Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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English Premier League review - No nads & rubbery lips

A full round of Premier League fixtures took place mid-week and the televised Tuesday game saw the mighty Villa take on a Portsmouth side hopelessly waning under the stewardship of wannabe intellectual Tony Adams. On these pages I have sung the praise of the debuting Heskey and mercilessly slaughtered the managerial nous of mule boy, so naturally I was concerned that an Emile own goal would put the gloss on a Pompey landslide victory, achieved by some tactical innovation from Mr. Introspective.



I needn't have worried. In a role reversal of what I hope to see regularly, Agbonlahor flicked it on for Heskey, who spun a lazy Campbell to thump it past David James. Villa rode their luck again and never really got motoring, but it was a strong defensive display and despite having much of the ball, Portsmouth rarely looked incisive. Crouch showed his true pedigree by ballooning Pompey’s best chance over the bar from about 4 yards out, so Martin O'Neill’s men held on to record their 6th successive away win and keep the unbeaten streak alive.


Adams’ team didn't have the smarts to break down the resolute Villains, but our equine friend remains upbeat, stating that he took "extreme positives" from the game and suggesting that a change of suit & tie would change Portsmouth’s on pitch fortunes. Sorry Tone, but I suggest a change of manager might be more beneficial, because the slump you’re overseeing is reaching critical proportions.

Villa, on the other hand, went joint top... for about 15 minutes. I was holding out for a late West Brom revival against Man Utd as bottom hosted top, but surprisingly they didn't come up trumps with a last gasp 6 goal haul. Yes, despite facing an "injury crisis", Man Utd had a very strong team out and demonstrated the gulf in class between the sides by running out 5-0 clear winners.

Berbatov, Tevez, Vidic and Ronaldo helped themselves to the goals and it all looks a bit ominous as Fergie's boys kept a record 11th consecutive Premier League clean sheet to move 3 points clear at the top. Generally, United get stronger as the season progresses so even though all is still tight at the top, the title race is starting to get that predictable feeling.

Mowbray was magnanimous in defeat, with the philosophy that the fixture was a write-off and anything gained from it was to be a bonus. Stoke manager Tony Pulis was of the same opinion, claiming after the potters had lost 3-1 to Tottenham that "this is not the sort of game that will define our season". Both promotees find themselves in the relegation zone, but will have their eyes on various upcoming '6 pointers' against the teams around them with the knowledge that a couple of wins in such crucial ties will make a huge difference.

'Arry will be relieved. Tottenham put on quite a show in the first half with Pavlyuchenko and Modric pulling the strings. With the resurrected Defoe banging them in and Palacios still to play, Spurs should be able to dig themselves out of the pit. Stoke will be heartened by a debut goal from James Beattie and they'll need more of the same, especially as red headed record signing David Kitson couldn't be any more of a flop if he was a sausage dog’s ear.

The final offering on Tuesday was at the Stadium of Light, where Sunderland managed to squeak past Fulham. Pundits all over were shaking their heads with silly smiles plastered on their countenances, cracking out the "well it had to be him" and "it was scored by who else" stock phrases as Kenwyne Jones, who'd just snubbed Tottenham to sign a new deal, earnt some of his signing on bonus to win the game for the Black Cats.

Onto Wednesday and oh, Liverpool message boards and forums are not happy places to be right now! In Rafa we no longer trust they shreik! Benitez out they cry! Take Lucas, Dossena, Benayoun and Keane with you they moan! If you'd asked a Liverpool fan at the beginning of the season if they would take their current position, I'm sure they'd have bitten your hand off. However, their good start really gave the poor deluded souls the hope that 'this was their year!' and now they are feeling bitterly let down.

I'll keep blowing my own trumpet on this one. The whole Raf-rant episode is blown well out of proportion, the problem once again was Benitez's overly cautious tactical adjustments. Torres off at 1-0 up? Just like in the Everton game, attempting to shut up shop failed to work and debutant Mido fired in a penalty to equalise Benayoun’s first half effort. 1-1 and Keane finally gets a taste of the action - at the expense of frequent match winner Gerrard! Benitez would later claim that Gerrard came off as he was tired; well I'm sure those vital extra 7 minutes of rest he'll get will make all the difference to his fitness levels.

What makes me laugh is that the Spanish waiter has the nerve to criticise Everton, who had no fit strikers, for playing defensively at Anfield. Well, you're not exactly Billy Big Bollocks yourself Benitez! Rafa is stacking it and needs a big result against Chelsea this weekend if he's going to salvage his team’s Premiership prospects.

Chelsea themselves had a reasonably comfortable evening, never needing to reach top gear in order to put Middlesbrough to the sword. Kalou's brace ensured that Boro's woeful run continued and a miserable Southgate admitted that he was losing plenty of sleep over his sides slide into the relegation zone. His team look like they are too, as they put in another pedestrian somnambulistic display. Worrying times at the Riverside and the arrival of Marlon King isn't likely to do much to lift the mood.

Controversial duo Bellamy and Robinho lined up for Man City in their home game against Newcastle and you can imagine the conversation the new team-mates might've had.....
"Hey, nice to meet you Craig Bell-endy"
"Look, right, what's your problem, that's bang out of order to be honest with you"
"Oh, Stephen Ireland told me this is how your name is said"
"Well, it's not right, it's Bell-amy, see"
"Sorry Bell-amy. Maybe I call you Bell-incha, or Belle! I hear you walk out at West Ham, I do same last week and may go to Brazil again if they try to prison me!"
"No Robby, to be honest with you, right, you don't want to bother groping or molesting women, right. If they give you the brush off, just hit them".

Sex attacks and strikes aside, Robinho provided the assist for Wright-Phillips to knock past Steve Harper and later Bellamy would become another debutant goal scorer. Nevertheless, I'd like to state for the record that I will be amazed if the Welshman is still at Eastlands in 18 months time. That said, to give the stumpy devil his due, he's got off to a good start and he might soon be joined by Shay Given who was conspicuous by his absence. Injured apparently, pah! It seems he fancies a "new challenge" (and a healthy bundle of cash), and he will certainly get that with Richard Dunne in front of him.

A consolation goal from local boy Andy Carroll was the only bright spot for the Magpies’ in an other wise deeply gloomy evening. Mike Ashley took in his first live game since August, although he didn't fancy is old routine of donning a 'King Kev' replica shirt and getting amongst the masses. He witnessed two more players succumb to injury from what was an already depleted squad. Michael Owen, who seemed to be on the verge of a renaissance after scoring from outside the box the other week is crocked for the umpteenth time and proving that karma may well exist, Joey Barton’s terrible luck continued as he cracked everyone’s favourite foot bone, the metatarsal, which rules him out for around 10 weeks.

The likelihood of getting replacements is as slim as Kinnear is portly, Joe painting a bleak picture when saying "Life is seriously tough. The credit crunch is killing us. Mike has lost £2bn quid in his own businesses and shares. He is just about paying the wages but it is not an easy situation. You look at Tottenham paying £16m here and £14m there. I would love to spend money like that but I can't. You can see why so many people bottled this job." I'm shocked that old Joe wasn't Ashley's first choice!

A pulsating Lancashire derby between Blackburn and Bolton saw Rovers come from 2 behind to grab a draw. Allardyce's former team took the lead through Matt Taylor, then increased it via Kevin Davies, a man whose career Big Sam had rescued after it stalled at none other than Ewood Park. Megson must've been licking his rubbery lips at the interval as Wanderers were dominating his pre-predecessor’s side, but Rovers were a different proposition coming out of the break and spurred on by the return of Santa Cruz, fought back through a looping Warnock effort and a McCarthy prod.

The televised Wednesday game featured West Ham completely trounce Hull in all but scoreline, 2-0 not doing justice to the hammers control of the game. If Cole and Di Michele had been more clinical, they'd have been fighting over the match ball, but as it was they had to settle for a solitary goal each. Both clubs left their record signings on the bench, Savio left to savour the action as Bullard possibly left wandering what he's got himself into.

West Ham were certainly on song here and are in good form generally, signs that Zola is just starting to get the hang of this management malarkey. The transfer window has not been nearly as unkind to the Hammers as reports had suggested it might. They moved on a few fringe players and rid themselves of pocket sized prick Bellamy for a tidy profit, most of which has been re-invested in the promising Savio (a Ugandan born German with a Brazilian name, who'd been playing in Italy) so proclamations of a debilitating exodus would seem to be far off the mark.

Finally, Arsenal snatched a last gasp equaliser against battling Everton with a tremendous Robin Van Persie left foot volley from an acute angle. It was a point that the Gunners scarcely deserved after going behind to a Tim Cahill header and being generally second best for most of the evening. They have no chance of the title, but Wenger was still left purring about the "teams quality and spirit" - a managerial quote we hear almost as much as Mark Hughes saying "it's been well documented that..."

A cruel blow then for David Moyes, who will be trying his hardest to get one or two striker loan acquisitions in before the window shuts to take the goal-scoring burden off midfielders Cahill, Arteta and Fellaini. Meanwhile Wenger believes that the protracted move for Arshavin is "90% complete" (good, I'm bloody sick of reading about it, what a boring saga that's been) and will hope that the Russian can galvanize a team that now lies 5 points behind the top 4.

Results: Portsmouth 0-1 Aston Villa, Sunderland 1-0 Fulham, Tottenham 3-1 Stoke, West Brom 0-5 Man Utd, Blackburn 2-2 Bolton, Chelsea 2-0 Middlesbrough, Everton 1-1 Arsenal, Man City 2-1 Newcastle, West ham 2-0 Hull, Wigan 1-1 Liverpool.

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