You’ve got got to love the English Premier League, haven’t you? Enough talking points from this latest round of fixtures for you? It’s a little hard to know where to start and really concentrate on, so I’ll go with the first game of the weekend, and despite what I have been reading a lot of over the weekend, this was still the biggest game to take place this weekend, not only in England but in world football. Not the new “Oil Firm Derby” or “The Clash of The Cash” as it was being called. The game between Man City and Chelsea.
Yes, we go to the battle of the two North West giants and the early kick-off at Anfield between Liverpool and Manchester Utd. A pulsating game right from the very kick-off and Liverpool fans must have been fearing the worst, yet again, with only just over three minutes played. Utd’s new record signing from Spurs, Berbatov, linked up well with his teammates, beat the Liverpool captain on the day, Jamie Carragher, and cut the ball back to the on-rushing Carlos Tevez who sweetly swept the ball past a helpless Pepe Riena. 1 – 0 and Liverpool’s jinx against their arch rivals looked certain to continue, at least for the next 10 minutes or so. But Liverpool seemed to dig deep to new reverses and they haven’t shown in recent seasons and started to harass Utd and before long it was Alonso and Mascherano in particular that started to dominate the game.
As the game started to turn after Utd’s early domination, Kuyt should have leveled the score for Liverpool after Van der Saar became the latest goalkeeper in a long line in this fixture to make an horrendous mistake. He flapped at a corner which landed at the feet of his countryman Kuyt but somehow the goalie redeemed himself when it looked certain to be 1 – 1.
However, Van der Saar’s reprieve did not last long. Shortly after he was again culpable in a comedy of errors with his defender Wes Brown (who to be fair, knew nothing about it). Alonso took a long range shot, it took a deflection and looped up in the air. The goalkeeper advanced but instead of claiming it in commanding fashion all he did was palm onto the legs of the retreating Brown and the ball rebounded into the empty net. In real time it looked as though the Liverpool debutant, Riera, had scored but the replays showed it clearly came off Brown. Now it was 1 – 1.
I can only imagine what it was like in the Utd dressing room at half-time. I hope they have good sound proofing! Utd were so on top in those early exchanges, you were only thinking “how bad is this going to be for Liverpool?” But as I mentioned before, Liverpool seem to be transmitting the belief and determination they regularly show in the Champions League to the Premier League? Because after the break, Liverpool made Man Utd look ordinary, and that takes some doing!
Utd were poor, yes, but a lot of that has to go down to Liverpool and in particular that total dominance of midfield and the closing down and harassing of particlularly Mascheron, Kuyt and Keane. The pressure on Utd was mounting and Liverpool were totally on top and for once, against one of his main rivals, Benitez made some positive substitutions. On came Babbel and Gerrard. Although, Torres remained on the bench!
And it was one of those subs, Babbel that ultimately ended the agony for Liverpool fans over recent years. Mascherano beat Giggs and Vidic on the touchline after Giggs should, in hindsight, just have played the ball out for a corner. The Argentine passed to Kuyt who in turn squared it for Babbel. It wasn’t the sweetest strike he will ever hit but how important could that goal prove to be for the season ahead?
In fairness Liverpool could possibly have scored another couple of goals. Right from the re-start. Robbie Keane, broke free down the middle only to be crudely taken out by Vidic. From my point of view, and especially if you watch the replays, it was a straight red card. Ferdinand would not have got to where Keane had pushed the ball to before the Irishman and at that point he would have only had Van der Saar to beat. However, Vidic wasn’t finished and with the game nearly up, he completely flattened Alonso. That was just a yellow in itself which the ref (who overall was awful in my opinion) got right, but he had definitely forgotten about his earlier booking of Vidic for a few seconds. He suddenly realised and out came the red. Memories of Graham Poll came flooding back! Bet Vidic was looking forward to seeing Sir Alex in the dressing room!
The with only seconds to go, Kuyt should have made it 3 – 1. To be fair, it was one of those “it was harder to miss” chances. From only a few yards out he hit the ball straight at the goalie at the near post instead of going across him into the far and empty corner. But ultimately it didn’t matter to the majority in Anfield, the hoodoo had finally come to an end.
I know it is very very early still but you just start to wonder whether this could be a sign that Liverpool are ready to mount a sustained title bid? Not saying they are going to win it, they might, I don’t know, but they have shown a lot of character and this will build it even more, especially as they basically bossed the best team in Europe without Gerrard and Torres! Also, does this tell us anything about United’s prospects for this season? Probably not! They lost at Man City in their 4th game of last season too and that didn’t do them any harm come May, did it? However, as Ferguson has admitted on countless occasions, this is The Game. The one he wants to win more than any other and you could tell after the game when he was interviewed that he was furious. As much as this is a huge boost for Liverpool, it is a huge blow for United. And if they should lose their next Premier League, even if it is only mid September, questions will start to be asked. Who do they play next? Only Chelsea away!
Anyone have any idea what the hell is going on at Newcastle? No, neither do I, neither do the fans and I’m not completely sure Mike Ashley does either. Apart from the fact I have just seen that he has released a statement (not read it yet though) that appears to state he wants to find a buyer for the club. Well, slap my thigh and call me Betty! Really? What a staggering surprise! (By the way, I don’t think that picture of Mike Ashley was taken on Saturday at St James’, do you? Apart from the fact he didn’t even show up, obviously!)
If there was ever a time to be playing Newcastle it was yesterday and Hull City certainly benefitted from it. Don’t take anything away from Hull, but surely Newcastle under normal circumstances would have been firm favourites to win this game. Not so yesterday! I feel really sorry for the supporters in all this, what must they be thinking? Whatever is going on at St James’ it has to be sorted as soon as possible. Bye bye Mr. Wise, at the very least!
Robinho, remember him? Well he marked his Manchester City debut with a rather good goal against Chelsea. The City fans at that point must have thought the day was turning into Dreamland. But Chelsea proved their undoubted class, and simple ran away with the game after City’s perfect start. Chelsea looked very good and if Utd play like they did at Anfield against them, they will definitely get beaten. The good news is surely Utd can’t play that badly twice in a row.
Gianfranco Zola watched from the stands as West Ham lost 3-2 at West Brom and must have made a mental note to himself for Monday morning. ”Work on defence!” Congratulations to West Brom though, they certainly needed that first win under the belt.
These were of course just some of the major talking points from this weekend’s action. Adebayor scoring his first goals of the season, a hat-trick against Blackburn, was another. As was another excellent performance from England young mid week hero Theo Walcott. However, I think I’ve summed the main ones up and to be quite frank, after all that has been going on in the last two weeks, I need a rest!
The Soccer Blogger