Premiership weekend review - 25-26/11/06
Liverpool 1 v Man City 0
Rafael Benitez considered this match would be tough pre-kick off and City certainly made it so for most of the game. Peter Crouch and Luis Garcia were culpable for misses that should have made their way instead to the back of the net past Nicky Weaver, whereas Slyvain Distin and skipper Richard Dunne then made a fortress of the defence to protect against the wave of Liverpool attacks that came City's way. The breakthrough came as Joey Barton played a back pass to Distin and Dirk Kuyt seized on it enough to make it open for Steven Gerrard to pounce on and run on to hit from 20-25 yards past Weaver. How did Steve Finnan get away with a cheeky trip on Barton earlier on is bewildering as much as the trip was blatant, serving to make further mockery of the officials.
John Motson stated Liverpool played poorly whereas the radio commentators made it that we came at City on several occasions and couldn't put our opportunities into goals except for Gerrard's. Stats stated Liverpool had 62% - 38% possession, four shots to their two on target, ten shots to their four off target, and eight corners to their two. Not pretty but three points.
Charlton 1 v Everton 1
First home game for Les Reed and he came out content, if not smiling. Everton were without Tim Cahill and Andy Johnson but had James McFadden threatening to take Charlton on himself in a first half of equal chances to both sides. Second half brought the goals. Mikel Arteta had three red shirts round him and one impeded him. He took the freekick that Leo Osman glanced on and came off the shins of Herman Hreidarsson just past Scott Carson's diving hand. From then Charlton went on the assault, and attack they did on the Everton goal.
Luke Young delivered a high ball for Amdy Faye and Joseph Yobo to challenge, the Everton defender headed it away but Faye had unintentionally trodden on his foot and Yobo's boot came off. Nuno Valente collected the ball, took too long and was dispossessed by Marcus Bent, and the ball came to Andy Reid who struck a firm low shot past Tim Howard. Replays showed Yobo was totally focused on putting on his boot as play went on, and had he remained focused on the play instead may have got a foot to block the shot. Charlton ended the second half much the better. David Moyes queried whether Yobo was fouled for Charlton's goal when he should have been looking at Valente's delay on the ball instead.
Aston Villa 1 v Middlesbrough 1
Only the one defeat for Villa and yet to concede so at home. Boro are still at sixes and sevens with form but stole the lead through Malcolm Christie, somewhat controversially. Old Sunderland lad Gavin McCann was dispossessed by another in Julio Arca, Aiyegbeni Yakubu got the ball and played in Arca, whose shot was blocked and span to Yakubu, who managed to get a touch to the ball. The ball then came to Christie, who was clearly offside yet when he turned and scored it was given [RedsMan shaking head]. Villa came back before half time, in fact in injury time, with Stillian Petrov played in on goal by Juan Pablo Angel and as Mark Schwarzer came out, he made contact with the Bulgarian and brought him down. Minimal contact but it was made. Gareth Barry slotted home the spot kick.
Fulham 0 v Reading 1
Reading climbing the heights again with another London club scalp, the second such away from home. Glen Little played a long ball from right back that fell to James Harper, who ran on and fed a sweet ball for Kevin Doyle. Doyle came away from Leroy Rosenior and just inside Ian Pearce, and with the goal in sight Pearce committed the professional foul. Why they call it that is beyond me as it is not professional. Pearce was honourable in departing under the red card, Doyle did likewise with the resulting spot kick. Fulham tried to blow Reading's house down but couldn't either finish a chance or fashion one. Luis Boa Morte and Rosenior had a go at each other which the captain should have conducted better if he is to be perceived as positive, then again how does one account for the pressure when results are needed.
Steve Coppell said afterwards he felt the sending off was harsh and I agree with Alan Shearer that I would expect Coppell to be different had the penalty not been awarded. At the age of twenty, Rosenior is my tip for a move to a higher team and culminating into a sharper right back, as I see him in the same mold as Micah Richards. This needs to be encouraged due to our limitations for England.
West Ham 1 v Sheff Utd 0
Nearly thirty-four and a half thousand turned out for this game that marked the first since the takeover talks, rumours and headlines ceased as Eggert Magnusson introduced himself as the new chairman to the Hammers. Hopefully for the team and the management focus can turn all the more to the pitch matters. Carlos Tevez started but couldn't carve out chances but West Ham broke through after a Matthew Etherington corner was nodded on by Anton Ferdinand and headed in by a free Hayden Mullins. Sheff Utd turned the screw in the second half and made chance after chance but couldn't finish. Tevez came off for Teddy Sheringham with a disappointed face and apparently straight in to change and off home. Sheringham made a difference with his appearance and West Ham began to make openings.
However, late into the half, Mikele Leigertwood crossed into the box, Alan Quinn went to challenge and instead came onto Robert Green, whose attempted punch on the ball spun to Robert Kozluk to slot in. Mike Riley cancelled it for Quinn's contact on Green and I thought it was the right decision.
Bolton 3 v Arsenal 1
My EFT colleague T proclaimed he despised Arsenal going up to Bolton. No Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie nor Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott was engaged on the right in a 5-man midfield and threatened well to produce a chance for Emmanuel Adebayor. But the first strike went to Bolton from a set-piece Arsenal have become susceptible to occasionally. With Adebayor watching Kevin Davies, Cesc Fabregas keeping tabs on Kevin Nolan, Kolo Toure pointed at Abdoulaye Faye, but no one picked him up and as the corner came over from El Hadji-Diouf, Faye emerged to bullet in a free header. Commentary stated the presence of Fabregas and Nolan in front of Jens Lehmann impeded the keeper from coming out but I disagree, Lehmann could have gone around those two to either collect or punch out.
Then came a second strike of superb quality from none other than old Gooner Nicolas Anelka. Bolton waited for a first goal for the Frenchman who has assisted well since arrival. Mathieu Flamini was tackled from behind and looked for a decision, none given, Faye carried on, passed to Davies, who then looked and sent a superb cross-field pass of 40-45 yards to Anelka in space. Being watched by Toure, Anelka then came in off the left onto his right foot and shot from outside the box past Lehmann. It was a superb strike for a first career goal for Bolton. Immediately Arsenal responded with Walcott running on and forging a corner which he took quickly to Fabregas. The Spaniard then crossed for acting skipper Gilberto Silva to run in and head past Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Bolton defence caught out just after they had scored.
But the final call went to the home side as Faye was involved yet again, passing down the right to Ivan Campo, who then sent a sweet low ball past Phillippe Senderos for Anelka to run onto and slot past Lehmann, who I felt had given Anelka too much angle to his right. T made this comment on his thoughts behind the defeat:
" Unfortunately I'm limited in time to expand on why we lost (again) at Bolton but I can sum it up in three reasons:
1) Relative lack of physical power.
2) Not clinical in our finishing when taking the game to Bolton in the 2nd half (a sharper Ljungberg would have scored at least one goal y'day)
3) Committing a cardinal sin of going behind early to a set-piece (when playing Bolton we should be training specifically to be well-drilled in defending corners).
"A disappointing defeat but on the positive side I was pleased with the determination of the team to keep attacking and fighting for the equaliser; and more important than the defeat for me was seeing with my own eyes Walcott's special talent, pace and fearlessness in taking on opponents. Fabregas (speaking like a veteran!) said this week that the two best 16-17 years olds he's ever seen are Messi and Walcott... and his sub performance against Hamburg followed by his game [on Saturday] makes me understand why Cesc can make such a comparison.... at the same time bearing in mind that Messi is two years older and ahead of Walcott."
Kevin Davies went in on Emanuel Eboue in the first half and gave away a foul, the Ivorian voiced his disgruntlement to Davies and Davies in return shoved the right back with hands just below the shoulder level. OK, Eboue may have been threatrical although he did land backwards, but Davies received yellow despite Fabregas proclaiming a red would do. I remember when Man Utd's David Beckham and Leeds' Robbie Keane came to at Elland Road and Keane was fouled by Beckham. Keane got up to shove Beckham down, Dermot Gallagher gave Keane a yellow and was demoted to a lower division temporarily for not issuing a red. So on that precedent I expected a red but the rules have apparently changed and such conduct BELOW the face level is a caution. Retrospectively, Mr Gallagher suffered for nothing.
Man Utd 1 v Chelsea 1
The proverbial game of two halves, the first was Utd's, the second was Chelsea's. Chelsea had hardly fashioned a threat on Utd's goal in comparison to Utd's attacks. It was Rio Ferdinand who passed to Ryan Giggs, who then passed long to Wayne Rooney. Rooney fed Louis Saha, who had Ricardo Carvalho monitoring him but Saha jinked a little before he just curled a side foot effort towards goal, banking on Carlo Cudicini being unsighted. He banked right. One-nil for the first half, but then second half Chelsea came for the equaliser. I said to my friends Arjen Robben needed to come on as Gary Neville was not being tested and they needed his ability to put the pressure back on Utd, and Robben came on for the second half.
From a Frank Lampard corner Utd had not held their positions well and allowed John Terry and Carvalho to challenge, the Portuguese defender heading a good header in off the underside of the crossbar and Saha's head. Points shared though they both would have loved the win to have something psychologically over the other. Is Shaun Wright-Phillips right for West Ham? Is Chelsea prepared to listen to offers from Upton Park because West Ham have just come into some financial backing? And kudos to T for his prediction on this result, which was spot on.
Spurs 3 v Wigan 1
To bounce back from the defeat at Reading, Spurs were on home soil and went behind halfway through the half as Lee McCullouch knocked down David Wright's long ball for Henri Camara to volley past Paul Robinson. But Spurs reacted as they did against Chelsea, they came back through Jermaine Defoe, played in by Dimitar Berbatov and twisting Emerson Boyce to score past Chris Kirkland. Berbatov was involved again for Spurs' second, getting between two players and running on into the box to slot home number two. Another key contribution from the Bulgarian came as he ran down the left and then pulled back for Aaron Lennon to finish left-footed.
Newcastle 1 v Portsmouth 0
I watched this game live on Sky Sports and it was better than Man Utd v Chelsea. Why?? The home line-up had limitations, Steven Taylor in central defence with Titus Bramble rendered the right back slot open for Nolberto Solano to cover. No Stephen Carr, Craig Moore, Damien Duff, Shola Ameobi for the remainder of the season, James Milner and Charles N'Zogbia on the wings with Emre and Scott Parker between them, Kieron Dyer aiding Obafemi Martins. It was do-or-die and Newcastle refused to die. After Nwankwo Kanu had an effort off the line, Newcastle went top gear through the runs of Dyer, Milner on the wings and Emre's work rate in the middle. Add to this Parker and Milner had to come off due to back problems before half time and the home side looked up against it.
Martins was played in by Dyer and replays showed he was level with Sol Campbell as he ran on to dink his effort over David James. I just don't know what co-commentator and former Arsenal man Alan Smith had in the afternoon but he called the decision right. It was clearly wrong. Milner came down the right and shot across goal, Primus went to clear, it came off Pedro Mendes and span into the air for James to have to tip over. It was then Newcastle v James as Dyer was first denied by the keeper and then Antoine Sibierski on the follow-up. James had to stop Dyer as N'Zogbia ran down the left to cross for Sibierski to miss, Dyer coming down late and collecting to shoot at James' leg. Another attack and another chance, the ball coming to Emre and he went to place around James but the keeper stretched out a superb right hand to deny the Turkish intenrational.
Martins was having one of those games where it would not go right for him but the Nigerian never gave up on gaining that chance and he did on 69mins. On the attack, it was his ball to the left for N'Zogbia, who then fed into the box, the pass evading James for Sibierski to run onto and slot into an empty net. It was no more than Newcastle deserved, they practically ran Portsmouth ragged in the second half and it ended a deserving home win. The contenders for MOTM were Emre for his tenacity and continued drive to shut down Portsmouth in midfield; Dyer for his continued running that constantly threatened Portsmouth every time, who also stayed on despite running into the advertising boards and picking up on contact a nasty deep gash approximately three inches long and oozing with tissue and blood; and James who sported a Superman-type slick hairstyle yesterday and was definitely quite superhuman for his efforts in the second half particularly.
And a word on Bramble, who is said to not be in line for a contract renewal at St James' Park when his current one ends this season. This was the best I have seen him play for Newcastle, he headed, he cleared, he tackled practically every ball that came his way without error and it was something to see and for him to build up on. Finally, although the others played their part yesterday, Solano was good at right-back and had a comfortable afternoon with no one pressuring him on the flanks, dealing with tackles and headers in the same manner as Bramble. If Newcastle can play like this with the restrictions of selection they currently have, they won't go down. Game of the weekend for me.