Can anyone stop Adebayor? Fulham sputters…

1. Newcastle’s defense certainly couldn’t – they almost looked like they needed Oguchi Onyewu who played pretty poorly on loan with them about a year ago.

2. Not even his own teammates can stop him – and as you saw, Nicklas Bendtner tried.

What many people forget is that Adebayor was not a high-profile signing. Sure he helped Monaco reach the Champions League final in 2004, but it wasn’t scoring goals at the rate he is right now. The Gunners dispatched Kevin Keegan’s pet project Newcastle in yet another 3-0 romp. Adebayor started off the scoring – his 9th in his last 7 appearances and 19th overall. All that he’s done has prompted Cesc Fabregas to go all man-love on him with Arsene Wenger unleashing the praise as well. Mathieu Flamini and Cesc himself scored the other two goals.

In other action…

Sunderland 2, Birmingham 0

New signing Rade Prica made the difference for Roy Keane. Put in for a struggling Dwight Yorke, Prica pounced on a chance with 30 minutes to go, effectively putting a come-back out of the reaches of the Blues. Daryl Murphy started off the scoring, however, as the Black Cats move 3 points out of relegation. 20-year old Argentinian Mauro Zarate got his first minutes for the Blues, coming on for Cameron Jerome in the 66th minute.

Fulham 0, Bolton 0

The Cottagers had a prime chance to grab three much-needed points. Eddie Johnson was not eligible as paperwork is still being processed, but Clint Dempsey was there and Carlos Bocanegra came on late for new signing Leon Andreasen. It was even through the first half, but with about thirty minutes to go it became Bolton’s game. Fulham’s new defensive hires Andreasen and Brede Hangeland held their own though – helping to stave off a last second defensive lapse (which has been the Fulham trademark this season). Dempsey hasn’t hit the back of the net in over a month. Hopefully the added extra American influence can pick his game back up.

Middlesbrough 1, Wigan 0

An early goal from Jeremie Aliadiere (who doesn’t score much to begin with) proved to be the decider as Boro held off relegation battlers Wigan. I’m sure many were expecting a severely depleted back four with the loss of Jonathan Woodgate to Tottenham, but it held remarkably well (for now). That is certainly not saying that Wigan didn’t have their chances. Marlon King found himself free a couple times with Emile Heskey doing his best to resurrect his productive days. Ultimately, if Boro is going to keep surviving – Afonso Alves is needed up front with Tuncay and they need to make Stewart Downing happy (which isn’t going to happen, to Tottenham maybe?). I have lost interest in Wigan’s relegation fight; their demotion is foregone conclusion to me.

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EPL Daily 1.23: EJ to England, Cousin to follow? but Fulham knocked out the FA Cup

EJ TO ENGLAND: Eddie Johnson has signed for Fulham to join an ailing strike force of Shefki Kuqi, David Healy, and Diomansy Kamara. Johnson joins as part of new coach Roy Hodgson’s turnover of the Cottagers as they sit in a dead heat for a relegation battle. Defensive reinforcements have already been brought in in the form of Norwegian Brede Hangeland and creative Danish midfielder Leon Andreasen. There are talks taking place with unsettled Glasgow Rangers’ striker Daniel Cousin as well. The deal is for 3 1/2 years.

BERBATOV: Dimitar Berbatov’s wrestling with Tottenham quieted down a bit after the Hotspur’s trouncing of a young Arsenal side in the Carling Cup semifinals.

BIANCHI: Rolando Bianchi – Manchester City’s . His time with City started strong and fizzled recently. Bianchi admitted he 1. hates England 2. hates English football and 3. wants back to Italy. Well to Italy he goes – on loan to Lazio.

MCFADDEN: The wantaway Everton striker has completed his move to Birmingham as the Blues became rather keen on him after his recent form. The Scotsman moved for $10 million. Birmingham has done well this transfer window – bringing in young Argentinian striker Mauro Zarate on loan and keen to bring in Guglielmo Stendardo in on loan from Lazio.

FA CUP ROUND 3 REPLAYS:

Bristol Rovers 0, Fulham 0 (Bristol R. wins 5-3 on penalties)

Roy Hodgson played a rested squad in their replay with Bristol Rovers. Dempsey and Bocanegra went all 120 minutes in a losing cause, one that many expected Hodgson to lay in to his players for. Instead, he defended them and placed the blame on himself, but the truth is, they’re still looking for a win in Hodgson’s reign. Jimmy Bullard played the bad man, missing the PK that allowed Bristol to move ahead.

Derby County 1, Sheffield Wednesday 1 (Derby wins on penalties 4-2)

A Kenny Miller saved the Rams from embarrassment putting their only shot on goal in the back of the net. The match went to overtime and Derby played like the underdog most of the way, throwing hard tackles left and right. Eddie Lewis came in for an ineffective Giles Barnes (rare) and wreaked havoc for a solid 80 minutes on the left side. Deadlocked through overtime, it came down to penalties and Derby didn’t disappoint. Sheffield Wednesday missed their first two, while Eddie Lewis and Kenny Miller converted theirs making it somewhat of a no-contest.

Barnet 0, Swindon 0 (Barnet wins 2-0 on penalties)

In the ugliest display of penalty taking I have seen in a long time, Barnet came out on top. Billy Paynter had probably the most up and down, roller coaster day of his career. First, he scored in the 42nd minute to put Swindon Town up 1-0. Ten minutes later, however, he was hiding in a corner after he put one in the back of his own net. Then to end on a definitive note, Paynter botched his PK attempt as all Swindon Town penalty takers went on to miss their respective attempts.

CARLING CUP SEMIFINALS:

Chelsea 1, Everton 0 (3-1 on aggregate)

Chelsea booked a place in the final as Joe Cole drove the proverbial nail in Everton’s coffin snuffing out in the process a spirited effort from the Toffees. Everton fought with tough tackling and relied on a couple players returning from injury to test the Chelsea defense. Andy Johnson was scrappy as usual, while Manuel Fernandes returned for what seems to be his 40th stint with the club. Either way, Chelsea is through to the final against Tottenham.

Tottenham 5, Arsenal 1 (6-2 on aggregate)

Odd game – but Tottenham pulled apart a shaky Arsenal defense consisting of no one particularly guilty of inconsistent play. The backs were captained by Bakary Sagna and William Gallas, while young goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski got the start in goal. Other surprising names included Justin Hoyte, Denilson, Armand Traore. These youngsters aren’t exactly scared of the spotlight, but no one could cope – not even Gallas and Sagna – with the quality of Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon, Robbie Keane, Berbatov, and a nasty shot from Frenchmen Steed Malbranque. Wenger put on the studs too late – with Adebayor, Eduardo coming in later in the game (Adebayor eventually bagged the lone Gunner goal) and Cesc Fabregas in right after Wenger got a whiff of trouble – the 20 minute mark. Tottenham got the result they deserved in this instance, as last week in the first leg – they came out with a 1-1 draw after firmly holding the upper hand. On top of that, as seen above, a Carling Cup final might be what the Spurs need to keep Dimitar Berbatov around. Best Arsenal moment of the night was probably the friendly fire – Bendtner vs. Adebayor (it’s off in the distance, watch for it). Investigation to follow.

EPL/World Soccer Daily 1.14: Starbucks FC? Disney FC? EJ to Fulham talk again…and more!

STARBUCKS FC: No, I’m not talking about the possibility of Seattle’s expansion squad being named after the biggest coffee chain in the country. I am, however, implying that Starbucks is looking into (and take this with a Daily Mail grain of salt) an EPL club to invest in. Who may that be you ask? Who has absolutely no chance of staying up this year, with an American influence to boot? Not Fulham….but Derby. Apparently an American hedgefund, Shamrock, run by Roy Disney himself (‘guardian of the Walt Disney Empire’), will take a majority shareholding in the club despite it’s feeble prospects as a Championship club next year. Just read on yourself…

EDDIE JOHNSON: I’m not one to argue with the Washington Post’s Steve Goff, and this time is no different. Goff is reporting that Johnson left USMNT Camp the other day to finalize talks with Fulham USA. The Cottagers need all they can get to avoid the relegation zone which they firmly stuck in at the moment.

JURGEN KLINSMANN: Apparently Tom Hicks and George Gillett (owners of Liverpool) were in advanced talks with Jurgen Klinsmann to bring him to Anfield. That was until he took the job with Bayern Munich. Now instead of covering it up, Hicks has come out and publicly stated that his intention was to sign Klinsmann as Rafa Benitez’s time at Anfield might be coming to an end.

KEVIN KEEGAN: Now the popular vote over at St. James’ Park to be Newcastle’s new victim…er…manager. Many – including myself – would like to see him link up with Alan Shearer, grooming Shearer to be the eventual successor. Doubt it will happen though.

ALEXANDRE PATO: The 18-year old AC Milan starlet was given his first start yesterday and he did what he was supposed to do…score. On top of that, Ronaldo looked like his youthful self making it seem that he most likely will be sticking around Milan for another year or so. It was a 5-2 victory for Milan and possibly a turn around point now that the crowd has their trio – chanting “Ka-Pa-Ro” a good amount of the game. Ka = Kaka, Pa = Pato, Ro = Ronaldo. Pato had about 4 clear chances on net before he actually put one in, Ronaldo had a brace after 2 days of training and 14 double cheeseburgers, and Kaka added his name to the mix as well.

TIM BOROWSKI: German international Borowski is set to make the switch from Werder Bremen to Bayern Munich at the end of the season making him new hire Jurgen Klinsmann’s first signing. Klinsmann himself won’t arrive til the end of the season, but he is already starting to put the pieces into place. Borowski didn’t even give Bremen a shot at re-signing him as he jumped at the chance to work with Klinsmann, former national team coach.

EPL Daily 1.2.08: SAF Lashes Out; Eddie Johnson where?; Rumors; and a New Year’s Run-Down

I’ll have a quick breakdown of readers’ allegiances and what not coming up either later today or tomorrow…for now, however, let the January transfer window commence as the EPL starts to heat up. I will post every significant transaction along with analysis as they arise. EPL match capsules below…

SAF: Sir Alex Ferguson lashed out at Manchester United’s supporters for Glazer-bashing and the fact that Old Trafford sounded like a ‘funeral’ during Man Utd’s 1-0 win over Birmingham yesterday. Carlos Tevez provided something to cheer about, but the atmosphere didn’t last for long. Maybe we should ask for competitive parity in the EPL before we require that supporter’s groups actually get excited to play a Birmingham City! Ferguson also slammed supporters on the topic of Glazer-bashing.

EDDIE JOHNSON: The Times Online UK has listed the suitors for Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson while the Daily Mirror has thrown one into the mix at well. A combined list includes Fulham, Manchester City, Reading, Derby County again, Middlesbrough, and Benfica. Johnson’s addition to Fulham would give the Cottagers an American army consisting of Keller, Bocanegra, Dempsey, and McBride. It seems Fulham will only make the move if their attempt to sign Liverpool’s wantaway Harry Kewell.

STEVEN PIENAAR: The South African winger for Everton is a rising stock in the EPL and his club loyalty confirms that. Pienaar has asked for special leniency to delay his African Nations Cup call-up in order to play in the Carling Cup semifinal against Chelsea on January 8th. The first match of the  African Nations Cup is January 23rd, but South African national team players are expected to report January 5th in order to prepare. He should find out either today or tomorrow.

TRANSFER RUMORS: David Villa to Chelsea, David Bentley to Chelsea or Atletico Madrid, Emmanuel Villa from UAG Tecos to Derby County, Dean Ashton to a number of clubs, but it was Liverpool midfielder throwing out the ultimatum – saying Liverpool either signs him soon or he’s out and it wouldn’t be very hard for him to find a home. I bet Mohamed Sissoko would like that…

New Year’s Day Matches

Chelsea 2, Fulham 1

A Hodgson-led Fulham side looked much more engaged and ready to play, but the Cottagers – thanks to a botched PK call on Michael Ballack – still took the loss. Danny Murphy put away Fulham’s PK chance in the 10th minute, but it was Salomon Kalou who has become a fixture in Chelsea’s first team who powered home a close-range header to start a 10-minute double salvo that pushed Fulham deeper into the relegation zone. Both Americans – Dempsey and Bocanegra – played all 90-minutes, while Brian McBride is apparently on the hot trail to return by the end of the month.

Arsenal 2, West Ham United 0

First twenty minutes and the game was already put away as the rising duo of Adebayor and Eduardo da Silva each grabbed a goal to ensure Arsenal’s first place position. Both goals were equally ‘magical’ – to quote Ray Hudson. Adebayor’s was put away at the most acute angle possible and Eduardo’s was a half volley with a feint of sorts that threw Robert Green off his mark. Carlton Cole made Manuel Almunia’s life on the pitch a miserable and deceivingly tough one, but the Spanish goalkeeper prevailed. The win over Man Utd put a noticeable fatigue on West Ham’s midfield but it was the early goal that took the wind out of their sails.

Manchester United 1, Birmingham 0

United kept pace with the Gunners and the scoreline looks tighter than it probably should have been. The Devils wasted several chances – especially a three-yard miss from Cristiano Ronaldo that could put away the game. Carlos Tevez scored the game’s only goal early on though and Carlos Quieroz kept them attacking, but nothing would go in. Sir Alex Ferguson’s discontent was somewhat visible as he sat in the crowd serving the second of his two-game sideline suspension. Park Ji-Sung – though regaining match fitness – showed glimpses of his old self, while Michael Carrick had his worst day in a while – bad first touch, terrible vision, etc. Overall, it was clear the West Ham loss took a bit out of the Devils. Tevez paid for his goal as it looks like the forward will miss the FA-Cup match against Aston Villa coming up with severe brusing in the ankle.

Portsmouth 2, Reading 0

This game marked a great day for Marcus Hahnemann – despite the loss and two goals conceded. The American keeper triggered a clause in his deal that guaranteed him a new deal if he played in 20 EPL games on the season. Mission accomplished and Hahnemann stays a Royal. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that Pompey unravelled the Royals led by Sol Campbell. Reading didn’t do much for themselves though as three minutes in Ibrahima Sonko was sent off after levelling Benjani in the box. Niko Kranjcar missed the attempt, however. John Utaka added the clincher in the 66th minute as Reading fought against a potent offense that never once let up. For those of you worried about Bobby Convey leaving in the 7th minute, it was merely a tactical decision made by Coppell in reaction to Sonko’s ejection.

Everton 2, Middlesbrough 0

Finishing and a man known as Tim Howard set the tone for Everton’s 2-0 shutout of Middlesbrough. Howard made some remarkable saves allowing Everton’s offense the time to finally put one home. It took until the 67th minute but Andrew Johnson found net and opened the door for James McFadden to add another 5 minutes later. Other than that, the rainy day made it a scrappy affair but Everton corrected their form and seem ready to resume their challenge for Europe.

Aston Villa 2, Tottenham 1

A pair of defenders were the difference on both sides of the field as Villa shut down Berbatov and company. Heading into January, Juande Ramos’ biggest concern his holding onto the Bulgarian striker with Darren Bent most likely on his way out too. Olaf Mellberg powered home a header early on only for it to be snuffed out by Jermain Defoe’s late strike in the 79th minute. Martin Laursen – another central defender – albeit one with 5 goals! – put one home in the 82nd minute off yet another set piece. Michael Dawson was made to look like a lost little puppy by the defenders who scraped and clawed their way to freedom in the penalty box. At least, in post-game interviews, it was reiterated that Berbatov will, in fact, stay at White Hart Lane.

EPL Daily 12.26: Happy Holidays! And some Dempsey, Beckham, Boxing Day, etc.

Thank you to all that come here every once in a while to read what we got to say. It’s Boxing Day and we’re in for a good day of soccer (going on as I share these headlines with you).

DUECE: Clint Dempsey struck for his 6th goal of the season in (the game is close to done) a rather lopsided loss to Tottenham. Dempsey is doing what they expected David Healy, Diomansy Kamara, and Shefki Kuqi to do – clean up the mess of offense Fulham has. Heading into the New Year, there is no doubt that the Cottagers are going to be fighting the relegation battle. Dempsey kept them up last year though…can he do it again, with some late help from a soon-to-be returning Brian McBride (they desperately need a target man)?

EPL SCORING: An update of EPL Leading Scorers – notice Dempsey at the bottom…

Cristiano Ronaldo (MU) 12
Emmaneul Adebayor (ARS) 10
Nicolas Anelka (BOL) 10
Robbie Keane (TOT) 10
Benjani (POR) 9
Yakubu (EVE) 9
Fernando Torres (LIV) 9
Marcus Bent (WIG) 7
Roque Santa Cruz (BLA) 7
Carlos Tevez (MU) 7
Steven Gerrard (LIV) 7
Gabriel Agbonlahor (WHU) 6
Cesc Fabregas (ARS) 6
Obafemi Martins (NEW) 6
Clint Dempsey (FUL) 6
Dave Kitson (RDG) 6

ARSENAL: With the January transfer window looming, look for there to be a flurry of activity. One team that will be holding out……or so it seems…….is Arsene Wenger’s young Arsenal squad. Even with the imminent absence of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue for the African Nations Cup – Wenger is pretty sure recalled Johann Djourou and Philippe Senderos can do the job.

LAWRIE SANCHEZ: Gone. Martin Jol was apparently to be considered for the Fulham opening – but that has gone to the crapper. Former Cottager John Collins – who recently left his post at the SPL’s Hibernian – will most likely grab the job.

DAVID BECKHAM: Expected to train with Arsenal starting as early as January in an attempt to get fit for the upcoming MLS season as well as his potential 100th appearance for the English national team. Arsene Wenger has assured that Beckham comes to train, NOT play for the Gunners.

FRANKIE SIMEK: Though not the EPL, the American Sheffield Wednesday right-back warrants a headline due to an unfortunate injury that could keep him out for up to 2 months. Simek – now on the USMNT radar – also was looked at by Everton and a couple other EPL clubs this past summer but with Sheffield Wednesday’s poor performances recently, an injury, and a new contract extension, it looks like Simek won’t get that look again for a while.

UCL Round of 16 DRAW: For those who missed it, the draw looks like this…

Liverpool vs. Inter Milan
Chelsea vs. Olympiakos
AS Roma vs. Real Madrid
Schalke 04 vs. Porto
Arsenal vs. AC Milan
Barcelona vs. Celtic
FC Sevilla vs. Fenerbahce
Manchester United vs. Lyon

Predictions as the match dates get closer. For those interested, the two legs will be held on February 19th-20th and March 4th-5th.

EPL Weekend 9.29-9.30: highest scoring match in EPL history; Gunners make it 8; Fulham stays strong

STANDINGS 

Saturday 

Manchester City 3, Newcastle 1

The Magpies had their decent form wrecked by a squad pegged for over-performing, but it seems that after this win many have to recalculate their sentiments towards Sven Goran-Eriksson and his Elano-led squad. The Brazilian was great again, putting on a clinic in forward-thinking passing and then driving home an 86th minute free kick to top it all off. Bulgarian Martin Petrov continued his rekindled scoring drive and former Standard Liege striker Emile Mpenza got in on the action. It was the Magpies’ that struck first, but Citeh then responded with three unanswered strikes. Is Eriksson still just lucky?

Portsmouth 7, Reading 4

Both teams were looking for offensive production and – damn – did they ever get it (in a Philadelphia Phillies sort of fashion; you know score 15 one game, 0 the next). Benjani hit for a hat-trick while a stacked midfield provided the rest – Kranjcar, Sean Davis, Muntari all scored. What happened this game? I couldn’t tell you considering I didn’t have the privilege of watching it, but it certainly hurts the reputation of a normally tough-to-beat, stingy Reading defense led by American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. Shane Long, Dave Kitson, Stephen Hunt, and Nicky Shorey all found the net for the Royals. The shot count was never ridiculous but the accuracy was brilliant and that’s why both teams now have themselves in the record book for highest scoring EPL game.

Manchester United 1, Birmingham 0

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first of the year in the 51st minute and helped the Red Devils extend their streak of consecutive clean sheets in the EPL to five. Edwin Van der Sar will be missing the Devils’ next match-up however after picking up some ankle trouble before half-time. Either way, Man Utd has shown they can overcome adversity and early shaky play to pull out a result and with Ronaldo back and firing on all cylinders, we should see a very different Manchester United in the weeks to come.

Other Results:

Liverpool 1, Wigan 0

Benayoun is the savior putting the Reds past the Latics in the 75th minute.

Chelsea 0, Fulham 0

The Blues dominated but Kasey Keller stayed strong and only had to deal with 4 on frame (18 overall). Clint Dempsey went the whole 90 again as Fulham got a huge away point. Further bad news for Avram Grants and Chelsea as captain John Terry is now out with a possible fractured cheekbone.

Blackburn 2, Sunderland 1

Brad Freidel took care of a stingy Sunderland squad with the scoring support coming from David Bentley and Roque Santa Cruz in a two-minute double salvo. Grant Leadbitter scored the consolation goal with time running out.

Arsenal 1, West Ham United 0

The sliding Hammers keep on their path downward after Robin van Persie reintroduced himself to the goal in the 13th minute to ensure the Gunners’ 8th straight victory.

Derby County 1, Bolton 1

Derby grabbed a point to the tune of Kenny Miller’s strike as he continues to make his way into the Derby faithful’s hearts. The Scotsman watched as class Nicolas Anelka tied it up less than 15 minutes later. At least the Rams are grabbing some points.

Sunday

Everton 2, Middlesbrough 0

The Toffees welcomed Timmy Howard back to the line-up with a great on-field performance led by the also-returning from injury, dynamic and often forgotten about Mikel Arteta. He hides some games and then struts his stuff against the lower tier teams. Consistently, he’s good – don’t get me wrong, but he puts in world class performances at times and then disappears from the radar for a while. Joleon Lescott is another guy who probably doesn’t get the attention he well deserves. Not only did he score early, but he shut down Mido effectively. Between Arteta and Pienaar, that second goal was one of the best I’ve seen all weekend.

EPL: Derby drubbed again (still no Benny) and Dempsey gets number two

Two of the lesser news pieces (in the headline) that were extracted out of a goal-filled EPL Saturday…

Liverpool 6, Derby County 0

A complete ass-whooping. Not just in the score-line. There is no silver-lining here…it is certain to me that the Rams will be heading down. The only thing to watch out for now is whether or not Benny Feilhaber can make a big enough impact to warrant him a contract with a different EPL team come next season. The Reds came off a late but certain 4-0 beating of Toulouse mid-week to put another 6 past Derby – humbly provided by a plethora of Reds. Those being: Ryan Babel (1), Xabi Alonso (2), Fernando Torres (2), and Andrei Voronin (1). Rafa Benitez’s signings are continuing to impress and produce, but the real star of this game didn’t score. It was Jermaine Pennant who flirted with the Derby defense producing plenty of dangerous passes and opportunities.

Fulham 3, Tottenham 3

The Hotspur are giving out points like crazy and Fulham took hold of one after a late 2-goal surge in the last 15 minutes capped by Alexei Smertin and Diomansy Kamara saw the Cottagers rescue themselves after going up early in the game on Clint Dempsey’s 2nd strike of the season. Only one of Lawrie Sanchez’s deadline signings participated, that being former Pompey defender Dejan Stefanovic. For Tottenham, Berbatov got his first goal and so did both youngster defenders – Gareth Bale and former Auxerre defender Younes Kaboul.

Manchester United 1, Sunderland 0 

The day’s late game lacked skill and grace (cue the return of Cristiano Ronaldo). The perfect person to remedy a game like that would be the industrious Louis Saha and he did so…scoring late in the 72nd minute to continue Man Utd’s narrow win streak. Saha this week, Nani last week although Nani is slowly solidifying an important spot on the Red Devil roster as he provided the service for Saha’s game-winner. Ronaldo returns tomorrow as Man Utd looks to dig themselves slowly but surely out of a decent-sized hole.

Everton 2, Bolton 1 

Tim Howard held strong in goal yet again, only allowing the 55th minute equalizer to Nicolas Anelka. Fortunately, Joleon Lescott – a real possibility for significant international time someday soon – provided the 90th minute stroke after new signing and former Boro striker Yakubu struck for his first Toffee goal only 10 minutes into the game. Bolton’s form wavered as it normally does and I certainly don’t foresee that fact changing anytime soon.

Other Results

Newcastle 1, Wigan 0

Michael Owen helped the Magpies overcome a 10-man Wigan side that saw Kevin Kilbane collect two cards and sent off at the start of the second half. Owen scored in the 87th minute as it seems his touch is slowly returning.

West Ham United 3, Reading 0

Matthew Etherington hit for a brace, but it was Craig Bellamy who fired the Hammers ahead first in the 6th minute demoralizing a predictable Reading squad. Jonathan Spector worked the last 10 minutes, while Bobby Convey came on in the 75th. Steve Coppell can’t be happy with this as they sit unmotivated in the danger zone.

Middlesbrough 2, Birmingham 0

Southgate’s boys outplayed City and quelled supporters’ fears after losing the last piece of  2006’s most dependable strike force, Yakubu and Viduka. Boro received a goal from youngster defender David Wheater and in-form Stewart Downing added the sweetener in before the halftime whistle. Out of the three that Southgate had hoped to hang onto during the summer, only Downing remains as Chelsea and Liverpool gave up after finding their wing midfielders in Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun/Ryan Babel.

Sunday’s Matchups

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

Arsenal vs. Portsmouth

Blackburn vs. Manchester City