So it was back to club football and the Premier League after the untimely interruption of International football last weekend. While the first three rounds of the Premier League threw up a few surprises in terms of the results, this week has seen the league return to more predictable patterns.
Arsenal and Manchester United notched up impressive 6 -1 and 4 – 0 home wins respectively, while Chelsea could manage only a 0 – 0 against local rivals QPR in what was an expectedly tense London derby. Champions Manchester City faced a difficult task away from home to Stoke; it was a good performance from City who looked a class apart, but it still wasn’t enough to earn them a win at the Brittania stadium where they haven’t won a game since 1998.
Liverpool are still looking for their first Premier League win this season and have just managed 2 points from their opening 4 games, but Andre Villas Boas’ Tottenham did manage their first win for the season as they beat Reading 3 – 1 with two goals from Jermain Defoe and one from Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
Guess who is back among the goals again? Dimitar Berbatov scored two as an impressive Fulham side ensured Steve Clarke’s West Bromwich Albion tasted defeat for the first time this season. Matters were also made easier for Fulham by Peter Odemwingie’s first half dismissal after he lashed out at Sascha Riether. Swansea’s excellent start to the season was halted by Neil Lambert’s Aston Villa side as the Clarets won the game 2 – 0 while Norwich City drew 0 – 0 at home against West Ham United.
Monday night saw Everton square up against Newcastle at Goodison Park in what was a pulsating encounter. The result saw both teams finish 2 – 2 however, with the clamour for goal line technology emanating from the Everton side after striker Victor Anichebe’s clear goal had been denied by the officials. Replays found that the ball had indeed crossed the line.
GAME OF THE WEEKEND: Everton 2 – 2 Newcastle
That this game was going to be hotly contested was never in doubt, what with both sides surely aiming to be in the top 6 at the very least. The home side started the game brightly with plenty of possession only lacking the killer final pass. However, the 15th minute saw Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines combine in a one-two to hand the hosts a 1 – 0 lead. Everton continued to dominate and should have scored atleast one more goal but could not. Newcastle too couldn’t make the most of the two chances they got against the run of play in the first half. With the rain falling upon Goodison Park, striker Nikica Jelavic was substituted for Anichebe after having been injured thrice in the first half.
Newcastle replaced the ineffective Slyvain Marveaux at half time and brought on Demba Ba. It would prove to be a masterstroke by Alan Pardew who was serving a two match touchline ban. Four minutes into the second half, Demba Ba brought Newcastle level with Everton after running on to a sumptuous through ball from Yohann Cabaye and slotting it low across Tim Howard. Newcastle were now making all the moves as Everton struggled to gain upper hand when controversy/incompetency decided to rear its ugly head. Marouane Fellaini received a pass inside the box and tucked it low but was flagged for being offside. It was however a clear goal as the Belgian midfield man was clearly being played on by James Perch.
From there on, the game was pretty much played out in end to end fashion by both teams. It was proving to be a great game not only for the supporters but also for the neutrals until controversy showed up again. Victor Anichebe headed the ball inside goal and over the line, but it would turn out to be the second legitimate goal of the game that was ruled out and yet again the decision went against Everton. Pienaar then notched up his second assist for the game and things evened out somewhat for Victor Anichebe as he turned and shot the ball into the far corner to put Everton back into the lead. Newcastle just had about enough hope for Ameobi to knock it up long looking for something, and Ba did the rest by touching it past Tim Howard and Sylvain Distin’s hapless slide.
2 – 2 it ended and the game encapsulated everything that football stands for. Emotion, goals, controversy – you name it and it had it all.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND: Gervinho (Arsenal)
Playing more towards the centre against Southampton, this weekend saw Gervinho light up the Emirates stadium in what eventually proved to be a relatively easy fixture for the Gunners. Perhaps the lack of goals before this game prompted Arsene Wenger to move the winger into a more central position and it paid dividends. Gervinho first latched on to a chipped pass from Mikel Arteta with an excellently timed run and then rifled it past Kelvin Davis. He was involved in the 4th Arsenal goal as he menacingly advanced towards the Southampton defence before passing it to Kieran Gibbs whose attempted cross deflected of Nathaniel Clyne into goal. His second goal was a simple tap in after Aaron Ramsey’s attempt at goal rebounded off the post. He was heavily involved in most of Arsenal’s forays forward before he was subbed off in the 74th minute.
GOAL OF THE WEEKEND
There were a few good goals this weekend. Podolski’s free kick against Southampton and Defoe’s run and super finish against Reading come to mind instantly. However, young Aston Villa fullback Matthew Lowton’s screamer against Swansea takes the cake for this week. He latched on to a clearance from a corner, controlled the ball with his chest and then perfectly executed a volley with his left foot. Swansea keeper Micheal Vorm couldn’t have done anything about that.
CONTROVERSIES OF THE WEEKEND
Refereeing errors seem to be the flavour of the week as highlighted by our match of the weekend featuring Everton against Newcastle. But that was not all of it as another refereeing howler at the Brittania Stadium saw the officials somehow miss out on Peter Crouch’s clear ‘handball’ control before he scored against City. City manager Roberto Mancini, thought that the incident was more befitting of an NBA game than football, and rightly so.
In fact, to call this a controversy any more is passé. The issue has been discussed over and over again but there doesn’t seem to be any signs of letting go. Certainly Anton Ferdinand isn’t in the mood for it. As ever, the focus during the London Derby turned out to be upon the now infamous ‘Pre Match Handshakes’ and the sky cameras were rolling in anticipation of the inevitable. Anton Ferdinand refused to shake Terry and Ashley Cole’s hand, thereby satisfying the ones craving for ‘controversy’. That he didn’t shake Terry’s hand is still understandable but turning down Cole is far from being fathomable.
MOMENT OF THE WEEK
In a show of class and solidarity for their bitter crosstown rivals Liverpool, Everton honoured the victims of Hillsborough before kick-off. It highlighted that at the end of the day, football is just a game and heralded its fans as king. Two mascots, one in an Everton jersey and another in a Liverpool jersey wore the numbers 9 and 6 on their back; names of the victims were displayed on the big screen under a message that said ‘Merseyside United’. Post the poignant opening touch, normal proceedings ensued. Justice may have been done after the longest wait, but gestures like these go a long way in providing at least temporary solace for the kith and kin of those who passed away.