Saturday, September 13, 2008

You Got Robinho, Pool Beat Man Utd and Other Stories From Matchday 4 of the EPL

Matchday 4 of the 2008/09 EPL season produced a great stories up and down the league this weekend. From Chelsea trumping City in Manchester to Liverpool getting one over Manchester United at Anfield.

Man City 1-3 Chelsea

Robinho made his debut for Man City side against Chelsea in the evening kick off game in the EPL today. And Robinho made a wonderful start in the sky blue jersey of City, scoring a deflected free kick after 12 minutes that left Petr Cech rooted to the spot.

Unfortunately the goal only seemed to spark Chelsea into life, Carvalho equalised three minutes later firing home after the ball landed kindly for him following a John Terry effort from Lampard's corner.

Chelsea then showed the huge gulf in class between the two sides, dominating for the rest of the half. But City rode the storm and hoped the half time break would disrupt Chelsea's domination. It didn't work as Chelsea took the lead in the 53rd minute through Lampard.

The Chelsea midfielder has been operating slightly deeper under Scolari and capped another brilliant performance with a well worked goal that gave Joe Hart no chance with a precision finish into the bottom corner.

Carvalho then made a match saving tackle to deny the in-form Stephen Ireland, before Nicolas Anelka put the match beyond doubt in the 70th minute. With Chelsea now in the ascendancy and Robinho largely ineffectual a momentary lapse of concentration by John Terry resulted in him taking Jo down and receiving the first red card of his career.

It was a cynical foul by Terry and Chelsea are now expected to appeal as the foul was so far up the pitch, pending the appeal Terry is now suspended for Chelsea's next match...against Man Utd.

Chelsea then ran the game down and with the match all but over Chelsea fans took their chance to mock the City fans by chanting "You got Robinho, You got Robinho".

Newcastle 1-2 Hull City

Elsewhere in the Premiership, Newcastle were at home to Hull City. And with Mike Ashley's attempts in luring Kevin Keegan back to the fold failing, Newcastle fans made their voice heard at St. James'. Thousands of fans staged protests against the board both inside and outside the ground leaving large sections of the ground empty seated as the protests intensified.

The recent turmoil seems to have taken it's toll on the Newcastle team as Hull deservedly ran out 2-1 winners. Newcastle were disjointed throughout and new signing Danny Guthrie put the icing on the cake by getting sent off for a sickening challenge.

The Newcastle fans protests went on hours after the match with thousands of Geordies protesting outside the ground. Life in Geordie Land is never dull.

Blackburn 0-4 Arsenal

Arsenal continued from where they left off before the international break with a stunning 4-0 victory away to Blackburn. Theo Walcott also continued from where he left off with England by setting up Van Persie for the opening goal. Emanuel Adebayor then waded in with a hat-trick, a header, a penalty and he rounded Paul Robinson for the 4th.

All is not perfect for the Gunner's because as good as they are going forward Blackburn opened them up very easily time and time again. And if it wasn't for some really bad finishing by the usually dependable Roque Santa Cruz the game could have finished differently.

With two defeats in a row and after conceding eight goals, Blackburn fans will be delighted that manager Paul Ince has distanced himself from the comedy of errors at Tyneside.

West Brom 3-2 West Ham

Tony Mowbray's West Brom won for the first time this season as Gianfranco Zola watched his new team slump to a disappointing defeat. The match looked to be fizzling out at 2-2 before Chris Brunt scored an unlikely late winner.

Zola has plenty to do at the Hammers and although I wasn't a Curbishley fan, he was truly screwed over by the board. West Ham are lacking in most departments and a lucky 4-1 win over Blackburn recently masked a lot of cracks. Zola must be counting the days until the transfer window opens, as he will have to be as mercurial a manager as he was on the pitch to keep this team afloat.

One thing of note about this match was that neither side had a sponsor on their jersey. It was the first time in over 20 years that a match was played between two teams without a sponsor.

Portsmouth 2-1 Middlesbrough

After losing to United and Chelsea in their opening two fixtures, Portsmouth will be delighted to have recorded their 2nd win in a row. Again Jermaine Defoe was the inspiration behind the victory. The ex-Spurs player added two more to his tally this season as Portsmouth beat Middlesbrough.

Gareth Southgate's charges had taken the lead at Fratton Park and were then denied a stonewall penalty. Under Southgate, now in his third year as a manager Middlesbrough, have assembled the youngest squad in the Premiership. And with their impressive work rate being matched by skillful players, 'Boro could well surprise a few people this term.

Fulham 2-1 Bolton

Fulham also won 2-1 at home. Roy Hodgson's impressive dealings in the transfer market during the summer have more or less ensured that Fulham should find themselves well outside the relegation dogfight this season. Goals from Hungarian international Zoltan Gera and the impressive Bobby Zamora saw off a lacklustre Bolton.

Sunderland 1-1 Wigan

The only draw of the day took place at The Stadium of Light as Wigan took a deserved point from Roy Keane's Sunderland. An own goal by the catastrophe zone that is Titus Bramble put the Black Cats ahead. But Wigan kept their shape and never panicked, continually probing a shaky Sunderland defence.

In the 77th minute they got their just rewards, as new signing Amir Zaki scored his third goal in two games. With both managers claiming the draw was a deserved result, both sets of fans will be happy with the start to the season these sides have made.

Both of these teams have good managers and should find themselves out of the relegation zone this season with Sunderland in particular having the ability to push towards the top half of the table.

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United

Last but not least is the big match of the day, where Manchester United travelled to Anfield to defend their five year unbeaten streak against Rafa Benitez's Liverpool side.

Neither side had hit the ground running this season but with this rivalry you knew the form book would go out the window.

Liverpool started with Gerrard and Torres on the bench after Benitez deemed they hadn't sufficiently recovered from their respective injury problems. What this did do was give Liverpool the ability to make a huge impact from the bench. Something they've lacked in recent times.

United handed a first start to Dimitar Berbatov, and he duly responded by setting up Carlos Tevez for the opening goal after three minutes. United then conspired to give the game to Liverpool, with Van Der Saar palming a cross onto Wes Brown who knocked the ball into his own net pass the helpless keeper.

Despite not having Gerrard and Torres in the starting lineup, Liverpool were matching United across the pitch with many players offering excellent performances. Carragher commanded the back, making Berbatov an anonymous figure. Mascherano ran the midfield and Keane put in an incredible amount of work up front.

Liverpool got what they deserved when one of their subs made a huge impact in scoring the winner. But the impact didn't come from Gerrard, or Torres, it came from the right foot of Ryan Babel.

Just to compound United's bad day at the office Nemanja Vidic received his marching orders in the 90th minute for a second bookable offence.

You know you're doing something right when Alex Ferguson lambastes his teams performance. But 'Pool fans won't care about that, as this could be the result that signals their first real challenge to the Premiership.

Spurs fans will have looked on this match with a what if mentality. Their ex strikers Keane and Berbatov lined out on opposite sides of the park. And with a combined transfer fee of £50M Spurs fans can be forgiven for wondering what life would be like had they stayed.

On this performance Liverpool got the better deal in the hard working Keane (£20M) but the season is a long race and it still remains to be seen if Liverpool can match United, Chelsea and Arsenal in mounting a serious challenge to the title.