Premiership weekend review - 31st Mar - 01st Apr
Man Utd 4 Blackburn 1
A game of two halves. Utd went close through a Christiano Ronaldo strike and Wayne Rooney agonisingly failing to make the goal bulge after being mere yards from goal. Utd suffered two setbacks after the half hour mark. Nemanja Vidic landed awkwardly and appears to have dislocated his shoulder, something which is worrying me as an epidemic in the Premiership this season. Secondly, in-form Matt Derbyshire capitalised on a loose ball. Michael Carrick's attempt to cut out Morten Gamst Pedersen's cross diverted the ball towards goal but was stopped by Edwin van der Sar, only to set up for Derbyshire to strike high into the roof of the net.
One goal is never enough at Old Trafford and particularly away against Utd. It takes a strong resolve to keep them out when they come calling for an equaliser. Blackburn seemed to have gone to sleep in the second haf as Utd came at them. Paul Scholes latched onto a loose ball from a panicked Blackburn defence to dance past Ryan Nelsen and Neil Warnock to slot the equaliser. After Rio Ferdinand nearly knocked unconscious a fan while recklessly kicking the ball in frustration, and Ryan Giggs whacked the crossbar from yards, Carrick slotted in no.2. Ronaldo's freekick was too hot for Brad Friedel and Ji-Sung Park touched in the third, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came at the back to slot in the fourth.
Watford 0 Chelsea 1
I count Chelsea as being a tad fortunate to come away from Vicarage Road with three points. They had their chances almost equally to that of Watford, and it was one game they could ill-afford to leave with anything less. The funny thing for me was that which may have puzzled most, how Lampard cannot be fit to play on Wednesday but cleared to play for Chelsea. Perhaps Steve McClaren decided, wisely, to rest Lampard and not risk him for the Watford game, which would have frustrated Jose Mourinho because Mourinho wants all his best players available as possible. Chelsea look to count the blessing of a late late goal and Andriy Shevchenko for supplying the great chip for Saloman Kalou to pop up and nod in the winner.
Charlton 1 Wigan 0
The proverbial six-pointer. It came down to a penalty decision that some may say was cast-iron, others may see it as soft. The ball is floated in in the second half, Wigan's Fitz Hall challenges Herman Hreidarsson and apears to have impeded him, he goes down, then the loose ball is pounced on by Marcus Bent and Hall then sticks a leg out rashly and the striker goes down. The decision is given for the challenge on Bent. namesake Darren steps up and coolly slots the ball away past the agonising hand of John Filan that almost saved it. Now Charlton are a point behind Sheff Utd, three behind Wigan.
Newcastle 0 Man City 1
Seems that a revival of the senses is occurring with the Manchester Blues. An away win at The Riverside, another North-East away win at St James' Park. The fhome fans may well have booed the home side at the end but I felt they had bad luck in the chances they could not convert. Emile Mpenza had a shot come off the corssbar earlier before Joey Barton then Michael Johnson combined to find Mpenza, who shot across goal to beat Shay Given.
West Ham 2 Middlesbrough 0
Just as Man City have found some fortune in their last two games, so have West Ham. An away win at Ewood Park and a home visit from Boro has brought them six points that keeps them chasing Charlton out of the zone. With Javier Mascherano off to Anfield, Carlos Tevez is the new Teddy Sheringham, the talisman through whom passion, determination, fight and pride surges through for the Hammers. It was his cross that was deflected via two Boro players into the path of Bobby Zamora, who slotted in. Then a high ball was challenged by Tevez and a Boro player and then came off Andrew Taylor, who knew little of it, faling to Tevez to smash into the roof of the net.
Bolton 1 Sheff Utd 0
Bolton are chasing a UEFA place and are in a good position with that objective. Sheff Utd are in need of points for Premiership survival and are in a perilous position in that objective. Going to The Reebok stadium is tough for several sides, Liverpool and Arsenal spring to mind, and it was no picnic for the visitors. So they had Paddy Kenny in great form in goal as Bolton couldn't break through via Nicky Hunt, Kevin Davies and Nicolas Anelka but eventually anelka broke into the box and set up Davies for a shot that eluded Kenny.
3rd - 4th place:
Liverpool 4 Arsenal 1
Both sides had internationals on duty in the week and I wondered if particularly this would take its toil on the Liverpool players. It may have done on Steven Gerrard, who came off quite early in the second half and applied ice to his thigh. Hopefully that is a precaution with the CL game on Tuesday but with Gerrard playing behind the lone striker Peter Crouch, Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso were forming superbly in midfield. Peter Crouch was missed due to his broken nose and questions have arisen as to whether he could actually grade with better defenders in front of him. His performance against Spain casted a cloud over his contribution for England and here on EFT he was referred to as "an overrated, static beanpole". On the form he produced yesterday, more than most have doubted Crouch at their loss.
Jermaine Pennant and Alvaro Arbeloa combined well for Pennant to deliver a low cross, to which Crouch beat Kolo Toure to touch past Jens Lehmann. Next, Crouch was fouled, Alonso took a quick freekick to Fabio Aurelio, and the Brazilian swung over a superb ball for Crouch to get onto and head clear past Lehmann. Emmanuel Adebayor came close with a header over the bar and Julio Baptista shot wide when the Togolese played him in. After Gerrard departed, Pennant was fouled and it was Aurelio again who delivered the freekick for Daniel Agger to glance a header in. Adebayor headed a good header on target but for the outstretched fingertips of Pepe Reina but Arsenal gained a corner from which Aleksander Hleb delivered, Toure nodded on and as Reina's tips got to the ball, Gallas guided the ball in.
Eighteen minutes remaining was enough for a comeback, bearing in mind how the Gunners came back against Man Utd at home, but then Crouch was brought into play again after the ball was played to him. He controlled with his right, skilled it across to his left and shot past Lehmann. It was an overdue show from Liverpool, and Crouch, and it was one which we now need to repeat seven more times to hopefully secure our place in the top four, and take into next season.
And that leaves.....
Fulham 1 Portsmouth 1
Chris Coleman isn't contemplating relegation fighting. Fulham seem a side that is past worrying about the drop and far more concerned about improving up the table. They have released Steed Malbranque and Luis Boa Morte, two good attacking players, and have had to do without Jimmy Bullard and Antii Niemi for periods. They went behind to a superb Niko Kranjcar curling effort that Niemi knew nothinhg about until it went past him. Yet having made three subs already, Ian Pearce suffered a knock to his foot and was limping through it when the ball came to him in the last minute and his shot deflected into the net past an otherwise unbeatable David James.
Spurs 1 Reading 0
I felt Spurs dominated the game overall and Reading also gave a good account of themselves away from home and at a ground where the hosts are very stubborn. Though Spurs attacked well with promise, it took a somewhat dubious penalty decision to seperate the sides. As Robbie Keane and Greg Halford challenged for the ball in the Reading box, it came up and contact was made with Halford's arm. The referee judged that it was handball with intent and gave the penalty, and I think it was a fair decision. Keane stepped up to score. Spurs was guilty of squandering chance after chance particularly in the second half and it could have paid heavily when Leroy Lita's header came off the crossbar, but Spurs held on.