Not long to go now! The barren summer of no football edges ever closer as the Premier League title race, relegation struggle and the battle for a Champions League place make everything unbearably exciting. But don’t worry, here’s some downright average round-upping with a smidgeon of punnery and a dollop of amateurish analysis to calm you all down.
On Saturday afternoon Fulham met Arsenal at Craven Cottage. Steve Sidwell didn’t seem to fancy the occasion, taking just 12 minutes to receive a red card for a foul on Mikel Arteta. He was just back from suspension after his last red card. What a foolhardy chap.
Arsenal struggled against a ten man Fulham, but took the lead just before half time when Laurent Koscielny’s header across goal was knocked in by his defensive partner Per Mertesacker. They must have been on the same wavelength. Which is unusual.
Fulham looked the more potent threat towards the end of the game, even more so when the Gunners had Olivier Giroud sent off for an unfortunate tackle on Stanislav Manolev. The visitors were lucky to leave with their Champions League hopes undented, just about holding on as Fulham did good things with a ball.
Norwich beat Reading at Carrow Road to all but destroy the Royals’ hopes of staying up. Ryan Bennett netted a rebound from a Grant Holt header to give the Canaries the lead in the 50th minute and just two minutes later Elliot Bennett’s shot deflected in off Reading keeper Alex McCarthy to double their advantage. Gordon Bennett was unavailable for selection.
Reading had some consolation as Garath McCleary was inexplicably allowed to meander forward and fire past Mark Bunn after 72 minutes, but they could not muster any more attacking talent to make it a little bit jittery for Delia.
QPR and Stoke are possibly the two teams that many would like to see go down. No offence to Messrs Redknapp and Pulis. Could both of them lose? Well both sides put pressure on each other, but it was the Potters who took a lead into the break with Peter Crouch netting after 42 minutes.
Stoke secured a victory with a second goal in the 77th minute. Clint Hill pulled Crouch down in the box and Jon Walters netted from the spot. Twice, actually – after his first thrashed effort was ordered to be retaken due to encroachment, he battered in at the second attempt. Thrilling.
The Di Canio revolution at Sunderland continued with a win over Everton. Two free-kicks from Seb Larsson came close as Tim Howard was the most troubled goalkeeper. Not emotionally, just in terms of having balls fired at him.
Stephane Sessegnon scored the only goal of the game in first half stoppage time, an effort from distance that evaded a lunging Howard.
The Toffees had chances in the second half, with substitute Nikica Jelavic having a couple of efforts saved. There was some fun to be had as well, as Larsson forced Simon Mignolet to stop a long range back pass from flying into the net. A classic “every man on the line” indirect free-kick situation passed without event as a Leighton Baines shot was blocked by one of the aforementioned men.
Swansea and Southampton played out a goalless draw. Boooooring! Michel Vorm thwarted Rickie Lambert in the first half, getting his fingertips to the Saints striker’s free-kick. Booo! We all want to see the ball in the goal net Michel! You’re no fun.
The Swans struggled to get past a solid Southampton defence; their only real chance was a Nathan Dyer shot that was cleared off the line by Maya Yoshida. Booo! We all want to see the ball in the goal net Maya! You’re no fun.
Vorm again came to the rescue, denying Emmanuel Mayuka as the game entered its closing stages. Boo, etc.
West Brom are sitting smug and safe, but their opponents Newcastle aren’t in such a good shape. After a derby drubbing, Alan Pardew’s men needed a win. They started well enough, Yoan Gouffran heading in a cross from Papiss Cisse in the 8th minute. The Magpies were at their best in the second half, but failed to convert chances and that would come back to haunt them.
Billy Jones was the unlikely source of the home side’s equaliser, the Baggies left back finding himself in the box and the ball falling kindly at his feet for him to slot home in the 64th minute. Jones seems like one of these players that is quite good but so generically named and forgettable he becomes… sorry who were we talking about again? The game ended a draw.
Wigan visited West Ham searching for some sort of hope in their annual relegation battle. They didn’t seem to find any. A Matt Jarvis cross deceived everyone, including Jarvis himself, and floated into the bottom corner after 21 minutes to give the Hammers the lead.
Wigan were on top in the second half, creating and then wasting chances aplenty. That didn’t seem like a clever thing to do, and this was confirmed when they let in another goal. Andy Carroll received a long ball forward, hit an overhead kick into the box and his best pal Kevin Nolan finished on the volley as the clock struck 80 and Wigan’s relegation clock struck Uh-Oh Time.
Super Sunday for once turned out to be quite super. Unless you worship a Blue Moon or are not a fan of cannibalism. First up, Spurs took on Manchester City. Samir Nasri opened the scoring after just 5 minutes, converting a cross from James Milner. The hateable Frenchman was then lucky not to see red for high tackle on Kyle Walker.
Spurs got back into the game after AVB made a tactical switch. Yes it’s getting analytical up in here. With the change in formation to a 4-3-3 and the introduction of Tom Huddlestone to the midfield, the home side looked a lot more dangerous.
A late flurry of goals turned the game around. First, Gareth Bale delivered a sensational ball in along the grass with the outside of his boot for Clint Dempsey to tap in from close range on 75 minutes.
White Hart Lane erupted in the 79th minute as Vincent Kompany gave Jermain Defoe far too much room in the box, and his punishment was to see the England striker turn and rifle a shot past Joe Hart.
It was all over in the 82nd minute as Huddlestone played in Bale who roasted Gael Clichy for pace and clipped the ball over Hart and into the back of the net.
The most interesting clash of the weekend was perhaps Chelsea’s visit to Liverpool. It was a game that threw up all sorts of Benitez, Torres, Sturridge, Johnson, Rodgers and Benayoun connections in the weirdly common Reds/Blues exchange programme.
The visitors took the lead in the 26th minute when perhaps the most diminutive player on the pitch, Oscar, headed in from a corner. Shortly afterwards, Reina almost fumbled a David Luiz free-kick over the line.
Liverpool were a different animal, quite literally in the case of a certain Uruguayan, in the second half. They started at a ferocious speed, half time substitute Daniel Sturridge being the catalyst for the inferno that started to burn.
Petr Cech was forced into a superb save from Steven Gerrard as Liverpool piled on the pressure from the kick off. Sturridge fired a long range effort off the post before completing a well worked move to level the scoring on 51 minutes. Luis Suarez clipped in a delicious pass to the feet of the former Chelsea striker, who made no mistake in finishing past a helpless Cech.
From then on, the show belonged to Suarez, who seems to be stuck in a perpetual good-cop bad-cop routine. He gave away a penalty when he handled in the box, with Eden Hazard sending Pepe Reina the wrong way from the spot to give Chelsea the lead in the 57th minute.
Then there was the incident that was the main talking point of the weekend’s action. Suarez quite blatantly sunk his teeth into Branislav Ivanovic as the two tussled. It was all sorts of strange, but with Suarez’s previous misdemeanours from his days at Ajax it was hardly surprising. Perhaps he’s misunderstood, and just craves the taste of human flesh or maybe he’s just a bit mad. Maybe he’s Dennis the Menace’s dog Gnasher in human form. He has since apologised, so that’s all fine now.
That wasn’t even him finished for the day, as he became Liverpool’s hero deep into stoppage time. Just as the six minutes of added time ran over into seven, he headed in a Sturridge cross from close range to grab a point at the death. Typical of such a brilliant yet villainous swine.
By the time you read this, Manchester United may well have beaten Aston Villa, which they have to do to win the title. So congratulations to them if they did that, and big LOLs at them if they didn’t.