Premiership weekend review 16-17/12/06
I was meant to mention last week that the goals came flooding in, and the weekend just gone was no exception, that and great football entertainment. Discuss.
Newcastle 2 v Watford 1
On thr rise in some extreme injury circumstances, Newcastle suffered a blip, a slight blip, at Stamford Bridge in the mid-week but went straight back to winning ways against Watford. Nicky Butt is another who has developed good form and it was his build-up that led to James Milner on the right crossing for Obafemi Martins to head in the opening goal. Newcastle wanted a goalscorer, bought £17m Michael Owen but have had little from him owing to injury. £10m+ Martins is currently filling the number 9 shirt all over again. Watford hit back to equalise through Hameur Bouazza as Ashley Young's corner was flicked on for Bouazza to bundle in, but it was Martins again on the end of a deflected Damien Duff cross.
Aston Villa 0 v Bolton 1
This was yet another Sam Allardyce smash-and-grab as Bolton snatched another away win by a single goal with a clean sheet and weathering a wave of Villa attacks. With two-thirds the possession the hosts could not turn chances into goals and it came to the 75th minute for a breakthrough where Stilian Petrov came from behind to tackle Nicolas Anelka in the box, and a penatly ensued. Gary Speed duly obliged to score. Despite this defeat being Villa's second at home in the league, Martin O'Neill has rejuvenated the team, holding Arsenal and Chelsea to a draw away and now to face Man Utd after their defeat at West Ham. Could O'Neill make it a hat-trick of top three games avoiding defeat? Also I admire Gabor Kiraly, who I felt was good for Crystal Palace and should get a longer term in the top flight to improve, and has now got his chance. I hope it goes well for him, except against Liverpool!
Charlton 0 v Liverpool 3
Focus homed on a tense atmosphere between Steven Gerrard and Les Reed during the England days where Reed was part of Kevin Keegan's reign alongside former Newcastle coach Derek Fazackerley. Reed and Fazackerley, according to Gerrard, would talk at Gerrard about bucking up his performance rather than to the midfielder which made for some resentment. Reed had welcomed Gerrard coming to The Valley with compliments, presumably because Gerrard is a more advanced player now since 2000. OK, enough talk. The crust of this encounter was it was live, first, and it was a six-pointer. An early call was made when Mark Gonzalez delivered a god cross from the left and Jermaine Pennant ran in to nod it ahead of Djimi Traore in the box, the left-back catching Pennant with a boot to the face. Penalty given, Xabi Alonso duly obliged.
That was the third minute, and what happened from then to the next goal, almost 80mins later, was a plethora of chances for the visitors that seemed to just miss the target. Charlton had chances through Herman Hreidarsson after Andy Reid's shot was parried by Pepe Reina, Darren Ambrose volleyed over from close range and Darren Bent had an effort narrowly miss the post. Craig Bellamy is finding his form feet lately and ran onto a delightful through ball from Luis Garcia to volley first time on the turn for no.2. From not converting for 80mins Liverpool scored again six minutes later as Gerrard picked up on the edge of the box, stalled in finding someone to pass to and then decided to curl an effort at goal as Charlton simply allowed him time.
Wigan 0 v Sheff Utd 1
Sheffield United are now unbeaten in four games, it could have been twelve out of those four had Milan Baros not got through last week. Rob Hulse was on hand to divert Stephen Quinn's squared ball picked up from Keith Gillespie on the right, minutes into the second half. Talking point was another incident on Chris Morgan, where Lee McCullouch and he tussled for a corner and McCullouch siimply raised his right arm and punched Morgan below the right eye. Result was no action but a swelling for Morgan, who stated McCulloch came to the away dressing room to apologise after the game and therefore nothing more should be made of it.
Yet while that maybe fine for Morgan, for the game it is not. Juan Pablo Angel and now McCullouch, regardless it was on the same player, both displayed misconduct captured on camera but nothing was to follow from one and possibly from the other. The powers that be are simply not as powerful as they should be.
Arsenal 2 v Portsmouth 2
Following on from a good performance last week and three points at Wigan, I felt this could have been a draw, but not with the home side going down two goals before coming back. I felt Emmanuel Adebayor would start with Robin Van Persie, Jeramie Aliadiere was a surprise. Nonetheless Arsenal started much the better and Portsmotuh weathered the storm until deep into injury time where Matt Taylor dropped a freekick for David Thompson to head against the crossbar, the ball coming nicely to Noe Paramot to head in. Early into the second half Arsenal were pushed back further as an attack in the box was headed out by vice-skipper Gilberto Silva and came to Taylor, who hooked another sweet shot on the volley over and in. Arsenal borught on Adebayor and his performance against Chelsea was enough for me to warrant a starting place and he was a major influence again.
Theo Walcott ran down the right and delivered another cross into the box for the Togolese striker to pull Arsenal one back almost on the hour. Minutes later another Arsenal attack found Kolo Toure thumping a shot at David James, Adebayor gathered with ample time and space and chipped across goal for Walcott to aim a scuffed shot, from which Silva aimed at and scored. No disrespect to Thierry Henry but I like Silva as skipper, he seems more welcoming, more of a advisory figure than Henry and his position in the centre is ideal for captaincy.
Everton 2 v Chelsea 3
This was a battle. Chelsea were in Everton's backyard and Goodison has been unkind to visitors other than Aston Villa. Given Chelsea kicked off before Utd it was necessary to make a point and grab three. Everton fielded Victor Anichebe, Nigerian-born and grown up in Toxteth, and Andrew Johnson and welcomed Mikel Arteta who for me was a strong contender for MOTM. One setback for Chelsea was John Terry missing out with a back problem, replaced by Khalid Boulahrouz. someone who impressed me during an international friendly for Holland against England. Chelsea seemed strained in raising their game, of whom Michael Ballack seemed off-colour, while Everton stifled attacks and make a number of their own down the flanks through Arteta and Simon Davies. Andrew Johnson made movements that concerned Boulahrouz and the Duchman seemed to push Johnson in the box, something which Jose Mourinho protested was a dive, with David Moyes urging the Chelsea boss to look at the TV screens in the home dug-out.
For me it seemd a push that was not enough to topple Johnson and he made more of it. But Everton did get a penalty when Boulahrouz was careless in approaching Anichebe in the box and ended up holding the striker back. Arteta scored from the penalty. What we have gathered from Chelsea is to expect an onslaught to equalise. Mohammed Kalou was on for Geremi at the break, Michael Essien at right back, where I felt Ballack should have gone off but then Lee Carsley committed a needless handball. Ballack stepped up to deposit the kick superbly around the ball, coming off the post inside but also off Tim Howard's back. That did not stifle Everton. An Arteta corner past the hour was headed in by Joseph Yobo, Essien holding onto the defender's left arm. Yet with nine minutes remaining vice-captain Frank Lampard felt he was fouled and was annoyed in receiving nothing, only seconds later to receive the ball and just simply aimed a shot at goal that had exact power, flight and dip to go up, over and in. Superb strike.
Yet that equaliser was surpassed. The game seemed to follow into the remnants of a draw but with Didier Drogba turnign earlier to hit the post, the Ivorian still had designs on the Everton goal. He took the ball on his chest, turned, and as both Yobo and Alan Stubbs stood off expecting nothing to occur of danger so far out from goal, Drogba struck a sublime volley that was simply a worthy winning goal. It has been compared to that he scored against Liverpool but they have their differences. That one at The Bridge was gathered and then struck on the turn instinctively without looking. This one was gathered and set-up with little expectation yet urged by Chelsea to make it and it just simply did. I felt the match was a great 2-2 draw, but Drogba is something else now. Scoring late in the Nou Camp, against Newcastle, yesterday, he is like a strikeforce on his own. He languished at Marseille, the danger is he is now flourishing at Chelsea.
West Ham 1 v Man Utd 0
So Chelsea's dramatic late win then left the tennis ball in Utd's court. The feeling was Utd would have that much more incentive to come at West Ham. West Ham changed chairman, changed manager, adn through Alan Curbishley, hoped to changed fortunes. A first game to change such fortunes against Man utd is similar to requiring a plaster for a cut but supplied with salt. The only thing was while the salt burned, the wound healed. Utd had a number of chances to gain the lead through Wayne Rooney, Christiano Ronaldo who came inside to strike low for Robert Green to save excellently, and Ryan Giggs from yards out firing high. Other than that West Ham had the objective of heading or kicking out balls when under attack, and through Bobby Zamora outmuscling Rio Ferdinand for a one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar, a gilt-edge chance of scoring instead. But van der Sar got down excellently himself to his right to gather the shot.
Everton v Chelsea was a bout, this was a bout. West Ham got back to defend but also came forward occasionally, with Marlon Harewood proving something of a nuisance on the Utd defence. But so far when they need someone to break through, Teddy Sheringham has been an influence. Coming on for Zamora on the hour, Sheringham picked up a Lee Bowyer pass on the right with 15mins remaining, drawing Nemanja Vidic with him then squaring through his legs for Harewood, who was been shadowed by Ferdinand and Gabriel Heinze. Ferdinand went in too rash and Harewood kept the ball in before the touchline to square across for Nigel Reo-Coker to run in and stab past the keeper, no one picking his run up. And from then it was as if for all their efforts, Utd had little to fight back with, as they now chased an equaliser much less a winner. West Ham have enjoyed home wins against Utd and Arsenal, they too could be onto a hat-trick when Chelsea visit.
As for Curbishley, it's a dream start of a win and one against the odds, and the homework is yet uncompleted. For Man Utd, it was not long ago they were nine points ahead of Chelsea. It is now two.
Man City 1 v Spurs 2
Following from their home show against Dimano Bucharest, Spurs notched their first away win. With Matt Dawson suspended, Calum Davenport partnered Ledley King in central defence and was on hand to open the scoring with a header from Tom Huddlestone's freekick. Huddlestone himself has been of fine form recently and added a second with a curling half volley. Joey Barton pulled City back with a finish from the right, though he apparently had a good shout for a penalty from being tripped by Steed Malbranque. Stuart Pearce said "The referee said he thought it was a penalty but the linesman didn't flag so he didn't give it." I understood it that if the referee was in doubt he would consult a linesman, otherwise it was his discretion, not to consider an offence occurred but ignored it because the linesman didn't flag.
Reading 1 v Blackburn 2
Reading almost made it another three points on Saturday but didn't figure for a strong Blackburn comeback. The hosts took the lead as Stephen Hunt threaded a through ball for James Harper to sprint onto and score past Brad Friedel. Benni McCarthy had something like three goals cancelled for offside, the second one being a very tight decision and Reading took no lesson from them. So when he scored for the fourth time with a diving head to Lucas Neill's cross, he gathered the ball and dropped it with direction to the linesman and would have been fine but for what he said. Referee Graeme Poll was there to usher him away from the linesman just in case and therefore was in earshot to hear something indiscreet and booked the South African, meaning he will be absent from the visit to Arsenal on Saturday.
That being that, Blackburn came at Reading and scored a winner of great quality. David Bentley pounced on a mistake by John Oster and left Nicky Shorey on the turn as he ran on to goal and then released a shot that flew past Marcus Hehnemann into the top left corner, great finish to win the match.