Birmingham 1 Fulham 0 - Victory eventually from the brink of a stalemateTony Gubba: "Pennant!.......just on as a substitute with the first decent strike of the game.....and we've had 56 mins. And that was virtually the first time either keeper has had to make a save."RedsMan MOTM: [due to lack of first half coverage, not applicable]
Birmingham v Fulham were 'scrapping' for points, Birmingham in the literal sense of the word as they held home advantage again and wanted to bounce back from Monday. Fulham were 'sparring' for the points, and on this evidence they were only fit enough for shadow-boxing. The first half was deemed so monotonous Match Of The Day didn't feature it, so we were shown the second half. I wonder what they would have done if the second half was equal to or worse than the first. Nonetheless, Birmingham are eventually showing that they are feeling the heat of relegation and, with home support, came at Fulham much more, practically swarming them with attacks.
The main thing was they couldn't make them count, Emile Heskey getting himself in the thick of the action. Chris Coleman didn't mention the defensive frailties that led to the goal, frailties that were in abundance. Emile Heskey was hardly challenged when he nodded a high ball down into Nicky Butt's path, two defenders near Butt not reacting at all, Butt headed in. Birmingham are still in the relegation zone but this was a big boost. If they string 1-0 performances, the Brummie fans won't be arguing and I don't blame them.
MOTD showed Steve Bruce celebrating Butt's goal, with someone jumping on his back and then sliding off. Mark Lawrenson: "That's all you need, Emile Heskey jumping on your back."
It was more likely Oliver Tebily, Heskey was on the pitch to assist the goal and the chap on Bruce's back was in training gear. Troubling times for those very same eyes that give football judgements!Blackburn 3 West Ham 2 - Another Blackburn 3-goal comebackJohn Roder: "Kuqi makes it 3-2 to Blackburn, and what a 2nd half we're having."RedsMan MOTM: Lucas Neill
Weast Ham looked to put another stranglehold on an away game and after Everton had stiffled Ewood Park the Hammers looked to do the same, Craig Bellamy injured. Marlon Harewood made good his assist with his run, Bobby Zamora moved in the box and was shadowed by Stephen Reid but then Reid allowed him an inch to move and Zamora got ahead of Reid when Harewood played him in, and scored. Blackburn could have allowed West Ham to increase their lead in the 2nd half but the away side didn't step up in gear, which gave Blackburn more incentive to come forward.
As the ball came into the penalty box, David Bentley and Tomas Repka jumped for it, the ball judged to have come off Repka's left arm. Seemed on replay to be innocuous and more likely to have strucked his upper body before his arm, if at all. Nonetheless the penalty was given and Paul Dickov, back from injury, scored. Then it was more Blackburn, as Morten Gamst Pedersen crossed, the ball coming off Christian Dailly's head to Dickov, who duly scored again. West Ham came back quite easily, with Zamora returning the compliment paid earlier to him by Harewood, sending the ball across goal for Harewood to head in with a free header, despite Robbie Savge's excellent attempted save.
Now it looked to be a 2-2 finish, yet when Robbie Savage took the 2nd freekick to unfortunately come off the crossbar, Dailly cleared the ball, with Zurab Khizanishvili covering at the back against Harewood. Pace is an uneven factor and when the Georgian headed weakly towards Brad Friedel, Harewood pounced on it like a leopard after a gazelle, yet with the keeper to beat he skyed it from some 15 yards. So Blackburn took advantage of the fortune. Shefki Kuqi came on, jumped for a loose ball with Dailly, edged him to it on the ground, held off Anton Ferdinand and scored.
Now that Bellamy is likely to be out until the New Year, Dickov and Kuqi should be a regular partnership. Pedersen and David Bentley are effective on the wings but Mark Hughes won't drop Brett Emerton. Kuqi needs more of a first-team start to be more effective himself and coming off the bench often isn't helping.Bolton 1 Aston Villa 1 - Villa get to enjoy coming to the Reebok stadium, SamJohn Murray (after Villa's equaliser): "And that might well have snatched a point for Aston Villa.....scrappy, wasn't it!?!"RedsMan MOTM: Kevin Davies
The home side were unlucky, they attacked Villa for much of the first half, and the second, Wilfred Bouma just about tipping the ball away from an incoming and ever impressive Kevin Davies after Davies had forced a excellent save from point blank range from Thomas Sorensen. Bruno N'Gotty's header went off target and Joey O'Brien's shot was stopped by the Villa keeper. Where Arsenal failed, Villa were determined to be very dogged and plow their way to block Bolton's efforts.
As Villa made more of their time on the ball with chances, they were inferior to Bolton's continued pressure on the away goal. But it wasn't until the introduction of Portuguese Ricardo Vaz Te that Bolton gained their earned lead. He picked up the ball on the left and squared it across to El-Hadji Diouf, who used two touches to advance into the box and score in the far corner. However, this is where Bolton fell asleep. Perhaps having the majority of the attacks had taken its toll on them. Luke Moore, himself a sub 4mins before Vaz Te, jingled in the Bolton area and found Juan Pablo Angel unmarked at the far post, the Colombian making sure from some yards.
What did Villa have that Arsenal didn't? A less impressing Bolton on goal.Charlton 2 Sunderland 0 - A correct scoreline for Addicks' fans, on paperIan Gwyn Hughes (after Charlton's 2nd goal): "What on earth was going on in that Sunderland defence?!!"RedsMan MOTM: Dean Kiely
The run continues for Mick McCarthy. Despite the effort and commitment from the players, which is there almost every match now, they cannot convert their efforts into chances often enough to score regularly. When they battled at White Hart Lane they should have held for the point if they were not confident to go for the result, instead they defended but opened up for Spurs' third goal. Here, they were done by a renowned Darren Bent run of pace and finish and poor defending even by their own current standards.
Gary Breen and Nyron Nosworthy allowed a Danny Murphy ball to slither between them, releasing Bent to run on and tuck away. Charlton's 2nd goal came via new skipper Luke Young, who crossed into the box from the right for defender Stephen Caldwell to divert off the post to thwart Darren Ambrose. Julio Arca, a welcomed return, made the loose ball but allowed Young to challenge him, the ball ending up back in the box near the goal, with Breen, Caldwell and Justin Hoyte present, but Caldwell inadvertently spilled the ball for Ambrose to score very easily.
Sunderland are now too late to play defensively, they need to take risks and what they are doing is committing themselves but not to finishing off their efforts. The longer they go without making an impact, the more their confidence fails to keep them going. They scored first at Spurs and even though they went down twice they came back to draw level. John Stead is looking more a lone striker and he was on the bench. Anthony Le Tallec strives for passes and Andy Gray isn't up to Le Tallec's level, Stead should be paired with Le Tallec.Chelsea 1 Wigan 0 - If Chelsea don't want to score, Terry doesSimon Brotherton: "And Pollitt, not for the first time today, makes himself big enough to make the save."RedsMan MOTM: Mike Pollitt
It's the type of game both managers and players would be proud of. Chelsea are made aware that they will not have the run-of-the-mill games where they completely overawe the opposition every game, that there will be games where they will need to dig deep and fight to win, perhaps even to draw. And when those games come round, you want your players to make the required effort. Likewise Wigan, again their record since joining the Premiership is fantastic, great response and the wheels come off the bandwagon ridden by the media and critics when Wigan are in the top ten come May. On the budget Paul Jewel has had, Dave Whelan is not flittering money left and right so Jewel has to be resourceful, and the response from those brought in have shown excellent dividends for the club. Fourth defeat in a row, but then you consider the opposition. They next face Man Utd, Charlton, Man City and West Ham.
Chelsea attacked as you'd expect but the difference was keeper Mike Pollitt, appearing on occasion to thwart Chelsea throughout the first half. But for goodness sake how could ref Alan Wiley miss Lee McCulloch practically haul down John Terry in the box during a corner?? I'd be furious as a Chelsea fan and Terry was clearly and rightly angry with the referee. Yet if Pollitt was the difference for Wigan, Terry was for Chelsea and not for the first time. In the 2nd half another Frank Lampard corner, another tussle between McCullouch and Terry but Terry was more ingenious, got ahead of the Scotsman and headed in, albeit a great hand to the ball by Pollitt.Liverpool 2 Middlesbrough 0 - Cagey Boro holding out until Morientes roseSteve Wilson: "Luis Garcia - was on the end of a lovely Liverpool move here...which drew another good save from Schwarzer....it's quality stuff."RedsMan MOTM: Steven Gerrard
Even as a Reds fan, I'm impartial but it was impressive from Liverpool. Making chances, being very creative, and were it not for some chances that should have been finished, there would have been more goals for us. Players feeding off each other's runs and movement, showing that they do understand where one another are, what they are about to do, where they will be, something that is a lot better and emphasises the good run and league position. Predominantly, Steven Gerrard is like a generator, off which several other generators are running but that in itself isn't the core of the team. Whenever they get forward, players are in better positions and aim to hold the ball more than try something less likely and give it away.
Mohamed Sissoko's booking justified, equally Michael Bates for the shove, no complaints. It was Sissoko's header back into Boro's half, Gerrard got to the bounce and went forward, Garcia took it to the right and chipped a low ball into the box, Gerrard ducked under it and Fernando Morientes was unmarked and scored. Five minutes later, Franck Queudrue aimed a ball to George Boateng, Boateng was eventually dispossessed by Sissoko, Jamie Carragher sent the ball back into Boro's defence, Queudrue's header only flicked it on towards Morientes, who again drifted off his marker and lobbed Mark Schwarzer whilst in mid-air. Sorry, Steve McClaren, clearly not off-side per the rules.
Frustration slipped in when Chris Riggott, a Liverpool target previously for Gerard Houllier, lunged in on Morientes from behind and earned his first booking, something which commentator Steve Wilson tried to play down even after the replay, when it was clearly a booking. Riggott followed that up five minutes later with a kick on Gerrard from behind, which seemed a straightforward free-kick but according to the rules it's a foul from behind that warrants a booking, being Riggott's second and he was off.
During the game came two good stops from Pepe Reina, from Mark Viduka which looked destined to go in otherwise, and the other from James Morrison's shot that fortuitously went through the keeper's legs but diverted for a corner.Newcastle 1 Arsenal 0 - the Gunners should have faced ten men tooGuy Mowbray: "Shearer.....that's got to be a yellow card from the basis of what we've seen before, certainly can't be any better than Gilberto's rather soft 2nd yellow and he's got away with it."RedsMan MOTM: Scott Parker
Second successive defeat for the Gunners, very uncharacteristic, a 2nd defeat is usually all they concede all season. They held the first half without a doubt, but their efforts were hampered by Gilberto Silva's first booking in the half for interfering with Shola Ameobi's advance. That was minor in comparison to the first openings of the 2nd half. 10mins in, Newcastle came the better as Arsenal seemed to take time to even warm up. Silva caught Jean-Alain Boumsong with what I'd say was a late reach for the ball and simply a freekick but Dermot Gallagher deemed it a booking and Silva was red carded, to the irritating applause by Ameobi and Amdy Faye. It's been said about this sarcastic applauding already, particularly in response to referee decisions as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney know already, and its unsporting. Faye should reflect on his silly lunge for the ball against Philippe Senderos earlier.
And then we have Alan Shearer and what I would describe as a flabbergasting decision, or lack of it. Michael Owen and Sol Campbell tussle for the ball, nothing given, Owen and Freddie Ljungberg go for the ball, it spills, Campbell chases and makes it, with Shearer instantly and inexplicably lunging in at a speed rugby forwards commit tries with. It was a red card, much less a yellow, yet the Newcastle skipper received neither!! It was astounding. Yet facing with 10-men, Arsenal held firm until some 10mins from time where Shearer was found on the left. He found Nolberto Solano on the edge of the box on the right, with Lauren having come over too much, Solano then had time and space to hit his shot past Jens Lehmann's outstretched right hand. It was only when Shearer was judged to have backed into Senderos and then slapped the ball away in frustration did he receive a booking.
Arsenal now have what will be build as 'The Big Game' at home to Chelsea next Sunday. They will need to have their same defence of Toure-Senderos-Campbell-Lauren, only Lauren's lack of concentration allowed Solano his goal otherwise he deputised well enough, but a left-footed player would be very appropriate to aid the attacks on the flank. But simply a strategic plan and more resolve from Arsenal is needed to pick up from this recent medicore performance.
Question: is it or could it be that Thierry Henry is stalling on contract talks because with Patrick Vieira gone, Pires possibly not staying, Bergkamp possibly not staying, Ljungberg out-of-sorts and possibly on the bench next season, the Frenchman sees his attacking assistants being restrictive for next season and after?West Brom 2 Man City 0 - City lose momentum, Cole loses his coolDan O'Hagan: "And Cole could be in real trouble here, on a yellow card, it will be a 2nd yellow [if given]......and Andrew Cole is sent off and he can't believe it. Two cards in a matter of seconds for Andrew Cole."RedsMan MOTM: Diomansy Kamara
City were low-key in this game, and Stuart Pearce was correct in his post-match interview when he said City got what they deserved from the game, which was nothing, not even a point. West Brom showed more incentive, initiative and drive, whilst City seemed more content to sit back and swallow up the attacks than to create any themselves. West Brom took the lead through Diomansy Kamara, receiving a Junichi Inamoto pass and running at Ben Thatcher, passed him and scored, with David James allowing too much space to the right of him for Kamara to miss. The Frenchman waged a one-man war on City and they managed to keep some shape to contain him but his runs brought in others, adding to City's compounding failure to get forward.
This paved the way for West Brom's second, with Paul Robinson chasing down a Nwankwo Kanu back-heel on the left and crossing for Kevin Campbell to put away a great header, best move of the game. After that Andy Cole fouled Martin Albrechtsen for his first booking, and then quickly followed that with a jumping landing onto Kamara that looked very clumsy and he had to go.Man Utd 1 Everton 1 - Not the kind of response expected from the Red DevilsRedsMan MOTM: Kevin Kilbane
Just finished watching the game, and while Utd made a decent defence to thwart Everton, they had leaked chances that, but for Everton's lack of finishing, they should have been punished from. They were Everton chances few and far between but on occasion Utd went forward seeking that leading goal and their ambitions were failed through sheer Everton defending, a hand or two from Richard Wright or failing to get the effort on target. As a result, Utd were open in midfield and Everton would pour forward, not merely shrinking from Utd's attacks. Alan Smith was booked and was then threatening to get another yellow before Sir Alex withdrew him for Darren Fletcher. Park Ji-Sung is for me more effective from the start and works more for the team than Christian Ronaldo, but the Korean's influence today was not as strong and he came off for the Portuguese winger.
Everton showed Utd to be in some jitters at the back, when Rio Ferdinand passed to Edwin VanDer Sar to clear, the Dutchman allowed the ball to travel near his goal and kicked it left-footed under pressure, the ball was played back in by Leo Osman and James Beattie aimed a good shot at goal, blocked by Mikael Silvestre. But then Wayne Rooney headed back into danger later on, James McFadden passed for Kevin Kilbane to go on a run, Gary Neville went with him, dragging himself out of position, and no one noticed McFadden running across into the right-back space, not even Park, whose path McFadden crossed. Kilbane then ran into four Utd players, the ball spilled to Osman and he fed McFadden, who has a nice left-foot on him, slamming a shot between post and keeper.
Utd aimed to not be dragged back by that goal and poured forward for their equaliser. Rooney remained a threat, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs creating openings, and it was these two who gained the leveller. Scholes' ball over the defence found Giggs on-side and after glimpsing at goal, Giggs looked up and touched the ball first time past Wright, good goal too. Everton had two excellent chances in the 2nd half to score. Scholes dallied on the ball and lost it, Simon Davies then went on a run with McFadden on the left, Kieron Richardson the sole Utd player in defence, Davies crossed it to McFadden, who aimed a shot that was comfortably saved by the keeper. That was a let-off. Marcus Bent came on and skillfully touched the ball past Richardson and ran down the right, only for his ball across to reach Silvestre.
This may not have been the required response but Utd remain third due to a single goal difference between them and 2nd place Liverpool. Our home record is better but Utd's away record is superior to our's. They face Wigan at home, Villa away then West Brom at home, where they could face a possible 5pts out of 9 as they have now drawn equally to that won at home.