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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Arsenal find form; Man Utd keep pressure; Blues humble Reds


Birmingham seemed set to give a good rumble on Arsenal following from the week's headlines after the West Ham game but the Blues here couldn't make their good start count. They succumbed to a move down their left started by Abou Diaby's run and shot across goal, Martin Latka came across and the ball ricocheted off him and Maik Taylor into the air for Emmanuel Adebayor to head his first for the club. For their second, Cesc Fabregas sent a sweet through ball for the lurking Thierry Henry, and once he is not marked tightly, with room to run into, then the outcome can be inevitable, Henry slotting past Taylor. Birmingham had a number of attacks from which they could have done better from, Jermaine Pennant providing most of the attackable balls into the box. Emile Heskey felt hard done by when booked for his studs onto Phillippe Senderos, which at the most looked reckless and not intentional, and the same could be said for his challenge onto Mathieu Flamini for his second.

Blackburn appear to have a balance of form, where they play very well then follow that with a mediocre performance. Having claimed victory in the week against Man Utd, they were much less of the same side yesterday. Kevin Campbell wasn't marked properly and he collected the ball in to touch it past Brad Friedel. Jonathan Greening was allowed to juggle the ball and strike a volley that spun past Friedel for West Brom's second.

With the departure of Graeme Souness, Newcastle took centre stage in the afternoon to see the response, and they dominated the game. Charles N'Zogbia is a very decent purchase, he has a tricky left foot, attacks with pace on the wing and comes in behind the defence well, and was therefore well positioned to touch the first goal in. Not only did this match herald a well desired victory for Newcastle but it brought, at St James' Park, the goal that broke Jackie Milburn's record, Alan Shearer scoring his 201st after being put through by Shola Ameobi's back heel and creating the opening to slot past impressive Dean Kiely.

The fortunes of the Premiership's North East sides has been more or less in the bottom half of the league. Sunderland, Newcastle were faltering under Souness, rightly or wrongly, and Steve McClaren is facing furore because his indifferent side fail to capitalise on any glimpse of a winning run. I remember when Villa ran riot with a 2-5 win at The Riverside, and this time they were allowed much more of the freedom to roam. To sum up the goals, Middlesbrough's defending was poor and Luke Moore, with the aid of Kevin Phillips, was on hand to mop up any spillage in the box. Lee Cattermole overcame with frustration when he and a Villa player had a little set-to and then emotion as skipper Gareth Southgate had a quick heart-to-heart that appeased ref Lee Mason.

Such emotion wasn't pleasing enough for one Boro fan who amazingly came from the stands to reach as far as the coaches' technical area to remonstrate in the direction of the Middlesbrough bench. The stewards then realised they were employed and eventually carted the supporter away, before he embarrassed them further. Boro risk being dragged into relegation, 5pts from the zone, if they won't shore up their defence.

Sunderland are very plucky but they could have fared better with Stephen Wright remaining on the pitch for much longer than 23mins. He impeded Nigel Reo-Coker for his first booking and then Matthew Etherington practically in the same position for his second, Rob Styles having no doubt. But the Black Cats held West Ham for almost an hour until Marlon Harewood made an appearance. He was very wrongly found offside when he first scored after Kelvin Davies parried Dean Ashton's shot, but with 10mins remaining he fired one himself which Davis parried, this time for Ashton to pounce on and score for his first. Paul Konchesky, strong, tenacious candidate for me to join the England squad for Germany, fired a fierce drive that went under Davis' body for no.2.

Everton have formed a good run of form from the last six games, including yesterday's, better than Chelsea's. Since their last defeat to Liverpool at home, they have had 16 out of 18pts and held off a troubling Man City who trounced Newcastle in the week. David Weir may not have known much about his goal but the ball fortuitously came off his right leg to roll in for the winner. Despite numerous attempts at the Everton goal, Kiki Musampa, Georgios Samaras, Joey Barton and Darius Vassell couldn't break through, while Everton held very strong in the first half and had to hold off City in the second. Stephen Jordan was booked for bringing down Mikel Arteta and then dived in on Tony Hibbert for his second.

Honours were even at The Reebok where Sam Allardyce keeps hold of a successive unbeaten run. Both sides missing key players, it otherwise looked on paper to be a strong home win and could have resulted as such with the pressure Bolton laid on the visitors. Bruno N'Gotty delivered the freekick past the hour mark for Stelios Giannakopoulos to pounce on for Bolton's lead. Yet Wigan have a sturdy spirit going forward, and forced Bolton to concede a freekick, from which Reto Ziegler snapped a shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen managed to parry in the direction of Andreas Johansson to put in. I felt Wigan did very well against the home side's pressure, and missing Jason Roberts means they need to find another avenue to score goals through as well as Neil Mellor, stranded on his own.

Man Utd held their home form to deny Fulham any room for an upset. Park Ji-Sung dazzled and danced down the right for them and he scored the opener when Gary Neville passed across and Park's shot deflected to wrong foot Antii Niemi. Niemi was deceived once again when Christiano Ronaldo sent a diveting freekick over and in which the Finn had no chance of seeing, much less saving. Fulham came back when full back Leroy Rosenior ran down the right to cross for Brian McBride to head past Edwin Van Der Sar. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was then in an offside position with absolute clarity yet was allowed to continue, his shot parried by Niemi for Louis Saha to score and continue his good form of late. Chris Coleman was rightly fuming and was told to sit in the stands. 3-1 down, Fulham pressed on, Wayne Bridge fighting with Neville to get down Utd's left and cross, another impressive figure in Heidar Helguson outjumped all to head another past Van Der Sar. Five goals in the first half provided superb entertainment, but the next one would be crucial, and it went to Utd. Van Nistelrooy turned left and right to hit a low shot that came off Niemi's excellent save to loop up for Ronaldo, who chested and shot a low half-volley for Utd's killer goal.


The penultimate game in the Premiership found Spurs at home against Charlton. Previously on the travels Charlton held out Chelsea and Spurs hadn't beaten Charlton at all at White Hart Lane in their history. Add to this that since Ahmed Mido left for the ACN tournament in Egypt, Spurs haven't scored, losing twice and drawing the once, and it was Mido who scored one of their last goals beforehand. Jermaine Defoe partnered Robbie Keane to the possible reluctance of Martin Jol and with Arsenal winning, Spurs needed to win to maintain 4th place. Still, things can change. Charlton were not active enough in the first half, and this led to Spurs carrying most of the fight, through the two Jermaines'. Defoe twisted and turned to hit an effort that deflected past Thomas Myhre for the opener, and Jenas was found by Keane on the run towards goal, shaking off Chris Powell and slotting past the keeper.

In the second half Defoe added a second within a minute of the start, Tom Huddlestone finding him with a nice pass for the striker to score no.3. Charlton brought Jerome Thomas and for some time his skill and trickery with pace wasn't being utilised enough until the 70th minute when he went on a run, shrugging off Paul Stalteri to hit a low shot that Paul Robinson saw at the last moment and got a hand to, to no avail. Herman Hreidarsson came in with a superb tackle to thwart an otherwise scoring Keane and Spurs held on for the win.

Liverpool are finding their form erratic at present. A big game, we wanted to win it to finally beat Chelsea in the league, to catch up on Utd as well and to find some good form to take us further. Rafael Benitez spoke of a concern over our barren scoring and while we enjoyed a good 30mins, with Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia and Peter Crouch creating chances, Steven Gerrard's effort after Steve Finnan did well against John Terry, and Arjen Robben hitting wide after evading Stephen Warnock and Xabi Alonso, we failed to make them count. If you don't, Chelsea will. When the ball was delivered 10mins from time, Ricardo Carvalho headed down for William Gallas to swivel and score. John Terry headed down well with Pepe Reina failing to keep hold of the ball and as Hernan Crespo pounced to score, he was ruled offside.

Second half, Liverpool needed to come out eager to get an equaliser and we made a number of chances to do so, while Chelsea made theirs to almost extend their lead but again we contributed to our downfall when Warnock played Crespo onside, and that can be as potentially damaging as if it were Henry. Asier Del Horno chipped the ball over the defence and Crespo slotted it in first time for no.2. Eidur Gudjohnsen chased a bouncing ball that Reina chested away but the danger was not over, the keeper then having to follow Gudjohnsen to the touchline and tackling him from behind. The situation was allowed by Alan Wiley to become tense and instead of immediately calling over Reina or segregating him from all, Wiley looked to consult the linesman, as Robben said something to Reina that provoked the keeper to push Robben on the neck, from which the Dutchman suddenly went down. Players then jostled around Reina and he was eventually red-carded. Duncan Ferguson was red-carded for a similar offence and Reina had to go, despite any alleged theatrics. A moment of lost coolness.

That set the return of Jerzy Dudek, who did well to deny a fierce drive from a Frank Lampard freekick. Robben went on a run that left Warnock and Hyypia in its wake only for Gerrard to come over and superbly tackle him away from danger in the box. It could have been a promising match of better proportions for Liverpool, but Chelsea remain formidable in all departments as we still lack mostly in our scoring section. When you have players who can play that well, their touch finds another, players use agility, speed and skill very well to advance and create chances, you deserve to win. But we remain in a good position and need to address our failures of late to bolster our progress, which I'm positive we can do.



Blogger BlindJak said...

Yes Renia had to go for raising hands as that is now the rules in the modern game but I have to say I’m woefully disappointed at Robben’s theatrics. It does him, Chelsea nor the game any good to react in such a manor.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident and seems to happen week in week out at grounds all round the country. The only way to stop it is to create a disciplinary panel that could review each game and hand out retrospective yellow cards. As players start missing important games and racking up fines they would stop the cheating very swiftly.

2/06/2006 9:05 am

Blogger Skippy said...

Rafa focused on the sending off rather then the game. This is yet another big game Liverpool played well in and failed to get at least a point.

In big games, there is very little margain for errors. Liverpool made two mistakes and payed the ultimate price.

We definately need two quality strikers in the summer.

You must give credit to Chelsea, and yesterday they showed us why they will be the champions. The timings of their goals really deflated Liverpool.

Crespo, hats off to you. What a finish that was.

2/06/2006 10:27 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks, Blindjak, for being quite noble. It is a pandemic and it really irritates me when they do, Liverpool are no exception, Kromkamp made a swan dive in the match against Portsmouth. But Robben's conduct in itself doesn't take away from Reina's lack of discretion, which has led, hopefully, for a needed excellent show and return for Dudek. And Skippy was correct in saying Benitez focused more on the sending off than the whole match, and reiterated what I said about making errors punishable by opposition. We've allowed for slackness to creep in and now need to address this thoroughly to re-align our position in the league.


2/06/2006 11:13 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

A helluva post there Redsman...I just wish Liverpool had done an Athletico Madrid (who beat leaders Barca) @ stamford Bridge.

It is a shame if there are theatrics...but no team is perfect or can avoid the temptation...a look at my own team and you don't have to look far beyond Reyes...a capable player...but a bad actor...I should have bought Bergkamp's shirt instead!

Great stuff guys on your comments. Liverpool really should be up there challenging for second place with ManU...and hopefully distract everyone so that Arsenal can move up the table a bit...

2/06/2006 12:04 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks, nturtle. To say it would have been great for such a result is an understatement. Chelsea play a kind of style where they'll begin at a certain flowing level, to test the opposition, feeling them out, and it is up to the opposition to react on a higher level within the first 20 or 30mins, otherwise Chelsea say 'time's up', step up a notch and you can rue not having taken any chances.

It's funny how Arsenal are said to be in perdition [definition: "loss of the soul] yet they are now 5th, 4pts behind their rivals in 4th and a game in hand. So the tie at Highbury will be another big game between Spurs and Arsenal, third from last game, so a fair bit can occur between now and then.


2/06/2006 2:16 pm

Blogger T said...

Powerhouse weekend review Redsman, fantastic stuff as ever!

Blindjak, I think you may have made the comment before about retrospective yellow cards being issued for obvious unsportsmanlike conduct that is missed by officials during play.. and I very much agree with it. A deterrent is needed to curb such conduct.

As for the match, I really like the way Redsman described the Chelsea tactics in the comment before this one... things can look quite even as they size you up and play steady football... and then they hit you like a rattlesnake! They did the same against Arsenal.

I must say, however, that I would be mightily disappointed if I was a Pool fan that the crucial opening goal came from a corner. Surely Liverpool must know that this is a big weapon for Chelsea, but equally that with good preparation it can be negated. The Pool defence, however, fell asleep.

My comments about the AFC game are contained in a comment to the Friday article. Thanx Redsman and Nturtle for your own comments to that article. By the way, me and my brother watched the Barca game yesterday and agreed that Torres' price tag increased after that game... fantastic, composed finishes!

Redsman, you mention Arsenal's game with Spurs and it sure has the potential to be big. But many games are to be played first... and if I was Arsene - or the recently recruited Martin Keown - I would definitely be preaching the principle to the players of just concentrating on the next match and forgetting everything else.

2/06/2006 10:03 pm

Blogger Abdul said...

Solid review Redsman. I agree with Skippy, too much has been made of the sending off by Benitez. Liverpool were trailing in another match where they had a large degree of control. If this happens regularly to Liverpool in big matches - the problem is up front and it needs to be addressed. Can any Pool fans explain why Morientes has been so ineffectual in his time at Anfield?

2/08/2006 11:35 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Abdul, I don't know, scratching ,y head last night as to how we can address this. Perhaps the Spaniard needs to acclimitise, though he is said to have mentioned behind content in being here. Cisse is flamboyant but is not currently producing form, much less goals. Crouch still has to sharpen his play, as he joined the club he had something to prove and proved it well. Now the pressure is off Crouch isn't moving sharply and he messed up his control last night in front of goal.

I believe in Hansen's words in fielding your strongest side. That wasnt the case last night without Gerrard but we have made do without him before. I hope he can return on Saturday fully fit, Fowler improves fitness and Fowler can start alongside someone with pace like Cisse. We need pace upfront and a keen eye for goal too, and I feel these two can produce these qualities. Look at the top teams in Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Man Utd and notice their forwards have pace and can score. At the same time, the introduction of promising Agger can inject some steel into the defence, at the expense of.....well, I'll leave that to Rafa.

Come on Liverpool!


2/09/2006 1:23 pm


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