EPL Weekend 1.12: ManYoo enjoys Arsenal and Liverpool’s bad day

Saturday, January 12th

Arsenal 1, Birmingham 1

The Gunners were held by a feisty Birmingham squad at the Emirates. Arsenal dominated but nothing was put by Maik Taylor after Emmanuel Adebayor’s penalty (controversial of course) was converted in the 21st minute (it was his 13th EPL goal of the year). The Blues then muffled Arsenal’s momentum the rest of the half, launching dodgy counter-attack after counter-attack. It didn’t pay dividends until the 48th minute, when a scrum in the box produced a Garry O’Connor header that clipped the foot of Cesc Fabregas and trickled by Almunia. Arsene Wenger has assured supporters that despite recent results and the loss of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue, he is not going into ‘panic buy’ mode.

Manchester United 6, Newcastle 0

Pure class. All goals scored in the second half and the catalyst was none other than the stupidly efficient Cristiano Ronaldo. It went Ronaldo 3, Tevez 2, and Rio Ferdinand 1 on the scoring tally as Newcastle plain broke down. I think I saw Nicky Butt cry. ManYoo posted a 31 shot day with 2/3 of them hitting frame and Shay Given could have almost been called the Man of the Match (at least in Wayne Rooney’s eyes) if it weren’t Ronaldo and Tevez. Given stopped every one of Rooney’s 7 shots and made some amazing saves, but in the end – 31 shots, some are bound to go in. Between Cacapa, Stephen Carr, and Jose Enrique – the marking was horrendous. The Red Devils must be given credit for their class though and it was nice to see a glimpse of the future in Danny Simpson, who almost scored his first EPL goal of the year late in the game. The win puts Manchester United level with Arsenal in points, but ahead on goal differential.

Chelsea 2, Tottenham 0

Nicolas Anelka came on and played a solid 30 minutes in Chelsea’s shutout and snuffing of the hot Hotspur. It was closer than the scoreline makes it out to be though. Shaun Wright-Phillips was again the difference, wreaking havoc on the right side and putting away the clincher. Belletti supplied the go-ahead goal, but it really SWP who is starting make those chances that people have talked about for years. He was the kid that people said, “Man, he’d be extremely dangerous if he actually could finish his chances” about. Well, much to Avram Grant’s approval, he has started that process – at a good time too, with Essien and Mikel out, the wingers needed to pick up their game. Tottenham’s new signing Chris Gunter dressed but didn’t play.

Aston Villa 3, Reading 1

Villa continued their EPL rise at the expense of Reading who fell victim to John Carew’s brace. No one was expecting anything different, however, as the Royals have yet to win away from home this campaign. Reading’s goal came in the 90th minute in the form of a James Harper consolation goal, while Carew’s goals sandwiched a Martin Laursen header (his second in January). Bobby Convey played the last 20 minutes for Reading.

Everton 1, Manchester City 0

Sven Goran-Eriksson had nothing happy to say about this loss to David Moyes’ Toffees which seem to have found their stride again. Even without Yobo, Pienaar, and Yakubu. Timmy Howard was great in goal yet again, but the true victor was Joleon Lescott who felt compelled to make up for his own goal against Chelsea in the first leg Carling Cup semifinals several days ago. How? Scored the gamewinner.

West Ham 2, Fulham 1

Good god Cottagers. Another loss, another squandered lead, and yet another step closer to relegation for Fulham USA. Simon Davies hit early for Roy Hodgson’s club, but it was countered a little over 10 minutes later by Dean Ashton. The man of the match was veteran Swede Freddie Ljungberg who picked out Ashton more than once, causing trouble on the flanks. Both Clint Dempsey (who came close several times to helping the Fulham cause) and Carlos Bocanegra played, but it was Boca who had to come off in the 14th minute after a losing tete-a-tete with Ljungberg. Not be shown up by his brother Rio, Anton Ferdinand provided the game winner in the 69th minute.

Liverpool 1, Middlesbrough 1

Both Arsenal and Liverpool took a step back this weekend and both certainly didn’t have to. At least Liverpool had the problem of being away from home, but it was all a matter of finishing their chances. Only Torres could do that as the Spaniard provided the game-tying goal that saved the Reds from embarrassment. Old-man George Boateng showed he still had the ability to find the net – scoring his first of the season. Stewart Downing and Sanli Tuncay worked real well together, but Liverpool’s defense held strong.

Wigan 1, Derby 0

The signings certainly made Derby a more formidable squad, but it didn’t matter as Wigan dealt with the new faces and actually put their chances away. Big French striker Antoine Sibierski put one in with 10 minutes to go, grabbing the three points for battlers Wigan.

Sunday, January 13th

Sunderland 2, Portsmouth 0

The Black Cats pounced on a wasteful Pompey as the lack of Papa Bouba Diop, Nwankwo Kanu, and Sulley Ali Muntari was extremely evident. Not to mention, Portsmouth didn’t have the services of Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson, who provided the scoring touch that put Pompey away. It was a brace for Richardson, all in the span of 10 minutes (one at 44 minutes, another 10 minutes after halftime). Harry Redknapp might have even had some “what ifs?” in regards to the Newcastle opening after this matchup.

Blackburn 1, Bolton 1

A ridiculous side volley by Kevin Nolan made a terrible game look presentable for a moment – and I mean A moment. But Bolton reared their ugly relegation heads late in the game as Blackburn equalized in 53rd minute thanks to Christopher Samba (who recently just re-upped his contract for 5 more years). Blackburn then relied on the speed and finishing of wantaway striker Jason Roberts, who has struggled for time this year behind Benni McCarthy, Matt Derbyshire, and Roque Santa Cruz in the pecking order. He had his day, however, and scored in injury time to seal the win for Brad Friedel and the Rovers.

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EPL Daily 1.8.08: A Carling Cup of Rumors – Anelka, Cisse and Rafa’s found a back

DERBY TRIO: The Derby Rams are going for a complete makeover. After having already captured UAG Tecos striker Emmanuel Villa for $4 million and Manchester City wantaway Danny Mills, Paul Jewell will not be stopping there. Laurent Robert – the wing midfielder who cost Newcastle around $20 million back in 2001 with decent returns – is expected to sign today barring international clearance. At 32-years old, it looks like Jewell is going for the veteran leadership aspect, confirmed through the apparent courting of Blackburn’s out-of-favour midfielder Robbie Savage (33yo). This certainly doesn’t bode well for Benny Feilhaber who sits uncomfortably far down in the pecking order right now. Not done there though as reports have linked Tottenham misfit midfielder Hossam Ghaly with Derby as well. It isn’t likely all three would sign, but Ghaly looks to be a viable option as a loanee.

FRED CHAVES: The still-young 24 year old Brazilian striker has seen better days at Lyon. Once put on the transfer list, plenty of interest has already been shown – predominantly from Brazil, but some English clubs have thrown their wallets into the mix. Tottenham and West Ham are the latest to have shown some interest, but the likely destination seems to be Ligue One rivals Paris St-Germain. The asking price is a cool $20 million. Fred’s descent at Stade Gerland has been countered by the rise of starlets Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema as well as the formation which puts the young Benzema at the lone striker positon. Worst of it is, it’s been working…(Benzema has 12 goals, Lyon is in 1st). Regardless, over three years and 55 appearances, Fred still managed 25 goals. It’d be a hell of capture for either West Ham and Tottenham, if they’re willing to part with the cash (which has never been a problem).

LIVERPOOL: Ready to go Eastern European in the back. Hard not to after watching the success of Serbian Nemanja Vidic in the center of defense for champions Manchester United. The cat is out of the bag on Eastern European defenders in general as there will be no more lenient price tags. Rafa’s target is Martin Skrtel – a 23-year old Slovakian centreback, capable of playing on the left as well. As he has passed his medical, all that’s left is formalities and Skrtel will become Liverpool’s most expensive defender at $13 million. Defense has become somewhat of urgency at Liverpool as Sami Hyppia has been hit with injury to add to the already injured Daniel Agger. Skrtel, playing for Zenit St. Petersburg now and used to European competition, will fit the bill. Read up on Skrtel here.

FRENCH STRIKERS: Nicolas Anelka wants to be at Stamford Bridge. Bolton says no, but Chelsea is still hopeful they can get a deal done. The bid was apparently laughable to Bolton at $24 million and with Manchester United also actively searching for a striker, should Chelsea be biding their time with a bid like that? Djibril Cisse, the former Liverpool strikeman, is ready for a Premiership return but his stock has taken a hit following two major injuries over the past several years. Marseille’s President Pape Diouf has already followed an apparent bid for Cisse from Manchester City with a resounding no.

OTHER RUMORS: Lassana Diarra to Newcastle; Jermain Defoe open for the bidding even after scoring 5 in his last 7 appearances – destination: Manchester United?;  

CARLING CUP: 1st Leg of the Semifinals today and tomorrow – Chelsea vs. Everton (Tues.) and Arsenal vs. Tottenham (Wed.). Here’s a quick preview of this week’s games from the Carling Cup site. Predictions – Everton comes out of Stamford Bridge even, while Arsenal outclasses Tottenham at home. Especially if the in-form Eduardo is on the field.

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: 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    

Kieron Dyer: from Magpie to Hammer.

The ‘as some would see it’ under-achieving, English international midfielder had moved on mainly to be geographically closer to his family (a little Landon Donovan-ish, even in the same country). Still fetched a firm $16 million and his exit was imminent especially when Dyer was left out of Newcastle’s recent 3-1 win over Bolton.

Good move for Allardyce to rid himself of Dyer, who seemed to exude the very ‘underperformance curse of the Magpies’ that many argue exists. A month ago, the deal seemed done but hit a snag when Newcastle asked for more money. After the Hammers lost their opening match 2-0 against Man City, however, the money became a non-issue and neither did Dyer’s tumultuous history with Newcastle and the injury bug. Instead, Curbishley saw the fact he was, when healthy, a very effective player – not to mention an England international. Only time will tell if this deal pans out – what you think of this move? Who wins?