Liverpool lose as Chelsea are held and Sunderland win
Man Utd 1 v Liverpool 0
The Man Utd v Liverpool game looked a tight fixture on paper and almost ended that way in reality. Liverpool kept restricting Utd their space and time as Man Utd's defence kept resolute and focused. Utd were winning a number of headers as Liverpool kept good build-up play for a couple of good chances from Peter Crouch and Djibril Cisse. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was through but offside and then again by Ryan Giggs but couldn't put power behind his left foot effort. And so it went on, both sides had possession and either side looked like scoring, so it would take something like a lapse of defending or a bad pass to make the kind of mistake to separate the two.
The ball nearly went over the line but for Rio Ferdinand's clearance and Harry Kewell hit the ball back into the box which Edwin Van Der Sar parried to Cisse, who then missed from mere yards. Wayne Rooney brought down sub Florent Sinama-Pongolle and I felt a John Arne Riise left foot would have curled an effort better than Steven Gerrard taking it. However, Utd had their freekick and didn't squander it. Ferdinand was unmarked for his headed goal off Gigg's ball, despite a great hand to it by Pepe Reina. A kick in the teeth, it would have been more justified for another no-score draw.
Chelsea 1 v Charlton 1
Alan Curbishley played a 4-5-1 to match Chelsea but I felt he could have been more ambitious and include new signing Marcus Bent to partner namesake Darren upfront, as Chelsea's back four were quite stalwart in watching one striker and with M Bent's height and pace, he could cause more problems for them. Damien Duff whipped in a delightful corner for Hernan Crespo to beat his marker and head down, Thomas Myhre almost got control of it but it spilled for Eidur Gudjohnson to push in. Charlton had so many in midfield it seemed very congested with mostly red shirts muddled with themselves as Chelsea played the ball quickly through the midfield. M Bent came on for the injured Dennis Rommedahl and so had a full 2nd half to make an impression. Looking to pounce, M Bent waited for Darren Ambrose to float a ball over the defence and got a head to it before Petr Cech and it lobbed in.
Match of the Day
Newcastle 0 v Blackburn 1
Simon Brotherton: "Morten Gamst Pedersen was claiming credit for the goal but as [Shefki] Kuqi knocked it goalwards, Pedersen was there....inadvertently or otherwise, that definitely went in off the Norwegian's hand."
The post-match protests were a main point of this match. I felt Michael Chopra was quite impressive, almost like Michael Owen in getting about and causing concern amongst the Blackburn defence. This was an even match, Brad Friedel kept out a number of shots and kept off Alan Shearer, while Shay Given dived down to superbly deny Paul Dickov. Lucas Neill chipped a ball across goal that came back down off Kuqi's shoulder and then bounce for Pedersen to guide off his hand. Lee Bowyer appealed at the time but to no avail and it made for the single goal that killed Newcastle at home. Ironically, the same happened to Souness as Blackburn manager at St James' Park, the ball went in off Paul Gallagher's hand. There are still 16 league games and the Cheltenham cup game next week to make more of their season. The fans chanted "There's only one Bobby Robson." And I'm afraid he is now occupied elsewhere.
Everton 1 v Arsenal 0
Steve Wilson: "And Alan Wiley has got a real task on his hands here, right at the end of the 90th minute of the game. A game which has always been fiercely contested, has just bubbled over completely."
[At the final whistle]: "Arsenal were outmuscled and outgunned by Everton, who were completely committed."
Arsene Wenger may look on this game as yet another physical game which ill-suited the Gunners. Leo Osman played behind James Beattie as David Moyes was content with four across the midfield. Beattie seemed very eager to get at the Arsenal defence that may have done well with the tenacity of Kolo Toure to match that of Beattie's. As the ball bounced towards goal, Beattie jumped onto it to capitalise on Phillippe Senderos's hesitancy to clear, Sol Campbell came to aid but Beattie had gotten across him and nudged the ball further, settling it up to tuck away pass Jens Lehmann.
Talking point came in the last minute of normal time as Thierry Henry teased Tim Cahill and went past him, the Australian's tackle seeming to aim to catch Henry late. Henry went back to speak to Cahill about it, in his own way, but Cesc Fabregas grabbed Cahill by the throat with his hand. Cahill goes down easily and a melee ensues. Fabregas is dismissed, Cahill booked. Little to discuss, both decisions were correct. Arsenal are in action in the Cup, another potential physical match against Bolton, though the Gunners have fared better in the competition at the The Reebok.
Spurs 0 v Aston Villa 0
Jonathan Pearce: "Well, they haven't been the most adventurous but David O'Leary will be happy if it stays like this, another solid away point."
Pearce was right. Spurs had the most of chances and couldn't make them count. Had it not been for Thomas Sorensen keeping out a number of shots, this could have been a well earned home win. Gareth Barry was caught out twice by Aaron Lennon's quick pace and was booked for both occasions.
Bolton 2 v Man City 0
Conor McNarama [as Nolan shapes to shoot]: "Nolan?!.....well, that really would have put the cap on a fine performance from Kevin Nolan....and from Bolton Wanderers."
Both managers have been touted for the England managerial position as if it was already free. Rightly, Pearce mentioned that when Man City were doing well, he was mentioned but when they were not, no mention of his name. Could this have been on his mind going into this game, or even future games? The possibility of coaching the national squad, for Pearce? Bolton have now conceded three goals in ten home games. It's a great emergence from the relegation fight that occurred routinely at The Reebok to the heights of the European places. If Newcastle want to bring Sam Allardyce to St James' Park, it may just take more than Newcastle have to do so. New captain Kevin Nolan has new vigour in him to lead Bolton to more European football.
Birmingham 5 v Portsmouth 0
John Motson: "It's David Dunn for Birmingham......and it's 5-0....ohh, its a landslide....and this is a drubbing for Portsmouth, and it's a jubilant day for Birmingham City."
I don't know what the odds were on this but I wouldn't have wagered on it happening. If form was a guide, the home side would shade this by a single goal, 2-1. But the fight to stay up has hit the wind out of Portsmouth recently. Harry Redknapp's recent return was expected to rejuvenate the club but it is a hard struggle at the moment. Results like this usually lead to relegation, sorry to say for Portsmouth fans. With the possibility of Sunderland and Portsmouth going down, Birmingham could drag West Brom into the zone to slug it out for the third team to go. Five goals and none conceded is a nice way to round off your football weekend but the next game is Reading next week and then a trip to Anfield, so the emphasis from Steve Bruce is to definitely keep such momentum going.
Middlesbrough 2 v Wigan 3
Guy Mowbray: "Neil Mellor's won it for Wigan!....It's prompted a mass exodus from the Middlesbrough fans inside the Riverside."
New signing in central defence, new captain, new players contributing, who were English. Paul Jewell is touted as potential manager for England. He signed Paul Scharner, Neil Mellor and David Thompson. Jason Roberts was gifted the kind of ball strikers thrive on to hammer past rookie Bradley Jones and Thompson came across to head home a cross to put the away side 0-2 at half-time. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink came on as the last sub at half-time and headed Boro back into the game, with Aiyebeni Yakubu touching their second to level the scores and even then Boro weren't done. But Mellor is known for scoring when least expected. He did so against Arsenal for Liverpool last season at Anfield and he did it again, nipping in to guide the ball from 5-6 yards in the last minute of the game.
Ugo Ehigou came on for Chris Riggott in the first half and was greeted with boos. Perhaps Boro fans can write in and say why, he isn't happy at the club, wanted to leave, was granted permission, passed a medical, both clubs agreed terms, he agreed terms and was due to practically sign when he was stopped from going any further, only to be given the green light eventually and now the deal is scuppered because Boro want him released on loan and WBA want to permanently sign him. That, to me, isn't a fault of the defender at all.
West Brom 0 v Sunderland 1
Ian Gwyn Hughes: "Last time the Sunderland support tasted victory, September 25th at Middlesbrough by two goals to nil....and they'll be celebrating this evening, the fans, as if they'd won the league rather than just won away from home for only the 2nd time this season."
Mick McCathy must have been thinking 'at last' when the final whistle went. Not only did it end West Brom's battle to equalise but signaled another vital win for the Black Cats. It was the kind of win that their desire deserved but desire cannot fuel victories often on its own. The goal may have been fortuitous, Paul Robinson and Steve Watson looking to thwart Anthony Le Tallec but The Frenchman swiped the ball and it deflected off Watson to go agonisingly past keeper Tomasz Kuszczak. You may remember the Pole made a excellent textbook dive across goal last week to deny Wigan's Jason Roberts to earn a vital away win for WBA but he was powerless to stop this goal. Sunderland managed to sit on the lead and ride out the storm that was West Brom coming to equalise. As I said above (Birmingham review), WBA could find themselves in a Midland scrap with Birmingham to avoid the drop.