Manchester clubs revel in glory
Thoughts on the
Manchester's pharmacies made sure they were well stocked for aspirin on Sunday as soccer fans, red and blue, celebrated landmark trophies. For United, a record 19th league title; for City the FA Cup, its first trophy in 35 years. Though both sets of supporters would have preferred to party alone, each will be glad to have prevented the other doing just that.
United needed only a draw against Blackburn Rovers, and despite having 76 percent of the ball, it didn't seem all that likely to get any more. Rovers led thanks to Brett Emerton's nicely struck opener, and United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak skittered in and out of mayhem mode. In the end it took an error of judgment from his counterpart, Paul Robinson, and a convenient tumble from Javier Hernandez to gain the spot kick that Wayne Rooney (who else?) thumped home.
The scheduling meant that City walked out at Wembley knowing the day was already tinged red, upping the pressure to start making a return on Sheikh Mansour's investment. If the billionaire was hoping to be entertained in the process he, like the rest of us, was sorely disappointed: City's 1-0 win over Stoke was about as mundane as they come. Still, coupled with qualification for the Champions League (Arsenal's defeat to Aston Villa means City could actually finish third, and go straight to the group stage), few fans will care too much for aesthetics.
Tottenham Hotspur defender Ledley King might have all the structural fortitude of a pair of glasses held together by a Band-Aid, but it is easy to understand why Spurs have not given up on using him. No longer able to train and without a game since October thanks to a chronic knee injury, he stepped straight in to the starting lineup at Anfield on Sunday (after a tragically blunt conversation with his manager about whether it was better to break down now or at the start of next season). The Tottenham back line is instantly calmer and positionally more astute for his partnership with Michael Dawson, and King's excellent tackle ensured that Andy Carroll's best chance to score was the close-range header he put far over the bar. Spurs won 2-0.
Perhaps "hero" is overstepping the mark, but Jonathan Greening is unlikely to have his contribution to Fulham's 2-0 win over Birmingham City -- which leaves Alex McLeish's side in real danger above the relegation zone -- duly lauded. By the end of the game, even the Birmingham players couldn't believe they'd only been beaten by two. Moreover, Greening would have had more than one assist had Fulham's conversion rate been better; his deliveries repeatedly troubled the defense. And, importantly, he kept pace with Sebastian Larsson, helping to ensure that the City winger was nowhere near as effective as usual.
Arsenal's defense has been suspect all season, and now appears to have clocked off early: it was beaten twice in quick succession by Aston Villa's Darren Bent, timing his runs to perfection in order to stay onside. His
From a 0-0 tie with Stoke to a 4-3 win over Bolton in the space of two home games: Blackpool's supporters are on a rollercoaster all right. Matt Gilks did not have his best 90 minutes in goal but come the end of the week, how important might his block from Daniel Sturridge look? (When the Bolton striker was played in by Matthew Taylor, Gilks raced off his line to close down the shot.) It has already ensured that we will have to wait that long to find out if Blackpool can survive.
"We were 2-1 down to two individual errors. It was good that the spirit and the work rate of the team managed to come up with that last-minute goal to save the blushes of those particular individuals and get the result we all deserved" -- in the wake of Newcastle's 2-2 draw with Chelsea, Alan Pardew does his best to make sure those particular individuals get a bit rosy cheeked after all. Goalkeeper Tim Krul will feel worst, having haplessly rushed off his line to allow Alex an easy header for Chelsea's second. The Blues' only other attempt on target brought Branislav Ivanovic's first half goal.
Within moments of West Ham's relegation to the second tier (thanks to a thrilling, devastating 3-2 defeat to Wigan), manager Avram Grant was
As usual, the weekend brought plenty of carping about refereeing decisions, but few had better cause for complaint than Everton manager David Moyes, who (perhaps wisely) opted not to say anything at all. Just as Everton hinted that it might get something out of its trip to the Hawthorns, where West Bromwich Albion is reveling in the changes wrought by Roy Hodgson, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was shown red. His tackle on James Morrison -- one-footed, studs down -- was clumsy, but nothing more.