Mischa Wilmers’ Sunday Column – Beach ball steals the show as Sunderland dent Liverpool’s title hopes

With England’s competitive fixtures over until next summer’s World Cup, Saturday saw a welcome return to Premier League action. The ‘big four’ were all involved and on a day in which a beachball got its name on the scoresheet, football fans were provided with further evidence that this could be one of the most interesting title races in years.

In Saturday’s early kick-off, Chelsea fans were left disappointed when Aston Villa beat them 2-1 at Villa Park. James Collins grabbed the winner with a powerful header dealing Chelsea’s title ambitions a crushing blow. Chelsea’s loss meant Manchester United needed a win in their home match against Bolton to regain the top spot. The Reds started promisingly and took the lead on five minutes when Michael Owens’s header was deflected into the net off Zat Knight. Some good teamwork culminated in Antonio Valencia’s first goal of the season and the leaders went into half-time with a comfortable lead. United seemed to switch off in the second half however, and Matt Taylor pulled one back for the Trotter’s on 75 minutes. Bolton were unfortunate not to equalise before the end of the game following a string of chances but were denied by an in-form Edwin van der Sar. The nervy victory put United one point ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table.

Liverpool also stood to gain from Villa’s early defeat of Chelsea and Coach Rafa Ben

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