Chelsea threw away a two-goal lead at home to fall further off the pace in the Premier League.
The home side was sent out in their regular 4-2-3-1. Frank Lampard and Ramires occupied the midfield duo with the regular trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata occupying the band behind new signing Demba Ba, who made his first league start. Southampton lined up in a 4-3-3, or perhaps more accurately a 4-1-4-1. Jay Rodriguez was supported by Guly Do Prado on the left and Jason Puncheon on the right. Jack Cork played the anchor role behind Morgan Schneiderlin and Steven Davis.
Aston Villa and Stoke ground out a tactically intriguing but ultimately fruitless draw at Villa Park today.
The home side continued with Paul Lambert’s experimental 3-4-3 formation that they played against QPR, and retained the same team. Ciaran Clark was the sweeper with Chris Herd and Nathan Baker ahead of him, Barry Bannan and Ashley Westwood were the double pivot in midfield, and Brett Holman and stand-in captain Gabriel Agbonlahor drifted just off Christian Benteke.
Stoke made one enforced change, with Charlie Adam suspended and replaced by Dean Whitehead. This changed the shape of the team: last week against West Brom, Adam came from deep to support Kenwyne Jones, with Jonathan Walters coming in from the right and Matthew Etherington staying wide and high up on the left in a 4-3-3ish formation. Today, they too switched to a three man defence, though their take on it was different from Villa’s. The back three consisted of Geoff Cameron, Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross. Three similar players held ground in midfield, with Glenn Whelan – the most static and deepest of the trio – looking to put his foot on the ball and dictate his side’s tempo from deep. Ryan Shotton and Etherington were the two wing-backs, and Walters supported Jones from a central position.
QPR and Villa battled each other to a standstill in an evenly-matched contest at Loftus Road.
New Hoops manager Harry continued with the veterans he recalled in last week’s draw against Sunderland. Stephane M’Bia held position in front of the defence and broke up play – at least until his unfortunate and nasty injury near half time, best wishes go to him -, allowing Samba Diakite to play a box-to-box role alongside regista Esteban Granero. Jamie Mackie battled tirelessly up front.
Paul Lambert threw last week’s tactics out of the window, displaying his reputation for tactical flexibility with a 3-4-3ish formation. Barry Bannan and Ashley Westwood continued as the side’s hub in the centre of midfield, with Brett Holman out on the right again after his impressive display last week. Gabby Agbonlahor played a strange shuttling position somewhat like the one Antonio Cassano enjoys playing (though it’s hard to think of two less-alike players) and Eric Lichaj played at left back due to Enda Stevens’ injury.
Christian Benteke justified his selection over Darren Bent with a crucial goal to help Villa out of the relegation zone.
The home side were without captain Ron Vlaar, and so Ciaran Clark shifted over to the right side of the centre-back partnership to accommodate Nathan Baker. Last week’s experiment with regista Karim El Ahmadi being played as an attacking midfielder was shelved in favour of Andreas Weimann being moved into the centre, where he buzzed around the main striker. Brett Holman took his place on the right as Paul Lambert chose a 4-2-3-1.
Reading manager Brian McDermott shuffled his pack at the back, dropping Chris Gunter and Kaspars Gorkss in favour of Shaun Cummings and Adrian Mariappa. Elsewhere, the side was the same 4-4-2 as the one which lost 3-2 at Wigan, with Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre a hard working partnership up front.
Holland were unable to find their way through a determined Danish team, who nicked both a goal and the points to record a big upset.
The Netherlands’ defensive preparations were disrupted by an injury to Joris Mathijsen, who was replaced by Ron Vlaar. Otherwise, the usual 4-2-3-1 was deployed, with left-back Jetro Willems becoming the youngest ever Euro player, and Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong providing a solid base for the attacking four. Robin Van Persie was preferred over Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
The Danes, too, were more or less as expected. Stephan Andersen started in goal due to Thomas Sorensen’s injury, the creative centre-back partnership of Simon Kjaer and Daniel Agger were protected by a double pivot of Niki Zimling and William Kvist, and Christian Eriksen played in and around Nicklas Bendtner up front.
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