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…

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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.

World Soccer Tidbits: Yanks Abroad Update

Busy weekend for the Yanks Abroad:

Danny Szetela dressed but didn’t play in Racing Santander’s 2-0 win over Osasuna.
Michael Bradley scored Heerenveen’s first goal in the Frisian’s 2-2 tie with FC Utrecht. It’s his seventh Eredivisie goal of the season. Damn.

Johann Smith didn’t dress for Bolton after returning from loan.

Gabriel Ferrari didn’t dress for Sampdoria’s 3-0 win over Palermo.

Brad Friedel should have had a shutout against Bolton if it weren’t for Kevin Nolan’s wonder strike. It was a 2-1 win.

Tim Howard managed a 1-0 shutout of strong side Manchester City.

West Ham’s Jonathan Spector started and played all 90 minutes in the Hammers’ 3-1 beating of Fulham. Clint Dempsey went the whole game for Fulham, while Carlos Bocanegra started but was taken off in the 14th minute with a mild head injury.

Jay DeMerit started and went all 90 in Watford’s 1-0 loss to Twellman-lovers Preston North End.

Andy Dorman (yes, he’s Welsh) played 20 minutes in St. Mirren’s 3-0 4th Scottish Cup win over Dumbarton.

Freddy Adu came on for Angel di Maria and played the last 10 minutes in Benfica’s 0-0 tie with Leixoes.

Clint Mathis‘ new squad? Ergotelis actually grabbed a win against Iraklis 1-0.

Eddie Lewis dressed but didn’t play in Derby’s 1-0 loss to Wigan. Benny Feilhaber didn’t dress.

Reading’s Marcus Hahnemann had 12 saves in a 3-1 loss to strong side loss to Aston Villa. Bobby Convey worked the last 20 minutes.

Millwall’s Zak Whitbread started and worked all 90 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Port Vale. The defender did sign a new 2 and 1/2 year contract recently, however.

Sydney FC’s Michael Enfield did not dress for their A-League match.

Jemal Johnson started and went all 90 for MK Dons in their 1-0 loss to Barnet.

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.

EPL: Arsenal falls to M’Boro…ew but Liverpool follows suit

STANDINGS 

Saturday, December 8th

Portsmouth 3, Aston Villa 1

Pompey is starting to look like the squad I had originally predicted at the beginning of the year. Both Sulley Muntari and Niko Kranjcar have almost full adapted to EPL play and are now driving that midfield to productivity. It was Muntari’s day though scoring two in the 40th and 61st minute and putting the game out of the Villans reach.

Manchester United 4, Derby County 1

Poor Derby. A thorough out-classing – even though the Rams kept Man Yoo from scoring for a good half. Ryan Giggs opened the can of whoop-ass right before half-time. Derby thought they would walk in at half with only a 1-0 deficit – but Tevez pounced in injury time, making it 2-0. Tevez got his second in the 60th and could have added a third at the end, but Ronaldo was so incensed with his upending in the box that he felt his pain deserved a PK conversion. There was an upside to Derby’s down-trodden day – Giles Barnes – the young 18 year old was the only thing remotely threatening to Man U’s backline of Vidic and Ferdinand.

Chelsea 2, Sunderland 0

The Black Cats never really woke up. Despite the two goals, no real action to this game. Shevchenko – thanks to the Drogba injury – got his chance on net and put it in but still looked well-off from old AC Milan days. Joe Cole did look pretty good though. He’s like a Michael Owen – you get excited that he’s on the field, start to follow him – and then he’s out for two months with a torn quad or something. Regardless, he was industrious and crafty as ever.

Everton 3, Fulham 0

This is an example of having the playmaker and target man in perfect synergy. Tim Cahill/Mikel Arteta powered the machine that is Yakubu to a classy hat-trick. Clint Dempsey was ineffective and taken off early in the second half, but by then, it seemed nothing was sparking the Cottagers to action. Timmy Howard had little to do but captain the back with Joseph Yobo back in the mix. Bocanegra never got on.

Reading 3, Liverpool 1

Stephen Hunt’s penalty in the 17th minute really hurt the pride of the Reds. Either that, or the Reds just figured the scoreline would take care of itself as missed chances and defensive lapses led to Reading’s inflated offensive talent. Steven Gerrard equalized less than 10 minutes later, but the Reds never connected. In the second half, it was Kevin Doyle and James Harper who converted their chances (Harper being fed by the improving Bobby Convey) making it 3-1. In Rafa Benitez’s defense, the game was a little suspect in the refereeing end but the Liverpool had PLENTY of chances that came close, but never snuck across Marcus Hahnemann’s goalline.

Newcastle 2, Birmingham 1

A much-needed win for the Magpies. Obafemi Martins’ converted a 37th minute penalty to snuff out an opening minutes lead grabbed by Birmingham’s Cameron Jerome. The Nigerian – normally a shoe-in for last minute heroics – took the backseat to Senegal-international Habib Beye who took home the glory and his first Newcastle goal in the 90th minute. Newcastle deserved the win, no doubt, but this underperformance curse really needs to end – it’s getting old.  

Sunday, December 9th

Middlesbrough 2, Arsenal 1

It all started with a 4th minute Stewart Downing PK conversion after a clumsy Kolo Toure challenge in the box on former Gunner Jeremie Aliadiere. Arsenal looked borderline lost without their midfield general Cesc Fabregas – oft-intercepted passes, possessional mishaps, positional confusion – it wasn’t the Arsenal team we’re used to. Sanli Tuncay wrapped it up with a 74th minute strike. Tomas Rosicky pulled one back in the waning moments, but nothing could spring the Gunners into urgent offensive mode. 

Bolton 4, Wigan 1

Certainly could be one of those games where Bolton wasted all of their offensive power on one game instead of spreading it out evenly over several matches (look for Bolton to be shut out their next couple games). Or maybe it was just the fact that Wigan looks god-awful right now and a firm candidate for relegation this season. The Wanderers made a statement on finishing even though Wigan outshot them. After going one-up on a Paul Scharner own goal, Wigan equalized, only to see three unanswered Bolton goals break the game wide open. From Kevin Nolan, Kevin Davies, and Nicolas Anelka respectively.

Tottenham 2, Manchester City 1

Like Fabregas with Arsenal, we’re starting to see who the driving force behind Sven’s Citeh is. Without Elano again and facing White Hart Lane, City fought valiantly but was overcome by Tottenham’s forgotten striker – Jermain Defoe. Defore scored in 83rd minute effectively snuffing out any worries that the Hotspur faithful had in their dispatching of Citeh. The Blues helped Tottenham’s cause though as Defoe’s game winner came right after Stephen Ireland’s sending off in the 82nd minute.

West Ham 1, Blackburn 0

Jonathan Spector played the last 15 minutes helping to secure a 1-0 win over Brad Friedel’s Blackburn. It was Dean Ashton who broke the seemingly endless deadlock. Friedel looked solid in goal yet again, with 6 saves but it was Benny McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz who made West Ham’s life hell pouring on shot after shot. Robert Green – with his performance between the posts – will most likely boost his chances at England’s #1 spot.