Saturday, January 12th
Arsenal 1, Birmingham 1
The Gunners were held by a feisty Birmingham squad at the Emirates. Arsenal dominated but nothing was put by Maik Taylor after Emmanuel Adebayor’s penalty (controversial of course) was converted in the 21st minute (it was his 13th EPL goal of the year). The Blues then muffled Arsenal’s momentum the rest of the half, launching dodgy counter-attack after counter-attack. It didn’t pay dividends until the 48th minute, when a scrum in the box produced a Garry O’Connor header that clipped the foot of Cesc Fabregas and trickled by Almunia. Arsene Wenger has assured supporters that despite recent results and the loss of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, he is not going into ‘panic buy’ mode.
Manchester United 6, Newcastle 0
Pure class. All goals scored in the second half and the catalyst was none other than the stupidly efficient Cristiano Ronaldo. It went Ronaldo 3, Tevez 2, and Rio Ferdinand 1 on the scoring tally as Newcastle plain broke down. I think I saw Nicky Butt cry. ManYoo posted a 31 shot day with 2/3 of them hitting frame and Shay Given could have almost been called the Man of the Match (at least in Wayne Rooney’s eyes) if it weren’t Ronaldo and Tevez. Given stopped every one of Rooney’s 7 shots and made some amazing saves, but in the end – 31 shots, some are bound to go in. Between Cacapa, Stephen Carr, and Jose Enrique – the marking was horrendous. The Red Devils must be given credit for their class though and it was nice to see a glimpse of the future in Danny Simpson, who almost scored his first EPL goal of the year late in the game. The win puts Manchester United level with Arsenal in points, but ahead on goal differential.
Chelsea 2, Tottenham 0
Nicolas Anelka came on and played a solid 30 minutes in Chelsea’s shutout and snuffing of the hot Hotspur. It was closer than the scoreline makes it out to be though. Shaun Wright-Phillips was again the difference, wreaking havoc on the right side and putting away the clincher. Belletti supplied the go-ahead goal, but it really SWP who is starting make those chances that people have talked about for years. He was the kid that people said, “Man, he’d be extremely dangerous if he actually could finish his chances” about. Well, much to Avram Grant’s approval, he has started that process – at a good time too, with Essien and Mikel out, the wingers needed to pick up their game. Tottenham’s new signing Chris Gunter dressed but didn’t play.
Aston Villa 3, Reading 1
Villa continued their EPL rise at the expense of Reading who fell victim to John Carew’s brace. No one was expecting anything different, however, as the Royals have yet to win away from home this campaign. Reading’s goal came in the 90th minute in the form of a James Harper consolation goal, while Carew’s goals sandwiched a Martin Laursen header (his second in January). Bobby Convey played the last 20 minutes for Reading.
Everton 1, Manchester City 0
Sven Goran-Eriksson had nothing happy to say about this loss to David Moyes’ Toffees which seem to have found their stride again. Even without Yobo, Pienaar, and Yakubu. Timmy Howard was great in goal yet again, but the true victor was Joleon Lescott who felt compelled to make up for his own goal against Chelsea in the first leg Carling Cup semifinals several days ago. How? Scored the gamewinner.
West Ham 2, Fulham 1
Good god Cottagers. Another loss, another squandered lead, and yet another step closer to relegation for Fulham USA. Simon Davies hit early for Roy Hodgson’s club, but it was countered a little over 10 minutes later by Dean Ashton. The man of the match was veteran Swede Freddie Ljungberg who picked out Ashton more than once, causing trouble on the flanks. Both Clint Dempsey (who came close several times to helping the Fulham cause) and Carlos Bocanegra played, but it was Boca who had to come off in the 14th minute after a losing tete-a-tete with Ljungberg. Not be shown up by his brother Rio, Anton Ferdinand provided the game winner in the 69th minute.
Liverpool 1, Middlesbrough 1
Both Arsenal and Liverpool took a step back this weekend and both certainly didn’t have to. At least Liverpool had the problem of being away from home, but it was all a matter of finishing their chances. Only Torres could do that as the Spaniard provided the game-tying goal that saved the Reds from embarrassment. Old-man George Boateng showed he still had the ability to find the net – scoring his first of the season. Stewart Downing and Sanli Tuncay worked real well together, but Liverpool’s defense held strong.
Wigan 1, Derby 0
The signings certainly made Derby a more formidable squad, but it didn’t matter as Wigan dealt with the new faces and actually put their chances away. Big French striker Antoine Sibierski put one in with 10 minutes to go, grabbing the three points for battlers Wigan.
Sunday, January 13th
Sunderland 2, Portsmouth 0
The Black Cats pounced on a wasteful Pompey as the lack of Papa Bouba Diop, Nwankwo Kanu, and Sulley Ali Muntari was extremely evident. Not to mention, Portsmouth didn’t have the services of Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson, who provided the scoring touch that put Pompey away. It was a brace for Richardson, all in the span of 10 minutes (one at 44 minutes, another 10 minutes after halftime). Harry Redknapp might have even had some “what ifs?” in regards to the Newcastle opening after this matchup.
Blackburn 1, Bolton 1
A ridiculous side volley by Kevin Nolan made a terrible game look presentable for a moment – and I mean A moment. But Bolton reared their ugly relegation heads late in the game as Blackburn equalized in 53rd minute thanks to Christopher Samba (who recently just re-upped his contract for 5 more years). Blackburn then relied on the speed and finishing of wantaway striker Jason Roberts, who has struggled for time this year behind Benni McCarthy, Matt Derbyshire, and Roque Santa Cruz in the pecking order. He had his day, however, and scored in injury time to seal the win for Brad Friedel and the Rovers.