McBride and Fulham’s away win too little too late?

Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey started for the Cottagers as they trounced a sad looking Reading squad. Steve Coppell’s side forgot how to attack – and you know that happened when Andre Bikey is the only one that can find a shot on net. Kasey Keller manned the nets as Roy Hodgson shattered his “only play 2 Americans at-a-time” mold. McBride’s work ethic paid off today finding chance after chance on net. Dempsey patrolled the midfield taking attention with him from Reading defenders and leaving Jimmy Bullard free to fire his long shot or two. Overall, a great day – but many wonder, is it too little, too late?? The Cottagers face a tough remaining schedule, as do Reading, and it looks likely that both (6 Americans) could be on their way down to the Championship. Bolton and Birmingham, however, are struggling down the stretch as well and if points can be taken in the last 4 games, there’s a shot. Either way, Roy Hodgson should not stay.

It was Keller and Hahnemann in net- two goalkeepers from the Pacific Northwest and apparently on the Seattle Sounders radar come 2009. Hahnemann looks the more likely decision and you could see why today. A 2-0 win for Fulham was modest, thanks to Hahnemann who got his hand to a number of chances that should have been clear goals. The Cottagers hit the post FOUR times – one being the most acrobatic volley I’ve ever seen out of the 35-year old McBride.  David Healy worked hard today, but it was sub Erik Nevland who took advantage of his chances – finishing a run down the right side in the 91st minute. Carlos Bocanegra came in for Dempsey with about 20 minutes to go and shut his marks down. Therefore, the Americans played well – but where in the world is Bobby Convey? He makes a big fuss about dooming Fulham to relegation, how it doesn’t really matter that there are other Americans on the team, and then he can’t make the damn bench…

Oh. Right. Why focus on the relegation battle? No real reason…except that it was Fulham’s first AWAY win in 34 – I repeat 34 – away games. That’s almost two full years of NOT winning away from home. Why the sudden change? The burst of energy, desire to win? Did Hodgson just say to go out and play…cause they didn’t look like Hodgson tactics today.

But once again, too little too late? They are now 4 points from safety, 4 games left, 2 away, and Liverpool’s looming. You do the math.

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Who’s Staying Up?: Relegation Battle down to the Wire

Three in the Red: Bolton, Fulham, Derby

Derby County 

It’s clear. We don’t need to discuss Derby, but it’s safe to say Paul Jewell’s January acquisitions have done little to help the prospects of a club that should have paid more attention to trying to get the most of Robert Earnshaw – who has all but vanished – and the highly coveted Giles Barnes. All that’s left with the Rams is to see whether or not they can escape the shame of holding the record for fewest points ever by an EPL squad. Sunderland sits with that record at 15 points. Derby needs 6 points out of their last 7 and a game vs. Fulham at home this Saturday could be the first three points towards their homestretch.

On we go…Fulham.

The Cottagers sit in a position they undoubtedly put themselves in. Many times this year they carried a lead into the final 15 minutes of a match only to be overtaken. Roy Hodgson has done little to turn around a team and many have said, Hodgson needs the full year to do so. The schedule is working against him though…nevermind the opponents. The Cottagers might have games against Derby and Reading coming up, but one troubling fact remains. They are away. And this is a Fulham team that hasn’t won away all year. If it was based on the personnel alone, Fulham certainly have the tools as long as they can service Brian McBride, EJ, and Dempsey properly, but when 4 of your last 7 are away that’s big. Remaining fixtures: @ Derby County, vs. Sunderland, @ Reading, vs. Liverpool, @ Manchester City, vs. Birmingham City, @ Portsmouth

Bolton

I don’t care what Gary Megson has said or wants to say. Not having Nicolas Anelka in the homestretch destroys them. Not having Jussi Jaskaleinen in the midst of a relegation battle destroys them. The Wanderers’ only saving grace is Kevin Nolan, who continues to organize Bolton’s midfield well enough to grab points here and there. Truth is, though, that Bolton’s recent tie with Manchester City at home was their first point in almost two months. Their final games see Arsenal coming to Reebok Stadium and a visit to Chelsea, Tottenham, and Aston Villa. That doesn’t paint a pretty picture, and – in all honesty – it’s about time sparkplug El-Hadji Diouf is brought down to Earth. Bolton is on their way down. Remaining Fixtures: vs. Arsenal, @ Aston Villa, vs. West Ham United, @ Middlesbrough, @ Tottenham, vs. Sunderland, @ Chelsea.

Who will stay up…

Newcastle

Kevin Keegan is still cleaning up Big Sam Allardyce’s mess and, understandably, it’s hard to believe one has to do so when you have players like Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins, and Mark Viduka at your forefront. And that’s precisely why the Magpies will stay up…Keegan has decided to put all three of these boys on the field. With Barton and Butt in the midfield and these three on the forward line – even working at subpar rates – Keegan’s troupe can climb their way out of the darkness. Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Fulham this past Saturday was a testament to that. Owen had countless chances, Martins created chances, and Viduka dutifully took the ones he was  given. Keegan has opted to play himself out of relegation through offense and it will work. Plus, who doesn’t love a manager that wears his heart on his sleeve game in and game out. Newcastle sits 6 points clear of Bolton – the third relegation spot. Their remaining schedule includes – @ Tottenham, vs. Reading, @ Portsmouth, vs. Sunderland, @ West Ham, vs. Chelsea, @ Everton.

Reading

Anytime that bounces back from 9 consecutive defeats to start the new year gets my nod to resist relegation. The Royals weren’t just losing games, they were losing close games. The ones where you fight until the bitter end. Reading’s talent level and tenacity on the playing field set them up for that kind of disappointment in defeat, but sheer joy when the result goes in their favor. Their nine losses – 5 came in dramatic fashion, one goal thrillers, while others came at the hands Villa [twice], Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham. The Royals have been found out…they’re not being underestimated like last season. All clubs are firmly aware this year of the rapid development of Dave Kitson, Shane Long, and Stephen Hunt. No one has questioned the form of Marcus Hahnemann, who along with Tim Howard and Brad Friedel, looks poised to grab at least a top-three in GK of the Year tallies. Reading has won two out of three as of late, losing out only to Liverpool, but I wouldn’t peg them to slide any further into the abyss. Fixtures remaining: vs. Blackburn,  @ Newcastle, vs. Fulham, @ Arsenal, @ Wigan, vs. Tottenham, @ Derby County.

Birmingham

March 1st’s 4-1 drubbing of Tottenham could have been the three points that wind up keeping Birmingham from the bottom three. Hell, before that they took points from Arsenal and Newcastle. If there’s a clear loser when it comes to remaining schedule, the Blues have got to be it. Alex McLeish has done well to instill a hard-nosed approach to every game in his squad and that approach has helped them so far, but will it withstand meetings with Manchester City, Everton, Blackburn, Villa, and Liverpool? Yep. And believe it or not, if they had Fulham’s schedule remaining – the Blues would be on their way down. Fixtures Remaining: vs. Manchester City, @ Wigan, vs. Everton, @ Aston Villa, vs. Liverpool, @ Fulham, vs. Blackburn

Two teams primed to go down, but will escape…

Wigan Athletic

Five points separate the Latics with Bolton and who is worse off? Bolton. Wigan was able to grab a 1-0 win over . If there was a team next in line behind Fulham and Bolton to go down, it’s the Latics. But Wigan hasn’t been pisspoor as of late. Yes, they were routed by Blackburn even when they had a man advantage for half the game, but they squeezed points from Arsenal and beat West Ham and Derby. More than most of these relegation battlers can claim. Their schedule doesn’t help much with 5 games against top-half club. Wigan has also made it their habit to start slow and end strong, which will not fly against the likes of Pompey, Chelsea, and ManYoo. Both Emile Heskey and Marcus Bent have returned to the line-up which could provide the jumpstart needed to slip just above the relegation zone. Verdict: Up, but barely. Remaining Schedule: @ Portsmouth, vs. Birmingham, @ Chelsea, vs. Tottenham, vs. Reading, @ Aston Villa, vs. Manchester United

Sunderland

It’s Roy Keane people. He’ll fight managers on the sideline and kids in the stands to stay up. The Black Cats started admirably and have faded in the homestretch. Kenwyne Jones has been figured out and Keane’s talent pool has all but dried up. Still Keane has shown a knack for putting in the right people at the right time and Michael Chopra’s entrance this past weekend secured a 1-0 upset win over Aston Villa, a vital three points to have. This is not the 2005/2006 Sunderland team. The difference – a battling Keane personality, a will to win in the last 15 minutes of tough matches, and a discipline that sticks against the big competition. Verdict: the Cats will remain and an infusion of talent in the offseason will make them mid-table runners next year. Remaining Fixtures: vs. West Ham United, @ Fulham, vs. Manchester City, @ Newcastle, vs. Middlesbrough, @ Bolton, vs. Arsenal

——————————————————————————————

Big Fulham supporter, but if the mentality shown against Newcastle prevails – the Cottagers are going down. Bolton and Derby are locks with seven games to go, but Fulham has the chance if they play the way they did against Everton. Hodgson also has to let Dempsey play. Jimmy Bullard was the only real threat vs. Newcastle, I agree, but it was as if Hodgson set him up that way. He might have a long shot, but Dempsey will be able to open up McBride and Eddie Johnson with outlet passes, instead of passes to their feet with a defender in tow.

Final Verdict: the same three we got now, Fulham, Bolton, and Derby.

What do you think?

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 12.20: 5th Richest Man picks a team; Bangura stays for now; Cup semis set!

Alhassan “Al” Bangura – the Watford midfielder and Sierra Leone native – was granted the opportunity to qualify for a work permit, which effectively has kept him from being sent back to Sierra Leone for the time being. If it was a ‘regular’ work permit hearing, Bangura would still be packing his bags, but apparently the 19-year old has been granted a special hearing by an independent panel consisting of Home Office members and football-related officers. We should know more in a couple of weeks, but as of right now the prospects look pretty good.

TAKEOVERS: Birmingham City has terminated any takeover talks with Carson Yeung’s company Grandtop International Holdings. On the other hand, Queens Park Rangers has an extremely promising moneybags suitor on their hands. Pegged as the 5th richest man in the world, Lakshmi Mittal (an Indian steel magnate worth over $100 billion) has reportedly bought a 20% share into QPR, a club in crisis for some time now. This is even AFTER some Formula One businessman (Flavio Briatore, Renault team boss, and Bernie Ecclestone – Formula 1 chief) took over the club in November. If Mittal decides to dip into his war chest then QPR, who sits at the bottom of the Championship right now, could rival EPL clubs in the transfer market. Just like Roy Keane at Sunderland, though, the trick will be luring them to Loftus Road in London. Key word: London. Shouldn’t be too hard.

CARLING CUP: Frank Lampard and GASP! Andrei Shevchenko sandwiched a Peter Crouch ejection with goals booking Chelsea a place in Carling Cup semifinals, along with Arsenal (3-2 win over Blackburn with a ‘watered down’ squad), Everton (2-1 victors over WHU), and Tottenham (2-0 winners over Man City). At least if Pepe Reina goes down with injury, all Merseysiders now know they have Charles Itandje to back him up. That guy was superb.

Semi-final pairings set!

CHELSEA vs. EVERTON and TOTTENHAM vs. ARSENAL
1st Leg will be week of January 7th, Return Leg will be week of January 21st

DIMITAR BERBATOV: Reports are coming out that that Bulgarian striker could be headed to Manchester United in return for cash and a couple players. New Hotspur coach Juande Ramos says otherwise though. In short, Berbatov ain’t goin’ anywhere.

MLS ALL-STAR GAME: According to the Toronto Star, the MLS has contacted Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Real Madrid to be 2008’s All-Star Game opponent. And of course, due to the American investor connection of Gillet and Hicks, Liverpool is the front-runner. Liverpool might also be slated for a friendly in Montreal around the same time as it has already been confirmed that they will be touring USA and Canada this coming summer.

A GRINCH AT READING?: Steve Coppell is having all Reading players report to training on Christmas day. This policy has been labeled, “Forget Christmas” as the Royals have upcoming matches over the Holiday break against West Ham and Tottenham. Sitting in 13th means a couple of wins could catapult them into European competition contention. Apparently, their Christmas will be winning those games…

EPL Weekend 9.23: Adebayor earns his trick; Man Utd bests a hurting Chelski squad

Saturday

Arsenal 5, Derby County 0

The Gunners solidified their position as ‘best in show’ at the top of the EPL. Emmanuel Adebayor has dramatically improved since last year and bagged a hat-trick to prove it. It was young’un Vassiriki Diaby who grabbed his first EPL goal though and opened the scoring clinic in the 10th minute. Derby – as you can imagine – just laid down and took it. Eddie Lewis played all 90 while Benny Feilhaber came on and worked the last 35 minutes.

Fulham 3, Manchester City 3

Clint Dempsey took a week off, playing all 90 minutes rather passively in this shootout. Both teams have had recent trouble finding scoring help and today, they found it. The Cottagers started the scoring first as Welshman Simon Davies struck early in the 13th minute. The middle 45 minutes featured 5 goals in a kind of back and forth motion. Martin Petrov had an effective game, scoring twice, while Hamuer Bouazza bagged his first for Fulham (the right-winger who Dempsey had originally replaced after a separated shoulder). Fulham hung in there with this and got the point.

Liverpool 0, Birmingham 0

Sometimes things don’t click, especially when you’re playing a frustratingly scrappy Birmingham side. 16 shots and nothing from it as the Blues’ defensive overload worked – only 4 of Liverpool’s shots were on net. Nothing too serious but Jermaine Pennant left late in the game with a hamstring probably.

Sunderland 2, Middlesbrough 2

The Black Cats have seemingly inherited Roy Keane’s intestinal fortitude as they scrapped it out and came back, thanks to Liam Miller goal, to equalize in the 89th minute. Young Grant Leadbitter had put Keane’s squad up quickly in the 2nd minute, but Julio Arca and Stewart Downing put M’Boro back ahead.  How is Downing still on Middlesbrough?  I’m surprised a Liverpool/Everton hasn’t come calling yet.

Reading 2, Wigan 1

The Royals showed a hint of their former (last year’s surprise squad) selves as they try and work they way slowly back up the standings. Speaking of comebacks, Bobby Convey also seemed to channel his former self as he was the most important part of the Royals’ last 30 minute push. It was James Harper – who rarely ever scores – that finished a Dave Kitson cross and gave the Royals an improbable win. Marcus Hahnemann had one hell of a game yet again.

Sunday

Manchester United 2, Chelsea 0

The hole gets a bit deeper and to add to the unrest at Stamford Bridge, Avram Grant is now formally being discussed in terms of his qualifications and ability to run the star-studded squad. Either way, the Red Devils got their first EPL goal from Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha added a 90th minute PK conversion to win the derby. Nothing to complain about here – oh, except for the 32nd minute ejection of Jon Obi Mikel that forced the Blues to play with 10 for 2/3s of the game. Grant looks to have a long haul this season as within 20 minutes of the game’s start Chelsea fans were chanting ‘Mourinho’.

Newcastle 3, West Ham United 1
Mark Viduka scored a brace to prove that injuries wouldn’t again ruin the Magpies season. Michael Owen made his way off the pitch in the 51st minute after asking to be replaced. Dean Ashton scored for the Hammers and Jonathan Spector played the last 10 minutes for West Ham. It was Charles N’Zogbia – whose stock is rapidly rising – that put the game away in the 76th minute.

Portsmouth 1, Blackburn 0

When it rains it pours. The Rovers’ mid-week UEFA Cup loss to Larissa ended a 15-game unbeaten streak carrying over from last season. The trend – in one game – seemed firmly established as Blackburn didn’t look the team that had originally started this season. Kanu scored the lone goal for Pompey as their play barely improved, but it was enough to overcome a Blackburn side hoping to rebound.

Aston Villa 2, Everton 0

Yup, Tim Howard is THAT important. Gabriel Agbonlahor and John Carew did the damage for the Villans and Wilfred Bouma captained the back to a 2-0 shutout of the Toffees. Agbonlahor has established himself as a Toffee-killer, but just like the Blackburn Rovers, it was Everton’s midweek UEFA Cup loss that really hurt their momentum. Stefan Wessels manned the net again.

Bolton 1, Tottenham 1

Things aren’t getting much better for the Hotspur and somehow, Martin Jol still survives.  Robbie Keane and Ivan Campo traded goals less than 5 minutes apart as the game had a small tint of disinterest in it. I know it’s early, but both these teams are underperforming and neither looked particularly effective.

EPL: Sven and Big Sam start with 3; Man Utd falters

Another slew of games this Tuesday and Wednesday as the Premiership starts with a bang. This past weekend’s slate however was chock full of entertaining matches – most of which I didn’t get to see. Some things that did stick out however:

 Derby 2, Portsmouth 2: Not many expected this I am sure but freshly promoted teams generally fight like hell for the first several games then sputter when it comes to the long-haul of the Premiership season. The Rams took the lead in this one thanks to a Matthew Oakley strike. Pompey fought back to take the lead 2-1 and it looked as of Derby was down and out. Former Blackburn Rover Andy Todd made it 2-2 in the waning moments to secure a point. If they can tie Portsmouth with a squad  that boss Billy Davies is vocally unhappy with – what can they do once strengthened? (is it too early to regret my decision of predicting a 5th place finish for Portsmouth?)

Sunderland 1, Tottenham 0: Spurs faithful have got to be incensed with this one, but looking back on it – why did I ever bet against Roy Keane in his Premiership managerial debut; Chopra doubters were treated to a nice serving of ‘I told you so’ as the former Newcastle dud provided the only goal in the 90th minute

Chelsea 3, Birmingham 2: the Blues struck first early with Mikael Forssell staking a claim for a starting spot but new Chelsea acquisition made his argument by striking less than 2 minutes later; the rest of the game was back and forth as fellow new Chelsea signing Florent Malouda also put his name on the scoresheet; Johan Djourou – plucked from Arsenal’s talent pool – worked all 90 minutes for Birmingham in the back; Michael Essien provided the game winner in the 50th minute and extended Chelsea’s home unbeaten streak; Drogba quelled Chelsea supporter fears with a solid 30 minute run-out

Arsenal 2, Fulham 1: David Healy pounced on a particularly embarassing screw up by Jens Lehmann; search it on YouTube – not quite Paul Robinson-ish but still borderline pathetic; the Gunners fought back for him though as two late goals – a PK from Van Persie and Aleksander Hleb – put Arsenal clear; McBride started up front and Bocanegra in the back, both played all 90 minutes while Clint Dempsey came on for new signing Hamuer Bouazza in the beginning of the second half and worked a serviceable half; Gunner fans have got to be excited about the play of Bakary Sagna and Emmanuel Eboue down the right wing

Reading 0, Manchester United 0: another giant held with unfortunate consequences for Alex Ferguson and all Red Devil fans; Wayne Rooney broke his foot and will be out 2 months at least; they do have Carlos Tevez to look forward to but Rooney looked primed to have a phenomenal year and his absence will make things a bit harder for that Red Devil offense to produce consistently; Reading played the last 20 minutes a man down after Dave Kitson’s ejection and proved pesky (though never threatening); Nicky Shorey was the best man on the field for the Royals and Giggsy for the Red Devils

Other results:

Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 1 – The Reds’ new signings start slow but Gerrard’s goal of the week give them the win

Manchester City 2, West Ham 0 – Spector plays all 90 minutes but can’t stop Sven’s new signings – Geovanni and Bianchi from finding  the net, while their newly crafted back line preserves the shutout and 3 away points

Newcastle 3, Bolton 1 – Sam Allardyce beats his former team as the Magpie offense is driven by the brace of Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins

Blackburn 2, Middlesbrough 1 – Brad Friedel worked well in a goal as usual while the young Derbyshire and new signing Roque Santa Cruz provide the goal scoring power to beat the Boro

Everton 2, Wigan Athletic 1 – Tim Howard held his own in net for the Toffees as they fought their way to a win at home thanks to a Leon Osman and young’un Victor Anichebe strike