Sunday, October 21, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: October 20-21

Everton 1-2 Liverpool
Well. That was quite the game. I suppose I should be happy, seeing as it ended with a Liverpool win and Everton down to nine men. But Liverpool were bloody lucky to have won at all. The two penalties they got -- and the two red cards for Everton -- were fully deserved, but Everton could have easily had a penalty as well at the end of the game, with Jamie Carragher pulling Joleon Lescott down in the box (and can somebody tell me why Lescott could play so well yesterday and so terribly for England in midweek?). And although Liverpool created quite a few chances, they wasted almost all of them, and they should have done a lot better, considering that they had a man advantage for most of the second half.

As for Rafa's decision to take Steven Gerrard off in the 70th minute? Well, I had a whole theory that it was because he wanted to switch to a more orthodox 4-4-2, with Lucas Leiva coming on to play on the left. (It looked to me like they'd started with sort of a 4-2-3-1, with Benayoun and Voronin on the wings, and Gerrard in the hole behind Kuyt, which was mostly working but giving Lescott too much space to come forward from left-back.) So, okay, you want to leave on both strikers to keep the pressure on Everton, Benayoun's been causing them trouble all night...personally, I would've pulled Momo Sissoko because I think he had a mediocre game, but maybe Rafa figures he's got the legs for the last 20 minutes, since he didn't play in midweek?

But apparently I am totally wrong, because Rafa's now said that it was because he wanted to calm things down and hold onto the ball better. (And I'm not sure that Leiva even plays left wing.) So I still don't really get it, but I guess it worked, since Leiva would've scored the winning goal if Phil Neville's arm hadn't intervened. But I don't blame Steven for looking all pouty at the time.

Aston Villa 1-4 Manchester United
I had a bit of deja vu by the end of this game, with the two red cards and all that. The difference, though, was that unlike Liverpool, United actually played well and thoroughly deserved their win. They were a bit shaky for the first 20 minutes or so, partly due to the lightweight midfield -- starts for newbies Nani and Anderson, nobody to win the ball like Owen Hargreaves, and can somebody please remind Ryan Giggs that playing midfield means defending once in a while, not just sauntering around doing his elder statesman act?

United actually conceded the opening goal, but they'd turned things around by halftime, scoring three goals in 10 minutes to erase the deficit -- helped by some atrocious defending by Villa, and especially Zat Knight. And they could have run up the scoreline even more, with Villa down to 9 men for so much of the game. Anyway, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez have set about proving the critics wrong (yes, that includes me) by demonstrating that they can play together after all -- and play together very well, too. (Although it seems that Rooney could do with some penalty-taking lessons from Dirk Kuyt.) I guess that shouldn't be such a surprise, since they're both intelligent players, and they've learned to understand each other now. And it's nice to see the team scoring bunches of goals now, unlike the beginning of the season. I wonder how much of their stuttering start this year has been due to new players bedding in -- in contrast to last year, where they were one of the few teams that didn't have many new faces and started strongly.

Arsenal 2-0 Bolton
Bolton may be without Sam Allardyce -- without a manager at all for the moment -- but this was a classic Arsenal-Bolton match, all finesse versus thuggery. Bolton did a pretty good job of keeping the Gunners quiet for the first hour or so, especially Ivan Campo against Cesc Fabregas, although they did spend most of the game camped out in their own end and only mustered a single shot -- compared to Arsenal's 19. Despite all their chances, though, Arsenal didn't break down the Bolton defense until the 67th minute, with a rocket of a free kick by Kolo Toure, followed by substitutes Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky combining for a second goal to put the game away. But my favourite moment of the match probably came from Emmanuel Adebayor, who had a breakaway into the box, rounded the keeper and just had to slot the ball home, but chose instead to get to the goal-line, check back and then fall over. Excellent. Somewhere in Spain, Thierry Henry is giggling.

Middlesbrough 0-2 Chelsea
This was another throwback game: a Chelsea win, ruthless but not particularly pretty, like we all got so tired of seeing under Jose Mourinho. Middlesbrough had a couple of decent spells, but overall Chelsea's patched-up defense did their job, with Alex even contributing a goal from a powerful, swerving 35-yard free kick. The game had already been decided in the first 10 minutes, though, with Didier Drogba putting the drama of the past few days aside and delivering the opening goal. Andriy "What's the Russian for teacher's pet" Shevchenko, meanwhile, got to cool his heels on the bench until he was brought on as a late substitute. I almost feel bad for him, except...nah, I really don't.

Other results
Blackburn 4-2 Reading
Wigan 0-2 Portsmouth
Manchester City 1-0 Birmingham
Fulham 0-0 Derby
West Ham 3-1 Sunderland

No comments: