Football Season 2007/08
Hello to any new comers to EliteFootballTalk and welcome to those already familiar with this site. Its been a while since the last posting, practically a month, but football in England has returned to the respective leagues and returned with some good results, depending on your standing. New signings usually follow the pre-season period between seasons and a number of new faces made their debut yesterday afternoon and in the evening. Focusing on the Premiership generally, today brings matches from The Emirates, Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford so let's review seven matches that were played yesterday.
Sunderland 1 Spurs 0
The Stadium of Light kicked off the Premiership season, Roy Keane's first match as Sunderland manager at the top against a Spurs side with rich promise of something minimum of a top four place considering the signings. Keane signed former Hearts and Scotland keeper Craig Gordon, Kieran Richardson and particularly Michael Chopra who was expected to have to play up to the crowd for support following his previous link with North East rivals Newcastle. I certainly don't believe he has to, his prowess for Cardiff was superb and Chopra had unleashed a considerable amount of pent up energy untapped by Newcastle by scoring plenty of goals. Martin Jol brought in the France U21 captain Younes Kaboul and Darren Bent, and with Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe available, Spurs look to have a formidable scoring force why many consider they will reach higher heights.
Spurs made good work of the ball to approach the opposite goal but in Sunderland's third they were defended out well or failed to properly connect with any effort. Sunderland were comfortable to soak up the pressure and hit on the counter however they were sluggish in taking each counter on Berbatov collected a high ball to set up Keane for a low strike at goal, only for Gordon to comfortably gather. Berbatov also ran onto the end of a long ball and looped it over the oncoming rush of Gordon, but then he had taken too long and with Paul McShane intervening, the danger was cleared to the appeal of Spurs players claiming a penalty to no avail.
Sunderland had two good chances when a Ross Wallace cross evaded all and fell to Daryl Murphy, who took too long and was eventually closed down by Paul Robinson's block. Later, Carlos Edwards dummied two Spurs players to set up Dickson Etuhu for a lifted effort just curling away from goal. Throughout the game McShane and Nyron Nosworthy were on hand to continuously thwart Spurs' efforts, Berbatov gained little in the second half to change that and was unhappily subbed for Bent. The question for me is why did Keane begin with Chopra on the bench and then, seeing his side practically offer little in front of Spurs' goal for the majority of the game, take so long to introduce him? Perhaps it was simply an ingenious plot to wait late in the game and put Chopra's energy out to field.
Tom Huddlestone came on for Dider Zokora and rifled a neat volley with little power for Gordon to gather. It was near injury time when Etuhu received the ball in the box only for it to come off his thigh to force Robinson into a timely save. Yet it was injury time when Wallace twisted Paul Stalteri inside out like a jumper to cross for Anthony Gardner to miss, and Chopra to control and curl low past Robinson. In 2005/06, Spurs were denied a win by a last minute Murphy goal, and this time Spurs were denied any point.
Middlesbrough 1 Blackburn 2
Middlesbrough have injuries in Robert Huth, Jonathan Woodgate and Emanuel Pogatetz in defence, plus have released Mark Viduka, adding Jeremie Aliadiere to partner Aiyegbeni Yakubu. We need to wait until all are well enough but currently Middlesbrough are still lacking some oomph to improve their team. Main thing is Stewart Downing is still with the club and Yakubu, two players which they must fight to keep to maintain Premiership status. Blackburn added Roque Santa Cruz from Bayern Munich on the bench. Downing gave Boro the lead with a curling freekick that squeezed literally around the wall and inside Brad Friedel's right hand post. Benni McCarthy sustained a knock to the head and then collapsed fortunately in presence of the Blackburn physio, to be treated and taken off in a neck brace for precaution, the word being he will be OK. McCarthy was replaced by Santa Cruz, the very same person McCarthy warned would have to fight for a place upfront.
Within minutes of coming on, David Bentley delivered a sweet cross for the Paraguayan to head in on his debut. Another substitute in Matt Derbyshire is continuing to prove his worth with another stunning finish, collecting on the left and then dipping a lovely effort over Matt Schwarzer.
Everton 2 Wigan 1
Everton have a strong defensive and attacking unit and with their UEFA cup route to encounter began business in good order. Having to deal with another long Tim Cahill injury, Leo Osman took advantage of a loose ball to loop a header over Chris Kirkland. Andy Johnson make good work of the ball to bring it to the touchline and pull it back for Victor Anichebe to nod in no.2, despite Titus Bramble's efforts to block. Paul Scharner latched onto an Emile Heskey flick to race down the right and pass across goal for Antoine Sibierski to touch the ball in.
Aston Villa 1 Liverpool 2
Villa added Nigel Reo-Coker and Marlon Harewood from West Ham but had to have Stuart Taylor in goal to deputise for the injured Thomas Sorensen. Liverpool unveiled Fernando Torres for his Premiership debut start, with Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin on the bench. Villa starte the brighter with Craig Gardner shooting to christen the hands of Pepe Reina while Jamie Carragher had to race rapidly to cover John Carew's effort with a good block. Then Liverpool began to take over with Torres moving around and setting up a number of chances on goal, Steven Gerrard was blocked out by Gardner, and Torres eventually opening up on goal to force a good save by Taylor, the ball trickling towards the touchline before Dirk Kuyt pulled it back for Martin Laursen to put into his own net. Laursen has been unfortunate with injuries and fared little with the ball coming at him.
Liverpool came out the better in the second half, looking to build on their lead through Gerrard mainly as he was denied on goal yet again. But Villa surged on through the skipper Gareth Barry on the attack which culminated in a ball delivered into the box that was judged to have been handled by Carragher, a right decision. Barry scored from the spot. But moments later Gerrard went on the attack and has he aimed to turn past Stilian Petrov, the Bulgarian was judged to have impeded Gerrard's movement, which for me was another right decision. What followed was a dipping Gerrard freekick from 30-35 yards to which Taylor got a hand but couldnt keep out.
Bolton 1 Newcastle 3
Another coveted game following a North East team. Sam Allardyce returned to The Reebok stadium on his opening day, which may have been good for him to get over. There were more cheers than boos when Big Sam entered and greeted little Sam in Sammy Lee. But the boos from the home support, as minor as it was, should have been directed at the home side's first half show. Charles N'Zogbia curled a left-foot freekick from the right that dipped over and curled, a difficult one to defend and defend is certainly not the adjective Bolton used in approaching the ball. No one got a touch and it bounced comfortably into the net. Alan Smith and James Milner combined for Miner to deliver a corss from which Obafemi Martins controlled then performed an overhead kick past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
To compound Bolton's first 45mins, Martins latched onto a loose ball and raced on goal to shoot, the shot coming off Abdoulaye Faye's leg to deflect past Jaaskelainen. The Iceland keeper looked as if he conceded he was beaten, then saw he could have made it and then aimed a feeble foot as the ball trickled past. Bolton pulled one back after the break as Kevin Nolan broke on the counter and found Niclas Anelka on the right, the Frenchman chased by Stephen Carr but slotted past Steve Harper nonetheless.
West Ham 0 Man City 2
I said to many who were listening that if there was a manager needed to lift Man City, Sven-Goran Eriksson is certainly a good choice. His record with England notwithstanding, Eriksson has a contrasting one domestically in Sweden and Italy and with such influence he could bring in players of such flair that was clearly missing from the Stuart Pearce days. Not that Pearce was poor, but that the flair Pearce should have emanated from his choices just didnt materialise enough and that was down to the players in question. As tasty a player is in Joey Barton, his temperament was susceptible and to inure a team-mate to such an extent, regardless of the reason, meant the midfielder had to be released. Now in the Eriksson-era, his foreign players made their debut yesterday.
West Ham made a few signings of their own in Scott Parker, Craig Bellamy, Freddie Ljungberg, welcomed Matthew Upson to competitive football and also Dean Ashton, who was on the bench. Lucas Neill was injured so Ljungberg emerged, surprisingly, as captain when I would have prefered any out of Anton Ferdinand, Mark Noble, Lee Bowyer and Luis Boa Morte.
With Andreas Isaksson injured in stepped Kasper Schmeichel, son of Peter, in goal; Croatian Vedran Corluka and Spaniard Javier Garrido in defence; Brazilians Elano who came off for Deiberson Geovanni, Bulgarian Martin Petrov all in midfield; forwards Italian Rolano Bianchi and another Bulgarian in Valeri Bojinov, from Serie A's Reggina and Juventus respectively. Petrov was showing no first time blues as he looked to test Robert Green at almost every opportunity from long range. But it was Bianchi was the one on hand to opening his scoring as Elano bursted on past Upson with ease to square for the Italian to touch in.
West Ham came better in the second half through efforts by Bobby Zamora, Bellamy missing from inches with an open goal as a low cross by Ljungberg eluded him, but it was sub Nedum Onuoha who bursted down the right with three West Ham players hounding him, yet he turned and pushed and set up Geovanni for a low shot past Green. Not the be-all-and-end-all of course but Eriksson with his signings and influence has instilled some flair into a side that came good under Pearce then turned bad in the end. With Dieter Hamann marshalling in front of the defence alongside Michael Johnson, Elano settling between Petrov and Stephen Ireland to provide aid to Bianchi, it was a good start for the Swede.
Derby County 2 Portsmouth 2
New boys Sunderland started well in front of their fans with a 1-0 win over Spurs, and Derby fared well in their premiere match against a toughened Pompey side. Sol Campbell is captain alongside former Man City skipper Slyvain Distin but it was Derby who spilled first blood as captain Matt Oakley knocked in a bouncing ball. Benjani Mwaruwari then equalised with a tame effort in front of goal after tricking his way through, Stephen Bywater not reacting fast enough to deny. Portsmouth then looked to have all three points as new man John Utaka came to touch in the ball after a combined piece of play between Distin and Herman Hreidarsson, but new boy himself Andy Todd ran into the penalty box to meet Gary Teale's pull back with a bullet header with David James having no chance to see it, much less stop it.