By Paul O'Donnell
EPL Round 11
Revenge IS Sweet
West Ham 1
While Allan Pardew won’t say it out loud I’m sure, the victory over Arsenal was sweet. Very sweet. Especially since it came only two days after Wenger stated to the press that “home grown players (British) just weren’t good enough” to play a role for the Gunners. Snatching the win late (Harewood’s winner came in the 88th) by one of those British guys that isn’t good enough surely added to the value of those 3 points taken from Arsenal. Well done. Having to swallow his own words must have left a very bad taste in Wenger’s mouth as it wasn’t long after the goal that a pushing and shoving match started between him and Pardew and the customary handshake at the conclusion of the match never happened. Just for the record that team that is too good for homegrown players ended a week where they weren’t good enough to beat Everton or CSKA at home and lost to West Ham. Bravo West Ham!
Sheffied Utd 1
United got their 1st win of the campaign despite ineffective play for long periods but Newcastle just wasn’t able to finish their chances either. If Roeder doesn’t lose his post now it’ll come as a surprise. Not that its his fault in reality, but since he’s in the hot seat he’ll likely be sacrificed. Its not often that you hear 50,000 fans singing the blues at St James’ Park and thousands get up and leave before the final whistle.
In another surprise Wigan’s McCulloch nailed a nice one in the 78th and the Wanderers are beaten twice in a row at the Reebok, formerly their fortress. In the last two games at home they have conceded 5 and scored 0. Very unlike Bolton.
Man City 0
Ian Dowie is surely glad to see his lads get this win! In a hard fought match Bent was the difference maker with his 27th minute strike as the quality of the final touch wasn’t there for the Toffees. This win may have saved Dowie’s job.
Man United 3
United thrashed Pompey who are losing their grip on the top five. Early goals from Saha (2nd), Ronaldo (9th) and then Vidic (65) solidified the hold on the top spot for SAF’s guys. Another strong display that saw them open up a 3pt lead over Chelsea with the win. SAF celebrates 20 years at the helm of United with an appropriate dominant win and opens a three point lead at the top of the table.
If you’ve watched the Hornets you knew this was coming as they’ve played well enough to win in most of their games so far. Things finally broke their way with goals from Bouazza in the 5th minute and Young in the 50th. As a team they’ve been better than the results so far so this one was well deserved.
The Royals slipped to their 5th straight defeat with both the Reds goals coming from Dirk Kuyt. This match also finally saw Gerrard back in the center of the midfield where he belongs and the result only amplifies that message. I can only hope that Benitez reads it.
And just for grins another surprise. Despite Fulham being at home, going in this one seemed surely headed for three more points for Everton. They had their chances but squandered them all and lost on a 65th minute wonder lob from Jensen as he caught Howard well off his line as the lob found the far post side netting. Audacious. Few would try the shot but Jensen made it count winning all three points for Fulham in the process.
Aston Villa 2
Gareth Barry cashed in a 40th minute penalty and Angel added his strike in the 50th minute as the Villains rebounded with a solid victory over a tired Rovers side. When this sort of thing happens you have to wonder whether UEFA Cup is worth it especially when you lose a key player. Robbie Savage of Rovers was lost to the team for a month in their UEFA Cup win on Thursday over Basel.
This was a terrific match that saw both sides rise to take control at times and it produced some wonderful football. Easily the best match of the weekend which you’d expect when these two London rivals face one another and this one didn’t disappoint. The premier match of the weekend saw the goal scorers being among the most unlikely on the pitch. Chelsea’s opener came in the 15th minute from Claude Makelele and Spurs answer came in the 26th from center back Dawson with a glorious header from a free kick. It was only the 2nd goal in Makelele’s time at Chelsea and the first ever for Dawson. Makelele’s came off a weak clearance that fell in that danger zone in the middle about 25 yards out and he took it sweetly with a brilliant swirling strike through a crowd that gave Robinson no chance.
The game also illustrated the faulty choice of playing a key man out of position as Jol had Lennon in his starting 11 but on the wrong wing. Once he switched him to the right he made an immediate impression on the game. That impression was turned into the winning strike in the 51st when Robbie Keane, through skill and guile tied his marker in knots and the cross that came from that found Lennon who made no mistake for the match winner.
The Blues went down to ten men in the 71st when John Terry was shown his 2nd yellow but the match was far from over even then as both sides kept the action on a high plane producing chances at either end. The best came from the left foot of Arjen Robben when his carefully measured strike gave Robinson no chance but all he got for his reward was the back post.
The match of the weekend to be sure. The fans at White Hart Lane hoped it would be something special and it was. Historical too, as it was Tottenham’s first win over Chelsea in their last 32 league games. You have to go back 16 years to find their last win over the Blues in league play.
Something else about it too. In case you didn’t notice, this was the only match of the weekend where both sides scored a goal. Every other EPL game resulted in the losing side being handed a clean sheet. Nine out of ten losers failed to score. Not only that every match had a winner; there were no draws which is actually rare for the EPL.
I’ve purposely not commented on the scene in Italy in large part because I was so disappointed with the mess of the scandal. Just let me say one thing about all of that; the lack of resolve of the courts in Italy to stick to the points penalties and so on only added to the scandal in my opinion. The repeated appeals of the original penalty, in particular for AC Milan, certainly worked to that team’s advantage and saw their penalty reduced to 8 points from the initial finding of the sports court.
That being said, some have been saying Inter only leads because they escaped all that mess. Well, that simply is not true. While they certainly benefited by attracting some players, on the pitch Inter is unbeaten after 10 games and finds themselves on top tied with Palermo on 24pts. Take away the penalty to AC Milan and they’d only be 7th in the table a full 9 points behind Inter. For that matter, take away the penalty to bottom side Fiorentina and they’d be tied with AC Milan at this stage.
Little Celta Vigo defeated Real Madrid at the Bernabeau on Sunday 2-1. Real is 4th with last years UEFA Cup champ Sevilla in the top spot and Barca in second only 1pt behind. Celta is 11h.
In Germany high scoring Werder Bremen leads by 2pts after 10 games over Stuttgart. Bremen is the only side in Germany that has a double digit goal difference (+16) from 28 goals. Bayern Munich, the perennial champs, are third after battling back from two down to tie Schalke 2-2. Schalke is 4th on goal difference tied with Bayern with 17 points.