Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Weekend Recap

Round 3 is in the books and with no games this midweek, Manchester City fans can savor their team's position at the top of the Premiership for a little longer. A sound thrashing over Derby County may not be enough for Tottenham manager Martin Jol to keep his job even though his club has been the best non-"Big Four" team in the last two seasons. Story plots abound in the Premiership; that's why we love it so much.

On to the recaps:

1. Portsmouth-3, Bolton-1 (My prediction: Portsmouth-2, Bolton-1): A late penalty converted by Portsmouth's Matthew Taylor thwarted my predicted scoreline and the fact that it shouldn't have even been a PK just makes it that much unfortunate for me. Nicholas Anelka put the visitors in front after slipping one through David James' wickets, but the Kanu/John Utaka combination struck for two goals in 15 minutes to give Pompey the 2-1 lead. John Utaka's goal was one of beauty; a 55-yard solo run in which he simply outsprinted Bolton's defenders, capped off by rounding Jussi Jaakselainen and sliding the ball into the empty net. Portsmouth remains unbeaten on the season; Bolton can't buy a point right now. I can't believe I picked the Trotters to finish 9th!

2. Middlesbrough-2, Fulham-1 (My prediction: Fulham-2, Middlesbrough-1): I don't think there was any team more unlucky this weekend than Fulham. First their captain and today's goalscorer, Brian McBride, dislocated his left knee on the shot he scored on, then Hameur Bouazza dislocated his shoulder. Worst of all, though, was the potential late equalizer that was disallowed by the assistant referee, who didn't believe the ball had completely gone over the goal line (replays showed it clearly did). Middlesbrough's new signing, Mido, benefited from a Tony Warner howler to draw his side level in the 54th minute and young midfielder Lee Cattermole gave the Boro the eventual winner just 3 minutes from time. Full credit to them for going on the road and getting full points but let's be honest: Fulham were jobbed. These things tend to work themselves out over the course of the year.

3. Wigan Athletic-3, Sunderland-0 (My prediction: Sunderland-1, Wigan Athletic-0): Two home wins in a row for Wigan put them just three victories short of last season's total. Some atrocious defending from Sunderland's substitutes led to two PK's (both converted) and were just the insurance Wigan wanted after Emile Heskey's header gave them the early advantage. Antoine Sibierski has scored 3 goals in 3 games for Wigan this season. He'll go for 4 this weekend at West Ham. Antoine Sibierski?!?

4. Reading-1, Everton-0 (My prediction: Everton-2, Reading-0): Reading won the game in typical Royals fashion: an ugly goal (Stephen Hunt) made to stand up by gritty, hard-nosed defending. Everton threw everything they had and the kitchen sink at Reading to try and snatch a draw, and almost found one late through a James McFadden chip, which hit the crossbar but had Marcus Hahnemann beaten. Andy Johnson picked up the loose ball and got around Hahnemann, but his left-footed short range effort came back off the post. The other American goalie in this game, Everton's Tim Howard, was booed relentlessly every time he touched the ball. Reading manager Steve Coppell has to be happy with his club after the tough run of games they've had to begin the season as they sit on 4 points.

5. Tottenham-4, Derby County-0 (My prediction: Tottenham-2, Derby County-0): Tottenham scored early and often in this game with a goal in the opening minute and 3 in the first 13 minutes. French midfielder Steed Malbranque scored twice for Spurs and summer signing Darren Bent got off the mark with a late tally. If you believe the various newspaper reports out there, Tottenham manager Martin Jol will be fired later this week. His sideline clash with star striker Dimitar Berbatov after their first game of the season and his stated wish to sell Berbatov have drawn matters to a head at White Hart Lane. The board at Tottenham already have a tense relationship with Jol but firing him only 3 games into the season would be a huge mistake.

6. West Ham-1, Birmingham City-0 (My prediction: Birmingham City-1, West Ham-1): Mark Noble's PK was the difference in this game as he converted from the spot after Craig Bellamy was sent sprawling midair by Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle, who then looked as if he wanted to fight Bellamy after the call was made (I don't like your odds in that one, Colin). Noble hit the post on a driven, skidding free kick 25 yards earlier in the game as well. Birmingham head to Pride Park this weekend to battle a fellow newly-promoted side, Derby County.

7. Newcastle-0, Aston Villa-0 (My prediction: Newcastle-1, Aston Villa-1): Michael Owen made his less-than-triumphant return to his Newcastle team as a 63rd minute substitute but played no part in this scoreless game. Aston Villa's new goalie, Scott Carson, on loan from Liverpool, made a great save on a screaming left-footed drive by David Rozehnal in the 36th minute. Not many highlights in this game but I'm left wondering one thing: Why in the world did the Newcastle fans give Owen an ovation when he came on as a sub? He's constantly injured and has been a major disappointment since coming Tyneside.

8. Manchester City-1, Manchester United-0 (My prediction: Manchester United-1, Manchester City-0): Manchester City kept up their perfect record after getting a deflected goal from Geovanni in the 30th minute. Sven-Goran Eriksson's extensive experience in Italian soccer certainly came in handy as City slowed the game to a crawl after that and defended, defended, and defended some more. Manchester United has dictated play in each of their first 3 games but have only 2 points to show for their considerable efforts, something that Sir Alex Ferguson won't be happy about. Wayne Rooney's absence showed considerably in this game. United had plenty of chances and a couple that needed just one touch to finish but couldn't convert, though City's Micah Richards played an outstanding center back all game long. Sven will try and make it 4-for-4 this weekend at tbe Emirates against Arsenal.

9. Blackburn-1, Arsenal-1 (My prediction: Blackburn-2, Arsenal-2): Has any keeper looked worse this season than Jens Lehmann?? He gift-wrapped another goal for an opponent in this game when David Dunn's pedestrian long-range effort was tipped into the net by the German. Robin van Persie scored for the Gunners after a goalmouth scrum 17 minutes into the game. Neither team has lost a competitive game this season to this point but more shoddy goalkeeping from Lehmann and Arsenal will change that. Former MLS standout Ryan Nelsen was sent off for Blackburn after he received his second yellow card.

10. Liverpool-1, Chelsea-1 (My prediction: Liverpool-2, Chelsea-1): Liverpool were denied the victory when a controversial penalty was awarded to Chelsea by match referee Rob Styles. Styles had an extremely rough game in the middle and the Premier League has announced that he won't be working this weekend, a punishment for his shoddy work on Sunday. To be fair to Chelsea however, the Blues deserved a share of the points in this game with the way they played. It seems unlikely they would've gotten a draw without the penalty though and Liverpool had every reason to complain about the decision. Fernando Torres scored his first league goal for Liverpool to put the Merseyside Reds ahead in the first half. Frank Lampard converted the equalizing PK in the 61st minute for Chelsea. This was a great game to watch. Tempers flared all game long between the teams and between the teams and Mr. Styles. "Well, we played hard today because we are champions and we will not complain. We are champions."--Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after this one.

Prediction results so far ("Wins" are games in which I have the result right, either win, loss, or draw, "Losses" are games in which I don't have the result right. Scorelines are not included): 9-18

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