In a weekend of unpredictable results the standout took place at the King Power Stadium, where home side LeicesterCity overhauled a two goal deficit to run out 5-3 winners over visiting Manchester United.
In a highly competitive game, Manchester United took the early lead when van Persie and Di Maria each scored within a three minute period, van Persie with a deft header from a well-placed Falcao cross and Di Maria with a skilful chipped finish to the right of Foxes keeper Kaspar Schmeichel, son of United legend Peter Schmeichel. Their two-goal lead, however, lasted only a little over a minute, with Leonardo Ulloa pulling one back with a powerful headed effort.
The game remained animated throughout both halves, and Manchester United regained their two-goal cushion when Ander Herrera scored a neat back-heel. Again, however, their lead was short lived, with Leicester scoring a quickfire double. The first came after experienced referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a generous penalty for minimal contact between Rafael and Jamie Vardy, with veteran forward David Nugent scoring from the spot. The second came just two minutes later, when Esteban Cambiasso, a decorated Argentinean arriving after ten successful years at AC Milan, stroked home into the bottom corner. Leicester, maintaining the impetus from their comeback, took the lead when Vardy calmly turned in a Ritchie De Laet cross as Leicester led for the first time. They ensured victory in the 83rd minute with a commanding run from Vardy, outmuscling young defender Tyler Blackett whose attempt to atone gifted Leicester a penalty and earned him a late red card. Ulloa stepped up to score his second of the game, and fifth of the season, as he continues to demonstrate why manager Nigel Pearson spent £8 million to bring him from Brighton.
Leicester may take great encouragement from their performance, which saw United concede four or more goals facing a newly-promoted side for the first time in their Premier League history, as well as the first time an opponent has overcome a two-goal United advantage to emerge victorious in Premier League game with the Red Devils. United, meanwhile, again must re-evaluate a defence that remains porous despite enormous summer spending.
Elsewhere the unexpected results continued apace, with West Ham achieving a 3-1 victory at home to Liverpool. Taking an early lead through a free-kick routine which saw James Tomkins nod the ball across the goalmouth for Winston Reid to head home, before an unusual effort from Diafra Sakho outfoxed Simon Mignolet to nestle in the side netting. Liverpool responded, altering their formation, and regained a foothold when Raheem Sterling launched a powerful effort past Adrian.
However, despite Liverpool’s increasing control of the game, West Ham’s back line held firm, and made certain their victory with a cool finish by Morgan Amalfitano. Sam Allardyce has this season demonstrated his managerial clout with both an impressively organised team and the quality of his new additions. The pace and power of both Sakho and Enner Valencia, who caught many eyes with his performances for Ecuador at the recent World Cup, have provided a new outlet for West Ham, offering more variety in their forward play and pleasing the Upton Park crowds, allowing a reprise from last season’s long-ball tactics.
Both sides of Liverpool were recipients of surprisingly strong performances, with Everton taking on Crystal Palace, whose 3-2 win saw newly-appointed manager Neil Warnock’s first win since returning to the club. Despite an early opener for Everton, with a composed finish from record signing Romelu Lukaku, Palace’s characterful performance saw them run out the victors, with goals from captain Mile Jedinak, Frazier Campbell and Yannick Bolasie.
As many teams move on from a weekend of unexpected results, benefitted by tactical awareness, determined professionalism and quality additions outweighing complacency and massive spending, the Premier League remains an unpredictable prospect for the remainder of the season.
What steps might the weekend’s surprise winners take to find continued league success?