Saturday may go down as the day when nerves were the big winners.
Mistakes and errors abounded as Mr. Cock Up made stadium calls around England. Blackpool conceded two first half goals to Wigan after giving the ball away needlessly.
Charlie Adam played like the man that Walter Smith said used to get booed on to the park at Ibrox rather than a player of the year candidate.
At Upton Park Mark Noble decided that dribbling in his own penalty box was a good idea…..for a moment anyway. Heskey got a tackle in and within seconds Bent had scored.
It does not seem so long ago that Scott Carson was tagged as England’s next great goalkeeper.
However, it is fair to say over the last few years he has struggled to even perform as a reliable first team keeper. He didn’t receive much support from his day-dreaming defenders but nonetheless he failed to deal adequately with two routine efforts on Saturday against Chelsea that led to goals.
Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet and Phil Bardsley could not figure out who was going to clear and it allowed Sebastian Larsson to nip and score the opener for Birmingham goal.
Manchester United succumbed to another flawed double act.
Van der Sar made a mess of a clearance only for Carrick to make things worse by having Ya Ya Toure intercept a pass on the edge of the United area.
Perhaps not unexpectedly el clasico left us with more than a few points to ponder and with more than a few contradictions to debate.
For example, Real Madrid played their best football after being reduced to ten men was on account of having nothing to lose or down to Mourinho’s adjustments?
There were the substitutions after Albiol’s red card. Ozil came on for Benzema and Alonso was replaced by Adebayor.
In the case of Barcelona they looked to have another gear but they often looked nervy when Real Madrid broke and there was little excuse for the penalty Alves gave away. It was the accumulation of a series of mistakes.
Eight points remain the gap between the two sides at the top of La Liga which is a chasm given Barca’s remaining schedule.
With ninety-six minutes already played nobody could have possibly predicted what was to unfold in the next five minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
Up to that point the game had been unnervingly predicable – Arsenal dominating possession, Liverpool maintaining their shape and looking to frustrate the home side at every turn while also hoping to take advantage of any counter-attack or set piece opportunities.
When Spearing brought Fabregas down in the box it looked as if Arsenal were only a successful penalty kick away from securing all three points. Van Persie – who up to that point had not enjoyed one of his better days – struck a beauty and did his part.
However, faced with the reasonably straight-forward task of kicking the ball as high and as far as possible down the park Arsenal were found wanting.
A free kick inches outside of the penalty area was blocked by the Arsenal wall but set in motion an incident that would result in an ill-advised push by Eboue in the box.
As the ball rolled into the corner Lucas invited contact from Eboue and the Arsenal right back did not disappoint. Another excellent penalty, this one from Kuyt, and the teams finished with a point a piece.
Don’t try and tell Stoke fans that the FA Cup is not important. After 148 years Stoke will going to Wembley to play in a FA Cup Final for the very first time.
And they secured their place in the final with one the most emphatic semi-final wins in the history of the competition. Two goals down before twenty minutes were on the clock and 3-0 down after half-an-hour Bolton were never in the game. Stoke’s transition game was excellent they were ruthless in their execution.
Just as in Germany (Bayer Leverkusen losing heavily to Bayern Munich) and in England (Arsenal dropping two points), in Italy it was a bad weekend for the second place team – in this case Napoli.
In facing an Udinese side that had lost their last two matches and were missing the strike partnership of Alexis Sanchez and Antonio di Natale the task before Napoli did not look as daunting as it might have done a few weeks ago.
A scoreless first half would not have caused Napoli great concern but the tide turned against the home side in the early stages of the second half. A spectacular strike by Inler from around 30 yards gave Udinese a 1-0 lead.
Then a few minutes later German Denis (allowed to leave Napoli last summer) finished in exquisite style as he hit the ball on the drop and it rocketed past Napoli keeper Morgan De Sanctis.
As the minutes ticked away Napoli’s situation looked increasingly forlorn.
Nonetheless Napoli were offered a route back after Udinese defender Domizzi decided that holding substitute Cristiano Lucarelli in the penalty box was not enough – a crack to the jaw was also needed.
Lucarelli crashed to the floor, the referee saw the incident, a penalty was awarded and Domizzi sent off.
All that was needed was Cavani to slot home goal #26 for the season and Napoli still might have a chance.
But Udinese keeper Handanovic leapt to his right to make a fantastic save and although Mascara did score for Napoli deep into injury time it was not enough. This was a major setback for Napoli but a big win for Udinese.
They stay within four points of Lazio who are currently 4th in Serie A.
I went 0-2 in picking the FA Cup semi-finals while on Friday’s Fox Soccer Report Michelle picked the opposite and so got both of the finalists right. Manchester City and Stoke were the underdogs at 11/10 and 15/8 respectively.
In the Barclay’s Premier League the most unexpected outcome according to the bookies was Liverpool drawing with Arsenal at the Emirates. The odds on such an outcome were 5/2.
Two late goals from Hernandez helped to provide Palermo with a 3-2 away win against Roma. You would have received 6/1 against the struggling Palermo side beating Roma.
A draw in el clasico was the most surprising result in Spain – 23/10.
Two red cards were issued to Rennes as they suffered only their third loss at home this season and Lorient recorded only their third away win. The decisive goal in a 2-1 win was scored by Francis Coquelin, currently on loan from Arsenal.
The odds against a Lorient win were 7/2 and this result combined with a loss by Lyon at PSG means that Ligue 1 looks to have taken on the look of a two-horse race between Leaders Lille and defending champions Marseille.
An 88th minute equalizer by Wolfsburg salvaged a point against St. Pauli in a relegation battle.
The result leaves Wolfsburg and St Pauli in 16th and 17th spots and both on 29 points. It was 3/1 against a draw.
Finally DC United’s emphatic 3-0 win away to Toronto FC was 11/4 before the match.
Player of the Weekend Nominees
Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan)
Ya Ya Toure (Manchester City)
Pepe (Real Madrid)
Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)
Jonathan Walters (Stoke City)
Gokhan Inler (Udinese)
The winner to be announced on Monday night’s Fox Soccer Report.
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