Wigan top the table as little Sam feels big heat
Wigan 3 Sunderland 0
Having started with a narrow defeat at Goodison Park, Chris Hutchings' new look Wigan Athletic have notched two consecutive wins with four goals and none conceded to rise to the summit of the Premiership, even if it is for the interim. Kevin Kilbane fills in at left back in the permanent absence of Leighton Baines, Titus Bramble and Andreas Granqvist hold the central defence as opposed to Stephane Henchoz and Arjan De Zeeuw, and Mario Melchiot is skippering at right-back. Antonie Sibierski partners Emile Heskey upfront. I would have chosen Kilbane on the left wing with Paul Scharner at left-back, Denny Landzaat central midfield with Jason Koumas, Luis Valencia on the right wing. When the current formation play as Wigan did yesterday, there is little to debate changing.
Sunderland gained four points out of six and came down with a thump. Their defending was scrappy and desperate with a number of decisions that appeared to warrant intervention from the referee Mike Riley going ignored. Nyron Nosworthy seemed to have had a hold on Heskey but Heskey looked to go down easily, perhaps to show Nosworthy's grip on him. Greg Halford came in with a tackle to eventually bring down Koumas which looked a clear penalty and then clearly barged Heskey away as the striker chased a back-pass. But Wigan made the breakthrough on 19mins with Valencia crossing for Heskey, the ball deflecting off Nosworthy but still making its way to the striker to cut into the goal.
Paul McShane came to a high ball in the second half and clashed heads, with blood seeping from a head wound. As he was being treated, play continued with Danny Collins covering from midfield for McShane and then holding back on Sibierski in the box. Landzaat stepped up to deposit the spot-kick just past the hour. Minutes later and Wigan were awarded another penalty via more clumsy defending as McShane's replacement Russell Anderson came in on Heskey in the box. Replays showed the challenge was as late as Heskey going down rather tamely. This time Sibierski scored from the penalty spot.
Reading 1 Everton 0
Two wins out of two placed Everton at the top before this game. Reading had one point out of six and were unfortunate against Chelsea, though having a man dismissed in your opening two games helps none. Mikel Arteta touched back a high chip in the box for Andy Johnson but the shot was blocked. Everton escaped with a penalty claim when the ball struck Joleon Lescott on the forearm but a corner was given. Reading took the lead as Lescott stood behind Arteta marshalling who to watch but as the ball was thrown in it caught Lescott off-guard, bounced into the box, Kevin Doyle outmuscled Alan Stubbs for Stephen Hunt to react the fastest ahead of Tony Hibbert and step in to cut across Tim Howard from close range.
Everton brought on James McFadden for Hibbert and the Scotsman jingled on the right before cutting onto his left and chipping the ball off the crossbar. Johnson then pounced as Ulises de la Cruz stumbled, escaped Marcus Hahnemann yet hit the post.
Newcastle 0 Aston Villa 0
Not much to report on this game, not particularly an exciting no score draw. Oh yes, Michael Owen made an appearance with 27mins remaining for Obafemi Martins so we can assume he will start against Germany on Wednesday. Mark Viduka came off for Shola Ameobi and captain Geremi was subbed for new defender Claudio Roberto da Silva, or Caçapa, a signing from Lyon. I felt the subs were not appropriate if Sam Allardyce wanted to win the game. Martin O'Neill felt Villa had the better chances of the game and I would grant him that. Although Steve Harper deputised well again in Shay Given's absence with a save from Nigel Reo-Coker's bending effort, loanee Scott Carson kept out David Rozehnal from close-range.
Fulham 1 Middlesbrough 2
Lawrie Sanchez is rightly aggrieved with the failure of the linesman in one incident but we will get to that. Boro have lost their opening two games and desperately seeked a point much less three. Fulham were on hand in the week to defeat Bolton and had home advantage to add another win to their notch. Steven Davis found Alexei Smertin, the Russian racing to the line to cut back for David Healy. Healy had Lee Cattermole shadowing him and dummied, the ball finding its way to the unmarked captain Brian McBride, who cut in a shot past Mark Schwarzer. In the process McBride dislocated his left kneecap with no one challenging him, and is expected to be out for several months so all the best to recovery for the American and good to see him give the thumbs up as he was taken off on a stretcher.
Fifteen minutes on Hameur Bouazza dislocated his shoulder in an innocuous challenge and joined McBride on the way to hospital. Considering Jimmy Bullard dislocated his knee last season, I hope there is not a trend at Craven Cottage.
The lead held for the half time break but in the second half new signing Mido found space on the left to accept the ball from Julio Arca and then aimed a low but comfort shot for Tony Warner to gather. But the ball came off his gloves and into the net. Sub Jeremie Aliadiere worked excellently to collect a through ball and round Warner but he knocked the ball too hard and Paul Konchesky got in front of him, the Frenchman pulling the defender back to score to no avail.
McBride replacement Diomansy Kamara scored but Clint Dempsey had come charging into Andrew Davies quite stupidly beforehand so no goal. Depmsey then had a superb open goal to score but missed from mere yards to compound what would be Fulham's defeat. Aliadiere was watched by Konchesky but he cleverly turned a reverse pass inside Carlos Bocanegra for Cattermole to run onto and hit first time past Warner. Fulham were fuming in injury time as Healy got onto a low cross in the box to prod the ball towards goal, Schwarzer managed to stop it but the whole ball had crossed the line, almost of Roy Carroll proportions against Spurs back in January 2005.
In fairness, the linesman may not have seen the whole of the ball for some reason and preferred not to give in doubt.
Spurs 4 Derby 0
If you were not aware of Spurs' beginning, you probably didnt read the sports pages. For a side consisting of Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Bent, Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe as striker options, they seem destined to disrupt the 'top four's positioning and practically grab honours this season. Yet two games, two defeats in, rumours flew high on Martin Jol's position itself, much less that of Spurs. How can anyone speak on two games so early? Easily, because it provides buzzing sensationalism. Berbatov pulls out domestically and internationally with a groin problem, France U21 skipper Younes Kaboul is out already with a hamstring problem. Both players are expected to be unavailable for two and four weeks respectively. Gareth Bale has yet to kick a Premiership ball but is said to be getting better.
Derby started well at home against Portsmouth but were defeated away at Manchester City. They didn't fare well away from home again, and how. Bent accompanied Keane up front but it was Jermaine Jenas' quick free-kick to Steed Malbranque and the Frenchman's low drive that opened up the scoring. Malbranque did it again, once again left alone free to fire past Stephen Bywater. Jenas went on a little run towards goal and scuffed the ball through Darren Moore's legs for number three, and in the second half a high ball with Bywater out of goal fell to Defoe and Bent, the former Ipswich man nodding in for his first Spurs goal.
Portsmouth 3 Bolton 1
Such a different Portsmouth from the one who was always relegation fodder. Pompey had to do without captain Sol Campbell so Herman Hreidarsson covered with Sylvain Distin as captain. Due to absentees, Pompey had Djimi Traore at right-back. Bolton has lost some ethos from Big sam's departure and it has not been replaced. There is a sense of lost perceived from their play, as if they are not settled enough to maintain their usual strong attacking approach. Kevin Nolan started upfront alongside Niclas Anelka to compensate for Kevin Davies and Ricardo Vaz Te being injured. I'm yet to be convinced of Gerald Cid, signed from Bordeaux, and I dont see him as a replacement for Tal Ben Haim. Also I know of Christian Wilhelmsson from the World Cup and think he should have started on the right, leaving Andranik Teymourian on the left, Nolan alongside Gary Speed in central midfield and not up front. Anelka should have partnered El Hadji-Diouf.
But Bolton took the lead on 12mins as El Hadji-Diouf passed down the left flank for Anelka to run onto and strike low and hard to deflect the ball in through David James' legs. Portsmouth scored after when Nwankwo Kanu headed in well from a corner but the referee Steve Tanner blew for an infringement, which I couldn't see.
Bolton were incensed as Hreidarsson appeared to pull on Anelka before passing for Gary O'Neil down the right. O'Neil crossed over where Teymourian was left alone to deal with John Utaka and Kanu. The Rennes midfielder chested to the Nigerian to easily score the equaliser from close range. Utaka scored against Derby and was on hand again for Portsmouth to take the lead. Kanu managed to flick on the ball to Utaka and the winger simply collected and sped off despite the efforts of Gerald Cid and Nicky Hunt, who were both out of position to offer any resistance. Utaka even rounded Jussi Jaaskelainen to score. The final nail came minutes from normal time as Cid was judged to have fouled Kanu in the box and Matt Taylor stepped up to score from the spot.
Birmingham 0 West Ham 1
Quite a scrappy uneventful first half of little point. I felt West Ham had a penalty when Stephen Kelly clearly blocked Kieron Dyer in the box with his arm across Dyer's throat and then holding dyer's left arm but it was not given, bizarre as it seemed. A West ham free-kick after a Raidi Jahdi handball was thumped off the post by Mark Noble. A Birmingham free-kick ended with a shot by Mikael Forssell that was blocked and Jahdi's follow-up palmed away by Robert Green. In the second half West Ham were the better side. Bobby Zamora volleyed over from close range, Craig Bellamy mis-hit when Noble cut back to him from the touchline. Matthew Etherington went on a gallop with Bellamy as West Ham were 2-1 on the attack towards Birmingham's goal, Dyer sprinted up and collected a pass but then his first touched was bad.
But West Ham emerged victorious as Bellamy went to chase a Noble pass into the box. I was critical of Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle against Chelsea for the goals and he was suspect yesterday as well. As Bellamy raced on, Jahdi had him covered and the threat was heading away from goal but Doyle came out to gather the ball when he would have been better to stay and let Jahdi deal with it. Or, having come out, he should have blocked Bellamy out until defenders arrived to quell the threat. But instead he went to gather the ball and was 2nd to it, and if you do that as a keeper you risk giving away a penalty, no matter how harsh such a decision would be. Bellamy seemed content to go down. Noble scored from the spot.
With Freddie Ljungberg injured, Matthew upson was captain andbeing a former Blues player was booed at every touch of the ball. On this display Noble should be the captain outright, he was their MOTM and hardly gives less than 90% every match.