Congrats to Man Utd as champions; West Ham out of zone
Manchester City 0 Manchester United 1
Sir Alex Ferguson aimed to show the right reaction for Utd fans after the Champions League exit on Wednesday. City appeared to demonstrate the derby takings would be evenly competed for in coming forward to attack until one moment that may have paved Utd's way to victory. Christiano Ronaldo had possession and released it before he was challenged by first Michael Johnson then Michael Ball. Johnson appeared to shove into Ronaldo and the Portuguese winger went down, and as play went on elsewhere Ball stamped on Ronaldo's stomach. It was noticeable during play if you kept your eye on Ronaldo but replays left no doubt. Rob Styles for me had an edgy time officiating. From then Ball came to Ronaldo with a number of hefty challenges but was caught out when Ronaldo controlled a high ball from the other side of the pitch and skilled his way towards Ball. Ball's left leg challenged and made contact with Ronaldo's right foot. I felt Ronaldo added weight to the contact but considering the stamp earlier, the penalty was deserved. Ronaldo scored from the spot.
Man City were not dead and buried and came at Utd with more vigour. Ball picked up the ball outside the box and went to glance his way through into the box. As he went on, Wes Brown was the nearest defender and being too late to challenge Ball decided to let him by, arms out wide to indicate not making contact. Ball spun round and went down, penalty given. I didn't think it was right and with Joey Barton absent, Darius Vassell stepped up and didn't hit the ball with much conviction, the ball coming off Edwin van der Sar's leg. Utd went on to take the points and send a 'It's up to you now' message to Chelsea for today.
I imagine, and hope, the FA will look into the stamping incident. In Ben Thatcher City released a thug, in Ball they appear to have gained another. Add that to the Barton incident in the week and it has turned into an unsavoury PR task for the Eastlands side. It's uneasy to say but Stuart Pearce's job could become untenable shortly.
West Ham 3 Bolton 1
Penultimate week of football, penultimate game for the Hammers. Strange Sam allardyce leaving with two games left, clearly an unusual move to commit and one that may have left more than Bolton managerless. Assistant Sammy Lee was appointed manager, Gary Speed player-coach and the Lancashire side move on. West Ham face an away game at Old Trafford and even though Bolton held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw, three points were very vital to obtain for the home side. Carloz Tevez is oblivious of the plight and of any mention of not playing for a team in the top half of the table as he continues to perform like a man on a mission. Tevez was linked to Chelsea before and here he is fighting to help West Ham avoid relegation. The circumstances have not fazed him.
Tevez is on a run before he is brought down by Abdoulaye Meite near to Bolton's box. The Argentinian steps up to sweetly curl the ball over and away from Jussi Jaaskelainen into the top right corner. Inch perfect. West Ham's second came via a george McCartney ball down the left which found its way to Luis Boa Morte, who ran down and then squared for Tevez to score. Tevez was involved in the third Hammers goal as he collected then paused down the left to chip over all for a Mark Noble volley. Bolton's response was for Nicolas Anelka to pass to Gary Speed, the Welshman skimming an effort across Robert Green into the far corner. The win brought West Ham out of the relegation zone and with this performance, and Utd winning the title by Chelsea's default, West Ham could earn themselves a vital draw to stay up.
Wigan 0 Middlesbrough 1
Paul Jewell made comments that Stewart Downing had touched the ball twice as he aimed to deliver a freekick but he also conceded that it was not West Ham's evasion of docked points under the FA decision over the illegal handling of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano's registration, it was Wigan's failure to score and win games. It was Downing's freekick that led to Wigan's loss yesterday, for as he kicked it he slipped, the crowd cheered the slip then were stunned as the resulting delivery found only Mark Viduka reacting to it. The ball sweetly dropped tot he Australian's feet for him to touch in the game's only goal. Compare that to Wigan's relentless surge to grab an equaliser that led to Emile Heskey outmuscling Jonathan Woodgate to run on near goal and then slice his effort wide. With West Ham's win and Wigan's defeat, Wigan dropped into the relegation zone. Nothing short of a win at Bramall Lane will do otherwise Wigan will drop down.
Fulham 1 Liverpool 0
Fulham almost held Arsenal away until they opened up and conceded twice and with such generosity, I expected Liverpool to takne advantage as well. The crowd at The Cottage was behind the hosts and Liverpool made nine changes from the side who faced Chelsea on Tuesday. With Pepe Reina and Jermaine Pennant surviving, Reina made a number of saves to keep out Brian McBride and then the tide change where Craig Bellamytested Antii Niemi twice. Robbie Fowler should have scored when Pennant drilled the ball across goal but Fowler's touch placed the ball off for a goalkick. Xabi Alonso released the ball and then felt Michael Brown bounce onto him, and as the Spaniard had words with Brown the Fulham skipper appeared to headbutt Alonso. Alonso was left with a bloody nose and annoyed words for referee Steve Bennett, another moment for the FA to take action on.
Fulham's breakthrough came via Clint Dempsey, one who impressed me during the WC2006 and who I earmarked for Liverpool on the right wing. His run ended with a pass to Liam Rosenior and the full back returned the ball as Dempsey broke into the box, Liverpool looking for an offside. Dempsey's contact spun the ball past Reina. As Liverpool came forward, Fulham hung on for three points to the delight of Lawrie Sanchez, whose task it is to steer them from the drop. They are not mathematically clear due to the fact that Charlton would need to win their remaining games with some goal margin, but the chances are Fulham will make it another season in the Premiership.
Everton 3 Portsmouth 0
With few chances in the first half ending the first 45mins goalless, Everton looked more likely to score and did so on the hour. James Vaughan ran across the penalty box with Linvoy Primus in chase only for Glen Johnson to upended the striker, earning a booking and Everton a spot-kick from which Mikel Arteta duly obliged. Everton made it two in three minutes as a Manuel Fernandes' corner was firmly headed in by Joseph Yobo. Arteta is arguably Everton's player of the season and it was his corner from the left that was flicked on by James Beattie, Gary Naysmith coming at the rear to head in Everton's third. The win cement's their European place, barring a defeat of doule figures by Chelsea and a huge win by Reading, while Portsmouth drop outside into 8th.
Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1
As mentioned above, Chelsea needed nothing short of a win to sustain their title challenge to the very end. Jose Mourinho had no Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Ricardo Carvalho and former Gunner Ashley Cole, with Khalid Boulahrouz filling in alongside John Terry. Both sides enjoyed good possession though Chelsea seemed to lack the cutting edge upfront to make Jens Lehmann work. Arsenal made a number of breaks but found Chelsea were equal to the ball in defence. It was stalemate towards the end of half time until a pivtoal point in the game led to a breakthrough. A high ball was missed by Emmanuel Adebayor and Terry, which bounced to Boulahrouz who felt it would go on to Petr Cech but Julio Baptista came from nowhere to nip in and control the ball. This put the Dutch defender into panic and his contact from behind whipped away Baptista's balance as the Brazilian teed up to shoot, Boulahrouz being the last man. Alan Wiley issued the dismissal; skipper Gilberto Silva issued the goal from the spot.
Second half meant Michael Essien slotted into defence beside Terry, Chelsea down to a 4-4-1 with John Obi Mikel and Frank Lampard between Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole behind Salomon Kalou. It seemed a tall order for the Blues to get one goal, much less two, but they came back with greater intensity. It was Essien, as it was back in December at Stamford Bridge, who made a difference for Chelsea, glancing a header off Wright-Phillips' cross past Lehmann at the far post with 20mins to go. And it was Essien who came back into Chelsea's defence time and again to block and head and practically thwart Arsenal's attacks. Emanuel Eboue could have snatched it in injury time but his shot went to the far post and off the corner of the frame.
Congratulations to Manchester United, champions of the Premiership 2006/07!!
Aston Villa 3 Sheffield United 0
With the other relegation-threatened results swaying in their favour more or less, United needed something of a point to secure Premiership status but they were served a cold dish by the Villians. Gabriel Agbonlahor picked up the ball outside the Sheff Utd box and outmuscled Matthew Kilgallon to slot past Paddy Kenny. villa made it two when Ashley Young, still yet to justify his transfer, skipped past Chris Montgomery's challenge and shot past Kenny. Villa made it three through Patrik Berger as he and John Carew exchanged passes with Berger emerging into the box to tap under Kenny. Utd have their last game at home to Wigan and it is questionable how that game will end.
Reading 0 Watford 2
Relegated Watford put a dent in Reading's European qualification position unexpectedly. On the hour Lee Williamson's free-kick was floated over with the Reading defence running out but the ball passed Marlon King and came to Danny Shittu to score past Marcus Hahnemann. Reading appealed offside by King but replays showed King was onside by a Reading player running out and additionally he did not touch the ball on its way to Shittu. Watford scored a second when Hahnemann fumbled Tommy Smith's cross to King, who duly headed it in.
Newcastle 0 Blackburn 2
Blackburn took the majority of plaudits in this game which ended with a crescendo of boos and chants from the home fans for Glenn Roeder to be dismissed. Benni McCarthy has been a superb signing by Mark Hughes and he added another to his tally when Stephen Warnock swung over a cross and the Newcastle defence was exposed by Oguchi Onyewu, playing McCarthy onside. That was after 15mins, and with 20mins to go in the second half David Bentley went on a run down the right and then chipped for Jason Roberts to also add to his recent tally to double the scoreline. I understand as I type that the chairman has called an emergency meeting with Glenn Roeder to be present, the rumour is that Roeder will be sacked and Sam Allardyce will take over. But it has been confirmed by Freddie Shephered that Roeder has resigned with immediate effect.
So Man Utd are champions, both they and Chelsea meet on Wednesday and in the FA Cup final on 19th May. The bottom of the table is yet to be finalised and a number of things could determine who will join Watford. Crucially Charlton host Spurs tomorrow before going to Anfield on Saturday. If they lose or draw tomorrow, they are relegated.