Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: February 3-4

Tottenham 0 - 4 Manchester United
For the second week in a row, a solid performance from United was blighted by bad refereeing. Whereas last week Mike Riley made a couple of terrible decisions but otherwise had a decent game, on Sunday, Mark Clattenburg was simply appalling from start to finish. Of course, there's always a certain amount of subjectivity in interpreting the rules of the game -- but that's why it's so important for referees to be consistent in the way they apply those rules. Being too harsh or too lenient is bad, yes, but it's even worse when the ref is ignoring obvious fouls one minute and booking players for nothing the next. Which is exactly what Clattenburg did.

The most obvious talking point was the penalty that Cristiano Ronaldo won. Was it a dive? Yeah, probably. Certainly not a penalty -- although it's possible that there was enough contact to make him lose his balance, without it being enough to constitute a foul. On the other hand, there was a blatant foul on Henrik Larsson before that that should have been a penalty, so maybe Clattenburg was trying to make amends for that. Spurs also had one or two penalty shouts ignored -- including Gary Neville manhandling Pascal Chimbonda on a free kick, in the ongoing Battle Of The Stroppy Right-Backs -- although nothing quie so obvious as that foul on Larsson. You could tell that the United players were beginning to get frustrated by the refereeing, but they settled down after the penalty and methodically took Spurs apart in the second half.

The game was also notable for Sir Alex finally finding a position where John O'Shea is useful: in goal. O'Shea had to deputise for Edwin van der Sar after the keeper had gone off with a broken nose (note the absence of Mourinho-esque carping from United about intent to bodily harm or whatever), which, thanks to their four-goal lead at that point, was hilarious rather than nerve-wracking. Check out the look of sheer terror on his face!

Liverpool 0 - 0 Everton
Who decided that all Liverpool's games this season were going to be played at 7:45 EST? Because it's mean to keep dragging me out of bed that early, especially for games like this. I think Liverpool let the derby day pressure get to them -- they seemed to be desperate to score, which meant they kept just flinging the ball into the box rather than taking the time to think and choose their passes. They also needed to use the wings more and get behind the defence -- like with Craig Bellamy's goal, although that was rightly ruled out for offside. Their formation didn't seem to be working, with Jermaine Pennant wasting the ball as often as not, and Dirk Kuyt nominally playing on the left wing (despite all David Pleat's yammering to the contrary; I know the teamsheet was misleading, but surely if you watch the game for five minutes you can figure it out). I have to wonder if Mark Gonzalez wasn't coompletely fit, because otherwise I can't understand why Rafa didn't bring him on for the last 20 minutes or so.

I'm attempting to ignore all the kerfuffle about whether Everton is a big club, because I really don't care. But I will point out that although normally I love the Guardian, I don't think that simply quoting from a bunch of internet messageboards constitutes reporting. (And yes, I recognize the irony of this comment coming from a blogger.)

Middlesbrough 1 - 1 Arsenal
The first half of the game was forgettable, but it sparked to life a bit after Philippe Senderos was sent off for a tug on Ayegbeni Yakubu with a half hour left to play. And, in keeping with this week's theme of bad refereeing, Mike Riley decided that it was a penalty and a red card, even though (1) it was outside the area and (2) it wasn't that bad a foul -- a yello card at most. Way to make Senderos's face even more sad-beagle-droopy, y'all. But Arsenal played as well with 10 men as they did with 11 -- one of the benefits of a controlled passing game: it's much easier to hang on to possession -- and managed to come away with a point.

Other results
Aston Villa 1 - 0 West Ham
Blackburn 2 - 1 Sheffield United
Charlton 0 - 1 Chelsea
Fulham 2 - 1 Newcastle
Manchester City 0 - 2 Reading
Watford 0 - 1 Bolton
Wigan 1 - 0 Portsmouth

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