After the momentous weekend last time round, this one was never going to live up to expectations. Yet we still had controversy, a great comeback and point at Anfield to write home about.
I’ll start with Wigan as the Blues managed to snatch a point from Liverpool to halt Dalglish’s bandwagon from picking up any more speed.
Once upon a time a point against any of the ‘big four’ would have been unheared of, until Titus Bramble’s late volley in January 2008 to earn a point at Anfield that is.
Since then of course, we’ve had the home wins against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal to celebrate; yet we’ve still struggled to yield results against the famous four away from home.
At Stamford Bridge, The Emirates and Old Trafford we’ve only managed to gain one point, due to Emile Heskey’s late equaliser at Stamford Bridge in April 2008 of course.
Anfield hasn’t been much of a happier hunting ground for Wiganers either, just that solitary point to take note of, although we have ran them mighty close down the years. Especially the 3-2 game in 2008 where Amr Zaki announced his star quality with a spectacular overhead kick. He also demonstrated his idleness and professionalism after Christmas, which means he is now languishing in Egypt, partnering Mido.
Wigan started this game brightly and looked dangerous down the flanks, as always with Moses and N’Zogbia looking dangerous. Yet it was Liverpool who took the lead through the in form Raul Meireles, who volleyed past Ali Al-Habsi after 24 minutes.
Wigan didn’t give up but did look limited by the three deeper central midfielders, who looked reluctant to join the attack and support the front three. James McCarthy attacked brilliantly last week against Blackburn, yet on Saturday he looked slightly off and didn’t have a great game.
Mohamed Diame was his usual defensive self and Ben Watson was as ineffectual as ever. I think he’s a player over rated by Martinez because he passes the ball a lot, but he also gives the ball away a lot. He doesn’t win many tackles and his delivery from set plays are poor. I would prefer Cleverly or even Gomez to play in the ‘hole’ and support the lone striker more.
Steve Gohouri was the unlikely source of the equaliser, unfortunately, it wasn’t a repeat of his overhead kick last season against Hull but it was far more important. There were suspicions of offside but the linesman’s flag stayed down and Big Steve bundled home.
Incidentally, his quote saying ‘Wigan are on a high at the moment’ would be easy to interpret as a reference to cannabis as I’m sure the Wigan youths of today with testify. Or have they moved on from that kind of thing Sephton?
Moving swiftly onwards, the Manchester derby fell on 12th February and it was a date for all football fans in Manchester to take note of as the whilst the whole city stopped and watched the match.
Some may argue some of the character of this occasion has been lost, and it’s not hard to see where they’re coming from considering both have foreign owners and a large percentage of United’s fans are foreign. I’m not saying foreigners have little passion, yet they’re hardly the Liam Gallaghers of Manchester are they?
Old Trafford’s usual funeral atmosphere was more like a routine church meeting for this one, which is an improvement I suppose. The game itself had been hyped up by the press as usual, and it met expectations very well in comparison to November’s dire 0-0 draw at Eastlands.
City made most of the early running and David Silva should undoubtedly have put the visitors in front in the opening ten minutes, yet the Spaniard poked past the post and the chance had gone. Despite City’s early chunk of possession, it was United that struck first.
It was the in form Nani who opened the scoring, running past City’s defence and controlling Ryan Giggs’ pass brilliantly before slotting home left footed. It was one of the first chances United had and they took it very well, it was one of the few times they managed to find a way past the impressive Vincent Kompany, who was a rock at centre half.
Despite his history between the clubs, Carlos Tevez had a relatively quiet game, Mancini though it necessary to bring on a striker to bolster their attacking options and the introduction of Edin Dzeko did just the trick. The Bosnian striker turned and fired a Shaun Wright-Phillips cross towards goal and it went in via a huge deflection off David Silva’s back. It was lucky, but City didn’t care, they were level.
The game was heading for a stalemate draw, which is never what you want in a big city derby. As the cliche goes, someone had to earn the ‘bragging rights’. It was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man then.
And boy did Wayne Rooney step up to the plate, with a quite unbelievable strike.
Nani’s cross was stood up into the box and the out of form striker simply unleashed an amazing overhead kick which flew in past Joe Hart, and left the whole stadium in purgatory between total shock and total ecstasy. Besides the City fans that is.
Whether this goal marks the return of the ‘real’ Rooney, only time will tell. But if there is ever a good time to score a goal like that, it’s either in a derby or a Cup Final.
At the bottom of the table of course, every game is a ‘Cup Final’, and that’s definitely the case for strugglers West Brom and West Ham.
The two met at the Hawthorns and played out a thriller, with the Baggies seemingly putting the game past the Hammers in the first half with a double from Graeme Dorrans and a striker from Jerome Thomas. Yet this masterclass of how not to defend was always going to yield more goals in the second half, and so it proved.
West Ham hardly had a kick in the first half, yet the came out all guns blazing for the second period. Carlton Cole commented on the impact of Scott Parker’s inspiration at half time, with a rousing speech to rile the team. You have to say it worked, and all credit to him, he’s a vital component for them.
Debutant Demba Ba is instrumental and the striker made the game interesting at 3-1 with just five minutes gone in the second half.The Hammers then threw on Frederic Piquionne to add extra aerial threat and it proved decisive, he was in acres of space to head back across goal from a free kick. Carlton Cole’s brave diving header made it 3-2, yet he took a whack to the face for this troubles. Although they looked dead and buried, West Ham were right back in it at 3-2 all of a sudden.
With just seven minutes to play, new fans’ hero Demba Ba fired home past Boaz Myhill, cue wild celebrations as West Ham await a great escape.
Demba Ba’s arrival could be a huge boost to their survival hopes, as cultured foreigners making an entrance in January have helped relegation threatened clubs massively in the past. The fans love a new God to worship and add momentum to a sinking ship, upwards momentum of course!
Examples include Christophe Dugarry, whose goals meant Birmingham stayed up at the expense of West Ham in 2003. Also Carlos Tevez for the Hammers themselves in 2007, although technically a summer arrival, he only started scoring after New Year and his seven goals were all vital in their quest for survival. That reason alone makes him send a shiver down the spine of many a Wigan or Sheffield United fan.
The closest Wigan example I can think off is Caleb Folan, and he isn’t even foreign! Neither did he actually rouse the crowd that much and he only scored two goals, but they were both vital of course.
This week was also a big one regarding the future of the fast becoming infamous Olympic Stadium, which West Ham have beaten Spurs to the ownership of would seem.
Personally, I’m against either of them getting it. Moving Spurs from North to East London and tearing up their roots in doing so would be madness. Imagine making Wigan move to Manchester or Liverpool or such distances, it’d be like moving the family TV to the bottom of the garden. And that just ain’t cricket.
West Ham on the other hand, well practically they couldn’t fill a 60,000 seater stadium. Following that, the running track around the pitch means fans would need to bring binoculars and a megaphone to each game. Imagine what kind of an atmosphere you’d get from a half empty stadium where fans are miles away from the pitch. I don’t think ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’ would quite sound the same again.
Also, West Ham’s heritage and roots are at Upton Park. Moving would be like disregarding the past and that’s just utterly pointless in my view. Upton Park is a footballing museum almost, and you can feel the passion and history that the stadium’s aura creates. You never get that from a new, moderised stadium in my opinion.
They’re just all the same and it won’t be long until everyone has brand spanking new, state of the art stadiums, such as The Reebok, Emirates or Eastlands. For me, they show little or no character and although the don’t have pillars obscuring a view or a leeky roof like Springfield Park, they’re just a stadium. They have nothing about them. But that’s an argument about urbanisation on the whole I suppose. This is partly why I prefer the lower leagues, but that’s a totally different debate.
One last gripe that made me laugh more than anything: Newcastle sell the country’s most talented young striker that’s Newcastle born and bred and has more goals than blood in him. Yet they replace him with a fat, slow, lazy, useless, Swansea reject. No not Jason Scotland, but equally terrible Shefki Kuqi. I’m lost for words I really am.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week.
Goal of the Weekend: There’s only really one contender isn’t there? Steve Gohouri of course.
Save of the Weekend: Wayne Hennessey to deny Theo Walcott, Arsenal 2-0 Wolves
Blunder of the Weekend: It has to be the calamitous defending at the Hawthorns, it should have been 9-9!
This Week’s Teaser: Out of the 92 football league clubs, which stadium has the highest altitude?