Premiership Saturday review
On a day when the nation remembered and respected the passing of a legend, one who graced our pitches with skill, pace, determination, tenacity and guile that many were found desperate in attempting to keep up with, much less match, the kick-offs held either a minute's silence or a minute's applause, either of which were clearly appreciative. But not by a small minority. I believe someone was quoted as saying football had put up with this type of disrespect for far too long, and I concur. If those who jeered or booed during the minute wish to be disrespectful, simply stay away from those who do not, and stay away from where they wish to do so. If those same people wish to be disrespectful then there should be no surprise nor complaint when dealt with in a Draconian manner.
Rest assured if I had authority, those same minority would be identified and ejected immediately, perhaps for good. That goes for ALL, including any rumoured to have been attending at the City of Manchester stadium, purporting and identified as Liverpool supporters. Match of The Day last night showed footage of the respects paid from the Premiership grounds, bar Manchester City's, for the same reason. When paying respects, the club in question is and will ever be immaterial, the man was a great football player and that earned admiration from all connected to football. All.
Man City v Liverpool
It wasn't a great game, but Liverpool and City seemed to show little response in wanting to be in an advantageous position. Both seemed to match each other in the first half, but in the second we kept up our possession and commitment and manage to strike at City for a breakthrough through trademark John Arne Riise effort, something which has taken a long while to come from the Norwegian this season. This was City's 2nd defeat at home, out of 8 games, so going into this match I predicted it would be very tight for Liverpool to gain three points.
Aston Villa v Charlton
Alan Curbishley laments on the side's current away form and yesterday they were at 60% potential, Danny Murphy was on the bench, a far cry from the form that earned Charlton great heights at the season's beginning and an potential England call. Villa have become more tenacious in attack, and when you have Milan Baros defenders are guaranteed to be tested with a lot of running around. When the ball came over leading to the goal, Kevin Phillips clearly aimed to impede keeper Stephan Andersen but no appeal was made. Baros crashed his close effort against the underside fo the crossbar and it was headed out in the direction of Steven Davis, who chested and hit a nice left-foot volley past the keeper.
Sunderland v Birmingham
What the Sunderland players need is constant reminding they are playing for Sunderland AFC, a club with a passionate set of fans. The spirit that pushed them to the Championship title last season has faded and their adjustment to the top league may have been a step too soon for some players. The introduction of Walter Pandiani, Julian Gray and Jermaine Pennant in the 2nd half applied width on both sides with pacy players, and a striker's guile in Pandiani. Pennant had already crossed dangerously and no one got on to it, so when he did it again, Pandiani reacted with a header which Ben Alnwick got a hand to, Gray following up to score.
There needs to be more effort and push from Sunderland, I can't personally accept they will roll over and make way for the inevitable route to relegation, despite 5pts out of 14 games. Graeme Le Saux made an analysis of what and why on MOTD which seemed pretty accurate. On attack John stead is trying to beaver through but with little support. Wingers are not getting forward into vulnerable positions to deliver more accurate crosses, defensively they lack pace in Gary Breen and Danny Collins. Their midfield should be bursting blood vessels in creating and supporting the attack, taking the pressure of their defenders all the more. Their effort is there, rightly said by Mick McCarthy, but the belief in its application is missing.
Arsenal v Blackburn
Blackburn's most serious threat yesterday came through Craig Bellamy and from little else. The Welshman left Arsenal's defence on occasion, only to let down on his final finish through misses, Jens Lehmann or some quick defensive recovery. The mark of some wholehearted defending was to see Sol Campbell just lunge across the path between Morten Gamst Pedersen and goal, foot and leg making a strong barrier, foiling the Norwegian. Cesc Fabregas hit a nice curling side-foot effort, Robert Pires sent a lovely through ball for Thierry Henry to take first time, Robin Van Persie comes off the bench to twist up Michael Gray and Robbie Savage, defies Savage's attempt to deliberately foul him and sends another left-foot flash into the net from a restricting angle.
It was ironic for Mark Hughes to slap the ball out of the hands of Arsene Wenger, as if to show the Frenchman was taking up time, when Stephen Reid held on to the ball last week. It was equally ironic that when remembering the days of Best, when hard knocks were part and parcel of the game, Savage receives a faint hand stroke from Jose Reyes after a choice of words to the Spaniard and then turns to look to see where the referee was immediately before clutching his face.
Portsmouth v Chelsea
Joe Jordan should remain in charge for the season. The players are familiar with him, the backroom staff remain, coaching staff remain, and Milan Mandaric is saved the effort of chasing another for the next six months. Or the chairman will pursue for someone he believes can bring Portsmouth further from the brink of relegation. I think Jordan can do that as well as anyone else who is available. Jordan needs the talents of Lauren Robert, providing the Frenchman is behaving himself, and Lomano LuaLua, both are key to Portsmouth's cause. Also strikers Dario Silva, John Viafara and Zvonimir Vukic need to get scoring otherwise they are wasting time at Fratton Park.
Considering the above, Portsmouth were quite unfortunate. Paulo Ferreira's shot seemed to go off target until Hernan Crespo was allowed to move and intercept, directing it in. He was onside. Joe Cole became more troublesome in the 2nd half, leading up to Dejan Stefanovic's foul on him in the box, Frank Lampard crowned his record 160th consecutive league appearance by scoring the penalty. Otherwise Portsmouth gave Chelsea good resistence and a testing time.
Wigan v Spurs
Two consecutive defeats at home and Wigan are looking at a slump. I don't really think so but Paul Jewel reckons the MOTD 'experts' will, but they didn't. I think. I can't tell if Mark Lawrenson is being sarcastic or straight-forward. But Wigan are 3rd, and as Jewel said, if anyone was offered 3rd place before December it wouldn't be turned down, particularly from a newly-promoted side. Individual mistakes may have cost them yesterday but they can happen to the best, though it was unusual for the usually focused Arjan De Zeeuw to mis-read the ball that gave Robbie Keane the chance to score. Mike Pollitt should have stayed level with Keane to clsoe him down rather than aim to kick out, Keane comfortably beat the keeper to the ball.
Edgar Davids had to score some time, when Michael Carrick plays a defensive midfielder alowing the Dutchman to advance. Good run and good finish. Lee McCulloch gained a late consolation at the far post.