Because of the rhythm of the Premiership that dictates mid-week games, I hardly, if at all, report on them. For last week though I am making an exception for a couple of talking points, albeit late ones.Midweek (last week)
Charlton 1 v Blackburn 0
Les Reed's first win for Charlton, first home win, and how. Late into second half injury time, virtually the last kick of the game, Talal El Karkouri hits a freekick into the bottom right corner to ensure those vital three points. It was short-lived, the tide before the storm.Spurs 2 v Boro 1
A game that kicked off literally. Spurs took the lead through Dimitar Berbatov after Tom Huddlestone's freekick was headed down by Pascal Chimbonda. The Bulgarian then turned and struck the ball past Mark Schwarzer. That was early into the second half but Boro hit back with ten minutes to go as Stewart Downing's freekick was not cleared and Robert Huth slapped in from close range. Immediately Robbie Keane came on and three minutes later Huddlestone kicked a quick freekick to Keane for the Irishman to hit into the bottom right corner. Later George Boateng and Aaron Lennon went chasing the ball that seemed to run out, Lennon then pushing Boateng over. The Dutchman got up to confront Lennon and Didier Zokora came across to block off Boateng and a melee ensued, resulting in both Boateng and Zokora being dismissed.
Earlier this week Boateng successfully appealed and his red card was quashed. Martin Jol was admirable again in saying at first he felt Zokora was innocent but looking again, he felt the red card was sufficient in the circumstances.
"At first I thought Zokora was unlucky to be sent off because he tried to prevent any trouble breaking out. I've seen it again now and I felt he probably deserved the sending offbecause if you are so far awayfrom a situationand run it it does look aggresive. You then get a crowd of players coming together and you don't want that."
Newcastle 3 v Reading 2
I commend Newcastle for this result more than Reading but not much more. That is because this followed a week from their impressive show against Portsmouth and witht he injuries they have it would be easy for them to lose that rhythm. Reading are valiant under Steve Coppell and are still without their renowned scorer Dave Kitson. They took the lead after Nolberto Solano scored with a brace from James Harper, quite unheard of from the midfielder. One-two down for the second half Newcastle went on to fight and gained their win. Ibrahima Sonko poorly raised a foot to Obafemi Martins' chest and gave the penalty away from which Martins scored. Then Emre showed hsi form from the Portsmouth game to go on a run that ended with a 25-yard slammer of a shot past Marcus Hehnemann.
West Ham 0 v Wigan 2
The rain before the storm, perhaps. Upton Park was laid siege by the visiting Lancashire team and the Hammers had little answer to it. David Connelly stepped up to collect Kevin Kilbane's pass to turn and shoot past Robert Green. A speculative Leighton Baines drive came off Jonathan Spector and in past Green for Wigan's number two. West Ham had the first half won but not the conversion of chances, with Carlos Tevez again proving to be picking up good form again following from the Everton game.
Spurs 5 v Charlton 1
A London derby where all the goals were scored by Spurs. A thrashing, a landslide, a tremor occurred at White Hart Lane. Lennon collected a pass from Huddlestone to feed Berbatov for the first. Lennon came inside from the left to feed square to Teemu Tainio to shoot from outside the box for number two. Charlton got back into the game having taken on the hosts until the half hour, Andy Reid sent a pass across goal for Matt Dawson to interfere and spin the ball over Paul Robinson. A mere setback until the second half. Berbatov chested down the ball for Steed Malbranque to hit low for number three. Lennon then went quickly to close down the sleepy Bryan Hughes and the ball ricocheted to Jermaine Defoe, who ran on to slam away confidently number four.
Robinson collected the ball under attack and then sent a long throw to Berbatov who ran on and on to slot away through Scott Carson's legs for number five. Carson looked partially dejected to really try to stop it, as the defence was opened like bay doors. Even when Darren Bent was almost through on goal, his shot was saved and that of Dennis Rommedahl's follow-up, by Robinson.
Liverpool 4 v Fulham 0
Fulham had defeated Arsenal before leaving for Ewood Park and Anfield respectively and they enjoyed neither. In the first half at Anfield, Liverpool huffed and puffed but found the little Cottagers would not budge. Bouba Papa Dioup was instrumental in midfield along with captain Luis Boa Morte and as Liverpool made chances, they could not convert them up til half time. Then Dioup had to go due to injury and that may have eased on Fulham's guard in the centre to give Liverpool less resistence. Ian Pearce survivied a penalty scare when Dirk Kuyt's shot struck his arms and when it happened again ref Uriah Rennie had no doubts of an infringement. Pearce was booked, Steven Gerrard stepped up and rookie keeper Jan Lastuvka, on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk and in for injured Antii Niemi, saved to his left but couldn't prevent the ball bounding out. Gerrard redeemed his error.
From then Liverpool picked up a second via a Gerrard corner that was flicked on by Daniel Agger for Jamie Carragher to sneak around the rear to side-foot in the second, his first since scoring in the 7-1 win over Southampton on 16th January 1999. Rennie was the referee for that game too. Agger was involved again as he came inside from the left and crossed for Luis Garcia to loop a header over Lastuvka. Mark Gonzalez and Xabi Alonso stood poised over a freekick earned by Robbie Fowler being challenged unfairly. Gonzalez stepped up to stroke the ball into the corner.
Chelsea 1 v Arsenal 1
A good match, better than Man Utd v Chelsea albeit same result and Chelsea coming back after going behind again. Arsenal showed little nerve with their younglings and minus Kolo Toure and William Gallas, Tomas Rosicky and Thierry Henry. Johan Djourou and Philipp Senderos anchored in central defence against Didier Drogba with Senderos slightly nervy on a couple of occasions. Chelsea was another side who huffed and puffed yet couldn't break their visitors. Jose Mourinho introudced Arjen Robben and the impetus of attack was far more in Chelsea's favour as the Dutchman looked to influence an eventual goal. However it was Arsenal who made the breakthrough as Robin Van Persie, Mathieu Flamini, Aleksander Hleb combined well to pass between themselves and then Hleb set up Flamini to shoot from the edge of the box, Henrique Hilario got a hand and a half to it but couldnt prevent the goal, the Chelsea keeper should have saved it given the expected standards under Mourinho and the height of the shot.
It looked as if Chelsea could well be on route to their first home defeat as it seemed they would not break through Arsenal's defence. But if Michael Essien doing what comes naturally to any soldier in doing what needs to be done to get the job done, things changed. First Shaun Wright-Phillips came on for right-back Geremi, meaning Essien moving to right back, then the Ghanian ran up to attack and thump a Frank Lampard pass curling out then in around Jens Lehmann for the equaliser and a contender for goal of the season. Even then the celebrations were short-lived as the Blues knew business meant another goal to win within the remaining six minutes plus injury time.
And both sides went close. Hleb had a chance given to him in the penalty area when the ball dropped to him only to hit it high, a Lampard corner was nodded on towards goal and Essien was mere inches away to only steer the ball up and off the crossbar, and then Lehmann uncharacteristically spilled a shot for Lampard to latch onto, guide away from the keeper and then strike towards goal, for only either Flamini or the post to deny him. Flamini was superb to recover behind Lehmann so quickly.
Blackburn 1 v Newcastle 3
This is why I currently admire Newcastle. They are finding good form, players are playing with more desire, more need, more vigour than before. The down side was losing Emre to injury. Martins altched onto a weighted Antoine Sibierski ball to smack home the opening goal. Stephen Taylor enjoyed scoring as Nicky Butt challenged Michael Gray down the right to chip across goal, Charles N'Zogbia headed back across goal with Lucas Neill and Andre Oojier getting in each other's way. Rovers went a man down as a bouncing ball was not controlled enough by Stephane Henchoz and as Martins looked to capitalise on the error, the Swiss defender pulled him down. The foul and booking was excepted, the red card though was questionable as Martins seemed to have an angle to overcome before being through on goal. In reflection the Nigerian could have cut inside and sped away for another goal.
With 10 men, Blackburn came the better in the second half and came at Newcastle. Morten Gamst Pedersen came inside from the left (seems a favourable move this weekend) and struck right footed past Shay Given to halve the deficit but Rovers couldn't equalise. Deep in injury time Brad Friedel came up for a corner, and remained for an immediate second one. Given got up to fist away, N'Zogbia picked it up and fed Martins on the left wing, Martins simply skipped over Tugay's tackle and came inside of Robbie Savage to strike the ball towards the empty goal.
Bolton 4 v West Ham 0
The match against Wigan was the rain before the storm, this was Hurricane Sam. It looked a capitulation and few have come to the Reebok stadium to leave content. Not Arsenal, not Liverpool, and now certainly not West Ham. Gary Speed sealed his 500th appearance in football with a presentation before the game, then presented Kevin Davies with a goal. Nicolas Anelka ran on and found El-Hadji Diouf, who chipped for Speed, who headed back for Davies to strike from close range. Bolton were 1-0 up at half time and it was possible for the Hammers to surge for an equaliser, if they had actually applied any urgency into their game.
They didn't and allowed Bolton to come at them, Ivan Campo heading on for Davies to convert for number two with seven inutes on the second half gone. Diouf collected on the Bolton left and simply danced through two players to slip the ball past Green for number three on 77mins and then Speed finished off the rout with a through ball for Anelka to run onto and score. Alan Pardew sacked, former Charlton manager and West Ham player Alan Curbishley confirmed today as his replacement. Primary objective: avoid relegation. Do that and have funds available for next season and we could see some progress. Progress from the players as they now have to impress the new boss or progress from exchanging old for new.
Watford 0 v Reading 0
I'm sorry for the respective fans but I found little to nothing to report on this match, other than it seemed more impressive for Reading to come away with a point than it was poor for Watford to drop two. If any fan or anyone feel they can provide a report of more depth then feel free to email on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Portsmouth 2 v Everton 0
The game that contained one of the goals of the season contenders that EVERYONE in the sports media are like happy seals about. Everton seemed depleted with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta missing, James Beattie not clicking with Andrew Johnson and Johnson looking for some form recently. Nwankwo Kanu came to challenge with Simon Davies and the ball then came up and sat waiting for Matt Taylor to thump a volley from 45 yards up high and over Tim Howard, who didn't move. Reminiscent of his strike against Sunderland last season. Gary O'Neil crossed over and as the ball reached Kanu he smacked it first time past Howard for number two.
Middlesbrough 1 v Wigan 1
I do not know what the MOTD commentator was looking at in this match. Wigan gained a penalty as Paul Scharner was impeded by his compatriot Emanuel Pogatetz as Scharner aimed to meet a Josip Skoko chip into the box. The commentator said Scharner ran onto Pogatetz but replays showed Scharner had eyes looking for the ball and Pogatetz came onto HIM with impact. The penalty was right and Henri Camara scored for the lead.
Chris Kirkland took a blow to the head and had to be replaced with Mike Pollitt. Kirkland was in the dressing room and spoke of dizzyness and as a precaution he was taken to hospital, thankfully to be discharged later with no effects. Boro came back to equalise as Mark Viduka held up the ball and played in James Morrison, whose ball across goal was touched in by Aiyegbeni Yakubu.
Man Utd 3 v Man City 1
Another derby, another Reds v Blues meeting, another match important to the title challenge. First blood to the home side within six minutes, as Christiano Ronaldo was allowed time to cross from the right, Sylvain Distin aimed a dire hopeful leg to cut out the ball and failed, Wayne Rooney lurked behind Richard Dunne to poke in the ball. Next came some confusion between Hatem Trabelsi and Dunne in clearing the ball from the corner area, the Tunisian passing back poorly leading to Dunne miscontrolling. Gabriel Heinze picked up and crossed, Distin didn't approach it well and Louis Saha got ahead to bundle the ball in.
In the second half Utd stepped down a gear which give City more confidence in making some headway to wards goal, which successfully occurred with 18mins on the time remaining. Trabelsi ran on at goal from the right side and without anyone closing him down he lashed a left-foot drive past Edwin van der Sar. Now Utd needed to raise that gear again and City aided them. Rooney was not closed down by Distin and he managed to squirm a pass across goal which Dunne should have cleared but hashed at, allowing Ronaldo to strike for Utd's third.
Sheff Utd 2 v Aston Villa 2
Another referee indecisionthat beggars belief. The game opened with Villa scoring on 76 seconds, Chris Sutton and Stilian Petrov passing between themselves and the Bulgarian striking home after Sutton's shot was blocked. Utd made more of the pressure on the visitors in search of an equaliser but fell flat in Villa's third. Come the second half, come a changed Sheff Utd. Robert Kuzlok threw in the ball, Liam Ridgewell mis-headed and the ball fell to Stephen Quinn, one of three Quinns' on Utd's books, who struck with his right to equalise. Almost a quarter of an hour later Utd took the lead as a short corner was crossed for Chris Morgan to head into Danny Webber's direction. Webber then hooked the ball towards goal with his back to goal past Stuart Taylor.
Utd's performance should have held well to either confirm the 2-1 socre or add to it but seconds later they rued a lapse of concentration. Neil Warnock was frustrated Webber had lost the ball that started the attack leading to Villa's equaliser. Chris Sutton picked up on Stephen Davis' cross and drawing two defenders with him, the ball then sat up for Milan Baros to set up and drive in from close range. Villa had a corner at which Morgan marked Juan Pablo Angel and replays showed Angel aiming a clear left elbow at the Utd skipper.
Ref Mark Halsey reported he had seen the incident but if he did, he clearly should have sent off the Colombian. Because he said he saw it, the FA say they are powerless to intervene, so YET AGAIN the Football Association of England and Wales fail to adjudicate an incident clearly seen and recorded on live TV. They can claim FIFA forbades them from doing so, but they did take action in the Ben Thatcher/Pedro Mendes incident under 'exceptional circumstances'. Circumstances no doubt dictated by public reaction.