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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


TANGENTS

Rear View Mirror – Liverpool Reminded of Speedbumps On Road to Recovery

Written by on May 15, 2011 | 4 Comments »
Posted in General

There was something very appropriate about how Manchester United secured the point they needed at Ewood Park to win another Barclay’s Premier League title.

It was their 10th draw on the road this season and although no team has lost fewer games away from home there are a good few that have won more.

The fact that Blackpool are sitting in the Premier League relegation zone but have won as many away games as the 2011 champions illustrates the point.

The performance from United was little more than functional and although they went a goal behind in the first half there was the feeling that they would get the point the needed – especially after a Martin Olsson header that would have put Blackburn 2-0 up came back off the post around the hour mark.

The United equalizer came from the penalty spot and it was another of these incidents when the keeper goes in for the ball, arrives a fraction late and the attacker goes down.

Now and again you see a goalkeeper who plays it smart and fakes his dive, holds up at the last second and watches as the attacker anticipating the contact, either goes down or is unnerved enough to lose control.

Of course for next weekend’s opponents Blackpool United’s penalty equalizer was a double-godsend. The first is that as confirmed league champions United have no incentive when Blackpool comes to Old Trafford next Sunday needing points.

The second is that is leaves Blackburn in a precarious position. Only a win at Wolves next weekend can guarantee the Rovers survival. Anything less and a Blackpool win will take them above Rovers and to probable safety.

Of course Blackpool did their part with a pulsating 4-3 win at home to Bolton. Five goals came in the first half with Bolton taking an early lead through Kevin Davies. However, Bolton were then forced to come back from 2-1 and 3-2 down only to lose to a Charlie Adam goal.

Six points and unbeaten in their last four matches, Blackpool have hauled themselves back after a run of only a single point from the previous six games.

The FA Cup Final never came to life. It was a game that had little flow to it and that struggled to create any sustained goal mouth excitement.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis stuck with Cup goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen at the expense of Premier League goalkeeper Asmir Begovic while risking Matthew Etherington, a hamstring injury victim from a few weeks ago.

The first decision appeared neutral while the second failed to pay off as an obviously unfit Etherington was substituted in the second half.

City boss Roberto Mancini also rolled the dice and started his hamstring tweak casualty Carlos Tevez. The fact that City won will neutralize any debate as to the rights or wrongs of Mancini’s decision.

Apart from a semi final first half blitzkrieg that ripped Bolton asunder Stoke have been slow starters throughout this 2010/11 season. Or to put it another way – if Stoke were relying on their first half record they would be relegated.

They have however prospered in the second half and so a scoreless first half in which they were largely outplayed by City would not have been of much concern.

Typically Stoke picked it up in second half but untypically it did not translate into chances. As Jonathan Walters dropped deeper to help Rory Delap and Glen Whelan, Kenwyne Jones was left with less support than a jock-less rugby player.

It was a conundrum that Stoke just could not solve. The City goal came from a decisive Ya Ya Toure strike although the opportunity came after the ball pinged around the Stoke penalty box.

The first trophy for City for many a year while Stoke will be disappointed that they were unable to put on a better display. If Stoke were to get something it was most likely to come from Jermaine Pennant but in the end he was simply outnumbered by blue shirts.

Sunday’s match between Liverpool and Spurs offered up a reminder to Liverpool fans that a combination of Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clarke and a couple of new signings will not lead to other teams rolling over and surrendering next season.

Spurs matched Liverpool’s work rate and a combination of some stout defending from Michael Dawson and Ledley King and some ineffective play up front from Liverpool led to a 2-0 Spurs win.

Andy Carroll’s presence in attack was not a positive and a sign that it will take some work to integrate him into an attack that has benefited more by speed and movement than using one player as the focal point of the attack.

The penalty kick award to Spurs seemed soft although Pienaar was able to make sure that Flanagan’s challenge was not shoulder-to-shoulder by just pivoting at the last moment and it then became a push in the back.

What can you possibly say about West Ham and Wigan? Last season Wigan recovered from 2-0 to beat Arsenal and it proved to be a pivotal point in their fight to avoid relegation. We will have to wait until next weekend to see if this rebound from two goals down is equally effective or a case of just postponing the inevitable.

For West Ham it was another case of wasted chances and defensive errors. But even at 2-0 down Wigan were never out of this game as they too were creating chances but failing to pull the trigger.

In the end the man in the clutch was Charles N’Zogbia. Five goals in the last five games including two on Sunday and the second was virtually the last kick of the match.

It was the match of the weekend without a doubt and the endeavour and courage shown in the face of an immense amount of excruiciating pressure is to be applauded – and that was just the spectators.

Now it comes down to next weekend with five teams jostling and scrapping to avoid the two spots that have yet to filled in the 2011/12 Championship next season.

Of the five only Blackburn and Wolves (who face each other at Molineux) know that a win will definetly keep them in the Barclay’s Premier League.

Another other result for these two and it could be relegation while Birmingham, Blackpool and Wigan are all in the strange position of winning not necessarily guaranteeing safety and a defeat not necessarily guaranteeing demotion either. Strange indeed.

Finally the highlights of Chelsea and Newcastle’s 2-2 draw…….

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4 responses to “Rear View Mirror – Liverpool Reminded of Speedbumps On Road to Recovery”

  1. Daniel kanu says:

    Bobby ‘s views are always bias! As an Arsenal fan I have heard him criticized us on numerous occasions and never say anything good about us though we transform soccer. I love his insight into the game sometimes but I don’t live his views of teams he doesn’t like.

  2. Daniel – we all have opinions and obviously you have yours. The website offers readers the opportunity to express their views through the Training Ground feature.

    I look forward to your article for the Training Ground so I can learn how Arsenal has transformed soccer.

  3. Jared Greene says:

    Although I think that Arsenal got hosed by the ref yesterday, writers and readers alike are probably tired of this same story ever week. Better off just not mentioning it anymore. Since we’re talking about Arsenal, I’d like to propose the upgrades that need to be made for 2011/12:

    Samba for Squillacci
    Melo for Denilson
    Dempsey for Arshavin
    Benzema for Bendtner

    If Fabragas has to go then bring in Hazard. Plus bring Vela back as we can use speed and a left foot on the left wing.

  4. Gus Keri says:

    Bobby:

    “Sunday’s match between Liverpool and Spurs offered up a reminder to Liverpool fans that a combination of Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clarke and a couple of new signings will not lead to other teams rolling over and surrendering next season.”

    I agree.
    Also, it is going to take some more good players signing and good luck, too.
    And one more thing; the retirement of Howard Webb. So, I guess it could take a long long time.

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