By Skip Bandele


WHILE MANCHESTER United and Chelsea recorded predictable mid-week victories to distance themselves even further from the chasing pack, the highlight of the weekend was played out in North London.

Both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have had less than promising starts to the season and found themselves separated by only three points prior to this fixture at the Emirates Stadium. As a result, both Arsene Wenger and Martin Jol were desperate to kick-start their flagging fortunes and make a move towards the upper echelons, prior to the hectic festive schedule.

Spurs, a force at White Heart Lane as Chelsea found out to their cost, had still not won away, while the Gunners needed to reverse a string of two losses that has seen their title challenge flounder drastically.

Once the all-clear had been given by the Health Protection Agency, which had descended on the ground in search of traces of the deadly polonium-210 poison connected to the Russian spy-death scandal, the action got under way. However, as it turned out, the visitors had more to fear from the referee than radiation sickness.

Once again, Graham Poll contrived to take the outcome of a football match in his own hands, allowing an Emmanuel Adebayor strike from what many considered was an off-side position to stand, before compounding his error with two poor penalty decisions in the home side’s favour. Gilberto Silva converted both opportunities with aplomb to produce the final 3-0 result and a sour taste in Spurs supporter’s mouths.

Elsewhere, Liverpool finally overcame their away hoodoo with a four-goal thumping of Wigan, Reading recorded their fourth straight win in defeating Bolton 1-0 and Manchester United, in action for the second time in four days, overcame Middlesbrough 2-1 to put six points between themselves and Chelsea, who did not have a game.