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Monday, August 15, 2005

Premiership starter review

West Ham v Blackburn

Great start for the Hammers, tipped for the relegation zone. The crux of West Ham's fightback was through the pace of their attackers, Matt Etherington, Nigel-Reo-Coker, Marlon Harewood. Andy Todd mis-controlled for Sheringham's equaliser, Reo-Coker dummied Aaron Mokoena for an unstoppable drive outside the box, and more lapsing defending by Blackburn found Yossi Benayoun on a loose ball inside the box, Lucas Neill and Todd both watching Reo-Coker with no-one picking up the running Etherington other than Benayoun, for the Hammers' third. For me, Kerimoglu Tugay and Gary Flitcroft should have been brought on into central midfield, with Shefki Kuqi staying on. What Paul Dickov was thinking of when he made that tackle on Paul Konchesky, it wasn't football.

Everton v Man Utd

Both sides were unseparable in terms of efforts on goal, Tim Cahill particularly producing a good stop from Edwin Van der Sar. Typically, Wayne Rooney was greeted as expected on his return home and he was the difference. Darren Fletcher found him in space, Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville watching him, Joseph Yobo marked Ruud Van Nistelrooy but allowed the Dutchman to spin off, Weir went to mark him, no one picked up John O'Shea on the left, his low cross was converted by a Van Nistelrooy foot. In the second half, Yobo pulled the ball back behind Weir, Rooney sensed the mistake and pounced, first touch found the back of the net. Conceding the Villarreal goal through Juan Pablo Josica was down to good play; the mistakes that led to the Utd goals were lapses of concentration. Everton need to stabilise their defence, who, under attack, seem to get into a defensive position, but not the necessary defensive position.

Sunderland v Charlton

Baptism of fire at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland, and Kelvin Davies, should have been well aware of Darren Bent. He was found too easily alone in their half and despite Davies forcing him to pause slightly and a man on the line, he still managed to score. Andy Gray did well to equalise to give Sunderland more thinking space going in at half time, and Darren Ambrose's lunge on Stephen Wright was horrendously a potential for a broken leg, and rightly ended in his dismissal. Yet with the advantage Charlton found the net, DDanny Murphy's freekick went in cleanly and skillfully. Bent was found once again deep in the Sunderland half, Stephen Caldwell tracking back with little pace as Bent went on to score across Davies.

Portsmouth v Spurs

I looked for some inspirational play from Lomano LuaLua and Lauren Robert, and perhaps Arjen De Zeeuw's absence may hinder the Portsmouth back-four this season. Andy Griffin unfortunately tapped his interception past Sander Westerveld. That was fortuitous, the 2nd goal was similar. A hopeful past found the left side found Jermaine Defoe picking up onto the loose ball in space, where he approached and rounded Westerveld to score. Portsmouth deserved better from their performance.

Middlesbrough v Liverpool

Boro at home has turned into a bogey fixture for Liverpool, recently we have drawn or lost mostly. Rafael Benitez is happy that it's a good away performance of his side pressurising the home team, but we scored have scored. Steven Gerrard conducted a one-man war on the Boro goal, which made me wonder if his colleagues considered coming off. This game was about as best a decent 0-0 draw should be, albeit not from a Boro's fan point-of-view. Mark Schwarzer played well to deny on occasion, and Ugo Ehiogu was graceful in his dismissal, no remonstrating or pleading innocence, made the tackle, took his consequence and went off professionally. Even with the advantage Liverpool couldn't make it count. If the Reds play with this exact kind of tempo every game, much less away games, then they should be winning more games. Having scored well in pre-season, they should now be more akin to finding the back of the oppositions' net.

Aston Villa v Bolton

Best start of the day, 4 goals in under 10 mins, another debut goalscorer in Kevin Phillips. Well taken goals, the only point to make is Ivan Campo's tackle on Gavin McCann. How it did not warrant a booking, much less a sending off, was unbelievable. The officiation there was certainly lenient.

Man City v West Brom

Potentially another one-sided 0-0 draw. City gave ample testing of debutant Chris Kirkland, who should have been included in the England squad against Denmark on Wednesday. This match did well to boost his inclusion. Again, one point to make is Ronnie Wallwork going down, West Brom played on, one player indicated to Junichi Inamoto to put the ball out but he didn't, he was duly dispossessed, only for the ref to blow to stop play. Players got into a slight melee about it, particularly Danny Mills towards the referee, Daniel Sommeil is seen saying something to Wallwork, who reacted angrily as he got up. Mills, of all players, intervened as peacemaker with a firm grip on Wallwork's collar and the melee increased. Mills was outspoken previously on being under Kevin Keegan's management, which I felt was out of order in consideration, and here he was in the midst of stirring bad feelings in the game. Stuart Pearce has apologised on his behalf to the referee, when it should have been Mills.

Fulham v Birmingham

Tony Warner came in to replace the experienced Van der Sar, Luis Boa Morte the new captain (though I felt Zat Knight, Steed Malbranque or Sylvain Legwinski would be more favourable, or even Papa 'The Wardrobe' Dioup when back from injury) and forming a front three with Brian McBride and Tomaz Radzinski. This seemed an even nil draw with little to point out particularly from the first half. Julian Gray found Knight slumped on his backside and went on free towards goal to squander a great chance completely wide. Boa Morte was his usual feverish self, taking on players with pace and inching threateningly towards Maik Taylor, who had a good game between the sticks. Chris Coleman will feel the West Londoners should have had the points. On balance, so do I.

Wigan v Chelsea

One and three quarters of the three promoted teams fared very well over the weekend, and Wigan were 25% away from at least a hard fought, and yet another, nil draw. Where most felt this was a walk in the park for the Blues, Wigan went for them from the kick-off and it served to show the rest of the Premiership how to get at Chelsea. Frank Lampard didn't enjoy time to dwell on the ball, Arjen Robben and Damien Duff enjoyed little on the wings with sometimes two men marking them and Wigan went close to scoring on a number of occasions, more so than Chelsea. The game resembled that of Liverpool and Chelsea's encounters last season, with the one goal the difference. But Wigan carried the fight much further, as in the last seconds of injury time Hernan Crespo was found on the right, no one closed him down as Wigan did throughout the game, he was allowed to come onto his left and unleashed a fierce shot over Mike Pollitt. Jose Mourinho whispered to Paul Jewell that it was unfair to lose after Wigan's efforts. Too right.

Arsenal v Newcastle

The Magpies' are said to hardly enjoy their London visits, particularly to Highbury. Last season's visit came at the height of Craig Bellamy's omission from the team as a result of his personal indiscipline towards Graeme Souness. But Newcastle enjoy a good talented attacking midfield this season. Nicky Butt is playing with Birmingham, Jermaine Jenas, Scott Parker, Emre, Amdy Faye, Kieron Dyer, Lee Bowyer (on his good days) but Shearer was the only fit striker available and you need two against Arsenal. But Arsenal were held off sufficiently, despite their numerous attacks, Shay Given with a MOTM performance. Jenas was sent off for an awful tackle on Gilberto Silva, which again could have been a broken leg or ankle. I felt it warranted a straight red, particularly following the FA clampdown on dangerous tackles and those of Dickov, Ambrose and Campo. But Steve Bennett has reviewed the match and instructed the red card be downgraded to a caution, so the first sending-off in his career has still to occur for Jenas. But tackles like those are not to be produced ever again.

Charles N'Zogbia was judged to have impeded Freddie Ljungberg in the box, though for me Ljungberg scuffed his right foot along the turf and lost control of the ball before any contact. Thierry Henry (who else?) just about converted the penalty as Given almost reached it. Some minutes after a pass down the right flank found Ljungberg, who ran on to pull across for Robin Van Persie to score with a little deft touch.



Blogger SKG said...

Hats off to Wigan for producing a fine performance. Chelsea haven't looked that vulnerable at the back for a long time.

No real surprises on the first weekend. Man Utd and Arsenal are already in the groove. Liverpool continue to have the same old problem of not being able to finish off teams. Spurs look dangerous.

8/15/2005 9:14 pm

Blogger T said...

Comprehensive review Redsman.

Players of the week for me are the debutant Wigan full-back Chimbonda; Darren Bent for expertly scoring two goals on his Premisership debut; plus Defoe, Rooney, and Gerrard.

Goal of the week is the beauty by Reo-Coker to give West Ham the lead over Blackburn.

Joke of the week is the picture of the Fulham subs warming up on the touchline with the aid of exercise bikes!

8/15/2005 9:36 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Ditto that, ts. Just isn't the same as jogging and sprinting up and down the touchline. Looked quite out of place.

8/15/2005 11:17 pm

Anonymous Abdul said...

Yes, nice review Redsman. No major surprises this weekend, but an entertaining one nevertheless. I'm already looking forward to Arsenal v Chelsea next week. That should really get the season going.

8/16/2005 12:11 am

Blogger Skippy said...

I thought Damien Francis was terrific against Chelsea. Watch out for him this season.

Liverpool wereb very unlucky against Borough.

I am looking forward to Chelsea v Arsenal

8/18/2005 10:29 am


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