would take to the summit for a few hours at least with a positive result, saw their plans rocked early on by an injury blow to Aleksandar Kolarov. Roberto Mancini's mood was then soured further on 33 minutes when Fellaini met a pinpoint cross from Leighton Baines and bundled the ball past Joe Hart after the England keeper had done brilliantly to parry his initial header. The Toffees talisman then went from hero to villain in the space of 10 minutes, as he was adjudged to have tugged Edin Dzeko to the deck inside the box. Carlos Tevez stepped up to take the resulting spot kick and sent an audacious effort straight down the middle, levelling matters and keeping City's unbeaten start to the season intact.
Problems continue to mount for interim Chelsea boss Benitez after he saw his side suffer a 3-1 derby defeat at West Ham. The Spaniard was finally able to celebrate a goal, but he has taken just two points from his opening three games in charge and now faces a make-or-break week in the UEFA Champions League. Things appeared to be going Chelsea's way during the first half at Upton Park, with Fernando Torres teeing up the opening goal of the contest for countryman Juan Mata on 13 minutes. The Blues were unable to add to that effort before the interval, though, and saw half-time changes by Sam Allardyce turn the tie in the Hammers' favour. Mohamed Diame's introduction proved to be pivotal, with the energetic midfielder helping to haul West Ham back into a game which had been slipping away. Carlton Cole, in for the injured Andy Carroll, restored parity on 63 minutes, despite appearing to clamber all over Branislav Ivanovic, and Diame then struck four minutes from time to leave Benitez fearing the worst. A third from another substitute, Modibo Maiga, in stoppage-time means Benitez has it all to do if he is to convince a sceptical Stamford Bridge fan base that he is the right man to steer Chelsea through stormy waters.
Harry Redknapp is another Premier League manager to have been drafted in and charged with the task of fire-fighting, at rock-bottom Queens Park Rangers. If he was not aware of the size of the task he faces at Loftus Road prior to checking in, one of the most experienced coaches around surely is now. QPR were at least able to take a share of the spoils from a home date with Aston Villa on Saturday, as an early effort from Brett Holman suggested it could be another long day for the locals. Robert Green hardly covered himself in glory with just eight minutes on the clock, with the England international helping a 20-yard effort from Holman into the back of the net via the inside of the post. Redknapp will have been pleased to see his side drew level 10 minutes later, as Samba Diakite crossed for Jamie Mackie to nod home, but a serious injury to Stephane Mbia and a seven-point gap to top-flight safety has left him with plenty to ponder.
The murmurings of discontent at the Emirates are in danger of becoming a roar, with Arsenal suffering another defensive nightmare during a 2-0 defeat to Swansea. The Gunners, coming off the back of consecutive draws in which they had mustered just one goal, would have been aware of the threat posed by the Swans prior to kick-off, but must have felt that familiar surroundings would favour them. That was definitely not the case as Arsene Wenger saw his team put in a toothless display before shooting themselves in the foot late on. Michu, who is fast becoming the bargain of the season, was the Gunners' chief tormentor as he netted twice in the final two minutes - benefitting from errors on each occasion - to leave Wenger tearing his hair out and unable to hide from the deafening boos which rang around a North London arena which is fast running out of patience.
There were plenty of intriguing sub-plots on show at Craven Cottage, with Fulham and Tottenham including players looking to make a point against former employers within their ranks. In the end, the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey filled supporting roles in a game which will be remembered more for what went wrong than what went right. The unfortunate Michael Dawson picked up yet another injury for Spurs, while Andre Villas-Boas will have been concerned to see Gareth Bale clutching his hamstring after previously being booked for diving. Fulham also picked up a knock of their own, with Sascha Riether forced off during the first half. Martin Jol would have been hoping for more against a side he bossed between 2004 and 2007, but the Dutchman ended the game empty-handed. The reason he did so is that the normally reliable Mark Schwarzer was unable to deal with a 35-yard drive from Sandro which dipped in front of him and bobbled over his body. That effort arrived on 55 minutes and Fulham never recovered. Spurs wrapped up the points with two goals in the space of five minutes from Jermain Defore, with the in-form forward turning home a Gylfi Sigurdsson centre on 72 minutes and calmly stroking a Dempsey through-ball into the bottom corner shortly after.
Critics will start to question whether the wheels are in danger of falling off West Brom's bandwagon, with the Baggies condemned to successive defeats by Stoke. A game which produced plenty of graft but little guile was settled on 75 minutes when Michael Kightly burst into the box and delivered for Dean Whitehead to send a controlled half-volley past Boaz Myhill. Defeat for West Brom means they drop out of the UEFA Champions League places, with Spurs, for all their inconsistencies, replacing them inside the top four.
Liverpool's troubles at Anfield in 2012 have been well-documented, but the Reds were able to enjoy home comforts in their latest outing. Brendan Rodgers' side edged out Southampton 1-0, but could have run out more convincing winners were it not for the fact that fate is still refusing to smile on them - with Jonjo Shelvey seeing one well-struck effort crash off the inside of the post. Luis Suarez unsurprisingly looked like being the man most likely to make the difference on Saturday, and he was involved in the only goal of the game. The Uruguayan saw a free-kick cannon off the crossbar and when Glen Johnson returned the ball to a crowded penalty area, Daniel Agger was able to rise through the crowd and convert a looping header. As is often the case for Suarez, he had to level out the good with the bad and must now serve a suspension after picking up his fifth booking of the season for a needless hand-ball.