Weekend review - Man Utd continue 100% as Man City gain vital win
Watford 1 v Man Utd 2
Aidy Boothroyd considered higher expectations after regarding losing 1-2 to Utd as not something to reflect on. It seemed Watford had actually given a good fight beyond the expectations of others, at the least. Louis Saha went on the run on the left and Mikael Silvestre overlapped him for Saha to touch a sweet ball to the left back for a low shot into the goal, Silvestre's first away goal. Watford equalised well through Ashley Young's even sweeter touch to get past Silvestre, left the Frenchman for dead and crossed for all to miss the ball but Damien Francis, who touched it in. In the second half a freekick was delivered over the Utd defence and Doug Henderson was furthest at the back with perhaps a left foot touch to gain the lead, however the Watford man instead cut back for Danny Shittu and Francis and the opportunity was severely reduced to nothing. Moments later, Utd took the lead. Chris Spring dallied on the ball too long and was forced into a pass back which no one but Ryan Giggs picked up on, jinking past the keeper and slotting home.
Charlton 2 v Bolton 0
Competitive game at The Valley, and the home side needed something after a torrid time at Upton Park and a spanking in midweek at home. Bolton had record signing Nicolas 'The Sulk' Anelka watching in the stands. Call him what you like but if he shows his full potential it will be a dividend signing. Stelios Giannakopoulos completely messed up a superb chance to score when he collected a high ball, with Scott Carson to beat. He checked back on Talal El Karkouri and then should have scored but it seemed it was not perfect enough for him and when he went to check back again, Bryan Hughes came to the rescue. At the other end Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink thread through Darren Ambrose, whose effort was blocked well by Jussi Jaaskelainen, Abdoulaye Meite took up an excellent defending position behind the keeper and then blocked the follow up by Darren Bent. The ball came off Meite to Ambrose, who looked onside but once he actually shot pass the keeper into the net, the effort was ruled offside. The replays showed Ambrose was on for me, strongly, but the commentator on Match Of The Day said there had to be TWO defenders between the keeper and attacker in such a circumstance. I was not aware of that and that being that, that is a load of cobblers. Goal was legitimate and should have stood, otherwise next we will need three kings and a star with a blessing.
Kevin Davies and Herman Hreidarsson were enjoying acquaintances with the Bolton man jumping with a flailing forearm in the Icelander's face. Surprise he was not punished for that. In fact Davies had done that a few times in the game but it was Hreidarsson who retaliated back with a clear aimed right elbow to Davies. Mike Dean had no hesitation but a straight red. So it stayed at the break but it then turned controversial. Amdy Faye may have pulled back slightly on El Hadji Diouf and it takes little to nothing of an invitation for the Senegalese forward to fall down. A pull is a pull, so the penalty was given. Carson dived well to block the effort and then cleared the ball from danger. At the other end Bent was put through but was tugged slightly by Tal Ben Haim and he too needed little invitation to go down, again a pull is a pull. Bent scored.
Another jump, another involving Davies, and another sending off. Davies went up and in his defence he was looking at the ball when he caught Faye on the face with his left forearm. It seemed innocuous to me but Faye accepted another feign invitation and rolled about as if pulling out a blazing fire on his back. A flailing arm is a flailing arm and Davies was living by the sword, so he received his red card. To compound the afternoon for the visitiors, Hasselbaink flicked on the high ball for Bent to react the quickest and squeeze under the advancing keeper for Charlton's second.
Liverpool 2 v West Ham 1
As Anfield celebrated 100 years of the Kop stand, for me Gerrard didn't win the FA Cup for us, he scored the goals that levelled it for us twice. It could have been someone else scoring twice and that player wouldn't be credited the final like Gerrard has been. So the first meet up between the two teams since produced a good match, the first played yesterday. Liverpool had taken the game by the reins with their attacking flair before West Ham eventually claimed control and went on the break. With 11mins on the clock, Yossi Benayoun passed diagonally for Bobby Zamora on the far right, Zamora touched forward and aimed the ball across goal. Pepe Reina came to deal with it but misjudged the ball's path for it came instead towards goal, the former Villarreal stopped could only get a palm to it before it went in. Zamora said he aimed for the goal. Yeah. But it matters not how just as long as it does.
Despite the possession, Liverpool were rocked by the early goal for they had dominated well up until then, and even after the goal they could have gone further behind, just like the final. The ball came over towards the defence, neither Daniel Agger nor Sami Hyypia dealt with the ball and it fell down well for Marlon Harewood to run onto and touch past Reina, but just wide of the post. Liverpool had a freekick just outside the box which Fabio Aurelio (pronounced OR-RE-O by the commentator) curled well but for Paul Konchesky retreating in time for excellent defending to head off the line (reminded me of Ashley Cole), and couldn't make their possession count until half an hour later when Xabi Alonso squared for Agger and the Dane went on a run as the opposition backed off and uleashed a fierce left foot shot at goal from 25-30 yards that bent in then out into the top right corner of the goal. John Arne Riise, be wary.
The home side added to their tally as Steven Gerrard ran down the right and passed long to Luis Garcia, the Spaniard intelligently cutting inside Paul Konchesky to collect the ball and came across the box to thread a little pass for Peter Crouch. Crouch rounded Roy Carroll before slotting between the legs of Anton Ferdinand and past Danny Gabbidon on the line. I liked Dirk Kuyt coming on, I'd mentioned to my EFT colleagues of his potential link-up with Craig Bellamy in the same vein as Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler as Kuyt had scored twenty goals in each of his three seasons at Feyenoord. Time will tell. For the sake of Jonathan Pearce who commentated, it is KITE. Not KIT or even KURT. Goodness me.
Spurs 0 v Everton 2
Spurs started badly against Bolton but did well enough to get back at home in midweek against plucky Sheff Utd, so another home game against Everton could have made for another win or perhaps a draw, as Everton had failed to win at White Hart Lane for over twenty years. But for me the defence is badly missing the guidance and leadership of Ledley King, who Michael Dawson takes his cue from and Calum Davenport is, at best, a decent interim. Jermaine Defoe was on the bench as Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane provided the attack. Spurs had an advantage in Kevin Kilbane enduring a terminator of an afternoon. First, his dive-in tackle on Lee Young-Pyo didn't touch the South Korean but Lee made something out of it and Kilbane was booked. Kilbane followed that with another tough challenge that Lee remained on his feet from so Mark Halsey gave a warning, but the Irishman chased Lee as the Spurs defender ran down the right towards goal and caught him from behind just as Gary Naysmith came to help. Kilbane got his second booking.
With Bent scoring twice, the eyes fell on Andy Johnson at the Lane as England prepare to gather for the Euro2008 qualifiers this week. The former Crystal Palace striker brought a foul from Benoit Assou-Ekotto wide on the right on 52mins, Mikel Arteta crossed the freekick, Joleon Lescott nodded on and Davenport touched the ball into the net under pressure from Joseph Yobo. Spurs responded with Defoe on for Lee, another looking at the Euro2008 matches, but it was Johnson again who capitalised as the ball was spread to Phil Neville on the right and his high cross was meant by Johnson as he easily emerged between Davenport and Dawson to tap past Paul Robinson.
While I mention the absence of King, Robinson has bemoaned the sale of Michael Carrick, and I agree. Jermaine Jenas is not a replacement for Carrick and has not produced the form to warrant a call up for England. With Jenas and Edgar Davids in the middle, that midfield should be energetic and tough but Carrick's ability to break up play and spread the passes is missing and both King and Carrick missing added to Everton's dominance with 10 men. Even in jest, there shouldn't be talk of Aaron Lennon moving anywhere.
Man City 1 v Arsenal 0
Following on from the major issue at the City of Manchester stadium in the week Ben Thatcher was dropped, and I hope he will return a better player in terms of temperament. City rode some luck as Thierry Henry met Alexander Hleb's sweet pass to have a one-on-one with Nicky Weaver in goal. Richard Dunne got back to stop him and Micah Richards but Henry managed to get the ball pass them as they collided with each other but Weaver's outstretched left leg stopped the effort. Robin Van Persie was put through on the same side and his left foot shot struck the post and went away from danger. Justin Hoyte is as accomplished as Davenport for Spurs, and he was ideal for a loan to Sunderland but not to replace Cole. I would have preferred Mathieu Flamini, provided he was fit. Hoyte had come to meet a high pass to Trevor Sinclair on the right and completely missed it as Sinclair coolly gambled and chested the ball towards goal, though nothing came of the attack as Joey Barton just missed the post.
But Sinclair went on to thwart Hoyte again as another crossfield ball was controlled well by the City winger to go into the box and as he did he was upended clumsily by Hoyte. Barton deposited the spot-kick. Henry went on to collect a through ball and with Weaver out aimed for the far post, which usually ends up with a goal. But the ball went wide and it seemed to not be Arsenal's day. Kolo Toure aimed a header off the crossbar from a corner, Van Persie was on goal and jumped to nod the ball as he was challenged by Slyvain Distin and Dunne, the City skipper appearing to nudge the Dutchman but nothing given, to Van Persie's frustration. Not a comfort to the Gunners, but City needed something after the week, especially as they had sat at the bottom of the table.
Arsene Wenger looked confident after the match, as if he was relaxed that at the moment things will turn for the better shortly when the team get that gel back to their start. The issue about Ashley Cole is neither here or there with Wenger, either he stays or he goes, and there is another with Jose Antonio Reyes, who appears to have declared publicly he will not play for Arsenal again.
Fulham 1 v Sheff Utd 0
Two talking points in this game. Utd skipper Chris Morgan was penalised unfairly for a header over Brian McBride and Jimmy Bullard simply curled a beautiful freekick from 20 yards that had Paddy Kenny rooted, which is somethig as the Eire keeper is one of the best in the game. The other was Bullard's thunderous drive. Tomasz Radzinski was put through on the right by a sweet Bullard ball and the Canadian had to simply compose himself and aim at goal but then suffered a lack of confidence and tamely aimed to square for Luis Boa Morte, the ball went loose and Bullard thumped a shot that had Kenny beaten but came off the post. Bullard doing excellently since his arrival, more than a few players put together but Fulham got their win after a hard start at Old Trafford and a draw against Bolton.
Wigan 1 v Reading 0
Emile Heskey made the headlines in his first JJB stadium appearance and made the difference too. He nodded onto the crossbar from a corner after goodwork from Henri Camara, who had to go off. Otherwise the Senegalese was making a great partnership with Heskey. The goal came in the 38th minute as another new signing Denny Landzaat chipped over for Lee McCullouch to nod into the path of Heskey, who bursted onto the ball to touch in.
Pascal Chimbonda was geared up to replace Heskey and the body language between him and Paul Jewell seemd to show the edgy atmosphere between manager and player, considering. I sound like a cheap hack wishing to fuel a flame to a potential gas leak but instead of Jewell giving instructions to the Frenchman before going on, Jewell looked slightly sheepish in looking other directions. When Chimbonda touched the ball, it sounded as if the crowd didn't know whether to cheer or to boo, so they did neither. But it would appear Chimbonda is staying.
As I type Aston Villa are continuing their strong start under Martin O'Neill after an earned draw at The Emirates and coming back against Reading in the week. They are 2-0 up against Newcastle despite the visitors holding most of the possession. Blackburn sit in 19th place and they face a hurt Chelsea side from The Riverside match, so both teams are going to be gunning for three points even more. Boro entertain Portsmouth on Monday.