Gunners Held, While Premiership Humbled

footballl.jpgYet another Premiership side crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of another Second Division side. This time it was Middlesbrough to follow the footsteps of Liverpool and Chelsea as they were beaten at home in The Riverside Stadium by Cardiff City 2-0. Goals scored in the first-half by Peter Whittingham and Roger Johnson secured the second division side a berth in the FA Cup quarters as the “weekend of upsets” continued.

However, the major disappointment of the evening was when the premiership leaders Arsenal were held by relegation threatened Wigan Athletic at the JJB stadium. This game piled on the misery for the Gunners who have failed to win three league games in row. Arsenal boss Arséne Wenger was disappointed as his men failed to deliver what they had that week at Milan. It would be very wrong to say that the Gunners are suffering from a hangover as they tried tooth and nail for the goal. But Wigan were more determined than ever not to lose home fixtures when they are facing relegation to the second division.The combination of Emmanuel Adebayor and Francesc Fabregas failed to recreate the magic of the Milan game as Arsenal stuttered to find flair in a muddy JJB pitch, which seemed as if it had let it out for a rugby match or a pool party. Not even the return of the Dutch striker Robin van Persie could inspire the young guns to find the back of the net. Wigan did what is called in football terminology, “parked the bus” ahead of the goal leaving Arsenal frustrated. Their lead over Manchester United has now been reduced to 2 points while United have a game in hand. Chelsea stand eight points behind Arsenal with 2 games in hand. It seems so that the title race has been thrown wide open once again.Not far from Wigan, Merseyside team Everton moved into 5th place after Andy Johnson sealed victory at another relegation threatened team, Sunderland, before a very rowdy Stadium of Light crowd. Their last encounter saw Everton rout Sunderland 7-1. Australian Tim Cahill could have scored the game’s first goal in the 55th minute but it was not to be, for the England forward Andy Johnson sliced in Spaniard Mikel Arteta’s cross leaving Scottish keeper Gordon Brown baffled. Everton are now level on points with arch-rivals Liverpool but are behind on goal difference.Elsewhere in Spain, Spanish maestro Raúl rewrote the records having scored his 200th Spanish League goal to help the Galacticós come back from behind to beat Espanyol at Estadió Santiagó Bernabéu. The home crowd was silenced in the 29th minute by midfielder Valdo who sent Iker Casillas the wrong way with his header to give Espanyol the lead. Casillas was making his 300th Spanish League appearance at an age of 25. Minutes before the interval, forward Gonzalo Higuaín drew the Galacticós level by deflecting an effort by full back Marcelo to compel keeper Kameni to scamper to save the goal. Espanyol skipper Raúl Tamudo received a red card in his 302nd league game for excessive protesting. In the 74th minute Raúl coolly converted a penalty when he was dragged to the ground in the box by defender Jarqué. The result leaves Real Madrid leading with 62 points with Barcelona occupying 2nd spot with 54 points.In Italy, AS Roma, who earlier this week dumped out Real Madrid kept leaders Inter Milan on their toes as they effortlessly beat Napoli 2-0 with Simone Perrotta’s early goal and captain Francesco Totti’s second half penalty. On the other hand Inter Milan were handed a 2-0 win at Reggina to move six points clear of Roma. Fifth placed Milan left it late to secure a 3-1 away win at Empoli with an early goal by Brazilian wonder kid Alexandre Pato and late finishes by Massino Ambrosini and World Player of the year Káká.Joydeep Roy

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