Wigan v Man City thriller as four see red in Premiership
Quick overview of the matches yesterday. Five contentious handball decisions and four sending-offs in the Premiership, one of each came in the Liverpool v Newcastle game, which I have commented on separately in another article prior to this.
Wigan Athletic 4 Manchester City 3
Looked a fantastic game to have seen live, Wigan followed their 3-goal aggregate against Charlton with another home win almost by the same aggregate. Antoine Sibierski is finding good form for City, scoring first, and then what ensued was a home side bonanza. Jason Roberts and Sylvain Distin had a fierce time tussling which the Frenchman looked to have in the bag but when Roberts was found by Jimmy Bullard, he left Distin behind for the equaliser. Lee McCulloch sent a great header past David James, and Roberts capitalised on a clash between Ben Thatcher and Distin to run onto the ball, Distin trying to outmuscle the forward but Roberts was having none of it and kept him off to score. Henri Camara didn't want to be left out and slotted his effort for 4-1, and Wigan seemed to have relaxed too easily because Man City threatened whenever they came forward so at 4-1 it was not game over. Joey Barton slapped a great volley for 4-2 and he had been a major trouble to Wigan throughout the game, and Andy Cole made a trademark turn and shoot to bring City almost to level terms.
Charlton 0 Arsenal 1
Crucial derby game for both sides, both wanted three points to turn a troubling period for the better and I would have wagered on a 1-1 draw before kick-off. Thomas Myhre saved very well from both Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg, the Swede should have scored. But Alan Curbishley would be happy for a no-score draw at half time. But happily for Arsene Wenger is that Arsenal kept the majority of the chances and pressed on after the break, with their renowned quick movement and one-touch passing creating a host of openings to no avail. One such chance did prove fruitful with Henry found in the box and his effort was saved well by Myhre but rebounded to Jose Reyes to score. Arsenal were very lucky not to have conceded a penalty when Pascal Cygan committed contentious handball no.1, but they were worthy of the win. Danny Murphy received a second booking for dissent after throwing the ball down following a freekick against Herman Hreidarsson and red card no.1.
Aston Villa 4 Everton 0
Watched this game on Sky Sports live and Everton were unlucky in not gaining the lead first as James Beattie headed over with a good chance. But then came contentious handball no.2 as Milan Baros clearly handled with his left hand and lobbed Nigel Martyn. Mike Riley had such a clear view of it it beggared belief. I wouldn't call that indecision the turning point, Everton were caught napping for Villa's 2nd when Mark Delaney ran onto a corner ball and hooked it over Martyn and all. Tim Cahill was guilty of going to cover and then stopping, for some reason. Still, there was some 30mins or more between the 2nd and 3rd goal for Everton to exert the kind of pressure they had put on Manchester United at Old Trafford. Beattie emerged from a melee in the box to prod an effort at Thomas Sorensen and Simon Davies hit a fierce shot for the Dane keeper to touch over.
Cahill shouldn't have been subbed, James McFadden wasted good balls and should have instead. Villa gained their 3rd when sub Juan Pablo Angel came on and 12mins later took the ball in the middle, conducting one-two with Baros as Everton's midfield were somehow missing or comatose and eventually ran onto a Baros ball to beat the off-side trap and score. 120 seconds later Villa broke on the counter, Joseph Yobo saw the danger of Baros but decided not to pay heed to it, sub Craig Gardner was found down the right and he in turn sent a lovely curling ball around the defence to the oncoming Baros who side-foot first time past Martyn, who seemed reluctant to make an effort to stop it.
Spurs 2 Birmingham 0
I thought Birmingham gave a very good account of themselves in the first-half and could have gotten more out of this game. Seeing as they are struggling but held a good side in Spurs to a no-score first half, Steve Bruce would be optimistic of getting something. But Matthew Upson had to wrap arms around Robbie Keane in the box and it doesn't take much for Keane to go down but the principle is never to do such a thing in that area. Keane slotted the spot-kick. Some seven minutes later, Muzzy Izzet received a second yellow for diving, which seemed the right decision on replay so Phil Dowd was spot on and slightly zealous in brandishing the cards, red card no.2 of the day. Jermaine Defoe added a 2nd with a run and a fierce shot that Maik Taylor had no chance with.
Chelsea 3 Fulham 2
Another good game, William Gallas capitalising on Robert Huth's flick for the opener, Frank Lampard aimed a trademark shot from outside the box off Sylvain Legwinski and high into the net. Brian McBride had a nasty gash on the side of his head from jumping with Huth but came back on to guide a delivered freekick into the net, Petr Cech had allowed the ball to come down and go through his legs. McBride hadn't finished and in the 2nd half he took the ball into the box and was fouled from behind by Joe Cole. Heidar Helguson rolled the penalty into the net. But Cole made big amends for that by running down the right and sending a great ball across goal for Hernan Crespo to touch first time past Tony Warner, on for injured Mark Crossley.
Two contentious handballs here, no.3 and 4. A Chelsea ball aimed at Crespo with Zat Knight following resulted in the defender raising his hand to stop the ball, which was thought to have crossed the line beforehand (no pun intended) but was later replayed to show the ball hadn't and was very much in play. The other was a Luis Boa Morte shot that struck John Terry on the hands but the ref must have considered it more ball to hand than vice versa, and it would have been harsh to give, considering the fierce drive of the shot. Made a good save, though.
Manchester United 3 West Bromwich Albion 0
Rio Ferdinand had an excellent performance. Helped to keep a clean sheet, started the move for the 1st goal, scored the 2nd and came forward with better focus and determination. Paul Robinson did well to thwart Wayne Rooney, who is a massive key to Utd's revival following the Europe exit, but following his collision with an Albion player he was stretchered off, so all the best to him for his recovery. Straight after, Ferdinand ran down the right and crossed for Park Ji-Sung to set up Paul Scholes for goal no.1. A Ryan Giggs delivery from a corner found Ferdinand's head for no.2, good header, and in the 2nd half Alan smith broke down the right to cross for Ruud Van Nistelrooy to complete the scoring.
Middlesbrough 0 Blackburn Rovers 2
The Riverside must be fed up of seeing Blackburn at home. Defeated by the late, late single goal in the League Cup tie, which Shefki Kuqi was partly responsible for, and despite good, good chances to score, capitulated to two Kuqi goals yesterday. Aiyegbeni Yakubu should have scored when he headed over from yards, though he may have been slightly distracted. Gaizka Mendieta could have had a penalty when he was struck by a foot across the chest but later on missed a glaring goal opportunity when Yakubu excellently stood up after a reckless Andy Todd hack that could have clearly conceded a penalty and squared it for the Spaniard. Kuqi jumped in the Boro box to head home a superb cross from the left and in the 2nd half pounced on a spill when Craig Bellamy's shot was denied by Mark Schwarzer. The Finn could have, and should have, had a hat-trick when Bellamy cross from the right with Schwarzer late to stop him, the goal completely open, Kuqi went to ride a challenge instead of aiming to make a first touch, and then couldn't recover in time to make the ball. But it emphasised what I had said from before that he should play regularly with Bellamy for Blackburn to prosper.
Sunderland 0 Bolton Wanderers 0
A well earned point for Sunderland, I wonder if they can bring this kind of effort more often to get out of relegation, although it seems unlikely. Bolton rode many chances, while the home side showed guile in continuing to get at Bolton at least to be a nuisance, Jussi Jaaskelainen saving well from a Julio Arca curling ball.
Portsmouth 1 West Ham 1
There's a revival on the horizon at Fratton Park, though the away performances are yet to be analysed further under Harry Redknapp. Portsmouth FC seem to be the sinking ship that Redknapp is happy to captain and go down with, but not without the effort he is renowned for to battle for survival first. They should have had a penalty when Lomano LuaLua tricked away from Paul Konchesky and was tripped by the left-back, but later the Congolese national found Lauren Robert and the Frenchman squared for Gary O'Neil to score, so at least Portsmouth are capable now of first creating the lead. Roy Carroll came out to grab the ball and despite the Match of the Day commentator seeing the stilled replay and exclaiming the ball was within the box, it clearly was not and the Irishman was very lucky. But the lead diminished in the 56th minute when a West Ham corner was not cleared and it fell to James Collins, whose shot zipped past all and in. Robert picked up the league's fourth red card for a second yellow after catching Konchesky.