Premiership weekend review
Charlton 1 Arsenal 2
Good weekend so far for Arsene and the Gunners, a decade in charge with honours and a weekend win to add. Charlton took the lead after Herman Hreidarsson sent a ball over the Arsenal defence upon which Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink picked up and then delivered a square ball across goal for Darren Bent to tap in. Arsenal came back in style with Aleksander Hleb dancing two ways in the box before chipping a ball to Robin Van Persie for the Dutchman to control and send an acute drive past Scott Carson.
Arsenal's winner was fitting, Emmanuel Eboue going on another of his regular sprints down the right and cutting the cross towards the edge of the box for Van Persie to run in and slam a flying volley curling over Carson. Arsenal should have conceded a penalty when Kevin Lisbiesent an overhead kick towards goal that was blocked by the arm of William Gallas. Hasselbaink had an excellent chance to level after a chipped ball into the box was meant by his had but it went agonisingly wide.
Sheff Utd 2 Middlesbrough 1
Gareth Southgate is having a difficult time with Boro, particularly after recruiting Jonathan Woodgate into the defence as a replacement. Liverpool just managed a draw at Bramall Lane, Reading a victory, Boro a mishap. Woodgate miss a side-foot effort from yards unmarked after Stewart downing crossed. Aiyegbeni Yakubu was one-on-one with Paddy Kenny, rounded the keeper instead of chipping him and then had his effort on goal blocked. Then Colin Kazim-Richards went on the run with the Boro left side exposed and threaded a pass for Rob Hulse to pick up and tuck under Mark Schwarzer.
Boro came back in the second half through Yakubu as the Nigerian was put through again and made sure he tucked his equaliser away. Yet in injury time Sheff Utd went on the offensive and as the ball was half cleared, acting skipper Phil Jagielka chest controlled the ball and struck an effort that bounced just before Schwarzer's outstretched hands on its way in.
Everton 1 Man City 1
Everton have drawn their last three league games, including this one, since the Merseyside derby victory and David Moyes' concern is only that the team play well, which is what they are continuing to do. Whether they harbour aspirations for the title is one thing, but Everton are heading for the Champions League positioning at the least with their current performances, something chairman Bill Kenwright is very keen on. With Andy Johnson playing, the Toffees are keen in their playability. Also crucial for the Blues was the signing of Phil Neville, the captain who has been recalled into the England XI. It was his cross that found Johnson's volley deflecting off Sylvain Distin into the net.
A tad unfortunate for the visitors but they had a torrid period of attacks to defend, notably one that produced a great save from Nicky Weaver to Mikel Arteta's shot and captain Richard Dunne blocking Johnson's follow-up with his body. Weaver also saved excellently from a Joleon Lescott header. City had their moments too, afterwards, with Georgios Samaras coming close. But dramatically City grabbed an equaliser practically at the death, as a chipped ball into the box was met with a header and found its way to Micah Richards, who volleyed in.
Bolton 2 Liverpool 0
I expected this to be a tough contest. I didn't focus on the physical possibilities that were expected from the home side, I hoped we would strategically play quickly around the midfield and the defence and score well. The game was in our favour until Pepe Reina kicked the goalkick from his hand that the nearest linesman judged to have been outside the box. The decision beggared belief, even more so when in replay you could see the same linesman mouth that he was in line with the offence when he categorically was not. Nonetheless the freekick has to be defended and Gary Speed slammed in the opener.
Into the second half Bolton struck early. Kevin Davies picked up on the right and crossed well for Ivan Campo to outjump Steve Finnan to head the ball over Reina and off the crossbar to bounce over the line and out. Liverpool playing well but need to improve defensively and sharpen up on our away form in front of goal to galvanise our fortunes on the travels. It has been a lottery of results for us at the Reebok stadium and this one went the other way unfortunately, and we have to get back to winning with Blackburn at home in a fortnight.
Chelsea 1 Aston Villa 1
Chelsea unbeaten at home, Villa unbeaten under Martin O'Neill and I felt something would give in this match and that something would be the visitors. An Arjen Robben freekick from the right found John Terry beating Thomas Sorensen to the ball, Didier Drogba on hand to bundle the ball in. Villa were not down, they gave a good account of themselves against the champions and grabbed the equaliser before half time. Stilian Petrov floated over a ball for Liam Ridgewell to head on and Gabriel Agbonlahor nooded in from close range.
Chelsea had a number of chances to take the lead again but couldn't hit the net past Sorensen, as Michael Essien, Andriy Shevchenko and Shaun Wright-Phillips went close. Villa had two exceptional chances through Juan Pablo Angel. Put through with no defenders between himself and goal, Angel ran on and on until Claude Makelele made contact with his body and outstretched arms on the Colombian, that looked a clear intention if not an actual act, but surprisingly it was not given. Then Angel had the ball drop in front of him on his left foot but missed with a wide volley.
West Ham 0 Reading 1
The Hammers had been disappointing in Europe and the news of twenty fans arrested before the tie with Palermo in Sicily didn't make for comfortable headlines either. Alan Pardew wanted a bounce back to rejuvenate the side as they enter the third month of football. And as bad luck would have it, the Hammers conceded early to place further pressure on themselves. Bobby Convey stepped over the freekick and Seol Ki-Hyeon hesitated before taking on Carlos Tevez towards goal and unleashing a shot from some 20-25 yards that whizzed past Roy Carroll. They talked about Van Persie as contender of Goal of the Season, this one was another. West Ham attacked back in desperate need of an equaliser but couldn't find a way past Marcus Hahnemann. This is West Ham's fifth game they have failed to score in consecutively, since the draw with Aston Villa. Questions now rise in regard to whether the Argentinian signings were actualy needed. The form of the team has hit a slump since by coincidence.
Man Utd 2 Newcastle 0
The home side were dominant. Christiano Ronaldo was on fire, he was too hot to handle. Louis Saha was on the bench due to a slight strain in his leg so Ole Gunner Solskjaer featured alongside Wayne Rooney, and it was the Norwegian who grabbed the first goal. From a short corner Ronaldo ran with the ball across the box and shot, the ball coming off the post and directly to Solskjaer to touch in. For Utd's second, a Ronaldo corner found its way to Nemanja Vidic who shot, his effort apparently on target but deflecting off Solskjaer past Steve Harper, who had made some good saves to keep the scoreline down to two.
Steven Taylor made yet another dramatic production of Hamlet as Darren Fletcher aimed to shoot at goal. Taylor was the last defender in front of Harper and as Fletcher shot, Taylor slightly moved his body towards the shot which touched off his arm. Taylor then went down clutching his midriff and referee Mike Dean didn't take any action, yet another bad decison, or lack of, from the officials this weekend.
Spurs 2 Portsmouth 1
A crucial home game that would have placed Spurs in the relegation zone if it were to end in a home defeat. Two teams hovering within opposite ends of the EPL spectrum, uncharacteristic for both in recent seasons. Portsmouth wanted to restart their excellent season after the home loss to Bolton and like West Ham they conceded easily early. Jermaine Defoe provided the cross that was head at goal by Dimitar Berbatov, who had a good game tormenting and running amongst the Portsmouth back line. David James blocked the header but did not hold it and as the ball spilled, Glen Johnson was on hand to shield it for James to come and dive on it but the keeper didn't. Instead Berbatov managed to nudge Johnson and the ball rolled for Danny Murphy to touch in, very sloppy goal to concede but it was Spurs' first since beating Sheff Utd in August.
Yet another poor decision by the referee. Chris Foy was on hand to watch Didier Zokora run on and pass to Defoe, who returned the gesture, Zokora entered the box with Pedro Mendes behind him. The Ivorian then touched the ball in reverse and Mendes moved a leg to tackle half-heartedly and therefore made no contact whatsoever, yet Zokora then went down. It was clearly a moment of performance fitting for Swan Lake, at least Newcastle's Steven Taylor's was comical. Yet Foy gave the penalty and Defoe duly obliged and it seemed the lucky break Spurs needed, the kind that would win a match. Gary O'Neil jinked with Benoit Assou-Ekotto before delivering an excellent cross for Nwankwo Kanu to head over Paul Robinson.
Blackburn 2 Wigan 1
Blackburn came from behind and a penalty call against them to win this game and in some style. First Emile Heskey latched onto a Emerson Boyce pass, after the full back twisted pass a challenged, to score in two minutes. But within injury time of the first half Lucas Neill crossed for David Bentley to dummy, Francis Jeffers played Bentley in to the box and the former Arsenal player duly finished with a sweet curl round Chris Kirkland.
Blackburn had to replace Brad Friedel with new Gillingham signing Jason Brown, Wales keeper, and he was called into sharp action. Heskey was free on the left and went on a run that found him upended by Andre Ooijer in the box which was a clear penalty. From the spot loanee Svetoslav Todorov aimed to Brown's right and it was blocked, as was Todorov's follow-up which spun into the air, Lee McCulloch missed the ball then aimed a backward header which Brown calmly caught. With that, Blackburn grabbed the winner. A long ball, either Benni McCarthy or Jason Roberts looked strongly offside, but as it bounced it seemed Arjen De Zeeuw would deal with it but didn't, confident it would bounce to Kirkland. But McCarthy and Roberts chased on and Kirkland ran out and missed the ball, providing either striker the open goal, which fell to McCarthy.
Watford 3 Fulham 3
I had this game down to a 1-1 draw, at least I got the result right! Watford went ahead when Ashley Young chipped over to find Marlon King in space behind the defence with Antii Niemi to beat, the offside trap not being used properly. King finished off. With the Fulham players being told to get out on pitch early for the second half, I expected the visitors to hammer back at Watford and score and the game ends. No, oh no. Watford stung them. Leroy Rosenior touched to Morice Volz who miscontrolled. The ball was past down the left to Hameur Bouazza and the French midfielder crossed low behind the sleepy defence for Young to add to the scoresheet. The expected Fulham fight back then began and Watford were persistent in heading out the crosses and chips delivered into the Watford box. However the breakthrough came with twenty minutes to go when another cross was not dealt with, the ball falling to Brian McBride who volleyed well from outside the box for 2-1.
One may have felt the game would end there but Fulham came at against Newcastle at St James' Park and they did it again at Vicarage Road. With Fulham on the attack, Tomasz Radzinki chased a ball down the left to pull it back high for Heidur Helguson to head in against his former club. Seven minutes of normal time remaining, Fulham continued to pressure Watford and cracks then appeared. From a corner there ensued a goalmouth scramble from a Danny Shittu poor header, and the ball came to Damien Francis who mis-kicked the ball into the net under pressure from Helguson. Francis' night was compounded by being immediately substituted, a gutted expression on his face. The score went from 2-0 to Watford to 2-3 to Fulham with three minutes normal time remaining.
As injury time approached, the board declared three minutes. But Watford equalised in the 89th minute through Young. Fulham failed to deal with the high ball and once it came to Young, he chested it and struck it with speed that was too fast for any tackle to impede, too fast for Niemi too. I would think Fulham would be the happier of the two, having come from 2-0 down. Adrian Boothroyd was angry on the touchline for good reason. The club's first three Premiership points were snatched from them.