Portsmouth revival; Chelsea last gasp; Hammers trashed
The weekend of Premiership football produced a day to forget in back passes and one to remember in splendid goals.
Portsmouth 2 Manchester City 1
This game had an away win written all over it, Portsmouth have had one win and one draw out of the last ten, with two home defeats; Man City had five defeats and four wins out of ten, with four away defeats. Form wise, these were expected to be City's points, but Pedro Mendes had other plans. Two shots from outside the box, both of them flying in past David James, the last of which came in injury time to beat the clock. City miss the vision and movement of Andy Cole up front as they lacked a cutting edge in front of Portsmouth's goal. Portsmouth remain in 19th place but now one win away from reaching Birmingham, two wins away from outjumping West Bromwich Albion in 17th.
Birmingham 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
How this remained as a draw is down to the misses of Diomansy Kamara and Kevin Campbell. West Brom's Curtis Davis gave away a penalty in the 2nd half by clinging onto Mikael Forssell in the box, who coolly deposited the spot kick, but Jonathan Greening ran down the right to square superbly for Kamara at the far post to put into an empty net, only to miss from 4-5 yards. Campbell was through on Maik Taylor but amazingly hit the outside of the post. Junichi Inamoto and Campbell came off for Nwankwo Kanu and Nathan Ellington, to great effect. Acting skipper Mario Melchiot slipped up with a mis-kicked clearance, Kamara found Kanu who set up Ellington for a sharp left-foot shot past Taylor. In injury time Ellington picked up on a high ball and ran on to goal, only to strike the crossbar.
Chelsea 2 Spurs 1
Following on from midweek European football, the Blues of London wanted a firm response at home. Chelsea were in dominating control of the first half leading to Michael Essien missing wide from 10-12 yards but Michael Carrick gifted them their opportunity when he squared across the defence for Shaun Wright-Phillips to pick up on, his pass in the direction of Hernan Crespo was dummied by the Argentinian, and Essien stepped up to finish off. But in 1st half injury time, a freekick on Spurs left was delivered over by Carrick, Michael Dawson outjumped Robert Huth to nod down and Jermaine Jenas got ahead of anyone to steal a touch past Petr Cech. Impressively in the 2nd half was the attacking of William Gallas, who showed lovely touches to sway Paul Stalteri left and right before attempting a left-foot shot near goal. And as Chelsea pressed for a winner that didn't seem to thwart Spurs' defensive four, Gallas came forward again and this time let fly a right-foot effort that sailed wide and in off the post.
Blackburn Rovers 2 Aston Villa 0
This one was said to be the one that got away from the visitors as Villa started very brightly. Gareth Barry was through one-on-one with Brad Friedel but the American's rush made Barry miss. Kevin Phillips was onto a sure goal but for the superb intervention of Ryan Nelson's tackle, Milan Baros had a great chance but fluffed his shot that was nicely stopped by Friedel. Rovers' 1st goal came early after the break, Thomas Sorensen spilled the ball from a corner and Andy Todd poked it in, and their 2nd came courtesy of another mistake by the Villa keeper which allowed Craig Bellamy, who is running on good form recently, to side foot in.
Everton 3 Fulham 1
In their last ten games before Saturday, Everton held two losses and two draws out of 10 as Fulham had four wins and one draw out of ten, and being at Goodison Park meant the London side were against it to turn this into an away win. Zat Knight is not an accomplished defender for me and hasn't been for some while and to see him practically all over James Beattie meant a sure penalty, which Beattie converted. Some ten minutes before half time, Tim Cahill was on the edge of the Fulham box and laid off a little ball to Beattie, who then chipped Tony Warner delightfully from just outside the area. Then to compound the win, James McFadden used a chance from 25-30 yards to unleash a dipping shot over Warner for Everton's third. Fulham started to pick up their attack which led to Collins John being bundled down by Tony Hibbert for Fulham's consolation penalty by Johns.
Bolton 4 West Ham 1
Alan Pardew may have bitten off more than he can chew when he accused Arsene Wenger of attributing to the football development of English up-and-coming players by fielding a team of foreign players, so what he would have made of Sam Allardyce's side featuring only two Englishmen in Kevins', Nolan and Davies. Pardew of missing two of his own Englishmen who have made a great influence on West Ham's progress, Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood. Gambling on the Ferdinand trait of playing Anton in midfield, it failed. Bolton were rampant. Ferdinand would have been better in defence, as Ricardo Vaz Te headed off the post and Stelios Giannakopolous scored the rebound. The Greek added another when Nolan's shot fortuitously went in off him. Gary Speed sent a superb overhead kick past Shaka Hislop for Bolton's third, before half time. Yossi Benayoun's shot was parried by Jussi Jasskelainen in the path of Teddy Sheringham and he easily scored, but Bolton sent on Hendrik Pedersen and he rounded the rout with the outside of his right foot.
Sunderland 0 Wigan 1
Sunderland hoped to revive a slight change in fortune with a new man in charge. Mick McCarthy, for me, was very unlucky, after masterminding their rise and promotion as Championship champions. But The Black Cats' fortune seem to stem from the single goal defeats and it hasn't been their season, not for clear obvious reasons like being bottom of the league and losing, but losing and not scoring as in this defeat, or scoring but losing 2-1 or 3-2. They get a goal, the opposition get one more and it's that one more goal that makes the difference. Teams have played less than their opponents but one chance, one goal and there's a win, against the run of play, and it is rotten luck. This is where Sunderland seem to come in. Wigan's winner came via Henri Camara, as Nyron Nosworthy missed clearing the ball and it spilled to Camara, who spun and hit a shot that flew high, wide and in. Sunderland laid an onslaught on Wigan's goal, John Filan denied Stephen Elliot and Kevin Kyle, and John Stead missed a gilt-edge chance after Dean Whitehead's header was only parried, Stead putting the ball wide.
Manchester Utd 2 Newcastle 0
Newcastle were on an impressive run of games since Graeme Souness' departure, and what they needed was to face a strong Man Utd side with the same composure they held during that run. However they were made to be spectators as Utd warmed up and then, through Wayne Rooney, set off to let rip. Yesterday was the day of bad back passes. Peter Ramage passed back to Shay Given, not taking into account the lurking of Rooney at the back, and as the former Everton man picked up the ball he coolly chipped the ball wide past Given for Utd's 1st. Not being content with that, Utd picked up in midfield through John O'Shea, a one-two with Louis Saha and a little pass to Rooney and Utd saw their 2nd as Rooney dinked it over Given, despite Jean-Alain Boumsong's desperate efforts to distract him. Newcastle came much the better in the 2nd half but Utd up front were always threatening. Ruud Van Nistelrooy came on for Christiano Ronaldo as Rooney took a midfield role and should have scored when he outmuscled Boumsong but missed wide of the post.
Charlton 2 Middlesbrough 1
Alan Curbishley was hailed in a back page exclusive to have been caught having discussions with FA representatives about the England coaching role. I didn't know he was even being considered, so many thanks to that publication for a fantastic coup of an exclusive. Meanwhile, Mr Curbishley settled down to business against Steve McClaren, and saw Darren Bent score two more for the club and his prospects of making the squad for Germany. After a first half that found Middlesbrough the better in overwhelming Charlton, in the 2nd half Chris Powell crossed excellently for Bent to outjumped the unaware Emanuel Pogatetz for Charlton's opener, which was cancelled out by Mark Viduka's excellent dipping volley over Thomas Myhre. Not learning their lesson, Boro's defence went to sleep again, Luke Young running onto a ball near the touchline to square across for Bent to step up sneakily to tap in the winner.
Arsenal 2 Liverpool 1
I sensed this would be a testing game for Liverpool. Our playability has been let down by woeful finishing and a lack of goals ensuing. While Arsenal enjoyed a routing at Craven Cottage and disposing of Spain's talented Real Madrid out of the Champions League, Liverpool's midweek Benfica defeat that followed a disappointing draw against Charlton made for a major raise in spirits for yesterday. Arsenal on a high and Thierry Henry playing makes for a difficult challenge when needing to bolster your confidence. Cesc Fabregas had the run of midfield on most occasions and found the repeatedly lurking Henry on the edge of defence with a through ball that beat both Steve Finnan and Jamie Carragher, Henry running on to score wide and curling round Pepe Reina. Liverpool made up their chances and again failed to make them materialise into better chances, Peter Crouch missing wide with a free header. In the 2nd half, Liverpool came out with much more determination, closing down Arsenal and taking the opportunity early to pressurise the home defence but then Arsenal took control and made a number of chances that just missed the target.
The home side claimed for a foul on Fabregas by Xabi Alonso but Steve Bennett waved it aside, Alonso found Steven Gerrard, who let fly a shot that Jens Lehmann chose to punch rather than smoulder, the high ball was then met by poacher Luis Garcia's head for the equaliser. Then two moments which may led to Liverpool's spirit broken. Alonso went in on Fabregas for his first booking and then seemed to slip and, through momentum, fell into Mathieu Flamini. Mr Bennett waited for play to stop and sent off Alonso for his 2nd booking. Looking to calm the play and kill time, Gerrard picked up the ball near Liverpool's goal and passed it back to Reina but he too, like Newcastle's Ramage, failed to sight the lurking Henry and the Frenchman went on to round Reina for Arsenal's winner. To have ended 1-1 would have been fortunate for Liverpool, as we played at times with low self-esteem and found it very challenging to keep up with Arsenal's pacy pass-and-move game, and count a number of chances against us not going in.