Friday, July 19, 2024

The Latest Football News and Opinions From 90 Minutes Online

English Premier League review - Headless horsemen & Matrix glitches

Of course I don't think my beloved Aston Villa have a hope of winning the Premiership. Of course not. The bookies odds of us still at 50-1 before the weekend reflect the unlikelihood of this occurrence and they tend to know what they're talking about.


However, it is great to be in the mix. I never really thought we would be again in the current climate, especially with the woeful duo of Doug Ellis and David O'Leary running the show a few years back. Randy Lerner's cash and Martin O'Neill's brilliant management have put us right in amongst the big boys and even though we probably won't last the pace, I can dream.


On Saturday, with 80 minutes gone, I dreamt. I fervently wished that everything could just remain as it was. Villa, despite having Ashley Young sent off for a two footed lunge, found themselves 2-1 up at the Stadium of Light. At the same time, Bolton were hanging on for dear life to maintain a stalemate with Man Utd, whilst miraculously, Stoke were winning against the mighty Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. However, it is not and I prayed in vain.

Villa held up their end of the bargain and recorded a victory that sees them unbeaten in 10 Premiership matches. The Black Cats had taken the lead through a Danny Collins header, but James Milner equalised with his face and arm after Pascal Chimbonda nudged him over as he ran onto an Ashley Young cross. 


Young, the reigning Premiership Young Player of the Month and the first player to win that accolade thrice in a calendar year, then managed to get himself sent off and all looked bleak for the midlanders.  


With 10 minutes to go though, Paul McShane was ajudged to have fouled Gabriel Agbonlahor in the area whereas the offence took place just outside the box. A penalty was awarded and promptly dispatched by Gareth Barry in what was the 8th time in the last 9 games that Villa have scored in the last 12 minutes.

However the high flying villains aren't the only ones who know how to score late on and a dose of reality was administered to a mind that was entertaining lofty notions as Berbatov struck a 90th minute winner for Man Utd and Belletti and Lampard snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against the courageous potters.

Man Utd are certainly on the march and their gathering of pace is certainly ominous, their form, including 10 consecutive Premiership clean sheets being very impressive. Chelsea too will have banished some of their demons with this spirited comeback, but I feel that one victory against a team they are expected to play off the park followed by a dramatic team hug doth not a season turn around. They will need a consistent run of performances and a result against one of their big 4 rivals to convince themselves and their fans that they are contenders, I feel.

All eyes were on Eastlands as Man City looked to put on a performance against Wigan that would inspire Kaka to quit Milan and join the revolution. Richard Dunne did his best to put the Brazilian off by picking up a record 8th top flight red card for a petulant mule kick on Amr Zaki.

As an aside, I can't believe that vacant eyed pie boy Richard Dunne has managed to have a career at the highest level for so long and I find it astounding that he has been voted City’s player of the year in years gone by. He's slow and makes horrendous errors of judgment on a regular basis. It looked like he wanted to go in the wake of the Sven debacle, so Mark Hughes had a perfect opportunity to off-load the chump, but instead he made a big deal about offering him a new contract saying Dunne was the caliber of player he needed to keep at the club! This, the captain who'd got sent off after 10 minutes, leading to his team
capitulating 8-1 to Middlesbrough (a side who hadn't scored more than two in a league game during the entire 07-08 campaign up until this final tie) in the last match of the season. I lost some respect for Hughes’s judgment there.

Still, the ten men managed to triumph 1-0 thanks to a long range effort from Argentine Pablo Zabaleta, although how Zaki managed to spoon a header over an empty net from a yard out only
Rah will know. The lackluster display obviously didn't wow Kaka, as the former world player of the year duly snubbed City citing a load of twee nonsense about kids sending him pictures as his reason for staying. Now Robinho appears to be in a huff and has suddenly done an Emerson back to Brazil and the gravy trains wheels are in danger of coming off. Never fear though City fans, Craig Bellamy certainly loves cash over Jesus, he'll steer you back on course!

West Brom were on another of their search and destroy missions as one of these fixtures that they identify as must wins came about in the form of a home tie against Middlesbrough. It was mission very possible for the Baggies who sunk hapless Boro 3-0 with their third consecutive home win, leaving beaky Southgate without a win in ten. 


Boro fans, having an extremely reasonable chairman in Steve Gibson and with years of experience in putting up with mediocrity (and abject failure) from the likes of Bryan Robson, are starting to turn on Southgate following this poor run, and the schnoz himself accepted that he may be doomed with his post match comment of "If Steve thinks there needs to be change, he will make a change. I could have no complaints if he did based on the results we have had."

The Allardyce revival of both his own reputation and his new club Blackburn continued as they roasted his former employees Newcastle 3-0 at Ewood Park. Immediately after the match, Joe Kinnear would blame the referee for the result after Rob Styles had awarded Rovers a penalty when the scores were level, a decision Kinnear thought pivotal in his sides defeat. The cockney Irishman would go on to take a veiled swipe at Kevin Keegan when he stated that "Our biggest problem is a lack of strength in depth. Why wasn't it addressed by the previous two managers? I am carrying the can for it." It is foolish to insult the messiah and these remarks will only serve to ensure that Kinnear incurs the full wrath of the Geordie faithful in weeks to come.

Towards the end of the game, Joey Barton, the personification of Berk had to pulled away from Jose Enrique. Was he trying to re-create the famous Newcastle on pitch bust-up of
Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer or his own training ground altercation with Ousmane Dabo? Either way, he was inexplicably praised by Kinnear who said of the returning Barton, "We have missed his spirit". Oh yeah, his chirpy demeanor is just what you want to rally a dressing room low on morale! If he wants evil spirits on the pitch he should look into signing the headless horseman, I hear he's without a club at the moment.... and a head. 


To confound matters further, with Kinnear’s popularity at its lowest ebb since he took over, he has apparently been offered a new two year deal which despite having no wedge for players, was described by Kinnear himself as "lucrative!" Genius Ashley, genius. The Newcastle circus continues, da-da-da-da-da da-da-da-da !

In the late Saturday game, Arsenal avenged their shock defeat at the Emirates to Hull earlier in the season by beating the tigers 3-1 in their own backyard. Arsenal had taken the lead through Emmanuel Adebayor, but it seemed like Hull could record a cheeky double when Daniel Cousin scored a replica goal with a carbon copy celebration to match in a deja vu moment from the reverse fixture. There was to be no glitch in the matrix though as Samir Nasri and Nice Boots Bentner sealed the win for the gunners to keep them breathing down the necks of the top 4.

Sunday saw West Ham end Fulham’s yawnsome run of 4 consecutive away 0-0 shut outs, when they dispatched them 3-1 at Upton Park. Chants of "Who needs Craig Bellamy" were ringing around the ground and his replacement David di Michele proved the fans to be correct when he took advantage of an error from former Hammer John Pantsil to put the East Enders one up in this London derby. Going into the game, Fulham had the best record of all the capital clubs in derbies this season, but it wasn't their day as despite a Paul Konchesky wonder strike, they looked poor.

The Tottenham Hotspur soap opera carried on apace as 'Arry and Jermaine had to face their old buddies Portsmouth at the Lane.
In the wake of the homophobic chant scandal that marred the prior game between the clubs, media scrutiny was focused on fan behaviour. Tony Adams thought he'd test the waters, emerging from the tunnel wearing a delightful knitted rainbow scarf before sitting down with a very effeminate cross legged posture.

A fantastic reaction save from David James sparked an electric counter attack and 19 seconds later, in one of the game’s sub plots, David Nugent, frozen out by Redknapp when he was in charge of Portsmouth, fired home to score his first ever top flight goal
(crazy to think that he's got a goal for England though!) In true soap style, Spurs leveled when Jermaine Defoe shot through the legs of Sol Campbell and past the despairing James. 


However, Darren Bent failed to follow the script when he fluffed a headed effort that apparently Sandra Redknapp would have comfortably nodded in. I don't know about that, but I reckon the headless horseman would've done better. I hear he's without a club at the moment.

The final game was the Monday scouse derby with Liverpool entertaining Everton. Well, in my last review I claimed that if Liverpool don't win the League then it is due to a large extent to Benitez being a pussy.....and so he proved to be again. 


With a typical Gerrard smasher putting Liverpool ahead, both Keane and then Torres were yanked off with Benayoun and Lucas on instead. Rather than trying to press forward the advantage, Benitez effectively withdrew to a 4-6-0 and tried to shut up shop, a plan that backfired when a Cahill bullet header from an Arteta free kick on 87 minutes ensured a share of the spoils for Moyes men, and left Rafa reflecting on 4 points dropped since the 'mind games' press conference.



The Spaniard looked pretty glum post game. Cheer up, Rafa, have a bit of Sangria. Practice pouring it yourself.

Results: Blackburn 3-0 Newcastle, Bolton 0-1 Man Utd, Chelsea 2-1 Stoke, Hull 1-3 Arsenal, Man City 1-0 Wigan, Sunderland 1-2 Aston Villa, West Brom 3-0 Middlesbrough, Tottenham 1-1 Portsmouth, West Ham 3-1 Fulham, Liverpool 1-1 Everton.


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