Sunday, March 09, 2008

Premiership Weekend Roundup: March 8-9

Liverpool 3-0 Newcastle
Rafa resisted the urge to rotate too much ahead of Liverpool's Champions League rematch with Inter, just choosing to bring in Pennant and Benayoun and rest Kuyt and Babel on the wings, and forced to replace the injured Mascherano with Lucas. But he left Gerrard and Torres in the starting lineup, and with the terrific form they're both in right now, you wouldn't want to see them left out anyway.

Not only are they playing well individually, but they've developed a fantastic understanding between the two of them. Gerrard set up Torres for one goal, and he returned the favour for another. (Meanwhile, Michael Owen, who in an alternate universe would have come to Anfield this summer instead of Torres, was wandering around looking sad and lonely up front for Newcastle.)

It took a while for Liverpool to find the opening goal, as Newcastle's defence were slightly less hopeless than usual -- and they did need a bit of luck, with Luis Enrique's clearance shanked off Pennant and looping into the net. But Torres's goal came just a couple minutes later, and then Gerrard finished things off early in the second half. That gave Liverpool a comfortable three-goal lead and let Rafa substitute his star players and wrap them up in cotton wool for a couple days.

So that was enjoyable. The only thing that bugged me was the way the commentators kept going on about how Liverpool's play had deteriorated once Gerrard and Torres came off, as if the rest of the team was just shit. Sure, they were less threatening after that, but you don't suppose it might have had something to do with the fact that they were three goals up and didn't really need to push themselves? Bah.

Wigan 0-0 Arsenal
Arsenal were held to a draw once again, frustrated by a combination of hard work by Wigan and a few good saves by Chris Kirkland. Even Robin van Persie's return from injury as a substitute here wasn't enough to bring them a goal. Wigan were constantly hustling to close Arsenal down and stop them getting into their passing rhythm, although didn't ever look likely to score in their own right. And Arsenal were also hampered by the terrible pitch, which was reminiscent of some of the mudslikes that my rec league plays on. Anyway, they've dropped more points, which is great news for United snapping at their heels.

Tottenham 4-0 West Ham
West Ham really do need to shore up their defence; they conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes here, both from Tom Huddlestone free kicks that were headed home by Berbatov. And they didn't help themselves when Boa Morte was sent off before halftime for a second late tackle -- and he was lucky to have lasted as long as he did. The Hammers have now lost 4-0 for the past three games in a row, which is abysmal -- although the results don't seem to have made much difference, because they're still marooned alone in mid-table no man's land. As for Tottenham, it looks like they've finally shaken off their hangover, although it may not help them with the UEFA Cup.

Other results
Blackburn 1-1 Fulham
Reading 2-0 Manchester City
Sunderland 0-1 Everton

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