It is understandable that commentators bring to their task a certain amount of enthusiasm and a degree of hype is par for the course. But to try and pawn the Roma v Lazio game off as something that had drama and excitement is bordering on dishonest.
The ninety minutes was an escalating display of pettiness, nastiness and violence and contrary to what we were constantly told, it was not what we expect from a Rome derby.
Roma may have completed the derby-double (treble if the Coppa Italia is included) and closed the gap on Lazio but if that makes their season it says more about Roma’s ambition than anything else could.
Lazio have no higher moral ground to head for either. Two men sent off which was about the same number of consecutive passes they strung together.
The Stoke – West Ham was better in comparison but the bar was set so low in Rome it could not have fared worse. It was an untidy affair and one that Stoke probably deserved to win. They looked more dangerous over the ninety minutes and were more willing to push players forward.
The opening goal may have reopened West Ham’s defensive wounds. A long-throw from Delap was met by Huth who was completely (and I mean completely) unchallenged as he arrived in the penalty box.
The West Ham equalizer was one of three controversial moments in the game directly involving the officials. The supposed hand-ball looked to have been taken down by Piquionne on his chest from one camera angle but from another it looked like a hand was used.
It was a reminder that the camera does sometime lie and how the angle the referee has on an incident is vitally important.
The penalty awarded to Stoke after Etherington was adjudged to be fouled was another contentious moment. Real time action a penalty – replay not so definitive. Green saved the piss poor effort from Etherington so maybe some karma being played out with that one.
The third incident was the hand ball called on a West Ham defender as a free kick came in and this was the least debatable of the three calls.
Without Higginbotham scoring from the resulting free kick the call would have been quickly dismissed. However, given that it led to the winning goal it will generate more discussion no doubt.
We constantly speak and hear of the romance of the FA Cup but the Reading performance against Manchester City was far more indicative of what we usually get from the tournament.
Reading made it very difficult for City by maintaining a good shape, getting the ball wide as quickly and as often as possible and not committing too many men forward when the opportunity arose.
They hoped for a break but it was not to come. Instead Reading was undone by a City corner and there was a definite sense that a goal was on its way and by that route. Micah Richards’ header was sublime – he launched himself at a David Silva cross and buried the ball behind Alex McCarthy.
Fifteen minutes or so later when the referee blew the final whistle City had consummated their meeting with rivals Manchester United in one of the semi finals next month and no doubt setting off countless security headaches for the authorities.
Rather than having travel to London would it not have made more sense to toss a coin for home advantage and play the game in Manchester?
Napoli fans must have experienced some jitters as Raffaele Palladino struck a wonderful volley past keeper Morgan De Sanctis to give Parma a 1-0 lead.
The advantage held until right after half time than Napoli struck quickly for two goals. Lavezzi was the creator of one and the scorer of the second. A very late goal from Maggio put the game well beyond Parma’s reach.
The second half was a great illustration of why Parma is flirting with relegation. Their back four plays very deep and the strikers are stranded up the park. In between there are acres of space and the Parma midfield was simply overwhelmed by a more aggressive Napoli side willing to push men up the park.
It was case of the best for last. Barcelona carried the usual air of a side looking to an inevitable win during the first half of the game against Sevilla. Barcelona led courtesy of a Bojan goal (a sighting and a goal no less) and could have had more before the break.
But somewhere in the bowels of the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium Sevilla must have received a right talking to from manager Gregorio Manzano. It was an inspired Sevilla team in the second 45 minutes and they took the game to Barcelona for periods of the second half.
With pace and width from Navas, Capel then Perotti, strength and aggression from Negredo and Rakitic pulling the midfield strings Barcelona had to suffer through some heart stopping moments.
The equalizer came from a header by Jesus Navas just after half time but both teams had opportunities to win the match. The match grew to a crescendo with the last 15 minutes being as good a game as I have seen this season.
Special mention to Sevilla’s newly acquired “pit bull” Gary Medel.
He tackled and harried the Barcelona midfield and also cleared a ball off the Sevilla line with the seconds ticking down.
Cologne’s 4-0 win over high flying Hannover extended their best run at home in over a decade to six straight wins.
When Manchester United plays Manchester City next month it will be their 27th appearance in the FA Cup semi-final round.
My obligatory Dundee moment. Dundee’s win over Queen of the South on Saturday stretched their unbeaten run in the Scottish Football League to 20 games. It beat their previous high mark set nearly half a century ago during the 1961/62 season.
Eintracht Frankfurt lost 2-1 to Schalke 04 on account of a late goal. The silver lining – albeit a tarnished one – Eintracht did score their first goal of this calendar year.
Dortmund’s 1-0 loss away to Hoffenheim was their first defeat in 2011 and only their second loss in their last 25 games in the Bundesliga.
Based on only three goals in the previous four encounters between Bayern Munich and Hamburg we might expected Saturday’s match to be a tight affair. However, nothing could have been further from the truth.
Bayern Munich cracked six past Hamburg without reply with Arjen Robben contributing a 15-minute hat trick. The loss also cost Hamburg manager Armin Veh his job with immediate effect. Veh was set to depart in the summer but the thrashing on Saturday accelerated the process.
Brescia’s surprise 1-1 draw means they have now drawn their last 4 matches in Serie A.
Only one of the last 19 teams to visit the Britannia Stadium in the FA Cup has scored more than once against Stoke.
With a goal against Brescia on Friday Samuel Eto’o is now up to 31 for Inter this season.
How about this one from Raul on Saturday for Schalke against Eintracht Frankfurt?
In Serie A bottom of the table Bari travelled to the San Siro with what appeared little hope of escaping with even a point. But they did indeed manage a draw and you would have got odds of 6/1 against that occurrence.
As well, it was a draw in Spain that constituted the upset – 19/4 against Barcelona drawing away to Sevilla.
Two shock results in the Bundesliga this weekend. Both carried odds of 4/1 and one involved the side leading the league while the other involved the team sitting bottom of the table.
Borussia Dortmund sufferred a 1-0 loss away to Hoffenheim while Borussia Monchengladbach held Werder Bremen to a draw in Bremen.
Monaco beat Bordeaux 1-0 away from home and it was only their second away win of the season. That would explain the odds of 21/5 against such an outcome.
Player of the Weekend Nominees
Kevin Davies (Bolton)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Thomas Hitzlsperger (West Ham)
Gary Medel (Sevilla)
Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli)
The winner to be announced on Monday night’s Fox Soccer Report.
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