Monday, April 21, 2008

Premiership Weekend Roundup: April 19-20

Blackburn 1-1 Manchester United
As I said last week, Blackburn are usually a tough team to play, but still I was hoping for more from United after Liverpool beat them the week before. I don't know if they were too keyed up, with the Premier League title almost within their grasp if they won here, but whatever the reason, they didn't start the game very well. Roque Santa Cruz put Blackburn ahead in the first half, getting between Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, and United had to fight hard to get themselves back into the match. (Wayne Rooney, actually, took the fighting part a little too seriously, spending most of the match shouting at the referee for his perceived deficiencies.) Finally, in the 88th minute, Carlos Tevez popped up with another crucial goal, heading home from a corner. The draw at least means that even if United lose at Stamford Bridge this weekend, they can still win the title as long as they beat both Wigan and West Ham, thanks to their massively superior goal difference. But I'm nervous.

Fulham 0-2 Liverpool
Much like this fixture last year, Rafa Benitez put out a weakened lineup ahead of a crucial Champions League game, but it didn't help Fulham as they were comprehensively outplayed. I'd say that only about four of the Liverpool players are guaranteed to start tomorrow, but they all played as if they were trying to prove that they deserved a spot. Jermaine Pennant certainly might feel that he's earned a chance in place of Dirk Kuyt, as he scored the first goal and set up the second one -- although in both cases I think Kasey Keller could have done better to save them. Anyway, Liverpool have opened up an eight-point gap over Everton in the fight for fourth place, so they can relax a bit in the league, while Fulham are on the verge of relegation now.

Arsenal 2-0 Reading
With nothing much left to play for, Arsenal had an easy time of it against a lacklustre Reading side who are just hoping to survive in the Premiership. The Gunners were two goals up by halftime and could have easily had more in the second half, but were denied by the crossbar more than once. Highlight was probably the excellent performance from Theo Walcott, given a start for a change instead of coming on for a substitute. Lowlight was Alexander Hleb inexplicably smacking Graeme Murty in the face -- although the ref didn't see it. It'll be interesting to see if there's any retrospective punishment for that.

Aston Villa 5-1 Birmingham
It must really suck to be a Birmingham supporter today. Ouch. They were utterly taken apart by Villa, sparked by Ashley Young, who picked a good day to perform (um, not like that), with Fabio Capello watching. Young scored two goals, set up another for John Carew (who also bagged two), and along with Gabriel Agbonlahor, his pace was giving the Birmingham defenders fits. They did get a consolation goal in the second half, but it was cancelled out not much later as Agbonlahor scored Villa's fifth. Gareth Barry had a good game in the middle of the park, too. I can sort of understand why there are rumours floating around that Liverpool want to buy him, but don't they have a surfeit of central midfielders already?

Newcastle 2-0 Sunderland
Okay, Newcastle somehow are undefeated in the past six games. And -- even more astonishing -- they've kept a clean sheet in the last three of those. What the hell? Has Kevin Keegan given all their defenders brain transplants or something? (Maybe stem cells from Paolo Maldini?) They're doing pretty well at the other end of the pitch, too, with Michael Owen scoring six times in six games, and seeming to revel in his new role linking the midfielders and strikers. He looks revitalized -- even without the stimulus of the Euros this summer -- and I'm curious to see what Fabio Capello will do with him now.

Other results
Manchester City 3-1 Portsmouth
Middlesbrough 0-1 Bolton
West Ham 2-1 Derby
Wigan 1-1 Tottenham

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