After Saturday’s deluge of goals in the Premier League it was not surprising that the valve would be turned more towards the off position on Sunday.
The West Ham versus Birmingham played out as advertised – a tense, relegation battle with Birmingham beating West Ham in same manner as they did in the Carling Cup semi-final.
All season West Ham have had trouble dealing with crosses played into their penalty and in particular a ball to the back post.
It was their downfall once again with Nikola Zigic manoeuvring behind the West Ham defence and scoring. How a management team cannot see such an obvious problem and rather than addressing it they go out and acquire a left back whose greatest strength is going forward rather than defending.
It is displays like this one that makes you realize that West Ham are fortunate to still be in with a chance of staying up.
The Chelsea – Liverpool encounter moved from very cagey in the first half to just cagey in the second half. It was the context that made the game memorable rather than the quality of the play. Chelsea were totally stifled.
As good as Anelka looked against Sunderland playing behind two strikers he never looked comfortable as Liverpool swarmed the central midfield and squeezed his space.
Chelsea opted to keep Mikel deep which meant playing what was essentially five defenders against one Liverpool attacker Dirk Kuyt.
After a couple of early raids forward Bosingwa and Cole offered little or nothing in the way of a consistent wide threat.
The Liverpool defence survived a couple of early problems when they over played coming out of the back (perhaps the number of options they had available proved confusing?) and Skrtel looked shaky until settling down in the second 45 minutes.
Carragher’s block on the one chance Torres had was crucial while Johnson and the big boned young lad Kelly seemed to have a licence to go forward when they saw fit.
Credit is due to Dirk Kuyt for ploughing a very lone furrow. Chelsea had a couple of penalty shouts – Lucas looked guilty but had no need to, while the block by Johnson on Ivanovic was a better appeal and one Liverpool were fortunate to escape with.
The schedule lumps more pressure on Chelsea next weekend as they do not play Fulham at Craven Cottage until Monday evening.
In Italy Milan dropped more points with Genoa failing to cooperate this time. Milan are struggling to overcome injuries but benefited from a goal on the half hour scored by Pato and set up by Ibrahimovic.
Up to going behind Genoa were playing like a side expecting a 2 or 3 goal loss but the Milan goal galvanized the home side. The wonderfully named Floro Flores equalized right on the break and Genoa actually had the better of the second half.
This is not the Genoa team of Gian Piero Gasperini for sure. Under Gasperini Genoa would play three at the back and press incessantly high up the park.
New boss Davide Ballardini has opted for a more considered approach although not nearly as exciting.
Man of the match for me was Slovakia midfielder Juraj Kucka who arrived last summer from Sparta Prague.
Until he tired late in the match he more than held his own against a combative Milan midfield of Flamini, Gattuso and Van Bommel.
The best was kept for last with Inter beating Roma 5-3. Wesley Sneijder was back to his best playing with the zest and imagination that had been lacking before his injury. He scored a goal (almost no backswing) from the edge of the box and generally made Inter tick.
Eto’o was excellent again (15 goals in Serie A now) and Leonardo’s decision to start Pazzini rather than Milito proved correct.
Full marks for a ten man Roma side coming back to 4-3 from 4-1 down but they could not manage a Newcastle+ comeback and Cambiasso sealed the win.
No stumble and fall for Real Madrid this weekend. The game against mid-table Real Sociedad was over by half time with Real Madrid leading 3-0 – and yes I did hesitate when the thought crossed my mind about insurmountable leads.
Madrid would go on and win 4-1 but the three half goals were all splendid. Lovely finish from Kaka to start the ball rolling, followed by a searing drive from Ronaldo and he added another from a tremendous header just before the break.
Before Wednesday Sunderland were unbeaten and had a record of 9 wins and 2 draws when scoring the first goal. Subsequently they scored the openers against both Chelsea and Stoke but lost both.
Forty-one goals on Saturday was not a record for goals scored in one day in the Premier League. It was, however, a record in a 20-team Premier League.
Others are quoting it as the greatest number of goals scored per game in Premier League history – it wasn’t. At 5.1 goals per game it was less than the 8 goals served up in a couple of Monday night matches down the years.
The most goals scored on one day in the Premier League remains May 8, 1993 when there were 47 goals scored.
Arsenal now has the unenviable record of being the only Premier League team to not win after leading by four goals.
Although Newcastle’s fight-back was notable it was not the greatest comeback in English football. That is generally credited to Charlton who in 1957 beat a Bill Shankly managed Huddersfield side 7-6 after playing with ten-men for 70 minutes and trailing 5-1 at one stage.
Going into the game against Blackpool only 5 of Everton’s 27 goals this season had come from strikers. Saha with 4 and Beckford with the other doubled the tally of the Strikers Union – Everton Branch.
There have now been 13 red cards in Arsenal’s 25 Premier League games this season – 7 for the opposition and 6 for Arsenal.
Matt Jarvis set up George Elokobi for the equalizer against Manchester United. It was the Wolves’ player’s first assist or goal since the last week in November.
By beating Atletico Madrid 3-0 on Saturday Barcelona became the first Spanish top division side to win 16 consecutive games.
Hat trick for John Pantsil – unfortunately of own goals. Pantsil joined Southampton’s Andreas Jakobsson who did it in the 2004/05 season as the only players to achieve such an embarrassing feat. If I had left the question out there how many of you would have guessed Richard Dunne?
Roma became the first Serie A team this season to score three or more goals in a game and to not gain even a point. Milan and Udinese drew 4-4 and Juventus and Sampdoria drew 3-3 earlier in the season.
Player of the Weekend Nominees
Jermaine Pennant (Stoke City)
Joey Barton (Newcastle United)
George Elokobi (Wolves)
Juraj Kucka (Genoa)
Wesley Sneijder (Inter)
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