Thursday, 6 January 2011

Premier League Review - Match Day 22

Where do we start? Well, another round of fixtures in the Premier League where even Mystic Meg would have a struggle predicting the scores. The race for who gets the sack first continues and I'm just as confused as you are. I can tell you one thing though, the only person smiling tonight is Sir Alex. He may even have spat his gum out for the occasion.

I'm not going to say City came to the Emirates looking for the draw, but I've seen my Nan look more threatening on a trip to Iceland*. The first 30 minutes were all Arsenal with Robin Van Persie hitting the bar for the first of a number of times. Captain Cesc Fabregas looked odds on to score with Joe Hart beaten but his shot hit the post as did the one Theo Walcott took after receiving the rebound. The only chance of note for City came in the first half after Carlos Tevez left Laurent Koscielny in his wake before sending the ball over the bar. While some desperate defending by Manchester City gave Jack Wilshere a chance which he sent over the bar.

The away team appeared slightly more interested come the second half, mostly through Micah Richards who took every opportunity he could to bother Arsenal down the wing. Although the visitors clean sheet was mostly down to the post, Joe Hart did produce a fine fingertip save from what looked like a definite goal from RVP. Arsenal continued to weave their magic and it wasn't until the introduction of Adam Johnson who tested Bacary Sagna with his pace down the right, that City looked like bothering them.

Overall, Roberto Mancini's men came to London with a game plan which was not to concede. The manager said as much in his post-match interview and it was definitely a point won for his team. But at times, they looked awfully fragmented. Like 11 pieces of the same puzzle, but no one quite knows where they are supposed to go. Although fans can be happy with the sturdy performances of Vincent Kompany and former Gunner, Kolo Toure in defence. The home fans should be happy with another good performance from their team and take sanctuary in the fact that unlike other 'big' teams they didn't lose.

STAR MAN: RVP - Was a part of everything and didn't stop trying to create chances for his team, even when the draw looked likely.
*Iceland the frozen food store, not the country. Just in case you wondered.

Steve Bruce's men were the livelier of the two and with their attacking options you would expect them to score first although the name on the score sheet was not one you would normally associate with goals. Unfortunately they had to make an early change as youngster David Meyler was stretchered off and replaced by Bolo Zenden. There were a few chances early with the pick being Emile Heskey's header over the bar after Stewart Downing had provided the cross after shrugging off Zenden. Steed Malbranque also had a headed chance but sent the ball yards wide.

Craig Gordon continued his good form with a stop from a Downing free-kick. Later on Darren Bent shrugged off James Collins to turn and round Brad Friedel, but Collins atoned by blocking the ball on the line. The away team continued to look more potent and Villa were reduced to ten men after some silly behaviour from Heskey in the 68th minute. Asamoah Gyan was down and Villa decided to keep on playing; Jordan Henderson, clearly not happy with the action went to confront Heskey who preceded to slap the midfielder in the face. Henderson didn't make a meal of it but a player of Heskey years should know better than to raise his hands to another player and the referee had no choice but to send him off.

The goal came ten minutes before the end with Phil Bardsley doing well to shoot through a collection of players to give the visitors the lead. Bolo Zenden joined Heskey on the naughty step six minutes later after bringing down Stiliyan Petrov. Loan player Danny Welbeck was also stretchered off which will be a worry to both Bruce and Sir Alex. Villa now sit in the relegation zone and as much as we hear the 'votes of confidence', they are getting quieter by the minute.

STAR MAN: Phil Bardsley - Good defensive work and a goal to boot.

To be honest I expect to be editing this tomorrow with news of a possible managerial candidate but I think Steve Kean's alright at the moment. With news that Chris Samba still wants to leave I doubt the Rovers fans were expecting a night like this but they don't do things by half up north. From the time Joe Cole shot swept across the front of goal, you kind of felt it wasn't going to be Liverpool's day. It only took thirty minutes before that happened. Lucas and Sotirios Kyrgiakos decided they were in love and laid down together allowing Martin Olsson to send a cross field ball to Mame Biram Diouf who sent a shot under Pepe Reina.

Six minutes later, the home team doubled their lead after another Glen Johnson lapse down the left for Benjani Mwaruwari to chest the ball down and turn to score his second goal of the season. Not long into the second half Johnson was again shown up, this time by David Hoilett who squared for Benjani to get his brace. Fernando Torres - remember him? - did have a shot after a Joe Cole pass but he ballooned it over the bar. A trademark Roy Hodgson head-shake pretty much said it all. Yet there was slight hope for the Scousers when a Dirk Kuyt cross teed up Stevie Gerrard to score on his 550th appearance for the club.

But all hope was over minutes later when Michel Salgado fouled Liverpol's captain. You would normally put your house on him to score but I hope you didn't because they are still looking for the ball. Steve Kean may look like a character from The Sopranos but he clearly wants to show he is worthy of the extended contract. While Liverpool.. Honestly, I don't know what to say. Roy Hodgson looks increasingly like a man who has lost a wife and gained a mother-in-law.

STAR MAN: David Hoilett - Was unlucky not to get on the score sheet.

Birmingham city were still without an away win before this match and Alex McLeish will feel relieved to have that monkey off his back, particularly against Ian Holloway's impressive side. Both teams started the match as expected, all out attack although Birmingham were the first to draw blood after a rookie mistake by Stephen Crainey on the edge of the box. He gave the ball away to former Barcelona man, Alexander Hleb who duly took advantage and scored his first goal for the Midlanders.

Blackpool thought they had drawn level when Ben Foster turned a Charlie Adam shot wide. Before the post thwarted Cameron Jerome and Sebastian Larsson. Though the home side did level the scores midway through the second half when DJ Campbell scored following some neat work by Gary Taylor-Fletcher. The points looked to be shared until Roger Johnson headed down for Scott Dann to put a sweet side foot past Richard Kingson.

STAR MAN: Charlie Adam - Blackpool are glad to have him back

Wigan should have taken advantage of the fact Owen Coyle only has 15 players fit but could only manage a draw at the Reebok Stadium. Ali Al-Habsi was unavailable to play for his parent club so Chris Kirkland returned to the team. While the home team had most of the early chances they couldn't seem to get a grip on the game. Bolton, who sit five points behind Chelsea gave away an early free kick after Zat Knight was judged to have handled the ball. Hugo Rodellega went for goal but it was well saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen. Gary Cahill also headed over after the home side had a corner.

The first goal came ten minutes after half-time with Johan Elmander, Kevin Davies and Mark Davies all involved before Rodrigo scored his first goal for the club. Playing due to injuries to other players he looks to be a good option for the Wanderers, having looked lively in their last few matches. Wigan lost Chris Kirkland not long after when he came to collect from Elmander, the goalkeeper was stretchered off in a neck brace but the good news is he only has concussion. Mike Pollitt came on and went straight into the action, making two good saves from Elmander. Wigan drew level in the 80th minute, with Ronnie Stam scoring after Rodellega headed the ball down. Wigan had a chance to win in the closing seconds but Mike Pollitt saved after Fabrice Muamba's shot.

STAR MAN: Hugo Rodellega - Attacked and make the goal for Stam.

John Heitinga and Jermaine Beckford started in place of the injured Phill Jagielka and Tim Cahill who is away with Australia for the Asia Cup. The first goal came within three minutes, as the orange-haired Louis Saha scored his first goal of the season. The opening stages showed two teams searching for a crucial win and Rafael Van der Vaart had a long range effort go wide minutes later. Everton called for a penalty as Alan Hutton pushed Beckford in the box, but the referee ignored the home sides calls.

The equaliser came in the 11th minute after a Hutton cross was headed down by Perter Crouch for VDV to score his 11th goal of the season for his new club. Both sides had chances in the second half, Crouch had a goal ruled out for offside and Seamus Coleman shooting straight at Heurelho Gomes. It looked like the points would be even until Benoit Assou-Ekotto gave the ball away to Saha whos shot was parried by Gomes, with the exciting Coleman scoring from the rebound.

Everton jump to 11th after the win which will take some of the undue pressure of David Moyes, their form on the pitch never quite matched their position in the bottom half. 'Arry's boys were their normal all out attacking self. Assou-Ekotto got some grief from certain quarters regarding his role in the home teams second goal but it seems kinda harsh considering the man in front of him seems to completely ignore his defensive responsibilities. 'Arry may want to take note of that when they return to the Champions League.

STAR MAN: Seamus Coleman - Another comprehensive show, this could well be his breakthrough season.

Another loss for Roberto Di Matteo's men that leaves them floating precariously above the drop zone and although Fulham now have the same number of points, they sit two spots above them. David Stockdale; playing in place of Mark Schwarzer, had to make an early save from Jerome Thomas and the visitors were the brighter side for the majority of the first half. John Pantsil committed a less that friendly tackle on Marek Cech which saw the the defender lucky to stay on the pitch.

West Brom were hoping to get the first goal but Simon Davies killed that when he sent a shot at Scott Carson which the former England goalkeeper completely missed to give the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time. It was all Fulham in the second half and they looked the only side capable of the three points. Clint Dempsey scored on the 56th minute after good work from Damien Duff and Brede Hangeland tied up the match ten minutes later.

After their early season form Roberto Di Matteo now has plenty of worries, for this match he was missing five central defenders and you would expect him to dip into the transfer market his month. If Fulham can maintain mid table status until the return of Bobby Zamora they should be alright, there isn't much wrong with the team on the whole, it is just their lack of goals.

STAR MAN: Damien Duff - Was involved in the second goal.

United may not be playing like future champions but their form of five wins in six makes worrying reading for the rest of the table. If they continue to win playing like this, who knows how spectacular they will be when they do hit top form and they are still unbeaten in the league. Sir Alex was happy to welcome Nani back and it was his hard work that set up the first goal for Chicharito after his cross to the near post. They nearly had another goal with an identical build up to the first but Robert Huth cleared this time.

Chris smalling was at fault for Stoke's first goal at Old Trafford since 1980 after Tuncay took the ball of him and sent in a high cross for Dean Whitehead to score to take the Potters level. United had rested six players and it was one of the replacements, Chicharito who set up Nani to score on his return and give the hoe side all three points.

STAR MAN: Nani - Christiano, who?

Leon Best got his first start for Newcastle and got a hat-trick as the home team completely battered Avram Grant's West Ham. This match was all the Geordies and West Ham might as well have stayed in London, for all the good they were on the pitch. Once Best scored his first on 18 minutes the floodgates opened and it was a case of how many. They were 3-0 by halftime after Best's second and one from captain, Kevin Nolan.

Best completed his hat-trick fifteen minutes after the restart with a spectacular goal that had Robert Green floundering before Peter Lovekrands added another. The home team could've had six if it weren't for an abysmal miss by Nile Ranger. No one in the West Ham team looked good after this but James Tomkins in particular had a nightmare as he was culpable for two of the goals.

A few more results like this and Alan Pardew may well win over the fans, Leon Best came into the side and he looks a perfect foil for the injured Andy Carroll when he returns. As for the Hammers, I don't know what to say. They were awful and the fans who travelled to watch them don't deserve such a poor showing from the team they love. I don't know what Avram plans to do, but he needs to do it fast.

STAR MAN: Joey Barton - We saw the decent football player not the idiot for this match. Was involved in three of his sides goals, very impressive display.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! One minute. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

Sorry, the Arsenal fan in me couldn't resist. Every time I think nothing surprises me then a result like this comes in. Wolves lead for 85 minutes after an Eyebrow-Man own goal and Chelsea just never really recovered, although they had 11 shots on goal, only one of those was on target. This win takes Mick Mac's men out of the relegation zone but it is so tight down there, one bad result will drag them back in.

Chelsea just don't resemble the Chelsea team we know, erratic defending, poor attacking decisions and it doesn't appear to be improving. No one in the team looks like a champon at the moment and they need to find a way to remedy that. The last time they were beaten by Wolves was in January 1983; Mick Mac was playing for Barnsley at the time so that kind of says it all.

STAR MAN: Matt Jarvis - Gave Chelsea problems in midfield.

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