Sunday, April 5, 2009

Liverpool Pressure United, Arsenal Roll On, Newcastle Look Down

Week 31 of the season saw Alan Shearer, with tongue firmly in cheek, leed Newcastle out for the first time yesterday, where they met a Chelsea team in no mood to extend the former-striker's welcoming party...

Newcastle 0-2 Chelsea

The Pensioners put in a professional performance as they controlled the game from start to finish and won through goals from Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda.

With the end of the season nearing, and with voting for the Football Writers award yet to take place, the Chelsea midfielder would be a well deserving winner. He has been sensational this season and has carried his team to victories when the matches looked over.

He seems to have added an extra dimension to his game, and he now dictates the game from central midfield more than he ever did.

His main rival for the award, Steven Gerrard, has been pushed forward because of his lack of ability to control the game from midfield, as well as the fact that he is far more comfortable in an advanced position, where he also has been fantastic for his club.

The smartest man in football is undoubtedly Alan Shearer. After being offered the Newcastle job twice and turning it down twice, he now takes the job with eight games to go?

To cut a long story short, Shearer is in a win-win situation. If he keeps the club up, he's a hero; if they go down, it's not his fault.

At £100k a game plus a £1m bonus if they stay up, Shearer is a winner either way...

Fulham 0-1 Liverpool

The old myth about Manchester United being favoured by referees who play too much injury time was well and truly dispelled yesterday, as Liverpool, through Yossi Benayoun, scored their eighth injury-time winner of the season.

Dominating the match to such an incredible extent that they hit the woodwork four times, Liverpool thoroughly deserved their win yesterday.

The Reds were so good that I can't even remember Fulham having a shot on goal. Despite this, Roy Hodgson has built a tough side to beat and they were the perfect sparring partner for the upcoming Champions League bout with Chelsea.

Both sides play similarly and the way to beat them is with width. Liverpool got around the Fulham defence time and time again. On another day they could have scored six or seven.

They are now two points above United, who have two games in hand. And as anyone who knows anything about football, games in hand mean nothing unless they're turned into points.

Arsenal 2-0 Manchester City

Shay Given swapped the madhouse at Newcastle for the madhouse at City, and he could have been forgiven for thinking he had never moved at all yesterday as Arsenal ripped Manchester City apart.

Arsene Wenger welcomed back Emmanuel Adebayor and Cesc Fabregas into a team who were unbeaten in 16 games. The duo combined for both goals, the second of which being almost a perfect goal which will be right up there with the goals of the season.

Mark Hughes' time at the Eastlands is ticking down, and Sunderland have become the latest club to be linked with the Welshman.

West Ham 2-0 Sunderland

Little miracles keep happening at Upton Park. Gianfranco Zola has worked his magic from the pitch into the dressing room and after a rocky start he has done brilliantly to inspire West Ham to such a high position on meagre resources.

After having sold half a team between the start of the season and January, many, including myself, felt the inexperienced manager would struggle this year. But Zola, one of the game's nicest guys, has answered all his critics in spectacular form.

The famed West Ham Academy is still producing players of high quality and another two popped up with their first goals for the club yesterday.

Stanislaus and Tomkins have both grown under the tutelage of Zola and Steve Clarke, and the conveyor belt of good young players looks like it will keep rolling as the Hammers launch an assault on the coveted European positions.

Everton beat Wigan 4-0 in a match that could be meaningless by the end of the season. Neither side can be relegated, and Europe looks a slight chance for the FA Cup chasing Toffees.

Manchester United 3-2 Aston Villa

Anything Liverpool Can Do, Manchester United Can Do Better. Click the link to read the match review.

The Relegation Zone

Blackburn pulled a result right out of the fire yesterday. Losing with 10 minutes to go, they took advantage of a horrendous refereeing decision to send Wilson Palacios off by scoring twice in the last five minutes to win the game 2-1 against Spurs.

Stoke beat West Brom in a relegation six-pointer and with that result the Baggies look doomed. Tony Mowbray deserves much credit for trying to play football in an unforgiving league with a team who are plainly just not good enough. With their parachute payment of around £30m, they should strengthen and come straight back up next season.

The rapidly sinking rock that is Middlesbrough plummeted to new depths yesterday as they were hammered 4-1 by Bolton Wanderers.

Gareth Southgate's team have been abysmal all season barring a strange result here or there (Liverpool, anyone?).

The only consolation that one can give Southgate is that he has the most patient chairman in the league in Steve Gibson. His job is safe, but he must bring 'Boro right back up. It will be a tough task as he is bound to lose his star players, Stewart Downing and Sanli Tuncay.

Hull and Portsmouth have both been sucked into the relegation dogfight and their game yesterday was a must-win game for both. As it was, the game turned out to be a damp squib of an affair. The only thing of note in the 0-0 draw was the controversial sending off of Glen Johnson.

The right full has easily been Portsmouth's best player this season and if the club's appeal falls on deaf ears, his being missing for a couple of games could have massive bearing on whether Portsmouth go down or not.

                                       Pld GD Pts
13 Stoke                         31  -16 35
14 Blackburn                   31  -15 34
15 Hull                             31 -17 34
16 Portsmouth                 30  -14 33
17 Sunderland                  31 -12 32
18 Newcastle                   31 -15 29
19 Middlesbrough            31 -24 27
20 West Brom                 31 -31 24

West Brom and Middlesbrough look like they're gone at this stage and it looks unlikely that they will survive.

So that leaves Newcastle fighting it out with freefalling Sunderland, Hull, and Portsmouth.

Hull and Portsmouth will both be relegated sooner rather than later and either could have gone this season if not for the insane asylum that is Newcastle United. And the only thing that will save them this year is the fact that Newcasle cannot score goals.

Michael Owen is their only hope of survival and fantastic a player that he is, he has lost a few yards of pace and he can't get in behind players like he used to, and with his dwindling pace, so goes Newcastle's hopes...

twitter / WillieGannon