Monday, January 23, 2006

Premiership Weekend Roundup: January 21-22

Manchester United 1 - 0 Liverpool
I was worried when I saw the starting lineups. Injuries to Scholes, Smith and Park, plus Cristiano Ronaldo's suspension, meant that United would be fielding a makeshift midfield of Fletcher, O'Shea, Giggs and Richardson against Gerrard, Sissoko, Alonso and Kewell, and I expected them to be thoroughly outclassed (yes, even by Harry Kewell). Liverpool did dominate the midfield, but not quite as much as you would have thought. Stevie G inexplicably went missing for too much of the game, and when they did attack, the finishing was awful -- particularly Djibril Cisse sending the ball over the bar rather than into the open net. You couldn't blame Rafa if he ships Lord Frodsham back to France at the first opportunity.

United also struggled to attack -- even though Rooney played hard and was all over the pitch as usual. But at least their defence was solid this week. Amazing what a difference it makes when you leave Silvestre on the bench, eh? Rio, especially, had a good game -- maybe trying to prove to Sven that he's not really lazy -- with a goal-line clearance and a game-winning header in the last minute. I guess this means I can't make fun of his hair for at least a couple of weeks now.

Chelsea 1 - 1 Charlton
First of all, a disclaimer: My perspective on this game was somewhat impaired by the quantity of beer consumed during the United game. Nevertheless, Chelsea looked distinctly ordinary in this game. They certainly had the talent to beat Charlton, and dominated for most of the match, but they were missing something -- that hunger you need put the game away and guarantee a win. They were just cruising along, happy with the 1-0 scoreline, and that let Charlton back in it to equalize.

Everton 1 - 0 Arsenal
Arsenal might have wanted to save some of those goals from last week for this match. Everton pushed them hard all game -- not dirty play, just hustling for the ball -- and they deserved the win. Arsenal had a couple of unfortunate offside calls go against them, plus a strike from Freddie Ljungberg touched off the post, but they just couldn't seem to get their attack clicking into high gear. Thierry Henry spent most of the game isolated up front -- not exactly the sort of thing that's going to keep him from fleeing to Spain.

(Also: What the hell is with that growth on Ljungberg's face? Not good. Frankly, I expect better from an underwear model.)

Tottenham 0 - 0 Aston Villa
Tottenham dominated this game in the midfield but they just couldn't break through on goal -- partly due to solid defending from Villa but mostly because their keeper, Sorensen, had a fantastic game. Michael Carrick, meanwhile, had another solid game in for Spurs. He's doing his best to prove that he deserves the holding midfield role for England, but I just can't warm to him -- I think it's because he has a weirdly shaped head. (Hey, I never claimed to be entirely rational about football.)

West Brom 0 - 1 Sunderland
Aw, Sunderland finally got a win. Not that it'll help them to stay up this year, but still, it's nice. And probably fitting that it came from an own goal, because neither team played particularly well. There's a reason why they're both hovering at (or near) the bottom of the table.

Other results
Birmingham 5 - 0 Portsmouth
Bolton 2 - 0 Manchester City
Middlesbrough 2 - 3 Wigan
Newcastle 0 - 1 Blackburn

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