Bolton V arsenal
After claiming only one point from their last 4 games Bolton went into this one determined to stop the rot and get back on track. As for the Gunners: their form has been fluctuating between encouraging, destructive and disappointing, and with Henry out of this match, one has to wonder from where they will get a goal. With the French super striker out injured, the giant Adebayor leads the attack with support from the lively Walcott and constantly probing Fabregas.
The first real chance of the match fell to Adebayor who skewed his shot wide after collecting the ball from the lightning fast and impressively skilful, Walcott. Soon after, a Bolton corner taken by Diouf finds Faye who opens the scoring with a determined header past Lehman into the roof of the net. The marking was weak. 1-0 9’
Deep into stoppage time in the first half, ex-Arsenal enfant terrible, Nicolas Anelka, picks up the ball on the left flank, cuts in then explodes a right foot shot which flies into the top corner of the goal from 20 yards out. A brilliant strike for 2-0 47’. And that was the Bolton striker’s first goal for his new club.
Before the ref blows his whistle for the end of the first period, Gilberto scores a header after short a well worked corner routine finds him unmarked in the centre…2-1 48’
Wenger’s boys came out fighting after the break and they nearly plunder the equalizer when Walcott skins his man down the right flank, finds Ljunberg in the box but the Swede’s header agonizingly hits the frame of the goal…
Anelka almost adds a second goal to his name after smashing a rebound back towards the net but his effort ricochets off the post…A fast counter attack by Bolton results in a third goal for the home side…Campo plays a superb through ball, between defenders, to Anelka who fires past Lehman for 3-1 76’
Before the final whistle, both Adebayor and Fabregas hit efforts from range that are thwarted by the frame of the goal…
Arsenal were a touch unlucky but in truth they were second best in the belligerence stakes.
Bolton are not a team to which you can give only 95% of your best because they will fight for every ball as if their lives depended on the outcome. The scoreline does flatter Allardyce’s troops a touch but overall it was a deserved victory built on desire, cosmopolitan guile and team-spirit.
Bolton’s Anelka opened his account against former employers, Arsenal.
West ham v Sheffield united
A new era has begun at Upton Park with 85m of Icelandic money being pumped into the club by the new owner, Eggert Magnusson. And he will be hoping for an immediate turn in results and form to match his well publicized remarks regarding ‘re-awakening the sleeping giant’.
Tevez, the argentine international yet to show anything like the form which we know he is capable, went closest in the early stages after latching onto an intelligent cross field ball into the box. Soon after, Lee Bowyer wasted a glorious opportunity to put his team one up after a typically dynamic burst into the area by Zamora. With the home side in the ascendancy it was no surprise when West Ham opened the scoring after a corner was whipped in with pace by Ethrington, a flick on by Zamora found Mullins who headed home for 1-0 36’.
In response to the onslaught, Blades boss, Warnock, brought on the excitable striker, Nade, who promptly fluffed two good chances in front of goal. Sheffield’s attempted fight back continued with Law finding the ball at his feet only 12 yards from the Hammer’s net, dragging a shot well wide of the target.
After some clever link up play down the right wing, Spector -who was definitely in the area- was unlawfully pushed to the deck but only a free kick just outside the box was given…A poor decision by the officials. The lead was almost extended late on by Harewood who blasted wide after Sheringham displayed his aged, but undoubtedly still worthy of the premiership class by delivering a perfect through ball into the strikers path
Despite the numerous chances created by the Hammers, they were fortunate that the officials deemed a late goal by Sheffield invalid after an apparent foul on the home keeper, Robert Green. I use the word ‘apparent’ because after seeing the replay several times my well trained eyes and mind could find no infringement.
Encouraging signs for the new owner. The confidence is returning to the Hammers side after a thoroughly shocking first quarter of the season and I see no reason why they can’t move swiftly up the table. If they can get Tevez playing anywhere near his potential they will once again be a decent match for any opponent. Warnock’s Sheffield United huff and puff but lack any players of above average skill. Their main strength is tenacity. Which that may well be enough to ensure survival in this; their first season in the top flight.
Hayden Mullins celebrates his headed goal against the Blades.
Villa v Boro
The form book would have led those partial to gambling to stake their money on the home side for this encounter. Martin O’ Neil has delivered an immediate change to the form of the Villa team since his welcome arrival in the summer and with money to spend in the mid season transfer window (thanks to a change of ownership) and a lofty league position, optimism at Villa Park is running the highest it has been for many a year. While O’Neil feels increasingly comfortable at the helm of his new ship, his Boro counterpart, Gareth Southgate, has endured a torrid start to life as a premiership coach. However, there was good news this week when the English FA decided to permit the former international to remain as manager until at least the end of this season despite his lack of UEFA coaching credentials.
Villa unremarkably began the brighter with Bouma almost catching Schwarzer in the Boro goal unaware with a 25 yard thunderbolt. Cahill was next for the home side to go close, just missing the net with a cheeky back heel flick. Against the run of play, it was the visitors who took the lead with forgotten man, Malcolm Christie poking home from close range after a scramble instigated by Yakubu and Arca. The replay showed that the striker was at least a yard offside when he struck the ball, but it counted for 0-1 43’.
Minutes after the restart Angel thread a delightful pass through to Petrov who Schwarzer dived at, bringing the player thudding to the ground…YELLOW for the keeper and a penalty for Villa>>>
Barry>>>powerful left boot drive, scores..1-1 48’.
Agbonlehor and Barros were both inches away from finding the winner for the home team but the match ended 1-1.
A let-off for Boro who were defending for most of the game and
Southgate will be by far the happier of the managers to escape this one relatively unscathed. While Boro lack cohesion and confidence, Villa appear to be only one quality striker short of becoming a very tidy outfit.
Boro manager, Southgate, needs to instill some of his renowned fighting spirit into his troops.
Fulham v Reading
A tepid match; devoid of any real entertainment or professionalism from either side. It was won by
Reading with a 17th minute penalty awarded after Doyle was chopped in the area by Ian Pearce. The ref had to send him off as the defender was the last man and Doyle duly dispatched the penalty past the despairing Anti Niemi in the Fulham net.
The home team were toothless after been reduced to ten men and were it not for some embarrassingly weak shooting from Reading’s attack and midfield and sound goalkeeping from Niemi, the defeat could have been heavier.
Reading continue to defy the pre-season predictions of an instant demise with their 3rd victory on the trot. Coppell’s charges are now sitting pretty only 3 points off champion’s league qualification! One to forget for Chris Coleman and everyone else associated with Fulham football club.
Reading’s increasingly prolific marksman, Doyle.
Liverpool v man city
Man City have a truly abysmal away record. As do Liverpool; when you consider both their results and team roster. But both sides are far sturdier on home territory. So the neutral would have been expecting a victory for the scousers on this occasion…
Crouch skied an early chance for Liverpool before Gerrard almost capitalized on a poor pass back to defence from Dunne, when shooting just wide from fully 30 yards out.
Next it was Luis Garcia’s turn to threaten to break the deadlock. The Spaniard cut in from the left, bewildering the defenders and then hit a wayward effort closer to the corner flag than the intended target.
For City, only recent England debutante Micah Richards showed initiative and endeavour, flooding forward at every opportunity, but generally lacking support when he reached the final third.
It was no surprise when yet another pathetic back pass, this time by Barton, was pounced on by the hungry Gerrard, who proceeded to crunch in his first goal of the season with a sublime strike from just outside the penalty area. A vintage hit for the Liverpool talisman 1-0.
Samaras almost caught out Reina with a lofted drive towards the top corner late on, but
Liverpool were ultimately comfortable in victory.
Garcia is quick and tricky, Crouch huge and competent, Kuyt; adventurous and likely to get his fair share of goals. But Liverpool lack a striker of world class talent. And until they have a Rooney, Henry or Drogba, I suspect that the Anfield army will be unable to muster anything more meaningful than a half-hearted mission to challenge for the title. City were obviously desperate to end their shameful run of away defeats but alas they needed some flair to augment their grit on this occasion.
Captain Courageous doing what he does best: blasting winners from 20 yards…
Charlton v Everton
New Charlton manager Les Reed approached this game knowing that he needed to start the recuperation of his beleaguered side as soon as possible if the season is to offer more than a relegation dogfight. David Moyes’ Everton have been sporadically solid this season but of late their form has shown a reluctance to bounce back from dire to commendable…
A cagey affair with very few chances falling to either side. In the 52nd minute an Everton free kick powered towards goal ricocheted off the midriff of Charlton’s Hreiderson and wrong footed Carson to put the toffees 0-1 up. Twenty minutes later, after Charlton had managed to sustain a period of offensive pressure, Andy Reid plundered a deserved equalizer, hitting a pile driver into the far corner from 20 yards out. Worryingly for toffees manager, Moyes, his defender, Yobo, was too busy fiddling with his left boot to notice the ball go inches past his head for the goal! 1-1
The energetic Reid was growing with stature and confidence as the game wore on and he was unfortunate not to score the winner when his well struck effort was palmed to safety by Howard.
Although they only picked up the one point, Charlton fans and players alike will feel energized by this display which for my money was one of their best performances of the season. If they continue in this direction, mid table ignominy as opposed to the dejection and horror of relegation can be assured come what May. Everton’s indifferent form continues, but they were missing two of their most useful assets for this one, in Cahill and Johnson who are both currently injured.
Andy Reid scored a fine equalizer for Charlton.
Player of the day: Nicolas Anelka (Bolton)
Stool pigeon of the day: Yobo (Everton)
Goal of the day: Nicolas Anelka