Reporters' Notebook

Sky Sports takes a look at some of the talking points from the midweek Premier League action

Last Updated: 28/11/12 11:41pm

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For individual match reports, statistics, player ratings and key moments from each game, click on the headers below.

Aston Villa 1 Reading 0

Jack Woodfield

With many tipping this as a six-pointer before kick-off, the pressure was on both teams to claim what would surely be a priceless victory in both sides' bids to avoid relegation from the Premier League this season.

In the end, it was a late Christian Benteke goal that delivered salvation for Aston Villa, whose fans unleashed a wave of relief, joy and exhaustion at the final whistle after a thoroughly entertaining, if not quality-filled game at Villa Park.

It was a result that will leave Reading feeling quite hard done by. They had chances themselves to claim all three points, with Adam Le Fondre missing a glorious opportunity from a corner, heading well over from close range.

That really was the difference between the two sides. Benteke found the net with a header from a corner and that was enough to claim a massive victory for Villa, who will be boasting a degree of confidence in what they will view as another winnable game against QPR at the weekend.

For Reading, their dreadful away form in the top flight continues and that will need to improve if they are to hold any hopes of a second successive stay in the Premier League next season.

Sunderland 0 QPR 0

Jonathan Jurejko

All the pre-match attention was focused on Harry Redknapp as he took control of QPR for the first time following his watching brief during Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Manchester United.

But now it is Redknapp's Sunderland counterpart Martin O'Neill who is under the spotlight after another insipid display from his struggling side.

A cacophony of boos rang out around the Stadium of Light following Tuesday's goalless draw as almost 40,000 fans were left frustrated by their team's failure to spoil Redknapp's return.

Even at this early stage of the season, the match was billed as a 'six-pointer' with fifth-bottom Sunderland sliding dangerously towards the relegation zone and QPR already cut adrift after making the worst start to a season in Premier League history.

But both struggling sides, as you would expected, displayed a fragile level of confidence. Nobody looked capable of producing a rare moment of brilliance to win the match - and unsurprisingly it never arrived.

So it was Redknapp who left the happiest after a dogged display, with O'Neill left to reflect on where his team go from here.

Chelsea 0 Fulham 0

Chris Harvey

Two home games in, no goals and no wins: it's fair to say Rafael Benitez has done little so far to convince Chelsea fans owner Roman Abramovich has made the right choice to succeed Blues favourite Roberto di Matteo.

Benitez was booed off instead of on to the pitch at Stamford Bridge after seeing his side draw a blank with Fulham and his selections - or rather non-selections - will have left many fans shaking their heads.

The Spaniard chose to leave fellow countryman Juan Mata on the bench for two thirds of the bore draw at the Bridge. While Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu may have certain qualities, they are not the type of players to get fans out of their seats and inspire a side struggling for goals.

Mata made a belated difference and injected some much needed zest into Chelsea's play in the final third - but by then the damage had been done. While the European Champions look solid, a return to the pragmatism of the early Jose Mourinho era is unlikely to appease Abramovich - and the majority of Blues fans - for long.

Everton 1 Arsenal 1

Daniel Storey

More fuel to the fire for Wenger's critics? In seasons gone by Arsenal have enjoyed much success at Goodison Park, but even after a goal inside a minute they were unable to capitalise and gain a much-needed victory. Marouane Fellaini's equaliser was an astute finish but he profited from a defensive error and had too much time to pick his spot.

For Everton, it is now five draws in seven games, and another case of one point that could have been three. Most worrying was the way both sides seemed to accept the sharing of spoils after a pulsating first half.

As the match wore on, scrappiness and misplaced passing became the norm. With West Brom losing and Chelsea also dropping points, this was a missed opportunity all round.

Man Utd 1 West Ham 0

Dave John

Manchester United were not at their clinical best on the night despite the lion's share of possession but put in one of their grinding displays to secure all three points against a resilient opponent.

The visitors outplayed their double-figure odds prior to kick-off and although they never looked like winning a game after going behind in the first 33 seconds they had a chance to grab an equaliser.

Manchester United were limited to shooting from outside of the box for much of the game thanks to some sterling defence by the Hammers and in all honesty did not really threaten to grab an all-important second goal.

Going forward, West Ham  should take heart from this effort and James Collins' free-kicks from the halfway line into the opposing area should produce plenty of dividends this season.

Southampton 1 Norwich 1

Rob Lancaster

It didn't really matter where or when it was, Mark Clattenburg's return to refereeing was always going to be big news.

The 37-year-old had worked as the fourth official at Tottenham v West Ham at White Hart Lane on Sunday, but this was completely different. For the first time since Chelsea alleged he used inappropriate language towards midfielder John Obi Mikel during their match against Manchester United on October 28, he was the man in charge out in the middle of the field.

Southampton against Norwich was perhaps a nice game to get for a comeback, particularly when he received a round of applause from the home fans at St Mary's when completing his warm-up.

The cameras were also keen to keep an eye on Clattenburg - no fewer than seven photographers waited for him to emerge from the tunnel - but then he wouldn't have expected it to be any different.

The warmth towards the man in black didn't last for long, however, yet perhaps the chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' and 'you're not fit to referee' from those supporting the Saints just turned out to be music to Clattenburg's ears. Here was a man just glad to be back on the job.

Both managers after the game suggested he had got key decisions wrong; Norwich boss Chris Hughton felt Rickie Lambert had handled the ball in the build-up to Southampton's goal, while opposite number Nigel Adkins was unhappy with the awarding of a free-kick that resulted in the Canaries grabbing an equaliser right on the stroke of half time.

To be fair to Clattenburg, watching the game live he seemed to be correct in both incidents. He also opted against blowing up for a foul when the outstanding Luke Shaw made a desperate, lunging tackle on Robert Snodgrass in the area in the closing stages.

Indeed, with a couple of bookings administered, the man from County Durham must've felt pretty pleased with how his first night back on the job went. Some would beg to differ, of course, but then when will there ever be a case of everyone agreeing with a referee?
Stoke 2 Newcastle 1

Graeme Bailey

Alan Pardew claimed Newcastle deserved to win this game, well I sincerely hope that was not the message in the dressing room afterwards because they didn't. A couple of counter attacks aside and their goal, they were pretty poor.

Chieck Tiote looked like he was getting back to some sort of form in midfield, but oh how they miss Yohan Cabaye - but then again most teams would in all fairness.

Tony Pulis is the manager who can take so much from this game, not just for the win - but knowing he played a major part in it. His decision to take off the hugely ineffective Charlie Adam for Cameron Jerome was a brilliant decision as he played his part in both Stoke goals.

Stoke were, by no stretch of the imagination, great here - but this match highlighted why a lot of people are worried about Newcastle getting dragged into a relegation scrap.

Swansea 3 West Brom 1

Razwan Mirza

West Brom have travelled up the country to play Sunderland and then down to South Wales to take on Swansea in the space of a few days, so it's little wonder they failed to mirror their performance in the North East.

The question is, has the Baggies bubble finally burst?

The hosts dominated possession for much of the game and fully deserved their three points at a bouncing Liberty Stadium.

Their last six Premier League games have all been goalless at half-time at Swansea, but they started like a house on fire with the secret of their success coming down the left hand side of Albion's defence, scoring three goals inside the opening 40 minutes.

And one man was the main instigator on the night - Pablo Hernandez. The Spaniard has a trick or two up his sleeve and he also has the vision which can unlock a weak defensive backline.

He combined well with Michu until being substituted late on, while Wayne Routledge seems to have rediscovered the sort of form he was in during his Crystal Palace days - the flying winger, scoring goals for fun.

Albion had been looking to win a fifth consecutive top-flight game for the first time in 34 years and an unlikely spot in the top two had other results gone their way.

Sadly, Steve Clarke must go back to the drawing board, although there's little doubt they have come on leaps and bounds under the former Chelsea coach this season.

The likes of James Morrison, Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie failed to perform at their best on the night and Baggies fans will hope this is just a blip as they look forward to Stoke, Arsenal and West Ham in their next three league games.

Swansea are now just three points off fifth as they travel to Arsenal in their next fixture, which should be one for the purists.

Tottenham 2 Liverpool 1

Peter Fraser

Brendan Rodgers claimed in his post-match interviews that Liverpool should have had two penalties. Either award would have been generous but Liverpool have not had a penalty this season. Is the 'diving' reputation of Luis Suarez working against them as has been claimed in the past?

Stewart Downing is not a left-back. If Rodgers does not trust the England international as a winger in his keep-ball attacking philosophy, he should not try to reinvent him as a defender. Downing was at fault for Tottenham's opening goal, when he was not aware of Aaron Lennon's run at the back post. As comfortable as Jose Enrique looks in a more advanced position, it is an area which needs to be either offered to Oussama Assaidi or Suso, or requires strengthening in January. Enrique is a full-back.

Should Andre Villas Boas be prepared to release the shackles on a more frequent basis? The sort of free-flowing football which became a trademark under Harry Redknapp is clearly favoured by the likes of Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and Lennon. Tottenham started in that fashion and, as against West Ham, they blew Liverpool away. After half-time, Tottenham had seemingly been told to sit back and they looked a bundle of nerves.

Wigan 0 Man City 2

Rob Parrish

Manchester City continued the defence of their title by stretching their unbeaten run with a 2-0 victory over Wigan which was far from the routine success the scoreline suggests.

Roberto Mancini's men became the first team in the history of the Premier League to avoid defeat in their opening 14 games for two seasons in succession and are just a point behind fierce rivals Manchester United in the pecking order.

Even the most ardent City supporter would accept they have not hit the heights of last season as yet, although the clean sheet kept by Joe Hart and co at the DW Stadium was their sixth of the campaign, and fifth in their last six as some of last term's defensive resolve returns.

But they were thankful for Aroune Kone's profligacy when presented with a glorious chance to head the Latics into the lead when the score was still 0-0 in the second half during Wigan's best spell of the match, while Jordi Gomez had a strong penalty appeal rejected before the interval.

The problems for Wigan are all too familiar. They play good football and create chances, but lack a clinical edge in front of goal and will always be punished for such failings at this level.

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