By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
After midweek mayhem in the “Mickey Mouse” Cup, pundits were salivating at the thought of football returning to being about kicking a ball and not cheating, racism and controversy.
Saturday’s early kick off paired two teams involved in gargantuan League Cup goal-fests. Arsenal travelled to Old Trafford after an incredible 7-5 win over Reading, Manchester United having lost out to Chelsea in a 5-4 extra time thriller.
Both teams were dramatically different today, and the most talked about player was, of course, Robin Van Persie who was starting against the Gunners for the first time.
Inevitably, it was the lanky Dutchman who opened the scoring after just 3 minutes. From that moment on, United dominated the first half and could have doubled their lead just before the break. Santi Cazorla was penalised for using his hands to protect his face from the ball in the box and Wayne Rooney blasted wide from the spot.
Arsenal were pretty woeful in the first half. Andre Santos looked like he’d won the chance to be on the pitch from a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar and had devoured as many as he could just to ensure he would have the opportunity. He also walked off at half time with RVP’s shirt for reasons known only he knows.
They looked sharper in the second half but just as the Gunners were enjoying their best period of the game, Patrice Evra headed in from a corner after 67 minutes.
Jack Wilshere’s second yellow card with just over 20 minutes to go looked to have killed off Arsenal’s chances of getting back into the game. By this point, Mike Dean was showing more cards than Olivier Giroud’s Valentine’s Day haul.
Arsenal did get a goal back, but it was literally the last kick of the game. Santi Cazorla produced a typically magnificent finish but it was still a day to forget for the diminutive Spaniard and his teammates.
Swansea returned fromunceremoniously dumping Liverpool out of the cup in midweek to welcome fellow cup quarter finalists Chelsea to Wales. Victor Moses scored his first league goal for the Blues just after the hour mark, directing Gary Cahill’s powerful header from a corner past Gerhard Tremmel.
The Blues couldn’t see the game out though, a Pablo Hernandez shot from just outside box managed to save a point for the Swans in the final minutes of the game. The footballing display from the Swans deserved a goal, and they could have won the game were it not for Gary Cahill blocking Danny Graham’s late shot.
Fulham and Everton drew 2-2, the Cottagers lucky to salvage a point in a game the Toffees should have won. Fulham opened the scoring early on as Bryan Ruiz’s free-kick was palmed onto the post by Tim Howard, but unfortunately for the Everton keeper the ball rebounded in off his back. Quite a sore one.
Everton created several chances, but wasted all of them up until the 55th minute when Kevin Mirallas burst forward and cut the ball back for Marouane Fellaini to equalise.
Afroman doubled his tally in the 72nd minute, but Everton chucked away two points when Steve Sidwell’s 90th minute equaliser punished the Toffees for their wasted chances.
Norwich and Stoke aren’t the most exciting of teams, so this part of the round-up will be short and to the point. Bradley Johnson scored a backwards header from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick in the 44th minute. Turgid. Norwich unbeaten in four. Scrappy. Yawn.
Just to liven things up, here’s Sunderland against Aston Villa. Oh, wait… Gabriel Agbonlahor got his first goal in 28 league games just before the hour mark. That is the sound of a duck being broken.
In a thrilling encounter, Sunderland had claims for a penalty waved away later on as Christian Benteke looked to have handled in the box.
For Paul Lambert’s Villa it was a second clean sheet and a second league win. For Martin O’Neill problems keep mounting. The apprentice wins over the master…
Wigan crashed out of the League Cup to lowly Bradford in a clash that sounded like a rugby tie on Halloween. This weekend, however, they bounced back to cause an upset of their own against Spurs at White Hart Lane. Ben Watson netted the only goal of the game, and Spurs were booed off having been outplayed by the Latics for the majority of the game. Which is fairly embarrassing.
Watson’s goal 10 minutes after half time caused a moment of confusion. Not only was it the first time a Wigan league goalscorer had been English in 2012, but many around the stadium didn’t realise that Brad Friedel had only got to the shot about forty miles behind the line and that it was clearly a goal.
AVB’s tactics were loudly questioned by the Spurs faithful via the medium of booing. Emmanuel Adebayor was brought on as the home side looked for an equaliser, but instead of joining Jermain Defoe up front, he replaced him.
Wigan’s pretty passing and stubborn defence gave them a deserved victory and AVB’s men had to trudge off to angry jeering.
Saturday’s late kick off between West Ham and Manchester City ended goalless. The Champions produced another uninspiring display against the resilient Hammers. That’d be a great name for a band.
Within the first five minutes, Kevin Nolan found space in the box to turn in Mark Noble’s free-kick but before Nolan could finish his chicken dance, he was judged to have been offside and the goal was chalked off.
City were fortunate with that decision, but wasted the chances they created throughout the game as Big Sam’s men worked hard to earn a point.
Super Sunday kicked off with QPR against Reading. A fairly even first half ended with the Royals a goal to the good, thanks to the wonderfully named Kaspars Gorkss’s volley. Alex McCarthy pulled off a great save to tip Esteban Granero’s free-kick onto the bar to preserve the half time lead.
QPR looked dangerous in the second half and it was blue haired Djibril Cisse who provided the equaliser in clinical fashion from close range. McCarthy produced another great save as QPR attacked on the break on 82 minutes in an attempt to gain their first league win.
The game ended all-square, and both teams still wait for a Premier League win.
Liverpool have won 15 of their 18 games in the Premier League against Sunday’s visitors Newcastle but it was the Magpies who took the lead in the first half, Hatem Ben Arfa beating two defenders before cutting the ball back for Yohan Cabaye to finish expertly from a tight angle.
Liverpool dominated most of the game but yet again failed to add goals to their game until Luis Suarez provided a sensational equaliser. He may be a horrid individual, but there’s no doubting his skill. The Uruguayan perfectly controlled a hopeful long ball forward from Jose Enrique, took it round Tim Krul and slotted into a gaping net.
Newcastle had to see the last 10 minutes out with 10 men- Fabricio Coloccini saw a straight red for a lunge on Suarez – but held on to secure a rare point at Anfield.