LONDON: In a triple-whammy weekend in the Premier League Chelsea lost for the first time, Arsenal lost again and Sergio Aguero lost hope of playing a decisive role in the Champions League as the Premier League’s frenetic title race blew into December.
The defeat of Chelsea at Newcastle was accompanied by a renewal of their regularly recurring war with opposition ball boys as the prospect of the leaders completing the season unbeaten vanished. To make matters worse, Manchester City beat Everton to move within narrow three points.
Chelsea fell behind to two goals in the second half from Newcastle substitute Papiss Cisse before a header from Didier Drogba inspired a dramatic finish. The closing frenzy brought a red card for Newcastle midfielder Steven Taylor and six minutes of stoppage time.
In the 94th minute, after a shot from the Brane Ivanovic flew into the crowd, the ball remained lost in the crowd, promoting the Chelsea coaching staff to throw on a second ball. In vain. Newcastle held out for the win.
Frustrated Mourinho said: “The referee can’t punish the ball boy who disappeared with the ball and the referee couldn’t punish the people in the crowd who kept the ball. There could have been 20 minutes’ stoppage time.”
Chelsea’s history with ballboys included the incident in January last year when Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a ball boy in a Ldeague Cup-tie at Swansea. Last season Mourinho cautioned a ball boy at Crystal Palace that a player could ‘punch’ him if he continued to time waste while Chelsea were chasing an equaliser.
Mourinho did concede that his team did not deserve anything more than a draw as Manchester City edged within striking distance despite losing Aguero – hat-trick hero against FC Bayern – to a knee injury against Everton. The in-form Argentinian left the pitch in tears after only four minutes after injuring his left knee in a tussle with Everton’s Muhamed Besic.
Aguero, who had scored seven times in his past eight home games before last night and has 14 goals this season, will almost certainly miss Wednesday’s must-win Champions League tie at Roma and perhaps not only many more games but weeks and possibly months.
He will undergo scans early this week with City understandably worried since City’s win percentage dips from 69.6 per cent to 63 per cent when Aguero is not in the team.
City went on to beat Everton thanks to a Yaya Toure penalty after Phil Jagielka was judged, controversially, to have brought down James Milner.
At least manager Manuel Pellegrini had a win as consolation for the latest injury in Aguero’s battle-scarred career. Arsene Wenger could not claim even that after a 3-2 defeat at Stoke where Arsenal’s manager – for once – never ventured out into his technical area.
“He’s scared to stand up,” the Stoke fans sang as Wenger sat in a fury in the dugout as the hosts raced into a 3-0 lead.
Wenger attributed defeat partly to inexperience in a defence that included the Spanish teenager Hector Bellerin. He said: “We gave easy goals away. Defensively, we missed too many [injured] players and we were too fragile.”
He was also critical of referee Anthony Taylor’s expulsion of Calum Chambers for fouling the-match Bojan Krkic. Wenger said: “If Chambers had to go off I can watch the game with you again and find five other players who should have been sent off.”
Arsenal have not won at Stoke for nearly five years and the latest setback merely exposed Wenger’s costly failure to strengthen defence adequately in the summer.
Stoke were three-up by half-time through Peter Crouch, Bojan and Jon Walters, the later scoring his 100th career goal. A late penalty from Santi Cazorla and a volley by Aaron Ramsey made the scoreline comparatively respectable but could not save them from a third defeat in their last four league games.