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Monday, August 21, 2006

Brand new season, brand new Premiership

Welcome to all from ElteFootballTalk for the new season in the Premiership. I apologise for a late summary of the top flight football matches but there are a few talking points.

Bolton 2 v Tottenham 0

Spurs' fans can correct me but Tottenham have found The Reebok stadium a bogey place to play at recently after last season's 1-0 defeat. Kevin Davies put Bolton in the lead with a neat header that appeared to have been aided by the presence of new French defender Abdoulaye Meite, formerly of Marseille. Meite was between Calum Davenport and Spurs' new Bulgarian striker from Bayer Leverkusen, Dimitar Berbatov for the Bolton corner and pulled on Davenport's shirt as he aimed to get forward to challenge Davies. Whether he would have got there or not is debatable but certainly Bolton would have been penalised if it was seen.

You may have already seen the video we have currently of Ivan Campo's effort from some 40 yards at goal for Bolton's second. As the ball cleared out from Spurs' defence, Campo came up onto it and firmly struck it low and it curled into Paul Robinson's right corner. Robinson didn't see it until it was too late.

Everton 2 v Watford 1

David Moyes seems as dogged and determined to make Good his work on Goodison Park, bringing in Andy Johnson, of whom the Premiership is quite acquainted with, and new defender Joleon Lescott from Wolves. The interesting point here was the partnership of Johnson with James Beattie, two keen goal hunters. The link up between the two when the ball came down from high inclued two one-twos and Johnson running onto the ball to hit it left footed, the ball deflecting off Lloyd Doyley over Ben Foster in goal.

Second half found Everton's second under bizarre decisioning. As the ball broke down the Everton right, Chris Powell and Tim Cahill chased it, Cahill got there first and hooked the ball back for it to go off Powell for a corner. The linesman nearest gave handball and Everton a penalty when in fact the ball came off Powell's forehead! It is easier from the replays but surely the keener eyesight of the linesman is better than that when the ball touches nearer the head than any arm or hand. Mikel Arteta stepped up to deposit the gifted spot-kick. Watford had become more spirited in the second half and gained a consolation through Damien Francis, his shot deflecting off Alan Stubbs and the post to break the clean sheet.

Arsenal 1 v Aston Villa 1

New stadium, bigger capacity, the Gunners anticipated the first Premiership goal for Arsenal on Saturday, and they came up against a rejuvenated Villa side with a new manager and potentially new owner in the very near future. Arsenal huffed and puffed in the first half with Emmanuel Eboue striking at Thomas Sorensen to push the Dane into a tip-top save over the bar and Emanuel Adebayor unfortunate to see his header cleared off the line. The visitors were giving as good as they got with Gavin McCann, Stephen Davis and Gareth Barry sperheading the attack and Gabriel Agbonlahor testing Jens Lehmann from some 20 yards.

The fans thought they saw the first Premiership goal via Kolo Toure's headed effort from a freekick but he was ruled offside, in the dying moments of the first half. However, the first goal did come, courtesy of Olof Mellberg as Lehmann failed to collect a corner ball and Mellberg rose above Adebayor to head in. Arsenal went into siege mode and came at the Villa goal, Adebayor hitting another effort that was cleared off the line by Liam Ridgewell. Yet the Gunners managed to equalise some half an hour after Mellberg's goal, with sub Theo Walcott coming on in the 73rd minute and dinking a chip over for Gilberto Silva to collect and hammer in at the back.

Portsmouth 3 v Blackburn 0

Blackburn Rovers appeared to have fallen apart on Saturday. Lucas Neill misjudged a high ball that went over him and Benjamin Mwaruwari pounced onto the ball to cross for Svetoslav Todorov to tap in from close range for the lead. I noticed Sol Campbell of Pompey rekindled with a previous adversary in Jason Roberts, Roberts came into the box but was blocked off well by Campbell.

Another former Arsenal man in Nwankwo Kanu took the centre stage in the second half when he headed past Brad Friedel from a Sean Davis cross to put Pompey two up. Minutes after that Blackburn were down a man when Lucas Neill received a second booking for impeding Kanu on the run that ensued his first in the first half for hacking down Todorov. Kanu went on to produce his second goal which again came from a header from a Gary O'Neil cross and could have wrapped up a hat trick when given a penalty after being judged to have been impeded by skipper Andy Todd. Todd was given a straight red for his tackle and the replays for me made no clear conclusion. Kanu stepped up and had his glamour soiled a bit as Friedel dived to save.

Sheff Utd 1 v Liverpool 1

Regardless, I did not take this game as easy as others may have sensed it would be. Neil Warnock demands practically a Premiership performance from a Championship side before promotion and there was no change. Liverpool were playing at 70% of their ability and the first half was more or less superseded by the Reds with a possession of 41 - 59%. However, we were made to pay the toll for our efforts with John Arne Riise then Jamie Carragher both coming off with ankle injuries that has now put them out for at least two or three weeks. Sheff Utd scored first through Rob Hulse but his effort was ruled out for offside.

From the outset of the second half Sheff Utd scored again, this time legitimately. Another freekick on the Sheff left was delivered by David Unsworth and Hulse was unmarked by Fabio Aurelio to head in. A gifted goal through another set-piece error which any side chasing the title are expected to handle comfortably. From then Liverpool became relentless, as numerous advances on the Sheff Utd goal ended in the last touch being too heavy or players slipping over. Then yet another penalty controversy as Steven Gerrard attacked and played a one-two with Robbie Fowler before evading a Chris Morgan challenge but his left foot effort easily stopped by Paddy Kenny. Rob Styles blew for a penalty.

My understanding is that Morgan came across and made an attempt to impede Gerrard more than to stop the ball. Gerrard looked up afterwards and pleaded to the ref and the decision was given, within the law. From the speed of play and the replays nothing untoward appeared, but if the decision is the right one, surely Morgan should go off with a second booking, if not a straight red? I wished Mr Styles had explained that point. Fowler stepped up to deposit the spot kick. For our efforts in getting back at Sheff Utd, the penalty could be deemed as a reward but not in that way. Sheff Utd hadn't really threatened Liverpool often enough after the goal and chose to hold back in numbers to thwart our attacks. Liverpool should have been better and need to sharpen up for an important result tonight before turning back to the Premiership.

Man Utd 5 v Fulham 1

If Blackburn Rovers had fallen at Fratton Park, Fulham provided a 20min horror show for the Cottagers' fans as the home side took turns to turn the roast spit. Ryan Giggs crossed to confuse Liam Rosenior and Ian Pearce and allow former Fulham man Louis Saha to head in. Saha then aimed to bring in Wayne Rooney with a cross that Pearce put into his own net in attempting to cut it out. Saha was on form again as his volley was parried by Antii Niemi for Rooney to pounce onto, and Rooney provided a sweet cross for Christiano Ronaldo to volley in at the rear unmarked. Who said Rooney and Ronaldo won't get on?? Business as usual, clearly.

Fulham wrapped up the first half with Heidur Helguson's shot deflecting off Rio Ferdinand over Edwin Van Der Sar, but United picked up a fifth as Ronaldo found Wes Brown hairing down the right and Brown crossed for Rooney to tuck in low. Van Nistel-who??

Newcastle 2 v Wigan 1

Newcastle were considered to be in some difficulty in their chase for another striker, with Alan Shearer retired, Michael Owen recovering, Michael Chopra sold to Cardiff, Albert Luque is preferred to either partner Shola Ameobi or replace him but he started on the bench, still yet to find the true form Newcastle bought him for. News today that the club have agreed on a £10m plus fee with Inter Milan for Obafemi Martins will bring some delight to the fans, though I understand Portsmouth have come in with another offer so there commences a battle for the Nigerian's signature. So with Ameobi on his own, it was a 4-5-1, Nicky Butt holding behind new captain Scott Parker and Emre, Nolberto Solano and Damien Duff on the flanks. But the Geordies had a strong desire against Wigan and took the lead through Parker as Ameobi chipped across goal for the skipper to nod in.

Wigan came back in the second half as Emile Heskey headed on a high ball for Lee McCulloch to control, push aside and curl round Shay Given's left side just on the hour, but five minutes after sub Charles N'Zogbia, who I find is impressive with speed and a decent left foot, came on to replace Butt and unleashed a fierce drive at Chris Kirkland which the keeper could only parry for Ameobi to pick up and tuck away.

Chelsea 3 v Man City 0

Man Utd and Chelsea, two main contenders for the title, start off as their respective managers expected them to. Chelsea started their defence on 11mins with Ben Thatcher, for me a defender with a self destruct button at times, needlessly bringing down Arjen Robben near the touchline. The Dutchman took the opportunity to chip a freekick ideally for John Terry to head in the club's and his first for the campaign. Fifteen minutes later Frank Lampard took his cue as he summoned the ball from Michael Essien and with one touch took it to the side to strike at goal, the ball coming off Richard Dunne and going in. Essien almost added to the scoreline before half time with a fierce shot from some 25-30 yards that Nicky Weaver, in for the departed David James, to push aside.

Man City's handicap was further hampered with new signing Bernardo Corradi picking up his second booking for a lunge on Essien over the hour, after a first yellow in the first half for a reckless hack on Paulo Ferreira. Essien pulled on Corradi's hair in return and picked up a booking. The goal of the game came via great work by Robben and Wayne Bridge, Robben spotting the left back running down and thread him through, Bridge cut across for Didier Drogba to dive and head acutely inside the post. Andriy Shevchenko also scored in injury time but was ruled offside.

I understand that Sylvain Distin may not be cleared to join Middlesbrough, Stuart Pearce is not yet resigned to letting him go, and on this display it would be the right choice.

Reading 3 v Middlesbrough 2

The Championship champions with Dave Kitson, Steve Sidewell and Leroy Lita started badly with two goals to the visitors within 21 mins. Aiyegbeni Yakubu crossed from the right for Stewart Downing to volley in with the Reading defenders ball watching, then Yakubu added a second with an Ameobi goal, as he pounced once keeper Marcus Hahnemann failed to hold a fierce Fabio Rochemback shot. Then the comeback. First South Korea's Seol Ki-Hyeon gave Boro a torrid time on the wings and made no exception for Julio Arca, beating him well and crossign for Dave Kitson to open his Premiership account. Then Ivar Ingimarsson's low cross from the left found its way to Steve Sidwell to touch in Reading's second.

The comeback, then the take over. Leroy Lita came on for the injured Kitson, and once again it was Seol who worked the Boro defence to cut across for Sidwell to thrash it out with keeper Mark Schwarzer and Emanuel Pogatetz, the ball spilling for Lita to pounce on despite Chris Riggott's attempt to block. Boro almost equalised twice as Ibrahim Sonko dithered on the ball and Mark Viduka moved in to be denied by the keeper, then Stuart Parnaby passed across all for Viduka to touch in, only to be denied this time by the linesman. Replays showed the Australian was quite onside.

West Ham 3 v Charlton 1

A London derby that started well for the visitors and then crumbled. Danny Gabbidon inexplicably add his arm to the flight of a Bryan Hughes ball to thwart Darren Bent behind him and West Ham paid for it, Bent converted the spot-kick. Iain Dowie would have been pleased with that on the quarter hour but not so much ten minutes later. New left-back Djimi Traore went in to tackle on Lee Bowyer and appeared to get more of the ball than the player but was booked. Perhaps unfortunate but on a booking you need to be much more careful and Traore conceded another freekick. As Bowyer poised to kick the ball, Traore was nearby and stuck out his foot to block, an infringement in the rules and another booking, so he had to go.

Traore has the potential to be a very good defender, he can pass well with a good left foot on him, can tackle well and has good height. But that is if he is really focused, and the thing is he is letting himself down with rash challenges and careless thinking that lets down the team and end up with a booking, or two as the case was on Saturday.

A goal down at the break, West Ham equalised through Bobby Zamora as Bowyer crossed for the striker to score unmarked at the far post. Zamora added a second in comical fashion as a mis-hit effort hit the post, evaded Scott Carson, and Talal El Karkouri completely missed the ball as it boobled over the line. New signing Carlton Cole came on for Marlon Harewood and was put through in injury time by Bowyer (yet again), a lobbed ball found the former Chelsea and Aston Villa man in space and his first touch was to finish firmly past Carson.

Didn't West Ham go behind to Blackburn last season and eventually won the game by the same scoreline?? Didnt Blackburn score in the first half and West Ham scored all three in the second half?? And Blackburn had a player dismissed too, in Paul Dickov?? Uncanny.



Blogger T said...

Redsman, that is a perfect commentary of the weekend's action!

I was happy that Arsenal scrambled a draw after going a goal behind- to start off with a defeat in our first league match at the Emirates would have been a bad omen! Martin O'Neill said afterwards that Arsenal were ahead of Villa in the fitness stakes, but as Henry and Ljungberg had not even featured in one Arsenal pre-season game and the majority of the players had to play international friendlies overseas less than 72 hours earlier, I reckon that Villa were lucky to play us when they did.

Coming on to make his Arsenal debut, young Walcott looked fresh and a real menace coming on in the left wing position and making driving runs towards the box... if this is the standard of play that he will always produce I'll be very happy!

And I'm very happy that the immensely underrated and vice-captain Gilberto got our first goal at the Emirates- scoring his third late equaliser for Arsenal in the last nine months (120th minute against Doncaster!, and 90th min against Bolton).

As for other teams- I have written a short post already on EFT about how impressed I was by Man Utd. I also saw the first of the Chelsea match and once they scored early on from yet another John Terry set-piece header it was business as usual for the champions... meaning there was never going to be any way back for Man City.

But I'll end this comment with a note about Reading after their excellent comeback from two goals down to win 3-2. They were a free-scoring team in division one, and I expect a lot of high-scoring games at the Madjeski stadium. Kitson is in the Crouch mould, and I advise our readers to watch out for Leroy Lita. Steve Coppell used to manage Crystal Palace when they had Ian Wright up-front, and last season he compared Lita favourably to Wright in terms of electricity in front of goal and attitude. I can see the comparison too, and his winning goal and celebration against Boro was definitely Wright-esque.

8/22/2006 5:40 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I also advise of watching Leroy Lita, who was scoring almost for fun in the Championship. With Kitson out for some weeks, Lita could start today and it would be a test of his ability against an Aston Villa side spurred by O'Neill's passion and grit.


8/23/2006 11:07 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Writing for the World Cup hasn't dented that pen Redsman! Nice summary.

I only watched the Arsenal game...and it was a bit frustrating...but glad we didn't lose...and the wrong Swede scored first (mellberg)...but hey...we didn't lose!

Looking forward to more of the new look teams...Man U, Spurs all look like they can do the business! Reading will need a sterner test...and that will tell us where they are in terms of real strength.

Chelsea...well...what can I say...Sheva must surely add more to the team then take's gonna be tough.

8/23/2006 2:26 pm


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