Friday, 14 May 2010

Premiership round up - Week 38

Well here they are, the last ten round-ups of the season. A pretty good day to finish on, with the title at least still in doubt (although not for long).

Chelsea v Wigan - 8:0 - Chelsea looked a little nervous from the off, but Anelka settled his side with a well-taken shot into the ground from Malouda’s chest, although Malouda may have been offside (6). Shortly after Lampard went down in the box and scored the resulting penalty (32). Caldwell, who had fouled Lampard, was sent off. Drogba, in competition with Rooney for top scorer, was miffed that he was not allowed to take the penalty but Ancelotti had decided that Lampard should take the first one, the win being more important than Drogba’s seasonal total. Kalou scored Chelsea’s third with a nifty bit of footwork after a good one-two with Lampard (54). Anelka got the next with a great volley that looked very similar to his first goal (57). Drogba nearly scored a goal but then got his first with a great header off Lampard’s cross (63). His second came from a penalty after Cole slipped over and was deemed to have been fouled (68) and his third by being in the right place at the right time to poke it in (80). A good save by Cech kept Chelsea’s slate clean and finally a superb volley from Cole ended the game (90). So, Chelsea steal seal the title with a crushing victory by eight. It seems almost churlish to point out they only needed one!

Man United v Stoke - 4:0 - Fletcher put United ahead after 31 minutes with a competent opportunistic strike against poor defending and Giggs doubled the score with a simple tap-in off a strong run and cross by Berbatov (38), all to muted applause as the news over the mobile networks confirmed Chelsea’s growing lead at the Bridge. Higginbotham scored an unfortunate own goal when Rooney drove the ball hard across the goal-mouth (54). Van de Saar hardly had any work to do but made a great save to keep Stoke out. Park got the score to four with a good header near the end of the game (84). Rooney tweaked his groin and came off at his own request but his manager said England need not fear for his summer fitness. Phew! A good season for United but obviously not the one they were hoping for. So, selling Ronaldo (in Your Ear’s view) might have gained them £70m, but cost them the title. And then there was the tale and sale of Tevez…

Burnley v Tottenham - 4:2 - Bale had plenty of time and space to pick his spot and hammer the ball away from just inside the box (3). Modric scored an even better goal after a neat step-over (32) and Spurs seemed to be in complete control of the game. But football is a… well, we know what football is, and from then on it was all Burnley. First Elliott retrieved a goal just before half time with a well-taken chance from a back-heel (42). Cork equalized with an excellent header following a good build-up (54). So, two-all, but Burnley got their noses in front when Paterson coolly smacked the ball in from a wide angle on the edge of the box (71) . Then Burnley got another through substitute Thompson’s delicate touch (88), forcing Spurs to settle for 4th place overall. If only Burnley could have delivered this sort of performance during the last few months. And how can Spurs beat the likes of Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea, as they have recently, and then lose to poor old Burnley? St Hal was not available for comment.

Arsenal v Fulham - 4:0 - A complete cods-up in the Fulham defence with an unnecessary back-pass led to a mistake by Schwarzer, who lost control of the ball. Arshavin made no mistake, rounding the keeper twice and scoring from a narrow angle (21). Shortly after Van Persie scored from a Walcott pass (26), taking two goes to punt the ball in. This was followed by more disaster for Fulham, an own goal by Baird, who sliced a cross into his own net (37). Finally, Vela chipped the goalkeeper for Arsenal’s fourth (84). He may have been offside, but the result was beyond doubt by then. Wenger was happy with qualifying for Europe but generally unhappy with Arsenal’s season. Your Ear thinks more players/strength in depth is required at the Emirates.

Aston Villa v Blackburn - 0:1- In a tight game Milner might have scored from a free kick but his tricky little shot was saved. Villa were rightly denied a couple of penalties and it was Blackburn who broke the deadlock (and achieved the double over Villa) when Hoilett appeared to have scored with a good header but in fact forced an own goal by Dunne (84). Allardyce - ‘A very satisfying 1:0 win.’ O’Neill - ‘I think if I filibuster long enough you could just disappear.’

Hull v Liverpool - 0:0 - Liverpool have not looked their old selves this season and their final game was no exception against a relegated Hull. Both sides should have scored but missed good, if not golden, opportunities. One of the few notable spots in the game was when 16 year old Jack Robinson came on as Liverpool’s youngest ever player. A win would have taken Liverpool to sixth place in the league - nevertheless, the unmemorable game ended in a goal-less draw, resulting in Liverpool’s worst finish in 11 seasons. Could his 350th game in charge of Liverpool be the last one for Benitez? He still has four years left on his contract, so it would be an expensive payoff for a club looking for new financiers.

West Ham v Man City - 1:1 - Boa Morte got West Ham off to a good start off Diamanti’s superb stabbed pass (17). Wright-Phillips equalized with what the trade call a ‘cushioned header’, showing great control (21). Throughout the rest of the game West Ham seemed the more likely side, and Diamanti hit the post, although City also had chances and Tevez was prevented from scoring near the end of the match. After the game Zola and Mancini sang each other’s praises at length, bolstering the English League’s IMC (Italian Managers’ Club). But the word on the day was that Zola’s days were numbered, and he is now sacked. He might well be grateful, in the long run. Owners, what do they know?

Wolves v Sunderland - 2:1 - Jones was a little fortunate (8) to see the ball bounce off a defender’s foot to lob the keeper and then go in-off the post. A minute or so later Doyle restored parity after Wolves were awarded a penalty (10). Wolves were lucky to survive a Sunderland onslaught, including an athletic scissors kick by Malbranque, but they weathered the storm, got the lead and won the game through a fine strike by Guedioura (78). Turner was dismissed for a second bookable (for what in the olden days would have been deemed a fair shoulder challenge), reducing Sunderland to ten men. Then Colback was dismissed (on his debut game) for a more dangerous-looking challenge in the last minute. Bruce - ‘Second half I was totally disappointed with the way we codsed-up ourselves, in terms of being sloppy and giving the ball away.’ McCarthy - ‘Steve will be disappointed with his, I’m delighted with mine. We’ve had a great season.’

Bolton v Birmingham - 2:1 - Bolton gained the lead through a fine header by Davies (33). McFadden thought he had scored but it was disallowed for handball and he was quite rightly cautioned. Jaaskelainen kept Birmingham out with at least two good saves and Bolton got their second with a well placed shot by a totally unmarked Klasnic (60). McFadden finally got one back after Benitez, who had been shut down and fouled in the box by Robinson, took a penalty that was saved once, then twice by Jaaskelainen before Birmingham finally got the ball into the net (76).

Everton v Portsmouth - 1:0 - After much mayhem in the Everton box Portsmouth scored a good goal which was wrongly disallowed, Piquionne almost scored and O’Hara did score a goal which was totally on-side (but given off) before Bilyaletdinov rounded off a miserable season for Portsmouth when he stroked in a very good first time effort to gain the winner for Everton in the last minute of the game (90+4). Grant - ‘This has happened to us many times in the season.’ Will Grant be the next manager of the Hammers? Only time will tell.

Here ends the season.

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Premiership round up - Week 37

Man City v Aston Villa - 3:1 - City nearly got an early lead with a deflected cross but it was saved. Villa took the lead through Carew with a short run and simple pass into the net, making the City defence look foolish (16). City applied a tourniquet on Villa but Villa are a hard side to break down and nearly went two up but their shot was saved. City players went down in Villa’s box a couple of times and the referee rightly saw no infringements until the third time, when Warnock slipped and clipped Johnson. Tevez converted from the spot and levelled the game (41). Carew almost got the lead back immediately but hit the post and City responded with a slightly lucky combination of circumstances (and passes) to end the half ahead (Adebayor, 43). Villa are a great second half side and came out with all guns firing. Bellamy had a good chance, nevertheless, but his shot was saved and in the 89th minute his fine strike into the top right hand corner of the net secured City’s victory.

Spurs v Bolton - 1:0 - Spurs needed this victory to remain in the driving seat in contention for fourth place. Bale looked threatening, as usual, but it was Huddlestone who hammered home a stupendous strike to get the first and only goal from 25 yards (38, Huddlestone’s second in the league this season). Huddlestone and Defoe both had subsequent good looking shots which went wide and Pavlyuchenko had a good opportunity for a header but missed. At the other end Spurs had to hang on grimly against a couple of Bolton attempts whilst Crouch nearly put the result beyond Bolton’s reach near the end of the game. Bolton pressed for three minutes of extra time but failed to score. Owen; ‘It was a wonder goal that separated the teams.’ Harry (regarding a late injury to Gomes); ‘Well, he felt his groin go a little bit.’ All eyes on Spurs v Man City mid-week for the fourth place spot.

Portsmouth v Wolves - 3:1 - James, sporting an even more elaborate hair-do than usual (mock-Elizabethan, Your Ear thinks), saved a good Wolves’ free kick before Dindane put Portsmouth ahead with a simple header (20). Piquionne nearly got a second goal soon after, but Doyle equalized after James saved two headers in quick succession with a tap-in (35). Utaka regained Portsmouth’s lead soon after (39) and despite valiant Wolves’ attempts Brown got another (67). McCarthy - ‘We need more players.’

Everton v Stoke - 0:0 - Cahill won an early corner as Everton started brightly. Fuller might have scored at the other end but Everton always looked stronger and more aggressive. Having said that Delap missed an easy opportunity for Stoke. Everton finally scored but, Anichebe was ruled offside. Everton fans were not best pleased and further clarification of the offside rule is required if there is to be any consistency in decisions.

Birmingham v Burnley - 2:1 - If Fulham win the Europa Cup final Burnley (despite their relegation) will play in Europe next year due to their ‘fair play’ record. Blimey, Your Ear is sure the rest of Europe is quaking in its collective football boots. Birmingham might have conceded an early penalty, but got away with it and pushed up-field. Birmingham finally squeaked ahead before half time when the ball went in-off Jensen (o/g, 30). Birmingham got their second when Johnson strained every sinew to head a cross and Chucho Benitez chested it in (41). Both Benitez and Larsson might have had another and Burnley had chances until Thompson got one back (87).

Liverpool v Chelsea - 0:2 - As the game progressed Liverpool appeared to have the upper hand at home and were more frequently on the offence until a simple misplaced back pass by Gerrard was pounced on and put away by Drogba (33). Lampard might have doubled Chelsea’s tally but his shot was saved. And a good shout for a Chelsea penalty was denied, all in the first half. Nine minutes into the second half Anelka put in a perfect cross which Lampard slid in and Chelsea celebrated as though the season was ended, and they had won it. And they might have.

Sunderland v Man United - 0:1 - Sunderland looked as though they were well in the game until ManU started playing ‘pass the parcel’ in Sunderland’s box and Nani scored with an easy shot (28). Berbatov, a player who looks good but sometimes fails to deliver (he should have stayed at Spurs where that sort of thing is more easily forgiven) should have taken at least one of three almost cast iron opportunities, but missed again and again (and again) from point-blank range. Berbatov was substituted and ManU came on strongly, but the score remained the same.

Fulham v West Ham - 3:2 - Having hit the bar and been kept out once or twice Davis put Dempsey through for a good first half goal (45). A freak in-off Carlton Cole gifted Fulham their second (59). Cole redeemed himself two minutes later with a glancing header (61). Fulham restored their two goal advantage after another West Ham defensive error (Okaka, 80) and Franco took it away again with a simple goal in extra time (90+2). Zola - ‘I don’t want to make any comments any more…’

Wigan v Hull - 2:2 - Wigan were on top for the opening half-hour but failed to take advantage until Moses put them ahead, running in from the left flank (30). Atkinson equalized on his debut, heading in Kilbane's cross (42, the Wigan defence had hesitated when the linesman flagged for offside). Cullen headed in Boateng's cross to give Hull the lead (64), but Gohouri cracked in an acrobatic overhead kick from close range to make it a draw (90+3). The result confirms Hull's relegation and there are rumours that the club’s estimated debts of about £35m may force them into administration. Dowie's future as Hull manager is also uncertain. Martinez - ‘It's a performance which leaves me with mixed feelings. They were well-organised and working hard and I thought for spells, we showed very good moments. I felt we would kick on after scoring first but we conceded two soft goals and that is a clear area that we have to improve for next season. But what we don't lack is character and the desire to carry on doing the right things until the end. The second goal was the reward we deserved.’ Wigan, who travel to the Bridge on Saturday, now hold ManU’s only hope of denying Chelsea the league title.

Blackburn v Arsenal - 2:1 - Blackburn came from behind to beat Arsenal, whose third place in the Premiership is looking more shaky by the day. Van Persie put Arsenal ahead with a header from six yards (13) but Blackburn drew level when Dunn tapped home after a corner was poorly defended (44). Fabianski saved from Pedersen and Hoilett, but Blackburn continuously challenged Arsenal’s keeper with high balls, and Samba headed the winner from a corner (68). While it was a frustrating afternoon for Wenger, who had his normal problems in coming to terms with the refereeing decisions, the win lifts Blackburn from 13th to 10th in the table.

Fulham v Stoke - 0:1 - Not an exciting match throughout, and Etherington's fine strike was one of few Stoke shots on target (83). As a result Stoke overtake Fulham, moving into the top half of the table. Hodgson (on his side's injury problems) - ‘We think one of Damien Duff's muscles was cramping up. That was a blow of course. We hope it's not too serious. I hope he'll be fit for the final. The medical staff don't think it's a muscle tear or anything like that. Bobby Zamora stands a chance of making it but he's not making vast amounts of progress on a daily basis so it could be touch and go. It's very disappointing to lose, especially seeing as the evidence showed it was handball which deflected the ball over for the goal.’ Pulis (on Stoke beating last season's points total) - ‘We're only the second club to have beaten their points tally in their second season, so so much for second-season syndrome. That's a fantastic achievement for everyone at the club. We got beaten 7-0 at Chelsea two games ago and we have played a top team in Everton and we have won here tonight. We have had two clean sheets now so that shows our spirit of togetherness. Roy picked his best side tonight but we showed great resilience and spirit. I think it's been a great response from the players.’

Manchester City v Spurs - 0:1 - What can one say? As a Spurs supporter Your Ear has generally been happy if, over the past few seasons, Spurs finished higher than Newcastle. Then The Magpies were relegated (good job Spurs finished higher than them last year) and Your Ear had to look for another candidate. This season Man City filled the spot and Your Ear is delighted, from a number of standpoints, that Spurs have now vanquished City, at the same time ensuring Champions’ League football at White Hart Lane next season. Deep, deep joy. As for the match - In brief, City were the more dangerous in the goal-less first half but Spurs were clearly the better side in the second half and Crouch squandered a few chances before he finally headed the winner late in the game (82). The result is a very ‘appy, ‘Arry whilst Mancini left the field to stony owners’ faces. Could Hughes have done as well? Who knows (and many would say, who cares?) but Your Ear thinks that the squad Mancini inherited has a lot to do with it. A big summer clear-out is now forecast. Meanwhile St Hal needs only tweak his side a little here and there to push for greater glory next year (if he buys Berbatov back from United, at a reduced price, of course, you read it here first). On the other had Adebayor is unlikely to return to Arsenal, despite the fans (all two of them) who want him back.

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Premiership round up - Week 36

Man United v Spurs - 3:1 - ManU had the better of the first half but Gomes stood up well and United could not convert any of their chances (and they had one or two). In the second half Berbatov engineered a penalty from a back pass and finally ManU got a goal (Giggs, 58). This seemed to free Spurs to play their own game until King equalized with a header from a corner (70). Nani did very well to put United back in front with a toe-poke to leave the defenders for dead, and a chip to beat the keeper (81). Five minutes later Evra was bundled over by Palacios and Giggs competently scored his second penalty to put the game beyond Spurs’ reach (86).

Hull v Sunderland - 0:1 - Hull started nervously but they looked like relegation-fodder from the off. Bent got Sunderland’s first with a simple tap-in from Jones looping header (7). Hull had a good chance but the keeper chested the ball away (strangely, as he might have used his hands). Hull earned a ridiculous penalty (not that the player was fouled, but Hull had previously committed a couple of fouls of their own and got away with them). Justice was served and Bullard missed. Altidore and Hutton were both sent off, Hutton for provocation, Your Ear thinks, and Altidore for reacting. Hull continued to push forward but could not get back on terms.

West Ham v Wigan - 3:2 - West Ham needed this win to ensure their survival in the Premiership but an unfortunate own goal by Spector early on put Wigan ahead (4). Cole might have equalized having ‘rounded’ the keeper (and flattened Kirkland as well - 5 stitches in his lower lip and 4 in his cheek) but Cole’s shot was saved on the line. West Ham saved narrowly from another Wigan attack by McCarthy but then Ilan drew the Hammers level with an easy strike from Coles’ short pass (31). West Ham moved ahead on the stroke of half time with a determined header by Kovac (45+5). Wigan played well and in resolute fashion but could not get back on terms until Rodallega ‘stomached’ the ball in from close range (52). Wigan had other chances but West Ham finally got their noses in front when Parker hammered one (no pun intended) from 40 yards out, a beautiful strike (77). Other than mathematical improbabilities West Ham (and hopefully Zola) are now safe.

Arsenal v Man City - 0:0 - Van Persie was back but Adebayor was on the bench (and unwelcome) for this fixture at the Emirates. It was honours even at half time after strenuous efforts by both sides, with Arsenal having the better of it. When Adebayor came on in the second half he was booed as roundly as Viera (who he replaced), another ex-Arsenal player, this time a favourite, was cheered. Given was stretchered off with a badly dislocated shoulder and and the game soldiered on to a goal-less draw, a better result for City than for Arsenal.

Wolves v Blackburn - 1:1 - Blackburn nearly took the lead with a header off the post but Blackburn eventually took the lead when Nelsen tucked the ball away from a good cross (28). Wolves nearly equalized from a free kick but Robinson palmed the ball away. Wolves missed several other chances (saved, off the line, etc) until with his first touch of the ball substitute Ebanks-Blake scored with a clever header (81). Blackburn nearly regained the lead when Andrews hit the post, but the game ended in a draw. A point looks enough to keep Wolves up, with Burnley having it all to do.

Bolton v Portsmouth - 2:2 - James had no chance (twice in two minutes), first to keep out Klasnic’s well-aimed header, then to save Davies’ well-placed shot (26, 28). Dindane got one back for Portsmouth in the second half (54) with a good shot then got another in style after good work by Utaka (68) to earn the draw.

Chelsea v Stoke - 7:0 - Chelsea got their teeth into Stoke like a terrier into a rat from the outset, narrowly missing chances right and left. Kalou got the Blues’ first after masterly control and a cross by Drogba (24). Kalou got the second after another fine pass by Drogba which Lampard hammered at the keeper who failed to hold it (31). Kalou earned the third goal by staggering into the box whilst being held by Huth to get a penalty decision which Lampard converted (44). So, the match was stone cold by half time. Kalou ran the ball into the box and followed up to pass it into the net for his hat-trick (68). Chelsea might have had a couple more before Lampard tucked the ball away off the side of his foot to make it five (81). Substitute Sturridge ran round the keeper to score his first goal for Chelsea (87) and Malouda finished the goal-fest with an off-side goal which was allowed to stand (89).

Burnley v Liverpool - 0:4 - Burnley started needing to win all three of their remaining games to avoid relegation. They duly applied early pressure in greater measure than Liverpool and the best first half chances fell to the claret and blues. The half ended goal-less, but Gerrard made the first breakthrough with a deflected shot (52). He doubled his score seven minutes later with a cracking strike from distance and Maxi piled on the agony for Burnley with a third for Liverpool with a well-placed shot from a difficult angle (74). Burnley continued to try but could not show any finishing quality. Babel got the fourth goal from an off-side position to put the result beyond any possible doubt (90+4). So Burnley join Portsmouth on their way out of the Premiership, only the third relegation place (Hull’s) remains to be determined.

Aston Villa v Birmingham - 1:0 - A great derby game with good attacking initiatives by both sides - the sort of match which delights the crowd without a goal being scored, although, in the end, one was. Both keepers (Friedel and Hart) were in good form and made many excellent saves as the play roared from end to end until Agbonlahor was fouled in the box and Milner scored from the spot (83). McLeish was very unhappy with the penalty decision (due to the ref’s distance from the incident), O’Neill was in no doubt. Surprise, surprise, but McLeish was right, Johnson (the defender) won the ball.

Everton v Fulham - 2:1 - Fulham squeaked into the lead against the run of play when a careless back-pass by Baines allowed Nevland to pounce and tuck the ball away (36). In the second half a slo-mo header was touched in for an own goal by Smalling (50). Cahill nearly scored with his head (again) and Fulham failed to convert a relatively easy chance. Everton always looked the more determined until Cahill went down in the box and Arteta scored a last gasp penalty to get the result (90+4).

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Premiership round up - Week 35

Man City v Man United - 0:1 - One of the last few crucial derbies of the season. Although the chances were lacklustre and not taken well it was end to end stuff, but the United stuff proved to be sterner - in the final minute the deadlock was broken by a vintage strike with his head by Paul Scholes off Nani’s cross (90+3).

Spurs v Chelsea - 2:1 - Spurs pressed Chelsea hard for the first 15 minutes of the game (now, why can’t they play like that against the lesser sides?) and eventually the ball kicked up unkindly into Terry who was judged to have handled it - Defoe duly converted from the spot (15). Chelsea looked extremely uncomfortable for most of the rest of the first half with Spurs creating chance after chance. Quite right too, as things turned out, as Bale showed tremendous pace and good accuracy to tuck the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net (44). Gomes saved brilliantly in the in the 45th minute to send Chelsea in two down. Drogba came on as a substitute and seemed to become injured before the ball was kicked off the spot at the start of the second half. Defoe could have made it three, so could Bale, so could one or two others, and Chelsea had Cech to thank for plugging a leaking Chelsea defence. Terry was sent off for a second yellow for late but unmalicious challenges and Chelsea were on the back foot thereafter. In the second minute of stoppage time Lampard got one back but it was too little, too late. Bale is in tremendous form, as are most of the Tottenham players at the moment - pity about the FA Cup. Deep joy.

Sunderland v Burnley - 2:1 - Sunderland turned the screw continually in the opening stages of the game and were rewarded when Campbell scored off Hutton’s cross (15). Campbell became provider with a good header into Bent’s path for an easy strike (40). The second half saw Burnley turn a corner (if not the screw) and substitute Thompson managed to retrieve a goal late in the game (82).

Blackburn v Everton - 2:3 - Blackburn unbeaten in eight at home, Everton unbeaten in seven games, home or away, so this was a tough fixture for both sides. Everton got their noses in front with an early penalty (Arteta, 4) following a clumsy challenge on him by Nelsen. N'Zonzi levelled it with a truly great strike in the second half (69). Yakubu came on and seconds later, with his first touch, restored Everton's lead (79). However, Roberts scored as good a goal as N'Zonzi's to level the match again (81). Yakubu was obviously not about to be upstaged so he set the ball up nicely for Cahill to tap in the winner (90), Cahill ‘s first goal with his feet in over 12 months.

Stoke v Bolton - 1:2 - This should have been Stoke’s game after Kitson put Stoke in front with a good run, and a tap around the keeper (13). Bolton’s Klasnic nearly equalized early in the second half, but swept the ball wide. Stoke nearly had a second shortly after but Kitson missed at point blank range. Bolton drew level from a debatable free kick (Taylor, 85). Then Bolton nicked it two minutes later with a cheeky flick in (Taylor again, 88). Stoke should have got a point but Faye also missed an open goal. Pulis - ‘It's disappointing - we missed so many chances, and the game really should have been out of sight by the time they scored their first. The free-kick was frustrating, but it was just one of those games. It was Bolton's day and you just have to take it on the chin.’ Coyle - ‘It's a huge three points. I certainly felt it was a free-kick, and I was delighted we got it. We're not safe yet, there are still some good teams fighting for their lives, just as we are. We've got to keep picking up points, because there will be a few twists and turns yet.’

Birmingham v Hull - 0:0 - Both sides had opportunities but the first half proved profitless for both teams. Hull were the more determined side in the second half but had to settle for a goal-less draw.

Fulham v Wolves - 0:0 - Early on Zamora tried to score his 20th goal of the season but missed a half-decent chance with his head. Wolves pressed hard on occasion but Fulham always seemed more dangerous, particularly when Zamora cracked one against the post in the second half. In the end another no-score result from two tired-looking sides.

Wigan v Arsenal - 3:2 - Must be difficult for Arsenal fans to know that Spurs all but ended Arsenal’s title hopes in the previous match. Maybe Spurs can/will do the same for other league-leaders. After an anxious start Walcott, showing his normal blistering speed, made a breakthrough for Arsenal just before half time, almost walking the ball into the net (41). Arsenal seemed to have put the game beyond Wigan’s reach with their second goal, a free header for Sylvester from a corner (48). Wigan might have got one back through various solid attempts but could not convert their chances until Watson put the ball away neatly from a good cross (80). The last ten minutes were all Wigan with Arsenal’s frazzled nerves showing clearly as they defended corner after corner. Eventually Arsenal snapped and Bramble seized a soft chance when Almunia mishandled and dropped the ball from a corner, allowing Bramble to head home from less than two yards. Arsenal’s miserable day was concluded by N’Zogbia (90+1). No excuses from Mr Wenger for once, a bad day at the office.

Portsmouth v Aston Villa - 1:2 - Portsmouth went ahead when Brown finished precisely from a cross, possibly from an offside position (9). Carew should have equalized twice, but James got lucky (again). Carew did not miss his third opportunity when he was also offside (16). After a comedy of lost possession errors in the Portsmouth box Carew won and missed a penalty (James saved). Villa were denied a good penalty shout and finally Delfouneso chose a good moment to score his first Premiership goal from a flick-on by Heskey (82).

Liverpool v West Ham - 3:0 - A cheering win for Liverpool that leaves West Ham one place off the drop. Benayoun put Liverpool ahead from Gerrard’s cross in off his stomach (19). Ngog added a second with a fierce shot from a Rodriguez pass (29). After half time Kyrgiakos headed off the post and the ball went home in-off Green’s leg (o/g 59). Benitez - ‘We have to keep doing our job. It will be more difficult now [to qualify for the Champions League] because Tottenham won [against Chelsea], normally you would not expect them to win [Your Ear thinks he means Chelsea]. But we have to be in a good position if they make a mistake. West Ham started the game pushing but as soon as we scored the first goal it was easier, we had more chances and we scored the second goal and the third one killed the game.’ Zola - ‘We started well. We were quite comfortable on the pitch. We suffered on dead balls - normally we are very good defending against them but not today. The first goal was a killer, I felt we were on top of the game. The second was a distraction, that was a killer. (That makes a double murder - Your Ear). After 2:0 it was difficult for us. (???) In the second half we tried to have a go and press them hard but they scored on a dead ball.’

Hull v Aston Villa - 0:2 - Agbonlahor got Villa into a well-deserved lead against a sorry-looking Hull with a good finish against poor defending (13). Kilbane had a shot cleared off the line whilst Vennegoor of Hesselink suffered a head injury following a clash of heads with Dunne which added 10 minutes of extra time. Finally Milner scored from the spot after being tripped by Boateng (76). O'Neill - ‘We're in the mix. We're going for everything and guaranteed nothing. We're not even guaranteed to finish eighth in the league at this minute. We've gone above Liverpool with three games to go and that's pretty exceptional. But where I've been pleased with the team is they've responded fantastically to the defeat at Stamford Bridge. We've come back and taken 10 out of the last 12 points. I think the team has shown a great deal of character all season and I think that was epitomised tonight. It was a very professional performance, and I thought we played very well, but at 1-0 the game's still in the balance and it was good to get the second goal, and we saw it through reasonably comfortably.’

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Premiership round up - Week 34

Hull v Burnley - 1:4 - A relegation candidates’ derby. Hull went ahead in just 3 minutes when Kilbane nodded in a simple header from a cross. Burnley came back strongly, showing good spirit. Hull also began to press, challenging an uncertain Jensen repeatedly, but without gain. After much too-ing and fro-ing Paterson equalized after a fine piece of control and turn in the box (35) and the first half ended with Burnley in the ascendancy. Burnley had an open goal to go at early in the second half, but Duff failed to put it away, possibly due to near concussion from a collision of heads with his own team mate, Cory. Duff’s head was split open while Cory’s was swollen like an egg. Later Alexander scored from the spot after an unclear decision for a foul on Duff (64). Burnley’s second penalty was less unclear and Alexander buried it in the same area of the net for the second time (70). Hull might have got back into the game twice, once when Vennegoor of Hesselink crossed the ball (or was it a shot) but no one could get on the end of it, and then when Bullard shot wide. Burnley improved their goal difference stats with a great fourth goal from a free kick By Elliott (90+6).

West Ham v Sunderland - 1:0 - Many chances at either end went begging, Bent possibly having the best of them with what would have been a fine lob. West Ham were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty and the half ended without score. The Hammers got their noses in front when Cole won an aerial challenge and Ilan slid the ball in (51). Cattermole had a good shot which went wide and Bent had a great opportunity but slipped over. Sunderland pressed a nervy West Ham harder and almost scored from a free kick, which was well saved and the Hammers nearly replied from a free kick of their own. Cole might have finished the game in the 90th minute but missed and 4 minutes of anxious extra time were played. Franco thought he had scored but was judged to have handled the ball. The action moved to the West Ham end for a final corner kick which Zenden took. West Ham cleared the ball, the game was over and Zola’s face almost split in two he was smiling so hard. A good win for the Hammers that will greatly help their chances of avoiding relegation.

Blackburn v Man United - 0:0 - Blackburn have only lost twice at home all season, so from the off a depleted, deflated United knew they were in for a hard time. Robinson made a couple of good saves early on but throughout the whole 90 minutes United were unable to convert their aggressive play. No Rooney, no score. No goals, a draw.

Man City v Birmingham - 5:1- Adebayor missed an early opportunity but it was City’s day nonetheless. Late in the first half Adebayor was challenged and knocked over in the box and Tevez buried the spot kick (38). Two minutes later Onuoha headed the ball well and Tevez deflected it in with the slightest (unaware) touch for his second, showing how unfair the awarding of goals in football can be. Two minutes later (again) Jerome got one back for Birmingham, heading home from a suspected offside position. A minute later (43) Adebayor scored from a good cross by Bellamy. So, four goals in 5 minutes, not bad for the ticket money, and the crowd had to wait another 29 minutes for the next goal. Tevez nearly scored from a free kick but it was Onuoha who did (74) with a good run through the middle and a one-two off a defender. Then Adebayor did much the same thing at twice the speed (88) to make it five.

Liverpool v Fulham - 0:0 - Liverpool and Fulham are the remaining two English teams still playing in European competitions but it seems unlikely that either of them will enjoy that privilege next season, unless, of course they win the cup the Euro competition concerned. Liverpool had all the possession but Schwarzer made several good saves to keep a clean sheet. Fulham, on the other hand, only warmed Reina’s hands once and never caused him to move his feet.

Wolves v Stoke - 0:0 - Good play at either end went unrewarded in the first half. Early in the second Sidibe thrashed the ball skyward when he had a clear shot on goal and the crowd then had to wait until the end of the game for some excitement when Sorensen saved from a free kick. A good point for Wolves who now look safe.

Chelsea v Bolton - 1:0 - Chelsea were under par, Bolton defended well and the hosts were slightly fortunate to come away with all three points from the game. Anelka headed home Drogba’s cross near the end of the first half (43), but the Blues might have conceded two penalties from handballs by Terry and Drogba. On the other hand, Lampard hit the post and Terry shot wide. Then again, Elmander should have equalized but missed a header. All in all an unsatisfactory match from a spectator’s standpoint and Sir Alex’s suggestion that the game was an ‘easy’ three points for the As (Abramovich and Ancelotti) proved unfounded.

Aston Villa v Everton - 2:2 - Nip and tuck for two close rivals. Cahill made space in the six-yard box to head home Baines' cross after Bilyaletdinov nearly scored (23). Agbonlahor's glancing header levelled the game for barely a minute before Cahill scored again (72, 74). Jagielka’s unfortunate own goal in extra time under pressure from Carew (90+1) got Villa off the hook. O'Neill - ‘Maybe a point did not suit either team in terms of our respective aspirations, Everton in terms of European football and ourselves in terms of something higher. I would say we have to win the whole lot from here. It is not impossible but it will be tough. We will just give it all that we can.’ That puts Everton in their place, Your Ear thinks. Moyes - ‘I am really pleased with how well we played, I thought we played some really good football, but I was disappointed that we only got a point in the end. But they had opportunities as well. Tim Howard made a couple of really good saves in the first half but I think he, like us, will be disappointed he did not save the second one.’ So Moyes was both pleased and disappointed at the same time…

Wigan v Portsmouth - 0:0 - Wigan should have won this game many times over but could not capitalize on their opportunities. The visitors had early chances when Ritchie twice missed with headers. Wigan took control but rarely tested Ashdown and Scharner, Scotland and Rodallega all squandered chances allowing Pompey to hold on for an unlikely point. Martinez - ‘It's frustrating because we had all the possession but Pompey had a game-plan, they got behind the ball and made it very difficult. It was one of those situations where you can get punished if you don't concentrate, and the lads did well in that respect. We were brave but we tried to win with the heart rather than the head - but we've got a point. There's a bit of disappointment and if decisions had gone our way it could have been different, but there are no easy games.’ Grant - ‘We have many players who were injured so we used some players from the academy and I was very pleased with them. We needed to do it because we have a very small squad.’ It will be smaller soon.

Tottenham v Arsenal - 2:1 - With this result Tottenham might have squashed any Arsenal plans to win the Premiership, whilst boosting their own chances of qualifying for the Champions League. Rose whacked a magnificent 30-yard volley past Almunia early on (10 - a 'wonder goal' according to Redknapp) and everywhere-man, Bale, tapped in Spurs' second from six yards after a pass by Defoe just after half-time (47). Gomes made three heroic saves to keep out Arsenal before Bendtner got a goal back (85). This was Tottenham’s first league win over Arsenal in 20 games. Spurs’ supporters are hoping they don’t have to wait another 11 years for a repeat performance. Before the match both clubs’ managers had said that anything other than victory would end their hopes of achieving their respective targets this season. Your Ear has assumed that Arsene is drowning his sorrows while ‘Arry is having a (small) beer with ‘the boys’.

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Premiership round up - Week 33

Man United v Chelsea - 1:2 - United were missing Rooney while Chelsea lacked Drogba, although Cech was back. Malouda was hard to cope with from the start and eventually put in a clever cross which Joe Cole back-heeled into the net (20). Two good penalty shouts were not given, one at either end. Chelsea nearly added another early in the second half when Ferreira went on a run but Anelka could not reach his cross. United started to apply more pressure and Park had a chance but missed. Berbatov also missed with a header, and after 60 minutes Chelsea seemed to be firmly in front. United continued to push up-field and Macheda and Nani came on for Park and Scholes. Finally Drogba came on and scored, more or less on his first attack, from a clear offside position (78). Then Macheda scored with his arm (81), cancelling the offside goal at the other end. Rooney is too important for United, just like Gerrard or Torres for Liverpool.

Arsenal v Wolves - 1:0 - Wolves have not beaten the Gunners for 31 years and could have been three or four down by half time, despite the absence of Fabregas, another big player for his club. Henry, Wolves captain , charged through Rosicky, who might have made a bit of a meal of it and Wolves were unfortunately reduced to ten men. Arsenal then piled on the pressure but could not convert any of their manifold opportunities until the last minute of extra time when Bendtner solidly headed the ball home (90+4), keeping Arsenal’s title hopes alive. Arsenal should have made it 2:0 when they had a late four on one attack opportunity, but in the end Wolves were a little unlucky.

Sunderland v Spurs - 3:1 - Sunderland grabbed an early lead when a very happy Bent thumped in a pile-driver in the first 60 seconds. Bent got his second from the spot (29) after Malbranque’s cross brushed Walker’s arm. Bent might have got his third from another penalty when Modric failed to pull out of a tackle on Campbell, but Gomes made a huge save, diving to his left. The second half was a different story - Bale nearly had a header and Defoe might have scored, but Sunderland got their third penalty and Gomes again denied Bent his hat-trick after Palacios failed to get the ball and fouled Meyler. Later Ferdinand thought he had scored but Gomes (lying on the floor at the time) was ruled to have been fouled. Spurs began a comeback with a Crouch header (72), but Zenden finally put the issue beyond doubt with a cracking left foot volley (86).

Burnley v Man City - 1:6 - Adebayor got City off the blocks quickly with a well taken control and volley from a corner (4). A minute later Bellamy walked through Burnley’s defence and got City’s second (5). Tevez got the third 90 seconds later when the keeper failed to hold the ball (7). Viera nearly knocked himself out with his first goal since his return to the Premiership, a thunderous header from a cross (20), and Burnley were well and truly on the rack. Tevez hit the post, Adebayor strolled one home for an easy fifth (45) and all in the first half! Kompany headed home another (58) before Fletcher finally got a good goal for Burnley (71). Everything seemed to go City’s way, but it might have been ten goals rather than six. How long can Laws last?

Bolton v Aston Villa - 0:1 - Bolton started brightly with a couple of good attempts on goal but the first goal came from a brilliant strike across the goal by Young (11). The game was well-contested but there was no further score.

Stoke v Hull - 2:0 - Fuller started strongly and got an early goal with a strong run and strike (6). Hull responded well but Stoke managed to soak up the pressure. Boateng was stretchered off when he suffered a head injury from an overhead kick and Hull, having used all their subs, were reduced to ten men. Lawrence got the clincher late when Hull were exposed in defence (90).

Portsmouth v Blackburn - 0:0 - Both sides might have had an early goal but could not finish and despite further chances the half ended evenly balanced and goal-less. Portsmouth’s Vanden Borre was sent off for a second bookable offence but Blackburn failed to take advantage and the game fizzled out to a boring draw.

Birmingham v Liverpool - 1:1 - In the first half Rodriguez hit the bar, while Johnson headed over at the other end. Liverpool took the lead when Gerrard got past Bowyer and curled a trade mark shot after Johnson miss-hit a pass (47). Birmingham hit back as Ridgewell bundled the ball in off McFadden's cross (56) and subsequently survived three N'Gog chances. There were times when Liverpool dictated and they really needed to win this game to keep their fourth spot aspirations afloat, but they seem to lack their old resilience and Torres looks fatigued to the point of exhaustion.

Fulham v Wigan - 2:1 - Scotland powered in the opener for Wigan after Moreno took down an N'Zogbia cross (34). Fulham came back strongly after the break, when substitute Okaka tapped in a centre by Gera (47). Finally Hangeland headed in Duff's corner to take the victory (58). A good win for Fulham while Wigan remain four points adrift of safety.

Everton v West Ham - 2:2 - Bilyaletdinov won Everton a first-half lead with a good header (24). Howard preserved it, saving Mido’s penalty after a foul on Cole. West Ham worked hard and Da Costa managed to bundle the ball in from a corner to level the match (60). A late header by Yakubu seemed to have won it for Everton (85), but two minutes later Ilan equalized (87). The hard-won draw for the Hammers was fully deserved, but whilst Zola was well pleased with his point, Moyes was frustrated.

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Premiership round up - Week 32

Birmingham v Arsenal - 1:1 - The first hour and more was very slow but things livened up when Arsenal took the lead through Nasri, who fired into the far corner from the edge of the area (81). But Birmingham equalized late on, through a fortunate ricochet off Phillips’ face (90+2), dampening Gooner hopes of staying in the title race.

Chelsea v Aston Villa - 7:1 - It took a little while but in the end Chelsea took Villa apart at the Bridge and staked a firm claim for the Premiership title with a pretty awesome display, even without Drogba. Lampard gave Chelsea the lead when he converted Malouda's cross at the far post (15), but Carew quickly drew Villa level after good work by Young (29). Lampard put Chelsea back in front with a penalty kick after Zhirkov was brought down by Collins (44). But if the game was fairly close in the first half this was not the case in the second when Villa, normally good for the money throughout the full 90 minutes, were effectively hung, drawn and quartered. Malouda made good after more excellent work by Zhirkov (57) and Lampard got his hat-trick with another penalty (62). Malouda piled on the pressure after being set up by Lampard (68) and substitute Kalou made it six when he shot low past Friedel (83). Finally Lampard got his fourth goal in the dying seconds (90+2) passing the 150 mark in his career total. O'Neill was angered by what he saw as Villa’s ‘capitulation’ whilst Wilkins commented that it was the ‘desire to win that motivates Chelsea.’ This seems to be almost fatuous comment in top flight sport, but perhaps that’s just sour grapes.

Bolton v Man United - 0:4 - A good game, despite the eventual score. Rooney, nursing a knee injury ahead of United’s Euro match the following week, was not even on the bench. Bolton had the better early chances but ManU went ahead on the back of an unfortunate own goal by Samuel (38). This was all that separated the teams for the next half an hour of play, but then Berbatov struck twice (69, 78) to secure the victory and Gibson finished a good day at the office for United late in the game (82).

Hull v Fulham - 2:0 - Fulham had a couple of half-decent chances before they gave away the most stupid of penalties to allow Bullard to score from the spot (17). Bullard nearly nicked a second goal from a free kick later in the half but Schwarzer saved. Hull got their second from an unlikely lobbed header early in the second half (Fagan, 49). Fulham were denied two penalty shouts for handball and, not surprisingly, Iain Dowie was the happier manager by far with today’s result.

West Ham v Stoke - 0:1 - Fuller had only been on the pitch for two minutes when he danced through three West Ham defenders and slammed a shot past Green. The result left West Ham level with Hull in 18th place and Hull also have a game in hand over the Londoners. Pulis - ‘It was a fantastic goal. Ric can do that. As a player, if he gets in that position he is so strong and his feet are so quick he can do that. It was a special goal.’ Meanwhile a withdrawn and silent Zola is rumoured to be making a decision on his future overnight.

Spurs v Portsmouth - 2:0 - Prequel to the FA Cup semi-final these sides seem to be meeting too often of late. Portsmouth nearly got their noses in front but it was Crouch who nodded Spurs ahead from a cross by Bale (27) and then Huddlestone then hit the woodwork. Kranjcar tapped home a second (41) but the hosts easily cruised to their victory.

Liverpool v Sunderland - 3:0 - All Liverpool in one of their best displays of the season. Torres seems to be back to near his best form and might have had a brace of hat-tricks, let alone the two goals he got. Torres opened the scoring within the first three minutes (3) with a great curling shot beyond the reach of the keeper into the top right corner of the net. Johnson got the second with a good touch to make space for a left foot shot that deflected off the knee of Turner (32). Finally it was Torres again (60) from an assist by Johnson, who seemed to be everywhere.

Wolves v Everton - 0:0 - Everton should have won this game but Wolves took a point at Molineux through their determination and effort. McCarthy - ‘I'm a little bit relieved because we had to weather a fair old storm. Moyesie (Moyes) had injuries to start with but they've come good and they're as good as anything that's come down here. We played some great football at West Ham and got a win but we're not suddenly Barcelona.’ Never thought you were, Mick! Moyes - ‘I'm disappointed we didn't take all three points because we had a host of chances.’

Burnley v Blackburn - 0:1 - As West Ham lost on Saturday to leave them in joint 18th with Hull, Burnley knew a win would take them level on points with both West Ham and Hull, although with a poorer goal difference. However, when Olsson was deemed to have been brought down by Jensen in the box, Dunn’s penalty kick in the 20th minute settled the match, as, despite various chances, Burnley were unable to get back on terms.

Man City v Wigan - 3:0 - Tevez settled this match in the space of twelve minutes scoring three goals in quick succession (72, 74, 84). City were poor in the first half but once Caldwell had been sent off for a tackle on Tevez, City took full advantage of their extra man. Tevez’ first goal seized upon poor keeping by Stojkovic for a tap in. Two minutes later Tevez doubled the lead, sliding in at the far post to convert Garrido’s cross. Finally the Argentine struck again, waltzing past two players before beating Stojkovic easily from just outside the box.

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Premiership round up - Week 31

Arsenal v West Ham - 2:0 - The Gunners went ahead within 5 minutes when Denilson pushed the ball past Green after a strong Arsenal build-up. He might have had a second goal minutes later but failed to connect. West Ham did not take the early onslaught lying down and made a couple of forays into Gunner territory but could not make them pay off. The game was shaken up when Vermaelen was sent off as last defender for a mild looking challenge on Franco. However Diamanti’s penalty was saved by Almunia. The first half ended with Arsenal a goal up and a man down, but they looked comfortable in play, nonetheless. Cole nearly cracked in a shot but the post got in his way. Then Arsenal got a penalty when Upson handled the ball. Fabregas made no mistake and sealed the win (83). Wenger - ‘There is very little room for error, we just try to win the next game.’ Arsenal looking good.

Portsmouth v Hull - 3:2 - Hull, having finally ditched Phil Brown, walked onto the pitch under the stewardship of Iain Dowie. Portsmouth, meanwhile, started the game nine points lighter, having had them docked for going into administration. This was a dour match between two relegation candidates and it was Hull who struck first with a little luck on their side by way of a deflection (Folan, 27). Portsmouth got back into the game a few minutes later when the ball was almost walked into the net by Smith (37) and the first half ended with the sides level. More luck entered into the game when the ball fell to Folan off the referee (Oi, Ref!) and he (Folan, not the ref) competently slid the ball past James (73). O’Hara scored a magnificent long range goal (not in keeping with the rest of the game) from a short ball after a free kick (88). Finally, old rubber-feet (Kanu) showed great awareness to wang in Portsmouth’s third (89). Grant - ‘It’s always good to win, even if it doesn’t help us to stay in the league.’ Dowie - ‘Crucial game, unfortunately we lost it, we’ll crack on next week.’ It’s good to have Iain Dowie’s plain talking cracker-barrel horse sense with us once more.

Aston Villa v Wolves - 2:2 - The first two thirds of the high tempo first half was largely owned by Villa. Carew put them ahead from what might have been a marginally offside position with a simple tap in (16) but Wolves got something from almost nothing a few minutes later when, having hardly seen the ball except from their own goal-mouth, Craddock had an equally simple tap in at the other end (23). The normally resilient Villa were rattled, and became more so when Milner scored an own goal trying to cut out a cross (38). Villa regrouped during the break and came out firing on all cylinders (what does O’Neill puts in their orange juice at half time?). Villa had various opportunities but could not convert them until Carew managed to guide the ball in, again from a tight position, to get a draw (82). Villa should have won this game at a canter, but all credit to Wolves for the draw. After the game (on Carew’s goals, particularly the first one); McCarthy - ‘You can analyse it till it comes out your backside, he is still in an offside position.’ Carew (with wide grin) - ‘I’m sure both of them were on the limit, but the trick is to be just slightly onside, isn’t it?’ O’Neill - ‘You’re asking the wrong man about referees’ and linesmen’s decisions. Have you seen the Carling Cup final? Have you?’

Wigan v Burnley - 1:0 - Wigan came close to scoring first, but Burnley were saved by the post and later had a good penalty shout turned down. Jensen kept out a couple more for Burnley, particularly a great shot by Diame. Finally Rodallega, who had had a quiet game for him until extra time, snatched the winner with a powerful header (90+3) just as the referee was raising the whistle to his lips to end the game (well, almost). Laws - ‘Football can be really cruel, and it was really, really cruel today.’

Stoke v Spurs -1:2 - Crouch started as Defoe was injured, needing a goal to end his nine match drought. Stoke had one or two chances in the first half and Gomes seemed unable to hold the wet ball (although sometimes he has no better luck with a dry one). Gudjohnsen came on for Pavlyuchenko and made an immediate impact when he made a strong run into the Stoke 18 yard area to power home a shot (46), his first goal for Spurs (and his first in the Premiership for four years). Whitehead was sent off for a second bookable offence and from then on Spurs dominated the match. However, Stoke scored from a penalty when Assou-Ekotto climbed all over Kitson, Etherington calmly putting the ball passed Gomes (64). Fuller should have scored a second but missed an open goal. Assou-Ekotto made amends for conceding the penalty when he crossed the ball, Gudjohnsen let it run and Kranjcar whacked it in (77). Sidibe nearly equalized but Spurs stumbled through to a win against the 10 men.

Sunderland v Birmingham - 3:1 - Bent has the knack of being in the right place at the right time, his 18 league goals this season is testament to that. He was fortunate to be in the right place again early on for a rebound that he tapped in (5). Six minutes later he scored a good goal, beating a defender and the keeper with consummate ease (11). Birmingham had their moments but Sunderland’s flying start seemed to demoralize them and they missed four good chances late in the first and early in the second halves. Jerome revitalized his team, scoring an excellent goal following a canter down the left wing (60) and Birmingham were then all over Sunderland. But Campbell put the game beyond Birmingham’s reach with a well timed run and lunge at a cross which was fairly unstoppable (88). Bent - ‘I always knew if I came to Sunderland and got regular football I’d get the goals.’ So it seems.

Everton v Bolton - 2:0 - Bolton were playing well and holding Everton at bay with ease until Steinsson was judged to have fouled Yakubu by running across him and was sent off. Arteta duly scored from the resulting free kick (72). From then on the result was not in much doubt and Arteta provided a good cross which Pienaar comfortably placed in the back of the net (89). Seven successive home wins for Everton. Coyle - ‘Yakubu took a great touch across Steinsson and invited Steinsson to come onto him. If there's a collision there's not a lot of contact, but Mr Wiley deemed it a red card. To rub salt into the wound, because I believe it was a contentious decision, Mikel Arteta was allowed to take the free-kick four yards closer than he should have been. I don't agree with the decision and with then allowing Arteta to bring the ball forward to the arc, with the quality he's got.’ That’s it, only let them get closer to the goal on free kicks when they’re not much good at taking them, that seems fair.

Man Utd v Liverpool - 2:1 - United came from behind to beat Liverpool at Old Trafford, and regained top spot in the league. Torres headed Kuyt's cross home after only five minutes, recalling Liverpool's 4:1 victory here last season, but United were not in the mood for trifling. United got an opportunity to draw level by a penalty awarded when Valencia was pulled back by Mascherano as the pair ran into the area. Rooney missed his penalty, saved by Reina, but was the first to react and turn in the rebound (12). United dominated the rest of the match and got the winner on the hour when Fletcher's deep cross was headed in by Park.

Fulham v Man City - 1:2 - Fulham went behind early on as Santa Cruz tapped in after Bellamy’s shot came off the post (7). Tevez barrelled in City’s second from close range just before half-time (36). Barry handled the ball and Murphy scored from the spot (75) but Fulham could not get an equalizer. City are now two points behind Spurs with a game in hand, but two thirds of their remaining nine games are to be played at home. Hodgson - ‘It’s disappointing after such a good win on Thursday night to be brought back down to earth today.’ Mancini - ‘We must think game after game. We have won this but on Wednesday we have a hard match against Everton. There will be a fight until the end of the season.’ A right old punch-up, probably.

Blackburn v Chelsea - 1:1 - Having led for much of the game Chelsea dropped two points in drawing with hard-working Blackburn. Blackburn must like playing against Chelsea - three months ago Blackburn beat them in their Carling Cup penalty shoot-out. Anelka’s run on the right wing and pull back allowed Drogba to slot home (6). Samba went close with a header and Chelsea had many other chances but the second goal came from a tireless Blackburn effort when Diouf out-jumped Ferreira to head the ball in (70). The Blues have earned only seven points out of a possible 15 recently and their title hopes are on the wobble again. Does the fault lie at Terry’s door? Hard to say, but Chelsea seem fragile and edgy and needs to win its next game to regain second place in the league. Your Ear feels that third might be their final league position as Man United and Arsenal forge ahead. Ancelotti - ‘We have to improve.’ Allardyce - ‘They scored a quality goal just after a few minutes, but we’ve come fighting back.’

West Ham v Wolves - 1:3 - Wolves took a giant step forward to avoid relegation, imposing a heavy defeat on the Hammers. Foley hit the bar before Doyle squeezed a shot in-off the post (28). Zubar whacked in the second goal (58) and later put Jarvis through to thump home a very good third (61). Franco’s chip provided a late consolation goal for the Hammers (90+3). But it was too little, too late for a sorry West Ham who appear to have no idea where they are going or what they are doing, despite occasional initiatives by Cole around the box.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - 1:1 - Sunderland earned a good point and dented Villa's hopes of a top four finish. Halfway through the first half Campbell got Sunderland’s noses in front beating Friedel with a competent finish off Richardson’s pass (22). Carew put Villa back on terms eight minutes later, volleying a shot off a cross by Young (30). Both sides continued to press for a winning goal but neither side could capitalize on their chances. Bent ran the ball into the back of the net, but was ruled offside. O'Neill - ‘While we've been unbeaten for a considerable time, you'd be hoping that with two consecutive home games we'd have taken four points. But it's easier said than done, and we're still in there fighting. I think there will be plenty more twists to come in the race for fourth, but our away record is very good and I still think we're in the race.’ Bruce- ‘Will 38 points be enough? I would think so but the one thing we can't do is take anything for granted. Possibly one more win will be enough… but we have lost only one of the last nine games, against Arsenal, and we have hit a bit of form.’

Man City v Everton - 0:2 - Man City were well beaten by a tough Everton performance at Eastlands. Cahill scored, with his head as usual, following a good build-up by Arteta and Baines, who made the cross (33). City raised their game in the second half but could not impose their will on Everton. Having soaked up the City pressure Rodwell went on a good run and Arteta scored a fine second to rubber-stamp Everton’s victory (85). Towards the end of the game both managers were sent off (to the stands) as tempers frayed and Mancini jostled Moyes while trying to retrieve the ball. Moyes had the last laugh - he has now turned Mancini over twice. Mancini, on the incident with Moyes - ‘I've spoken now with David and if I made a mistake I am sorry. I wanted to get the ball because there was another five minutes at the end. This can happen sometimes in a game but it is finished now. I was frustrated for the players.’ Moyes: ‘I wasn't the one waving my hand for bookings. I was very surprised, I didn't know what I had done wrong. I shouldn't have been sent off, simple as. I held the ball longer than I should have but I was trying to make a change. He showed his passion for his team and his club and I can accept that.’

Portsmouth v Chelsea - 0:5 - No contest as Chelsea move into 2nd place in the league and to within a point of Man United, level on goal difference, crushing an underpowered Pompey with ease. Drogba got the ball rolling when he rolled the ball (sorry) into an empty net after James missed a clearance (32). Malouda got the second (50) and the third (60), walloping in the first, then passing the ball into the net after a Lampard shot was saved. Drogba got another, chesting down from Mikel’s long ball to fire in at the near post (77). Chelsea might have had more but Lampard completed a good day for the Blues in extra time (90+4), heading in after Drogba nodded down a high cross from Cole. The game was somewhat bad-tempered, Rocha was stretchered off with a suspected cheekbone fracture after an aerial challenge by Malouda and a trailing arm by Sturridge left Smith with a bloody nose. Ancelotti - ‘We are involved in the Premier League and the FA Cup, so maybe eight or nine games until the end of the season, so we need to maintain this period and this spirit to play. We have to prepare for these remaining games like they are finals.’ Assistant manager Perry Groves on Ricardo Rocha - ‘Ricardo has gone to hospital and Avram has gone with him. Ricardo may not play again this season. I thought the challenge merited a yellow card but I only had half an eye on the incident. There's not too many fit players left in our squad. There's always been a fantastic spirit amongst them and they'll always grind out results for you.’ It may be a very hard grind till the end of the season for Pompey, despite the fact that they may now sell players outside the normal transfer windows. Which players can they sell, and who will buy?

Blackburn v Birmingham - 2:1 - Dunn landed Blackburn a good win over their midland rivals. To begin with he smashed a fifth-minute shot past Hart once Birmingham failed to clear (5) and had another disallowed in the first half. And although Birmingham equalized early in the second half when McFadden scored a glorious left-footed free-kick (55). Blackburn would not be denied and Dunn later strongly headed home a corner delivered to the near post. Allardyce - ‘I'm proud to say we’re in the top four of the Premier League with home results. David Dunn turned the game in our favour and it was a shame he was denied a hat-trick - there was nothing wrong with that goal that was ruled out in the first-half. We must remember we have some terrific young players who have made massive contributions. Steven N'Zonzi is my player of the season. He's played every Premier League match. He is a major find.’ McLeish - ‘We totally dominated. I thought there was only going to be one winner after James (McFadden) equalized. We shipped in a soft goal but what annoyed me about it was the foul on Roger Johnson for the flick on that lead to the corner. Samba climbed all over the top of him and how can the referee not see that?’ Denied by the whistle again - how many times have we heard that this season?

Football News - On Fulham’s exit from the FA Cup - ‘It is a great loss,’ said St Hal of Totten and Ham. ‘Only the mighty Pompey now stands between us and our destiny, the Cup Final, for we were ever a cup side.’

The Ear - all the news that's fit to spout.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Premiership round up - Week 30

Chelsea v West Ham - 4:1 - Despite the score this game never really got going. West Ham missed the first real chance of the match but Alex made no mistake when he headed home the first goal without being challenged (16). The first half jogged along at the gallop of a snail’s pace until Parker tucked in a nice shot over Turnbull’s head (30) to a silent crowd, even the West Ham supporters were surprised and incredulous. Chelsea pressed ahead for the rest of the half but without making any real impression. Terry made his mark by falling over unassisted in the Hammers’ box. Somehow this seemed to put off the West Ham defence and Drogba scored Chelsea's second in the same way and as easily as Alex got their first (56). Malouda had an excellent game and scored Chelsea’s third with a good solo effort (77). Anelka also had a good game and was cheered off, but Joe Cole came on for him and lifted Chelsea’s performance. Chelsea finished in style when Lampard shot hard at the keeper and Green failed to hold it, allowing Drogba a tap in for his second and Chelsea’s fourth (90). Chelsea finished well in this game but West Ham lost the match in the midfield, where they failed to make any mark. And although Parker scored his goal he made a half dozen bad passes or more. Ancelotti - ‘It’s important for us to stay at the top of the list…’ How true. Zola - ‘After the second Chelsea goal we went flat and conceded too much space. Chelsea took advantage of that space.’ Even more true.

Hull v Arsenal - 1:2 - Hull started well enough but Arshavin did the first damage by slipping through the Hull defences and poking a shot low past the keeper (14). Arsenal continued to attack, but Hull made a breakthrough when Vennegoor of Hesselink was bundled over by Campbell. The man was offside (not given) and fell over a tad easily (although Campbell is a big bloke) but Bullard scored from the spot (29). Boateng was sent off for a second yellow for a high tackle. Why Boateng poked Bendtner in the face to earn his first yellow is a mystery, but the second might have been a straight red. Finally Bendtner scored on a rebound from Denilson (90+3). Wenger - ‘In the end we got the three points through our desire and our mental strengths.’ Brown - ‘If the linesman’s flag doesn’t go up, he (Vennegoor of H) is not offside and Campbell should have been sent off.’ Sorry, don’t like your logic, Phil.

Burnley v Wolves - 1:2 - Other than a goal the most memorable incident in the first half was the sight of Jensen outside his area, heading an opponent in the buttocks. What was he trying to do? You get scrum-pox for that sort of thing in rugby (Your Ear has it on good authority). Back to the game - Jarvis walked round the keeper to score the first (26). They doubled their lead two minutes after half-time when Guedioura's angled shot took a decisive deflection off Carlisle and beat Jensen (o/g, 47). Burnley pulled one back with a headed goal (substitute Thompson, 73). McCarthy - ‘We’re not staying up on that result, but I feel a hell of a lot better than I did last week.’ Laws - ‘It was a poor mistake which gave them the first goal but nobody goes out there and deliberately makes a mistake - sometimes a judgement call can cost you. It's a huge knock but the season doesn't end today and there are still eight games to go.’ Your Ear wonders whether Laws will survive those eight games.

Spurs v Blackburn - 3:1 - Bale ran Zelgardo ragged down the left wing and provided all the early chances. Pavlyuchenko wasted most of them. Finally Defoe got Spurs off the mark with a tap in off Corluka’s flick from a corner (45+1). Pavlyuchenko made good in the second half, with a long-range shot which bounced underneath the keeper (55). Samba got one back for Blackburn with an open header (80), but Pavlyuchenko scored again late in the game with a simple tap-in (85). Kalinic seemed to have pulled a goal back with a great turn and shot into the top corner, but the referee disallowed it for a foul on Dawson in the build-up. Redknapp - ‘I felt coming here was going to be a very difficult game, people expect you to win and it doesn't always work out that way. They're a difficult side, they're in good form so to pick up three points is great for us. Gareth Bale is such an outstanding player. People forget he's only a boy. When I came here I felt he needed to learn the game, I didn't feel he'd really been taught the game. He had natural ability, but there was so much of his game that needed working on. I feel he's matured, he's progressed, he's got stronger and he just looks a fantastic player.’ He certainly does. Allardyce - ‘We've been very generous to Tottenham and unfortunately that generosity has cost us getting anything out of this game. It really was disappointing because overall we had the lion's share of the play. When we review the game and review the decisions, we have to work as hard as we can to make them right because it's committing hara-kiri almost. It's gifting them the goals rather than them using their ability and their talents to get the ball in the back of the net.’

Bolton v Wigan - 4:0 - Wigan normally look a resilient side, especially against the big teams, but today was not one of those days. Elmander got Bolton ahead early on (10) after defensive errors let him through for a simple push shot. Davies got their second with his first ever Premiership penalty take (48) after a foolish challenge by Caldwell on Cohen. Muamba slid a nice shot across the keeper for his first goal in two years (53) to make it three and Taylor got Bolton’s fourth from a similar position as Muamba (69). Job done. Coyle - ‘When I took the job I believed I could keep Bolton in the league. The short-term aim was to do that. We have taken a step along that road.’ Martinez - ‘It was a huge, huge shock because the nature of the goals were really soft. That is the top and bottom. You can't win football games if you concede the nature of the goals we did.’

Birmingham v Everton - 2:2 - Pienaar looked dangerous early on but failed to capitalize. Anichebe slapped home his opportunity (19) and Yakubu got another three minutes later with a simple header. Far from being fazed Birmingham came back at Everton and Jerome scored an unlikely goal, rolled in from distance to everyone’s surprise, probably including his own (26). Everton pressed more strongly and had close misses and a good handball penalty shout denied, but Birmingham scored the equalizer with a route one goal (Hart - Jerome - Gardner, 52). Cahill almost got Everton’s noses back in front but shot too straight. Birmingham did well but Everton should have got the result.

Stoke v Aston Villa - 0:0 - Stoke have lost only one game, and Villa none, in 2010. Watching this game one can see why, with resilient, strong defences in both teams. But it was a boring game. Villa was the more threatening side but the first half produced no goals. The second half saw strong attempts on goal at either end but to little avail and the game ended in a goal-less draw. Pulis - ‘It was two honest, committed teams who went at it right from the start. We've had a three-game week and when you catch one of the top teams in the league as your third game, it is hard.’ O'Neill - ‘We would love to have won the game but it was never going to be easy. There weren't many chances in the game and the wind didn't help matters. I was hoping we would get the ball down, but that is easier said than done.’ Stop feeding your players so much roughage, Martin.

Man United v Fulham - 3:0 - United, seeking revenge for their loss 3:0 to Fulham last time out, nearly sliced Fulham open early on, but the ball did not fall well for Rooney, who missed, and Rooney was then denied a good penalty shout for being held. Berbatov also missed one, and an opportunity he laid on for Rooney might have been handball (but was not judged so). The breakthrough came 31 seconds into the second half (Rooney, a placement shot off Nani’s cross, 46). That’s 23 Rooney goals in 23 games, excellent by any standard. He made it 24 with six minutes to go, after Berbatov coshed a pair of Fulham defenders, walking through them to lay off a cross, the sort of pass from which Rooney rarely misses. Berbatov got the third after Rooney passed the ball 50-60 yards to Park who crossed the ball for Berbatov to head home (89).

Sunderland v Man City - 1:1 - Sunderland set their stall out early when Kenwyne Jones placed a nice header over the City keeper after good midfield work by Meyler and Malbranque (9). For most of the rest of the game City entirely failed to look like the side that won at Stamford Bridge, despite a close effort by Barry. Sunderland continued to advance for the rest of the first half but seemed to run out of steam in the second. Various City players began to threaten (Wright-Phillips, Bellamy, Tevez) in pouring rain, but City had to wait until extra time to get their equalizer, which came when Johnson curled the ball tidily into the top left hand corner of the net (90+1). After their good victory over Chelsea, City look their old, unconvincing selves once more. Mancini - ‘I was frustrated at half time because we didn't play like we did against Chelsea. Sunderland played well but if you want to reach fourth spot you have to win these games. The race for fourth is still the same, though. We have one game in hand, we must play Tottenham, Aston Villa and Arsenal, so we have many important games. We have a chance.’ Not playing like this you don’t.

Liverpool v Portsmouth - 4:1 - Liverpool stay in touch with fourth place in the League after thumping struggling Pompey. It was never really a contest after Liverpool scored three times in quick succession. Torres got the opener, side-footing the ball in after a mistake by Ashdown (26), Babel got the second , shooting into the corner of the net (28), and Aquilani swept in the third for his first Liverpool goal (32). In the second half Torres scored again, powering the ball into the corner of net (77). Portsmouth finally got a consolation goal through Belhadj (88). Liverpool go fifth on 51 points from 30 games, a point behind Spurs, who have a game in hand on them. Liverpool face Manchester United in their next Premiership game on Sunday.

Wigan v Aston Villa - 1:2 - McCarthy gifted Villa the lead with a strange own goal (25) when he volleyed into his own net without seeming to be under pressure. Soon after Caldwell equalized with a header (27), but Milner’s well-taken shot in the second half won the game (63). Villa are the only unbeaten side in the Premiership in 2010, while Wigan remain just four points shy of the relegation zone. Martinez - ‘We wanted a reaction after our defeat to Bolton and we got that. Both sides had good chances, and I thought it was very even. I'm just disappointed for the players that their effort, work-rate and determination has gone unrewarded - a draw would've been the fair result.’ O'Neill - ‘It was a very important win for us, away from home and against opposition who only a week ago beat Liverpool, so I'm pleased. We're hanging in there for the chase for fourth spot. It's a difficult run-in for us but we're excited by it, we're going for it and we're going to try to achieve it. We knew our runs in the cups would lead to a packed schedule come the end of the season, but we'll face the challenges as they come.’

Friday, 12 March 2010

Premiership round up - Week 29

Arsenal v Burnley - 3:1 - A four goal margin would have put Arsenal at the top of the table, and they should have had at least twelve, but Bendtner was having a bad hair day and missed most of the open goals he was presented with. In the end the Gunners only managed three. The first goal was training ground stuff. Fabregas (who at the end left the field with a hamstring injury) passed the ball sideways to Nasri and ran forwards to receive the chip return, which he slipped through the keeper’s legs first time (34). Having suffered almost total one-way traffic the most surprised people at the Emirates were the Burnley team when a rare through ball was headed over the keeper by Nugent (50). Walcott finally tired of trying to put Bendtner in and went inside and scored a good solo effort across Jensen (60). In the last few minutes the match became tense, with Burnley threatening to pull off a rare away draw. Arshavin settled it with a crisp shot in the last minute of the game (90+4). Wenger - ‘When we had our chances they (Burnley) were sometimes in our way…’ It’s called ‘defending’, Arsene.

Wolves v Man United - 0:1 - Rooney was not on the bench and United missed him sorely, even against a Wolves side labouring under a poor run since Christmas. The better chances fell to Wolves in the first half, with Doyle much to the fore. United pressed much harder in the second half and at last Scholes wriggled his way into space in the box to shoot across the keeper for his 100th Premier League goal (73). Diouf missed a sitter, then a long range shot on the break, then failed to pick up a loose ball in the box. Vokes missed the ‘gaping goal-mouth of the month’ chance as United lurched to a narrow victory. McCarthy - ‘We played well but I’m sick of saying that. If we maintain those standards, I firmly believe our luck will change. Sam (Vokes) would expect to score that chance at the end, but it’s the story of our season. There was a mistake at one end and a miss at the other. But we’ll never give up, as long as there is breath in our bodies.’ Ferguson (generous in victory, as always) - ‘We deserved the win, no question. They had an outstanding chance at the end but the lad didn’t take it.’

West Ham v Bolton - 1:2 - West Ham had lost their last five games against Bolton - and now six. The scoring was off to an early start when Davies used his head wisely, and well, to put the ball away (10). Diamanti nearly made a good free kick response but grazed the bar. Minutes later 18-year old Jack Wilshire, on loan from Arsenal, finished smartly to double Bolton’s lead (16). Jaaskelainen made two good saves to keep West Ham out and The Hammers had several other near misses in what remained of the first half. Cohen was sent off for a second yellow which left Bolton a man down for the last twenty minutes or so. West Ham tried to take full advantage of this and finally Diamanti showed some class with a curled shot from the edge of the box (88). With five minutes of added time West Ham drove forward and Stanislas hit the bar, but they failed to equalize. West Ham, who did not look up for it on the day, were booed off the pitch. Zola - ‘It was a poor performance today.’ Not many, Benny.

Everton v Hull - 5:1 - Hull had early chances but Yakubu had the best (missed) one. However, Yakubu soon put in a searching cross which Arteta scored on the volley (17). Shortly after, in the action yet again, Yakubu won a penalty. The penalty was doubtful, and, fortunately for Hull, was saved, although Yakubu’s shot did not show his best form. On the other hand 19 year old Tom Cairney brought the ball down well off his chest from a defensive header and whacked it first time across the keeper into the net (32). But Everton would not be denied, and Arteta picked his spot from a roll back by Pienaar, making it look easy (39). In the second half things went generally downhill for Hull, especially after Garcia scored an own goal following Arteta’s chip, which completely beat Myhill (51). Everton might have had another three or four, half of the chances falling to Yakubu, but Donovan got Everton’s fourth, lashing in a shot from a poorly defended cross (82). Rodwell got the fifth, completing Hull’s misery. Hull look like a ship adrift at sea (no pun intended).

Wigan v Liverpool - 1:0 - Liverpool were out-of-sorts, with four misses from Torres and five yellow cards. And Kuyt’s mistake led to Wigan's goal, with Boyce crossing and Rodallega volleying the ball into the net (35). N'Zogbia, who harried the Liverpool defence throughout, almost got a second for Wigan and the home side held on for a well-earned win. Fourth place in the league for the scousers looks less achievable now than before.

Portsmouth v Birmingham - 1:2 - Birmingham won revenge for their exit from the FA Cup on Saturday and brought Pompey back to earth with this victory at Fratton Park. Jerome gave the Blues an early lead from a Benitez ball he fired under James (16). He drove a second under James before the break off a nice back-heel (Benitez again, 42). Substitute Kanu headed home a cross by O'Hara (90+2) to take the game to a close finish but Portsmouth could not snatch an equalizer. McLeish - ‘We spoke before the game about how Pompey might have thought our confidence has dropped and that we didn't have much more to play for this season and we responded brilliantly. I was relieved at the final whistle as there was a bit of an onslaught. But we should have been out of sight by then. It was a disappointing goal to concede and the defenders are actually gutted because they're so proud of their clean sheets.’ So nice to go to bed in. Grant - ‘I think there was a physical effect because players had to play because we are short in the squad. But the players did a great job on Saturday and they tried to do it again. It's a very difficult situation. It's just become more and more difficult. We try to do everything to keep the spirit of the club. But many things happen off the pitch. It's not a secret that the financial situation is not good. We fight for the club. I hope we will not be docked the points.’ Dream on.

Sunderland v Bolton - 4:0 - Bent’s hat-trick put Bolton to the sword as Sunderland claimed their first league win of 2010. Campbell side-footed Sunderland ahead in the first minute and Bolton never recovered. Although it took some time Bolton fell further behind in the second half when Bent ran through and finished well (64). Ricketts was sent off for the foul that led to Bent's second from the spot (74) before he struck again late on (88). Prior to this game Sunderland had played 14 league matches without a win, moving them close to the relegation zone. But the victory lifts Sunderland above Bolton into 13th place in the league table. Bruce - ‘I’ve had a bad enough time trying to pick a team for the last three months, so I am not going to tell Fabio Capello how to do it. All I can say is he (Darren Bent) must be in his thoughts, he has to be because of his goal-scoring exploits. No disrespect to us, but to be at a team in the bottom half of the table and get what he has got, it's fantastic.’ Coyle - ‘We came in good form and looking to win a game, and when you concede a goal within 44 seconds it gives you a bit to do to get back into the game. Having said that, I thought the first half was even, but at the start of the second half we were the team in the ascendancy. We maybe could have worked Craig Gordon a little bit harder given the possession in the dangerous areas we were in, and ultimately, we paid a heavy price.’ Sorry, this is what the two managers said, Your Ear has only a vague idea what they meant.

Burnley v Stoke City - 1:1 – Burnley got their first point in five games in a scrappy match at Turf Moor. Delap's long throw was flicked on by Sidibe for Tuncay to head in from six yards to gain the lead for Stoke (23). Nugent equalized when he leapt higher than Huth to head in Paterson's deep and penetrating cross (52), but neither side could not find the winner. Laws - ‘ Everyone expects Burnley not to be in the Premier League next year but we believe it.’ Again, it’s what he said, probably not exactly what he meant, as he went on to say; ‘We have goals in us. We just have to keep it tight at the back. Nugent's goal was terrific, it was great ball in by Paterson. It set the tone and I am disappointed we didn't go on and win the game.’ Pulis - ‘We've had a lot of games lately against the bigger clubs and it takes a bit out of you. I thought we started the second half really flat. Give Burnley credit they had a right go and had the crowd behind them. We were down to the bare bones. We are still wearing nappies when the comes to the Premiership and we won't take any team lightly, certainly not a team near the foot of the league.’ What are these guys talking about?