Sunday, March 18, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: March 17-18

Manchester United 4 - 1 Bolton
The bad: adding Gary Neville, out for three weeks with a sprained ankle, to an injury list that's already become worryingly long.

The good: everything else. United thumped Bolton 4-0 at the Reebok back in October, and repeated it at Old Trafford on Saturday, although Bolton did get a late consolation goal after a dubious penalty called against Nemanja Vidic. (Aren't Bolton supposed to be a tough team? What happened?)

Cristiano Ronaldo had one of those games where he's simply unplayable. He set up their first three goals, and after that seemed to have (justifiably) decided it was his turn to get on the scoresheet. That didn't happen, but he was a pleasure to watch nonetheless.

The second goal was the pick of the bunch: gorgeous interplay from Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, combining to break the length of the field from a Bolton corner before Rooney finished it off with a chip over the keeper. On either side of that were two goals from Park Ji-Sung, both times showing good instincts to get into the box and finish neatly. His performance was overshadowed by Rooney and Ronaldo, though, with Rooney getting his second of the game after an assist from Alan Smith. They seem to be handling their supposed lack of strikers quite well so far.

Aston Villa 0 - 0 Liverpool
This was quite possibly the most boring game I've ever seen. I think there was only one notable save from either keeper, when Thomas Sorensen blocked a header from Robbie Fowler late in the game. But it was a painful 90 minutes. Villa didn't help things by sticking 10 men behind the ball, but Liverpool were generally useless going forward.

They all seemed to be stricken with an attack of Carrick-itis, never passing forwards if they could help it. I should've done a shot every time Liverpool passed the ball back to the keeper; I would have been drunk by halftime and the whole game would have been a lot more fun. And when they did, on rare occasions, play the ball towards the opposing net, they demonstrated a complete inability to pass to a teammate that was almost unprecedented in professional footballers. Momo Sissoko was probably the worst offender in this regard, although at least Javier Mascherano looked decent beside him in centre midfield.

Yeah, that's right: Sissoko and Mascherano in the middle. Which left Xabi Alonso having a rest on the bench, and Steven Gerrard sulking on the right wing. It must be galling for him to see himself as the fourth-choice centre midfielder. Although I don't think he is; it's just that he's usually their best option on the right. Anyway, if you are going to play Gerrard there, you have to make sure he sees plenty of the ball so he has a chance to influence the game. Some wingers are happy being peripheral for long stretches of time and then turning up a moment of brilliance, but I don't think he reacts well to that. And until Jermaine Pennant starts performing consistently or they buy a quality winger, I don't have a real solution.

Other results

  • Blackburn 1 - 2 West Ham: The referee did more to win this for West Ham than any of their players did, awarding a penalty, giving them another goal that hadn't actually crossed the line, and then sending David Bentley off in the 90th minute for good measure. Apart from Howard Webb, Carlos Tevez was the most notable figure, winning the penalty for West Ham's first goal and then blocking Bobby Zamora's shot for the second.
  • Reading 0 - 0 Portsmouth: Both teams seemed to be pretty evenly matched teams, because they just cancelled each other out. Really, it was only notable for David James having one of those "holy fuck, what is he doing?" days that remind you why he doesn't get picked for England anymore.
  • Tottenham 3 - 1 Watford: Video clip of the week: the freak goal by Paul Robinson from a free kick that bounced over Ben Foster and into the Watford net. But Foster is one of those players I randomly like, so I'm choosing to blame this one on the defender.
  • Chelsea 3 - 0 Sheffield United: It's not a surprise that Chelsea won, only that none of their goals came from Didier Drogba or a Frank Lampard deflection, and that Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack actually made themselves useful.
  • Charlton 2 - 0 Newcastle
  • Middlesbrough 0 - 2 Manchester City
  • Wigan 0 - 0 Fulham
  • Everton 1 - 0 Arsenal

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