Friday, April 03, 2020
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Clearly, the stand out tie of the weekend’s Premier League fixtures was the clash of the titans at the Reebok Stadium, as Bolton entertained Wigan. Ok, maybe not, but seeing as the Latics are top of the form guide over the last six games yet still perennially feature in the last dregs slot on Match of the Day, I thought I'd start with them.


 As calendar years go, it has been an impressive 2008 for Steve Bruce's men and they were able to end it on a high with a 1-0 away win. They play some good football under Bruce, Valencia has emerged as a major talent, Figueroa & Palacios have proven to be astute and economical purchases from Central America, Zaki has been a revelation, Heskey rejuvenated to the extent that Liverpool supposedly want him back and even the likes of Titus Bramble have been relatively solid. With everyone south of the top 5 proving to be rather inconsistent, the Latics may well be hopeful of UEFA Cup football if they can maintain their excellent form.

It is a huge ask though and January will prove to be crucial, as it will with many clubs. If Wigan lose some of their major players in the transfer window then they will likely lose momentum and become submerged in the relegation mire that engulfs most of the division.

Bolton had lost 3 of their last 4 going into this game and for once rubber chops Megson opted to be slightly bolder than usual and play Davies and Elmander up front together, but to no avail. A great November had seen the Trotters march up the table, but this loss puts them back within 3 points of the drop zone so my tip for the drop may still prove accurate.
Captain Kevin Nolan wants to see some new faces to "freshen up the dressing room", because, well presumably he doesn't like the stench of Shittu.

Another of my relegation picks, West Ham, have found a little form. The Hammers have been poor at home of late, but were able to eventually best Stoke 2-1. The Potters took the lead through an Abdoulaye Faye header and were leading at half time in what was a tight, scrappy affair. Zola's men were jeered off and it looked like Stoke could be on their way to a first away win of the season before they managed to self-destruct in ludicrous circumstances.

Carlton Cole managed to leave a clearly struggling Andy Griffin in his wake as he curled in the leveller. This led to Jamaican firebrand Ricardo Fuller strutting up to his club captain and giving him a little slap. Hardly a tooth loosener, but he got a straight red and the ten men eventually succumbed to West Ham pressure when Spanish star Diego Tristan managed to jammily deflect a Cole shot into the net for the win.

If Fuller wants to know how to hit someone properly then he ought to ask "Southport Smasher" Steven Gerrard.
The alleged DJ decking Liverpool captain was celebrating the Reds romp over Newcastle when he became embroiled in a fracas that left a man hospitalised. Apparently 'salt of the earth' Stevey is not so chirpy after a few beverages. Hey Gerrard, calm down, calm down!

A terrible end to a year that should have left Liverpool on an unparalleled high as the critics were left cooing over the Reds marvelous display at St. James Park; Liverpool running out 5-1 winners in a game that remarkably saw Shay Given as a man of the match candidate despite letting in a fistful of goals. One wonders if this unsavoury incident may undermine Liverpool’s title challenge.

After the game Joe Kinnear bemoaned his injury list and claimed that "We've had to put young kids in there and ask them to do a man's job". No doubt they are missing some key players, but from their starting line up only the goal scorer David Edgar could be described as a rookie and with internationals like Given, Coloccini, Gutierrez, Butt, Duff and Owen playing, they shouldn't have been quite so hopeless.

Chelsea lost ground on their scouse rivals by producing only a draw at their London neighbours, Fulham. Hodgson’s men have been very solid at home and took the lead through Clint Dempsey. A cautious Scolari had dropped top scorer Anelka in favour of the
'dispassionate' Didier Drogba and they floundered early. When the generally ineffective Malouda was substituted after half an hour with hamstring problems, Anelka came on and Chelsea looked a different proposition.

A Frank Lampard double looked set to snatch victory for the Blues, only for things to even-up late on as Dempsey headed home from a Davies corner. Still, Scolari is unruffled and has a simple, effective solution to get Chelsea back to the top, saying "we're in a good position, we just need to win games, nothing more." Cheers for the insight Big Phil.

If old Clint’s goal was late, Craig Beattie’s effort to seal victory for WBA over Tottenham was positively posthumous. There wasn't much to choose between the two sides despite the early red for Spurs Benoit Assou-Ekotto, before Roman Bednar, recalled after being rested against Chelsea, headed home after 83 minutes. The goal was somewhat controversial as Tottenham claimed that the Czech star had shoved Michael Dawson as he jumped up for the header. They probably had a point, but Dawson did himself no favours with his theatrical leap.

Beattie then came off the bench to grab a 94th minute goal that gave the Baggies a result that left Harry Redknapp seething. The Spurs boss labeled referee Steve Tanner as
"scary". Ironically, red-card recipient Assou-Ekotto and his new barnet bare more of a resemblance to that remark.

This result briefly lifted West Brom off the bottom, putting pressure on Blackburn as they took on former boss Mark Hughes Man City in the evening TV game. It was another game that featured late goals as Rovers somehow contrived to throw away a 2-goal lead with only a few minutes left on the clock.

Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts had given Sam Allardyce’s team the advantage, but a last throw of the dice by a desperate Hughes ended up being a masterstroke as young Daniel Sturridge gave a mercurial cameo, zinging it in after Andre Oojer’s weak header from Robinho’s hopeful dink into the box fell to his feet. Moments later, he shrugged off three challenges then split the defense with a precision pass that Robinho gratefully tucked away.

There has been a lot of talk that Robinho can turn it on against weak opposition, but goes missing in crunch situations both for his clubs and for Brazil,
where coach Dunga is claimed to have suggested that he "looked scared" before a big game against Argentina. The legitimacy of this claim is defended by those who point out that all but one of Robinho’s goals have come at the City of Manchester Stadium where he is universally adored. His display and late goal at Ewood Park should go some way in refuting this school of thought.

Arsenal left it relatively late themselves to dispatch Portsmouth at the Emirates, William Gallas bravely heading home in the face of David James’s flapping fists. Gallas is certainly having a tumultuous season and his ups and downs are somewhat reminiscent of Marco Materazzi's international career. Wenger added fuel to the fire for those who think he is losing his mind when he stated that
Tony Adams "will certainly be a great manager and he has the qualities needed to become one."

At Goodison Park, Everton finally managed to replicate their away form in front of the Toffee faithful, coming out easy winners thanks to two Mikel Arteta free-kicks and a late poachers effort for Dan Gosling - his first goal for the club. It was pretty dismal stuff from the Black Cats and like many a caretaker manager or loan star who finally get a permanent contract then show their true colours, the question remains: has Ricky Sbraglia flattered to deceive? The jury is out.

Man Utd managed to keep the pressure up on the front two by overcoming Middlesbrough 1-0 at the Theatre of Pomposity....er Dreams, Dreams. A 69th minute Berbatov bash would have been more of a nightmare for Gareth Southgate, who will be nervously glancing over his shoulder now that the Teesiders have slumped to just a place above the relegation zone, only separated from Stoke on goal difference.

Finally, another late goal in the final Premiership fixture of 2008 saw the last minute Villains get an unlikely victory over Hull. It was a terrible game, with both teams looking ragged, tired and poor. The Tigers were marginally the better team and were unlucky to have a Nick Barmby effort ruled out for a supposed foul on Brad Friedel whereas it was just a clanger from the American keeper. Villa have made a habit of thieving points at the death this season though and an Ashley Young cross was deflected in via Kamil Zayatte to give us a fantastic flukey three points that takes us back up to fourth spot.

So, a Happy Year for Martin O'Neill’s men and a Happy New Year to you from me and everyone at www.90minutesonline.com.

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

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