Friday, April 03, 2020
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The strength in depth of the Premier League was once again evident as none of "The Big 4" picked up maximum points for the second time this season. Neither Liverpool or Chelsea seem eager to open up a significant lead at the top of the table and Benitez and Scolari must be finding their respective home form as painful as the kidney stones they've been forcing out. 


Hull took a shock two goal lead at Anfield, only for Steven Gerrard to bag a swift brace to redress the balance for Liver-we're not a one man team-pool. I think Robbie Keane can be under no illusions of his place in the pecking order when with a few minutes to go and the scousers scrambling for a late winner, Benitez opted to throw on the attacking enigma that is Lucas Leiva instead of him. The ringing endorsement continued with the Spaniard making this post match statement in reference to leaving the GBP20.3million striker on the sidelines - "Using more people in the box is not a guarantee."


Stamford Bridge saw the return of the prodigal horse Gianfranco Zola and given current form a result for West Ham looked as likely as an appearance by Red Rum. However perennial whinger Craig Bellamy put the Hammers in front and it needed a goal from in-form Yakubu impersonator Nicolas Anelka to rescue a point for the West Londoners.
 It was hard to tell if Scolari's pained grimace on the touchline was due to the disjointed performance that lacked width & invention or the pulsating ache in his urethra. Not even an appearance from the perpetual sneerer Didier Drogba could inspire the Blues to victory and with his departure rumoured, coupled with reports that the likes of Kevin Davies are on the Christmas shopping list, the era of big spending at Chelsea seems over for the time being.

Man Utd were held to a goalless at Tottenham - a game marked by the pantomime return of slicked back villain Dimitar Berbatov. Miraculously, the Red DeviFls were kept out by a sterling shot-stopping performance by Heurelho Gomes, who for once lived up to his "Octopus" moniker. Previously, fans could've been forgiven for thinking the Brazilian got his name because the ball always squirts out his hands.
 W**ker watch this week saw Ronaldo petulantly aiming a kick at Michael Dawson, but getting away with it. The FA have opted not to pursue post game punishment, probably for fear of riling up Ferguson even more in the wake of the Evra debacle.

The passing of the torch continued as the young guns of Aston Villa tore into a Bolton team that had won their last three away fixtures. It had seemed a tricky tie, but Martin O'Neill admirably negotiated it with a 4-2 victory. The verve of the villains is the talk of the town at the moment, with Fabio Capello hinting that James Milner may be in his next squad and Real Madrid being linked with Ashley Young.
 Meanwhile, Arsenal slipped into fifth as they could only draw away at Middlesbrough. At this point, the Gunners title prospects look as sickly as Nicolas Bendtners lurid green boots.

The big story at the bottom is the departure today of Paul Ince. All the talk going into the weekend was of "The Guv'nor" being a growling, snarling fighter who was going to amp up his Blackburn team to come out all guns blazing. Unfortunately those guns back-fired horrendously as Rovers put in a limp display with an Antonio Valencia inspired Wigan soundly defeating them 3-0.
 It seems that the Keane/Ince rule by fear approach may be effective for them in the lower leagues, where they can inspire and intimidate average Joes into over-performing, but that they lack the finesse and nous for the top flight.

Two former Man Utd hard-men down in two weeks and Mark Hughes must be anxious that his filthy rich Arab employers will soon make it three for three as his Man City side lost at home to Everton - a last gasp Tim Cahill effort sealing the points for the striker-less Toffees. It was apt that a man from the land of criminals got the goal to steal victory and Man City will feel mugged, a familiar feeling for Darius Vassell. Hughes must be praying that he lasts until January so that he can finally put his mits on the much vaunted treasure trove. He will need to spend quickly and wisely, because the Abu Dhabi group will be deeply dissatisfied by their current position of 17th.

Ricky Sbraglia did his chances of getting the Sunderland post no harm at all with a 4-0 romp over hapless West Brom, who are currently looking like a shoe-in for that bottom slot. Tony Adams displayed the tactical naivety that plagued his spell at Wycombe as his Portsmouth side were out foxed and out fought by wiley Joe Kinnear’s Newcastle, who ran out 3-0 victors at Fratton Park.
 Finally. Stoke and Fulham ground out a turgid goalless draw that leaves them both mid-table.

Results: Aston Villa 4-2 Bolton, Liverpool 2-2 Hull, Man City 0-1 Everton, Middlesbrough 1-1 Arsenal, Stoke 0-0 Fulham, Sunderland 4-0 West Brom, Tottenham 0-0 Man Utd, Wigan 3-0 Blackburn, Chelsea 1-1 West Ham, Portsmouth 0-3 Newcastle.

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