EPL Weekend Recap: the Reds burn themselves, Chelski tops Arsenal, and Darren Bent the super-sub

Saturday, March 22nd

Newcastle 2, Fulham 0

Roy Hodgson did arguably nothing to try for the win in this one. Basically, Jimmy Bullard had free reign in the midfield and his “amazing shot” was deemed as the way to score. Yet none of his long range efforts hit home. McBride and Johnson started up front, but no service was given to them – except the time where both of them missed a well-struck cross 10 yards from goal. Other than that, it was frustrating as hell to watch them try and post Eddie Johnson up on Taylor and then have EJ pass it back while the Magpie centrebacks pressured him. Occasionally, this would produce space on the wing – but Simon Davies picked a bad day to become invisible (especially after a great performance against Everton). Coupled with Sunderland’s win, Bolton’s tie – it’s not looking too good for the Americans. Newcastle didn’t look too dangerous either but when you have game changers like Michael Owen and Obi Martins – games like this are bound to go your way. Owen scored the second, while Mark Viduka – back after a small stint on the sidelines – struck early for Newcastle. 

Tottenham 2, Portsmouth 0

Two late goals from Darren Bent and Jamie O’Hara gave the Spurs . One could even say the Jermain Defoe decision really affected an otherwise even match-up. Utaka, Baros, and Kanu couldn’t make up for the absence of Jermain Defoe who has struck for 6 in 6 games since coming over to Pompey. His absence, however, was part of the loan deal originally agreed upon in order to get his transfer from White Hart Lane to Fratton Park done before the deadline. Berbatov and Robbie Keane gave Sol Campbell and his back four some problems, but couldn’t find the net. It wasn’t until Ramos inserted Darren Bent in the 70th minute (super-sub mode like Jermain Defoe no less) that the goal followed. Bent also had his hand in youngster Jamie O’Hara’s goal several minutes later.

Other scores:

Middlesbrough 1, Derby 0 – Eddie Lewis played all ninety, but Sanli Tuncay gave Boro the win.

Blackburn 3, Wigan 1 – Two red cards – Samba for B’burn and Palacios for Wigan – headlined a physical performance. When Santa Cruz is on brace form though, the Rovers are really hard to beat. Brad Friedel did his part on the defensive end yet again.

Sunderland 1, Aston Villa 0 – The big upset of the weekend. Thanks to Michael Chopra’s 83rd minute winner, the Black Cats received some much needed breathing room.

Everton 1, West Ham United 1 – Yakubu’s early goal was countered a late Dean Ashton goal that Timmy Howard could do nothing about. Jonathan Spector came on in the 82nd after returning from successfully leading the US U-23s to an Olympic berth.

Reading 2, Birmingham 1 – A huge step-up from an unlikely hero allowed the Royals to grab three against a relegation foe. Cameroonian Andre Bikey captained an effective back four and also scored the brace that gave Reading the win. Valued at $30 million, Mauro Zarate grabbed the consolation goal for the Blues, who looked pretty disorganized. Marcus Hahnemann did his duty, while Bobby Convey didn’t dress. Stephen Hunt kept his stock rising heading into the offseason with another inspired performance on the wings.

Bolton 0, Manchester City 0 – A point is a point right now for the Wanderers and even though Gary Megson said Nicolas Anelka’s absence won’t matter in this relegation battle, they could have used the now Chelsea man on Saturday. One good sign for Bolton was that they dictated the run of play, but their remaining fixtures put them in dark territory the rest of the way. 

Sunday, March 23rd

Manchester United 3, Liverpool 0

Liverpool was in it – they were getting crushed on shots attempted, etc, but they were still in it to say the least. That is until…Javier Maschareno bitched himself out of the game. The Argentinian decided to continue protest of a call past the boiling point of the head ref while he was already carrying a card to his name. None of his teammates decided to intervene and tell the man to shut his trap. Right before half time, Mascherano was sent off and United took control of the game. The Reds fought, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani both broke through with 10 minutes to go and the game was put out of reach. Wes Brown scored the first goal for United. Can anyone stop Ronaldo from scoring?

Chelsea 2, Arsenal 1

Didier the decider. Two late goals from the Ivorian trounced an earlier go-ahead goal by Arsenal’s fullback Bacary Sagna. Sagna headed home a Cesc Fabregas corner and his first goal ever for the Gunners to push ahead 10 minutes into the second half, but Drogba came through after surviving a frustrating first half. Partly thanks to Lampard and Joe Cole’s endeavors in the midfield, Drogba was given the firm opportunity to lift the spirits of Chelsea’s faithful past their growing disdain for Avram Grant’s tactics and style of play. The Blues have moved into second now, trailing Manchester United by 5 points – making that eventual derby a BIG one. 

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EPL Weekend: Everton Reclaims 4th, Former Goalscorer Forssell returns, Lampard Ejected

Saturday, March 1st

Birmingham 4, Tottenham 1

Not many were expecting this result and it’s pretty certain that not a soul would have expected Mikael Forssell to hit for a hat-trick against the Hotspur no less. Sure enough, that’s what happened. The true ‘nail in the coffin’ came with Sebastian Larsson’s swerving free-kick beating Paul Robinson to his right and putting Birmingham two clear right after half-time. The Blues had Tottenham’s number this season, taking both match-ups, and this is the worst loss Juande Ramos has suffered since his takeover. It’s pretty safe to say that Pascal Chimbonda and Younes Kaboul will never be deployed centrally on defense again. Think of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu’s worst days together with the Nats and multiply it exponentially. Ramos could barely watch…Birmingham will breathe a sigh of relief though as this puts them a little higher up in the fight for top-flight survival.

Reading 1, Middlesbrough 0

A big win for Reading, against a lesser quality side Birmingham’s opponent Tottenham, but three points nonetheless. James Harper has a knack for scoring those injury time goals then going dormant for a good 10 games, but he made his presence known against M’Boro. The Royals didn’t get many chances, but Shorey and Ingimarsson kept Middlesbrough rather quiet. Bobby Convey didn’t dress.

Manchester United 3, Fulham 0

Brian McBride couldn’t revive his magic versus United as the Cottagers were trampled on from the beginning. Eddie Johnson and McBride coupled up front as Fulham managed several decent attacks, but United got much-needed rest for their stars as their return leg vs. Lyon fast approaches and some contributions from unlikelies. Owen Hargreaves hit his first in a United shirt on a well-taken set piece, while Park Ji-Sung actually tucked away a header to make it 2-0 before half-time. Then with 20 minutes to go, Sir Alex Ferguson put in Ronaldo, Rooney, and Anderson and their entrances quickly pinned Fulham down. A Simon Davies own goal ensured the victory for Manchester and dug a deeper hole for the struggling Cottagers.

Chelsea 4, West Ham United 0

Another outclassing, but this one with a different theme. Lampard converted a penalty early on only to be shown a red after retaliating on a tackle made by Luis Boa Morte. Controversy ensued but by then Chelsea was up 3-0 thanks to Michael Ballack and Joe Cole. An hour without Lampard made Chelsea a much more disciplined squad, taking the chances when they had to. A counter-attack led to Ashley Cole’s first goal of the season (and in a long time) which he converted from a seemingly impossibly acute angle. Needless to say, that was West Ham’s luck. Jon Spector dressed but didn’t play for the Hammers.

Blackburn 1, Newcastle 0

Newcastle’s losses have become less embarassing at least, but regardless, their slide continues. Actually the only real embarassment in this match-up was missed chances. Obafemi Martins is his 30 minutes couldn’t find the target, nor could Michael Owen (who later apologized publicly to his teammates for his inaccuracies). One person who did find the net was young Rover striker Matt Derbyshire and he did it in dramatic fashion, 90th minute to push Newcastle farther down the table. Roque Santa Cruz tested Newcastle’s defense all day, but it was David Bentley who put Derbyshire through for the injury-time clincher. Brad Friedel played all 90 and once again led the Rovers to another shutout.

Other Results:

Manchester City 0, Wigan 0 – Sven-Goran Eriksson was understandably angry after this one as Citeh looks nothing like the first half of the season, Wigan held strong though

Derby 0, Sunderland 0 – Another angry manager in Roy Keane, but at least Paul Jewell should feel an ounce of happiness after this. Poor guy. Eddie Lewis went the whole 90, Benny Feilhaber dressed for the first time in a long time, but overall it was the worst played game all weekend.

Sunday, March 2nd

Liverpool 3, Bolton 1

The Reds were fortunate to be given a 12th minute gift of an own goal. Jussi Jaskaleinen – a keeper not used to odd mistakes like this – seemed to be tracking a Gerrard shot wide but instead corralled it into his own net. The play seemed to demoralize the Wanderers defense as Jussi was busy the rest of the game, playing rather well. Liverpool’s offense was too strong however. Though rumored to be restless at Anfield, Ryan Babel put together a fantastic game scoring the go-ahead goal and terrorizing the wings. Fabio Aurelio added the third with 15 minutes to go with a Jon Arne Riise-like strike. New signing Tamir Cohen pulled back a consolation goal for the relegation strugglers as their job was made worse by yet another home loss. Martin Skrtel is really starting to settle down in the back for Liverpool, but it’s going to take a while before anyone can compare him to Liverpool’s Nemanja Vidic.

Everton 3, Portsmouth 1

Someone should discipline Yakubu more often. David Moyes spouted praise for the Nigerian striker after he struck for yet another two goals in an organized victory over European competition hopefuls Portsmouth. Pompey fielded an odd line-up with Muntari and Kranjcar moving equally on the wings as well as in the middle, but Everton stuck on the course. Yakubu hit for an early goal in the 1st minute only to see Jermain Defoe continue his scoring run with new club Portsmouth and equalize before halftime. Tim Cahill came to the rescue with a high-flying header, wide open, but extremely acrobatic to break the deadlock. Yakubu added the insurance goal with about 10 minutes to go, giving him 18 for the season. With the win, Moyes got the added bonus of rest for an injury-hampered Mikel Arteta who they will certainly need for their final push. Even with the 3 points, Moyes is relatively certain it is Liverpool that will pull out the 4th place finish. What words can I even say about how Tim Howard is playing right now…

EPL Daily 2.6.08: Friedel inks new deal, FC Dallas trialist, WCQ/International Friendlies

FRIEDEL: Brad Friedel – which many have overlooked – has the most appearances in Blackburn’s long and storied history. It’s just a shame he wasn’t there when Alan Shearer and the Rovers hoisted the EPL trophy in 1994-95. The 36 year old, internationally retired keeper has signed on until 2010 as Blackburn continues to improve year in and year out.

BENJANI: Even with the transfer window all locked up, one deal was finally brought to a conclusion. Manchester City cited concerns for a knee problem that Portsmouth’s leading scorer Benjani had on surgery to correct 18 long months ago. Their nit-picking – if you want to call it that – allowed Citeh to squeeze out an installment payment plan for the in-form striker. Manchester will pay $7.5 million up front with installments totalling another $7.5 million will follow at Benjani’s 25, 50, and 75 start mark.

SAM STOCKLEY: Although not EPL related and not even really that exciting. FC Dallas will be trialing Stockley – a former Colchester and now Wycombe fullback. At the ripe old age of 30, he has been forced out of the Wycombe line-up and is looking at his options. His contract doesn’t run out until late June of 2008.

INTERNATIONALS: Everton’s Tim Cahill scored the second goal in their first ever Asian World Cup qualifying win. A 3-0 blowout of Qatar. Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Fulham’s Seol Ki-Hyeon scored three of South Korea’s 4 goals in a 4-0 drubbing of Turkimenistan. Charlton’s Chinese striker Zheng Zhi scored the equalizer in a 1-1 tie with Iraq to start off their WCQ campaign and kept China from following to a 10-man Iraq side after midfielder Neshat Akram was sent off.

A crap load of international friendlies take place today, featuring all sorts of EPL players – the most notable being: France vs. Spain (17 year old Barca starlet Bojan Krkic was hoping to make his debut but might not due to injury), England vs. Switzerland (England will play its first match under Fabio Capello), USA vs. Mexico, Croatia vs. Netherlands (Holland will be operating with out Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dirk Kuyt, and Robin Van Persie), Turkey vs. Sweden, Austria vs. Germany, Czech Republic vs. Poland, Italy vs. Portugal, Brazil vs. Ireland (the Irish hope for some luck without a manager on the sideline against the Brazilians, Alexandre Pato will NOT make his debut due to a sprained ankle), Jamaica vs. Costa Rica, and Honduras vs. Paraguay.

Michael Bradley scores 2 more, attracts Blackburn, in Heerenveen’s 3-0 win over De Graafschaap

Bradley is now up to 15 total for the season and 11 in the league. Now I’m just baffled. This is amazing. I understand Heerenveen is a team that scores a LOT of goals all the while conceding a lot too…but Bradley has now scored 5 goals in his last 4 appearances, and 8 in his last 8.

Could this push a big European club like HSV to act sooner rather than later???? The new suitor, however, is Blackburn of the EPL. Get him in the door Friedel (although I don’t think he’ll need any help). 

EPL Weekend: Boca scores, United falls, Arsenal pushes forward

Saturday, December 29th, 2007 

Tottenham 6, Reading 4

You almost HAVE to start out with this one as weird results such as this one don’t come around to often in the EPL. Dimitar Berbatov had 4 of the 6 Spurs’ goals and reiterated after the game that he was poised to leave come the New Year because he still thought Tottenham (even with the new coach) had no chance at trophies. His four put him at 8 for the year and right into the thick of the scoring leaderboard. It was Reading, however, that went up 2-1 with almost a half to go but then all went to hell. There were 7 goals in the last 40 minutes. Robbie Keane was kept quiet on the day despite a PK chance that was snuffed by Marcus Hahnemann. Dave Kitson scored two for the Royals pushing his total to 8 as well, but it was still Reading’s 2nd lopsided drubbing of the campaign (remember that 7-4 loss to Portsmouth). Not a good habit to get into…Khalifa Cisse and Ivar Ingimarsson scored the first two goals for Reading, while Tottenham got a rocket from Steed Malbranque and a PK miss follow-up from Jermain Defoe to go with Berbatov’s 4 goal performance.  

West Ham 2, Manchester United 1

The hiccup that no one expected would happen, especially with the recent form of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo showed up to play yet again, scoring in the 14th minute to put the Devils up 1-0 and things seemed dandy. It was the Hammers that took control though, creating more chances, and giving Tomasz Kusczak some trouble in goal. They didn’t break through Rio and Vidic until the 77th minute when guess who? ANTON Ferdinand (Rio’s brother and West Ham’s central defender) headed one home. Matthew Upson then provided the winner aerially about 5 minutes later, bringing ManYoo crashing back down to Earth. What’s worse is it was Cristiano Ronaldo who could have effectively put the game away in the 68th with a Jonathan Spector PK gift, but he missed wide right proving he’s not a soccer God yet.

Fulham 1, Birmingham 1

The Cottagers looked like the home team and both Americans – Bocanegra and Dempsey had good days. Boca found the net early on with a near post run as he nodded it past the sprawling Maik Taylor putting Fulham up 1-0 and making new boss Roy Hodgson jump a bit for joy in the stands. They pressed forward again and again, but it was Sebastian Larsson’s Omozusi-deflected (poor kid yet again) long range blast that tied the game up. Dempsey really did look effective, but nothing of worrisome proportions to Taylor in net. Fulham will have to gear up for a tough second half of the season and expect some personnel changes to prepare for that…Michael Parkhurst anyone?

Chelsea 2, Newcastle 1

The Magpies falter yet again. Salomon Kalou’s 87th minute put-away amongst offside controversy put the death grip on Sam Allardyce’s job status. Either way, Newcastle managed only 2 shots on net, 1 of which hit its target. Michael Essien put away the first goal of the day in a penalty box-scrum, but ultimately he had one of his more forgetful performances of the season. Nicky Butt equalized on a well-executed counter attack that saw him start the play and end it, but after that, Newcastle went limp. Nothing to report except that Chelsea’s class took over and Allardyce was relegated to admitting defeat.

Arsenal 4, Everton 1

Tim Howard looked particularly helpless in goal but it certainly wasn’t as if received any real help from his back four. Eduardo – Arsenal’s Croatian Brazilian – picked apart Lescott and Yobo repeatedly for two goals cancelling out Tim Cahill’s opener at 19 minutes. Adebayor added his 11th of the year and Tomas Rosicky hit for a near-post screamer to add insult to injury. There were two sent off in this fixture and for about ten minutes, Everton had the upper hand as Nicklas Bendtner was ejected for a childish tackle. Mikel Arteta – a great deal older – threw a brutal looking elbow on Fabregas minutes later and was given his marching orders as well. A 4-1 win puts Wenger’s boys on top by two points and proved me stupid as only a couple days ago I had announced Everton’s “arrival”. Oh well.

Middlesbrough 1, Portsmouth 0

Southgate’s Boro grabbed a shock away win against an impotent Portsmouth squad. It was Pompey that provided most of the attacking flair but they were repeatedly tempered by a Woodgate-led back four. Pompey manager turned felon Harry Redknapp cited fatigue as the biggest factor in the loss, but whether it was fatigue-induced or not, the finishing was pretty much piss-poor. Why the Kranjcar/Muntari set-up was given a rest, with the African Nations Cup coming up and Muntari leaving, is beyond me…

Aston Villa 2, Wigan 1

Another hard fought Aston Villa win. Two late goals from Curtis Davies and Gabriel Agbonlahor sealed the deal at Wigan, ruining Titus Bramble’s first-ever goal celebration with the Latics. All-in-all, the game produced few real attacking efforts and if it came down to a defensive stand-off, I would bet my life on the Villans. The man of the day was Curtis Davies though as he looked like a guy worth keeping, something Martin O’Neill has been waiting for all season. Wigan still sits in the relegation zone with Liverpool looming and not making matters any easier.

Sunderland 3, Bolton 1

Roy Keane’s boys continued Bolton’s downward spiral, putting a three-spot on the lowly Wanderers. Former Man Utd winger Kieran Richardson hit first in the 13th with hot prospect Kenwyne Jones following suit twenty minutes later. It was a finishing clinic as there weren’t many chances in this one, nor were there expected to be many. El-Hadji Diouf tried to take matters in his own hands, pulling one back before half-time but the Black Cats held strong. Darryl Murphy provided the icing on the cake in injury time, but the real question after this result was: is Nicolas Anelka moving on?? Without Anelka, I can only see relegation for the Wanderers unless someone learns how to spend money over at Reebok Stadium. Sunderland aren’t in a great way either and sit – along with Bolton – right above the relegation zone.  

Sunday, December 30th 

Blackburn 2, Derby 1

Roque Santa Cruz scored his third goal in 2 games and this one ensured at least a point with lowly Derby County. The Paraguayan striker now has 10 on the year and is rapidly closing in on Cristiano Ronaldo at the top. It was David Bentley however, who also has had a great past couple games, that provided the gamewinner and the heroics for the Rovers. Matt Oakley opened the scoring for the Rams as they converted on their first real offensive drive but fizzled after that. The Rovers poured on shot after shot (a whopping 18 on goal), but the true turning point was Steve Howard’s botched penalty attempt. Brad Friedel guessed the right direction and kept Derby’s lead at only one. Then Santa Cruz and Bentley took over.

Liverpool 0, Manchester City 0

An exciting deadlock to say the least. Big men of the day were Man City’s Vedran Corluka and Irish veteran Richard Dunne. Not that Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher had a bad day or anything, but it was pretty quiet on Pepe Reina’s side of the field. Sven’s Citeh fought off a rather tame barrage and centre-back Dunne probably blocked at least 5 of those attempts himself and kept Torres at bay. Carragher on the other hand kept Elano quiet, snuffing any chance Man City had to move up in the standings. Dunne took the cake for best performance of the day with his acrobatic clearance off the line after a nifty Joe Hart save almost trickled into Man City’s goal.

EPL Daily 12.28: Dorman finds home in SPL? (I know, I know), Barton the Convict

CONVICT BARTON: Joey Barton has done it again. This time, I don’t feel like commenting. So there. This to go with terrible Newcastle form, Big Sam Allardyce teetering on the edge of unemployment…Newcastle really does have some sort of curse.

BIANCHI: Rolando Bianchi has hit out at English culture, cuisine, referees, and his teammates in his latest tirade. This time, however, he has made it clear he wants to return to Italy as soon as possible. Bianchi came over from Reggina in the summer and has made a decent impact despite being unsettled.

YOUTH SIGNING: Liverpool has started off their soon-to-be New Year preparing for their future. The Reds signed 16-year old Ross County star Alex Cooper for $200k. Is this another youth grab? Possibly but most of their noise was made this past summer with the signings of Alex Kaciniklic (Helsingborg), David Amoo (Millwall), Marvin Pourie (Borussia Dortmund), Ryan Crowther (Stockport), Kristzian Nemeth and Andreas Simon (MTK Hungaria), Nikolay Mihalov (Levski Sofia), Damien Plessis (Lyon), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Ronald Huth (Tacuary FC)…….you get my point??? Two are English. Cooper is Scottish.

ANDY DORMAN: St. Mirren of the Scottish Premier League are looking to lock up an 18-month deal with the Revolution’s Andy Dorman. Dorman’s past MLS season was one of roller coaster proportions. He started the year off with a bang coming off an even better 2006 season.

MAN CITY 2, BLACKBURN 2: Manchester City’s perfect home record dissipated after Roque Santa Cruz’s 84th minute put-away ruined it all. It wasn’t without controversy though – as the linesman originally called a non-active David Dunn offside but the referee waved it off as Dunn attempted to flick the ball on to Roque Santa Cruz, but never actually touched it. Santa Cruz scored, ending the perfect home record for Sven’s boys. Elano was dangerous when inserted with about 30 minutes to go. Citeh still sits in 5th heading into this Sunday’s clash with Liverpool. Former United man (D.C. that is) Ryan Nelsen had an own goal go in off him to give City the lead early in the game. Brad Friedel was rock solid in goal as he went the distance for the Rovers.

Methadone Report: From the Mexican Primera to the EPL

I tasted a little off-season methadone over the weekend and, in spite of pulling the equivalent of walking in at the middle of a movie, enjoyed it well enough.  It wasn’t all sunshine, however, as I’ll explain below, but it’s going to work…I just know it.  And while I’m watching ’em, I may as well comment on ’em…at least a little and as the spirit moves me.

Moving on…

Toluca 1-1 UNAM Pumas

I got a kick out of this one, even if I didn’t know while I was watching it that it was the second leg.  And, having watched it, I can empathize a little better with Mexican fans as the losses to the U.S. national team pile up.  UNAM played prettier and had the better of play and possession, but Toluca stayed in it by 1) knocking them around and 2) playing a wickedly efficient counter-attack.  If I’m reading ESPN’s overall results thingy right that didn’t help Toluca: looks like UNAM will go to the semis…which I hope to catch (where and when I can).

Fulham 2-2 Blackburn Rovers

This game had a wonderful, “feels like old times” fvibe for this former EPL fan.  Apart from finally seeing Clint Dempsey playing in a Fulham jersey, I discovered that Danny Murphy, a sentimental favorite of mine, now plays with him; Simon Davies, of Tottenham back when I was watching, showed up as well and I like him all right.  In fact, I’m thinking it will be fun to see where a lot of the players I once knew so well ended up.  Then there was the game…

The first half was friggin’ awful: a tomb-like atmosphere, sloppy, whack-a-mole play with an all-guts-no-brains style, etc.  The state of things left me stewing at the memory of every pitying lecture I’ve ever endured from Brits about crappy American soccer and the absence of atmosphere at MLS grounds (and these have been horrifyingly condescending at times; then again, they don’t hold a candle to the several “educational” chats from Anglophiles trying to enlighten me as to what “real football” looks like).  That first half was as bad as anything I’ve seen on the field and off in MLS over the past five years.  Fortunately, the second half turned around all right – even as I doubled time between the game and Iron Chef America – both in terms of play and atmosphere.  It wasn’t the greatest game ever played, but it was fast and frenetic like the EPL can be and, therefore, pretty fun in the end.  Oh, and Dempsey looked pretty decent, if a little familiarly lazy (I still like Deuce’s style)…shame I can’t say the same thing about Murphy, who was largely anonymous and useless when he wasn’t.

Arsenal 2-0 Wigan Athletic

This one crystallized everything I dislike about the EPL.  The gap between these teams is large enough that they don’t even occupy the same reality.  Y’know, it’s like what’s the fucking point?  (Yeah, yeah, the big guys have to win these games to win the league, blah, blah, blah; I say cut the Prem to 10 teams and stop stealing fans’ money.)  Even if Wigan held them off for over 80, Arsenal had them by the short ones regardless.  Just completely lacking in suspense and, to be blunt about it, double-plus unfun.