Sunday, November 04, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: November 3-4

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester United
If you'd offered me a draw beforehand, I would have snatched at it -- especially with United having lost this same fixture last year. But having come so close to winning, only to have it slip away at the last moment, it's impossible not to be a bit disappointed. I was happy with the way United played for the most part, though. They worked hard to close down Arsenal and didn't let them get into their fluid passing, and although they sometimes found it hard to establish a rhythm of their own, I think United had the better chances in the first half. And Wayne Rooney pounced on one of those half-chances just before halftime, turning in Ronaldo's cross off William Gallas at the near post.

But Arsenal equalized just after the break, with Edwin Van der Sar stopping Emmanuel Adebayor's shot after a flowing forward move, only for the rebound to be played out to Cesc Fabregas, whose finish took advantage of the keeper being out of position. Neither team seemed content to settle for a draw, though, with Arsenal bringing on Theo Walcott, and United countering that with Louis Saha and Michael Carrick in place of Carlos Tevez and Anderson. (Anderson, incidentally, had another good game; he may not have the guile of Paul Scholes in midfield -- at least not yet -- but he does offer the advantage of actually being able to tackle without getting booked for it.) It looked as if United's substitutions would win them the game, Saha playing a lovely reverse pass to Patrice Evra, who squared the ball for Cristiano Ronaldo to slot home. But there was a nervy end to the match for United, including Evra spooning the ball just over his own crossbar, and it ended with a stoppage-time scramble in the box, Gallas atoning for his earlier own-goal with an excellent finish; Van der Sar cleared the ball, but it had already crossed the line and the linesman rightly (much as I hate to say it) signaled the goal.

Speaking of the officials: I think Sir Alex is overreacting by claiming they were biased towards Arsenal, but I nevertheless would have liked it if Howard Webb could have refrained from whistling the play dead every 30 seconds and just let them play. Still, it was an exciting game, and it leaves things too close to call between these two teams; it's impossible to predict who's going to come out on top in the end.

Blackburn 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool are, along with Arsenal, the only undefeated teams in the Premiership so far. But that's about all they have in common at the moment. Away to Blackburn is always a tricky match, but Liverpool looked very laboured here, lacking the kind of attacking creativity that they need if they're going to challenge for the title this year (or, for that matter, if they're going to get any farther in the Champions League). I understand that Rafa likes hard-working players, but that doesn't necessarily preclude players with flair as well -- you just have to look at the lineups in the Arsenal-United match to see that. Liverpool played the same 4-2-3-1 formation as last week, but with Ryan Babel and Yossi Benayoun on the wings -- a change that I actually prefer, although they did both have an unfortunate tendency to creep in towards the middle too much, rather than using the space to spread the play out.

With Fernando Torres injured and Andriy Voronin's wife having gone into labour, Dirk Kuyt was on his own up front and...well, he tried hard. But he just didn't seem to know what to do once he'd gotten into the 18-yard box. It was the sort of headless chicken display unhappily reminiscent of Milan Baros, except without the pace. The moment that stood out the most was Steven Gerrard, supporting the play, steaming into the box only for Kuyt to dribble the ball tamely into the keeper. I also have to wonder what Peter Crouch has done that means Rafa doesn't trust him anymore, because Liverpool did look much better once he and Harry Kewell came on, forcing a couple of good saves from Brad Friedel. Maybe if they'd been brought on earlier, Liverpool could have picked up all three points and closed the gap on the teams above them. As it is, though, they should just be thankful that Jamie Carragher continues his charmed life, not conceding a penalty despite going in to block a shot with his arms up over his head.

Wigan 0-2 Chelsea
With Chelsea in form right now and Wigan emphatically not, the scoreline was pretty predictable. The only thing mildly surprising, actually, was that Didier Drogba wasn't one of the goal-scorers for Chelsea. He was involved in the first goal, though, feeding the ball out to Shaun Wright-Phillips to run at the defenders and sent a curling ball across behind the Wigan back line for Frank Lampard to run onto and score. (And let me just mention that his goal celebration makes me want to hit him in the face.) Wright-Phillips contributed to the second goal, too, keeping the ball from going out for a throw and feeding Juliano Belletti, who sauntered forward with the defenders backing away, and eventually saw his long-distance shot swerve past Chris Kirkland into the net. That was it; 2-0 after 20 minutes was essentially game over. So there was no goal-fest like Chelsea had against Manchester City last weekend, although I suppose that's small consolation for Wigan.

Newcastle 1-4 Portsmouth
I imagine that Shay Given is sitting at home right now being grateful that he was injured for this game. Having Sam Allardyce as a manager has apparently not made Newcastle's defense any less porous, and they were three goals down after 12 minutes. Maybe it was hard to fault them for the first goal, a left-footed screamer from Noe Pamarot, but the next two were almost entirely due to Cacapa doing his best impression of a pylon to allow first Benjani and then Utaku to score. It was so bad that he was hauled off the pitch shortly thereafter. Newcastle did manage to pull one back, with Michael Owen's shot ricocheting into the net off David James and Sol Campbell, but they were unable to score the second goal that might have made this a close contest. In the end it was Portsmouth who scored again, from Nico Kranjcar's free kick, thanks to -- once again -- some lax Newcastle defending.

Other results
Aston Villa 2-0 Derby
Everton 3-1 Birmingham
Fulham 3-1 Reading
Middlesbrough 1-1 Tottenham
West Ham 1-1 Bolton


weenie said...

If not for Brad Friedel, Liverpool could have bagged a win in the second half...oh well.

And I just knew that we'd draw Chelsea in the cup...

Funny how they managed to get each tie to be North v South...

Anonymous said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Football Betting Online from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!

football dave said...

They got a good win against Liverpool this weekend. I had an upturn in fortunes regarding my online sports betting ventures as i had an accumulator which paid out for a United away win and an Arsenal home win. Although it was a bold move to bet on the outcome of these evenly balanced games, it seemed to pay off. An even bolder football betting venture would be to back a premiership winner this season. Its tighter than a ducks arse between the top 4 this season and sundays games proved this. personally i would love to see liverpool win it this year - not that im a scouser, its just the underdog always holds a place in my heart.