Premiership weekend review
Reading 0 Chelsea 1
Reading had put up a good performance against the champions but for me the focus came on Petr Cech and Carlos Cudicini. Steve Hunt went to challenge Cech for the ball, Cech got there first and Hunt's momentum carried him through with his knee making contact with the keeper's head. Nasty contact that rendered the Czech with a fractured skull upon which surgeons have already operated on. I don't blame Hunt and wish Cech the very best in recovering.
Cudicini came to punch out the ball, did so and was met with an incoming Ibrahima Sonko, Sonko's side arm colliding with Cudicini's face. The impact resulted in a nasty landing for Cudicini, who appeared completely dazed at first then slipped into unconsciousness. Taken off with his neck in a brace for precaution, I understand the Italian is stable and hope he too recovers well.
The single goal came courtesy of an unfortunate deflection. Sonko was clumsy in challenging Frank Lampard, which led to a Lampard freekick that cannoned off Sonko and Ivar Ingimarsson for an own goal. John Obi Mikel was booked for bringing down Leroy Lita and pulling back on Sonko, and Andre Bikey went after fouling for his first and then pulling on Didier Drogba.
Liverpool 1 Blackburn 1
The Reds are still yet to gel and construct fine form and at Anfield they almost threw their unbeaten record away. Despite early pressure on the Blackburn goal, Liverpool's defence was stretched again when David Bentley crossed from the right, avoiding Jamie Carragher and Shabani Nonda to bounce past Steve Finnan and reach Benni McCarthy, who slotted in. Where Mark Hughes felt Blackburn could have won the game in reflection of the pressure Liverpool had applied on his team could only come from Bentley at the end, when Sami Hyypia became mixed up with the ball and Jason Roberts, Bentley taking the ball over and denied by Pepe Reina's block, deflecting the ball past the post. Because Liverpool should have clearly won this game in the second half, but couldn't convert their chances other than the equaliser. Fabio Aurelio's corner eluded most and reached former Blackburn man Craig Bellamy, who headed in at the back.
Arsenal 3 Watford 0
Arsenal have been on a superb run of goals and wins and style since they faced Man Utd away without Thierry Henry and fought out an unexpected win. Since then Sheff Utd, Charlton and now Watford have fallen foul of their route up the table. Cesc Fabregas chipped in the freekick that came off Jordan Stewart for the first goal, Henry turned Jay Demerit and slotted in for the second, then he latched onto a Fabregas pass and unselfishly passed left for either Emanuel Adebayor or Aleksander Hleb to finish. The Togo man took the opportunity.
Aston Villa 1 Spurs 1
The hosts have not lost at home, the visitors had not won on their travels, this season so far. But this game appeared to go into a stalemate right to the end until Calum Davenport was judged to have impeded Gabriel Agbonlahor as the last man. Replays showed the contact to have been very minimal. Yet poetic justice served as Juan Pablo Angel missed the penalty by striking the ball wide. Then to compound the miss, the Colombian came to head the ball at a Spurs corner and instead scored an own goal. Stuart Taylor should have called and claimed. But Gareth Barry took on the ball on the left and cut inside twice before smacking a shot over Paul Robinson from outside the box.
Man City 0 Sheff Utd 0
I felt this game was dull, gladly conveyed via highlights rather than a live broadcast.
Wigan 1 Man Utd 3
No Christiano Ronaldo, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs on the bench, Man Utd looked somewhat short for this encounter. Someone called their formation 3-5-2 with Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra in defence. Wigan began very well as they came at Utd and hardly gave them time to settle. In fact they were the better in the first half. Evra conceded a freekick via handball and Leighton Baines stepped up, having already gifted the England U21s' a serious 25-yard strike for their first leg qualifier last weekend. This time he repeated his strike force as he slammed the ball hard and direct to whizz past Edwin van der Sar. But United made a few snaps at the hosts to show they were still there, Wayne Rooney going close when he struck the crossbar after turning around three players.
The second half turned fortunes like a finished hourglass. Louis Saha was goal hungry and missed a couple of chances before an Utd corner was delivered by Giggs and headed in by Vidic with an excellent jump and heading motion that simply had goal over it. Utd's second came via Saha as Rooney broke down the left and cut back to chip in the ball for the Frenchman to control on his chest and then strike as he slid to the ground. Wigan's defending at this point was poor. Utd's third was made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he twisted Paul Scharner and then struck the ball on the edge of the box.
Middlesbrough 2 Everton 1
Middlesbrough have been riding a hard wave in the Premiership seas and I understand the fans have been patient with their new young boss. To add the injury to Jonathan Woodgate and facing an in-form Everton who appear to not quit home and away, this seemed a match that would test the home side to the limits. Yet they began well as Tim Howard came out to thwart Aiyegbeni Yakubu and was judged to have impeded him, the Nigerian slotted the penalty confidently. Boro had a second penalty in the second half as Joleon Lescott was judged to have handballed in the area under pressure from Yakubu. But the striker failed to implement the kick, perhaps being too confident as Howard stopped his effort well. Mark Viduka came to Boro's rescue, and Yakubu's, as Jason Euell rolled him a pass to slot in. Tim Cahill slammed in a consolation with 13mins to go but Boro held on.
Portsmouth 2 West Ham 0
What is the cause for this poor slump from the Hammers, in contrast to how they took to the EPL in their first season since promotion? This defeat has placed West Ham in the relegation zone and the fire, the passion they played with last season is missing. Not so much Bobby Zamora, who for me made a good reputation with Brighton but stuttered with Spurs, but Marlon Harewood, who came on for the last 20mins. Previously, I would bet on this striker to continue his good form. He had been on hand to practically score almost every time he played, or every second time he played, and I felt Zamora could learn from him and be a superb addition. But if West Ham were off course up to this match, then their focus during it was disrupted. Teddy Sheringham seemed more inclined to read riot acts instead of physically using them to get his side ahead. Matthew Etherington made runs and crosses down the left but no one could get behind the balls successfully.
Portsmouth's goals came via their player of the moment Nwankwo Kanu with another header, and new boy Andy Cole. Glen Johnson seems a better player at Pompey and his cross from the right found Kanu, who ignored Anton Ferdinand's shirt pulling to head past Roy Carroll. In the second half Cole picked up the ball from Lomano LuaLua on the attack, and used his experience to ride a Jonathan Spector challenge and swivel to slot in past Carroll.
Alan Pardew may well contemplate being dismissed at the back of his mind but the show goes on and he will be determined to change things round. I wonder if a dismissal is inevitable, and therefore making an opportunity for former Hammer Alan Curbishley to reappear in the Premiership, and perhaps at the club, where he wants to be.
Newcastle 1 Bolton 2
Puzzling how a club like Newcastle, raised on the good management of Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan, with players like Scott Parker, Emre, Albert Luque, Shay Given, Damien Duff, not to mention Kieron Dyer to come, can be struggling at the wrong end of the table. Five defeats and two wins out of eight, two defeats at home after being ahead in the first half after today, and a first half which found them playing very well and practically keeping Bolton limited to few chances. Obafemi Martins tried to touch the ball past Abdoulaye Faye and the Senegalese defender was judged to have edged his right arm towards the ball by the linesman. Being in the box, the home side had a spot kick, from which Ameobi slotted coolly past Jussi Jasskelainen. From then Newcastle were energetic on the attack and came close to scoring another. Their only drawback was they would sometimes come back too often which reduced the impetus and their chances of scoring, which made them look good going forward but they seemed to lack the knowledge of finishing and positioning in Bolton's third.
Peter Ramage had a gilt-edge chance of doubling the score when the ball squirmed across the Bolton box but he simply failed to keep some focus, skying the ball from near the penalty spot. But then the second half changed as it did in the Wigan v Man Utd game. Newcastle's energy seemed low and their defence switched off. Ten minutes into the half, Abdoulaye Faye crossed, Stephen Carr stumbled to head and Nicolas Anelka chest-controlled and ran in to square for El Hadji-Diouf to touch in with ease. Two minutes later Ivan Campo curled in a freekick that Kevin Davies nodded on and Diouf headed in unmarked. It was too easy. From then Newcastle made a number of poor passes, tackles and headers that allowed Bolton to pick up and threaten their goal.
Notably Ameobi was stagnant, hardly moving except for when the high balls came his way and his control of the ball at times led to a breakdown of any chance of pressuring the Bolton goal. Mention has been made of michael Owen's absence but I suspect that even he would have struggled on the second half performance that produced little for any Newcastle striker.