Monday, April 14, 2008

Premiership Weekend Roundup: April 12-13

Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
After a physically and emotionally draining game against Liverpool on Tuesday, Arsenal did well to reproduce that intensity against United yesterday -- but once again it was ultimately futile, as they were undone by a couple of defensive blunders.

The first half was scoreless but still had you on the edge of your seat; Arsenal probably could have opened the scoring before halftime but wasted a few chances, with Emmanuel Adebayor the most guilty. But it was Adebayor who gave Arsenal the lead, taking advantage of a laughable mix-up between Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar with a free header -- that might have actually come off his arm. United's defense continued to look shaky, with both Ferdinand and Wes Brown nearly scoring own-goals, but it didn't take long before they were back in the game, as William Gallas conceded a penalty for hand-ball.

The penalty was taken perfectly by Cristiano Ronaldo -- not once but twice, after the first one was called back for encroachment. This is where being unfathomably arrogant can come in handy, as he had the nerveless confidence to put it in the same place both times -- but it was so well struck that Jens Lehmann couldn't get to it. So much for Lehmann's claims that he's a better keeper than Manuel Almunia. (Oh, and Mad Jens also got himself booked in the middle of that, just for being an ass.) Lehmann might also have done better with United's game-winning goal, a free kick just outside the box for a foul on Patrice Evra by Gilberto -- a poor replacement for Mathieu Flamini's bite in midfield. Owen Hargreaves looped the kick up over the wall and into the net, with Lehmann rooted to the spot -- and yelling at his wall for not moving either. Oops.

A draw might have been a fair result, but despite all of Arsenal's effort and skill, United had the resolve -- and a little bit of luck -- necessary to come away with the win. And you also have to look at the impact of their substitutes: as Arsenal chased the game, Arsene Wenger turned to Nicklas Bendtner to replace Robin van Persie -- whereas United were able to bring on Anderson and Carlos Tevez for Paul Scholes and Ji-Sung Park. It's hard not to conclude that the difference in the two squads' depth is also the difference in their season.

Liverpool 3-1 Blackburn
This was a potentially tricky match for Liverpool, especially after the Champions League game in midweek, but they came through it relatively easily, in the end. Liverpool were dominant from the outset, but it stayed goalless for 60 minutes before Steven Gerrard broke through for the opening goal. He'd spent most of the game up until that point falling down whenever he got a chance and throwing tantrums when he didn't get the free kick; the first incident was probably the most blatant, as Brad Friedel slid in to clear the ball and Gerrard deliberately dragged his leg over the keeper to make it look like he'd been fouled. Steven, honey, I like you, but I like you much better when you're not cheating.

It just backfired anyway, because even if he was legitimately fouled after that, he was never going to get the call because he'd become the boy who cried "penalty." And look how much more effective it was when Gerrard actually stayed on his feet: storming into the box to score. He was also involved in the second goal -- Fernando Torres heading Gerrard's cross back over the keeper for his 30th goal of the season, which is not too shabby for a Premiership debutant. Substitute Andriy Voronin added a third in the 90th minute, sliding in to meet John Arne Riise's cross. The goal of the game was probably Roque Santa Cruz's fabulous volley in stoppage time -- but it was already game over at that point, and he didn't even bother to celebrate.

Also: I cannot keep track of who's stabbing who in the back in the Anfield boardroom, so I've decided to just continue my strategy of willful ignorance.

Other results
Birmingham 1-1 Everton
Bolton 1-0 West Ham
Derby 0-6 Aston Villa
Portsmouth 0-0 Newcastle
Reading 0-2 Fulham
Sunderland 1-2 Manchester City
Tottenham 1-1 Middlesbrough

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