Thoughts on the weekend's action in the Barclays Premier League:
On Sunday afternoon in the West Midlands, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur conjured an hour and a half of soccer even more dizzying than Bolton's 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Saturday. The pitch wore the muddy, ravaged look of the pre-Premiership era, but the spectacle it hosted was another thrilling example of the unpredictability of the current season.
All of Wolves' goals had the benefit of catastrophically bad defending from Spurs (Milan next!), which zigzagged between lackadaisical and kamikaze for most of this breathless encounter. But the home side, hardly short of invention, deserved more than another nobly won, unsatisfying point. Few can complain if results such as this cost Tottenham another Champions League adventure; many will if they relegate Wolves.
The goals in West Bromwich Albion's 3-1 win against Birmingham City came like gall stones: quickly and joyously after an agonizing wait. Following a first half low on quality, the second half opened with
Steven Reid's square ball was hit hard, forcing Morrison's first touch up in the air, but as Curtis Davies stepped in to pinch it, Morrison steered the ball away to his left and fired it in to the top of the net on the half volley. "I was very happy with it being my left foot, because sometimes it's just for standing on," he said.
Given the always-the-bridesmaid nature of Dirk Kuyt's career, it's really no surprise that on the weekend of his first hat trick for Liverpool -- his first hat trick since 2005 for Feyenoord that comprehensively sank archrival Manchester United
Kuyt's running gave United's makeshift defense a headache, but it
There's little doubt that Mikel Arteta was the architect of Everton's 2-1 win over Newcastle, but Leon Osman laid more than a few bricks. Playing centrally, Osman drove Everton forward and was a constant source for Arteta, who sparkled like new having been moved out to the left. Osman started the move leading to his equalizer, which he calmly side-footed in to the net, as well as others that presented Victor Anichebe and Louis Saha with chances. He hasn't had an easy ride from some supporters, but Osman helped to render Marouane Fellaini's absence (ankle) almost invisible.
Frequently this season, Wigan's Ali Al Habsi has been one of the best goalkeepers on show, but he has to bear the weight of responsibility for Manchester City's 1-0 victory. David Silva was given space to shoot for goal by Adrian Lopez slipping over, but his shot didn't really gather any great speed; somehow Al Habsi let it slip through his grasp, between his legs and over the line. Not just an error,
Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner is probably still watching and rewinding footage of the first-half volley that Sunderland's Simon Mignolet somehow kept out -- flying at him from an angle that would see plenty of keepers inadvertently bundling the ball into their own nets if they got anything on the rising ball, it should have opened the scoring at the Emirates. But Mignolet kept a clean sheet, also palming away a Samir Nasri free kick in the second half. "We are very frustrated because we gave a lot ... we absolutely tried everything," said Arsene Wenger, afterward. Mignolet was eventually beaten by an Andrey Arshavin shot, but the goal was incorrectly disallowed for offside -- Wenger wasn't impressed. "I'm too disgusted to speak about it, frankly."
There's been a lot to like about Gerard Houllier's Aston Villa recently, but the manager can't seem to help talking himself into people's bad books. Earlier in the week he tried to justify the weakened team he fielded in the FA Cup by saying that he didn't think his best side could have beaten Manchester City.
Now he has admitted that Villa is weak defending set pieces (two of Bolton's three goals this weekend came that way) but says he's stuck with an inherited zonal marking system. "I came to this club on Sept. 18, they had their habits for four years and I am not going to change it in the middle of the season."
As if that wasn't bad enough, Houllier also pointed his finger at the sale of Gary Cahill (scorer of both of those set-piece goals) three years ago. "You can blame us as we sold Cahill to them," he said, "but I wasn't here. I rate him very much." Oh Ged!
315 -- West Ham's impressive 3-0 win over Stoke City was its second successive home victory, a mini-run that it hasn't put together since April last year, 315 days ago. In its last three league fixtures, the team has scored nine goals and moved from last place to 17th. No wonder the manager, Avram Grant, has been talking about renewed faith in attacking soccer.