Thoughts on the
"This game was incredible," uttered Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, cradling the back of his head as though it might just fall off if he didn't. He looked physically shaken by the ordeal of seeing his team lose 2-1 at Goodison Park, where Everton had only City's wayward shooting to thank for being just 0-1 behind at halftime. Mancini clawed at his shirt collar while describing the turning of the tide in the second half, as if it tightened with every word.
He introduced Adam Johnson once it become evident that Everton had summoned the wherewithal to forage down the wings, but by then Phil Neville had already made the most of the space by sending in a cross that hung tantalizingly above Leon Osman and Vincent Kompany. Somehow the Everton midfielder, increasingly effective as the game wore on, jumped highest to head home the winner.
Tottenham's failure to beat Blackpool means City is still looking secure in fourth spot, six points ahead of Spurs ahead of Tuesday's match between the two. But this enthralling game was a reminder that the revolution at Eastlands is still in its infancy. For Mancini it was especially galling to throw away a lead that would have left the club 10 points clear in fourth and free to concentrate on the coming FA Cup final against Stoke.
19 -- Manchester United is just a single point from winning a record 19th top-flight title, after
It wasn't just Robbie Keane's late miss -- forget "glaring", the sight of his instep tapping fresh air burned the retinas with a nuclear intensity -- that prevented West Ham taking all three points against Blackburn Rovers. You could have given Keane and his teammates the rest of the day to finish the game and still fancied they wouldn't find the net, because Christopher Samba was just in one of those moods. The Rovers defender made several crucial interceptions around 18 yards, won almost every tackle he went in for in the box, and dominated in the air. He also made a string of critical blocks in front of goal, getting in the way of a close-range Carlton Cole shot in the final moments.
For years, even those looking to praise
Except Kenwyne Jones didn't really have to do anything to get Stoke off the mark in its 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium. Jermaine Pennant delivered a free kick so perfectly, and Johan Djourou so spectacularly lost track of Jones' run to the near post, that he simply had to get in the ball's way. Some supporters seemed to realize what had happened before the striker did. Arsenal has really suffered from set pieces this season but Pennant and Jon Walters both scored from open play as the Gunners, wearing their yellow change strip, put in a jaundiced performance. The summer can't come soon enough for them.
How many saves would Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes have to make, and with which unlikely parts of his body, in order to make up for each gaffe? There were at least three before Blackpool was awarded a 75th-minute penalty, and his impressive full-stretch dive to keep out Charlie Adam's spot kick makes four. But does all that make up for the subsequent rush of blood to the head that sent him leaping about the box until he clattered in to Gary Taylor-Fletcher to concede a second penalty, seconds later?
"I think a few things had gone on during the game. He came into the changing room at halftime and everyone has talked to him and he's fine. We controlled him at halftime and he will be back next week. He's a true professional and he's going to get on with his game. He will be firing and ready to go for the game next week" -- Ashley Young assures us that if we didn't like Emile Heskey when he was angry, we won't be seeing it again.
The Aston Villa striker barged into the referee for playing advantage when he'd been caught in the back of the head by Wigan's Antolin Alcaraz as the two teams played to a 1-1 draw. He avoided being sent off, but Gary McAllister sent him home to cool down at halftime.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy is probably better known for brilliantly deadpan postmatch interviews than strategic genius, but his decision to bring in Stephen Hunt against West Bromwich Albion looked a masterstroke. Hunt has had to be satisfied with a couple of brief substitute appearances since coming back from injury, but McCarthy opted to drop Matt Jarvis (whose form had recently earned a first England call-up) and start Hunt for Sunday's crucial local derby. He rewarded his manager with a tireless performance, popping up all over the pitch causing problems for West Brom. "I thought Hunty was the man for this occasion," explained McCarthy. "If ever there was a decision justified, thank God it was that one."