June 19, 2013
Chelsea, Newcastle stumble on day of surprises
Chelsea wasted the chance to get back into the Premier League title race when held to a 0-0 draw at Norwich and Newcastle United lost 5-2 at Fulham as both sides failed to close in on the top four in disappointing setbacks on Saturday.
With four of the top five not playing until Sunday when leaders Manchester City play third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, and second-placed Manchester United meet fifth-placed Arsenal, Chelsea had a chance to close the gap to Spurs but missed out.
Newcastle fared even worse, crashing to defeat at Fulham after they took the lead but then conceded four goals in a 16-minute spell early in the second half.
Apart from the match at Carrow Road, there were goals everywhere else.
Queens Park Rangers climbed out of the bottom three and won their first league match under new manager Mark Hughes with a 3-1 triumph over bottom-placed Wigan Athletic with Heidur Helguson scoring one penalty and missing another for Rangers.
Robbie Keane, on loan at Aston Villa from Los Angeles Galaxy, scored twice on his full debut to give Villa a 3-2 win at 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers were he started his career 15 years ago.
Tim Cahill scored for Everton for the first time in 34 matches after a blatant handball by team mate Marouane Fellaini was missed by the referee as Everton drew 1-1 with Blackburn Rovers, who equalised through David Goodwillie and stayed one place above the relegation zone.
Elsewhere, West Bromwich Albion won 2-1 at Stoke City with a stoppage time winner from a free kick by Graham Dorrans after Jon Walters missed a penalty for the home side, and Sunderland continued their revival under new boss Martin O'Neill with a 2-0 win over Swansea City.
In later action Bolton Wanderers were meeting Liverpool.
Chelsea, who stayed in fourth place on 41 points, five behind Spurs, had a disappointing day at Norwich, coach Andre Villas-Boas admitted afterwards.
Chelsea dominated much of the game but were thwarted by a fine goalkeeping display from Norwich's John Ruddy while Spain striker Fernando Torres, their 50.0 million pounds signing from Liverpool a year ago, failed to find the net for the 17th successive match for club and country.
Chelsea also lost England midfielder Frank Lampard with a suspected torn calf muscle in the first half.
Villas-Boas, who delayed giving a debut to Gary Cahill, their new signing from Bolton, said that Chelsea should have done better and a point was not enough.
"It was a frustrating day because we were dominant, particularly in the second half, but just couldn't find the net," he told Sky Sports.
"I thought John Ruddy was magnificent for them and for the co-ordination of his defense, but for our progress in the league a point is not enough."
Regarding another goalless Torres appearance, he added: "He had good chances and to have good chances you have to position yourself well, and with a bit more luck he will find the back of the net.
In some respects Chelsea's west London neighbours Fulham did them a favor by crushing Newcastle who stayed back in sixth place on 36 points.
Danny Guthrie put Newcastle ahead just before halftime with a superb strike, before Fulham crashed in four goals with Clint Dempsey scoring twice before adding a third later for his second hat-trick in three games. Danny Murphy and Bobby Zamora also converted penalties for Fulham who climbed to 12th.
Dempsey told the BBC: "We never found our rhythm in the first half but we began to get into their penalty area in the second half. Danny Murphy scored the first goal and then we kept going and going. Luckily the ball kept going in. We never took our foot off the gas and we took our chances."
While Dempsey had an outstanding day, so did Keane, whose winner for Villa came from a stunning 25-metre drive.
Villa boss Alex McLeish was grateful to the two-goal Ireland skipper, making his first start for the club, after the visitors came back strongly to win and send Wolves into the bottom three.
"We took a pummelling after a brilliant start. It was a time for fight and character and we showed that. Maybe I've got to get them angry every week. Robbie did very well - with his movement, touch and interaction with other players."
The Premier League action switches to the top of the table Sunday when Manchester City face Spurs at 1330 GMT and Arsenal host Manchester United at 1600 GMT.