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.

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UEFA Champions League: Turkish Delight

Group standings. 

Group A

FC Porto 1, Liverpool 1

Jermaine Pennant was sent off with 30 minutes to go, but Liverpool survived finding the equalizer well before Pennant’s ejection and hanging on from there. Lucho Gonzalez converted an 8th minute penalty to put Porto up early.

Marseille 2, Besiktas 0

Having trouble finding domestic success again, but Les Bleus found a way past Besiktas with two late goals from trusty Julien Rodriguez and Liverpool outcast Djibril Cisse.

Group B

Chelsea 1, Rosenborg 1

Mourinho’s last game was a dud and the real question of the day was did he know he was walking out before the game or was his exit brought on by the result? Abrahamovich’s man Sheva saved the Blues’ tail by scoring on a header in the 53rd minute.

Valencia 1, Schalke 04 0

Not a great overall week for Bundesliga clubs, but it was David Villa’s class in the 63rd minute that propelled Los Ches by the blue-clad Germans. Otherwise, it looked like everybody else was content to settle for a draw.

Group C

Olympiakos 1, Lazio 1

Luciano Galletti put the Greek champions up 10 minutes into the second half and Lazio struggled to find someone to do their bidding as both Rocchi and Pandev were being shut down. With 10 minutes to, Luciano Zauri found the equalizer and Lazio accepted a tie – but the real question is, was he offside?

Real Madrid 2, Werder Bremen 1

There is still long way to go before we can fully evaluate this year’s Madrid squad, but they have shown more heart and dominance then in recent season’s past. Raul scored in the 16th minute but Boubacar Sanogo cancelled that out a minute later. We all know, however, that if you’re going to shut down Real – you must not give Ruud van Nistelrooy ANY – and I mean ANY – room. Well, Bremen did. Ruud replied – scoring with 15 minutes to go.

Group D

AC Milan 2, Benfica 1

Benfica never really threatened and for us American fans, all we really want to know is why no Freddy Adu? Anywhere? Andrea Pirlo exercised his ‘I’m better than you’ card and put Milan up within 10 minutes of the start. Pippo Inzaghi caught the bug and scored not long after effectively digging Benfica a nice grave to lay down in.

Shakhtar Donetsk 2, Celtic 0

I don’t get it. Rangers can rally against the likes of VfB Stuttgart while Celtic gets out-classed by Shakhtar, but when it comes to domestic play, Rangers loses 4-2 to Hearts of Midlothian while Celtic goes their first 5 unbeaten. Hmmm. A real nice crop of Brazilians have come out of Shakhtar (Elano to Manchester City, Matuzalem, etc.) and Brandao will surely be the next one to grab Western Europe’s eye. Especially after his performance against Celtic, scoring in the 6th minute. Claudio Lucarelli added his own 2 minutes later. The Brazilians really dominated this game, however, with Brandao, Fernandinho, and Jadson all having respectable games.

Group E

Barcelona 3, Lyon 0

Thierry Henry opened his account with Barca, while Lyon fought themselves mostly for the first 20 minutes but when Barca’s class kicked in – there was no fighting. Lionel Messi and Henry scored within the last 10 minutes of the game to put it out of reach.

Rangers 2, VfB Stuttgart 1

Stuttgart struck early thanks to the revelation of last year’s Bundesliga champion, Mario Gomez. Rangers evened it up not long after through the efforts of Charlie Adam, who since his terrible play against FK Zeta has seen little time. Adam came through, but Fernando Meira silver-plattered the lead with a foul on Alan Hutton. Hutton scored making it 2-1, giving the Gers 3 vital points, and taking the unofficial MVP of the match as he had his hand in both goals.

Group F

Manchester United 1, Sporting Lisbon 0

Cristiano Ronaldo’s homecoming was a good one – except for the whole destroying the lives and dreams of every Sporting Lisbon fan out there sort of thing. Okay, a little excessive – as it’s just the first match of the group round but Ronaldo scored the goal (on a diving header no less) that gave the Devils the win.

Roma 2, Dynamo Kiev 0

An out-classing – much of which had to do with the goalscorers Simone Perrotta and Francesco Totti. Trying to rack up points and goal difference before they meet Manchester United for a revenge-filled rematch?

Group G

Fenerbahce 1, Inter Milan 0

Brazilian Deivid supplied the goal just before the half-time whistle and Inter couldn’t respond at all. Could it really be that the presence of Roberto Carlos could push a team over the top? Either way, the key to the Turkish Champion’s victory was the efficient shut-down of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as he saw very little in the way of chances.

PSV Eindhoven 2, CSKA Moscow 1

Vagner Love’s late 89th minute goal couldn’t counter the firepower of Danko Lazovic and former AZ/Ajax striker Kenneth Perez who struck in the 59th and 80th minute respectively.

Group H

Arsenal 3, FC Sevilla 0

Yikes. Arsene Wenger has created a monster or else a little bit of confidence goes a long way. Cesc and Van Persie put the game out of reach but Eduardo grabbed another goal in injury time to drive the point home. The Gunners have started strong in both their Premiership and European campaigns, but are they pacing themselves?

Slavia Prague 2, Steaua Bucharest 1

An entertaining Eastern European battle that involved a showcasing of some burgeoning talent that you could see in the EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga/etc. sometime real soon. Marek Suchy showed why he’s considered one of the brightest prospects since Niko Kranjcar. Goals were scored for Slavia by Zdenek Senkerik and Tijani Belaid and for Bucharest, Dorin Goian.

10 Bright Spots of Week 24: Kljestan a leader?, Noonan to the forefront, and Chivas keeps winning

1. Sacha Kljestan – a somewhat surprising first pick – I know – but his sophomore season has not been one of ups and downs; instead the Seton Hall product has already outdone his rookie season of 0 g, 7 a, by striking for 4 g this year and adding 7 assists; he put the Goats ahead against Colorado on Sunday after helping spark the 3-0 shutout of Los Angeles earlier in the week; that 2006 rookie trio of Kljestan, Bornstein, and Vaughan has turned out to be the backbone of the Chivas franchise

2. Pat Noonan – the Revs striker has always been on the fringe of the national team radar but he is one of the most consistent MLS strikers in recent MLS seasons; his versatility and character makes him the heart of the Revs; two goals against FC Dallas helped New England clinch a spot in the playoffs; I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon some European club ( most likely English Championship) comes calling for him; always a guy to boost the team when Twellman, Dorman, Joseph go cold

3. Chivas USA defense: they are cohesive to the point that even when you insert a somewhat iffy Jason Hernandez, they coexist and adapt; because of Suarez, Bornstein, Hernandez, Lawson Vaughn, Alex Zotinca (Preki looks brilliant for bringing him along), and big man Shavar Thomas – Chivas USA looks poised to make their second consecutive playoff appearance and this time, they could be heading into it with their first Western Conference championship under their belt. Not bad.

4. Scott Sealy – the Wizards found goals from someone other than Eddie Johnson and especially since super-sub Yuri Movsisyan was shipped on over to Real Salt Lake as the Lakers continue to collect bright young talent; Sealy’s capped a Manchester United over Bayern Munich-like comeback as EJ converted a penalty kick in the 92nd minute and Sealy followed with a goal with less than 30 seconds left in the game; he had also provided the Wizards’ first goal on a beautiful free kick that soundly beat Will Hesmer

5. Colin Clark – his play as of late warrants a higher placing as he never seems to do anything visibly brilliant but he plays his role efficiently and keeps together a questionable Colorado midfield; his late goal earned the Rapids a tie against Chivas USA who looks poised to grab the Western Conference title

6. Christian Gomez – his future is up in the air after this season, especially now that Juan Sebastian Veron rumors have heated up but it certainly seems like Gomez is pleading his case on the field; a goal and an assist against a feisty Real Salt Lake side pushed DC over the top and into the playoffs with a firm hold on the Eastern Conference championship; could Gomez be worth a DP slot?

7. Steve Ralston – the all-time assist record keeps growing as Ralston ; Stevie is one of those guys that can connect with anybody but to have TWO class strikers in the form of Noonan and Twellman, Ralston has been in heaven for years; 2 more assists in a 4-2 win over FC Dallas helped the Revs clinch a post-season berth

8. Blanco – his performance against the Red Bulls was not impressive by any means but somehow he still puts himself on the scoreboard; this time he converted a spot kick and provided the assist on Gonzalo Segares’ game-tying goal late in their 2-2 tie in Chicago

9. Carlos Ruiz – El Pescondito has not been on this Top 10 much at all this season but he has been picking it up as of late; a brace against New England (one a powerful header) was still not enough to help FCD win and most of his goals have – in fact – come in losses; is Ruiz just warming up?

10. Khano Smith – way too inconsistent for my taste but Smith has recently found his stride and was a key figure in helping the Revs find their way to the playoffs yet again; his first goal of the season sealed the deal against Dallas while it was his assist to Pat Noonan that put them ahead in the first place

EPL Daily 9.16: Chelski, L-pool falters while Arsenal and Man U push onward

Manchester United 1, Everton 0

A Tim Howard-less Everton lost out to Nemanja Vidic’s first goal of the season as the big Serbian powered home an 83rd minute . New signing and backup Toffee keeper Stefan Wessels performed admirably in net withstanding several offensive onslaughts triggered by Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo. It wasn’t until Vidic with 7 minutes to go that Wessels was beaten. The tone of the game favored the Red Devils as Vidic and Ferdinand had shut down Man U’s half to any Yakubu or AJ advances.

Sunderland 2, Reading 1

Reading can’t buy a win – but Roy Keane has learned from his trials and tribulations early on and has kept Sunderland moving forward. Kenwyne Jones and Scotsman Ross Wallace scored early leaving Dave Kitson to try and pull the Royals back with a late 85th minute consolation strike. Changes are going to have to come (ahem, play Convey more til he is matchfit) if Steve Coppell wants to survive a sophomore season in the EPL.

West Ham United 3, Middlesbrough 0

A thorough lesson for M’boro in finishing as Lee Bowyer (another rare goal!), Dean Ashton , and an unfortunate own goal sunk Southgate’s side. All goals were scored in a 15 minute span right after the start of the second half. It was a bit lopsided as Middlesbrough actually had the brunt of the chances – putting 12 on net compared to 7 for the Hammers. One thing came to the forefront for Southgate today – Jeremie Aliadiere is NOT an answer at striker and is NOT worth the several million paid for him. No Spector to be found again.

Portsmouth 0, Liverpool 0

A draw that saw Crouch in favor of Torres and Nwankwo Kanu miss a penalty kick that would have provided Pompey with a solid morale boost. Sulley Muntari is starting to show signs of his former Serie A self. Gerrard, Torres, and Babel all came on for the Reds with 30 or so minutes to go, but not one of the trio could spark a rather stagnant offense. The only real effective piece was Andriy Voronin who seems to be the industrious workman that Rafa Benitez really needs. Either way, Redknapp and his boys hung in there but have to deal with Kanu’s miss that cost Pompey a very important two points.

Wigan 1, Fulham 1

Clint Dempsey scored his third in his last three appearances but Fulham still gave up the lead. Deuce’s put-back capped off decent early play by the Cottagers. The bubble was eventually burst, however, when Jason Koumas cooly converted an 80th minute PK. Though Wigan pulled out the draw, their future took a hit when in the 9th minute Emile Heskey limped off the pitch and was replaced by newly acquired Marcus Bent. Initially, the injury looked to be minor but now an ankle injury could keep the striker out for 1-2 months (hurting any continuous international chances).

Chelsea 0, Blackburn 0

With Drogba unhealthy, the Blues are having trouble finding production and Shevchenko’s return to the line-up did nothing to remedy that. Blackburn however sit unbeaten in 9 games this year and look refined and with a lot of fight, something that could secure them a UEFA Champions League spot – if a lot of luck goes in their direction.

Birmingham 1, Bolton 0

Bolton’s woes continue as Sammy Lee must be trying to rival Tottenham’s Martin Jol for the hottest seat in the EPL. It was Olivier Kapo who did Lee in, but Arsenal product Sebastian Larsson who orchestrated the whole coup. Anelka was kept quiet for the most part as Bolton tries to find someone who can score with reckless abandon. Question: what happened to Kevin Nolan??

Arsenal 3, Tottenham 1

It started out peachy-keen for the Hotspur when Gareth Bale struck in the 15th (his 2nd of the year), but Emmanuel Adebayor had different plans scoring a brace late in the second half to push the Gunners through the fight-less Spurs and up to the top of the EPL table. Cesc Fabregas provided the game-winner with five minutes to go.

Sunday.

Manchester City 1, Aston Villa 0

Citeh bounced back from recent defeats and overcame the Villans at home with youngster Michael Johnson providing the lone goal in the 48th minute (fitting end to an earlier sitter-miss). Man City got the job done with no real flair or spunk reminiscent of the first couple weeks, instead it was a fast paced, back-and-forth match-up which saw both teams with suspect trouble spots.