EPL: Liverpool benefit from rivals' cast-offs to win again
Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud gave food for thought to Arsenal fans craving a new striker by scoring in a 3-1 Premier League win at Fulham on Saturday while Liverpool made it two victories from two games at Aston Villa.
Podolski netted twice after forward partner Giroud had grabbed the opener for Arsenal who put to bed all talk of an early-season crisis by landing their first points of the campaign.
Liverpool went level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table as they won 1-0 thanks to a superb individual goal from Daniel Sturridge.
There were first victories of the season for Stoke City, who came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1, and Hull City, who beat Norwich City 1-0 despite having 10 men for most of the match.
Everton drew their second successive game after failing to break down West Bromwich Albion in a 0-0 draw at Goodison Park while Newcastle United's match at home to West Ham United was also scoreless.
Sunderland took the lead at Southampton through Italian Emanuele Giaccherini but Jose Fonte equalised with two minutes to play to earn a 1-1 draw.
Image: Lukas Podolski of Arsenal (R) celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team mate Olivier Giroud
Photographs: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Second time Arsenal notched three goals
It was the second time in four days Arsenal had notched three goals, following Wednesday's 3-0 triumph at Fenerbahce in their Champions League playoff first leg.
Saturday's win and the manner of the performance will go some way to making up for their opening day slip-up at home to Villa while the names on the scoresheet might make fans think twice about demands for forward reinforcements.
Despite their resounding midweek victory, the pre-match talk still focused on the club's perceived failure to land a signing to excite frustrated supporters.
"You can get people to focus too much on who you will buy and forget how good the players are here," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told BT Sport.
Image: Arsenal's Olivier Giroud (R) scores past Fulham's goalkeeper David Stockdale
Photographs: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Giroud, who is often touted as one of the men Arsenal need to replace if they are to chisel out a title challenge, had his say in the debate with his third goal in as many games this season coming in the 14th minute.
An Aaron Ramsey shot fell neatly into the Frenchman's path and he lifted it delicately over keeper David Stockdale.
In atrocious conditions that made Arsenal's intricate passing game difficult, the visitors doubled their advantage four minutes before the break.
Podolski followed up a shot from Theo Walcott that was parried and blasted his effort into the net.
The German made sure of the points midway through the second half when he fired in from the edge of the area for his second before substitute Darren Bent grabbed a consolation goal with a poacher's finish on his Fulham debut.
Image: Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski
Photographs: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Liverpool outplay an organised Villa
Liverpool, who have also come in for criticism from fans for failing to pull off a big-name signing in the close season, put the transfer market out of their minds to outplay an organised Villa.
The movement and slick passing of the five-times European champions enabled them to dominate the first half, taking the lead at Villa Park through Sturridge after 21 minutes.
The England striker controlled a neat dummy from Philippe Coutinho, shifted the ball out of his feet and away from two defenders before rounding keeper Brad Guzan and stabbing high into the net for his second goal in as many games.
After his penalty-saving heroics against Stoke last week, Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet produced two excellent stops to deny Christian Benteke, the second of which was an acrobatic one-handed push around the post.
Manager Brendan Rodgers struck an upbeat tone and drew attention to the fact that if you put to one side Liverpool's poor start to the last campaign, their recent form has marked them out as genuine challengers for a top-four finish.
"Since January we have been getting better and better," he said on Sky Sports. "The mentality now is to win every game and there are a lot of good signs."
Image: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool rounds goalkeeper Brad Guzan of Aston Villa to score the opening goal
Photographs: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Everton found West Brom keeper Ben Foster in inspired form, despite being forced off injured with what his manager called a "serious" foot injury, while West Ham boss Sam Allardyce returned to former club Newcastle and frustrated his old employers.
Hull supporters staged a protest against a proposed change of the club's name to Hull City Tigers shortly before kickoff but the fans would have been satisfied with the result.
Yannick Sagbo was the hero and villain, winning the penalty from which Robbie Brady scored the only goal on 22 minutes before receiving a red card five minutes later for a headbutt.
Promoted Palace also found the net against Stoke but their delight at Marouane Chamakh's opener was short-lived.
Charlie Adam, up against his former Blackpool boss Ian Holloway, equalised on 58 minutes with a precise finish at the far post and Ryan Shawcross put Stoke 2-1 up with a powerful shot from eight metres.
Giaccherini headed Sunderland into a third-minute lead against Southampton with his first Premier League goal but Fonte equalised late with a glancing header.
Image: Robbie Brady of Hull City scores the opening goal from the penalty spot
Photographs: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images