Jack’s Mid-Week Premier League Wrap

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Manchester United v Manchester City
If last season’s clash between Manchester City and Liverpool at Eastlands was the most boring Premier League match in recent history, Thursday morning’s scoreless Manchester derby could not have been far behind.

The two sides merely cancelled each other out, and not in the good way, where two teams go hell for leather for 90 minutes but are unable to be separated on the scoreboard, but in the way that both teams were so desperate not to lose and hand the initiative over to their near neighbours that nobody remembered that football is about winning games, not just avoiding defeat.

Most of the blame for this one must lie with City Manager Roberto Mancini. His negative tactics and stubborn refusal to start matches with Adam Johnson and James Milner, City’s only real outlets of pace and creativity (well, in the case of the latter, just pace) has seen them become synonymous with the bore draw.

United, too, played for a point it must be said, but that is to be understood. Going away to your nearest rivals, a club which have spent ludicrous amounts of money in order to bring in footballing talent from across the globe, Sir Alex Ferguson would have gladly taken a point and got out of there – especially given star player Wayne Rooney’s absence.

It is the fact that Mancini would have settled for a point before kick off that confirmed City’s ongoing status as the little brother in Manchester, and until City start beating United, not just drawing with them, that won’t change.

Chelsea v Fulham
Champions Chelsea extended their lead atop the Premiership thanks to a 1-0 win over west London rivals Fulham. It is amongst the most churned out clichés, but it is often the mark of champions that they are capable of grinding out wins from matches they are not playing well in where other sides would not be able to find a way through and drop points.

Michael Essien showed that his run of headed goals at the start of the season was no fluke as his well timed run and leap saw the Blues go ahead after half an hour. However their failure to add a killer second goal invited pressure from Fulham who chased an equaliser.

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But for a string of good saves from Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Cech, they would have found one.

Goal hero Essien then went from hero to zero late on, as his reckless and totally needless two footed stamp on Fulham striker Clint Dempsey saw him rightfully sent off.

Liverpool v Wigan Athletic
Resurgent Liverpool hit a snag on their charge up the Premiership ladder after being held to a 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic. Fernando Torres’ return to form continued and his first half goal looked to have put Liverpool on course for a fourth straight victory, only for Hugo Rodallega’s second half strike to level the sides.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard had an excellent chance to win the game 12 minutes from time when put clean through on goal after a slicing ball from Maxi Rodriguez, only to see his effort crash off the crossbar.

Arsenal v Wolverhampton
Arsenal went away to Wolverhampton and will have left Molineux very satisfied after a 2-0 win. Striker Maroune Chamakh had the odd statistic of scoring twice in one game, with more than 90 minutes separating his two strikes. After netting in the first minute of the match he added the sealer at the end, four minutes into stoppage time.

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West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United’s woes at the bottom of the table continued as they threw away yet another lead to draw 2-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion. After a very cagey opening half hour the game suddenly sprung to life. Baggies’ Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie put away a dubious penalty which was awarded after Luis Boa Morte and Steven Reid tangled at a corner kick, only for the Hammers to hit back immediately with a wonder strike from inspirational talisman Scott Parker.

Early in the second half West Ham were awarded a penalty of their own after Kieron Dyer was shoved over as he charged towards goal, and French striker Frederic Piquionne dually converted.

Just as the points seemed there for the taking, Hammers manager Avram Grant went defensive, bringing on holding midfielder Radoslav Kovac as his opposite Roberto Di Matteo went all out attack, bringing on 3 strikers.

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Di Matteo was rightly rewarded for doing so, and Grant punished for trying to kill off the game. Albion defender Gabriel Tamas converted a terrific Chris Brunt cross to take a point back to the midlands and leave the Hammers bottom.

Aston Villa v Blackpool
Aston Villa did just enough to see off the challenge of Blackpool. The controversy surrounding this match however was that Blackpool manager Ian Holloway made 10 changes to the side which played so well to draw 2-2 with Everton at the weekend.

Many will recall Wolves manager Mick McCarthy being fined 25,000 pounds by the Football Association for making 10 changes to his side for a mid week game at Old Trafford last season. The difference this time, or at least what I believe will spare Holloway, is the fact that he maintains he made 10 changes in order to pick a side he felt capable of getting a result at Villa park, whereas McCarthy openly acknowledged that he was merely resting his first choice players from a match he felt they were going to lose anyway. But for a late James Collins header to win it for Villa 3-2, Holloway would have been hailed as a master tactician.

Newcastle United v Blackburn Rovers
Elsewhere, Newcastle United’s Joey Barton was at the centre of yet more controversy for punching Blackburn’s Morten Gamst Pedersen during Rovers’ 2-1 win at St James’ Park. The midfielder has since been banned for 3 matches, and Everton’s Jermaine Beckford picked an ideal time to score his first goal for his new club, finding the net in the 94th minute to cancel out Ivan Klasnic’s opener for Bolton Wanderers 15 minutes earlier.

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