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  23-Mar-2019 17:16 GMT  

Five Spices

"One accusation you can't throw at me is that I've always done my best." (Alan Shearer) And our Chairman Damon can never be said to be one to make unfair criticisms.

Harsh, but fair, our Chairman dispenses his trenchant, pithy post match analysis of the overpaid heroes and goats that make up the “Happy Band” of Euro 2008. If you're in the prawn sandwich and skim latte club, or part of the "Dippy Darling" brigade this column is not for you!!

Who's hot? Who's not? Who's left their bottle at home? Watch this space carefully as the tournament unwinds.

Previous Analysis :

Week 7.... Week 6.... Week 5.... Week 4.... Week 3.... Week 2

Arsenal came from behind to keep themselves in title contention and push Everton just a little closer to crisis. Leon Osman had put the Toffees in front after just ten minutes when he steered home Steven Pienaar's left-wing cross and the visitors were able to hold out until the break. The arrival of Theo Walcott for the injured Kolo Toure injected some more urgency into Arsenal's play and they drew level within five minutes of the restart when Samir Nasri was able to beat Tim Howard with a low drive from outside the area. With twenty minutes remaining they took the lead their greater ambition deserved, Robin van Persie on hand to nod home the rebound after Cesc Fabregas's effort was parried only parried by Howard, and bagged a slightly flattering third at the death when Walcott got on the end of a one-two with Abou Diaby to slot home. Arsenal, still not truly convincing, nonetheless come out of the weekend in fourth place, whilst Everton sit becalmed just a point outsode the relegation zone.

 

Aston Villa 0 - Portsmouth 0

There were no goals, but no lack of entertainment at Villa Park as two of the Premier League's upwardly-mobile sides played out this goal-less draw. Portsmouth just shaded the first half, with Arnand Traore hitting the post and the currently deadly Jermaine Defoe somehow contriving to shank the rebound over the bar from four yards. Villa had the better of the second half and were helped when Sean Davis was harshly sent off with ten minutes to go but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock was John Carew's header off the bar right at the end. Honours even and a fair result that keeps both sides in the chasing pack.

 

Bolton Wanderers 0 - Blackburn Rovers 0

A stalemate in the North-West despite the best efforts of these near-neighbours. The busy Matt Taylor came closest for the home side, hitting the post and seeing his inswinging free-kick palmed away by Paul Robinson before mis-hitting an attempted volley from close in. Things had started reasonably comfortably for the Bolton back-line but they found themselves stretched as the wore on - Calos Villaneuva hitting the bar and Jason Roberts heading wide when it looked easier to score. The second half provided more of the same with Villaneuva and then O'Brien unable to make chances count when they came and, despite a frantic last ten minutes, ended in stalemate. Still, there have been worse games and the beer was free, so can't complain.

 

Fulham 0 - Sunderland 0

And bringing up the last of our trio of stalemates, Sunderland left Craven Cottage unlucky not to have the three points in the bag. Keiran Richardson was probably the most frustrated off all the visitors, having seen one free-kick hit the woodwork three times but still stay out and another chalked off after the ref spotted some monkey business in the wall. Djibril Cisse, too, hit the woodwork twice as the Black Cats looked to force a win against their out-of-form hosts. It wasn't all one-way traffic, though, and Zoltan Gera twice had chances to put Fulham ahead. The first saw the Hungarian round Craig Gordon when he could perhaps have better shot, allowing Pascal Chimbonda to get back to cover. The second saw him thrash at thin air when found by Andrew Johnson in the box. On the plus side for the Cottagers, it's a losing streak broken, even if it hasn't kicked off a winning streak just yet. Sunderland, meanwhile, can take heart from a lively attacking performance and go into next week's derby full of confidence.

 

Hull City 1 - West Ham United 0

The dream start for the Tigers shows no sign of coming to an end, with the Hammers the latest of their victims from the capital. West Ham started the brighter and could, perhaps should, have been ahead before the break only to see Carlton Cole and Herita Ilunga both spurn good chances. They were made to pay for their profilgacy five minutes after the restart when Michael Turner climbed highest to power home Andy Dawson's corner with his marker apparently asleep. The Eastenders almost replied immediately, only to see Cole's smart effort on the turn crash back off the underside of the bar and Matt Etheringon should perhaps have done better from Cole's cross towards the end of the game but they couldn't find a way through. Hull have come into the top flight determined to make their long wait worthwhile and find themselves in the heady positon of third after eight games. West Ham return to worrying about the state of the Icelandic economy.

 

Liverpool 3 - Wigan Athletic 2

I'm not entirely sure whether Liverpool's results so far this season are indicative of an indomitable will reflecting a true title challenge, or a team riding a sequence of breaks for whom destiny is preparing a messy and spectacular pratfall. In truth it's probably a mix of the two and Wigan were on the wrong end of things this week. Twice the visitors took the lead through Egyptian sensation Amr Zaki, the first as a result of some appallingly casual play by Dan Agger and the second a spectacular volley from Antonio Valencia's cross. Agger had made amends between times with a good run down the left before setting up Dirk Kuyt for the first of Liverpool's equalisers. With fifteen minutes left, Wigan were looking good for at least a point before Valencia dived in recklessly on Xavi Alonso (who's making an unfortunate habit of getting clattered each game - perhaps it's the "Triesman rocks" car sticker) to earn a well-deserved second yellow card and his marching orders. The impetus was now with the home side and Albert Riera duly made matters level with his first goal for his new club with ten minutes to play. Five minutes later and the turnaround was complete when Kuyt's scissor-kick bounced up and over the unfortunate Chris Kirkland to seal the win. Another late show from the 'Pool, then, and another Wigan performance that deserved more. It may prove to be the story of these two sides' seasons.

 

Manchester United 4 - West Bromwich Albion 0

Man United have hit form in recent weeks and eventually were to simply prove too strong for a game but ultimately outgunned Baggies side. Albion had successfully held out in a frustrating half for the hosts but finally succumbed ten minutes after the break when Wayne Rooney was allowed to cut in onto his right foot and arrow a finish inside Scott Carson's near post. The deadlock broken, United visibly relaxed and West Brom's defensive discipline relaxed right along with them. A second followed just before seventy minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo was sent clear by Rooney to send a clinical finish through Carson's legs and it was three just a couple of minutes later when a criminally-unmarked Dimitar Berbatov was left alone to dangle a leg at a deflected cross. Nani's fourth right at the death gave the score a harsh look from a West Brom perspective but they couldn't really argue about the result. United move up to fifth, just three points behind Hull.

 

Middlesbrough 0 - Chelsea 5

There was an unfamilar look to both sides due to injury but Chelsea, unsurprisingly, proved to have the better B-team in a thoroughly one-sided encounter at the Riverside. The Londoners took the lead just before the quarter-hour mark when Juliano Beletti's shot cannoned off two Middlesbrough defenders before falling kindly to Salomon Kalou, who tucked the chance away confidently. More Chelsea goals always looked on the cards but some committed last-ditch defending from the home side's youngsters kept the defecit down until the interval. They couldn't hold out for long after the restart, though, and a devastating fifteen-minute blast saw the league leaders score four. First up, Beletti crashed home one of his thirty-yard specials before Kalou got his second, albeit via a deflection off David Wheater, when latching onto Florent Malouda's pull back. Chelsea's fourth saw Frank Lampard dive to head home Kalou's floated ball after a flowing move down Boro's right before Malouda was sharpest in the box after Russ Turnbull had spilled Nicolas Anelka's effort onto the post. Not a good day at the office for Gareth Southgate's boys but Luiz Felipe Scolari's side are flying.

 

Newcastle United 2 - Manchester City 2

An late Stephen Ireland goal gave Man City a share of the spoils at ten-man Newcastle. The game started with a bang when Habib Beye was harshly sent off for tackling Robinho in the United box with just fourteen minutes on the clock, the Brazilian getting to his feet to convert the penalty himself. Newcastle, though, are starting to show some of the grit manager JFK's Wimbledon were renowned for and got back in the game just before the break after a comic episode of penalty area-pinball ended with Shola Ameobi shinning the loose ball past Joe Hart in the City goal. A better candidate for the end-of-season bloopers compilation was to follow just after the hour. Geremi Njitap's right-wing corner managed to miss every United player in the box but fell just right for Richard Dunne to display exquisite timing in volleying the ball into the top corner of his own net. I know we all love a good own goal and this was really top drawer. Shay Given then pulled off a fantastic one-handed stop to deny Ireland and it looked as if the home team were going to take all three points but with just four minutes remaining, Ireland burst into the box to meet a smart Robinho through ball and tucked a tidy finish past the Toon goalie.

 

Stoke City 2 - Tottenham Hotspur 1

Tottenham slump to their worst start to a season forever as Stoke get back in touch with the sides above them. Starting (and eventually ending) the day bottom with just two points, Tottenham really needed to see the game at the Britannia get off to a good start. Twenty minutes in, cue a mistimed Gareth Bale challenge on Tim Soares in the area and they were down to ten men and a goal down as Danny Higginbotham converted the penalty (once he was able to persuade the ball to stay on its spot). To their credit, Spurs responded positively and grabbed a deserved equaliser after twenty-five minutes when Darren Bent held off his marker to prod home Alan Hutton's deflected shot. What resistance they'd mustered, though, appeared to dry up during the break and it was Stoke who came out the stronger for the second period and were dictating play long before Rory Delap ghosted in on the far post to convert Mamady Sidibe's excellent cross. The drama wasn't over, either, there still being time for Ricardo Fuller to hit both posts with a penalty attempt (Delap spanking the rebound off the bar) and Michael Dawson to see red for an awful challenge on Sidibe. Dawson himself was only on the pitch to replace Vedrun Corluka, who'd been clattered by keeper Heurelho Gomes twice in quick succession and looked to be in serious trouble (happily, it transpires he wasn't). Those blinkin' "Triesman" stickers ... should be banned, I reckon, before someone does get seriously hurt.

 

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