Wigan 0 Liverpool 1
This win ends the run of defeats and Liverpool need to build on this, because it was not convincing but it gained the needed three points. Again, it will be said it came against a weakened Wigan side minus their strong strikers Henri Camara and Jason Roberts. Liverpool hadn't planned on Camara not returning in time from the Cup of Nations and Roberts being suspended and we had faced the two strikers at Anfield. The first half was good for the Reds but Wigan came back better in the second and were very threatening. Jamie Carragher hooked the ball over his head that found Sami Hyypia loitering when Wigan came out, and being onside he aimed an effort that just eluded Mike Pollitt as it bounced in.
Liverpool cannot allow for missed chances and failing efforts, they should now make the most of their opportunities and bring back that hunger to score. Harry Kewell gives an alternating choice as a winger or as support for a lone striker. Fernando Morientes and Djibril Cisse should take this time to impress if they warrant their inclusion in the side, with Robbie Fowler starting.Arsenal 1 Bolton 1
Bolton are taken as Arsenal's bogey team of late and it was the visitors who held the superiority in the first half, captain Kevin Nolan making runs from centre midfield to promising effect, hooking a mid-aerial ball with great coolness over Jens Lehmann. Jose Antonio Reyes could have won a penalty early on but was denied, replays showing he more or less dived. Abdoulaye Faye launched into a misnomer of a tackle on Jose Antonio Reyes, two-footed and studs showing, touched part of the ball and Reyes' left foot in the process. Dangerous isn't the word, reckless is a nearer adjective, the Spaniard suspected of a leg brake, Reyes adding to an already overbooked injury roster. Robert Pires came on to replace. Howard Webb booked Faye and then astonishingly waived booking Mathieu Flamini for an identical tackle that was worse, for his two-footed lunge missed the ball and almost caught Ricardo Gardner, leaving Bolton fans crying out in anger about double standards.
Yet come the second half Arsenal changed their tune and had their players dancing much more around Bolton. Freddie Ljungberg's introduction aided Arsenal's pace in attack and they went very close to equalising, until the last minute where Cesc Fabregas ran down the Arsenal right to cross and Gilberto Silva timed his move to strike in front of Tal Ben Haim to score. Having won last week at St Andrews', to come back against Bolton was a strong gain for the Gunners.Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 2
It could be a coincidence, Newcastle winning since Graeme Souness' departure, but no doubt someone will point out their wins have come against lower positioned oppositions too. Nonetheless, they are games that one must win, and the Magpies are doing just that. Perhaps it is too soon to mention yet it's as if the team have a different leash of life. Emre is back, Charles N'Zogbia is impressing, Alan Shearer leads the charge and others are following suit. Nolberto Solano returned to his former club amid boos from the home fans but was influential in both goals. I'm not sure Celestine Babayaro deserved to go, perhaps a booking at the most but Milan Baros' penalty was poor, not taking away from Shay Given's stop which was his repartee during the match. Even Jean Alain-Boumsong had a good chance of a header from a corner go over, so the team have taken the reins to the pleasure of the fans.
They face Championship Southampton at home in the FA Cup, the South Coast side not favourable with fortune at present, and again, while it could be premature to speak, I get a sense that the two wins could herald another big chance for Shearer to end his playing career with a trophy win. Newcastle have played more away than home games, and have won 6, lost twice and drawn three times at St James'. The return from injury of players within the next fortnight could make a big difference, even if Owen is likely to emerge in March.Middlesbrough 3 Chelsea 0
Again, previous comments spoke of lucky runs of wins against lower positioned teams, as if one is suppose to win those games. When Chelsea went to Goodison Park, he said not to look at Everton's position, and Chelsea were held then by a side 2nd from bottom at the time. Coming to the Riverside, with one defeat all season and having seen off both Merseyside teams, Chelsea faced a Boro side rumbled and humbled by Aston Villa. Yet, not due to a lack of effort as Chelsea came forward as expected, this was a different winning Boro. Chelsea had to shuffle slightly when William Gallas went off injured, Michael Essien coming into defence.
Fabio Rochemback got to the ball as Essien took too long with it, Aiyegbeni Yakubu took it on and returned it to Rochemback, the Brazilian then turned away from Terry and shot at Petr Cech, who should have stopped it but allowed it to go under him. Stewart Downing picked up the ball outside the box and aimed his shot, which was going wide but for a deflection off John Terry's left heel, for Boro's 2nd, and in the 2nd half Yakubu came down the left, cut inside Terry and went on unchallenged to slot in no.3.
With Downing back and attacking on the left, George Boateng coming in after two months out, the strength and shooting of Yakubu and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and a best display from Rochemback, it was a tonic after last week's sicknote. For Chelsea, their heaviest defeat all time under Jose Mourinho, much less this season, it was a clear off-day.Portsmouth 1 Man Utd 3
Man Utd are doing that which they can only do in the circumstance, that is to win as they maintain 2nd place. With Chelsea losing they closed the gap to 12pts with as many games to go. Mainly there is an improvement in Christiano Ronaldo, as if he has been training extra. His shooting has earned him four in the past two, and in both matches we have seen strikes from outside the box that should grace Goal of the Month. Ryan Giggs ran on past Dean Kiely to aim an effort high off the crossbar that came to Ruud Van Nistelrooy to head in. Ronaldo was some 30-35 yards from goal and then unleashed another shot that sailed in over Kiely, and Wayne Rooney ran into the box to set up Ronaldo's 2nd. There is little to criticise the Red Devils on, albeit Matt Taylor gained a consolation as he deflected Wayne Routledge's shot with his head, and they will come to Anfield next week in the Cup with extra confidence.Fulham 6 West Brom 1
Heidur Helguson is making a difference for the West London team, six goals in the last nine games since he first scored and partnering with Brian McBride, with Luis Boa Morte in support, has found Fulham in 4 wins, 4 loses. They ran riot and cut short West Brom's voyage to Premiership assured survival, Helguson showing excellent ability for headers and finishing. And where he left off, substituted for Collins John, John took over. Tomaz Radzinski netted his first league goal to obvious delight.Everton 1 Blackburn 0
Everton have won six and drawn once in the last seven games, reverting to a style that brings back the single goal wins, with the exception of the win against Charlton. Now talk focuses on European places than maintaining their Premiership one. James Beattie has scored his third since their unbeaten run started, his seventh all season so far. Blackburn did put some pressure on the hosts and may have had something when Iain Turner instinctively bent down to handle the ball outside the area. Although Alan Stubbs should have dealt with the ball much better, the rule states "A player is sent off....if he prevents a goal or obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball. The punishment in Law arises not from the act of the player handling the ball but from the unacceptable and unfair intervention which prevented a goal being scored."
It's arguable that had Turner not handled, he could have turned to kick the ball or Stubbs could have gotten between Craig Bellamy and goal, so for me it was not an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and at most a caution.
David Moyes was pleased with his side's performance at the end with 10 men, while Turner's suspension could mean 4th choice keeper John Ruddy staying between the sticks, but Everton play next in a fortnight at St James's Park, by when either Richard Wright or Nigel Martyn may have recovered.Sunderland 1 Spurs 1
This game started with both sides coming out at each other but failing to make any domination inside their opponent's half count for goals. Jermaine Defoe and Robbie Keane started as Ahmed Mido was placed on the bench after the Cup of Nations, and Spurs hadn't shown much domination as expected against the bottom side. The deadlock broke when Michael Carrick sent a sweet left foot ball over the defence to find Defoe on the right, he then curled a low cross that eluded Gary Breen and Kelvin Davies for Keane to tap in. Sunderland refused to lie down, as they have done so much this season, only their spirit is not being matched by their efforts on goal. They came closer in the 2nd half when Kevin Kyle could have ran on towards goal but was caught up by Ledley King, and when Jon Stead went down the left and sent a sharp low cross that went completely across goal where one touch should have seen it go in.
Yet in continuing to come at Spurs, their perseverance paid off, when near to the end of normal time substitute Daryl Murphy ran down the left, outmuscled Paul Stalteri and finished low under Paul Robinson into the far corner. The Spurs fans had chanted "Are you watching, Arsenal?" at one point, but now had to settle for exactly that, particularly when in the dying injury time Jermaine Jenas controlled in the box and shot over from yards.Manchester City 3 Charlton 2
More talk about both managers being touted for England, Stuart Pearce now saying he would engage in talks to see what the FA would say to him were he to be approached. Alan Curbishley focused on ensuring a non-repeat of the home defeat. With Jonatan Johansson at Norwich and Danny Murphy at Spurs, the season starting formation of 4-5-1 now tunes into a 4-4-2 with Darren and Marcus Bent upfront, dangerously equipped with pace and a sharp eye for goal. The first half only came alive when Joey Barton's cross was headed out for Richard Dunne to return back with a half volley that shot past Thomas Myhre for City's lead.
The 2nd half found more pace and entertainment as Talal El Karkouri sent in a delightful ball over the defence for Darren Bent to equalise, about six minutes into the re-start. Not to be outdone, Barton came up again with another superb cross from the right to find Georgios Samaras in the box, the Greece international sending a downward header past Myhre for his first in a City shirt. Then to cap off a great show, Barton picked up the ball from outside the box, drifted to his right and sent a fierce drive that Myhre did well to get a hand to but couldn't keep out. Charlton replied with a Radostin Kishishev cross from the right that was headed in by Marcus Bent and Curbishley went for the equaliser by bringing on Jason Euell, Jay Bothroyd and Darren Ambrose.
***The current fight for 4th place occurring betweening the North London rivals. The previously three games have found that when one lost, so did the other; then one won, so did the other; now this weekend Arsenal drew, and Spurs eventually drew as well.