Arsenal, Man United both falter; Liverpool's revival continues
Thoughts on the weekend's action in the Barclays Premier League:
Not an easy choice after Saturday's eight games produced 41 goals (plus a handful that were disallowed) and some mind-boggling results, but Newcastle's four-all draw with Arsenal will be the one that we're still talking about in years to come. More people predicted Pam finding Bobby Ewing in the shower than would have bet on Newcastle gaining a point having gone 4-0 down inside the first half-hour. Some fans left at the time, but those bouncing in the stadium come the final whistle might even have felt their team was a hairsbreadth from winning.
What must Alan Pardew have said or done at halftime? Arsenal was its scintillating best in the opening period -- speed-of-light thinking with bodies not far behind, some sublime passing, such fizz that Newcastle was guilty of standing and watching. After the interval, the Premier League witnessed its first 0-4 recovery. Supporters, like Arsene Wenger, may point to some iffy officiating, but each team suffered poor decisions. To focus on that does not give Newcastle due credit for a second half as admirable as (if less beauteous than) Arsenal's first.
The match had everything a truly momentous one should: some great soccer, a magnificent crowd, the darkness of a couple of debatable decisions, evident emotion, managerial impact, high drama and a
"You can see why he has played alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane." It's not often you'll find Zidane and Louis Saha discussed in the same breath, but Everton manager David Moyes had run out of other ways to describe how good his striker was against Blackpool in another cracker of a game. Saha scored four of Everton's five goals, finding the target with every one of his efforts. Having watched the Frenchman's energetic display, it was hard to believe that he had ever been kept out of the side by the lumbering Yakubu.
Another difficult one, this: there were several
But James McCarthy's second in Wigan's 4-3 win over Blackburn Rovers, on a pitch better suited to far more agricultural efforts,
Yet another crowded field, this one's full of goalkeepers wandering around flapping their arms in the air, looking a bit confused. Kranjcar's late winner not only helped deflect attention from Spurs' strike force (Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch have scored two league goals this season) but also from the fact that Heurelho Gomes somehow accelerated Mark Davies' hopeful shot into the net.
The worst offenders, however, were Craig Gordon and Petr Cech. Sunderland was not helped by the officials failing to spot two apparent offsides and a suspected handball, but in place of a commanding performance between the sticks, Gordon looked baffled throughout the game. Liverpool's winner against Chelsea came thanks to a mix-up between Cech and Branislav Ivanovic. The pair also had a shouting match in the first half, though Cech had been strangely mute as he and the defender got in each other's way seconds previously.
A nod to Brad Friedel, though, who stayed big to keep Andy Johnson out late on in Aston Villa's 2-2 draw with Fulham.
This might not be a popular selection -- plenty of Manchester United fans are still wondering how the Wolves midfielder didn't get sent off during United's first defeat since April, and he was substituted after an hour -- but Jamie O'Hara was almost as crucial to the result as scorers Kevin Doyle and George Elokobi. Many Spurs fans had hoped to see his industry and sheer gustiness succeed at White Hart Lane, and perhaps it still might, but Mick McCarthy must be contemplating trying to make his loan move permanent.
A good weekend for Kenny Dalglish, who sent Liverpool out with three at the back and succeeded in making Chelsea's front trio -- which included Fernando Torres for the first time -- look about as sharp as a wine gum. That's four wins on the bounce now, without a goal conceded, and another scored off the boot of Raul Meireles. In truth, the game looked for a long time destined for a goalless draw, but that doesn't diminish how expertly Dalglish configured his team to the perils of Stamford Bridge.
A bad weekend for Roberto di Matteo, who was sacked by West Bromwich Albion in the wake of a 3-0 defeat to Carlos Tevez. For the rest of us it's another conversation about the wisdom of club owners: West Brom's stated objective for the season was survival, and the team was not looking too bruised given the ferocity of the fight down at the bottom of the table. The board will point to 13 defeats in 18 matches but pulling the trigger after losing to a waltzing Manchester City seems odd with two much tighter games -- against West Ham and Wolves -- to come in the next two weeks.
"Does the circus know you're here?" -- West Ham fans taunt lanky Birmingham City striker Nikola Zigic, approximately 20 minutes before he rose above the defense to head in City's winner and dump the Hammers at the bottom of the table.
29 -- the number of times Torres touched the ball on his Chelsea debut before being taken off. No other outfield player made fewer, but let's give him at least a couple of weeks before we start dividing that by 50.