A whole thirty-one goals were scored in this weekend’s Premier League action, including two for Johan Elmander and none for Wigan.

Starting at Old Trafford, Wigan were sent home empty handed after a game that promised so much.

The scene was set, United were unbeaten, Chelsea were in a poor run of form and Rooney was making his long anticipated return to action. The script was written perfectly for Latics to gatecrash the United parade.

On the first half’s performance, it seemed like Latics were good value for a point at least. Charles N’Zogbia ran United’s defence ragged, skinning the likes of Vidic, Ferdinand and Co time after time. His pace however, was his advantage that proved his downfall as no other Wigan players could catch up with him to get on the end of a cross. Remind you of a prime-time Gary Teale? Me neither.

The first half was drawing to a close with United the happier of the two that the scores were still level and any Wigan fan would take that, yet anyone who thought a 0-0 half time score was safe had spoken too soon. United took a quick throw which caught the Latics defence on their heels, Park Ji-Sung whipped in a far post cross, and there was Patrice Evra to take advantage of some sloppy marking to head home for 1-0. You sometimes hear of players that have scored ‘just one goal in one hundred games’ and that one goal was always against us, here was another of those cases.

The defensive lapse was uncharacteristic of Wigan’s first half solidness, which has kept United at bay. Yet at half time, Martinez was left scratching his head wandering how he could rally the troops for a second half battle. If he went for the aggressive approach, it certainly rubbed off on his players.

I think you can all guess what I’m referring to, with Wigan still in the game approaching the hour mark, the unthinkable happened.

No, Jordi Gomez didn’t unleash another scorching free-kick into the top corner, however Antolin Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega were both sent off in a three minute period of madness.

Alcaraz, who had previously been booked in the first half, got his marching orders when referee Martin Atkinson penalised him for a foul on Darren Fletcher.

I’ve heard some argue that Alcaraz made little contact with Fletcher, which I disagree with. Yet another matter is why on earth did Alcaraz (or Alcatraz as I’ve heard him referred to on the terraces) feel the need to make a tackle there? Fletcher was going away from goal in a harmless position, why did he think it was needed to make a stupid tackle, which would risk him getting sent off? I can’t answer that, and in my view, he gave Martin Atkinson no choice but to send him off.

The second red card followed on 61 minutes, Hugo Rodallega charged down Rafael Da Silva and made a challenge for the ball, and he won it too. Unfortunately it was with two feet off the ground and which the referee two yards away.Hugo Rodallega MUFC vs WAFC

Some may argue that if you win the ball, the challenge is fair, end of, and in most circumstances I’d agree with them. Yet Rodallega’s challenge was dangerous, and in some instances would have caused a serious  injury. I feel he, like Alcaraz, had to go and Latics were left with nine men.

Now playing United with a full complement of eleven is hard enough, yet with just nine men it was almost impossible to get a result and the match became a damage limitation job.

Javier Hernandez (or Chicken Tikka as I’ve heard Vat refer to him as) came off the bench to finish Wigan off after United were virtually camped in Wigan’s half. The red’s could have had ten, yet Wigan can take heart from the fact it was only two.

A crunch came for Bobby’s men next week when we visit bottom club West Ham at Upton Park. It would help if we had Alcaraz and Rodallega (although some may disagree). Yet it’s a must win nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the North London derby is always built up to be a cracker, and in recent years it hasn’t disappointed. We’ve been treated to 4-4 draws; last minute goals and wonder goals, and this game was just as spectacular.

It all started when Samir Nasri and William Gallas recreated the scene at Stamford Bridge when Wayne Bridge and John Terry met earlier this year. Nasri refused to shake Gallas’ (now of Spurs) hand before kick off because of comments the latter made in his autobiography regarding Nasri. Being a former Arsenal player and captain, Gallas hardly endeared himself to the home crowd, yet it was he who had the last laugh.

Arsenal got off to the perfect start when they took the lead through Samir Nasri incidentally. The French playmaker took advantage of a poor back pass and some hesitant goalkeeping to put Arsenal in front from a tight angle. Arsenal added to their lead when Marouanne Chamakh headed past Gomes for 2-0, it looked like game over.

Yet in the second half, Spurs came storming baVan der Vaart and Bale AFC vs THFCck. The half time introduction of Jermaine Defoe shook the Arsenal defence and the game swung in Tottenham’s favour. There were no prizes for guessing who got their first goal as man of the moment Gareth Bale stormed past the home defence before finishing for 2-1.

Spurs then continued to press, and they got their reward as Rafael Van der Vaart’s free-kick was heading goal bound, the up-till-then brilliant Cesc Fabregas stuck out an arm and it was a clear penalty. Tottenham were given a clear route back into the game from 2-0 down, Dutch maestro Van der Vaart dispatched the spot kick to send the away fans into delirium, and it didn’t stop there.

Spurs’ winner came courtesy of centre half Younes Kaboul, who glanced Van der Vaart’s free-kick past Fabianski to complete the turn around and win the match for Spurs. It was an incredibly typical ‘game of two halfs’ and Harry’s side came out on top. This result coupled with Chelsea’s shock defeat at Birmingham made it the perfect day for Man United fans.

Another team celebrating at 4:45 were Bolton Wanderers, who propelled themselves up to fourth in the table after an explosive 5-1 demolition of visitors Newcastle.

Very few would have predicted such a result, and considering Newcastle’s 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa this season, it underlined the unpredictable nature of the Premier League.

Kevin Nolan’s return to Bolton started badly as his blatant handball in the area was punished and Kevin Davies coolly slotted past Harper for 1-0.

Bolton were well on top and were unlucky not to double their lead when Matty Taylor’s powerful free-kick smacked against the bar. It didn’t matter though, as Korean winger Chu Young –Lee slotted the ball home seconds later to double Bolton’s lead.

The second half continued in the same way, with Bolton dominating. It was now Johan Elmander scored the first of his two goals. Now I’ve been the first to slate him in the past, but to be far, he’s been excellent this season and is on an impressive seven goals this season. His first occurred when he finished off a flowing move by rounding Harper and slotting home. Alan Shearer later described it as a ‘brilliant finish’ on Match of the Day, how on earth can that be the case? It was a bloody open goal!

Andy Carroll hit back almost instantly when he knocked the ball past Jaaskelainen to bring a cheer from the away section. He’s another who’s impressed me, yet what really annoyed me was when he was called up into the England squad, and Capello described it as his ‘last chance’. How can that be the case? It was his debut! He’s not a helpless rebel that has gone off the rails; give the lad a fair chance Fabio.

That gaol didn’t hinder Bolton as Elmander and Davies (from the penalty spot) added to Newcastle’s woes with two further goals to make it 5-1 in the end. Collocini then rounded off his horror show with a red card for elbowing Elmander in the face. Good shot Fabricio, but save that for the likes of Rooney and Terry yeah?

One last thing, did anyone else notice Luke Varney and Mick McCarthy sporting the same hair style when they were being interviewed on Match of the Day (although McCarthy’s was significantly grayer)? Proof, if any was needed, that it’s a timeless classic.


Mick McCarthyLuke Varney



20th-22nd November 2010
Arsenal 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Birmingham City 1-0 Chelsea
Bolton Wanderers 5-1 Newcastle United
Blackpool 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Stoke City
Liverpool 3-0 West Ham United
Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Aston Villa
Fulham 1-4 Manchester City
Sunderland vs Everton

The Duke’s…

Goal of the Weekend: Luke Varney, Blackpool 2-1 Wolves

Blunder of the Weekend: Arsenal throwing away a two goal lead vs Tottenham

Save of the Weekend: Any one of Ben Foster’s saves during his master class, yet I’ll go for the one handed save to deny Didier Drogba’s low header.

This Week’s Teaser: Who said this? “It’s the best goal I’ve ever scored, almost as good as the one I scored in the League Cup Final at Wembley.”