Offside’s weekend in pictures: United versus Chelsea and more

Attention wasn’t just focused upon the Premier League this weekend. The glamour of El Clasico caught the eyes of supporters across Europe while the more earthy appeal of a proper scrap down in the Championship offered something different to English football fans.

Marc Atkins: The Bobby Moore statue outside Upton Park.
Marc Atkins: The Bobby Moore statue outside Upton Park.
Marc Atkins: Upton Park reflected in a bubble.
Marc Atkins: Upton Park reflected in a bubble.

First up were Manchester City, who travelled to Upton Park to face West Ham, who took to the field under the watchful gaze of Russell Brand.

The unkempt comedian could be seen taking a break from raising his revolution to watch his beloved Hammers from a corporate box. Marc Atkins was Offside’s man at the Boleyn Ground.

Yet it was grit, determination and some old fashioned quality that saw Sam Allardyce’s side overthrow the Premier League’s ruling class, Manuel Pellegrini’s oil-rich reigning champions, rather than glamourous names and reputations.

Neither Diafra Sakho nor Enner Valencia were as heralded as other new arrivals to the topflight of English football in the summer, yet both forwards have left their marks on the opening weeks of the season, as they did against City on their visit to East London.

They weren’t alone in upsetting the status quo however. Morgan Amalfitano, a player who is no stranger to revolts against the elites after having scored the first goal in West Brom’s 2-1 surprise away win over Manchester United last season, put West Ham ahead after 21 minutes. He was left unmarked by Eliaquim Mangala and Gael Clichy at the far post and was able to slot home his opener as if he were unopposed.

Marc Atkins: Morgan Amalfitano knocks the ball past Joe Hart at close range.
Marc Atkins: Morgan Amalfitano knocks the ball past Joe Hart at close range.

Sakho had to wait until the 75th minute to double the Hammers’ lead, with his strike coming just before David Silva’s consolation goal on the 77 minute mark.

Marc Atkins: Diafra Sakho of West Ham celebrates scoring the winning goal.
Marc Atkins: Diafra Sakho of West Ham celebrates scoring the winning goal.

 

Had the Senegalese striker not turned in a second for the hosts, City may well have been able to come back and snatch the game, such was the way in which the momentum of the context appeared in flux. Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure both when close only to be denied by the woodwork.

Pellegrini’s men weren’t able to add any more goals to their tally however and ended the game defeated by a superior side who got their tactics right and motivations set to grab all three points.

Marc Atkins: Alex Song goes for the 'rabona' to send a cross into the box.
Marc Atkins: Alex Song goes for the ‘rabona’ to send a cross into the box.

 

As if to sum up the confidence with which West Ham executed their game plan, Alex Song even managed to pull off a Rabona after Erik Lamela’s similar bit of skill in the Europa League during the week.

Ryan Smyth: Millwall manager Ian Holloway and Cardiff manager Russell Slade share a joke before the match.
Ryan Smyth: Millwall manager Ian Holloway and Cardiff manager Russell Slade share a joke before the match.

Over on the other side of the river, the Irons’ fiercest rivals were fancy down a much fancied opponent of their own, as relegated former Premier League outfit Cardiff City travelled to The Den to face Millwall. Ryan Smyth was on hand to shoot the action.

Danny Shittu scored the winner on his first league start of the season for Ian Holloway’s men, who hadn’t won a game since August.

Ryan Smyth: Millwall fans chant towards the Cardiff supporters after scoring their goal.
Ryan Smyth: Millwall fans chant towards the Cardiff supporters after scoring their goal.

Ravel Morrison, on-loan at Cardiff from none other than West Ham, made an appearance as a substitute in the second half to add an extra link to the match and the more star-studded occasion taking place across the Thames.

The defeat was Russell Slade’s first as manager of the red-shirted Bluebirds, on the Leyton Orient manager’s return to London after winning his first two since taking charge at the start of October.

Paul Roberts: A Southampton fan awaits autographs.
Paul Roberts: A Southampton fan awaits autographs.

Offside’s focus swung back to the Premier League as Saturday’s three o’clock kick offs approached, with Paul Roberts down on the South Coast for Southampton versus Stoke City.

Fresh from thrashing Sunderland 8-0 last weekend, the Saints again looked threatening at home, with Graziano Pelle going close for the hosts on a couple of occasions in the first half.

The opener finally came through Saido Mane, who pounced upon yet another close run attempt by Pelle that rebounded into the Senegal forward’s path.

And 1-0 is how it stayed, with the final whistle conferring all three points to Ronald Koeman’s men as Mark Hughes was forced to lead his team back to the Potteries empty handed.

Simon Stacpoole: Mario Balotelli of Liverpool battles with Alex Bruce of Hull.
Simon Stacpoole: Mario Balotelli of Liverpool battles with Alex Bruce of Hull.

Neither side left Anfield with nothing to show for their afternoon’s toil however as Simon Stacpoole captured Liverpool’s home clash with Hull City.

Simon Stacpoole: Mario Balotelli lies down on the turf dejected after missing another chance.
Simon Stacpoole: Mario Balotelli lies down on the turf dejected after missing another chance.

Mario Balotelli was once again a figure of frustration and ridicule for fans of the Reds who had to watch on as their under-fire Italian front man again missed a sitter from close range, this time with his head.

Simon Stacpoole: Liverpool fans protest with banners and black flags against ever-rising ticket prices.
Simon Stacpoole: Liverpool fans protest with banners and black flags against ever-rising ticket prices.
Simon Stacpoole: Liverpool fans display a banner as they protest against ever-rising ticket prices.
Simon Stacpoole: Liverpool fans display a banner as they protest against ever-rising ticket prices.

Liverpool looked less chaotic than in their slap-dash 3-2 away win over QPR last weekend, but Brendan Rodgers’ side still struggled to break down Steve Bruce’s stubborn visitors.

The Tigers could have perhaps offered more to the liven up the spectacle, but considering the trouble that Hull had in containing Arsenal late on in their last league game, their conservatism on the road was understandable to some extent. It ended 0-0.

Speaking of Arsenal, the Gunners spent their Saturday afternoon up in the North East in Sunderland. Mark Leech was Offside’s man at the Stadium Of Light.

Mark Leech: A Sunderland flag flying in the back garden of a house close to the Stadium of Light.
Mark Leech: A Sunderland flag flying in the back garden of a house close to the Stadium of Light.

Arsene Wenger’s team could have been forgiven for assuming that their trip up to Wearside would produce plenty of goals for their forwards to feast on after Southampton’s big win against the Black Cats.

Mark Leech: A low level television camera follows the action as Lee Cattermole of Sunderland tackles Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal.
Mark Leech: A low level television camera follows the action as Lee Cattermole of Sunderland tackles Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal.
Mark Leech: Danny Welbeck of Arsenal is surrounded by Sunderland defenders.
Mark Leech: Danny Welbeck of Arsenal is surrounded by Sunderland defenders.

However, and perhaps worryingly, Danny Welbeck and Co. largely failed to pick apart their hosts, who instead gifted their visitors both goals in a drab 2-0 home defeat for Sunderland.

Mark Leech: Alexis Sanchez opens the scoring for Arsenal.
Mark Leech: Alexis Sanchez opens the scoring for Arsenal.

The first came through a terrible attempt by Wes Brown to take a touch near the half-way line, who gifted possession to an on-running Alexis Sanchez who sprinted on to chip Vito Mannone on the 30 minute mark.

An hour’s worth of match time later and it was Sunderland’s keeper who was at fault, with his decision to ponder over the loose ball in his area allowing Sanchez again to snatch an opportunity and grab a goal.

Mannone’s days as a Premier League goalkeeper look numbered.

Such calamities seemed a world away over in Madrid where Barcelona lined up for the first time in a competitive game with Luis Suarez in their team to face arch-rival Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

It was El Clasico time once more, and Offside’s Spanish associates Marca were on hand to deliver the best images from the big showdown in La Liga.

Marca Neymar: of Barcelona scores the first goal.
Marca Neymar: of Barcelona scores the first goal.

Barcelona started best, grabbing the first goal through Neymar, who received a long, raking pass from Suarez to nip inside for a central shot on goal, which beat Iker Casillas to put the visitors 1-0 up.

Marca: Cristiano Ronaldo of Madrid celebrates his equaliser.
Marca: Cristiano Ronaldo of Madrid celebrates his equaliser.

It wasn’t to last however. Cristiano Ronaldo soon levelled up the score from the penalty spot to continue his impressive start to the season.

Pepe later made it 2-1 to last year’s Champions League winners, while Karim Benzema completed their victory with a third goal to ensure that Suarez’s return to competitive football would not be triumphant.

Considering how good Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song have looked this season, having switched La Liga for the Premier League, perhaps this could be the year that for once English football finds itself on the better end of their annual dealings with Spain?

Mark Leech: Burnley manager Sean Dyche looks at his wrist watch.
Mark Leech: Burnley manager Sean Dyche looks at his wrist watch.

From the Bernabeu to Turf Moor, and Sunday saw Burnley host Everton in a match that Sean Dyche’s wouldn’t have expected to win but unfortunately needed to at least draw given their low points total so far this campaign.

As ever, the Clarets were able to put a shift in to try and overcome Roberto Martinez’s visitors, but it wasn’t to be. Mark Leech was on duty at pitch side.

Mark Leech: Lukas Jutkiewicz of Burnley leaps over Leon Osman of Everton.
Mark Leech: Lukas Jutkiewicz of Burnley leaps over Leon Osman of Everton.
Mark Leech: Phil Jagielka of Everton protects his goalkeeper Tim Howard as he is challenged by Lukas Jutkiewicz of Burnley.
Mark Leech: Phil Jagielka of Everton protects his goalkeeper Tim Howard as he is challenged by Lukas Jutkiewicz of Burnley.

Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring after just four minutes with a thumping header, which was cancelled out by Danny Ings after 20 minutes when the Burnley striker took advantage of some overly casual passing at the back by the Toffees.

Mark Leech: Gareth Barry of Everton can only watch as Danny Ings scores the equalising goal for Burnley.
Mark Leech: Gareth Barry of Everton can only watch as Danny Ings scores the equalising goal for Burnley.

The main culprit behind that clumsiness in possession was Romelu Lukaku, but the Belgian soon made amends by putting Everton back in front nine minutes later.

Eto’o then wrapped the match up late in the second half to kill off any lingering hopes of a dramatic equaliser for the hosts, with the best goal of the game. The prolific Cameroon star followed up his close range header that begun the scoring with a tremendous strike from 22 yards.

Marc Atkins: Alan Mullary and Pat Jennings among those lining up in tribute to former Tottenham player and Manager Bill Nicholson.
Marc Atkins: Alan Mullary and Pat Jennings among those lining up in tribute to former Tottenham player and Manager Bill Nicholson.

Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur were busy playing hosts to Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United at White Hart Lane. Marc Atkins was Offside’s man on the ground, at the ground.

Marc Atkins: Emmanuel Adebayor of Tottenham Hotspur scores the opening goal.
Marc Atkins: Emmanuel Adebayor of Tottenham Hotspur scores the opening goal.

Spurs’ football looked a little aimless even early on as Emmanuel Adebayor scored the first goal of the game with his head after 18 minutes from a wonderful Ryan Mason cross.

Marc Atkins: Tottenham Hotspur Manager, Mauricio Pochettino scratches his head as he looks on.
Marc Atkins: Tottenham Hotspur Manager, Mauricio Pochettino scratches his head as he looks on.

Yet the writing was already on the wall for the hosts with the Togolese striker otherwise looking ineffectual against the Magpies, who did well to crowd him out and nullify him in the air.

Newcastle regrouped and came back in the second half, with goals from fan favourite Sammy Ameobi and Ayoze Perez, who made his first Premier League start for the club.

It ended 2-1 with Mauricio Pochettino striking a similar squatted pose to Andre Villas Boas towards the end.

 

On the day, the Argentine’s tactics looked about as influential and effective as his long-gone bookish predecessor.

Sunday ended on a high, with the box office clash between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford, that had all the hallmarks of a heavyweight bout even if the home side’s suitability for that weight class may currently be in doubt. Images came from Simon Stacpoole.

With many expecting United to be ripped asunder by the creativity and skill of Fabregas through the middle, it was something of a surprise to see the hosts look the most dangerous team in the first half.

Simon Stacpoole: Mikel John Obi of Chelsea heads clear from teammates Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba as well as Chris Smalling of Man Utd.
Simon Stacpoole: Mikel John Obi of Chelsea heads clear from teammates Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba as well as Chris Smalling of Man Utd.
Simon Stacpoole: Mikel John Obi of Chelsea heads away from teammates Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba as well as Chris Smalling of Man Utd.
Simon Stacpoole: Mikel John Obi of Chelsea heads away from teammates Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba as well as Chris Smalling of Man Utd.
Simon Stacpoole: Mikel John Obi of Chelsea heads away from teammates Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba as well as Chris Smalling of Man Utd as Eden Hazard looks to collect the clearance.
Simon Stacpoole: Mikel John Obi of Chelsea heads away from teammates Gary Cahill and Didier Drogba as well as Chris Smalling of Man Utd as Eden Hazard looks to collect the clearance.

Louis van Gaal’s side weren’t able to finish their chances but with Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj on the flanks, they had no problem getting the ball forward to threaten Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten league leaders.

Marouane Fellaini was a shock protagonist for the home team, with the big haired Belgium finally menacing his opponents rather than the nightmares of United’s more critical fans.

Simon Stacpoole: Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea appeals in vain for a penalty.
Simon Stacpoole: Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea appeals in vain for a penalty.

However, after the break, it was the Blues who broke the deadlock through Didier Drogba. The Ivorian showed his vintage aerial prowess to send the ball home for a Chelsea goal after 53 minutes. It’s hard to deny that his attempt was helped by the short stature of his marker, Rafael.

Simon Stacpoole: Robin van Persie of Man Utd shoots past Gary Cahill of Chelsea.
Simon Stacpoole: Robin van Persie of Man Utd shoots past Gary Cahill of Chelsea.

From then on in, Mourinho’s men looked solid while Van Gaal’s tactics devolved into something more Moyes-ian, with long balls and crosses raining down upon Thibaut Courtois’ penalty area in search of an equaliser.

Simon Stacpoole: Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea argues with referee Phil Dowd.
Simon Stacpoole: Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea argues with referee Phil Dowd.

Branislav Ivanovic’s personal duel with Januzaj had been one of the highlights of the game, but unfortunately for the visitors it was the Serbian who eventually lost, and he was sent off for a second yellow with just a few minutes remaining.

Simon Stacpoole: Robin van Persie of Man Utd scores the equaliser.
Simon Stacpoole: Robin van Persie of Man Utd scores the equaliser.
Simon Stacpoole: Robin van Persie finds the net to make it 1-1.
Simon Stacpoole: Robin van Persie finds the net to make it 1-1.

That was just enough time for Robin van Persie to spring into action to convert a knock down from a corner to make it 1-1 at the death.

A yellow card soon followed for the Dutchman, who removed his shirt in celebration as the relief poured through him. Van Gaal was unimpressed with his actions given the cost of taking off his top, but the emotional release may well be a positive moment for the striker’s form and United’s chances in front of goal from here on in.

Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of classic First Division and Premier League pictures as well as other images from across the world of sport. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com.

Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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