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Monday, September 11, 2006

Premiership weekend review

I didn't get to see Chelsea v Charlton and Bolton v Watford unfortunately, so anyone who wishes to write in a review for those respective matches, feel free. But this will be a short review.

Newcastle 1 Fulham 2

Jimmy Bullard suffered a terrible injury as Scott Parker's momentum make contact during a challenge with Bullard's right leg, which momentarily bent the knee joint at an extreme angle and dislocated the kneecap. I heard this on Gillette Super Soccer Saturday with Jeff Sterling and feared the worse. The Fulham medical staff treated the dislocation within 25 seconds, which was superb, and Bullard is recovering, so all the best to Jimmy. It effected Parker to some degree with Glenn Roeder consoling him during the treatment.

Nonetheless Parker came out the second half as he did in the first, with good form, to head the opener from Emre's cross. Newcastle had the possession, Parker marshalling the attacks and 10mins to go when the skipper came off for Nicky Butt, and from then Fulham took over. Wayne Routledge capitalised on a Peter Ramage slip and crossed for Brian McBride to volley in from close range behind Titus Bramble. A minute from time, a corner found McBride heading off the crossbar and Carlos Bocanegra was inches by the goalline to touch it in.

Everton 3 Liverpool 0

Unfocused, unsettled, uncharacteristic, lethargic, calamitous. That last adjective was for Pepe Reina's handling for the third goal. Everton came at Liverpool with raw determinatin and pace and Liverpool were not settled for it. We usually are, particularly in the derbies, but this was reminiscent to when Chelsea beat us 1-4 last season, same aggregate. Mikel Arteta crosses, Lee Carsley nods on, Lee Osman and Steve Finnan miss the ball and it fell to Andy Johnson and Tim Cahill, the Aussie striking the first goal. Next, the ball finds its way into our defence, Jamie Carragher misclears and Johnson is on hand to pounce and beat Reina at his near post.

Liverpool came back in the second half with chance after chance, one of them was a carbon copy of Steven Gerrard's Andorra goal but this time it went wide for the Reds skipper. A minute before time, Carsley strikes a shot from outside the box, Reina parries it up and as it came down it threatened to go over the line so Reina attempts to scoop it out. Johnson was on hand again to quickly head it in just as Reina scoops the ball out.

Manchester Utd 1 Spurs 0

Manchester United are looking in a strong position so far to challenge for the title, perhaps parallel with Chelsea if not stronger than. Ledley King returned for Spurs and while the visitors resisted the home attack, they could have had a goal themselves due to chances that fell to Jermaine Defoe, Matt Dawson, Ledley King and Mido. Edwin van der Sar came out to thwart Dawson as the defender approached a floated ball and tried to touch it over the keeper. As van der Sar saved that attempt, King followed up on the ground only to denied too by the Man Utd keeper.

The single goal came via a Christiano Ronaldo freekick that Paul Robinson seemed to have seen at the last moment and could only parry into the air for Ryan Giggs to head in the rebound. Michael Carrick was dictating play in midfield and he set Louis Saha on his own to round Robinson but the Frenchman shot instead and Robinson palmed it away. Defoe's chance came from a Benoit Assou-Ekotto's cross but while unchallenged his header went over. Mido had a similar chance from Reto Ziegler's cross but headed off target.

Arsenal 1 Middlesbrough 1

Middlesbrough suffered a thumping at home last time to Portsmouth and headed to an Arsenal who have enjoyed good results against the North East side. Boro came equipped with new signing Jonathan Woodgate in defence and Jason Euell upfront. Arsenal came at Boro with a number of opportunities to score but for some reason they could not finish. The telling point in the half came via James Morrison at the expense of new signing William Gallas. Gallas was said to be unhappy with a full back role at Chelsea, but he actually said he was unhappy with it on a regular basis, so this one game in that position should not count. Nonetheless Morrison paid a one-two with Euell to get pass Gallas and attack the goal, hitting with the outside of his right boot past Jens Lehmann. It remained that way come the half-time whistle.

In the second half, another telling point occurred between skipper George Boateng and Freddie Ljungberg. Ljungberg touched the ball past Boateng and the Dutchman made a slight contact with his shoulder and Ljungberg went down. It seemed innocuous and though it was a shoulder towards the left, Ljungberg went forwards. Boateng was already in the book in the first half so another meant he was dismissed and 10-men Boro. Minutes later, Emmanuel Eboue charged down the right into the box, Stewart Downing came to challenge and Eboue went down. Again it seemed innocuous but the decision was given, Downing was booked, Thierry Henry stepped up to equalise from the spot.

[The following Chelsea v Charlton report was given to EFT courtesy of Blindjak, with our thanks.]

Chelsea 2 Charlton 1

Chelsea triumphed in this proverbial game of two halves. The first half saw Chelsea dominate proceedings and open the scoring after only 5 minutes when Ballack headed the ball goal wards from a corner only for Hughes to clear the ball strait to Drogba who slotted the ball home from 8 yards. Charlton did begin to claw their way into the game as substitute Rommedahl (on for injured Reid) injected pace on the wings and fashioned a superb chance for Bent which he failed to convert. But with Drogba missing credible chances Charlton were luck to make the break with a single goal deficit.

The second half saw Chelsea pace and control drop as Charlton excreted their influence on proceedings and this paid dividends barely 10 minutes in when Rommedahl passed a square ball into Hasslebaink which Carvalho committed himself to trying to intercept. He missed and the ball fell to Hasslebaink now facing goal with a large defensive hole. Give such an opportunity it’s not wonder that he picked out the bottom corner to score the equaliser.

Having been a former Bridge hero who still has an excellent relationship with the fans Hasslebaink declined to celebrate and even made an apologetic gesture to the fans behind the goal. This display of affection for the club and relationship with the fans from Jimmy led to the majority of the stadium spontaneously applauding Jimmy and even singing his name. Quite astounding when you consider his goal could have cost us two points.

In what has been a negative week for Chelsea press wise it’s a shame that something as positive as this was spun by the press to suggest Chelsea fans are arrogant as we only applauded because we knew we’d still win.

It didn’t take Chelsea long to restore their lead as 10 minutes later Charlton lost another player to injury and while they still only had 10 men on the pitch and were reorganising Chelsea won a corner from which Carvalho redeemed his defensive lapse as he eased the ball home.

Charlton continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and fashions several chances but Chelsea had the perfect chance to wrap thing up as on 82 mins ref Alan Wiley gave one of the softest penalties you’ll see all season. However Chelsea failed to capitalise on this generosity as Scot Carson saved excellently from Lampard.

Sheff Utd 0 Blackburn 0

This appeared to not be a match of entertainment except for three penalty saves. Utd's David Unsworth was harshly judged to have shoved Benni McCarthy, while the replays showed the Soth African must have dropped on his own accord as the most unsworth had done was have hands on the striker but not commited a shove at all. Lucas Neill stepped up to take the spotr kick and Paddy Kenny dived right to save it well. Another penalty appeal came as Zurab Khizanishvili was judged to have grabbed or pulled Rob Hulse when, again, the replays showed nothing untoward. Up stepped Unsworth to exact revenge after surviving from the first decision, but Brad Friedel was equal to Kenny, diving well to deny the former Everton and West Ham defender.

Another penalty decision, another awarded to Blackburn as Andre Ooijer once again gave it away. Replays showed the Dutchman had chested the ball and the nearest linesman had an eagle eye on the player, yet still raised his flag. Incredulous. This time Hulse stepped up to take the spot kick and Friedel saved it again. This game needed more goal chances, a few shots off the post and crossbar, a disallowed goal for either side and a streaker and it would contend for the match of the season.

Portsmouth 1 Wigan 0

Another win, another clean sheet, and come the middle of September Portsmouth are 2nd in the league. This team battled and fought off relegation after relegation, Harry Redknapp departed to the enemy and returned and to do that the manager must have a kinship with the club. If they continue with this belief of how well they can perform, there's little stopping them from exceeding the merest of expectations. Glen Johnson, Linvoy Primus, Sol Campbell and Dejan Stefanovic are enjoying a settled defensive wall, while Redknapp had no hesitations in introducing Pedro Mendes back into the starting line-up. Welcome back.

The goal came in the second half, Campbell's header found Benjani Mwaruwari reacting faster than Fitz Hall to meet the ball and clip it over Chris Kirkland. Wigan came close with new signing Luis Valencia chipping the ball that David James had to tip over, and then on the attack Wigan required the attention of Campbell and James in the box, the keeper needing a second opportunity to then gather the ball as it trickled towards the goal.

Weat Ham 1 Aston Villa 1

The two Argentinian new signings were kept on the bench as Alan Pardew threw out a side that aimed to snatch three points from an impressing Villa side under Martin O'Neill. But it was Villa who struck first through Liam Ridgewell, and Villa were the better in the first half. From a corner, olof Mellberg came to head and the ball dropped for Ridgewell to poke in. No West Ham player was on the very post where the ball dropped near to. Juan Pablo Angel almost headed in but instead headed off the crossbar from another corner, Luke Moore had bursted down the left to square for another chance, and Villa were imposing some questions on the home defence.

The second half found a West Ham equaliser through Bobby Zamora, who is having a good time at the moment. A corner was hit across for Paul Konchesky to meet and the left-back headed the ball towards goal which glanced off Zamora's right thigh past Thomas Sorensen, otherwise the Dane may well have stopped it. In reply Villa almost went ahead again twice. Stilian Petrov ran on to touch the ball over Roy Carroll but with some excellent defending right back Tyrone Mears got to the goalline and cleared it out. Then Gareth Barry ran down the left and cut inside to shoot right footed for Carroll to parry away, then Gabriel Agbonlahor quickly latched on to the loose ball to square it back, only for Steven Davis to agonisingly miss and Anton Ferdinand to clear.

Reading 1 Manchester City 0

Reading have had two wins, two defeats out of four and sit in 8th place. Man City are first in the bottom half of the table. I expected this to be a draw or away win but City surprised me. Bernardo Corradi had little to offer in the entire match, how he survived being taken off is something, whereas Paul Dickov had provided more came off for Georgios Samaras on the hour, the Greek striker gave more in the remaining half hour than most did together. City's momentum was solid from the kick-off, with Joey Barton orchestrating the attacks and Trevor Sinclair linking well with Micah Richards on the right. Richards ran down the flank to cut the ball across for Dickov to strike but the Scotsman could only scuff his effort.

Reading took in the attacks and then came forward with enthusiasm. Leroy Lita and Kevin doyle run onto most balls delivered their way and they both gave Sylvain Distin a difficult time. Lita dragged in Distin and then turned him but Distin's flailing right hand was judged to have struck Lita, which was harsh. From Bobby convey's freekick, I expected Distin or Dunne to come and meet the ball but it was allowed to come over all and it was defender Ivar Ingimarsson who met with a header after Richards failed to mark him properly, leaving Nicky Weaver with no chance.

City didn't panic but in the second half their possession made for so much of the game yet they simply failed to keep control of passes and failed to apply them appropriately in Reading's third. All the bookings came City's way, Sinclair unceremoniously dived in on Convey for his. Ousmane Dabo has played for Inter Milan, Monaco and Lazio before Eastlands, and played for France. He siad there had been a number of clubs interested in him before City, so why was we wasteful last night? Two freekicks went awry, the second albeit was a deflection and his passing at been on occasion wasteful, though he was not the only one. Booked already in the first half, he challenged Steve Sidwell and his left forearm made contact with Sidwell's face.

Official Howard Webb had no hesitation to produce a straight red. He would have been off in any case as I felt it warranted a yellow, but it's debatable whether it was a yellow or a red. By that time there remained 10mins plus 4mins of injury time but City huffed and puffed and had little to threaten Reading with, Marcus Hahnemann keeping cool in goal.



Blogger Hamid said...

I have always stood by Rafael Benitez's tactical acumen but I have to vent my frustrations in lieu of the recent mauling at the hands of local rivals Everton.

I was apalled with the team selection of the gaffer. Even given the fact that he probably had half his mind on the midweek Champion's League clash, I could not find any justification with starting with a clearly unfit Jamie Carragher and bringing on John Arne Riise. This combined with the fact that it was a Merseyside Derby.

I was also flustered when I saw Peter Crouch starting the game after playing two games for England in the past week. There was Jermaine Pennant and Mark Gonzales who did not have any international games over the week to choose from. Why did Benitez then choose to start with Crouch? Add the addition of a recently-returned-to-training Robbie Fowler and this compounds the matter even further.

We all saw what damage Kuyt could do against West Ham and I would have thought that the lad deserved a fair chance from the start of the game. I feel the pace of our wingers (Pennant and Gonzales) and the power of Kuyt would have done Everton good and that we could have easily won the match. Instead, defensive clangers were dropped and our championship dreams have taken an early season blow. This could prove fatal in the long run as the damage done to the morale of the Liverpool players could hit irrepairable lows.

I only hope that the team makes an uphill strive not just for the sake of Liverpool but for the general state of the English Premier League as well. Taking Arsenal's current foils, the league title could yet again be decided come Christmas.

I hope I have not given an entirely biased view. Hope to hear the input of the editors.

Thank you!

9/11/2006 2:10 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks for your view, Hamid. It's a view that is similar in frustration to my own. I didn't go into detail because that would have been long. Perhaps RB had an eye on Tuesday, but as Alan Hansen said, you should play your strongest team and that wasn't our strongest. If Carragher was not 100% fit, should have kept him out. Though I would have preferred Carragher and Agger, it would have to have been Hyypia and Agger.

I would have preferred Gerrard and Sissoko in the middle, Pennant on the right, Gonzalez, Zenden (if fit), or Garcia, then Bellamy and Kuyt or Crouch. The way England play with Crouch is he gets to a number of balls in the opposition's half and we needed someone to mainly distribute that ball to him, someone like Gerrard or Sissoko. I also feel Bellamy and Kuyt can make a great partnership but it is a team effort that moves everyone.

I felt that RB experiments to have an eleven that is strong in performance, regardless of who is chosen. Fowler is now behind Bellamy and Kuyt, in my opinion, until further notice but the manager wants to give him the opportunity to play to prove himself.

I wonder if Crouch will be rested for Kuyt and Bellamy, given Kuyt's scoring record against PSV in the Dutch league. It was another crunching blow for Riise to be injured immediately after recovering, just sheer dumbfounded bad luck.

I also think Reina needs to sharpen his agility some more, he is a much better keeper than that.


9/11/2006 10:26 pm

Blogger T said...

Good discussion Hamid and Redsman... and yet another fine weekend review too!

On Arsenal, I must say that we have been left behind at the start like a formula one car stuck in second gear! We are playing good football but not good WINNING football... and we need to learn how to win again in the Premiership. Once we do I fully expect us to build a momentum... albeit that disappointingly we will have to be playing catch-up football again like we did last season.

Next up is Man Utd away... which I perceive as a bad ground for us. I personally think we should play 4-5-1 in this match and treat it as a Champs league match very much in the way we approached Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.

On other teams: I think Fulham deserve credit for bouncing back with two wins and draw after the thrashing they received at OT on the first weekend.

P.S. There is no EFT goal of the week this week.... no goal reached the required standard.

9/12/2006 6:51 pm

Blogger T said...

Excellent match report BJ.

I was unaware of the positive reaction by the Chelsea fans after JFH'S respectful celebration... good stuff!

BTW- I really wish Arsenal were as good at set-piece deliveries from corners and free-kicks as your team... Mourinho should get more credit for his commitment to make the most of set-pieces!

9/12/2006 7:02 pm


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