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Sunday, September 24, 2006

A first at The Emirates as Chelsea move to the top

Fulham 0 Chelsea 2

With the number of injuries and absentees Fulham had, it was expected Chelsea would romp through this game from the kick off but the first half brought a no-goals score line which must have impressed even Chris Coleman. Loanee Wayne Routledge thumped a shot at Petr Cech, Arjen Robben was found on the left and he released a fierce strike at the goal that cannoned off the underside and out. Chelsea made some pressure on the home side but to no avail. The second half found Fulham in confidence of matching the champions, Michael Brown picked on a loose ball in the box and charged in on the ball as Cech came out to gather it. The Czech keeper was superb in meeting the ball with Brown coming in on him and a freekick went Chelsea's way. Fulham appealed for a penalty that was turned down.

Papa Dioup went closer with a header from Franck Queudrue's freekick, unmarked, but he unbelievably missed. Chelsea hit back with Salomon Kalou had a shot blocked, Andriy Shevchenko had his follow up blocked, then Didier Drogba fired his effort down, it came up, struck the bar and over. The game did get a penalty in the end as Kalou took on Leroy Rosenior and the right back fell down, his arm touching the ball. Right decision, Frank Lampard stepped up to execute the spot kick. Next, the ball came to Drogba and he pulled it back for Lampard to strike for no.2.

The game had another nasty moment from Brown who went in almost two-footed on Ashley Cole. I would like to think there is no precedent in this but Brown committed a nasty foul on Ryan Giggs earlier in the season and like a certain Man City right back needs to cool down.

Reading 1 Manchester United 1

Considered an actual real test for Reading, they found a Utd team who were aiming to lift from their home defeat last week. Wayne Rooney started brightly, latching onto the chance to shoot early, Christiano Ronaldo was his feverish self, running, dummying, darting here and there. Louis Saha couldn't make the starting XI so Paul Scholes aided and abetted Rooney upfront. Reading took the lead through a debatable penalty decision as Gary Neville was judged to have deliberately handled Seol Ki-Hyeon's cross using his arm. Kevin Doyle stepped up and almost pulled a good save from Edwin van der Sar. While Utd made impact after impact on Reading, they couldn't make the final distribution in front of goal count. Yet on 73mins Ronaldo took on Reading skipper Graham Murty, turned him one way then the other until he came onto his favourite right and drilled a shot through into goal.

Aston Villa 2 Charlton 0

This is another fairytale start for a side not renowned for being unbeaten in their first six games, three wins and three draws. Gareth Barry picked up on the left and delivered a cross into the box and as Herman Hreidarsson pondered no one was behind him to allow the ball to go out, Gabriel Agbonlahor had other ideas and steamed in front of the Icelander to meet the cross with a side-foot volley past Scott Carson. In the second half Juan Pablo Angel picked up a pass from Luke Moore and then reciprocated by passing sweetly for Moore to run onto and, despite the pressure of Talal El Karkouri on him, Moore touched the ball past Carson. New owner, new finances, new manager, practically new team.

I wonder if Martin O'Neill's reputation has proceeded him for the running and energy expected from a fairly young Villa side is emerging. The emergence of Agbonlahor and Moore (the latter had been crying for a first team break since David O'Leary was in charge) has been inspirational, the pace of those two has reaped rewards. Local boy Lee Hendrie has to contemplate a loan move and Milan Baros, expected to lift Villa since moving from Liverpool, had the last ten minutes. The Villa side looks set while currently 4th in the table, unbeaten.

Liverpool 3 Spurs 0

The first half here was evenly contested. Xabi Alonso speculatively aimed a wide left foot shot from outside the box, Ledley King had a good chance with a missed header from Danny Murphy's freekick while a Liverpool corner came off Pascal Chimbonda onto the post. Craig Bellamy got on the end of a Mark Gonzalez touch after a Steven Gerrard run to force Paul Robinson into a save. Liverpool appealed for a penalty as Gerrard's shot found King sticking out an elbow to it and then going in on Bellamy on the ball, but replays showed the handball was correct but outside the box and the tackle was legitimate and crucial for Spurs. The second half found Liverpool attacking more on Spurs, during which Steve Finnan missed with a header to Alonso for Edgar Davis to latch on to, making a one-two with Jermaine Defoe and haring down the left with John Arne Riise in pursuit, Alonso not keeping up with the equally haring Jermaine Jenas. One sweet square ball later and Liverpool rode some luck as Jenas inexplicably missed connecting.

Over thirty seconds later, Steven Gerrard twisted Benoit Assou-Ekotto and then squared across for Spurs to endure the same fortune as Bellamy equally missed from close range, but the ball came off the post for Gonzalez to slot in. Gerrard inspired another move by passing to Luis Garcia and as Gerrard ran but stumbled, Spurs felt Garcia had played in the England man offside but instead the Spaniard passed to Dirk Kuyt, who gathered then thumped a low shot past Robinson, the keeper appearing to rely on an offside decision. Riise picked up the ball in the centre and again, after running with it, thumped a fierce drive past Robinson.

Andy Gray had rubbished Liverpool's title chances last weekend and now with two wins out of two since, they are five points off the top. Spurs appear to be suffering from Dimitar Berbatov's injury, Michael Carrick's sale and a lack of form between Defoe and Robbie Keane, Mido on the bench up until the last ten minutes.

Arsenal 3 Sheff Utd 0

In what was to mark Neil Warnock's 1,000th game in football, bottom side Sheff Utd certainly held up the home side despite Arsenal coming close through Freddie Ljungberg on a couple of occasions. And as the resistance went on into the interval, it continued afterwards up until the 65th minute, 25mins away from what would have been a miraculous draw. Thierry Henry had returned, fighting fit, raring to go. It was his chip into the box that found the running Cesc Fabregas but William Gallas had started the move by passing to Henry and he too was resident in the box to pick up the ball and smash it into the net to break his scoring duck. Henry was instrumental again in the second goal, dragging Keith Gillespie and David Sommeil with him as he crossed, Phil Jagielka not concentrating on the ball as it glided off his side into the net. Emmanuel Eboue went on one of his many runs to be found by sub Julio Baptista on the right, and he crossed for Henry to drift unmarked between two players and head the third.

Middlesbrough 0 Blackburn 1

A baptism of fire after the heights of beating Chelsea. The Carling Cup exit for a side who were the 2004 winners against League Two Notts County on Wednesday was damning, particularly at The Riverside and not having scored. They came against the 2002 winners of Blackburn, who had a firm home win last week against Man City, and were exposed at the back for the second time in the week. David Bentley crossed from the right for Shabani Nonda to head in his first goal for the club. It was Jason Euell instead of Aiyegbeni Yakubu who found two excellent chances to equalise. A poor header from a Gaizka Mendieta cross at Brad Friedel while unmarked and the second came through steering the ball wide after Fabio Rochemback put him through with the keeper to beat.

Yakubu had a chance to influence the score, his low effort across goal in the second half just missed the outstretched foot of Mark Viduka. The team were booed at half time and full time, Gareth Southgate managed to bring in Jonathan Woodgate on loan and the move could become permanent if Woodgate really enjoys returning home. I don't see anything wrong with Woodgate and Emanuel Pogatetz in central defence but the line needs some cohesion, while at the front the likes of Yakubu, Viduka and now Euell need to be hitting hard.

Newcastle 1 Everton 1

The first half started brightly, but then descended into farce. A freekick on the Newcastle left was taken by Emre and the Everton defence ran out well for the offside trap that caught at least two Newcastle players. One such player was Shola Ameobi yet the usually eagle-eye of the linesmen failed to spot the offence and Ameobi looked right to see no decision before scoring, Tim Howard unfortunate to have not stopped the shot as it deflected from under him. However the feeling was Newcastle did not have enough to threaten Everton and increase their lead, Obafemi Martins lacking in control and focus on the ball. Ameobi then came off for Antoine Sibierski, who made a good introduction with his presence. Newcastle seemed shaky at the back but were comfortable in dealing with threats, using Steve Harper for comfort. But an Everton corner exposed the back line as Mikel Arteta delivered for Tim Cahill to pop up and head in.

Now with Cahill on a booking but nonetheless very energetic, it seemed he would pick up another. But it was Titus Bramble who was sent off with quarter of the game to go. Having been judged to have attempted to 'dissuade' Andy Johnson's run in the first half, he came in from behind on Leo Osman. Two minutes later Tony Hibbert did likewise on Sibierski, and having been booked already for clipping Scott Parker's run, he too was off. Jamie Redknapp on Sky Sports said referee Steve Bennent would not have sent off Hibbert were it not for Bramble's dismissal and I think that is quite scandalous. All four bookings were correct for me and to say an official balances a sending off with another from the opposition is to say the merits were not followed and instead were replaced with a desire to be seen fair for both sides.

This match followed that of Southend v Cardiff, in which the away side won 0-3 and inspirational in the first and second goals was Michael Chopra, formerly of Newcastle. I state this because it is ironic how Chopra couldn't get a regular first team place until Michael Owen was injured, and as a result he wanted to leave for more action. He has been a revelation at Cardiff this season and although it is early they are currently top with six wins, two draws out of nine. Chopra has six goals so far, two in the previous game against Luton town and two before that against Plymouth.

Man City 2 West Ham 0

Well documented that, as with another former England colleague in Southgate, Stuart Pearce is keen to get over a Carling cup exit, to League One Chesterfield. With Andy Cole and David James gone to Portsmouth, Sibierski on loan, Darius Vassell unfit, Bradley Wright-Phillips at Southampton, the City of old that started excellently last season has broken, and like Pearce mentioned, the man is at a best when the pressure is on him. What Pearce is not showing is teacups across the changing room, or boots, no tantrums or rantings, the way to get out of a rut is through pure strategic football. However, that can be hampered if certain players, or certain abilities, are missing.

I am not convinced about Bernando Corradi and now is the time for him to really show some flair as he appeared alongside Georgios Samaras upfront. Micah Richards was much better, maybe he felt better with Hatem Trabelsi out for a month, and he ran down the right twice to threaten the West Ham goal, producing an excellent cutback for Corradi. The goals came from Samaras, who reminds me of Drogba. Height, strength, perhaps not as much gifted as the Ivorian but on Saturday he showed he can produce great finishes. Ishmael Miller's run from near his own box push him past Yossi Benayoun and then simply Mach-1 past Hayden Mullins to end up in the opposite box. His shot came off Christian Dailly into Samaras' path, and the Greek international chest controlled then sent a sweet volley past Roy Carroll.

For his second, the ball dropped to Corradi and the Italian spotted Samaras on the run and found him with a chip that left the West Ham defence still, and Samaras time to meet and then dink past Carroll. West Ham had offered little all match, another side who began life last season well but have fallen flat, despite the hype over their Argentinian signings. Why the likes of Marlon Harewood, Nigel Reo-Coker and Bobby Zamora are not hitting the net more often is a question. The European game with Palermo on Thursday could be a tricky tie to pull back. Perhaps Alan Pardew will start the two Argentinians from the start.

Wigan 1 Watford 1

A point on their travels for Watford. Malky MacKay went up with Emile Heskey to meet the ball after a Chris Kirkland kick was not dealt with properly by Jordan Stewart, and the ball fell to Henri Camara, who was in an offside position. Camara scored, the goal was flagged out but Rob Styles overruled the linesman after consultation, Watford were incensed. The replays showed keen eyesight as the ball came off MacKay, therefore Camara was played into a legal position. But Watford equalised in the second half, and how. Skipper Gavin Mahon was fouled outside the box, Marlon King, Ashley Young and Hameur Bouazza were present over the ball, King played it to the right, young ran left, slight distraction, and Bouazza thumped a low drive past Kirkland. Watford are showing good courage in their approach to their games but they need some more to preserve their Premiership status, with Championship hit-man assassinating only the once so far.



Blogger T said...

Superb review as ever Redsman.

To break our Premiership home hoodoo is a big relief as it is a crucial step in turning the Emirates from a house into a home. Now we can enter the pitch knowing that we have a win there under our belts and therefore have a greater positivity about our magnificent new surroundings.

I also agree with Wenger's characterisation after the match of Gallas as a 'winner'.... I was going to write about this impression I had of him after his transfer to Arsenal and how it was much needed in our squad where a lot of experienced heads had departed in the last couple of years... but never quite got round to doing it.

The minute of Jenas' unreal open-goal miss (but weirdly I can recall two previous open goal misses by the same player in his career) followed by Liverpool opening the scoring at the other end could prove to be the turning-point of the season for the Anfield side. Liverpool now have the positive momentum of back-to-back home wins to kick-start their title challenge. On the other hand Spurs are in danger of doing an Everton of last season in the sense of faltering after a very good previous season. To add to your last paragraph on this match Redsman, Spurs also miss Lennon who gives them amazing attacking pace on the wing.

Credit too to Reading for a passionate display of good attacking football in the score draw against Man Utd... they are looking by a good margin to be the team best equipped of the promoted sides to settle in the Premiership.

9/25/2006 8:16 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks, T, for adding about Lennon. Spurs simply lack cohesion (favourite word that I think sums up a lot of inability) right now, for they have good players in Davids, Tainio, Defoe, keane, Mido, Berbatov, Robinson, King, Dawson, Lee, Lennon, and I like the potentiality of Assou-Ekotto. Jenas has yet to convince me regularly, nonetheless the team is a good one. they could become stronger once all are fit and available.


9/25/2006 11:33 pm


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