September 11, 2006

EPL Weekend Recap

Posted in English Premier League at 5:44 pm by deadlymusings

William Gallas in action against MiddlesbroughAfter a week off, the English Premier League returned with plenty of action and comical goalkeeping. Everton, Portsmouth and Manchester United all went top after their respective matches.

However, this was not a weekend in which everyone would escape unharmed. In a weekend where a player died in a Conference North match and another suffered cardiac arrest in a Scottish First Division tie, Jimmy Bullard’s knee injury, no matter how severe it looked, was far from life-threatening.

Everton 3-0 Liverpool – The Toffees succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in the 204th Merseyside Derby with a classic smash-and-grab victory. Liverpool dominated the early stages of the match, but only Robbie Fowler’s shot six seconds in really challenged Tim Howard.

Everton, inspired by Andy Johnson’s work rate created their chances on the break with Johnson himself being denied a shot opportunity by a superb Jamie Carragher tackle. However, Liverpool’s defending let them down when Tim Cahill gave Everton the lead. There may have been a foul prior to the goal, but their failure to even mark the Australian was always going to be punished.

Liverpool went back to dominating play with Steven Gerrard going close twice. Then, more terrible defending put Johnson through for his third goal of the season and his 100th professional goal.

The second half began much the same as the first with Liverpool creating all of the chances. Steve Finnan and Gerrard went close before Johnson nearly made it 3-0 on a move started by Mohamed Sissoko.

Dirk Kuyt came on for Liverpool and forced a good save from Howard late on. Then, Gerrard hit the post before Kuyt had a pass blocked by Tony Hibbert’s arm, but nothing was given.

The final goal was simply comical. Lee Carsley’s shot was parried straight up by Jose Reina, and as he was drifting back he threw the ball up again as he was flying into the goal, and Johnson was left with the easiest of headers.

Portsmouth 1-0 Wigan Athletic – Portsmouth would continue their fantastic start, in which they have not conceded a goal, with a superb win at Fratton Park. Pompey and Wigan played a first half that was without any real incidents of note, so when Benjani scored his second of the season it was a real relief.

Sol Campbell headed Chris Kirkland’s clearance 30 yards into the path of the inconsistent striker, who made no mistake with his shot into the bottom corner.

Wigan responded ten minutes later when Denny Landzaat forced a save from David James. Lomana LuaLua hit the post for Portsmouth before Luis Antonio Valencia forced another good save from James. From the ensuing corner, the Ecuadorian found Paul Scharner, whose header was caught by James. The last chance went to LuaLua, who beat Arjen De Zeeuw on the dribble, but his low shot was saved by Kirkland.

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur – The Red Devils continue to beat all comers as they continued their 100 percent start thanks to an early Ryan Giggs goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo was active early with a low shot that was stopped by Paul Robinson. He also took the free kick which was awkwardly parried by Robinson into the path of the Welshman which was headed over the line.

Late in the first half, Edwin van der Sar was forced to make a double save from Michael Dawson and Ledley King. Spurs created another half chance to start the second when a Pascal Chimbonda cross was nearly deflected in, but the Dutch keeper was there to tip it over. Jermain Defoe and Mido missed free headers.

Louis Saha had a couple of chances to effectively end the match. He blasted over the bar when Ronaldo was unmarked at the far post before Robinson denied him on a one-on-one opportunity.

Newcastle United 1-2 Fulham – The worst away side in a European top flight last season came away with three points at St. James’ due to some late heroics from a pair of Americans.

It was not the best of starts for Fulham when inspirational signing Jimmy Bullard went down in a heap after attempting a challenge on Scott Parker. As bad as the injury looked, the midfielder only suffered a dislocated kneecap and will be sidelined for just two months. Fortunately for them, the game went into the break scoreless.

The Magpies struck nine minutes into the second half. Emre hit a superb cross which Parker ran onto perfectly giving Antti Niemi no chance. Newcastle continued to control play with Charles N’Zogbia forcing a good save by the Finnish keeper.

It took a while, but Fulham finally responded with eight minutes to go. Wayne Routledge hit a cross that went through everybody, except Brian McBride who volleyed home. Fulham kept the pressure up, and they nearly took the lead through Luis Boa Morte. Shay Given came up with the save, however.

On the ensuing corner Newcastle effectively surrendered. McBride was left completely unmarked, and his header bounced off the crossbar into the path of Carlos Bocanegra, who stabbed it in.

Arsenal 1-1 Middlesbrough – Arsenal failed to take three points once again as they were held at home by a resistant Boro side.

Thierry Henry looks to finally be regaining some fitness as he did not look as bad as he did in the Gunners opening two fixtures. He had the first opportunity of the game as his shot from distance was pushed away by Mark Schwarzer.

Henry also created another chance in the first half. He dribbled in from the left and found Freddie Ljungberg, who had his shot blocked, which then fell for Aliaksandr Hleb whose shot was stopped superbly by the Australian keeper.

Boro responded to the pressure by scoring on the break. James Morrison worked an excellent one-two with debutant Jason Euell and finished well past Jens Lehmann. Arsenal then knew they were going to be facing 11 men behind the ball for the rest of the match.

Cesc Fabregas forced two saves from Schwarzer from distance at the end of the first half. Henry tried the quick free kick early in the second half, but he missed the goal entirely. The Boro players protested because of the free kick and George Boateng was one of two players booked.

This is notable because he was sent off moments later for a late challenge on Ljungberg which left the Dutch international injured as well as suspended for the next match.

In the immediate aftermath of that incident, Stewart Downing conceded a penalty for a challenge on Emmanuel Eboue. Henry buried the penalty to bring some relief to the Emirates Stadium faithful.

Tomas Rosicky came on and forced another good save from Schwarzer, but it just was not going to be the Gunners day.

Sheffield United 0-0 Blackburn Rovers – An interesting day at Bramall Lane saw not one, not two, but three missed penalties in a scoreless draw.

In a relatively boring first half, Rob Hulse and Michael Tonge went close for the Blades before Lucas Neill blew a good chance for Rovers.

In the second half, Tonge missed on a free header from six yards out. Then the penalties began to be awarded.

David Unsworth pushed Benni McCarthy as they were going for a header to setup Neill from the spot. Paddy Kenny guessed the right way, and the Australian was punished for an awful attempt.

Brad Friedel was then put under tremendous pressure at the other end as he saved well from both Chris Armstrong and Tonge. The Blades were then awarded a penalty when Zurab Khizanishvili held Hulse as he was going up for a header.

Unsworth stepped up to take the penalty, but Friedel stretched to his right to make the save. In the dying moments, they were given another chance after the linesman spotted a handball in the box by Neill. Hulse took the penalty, but the American stretched to deny another penalty.

Hulse had another point-blank opportunity, but nothing was going past Friedel on this afternoon.

Chelsea 2-1 Charlton Athletic – The Blues continue to look weak, but they overcame adversity to take the points.

Chelsea opened the scoring on six minutes when Charlton could not clear from a corner and Didier Drogba took full advantage of the situation. The Ivory Coast international was denied minutes later by an outstretched Scott Carson. Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard both missed good opportunities later in the first half.

Charlton equalized nine minutes into the second half. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink found space just outside of the box and placed a shot beyond the reach of Petr Cech to level the scores. Ricardo Carvalho headed in the winner from a corner. The Blues were given a questionable penalty after a Talel El Karkouri challenge on Solomon Kalou, but Carson saved it after a tip by Hasselbaink on where Lampard would hit it.

Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Watford – Bolton took all three points in an even game featuring football that was definitely not easy on the eyes.

Watford hit the post a couple of times on shots by Ashley Young and Damien Francis. Bolton had a Ricardo Vaz Te goal ruled out because Idan Tal was offside on the buildup. Marlon King missed a late opportunity to put the Hornets in front before Malky Mackay hit the crossbar with a header.

Bolton won the match after Tal was taken down in the penalty area by Danny Shittu. Gary Speed went down the middle with the penalty and Bolton had three points they did not deserve.

West Ham United 1-1 Aston Villa – Even with the debut of one of their Argentine stars, the Hammers could not prevent Villa from continuing the unbeaten start.

Villa were the ones who got off to the better start. Gabriel Agbonlahor won an early corner, the youngster’s header from the ensuing header was spilled by Roy Carroll and Liam Ridgewell bundled it over the line.

Then came the comedy moment of the match. Thomas Sorensen took a backpass and mishit it directly to Marlon Harewood, who then completely missed the gaping net from ten yards.

West Ham’s defensive errors continued as Juan Pablo Angel powered a free header off the crossbar from four yards. Later, Luke Moore was nearly able to dribble it into the goal following a corner, but his shot was hacked off the line by Harewood. Agbonlahor forced a good save from Carroll with a curling shot and Angel hit the bar again late in the first half.

West Ham began the second half by controlling play and they equalized through Bobby Zamora. Paul Konchesky hit a header through traffic from a corner, and Zamora tipped it over Sorensen to level it with his league leading fifth of the season.

Aston Villa had a chance on the other end. Stilian Petrov chipped over the approaching Carroll, but Tyrone Mears spectacularly cleared off the line. Moments later, Gareth Barry forced Carroll to parry a shot, Agbonlahor slid the ball back across, and Anton Ferdinand was able to clear.

Carlos Tevez was introduced late in the match and looked dangerous with every touch. Unfortunately, he was partnered with Carlton Cole which meant no goals.

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