It’s not often that even the Premier League has to call of a majority of its matches due to inclement weather, but that is exactly what has happened this past weekend as only three of the ten Prem matches took stage. Two featured entertaining draws while the third saw a demolition take place.
Arsenal 2 – 2 Everton
The weather took a back seat in the press to the arrival and start of an American. Tell me the last time that happened. Landon Donovan made himself right at home in the Premier League with a cracking performance against a Gunners side that was looking to jump into second place behind Chelsea, and the once pitiful Toffees now have some real momentum building up. Donovan featured in the first goal, his corner being met by wee man Leon Osman’s head as the Arsenal defenders looked befuddled by the scorer. Arsenal managed to get a foothold back into the contest when Osman unwittingly deflected a Denilson charge to where Tim Howard once was before he had dove in expectation of the oncoming shot. Even at 1-1 Everton looked the more dangerous side. At the hour mark both sides began racing back and forth, with crucial blocks and last ditch clearances keeping the match level. Everton retook the lead when Steven Pienaar was sprung by Tim Cahill and he chipped over an onrushing Manuel Almunia to take what seemed the three points. Arsenal were bailed out again, however, when Tomas Rosicky fired in a bullet that was altered by the boot of Lucas Neill, narrowly going under the bar while Howard was again wrongfooted.
Arsenal are lucky to have a point in the contest as Everton looked more adventurous up until the closing few minutes. The Toffees are finally getting some bodies back and with the addition of the flexible Donovan (played on the right) they have some serious pace and creativity on the pitch. Considering Arsene Wenger thought they were fortunate to have “gained” a point on the day, you know that there was some a serious lack of bite from the Gunners.
Birmingham 1 – 1 Manchester United
Having not had to play City in the Carling Cup semi-final in mid week, most people would have bet on United to take out their F.A. Cup frustration on Birmingham, until they remembered the Blues are playing mighty fine at the moment. The start did little to convince anyone of that as United made camp in the Birmingham half and assaulted the goal with aplomb, but rarely seemed to create good chances. In fact, it took nearly 25 minutes before the first real opportunity fell to United when Antonio Valencia slipped in Wayne Rooney, only to be denied by Joe Hart. In fact, for nearly the first 40 minutes, the most any player from Birmingham could do was throw himself into the way of multiple United shots. Funny enough, then, that the first real chance for Birmingham produced a goal. A corner from James McFadden was reentered by Lee Bowyer, which hit off of United defender Johnny Evans and set up beautifully for Cameron Jerome, who knocked it in to stun United. The second half saw the Blues become more open, only for United to steal a point on a bizarre own goal which was nearly flagged for offside. After some conversation, and because Scott Dann had knocked the ball into the net, the goal stood. Birmingham pressed for a winner, prompting United to attack as well until Darren Fletcher was sent off for a second bookable offense, which forced United to shell up until the full time whistle.
Both sides will claim they should have won the match, though the better chances fell in the home team’s favor. United played better than against Leeds but still seem to be lacking somewhat. At this time last year, they would have won a match like this 1-3, dominating in the end to get the two goals late. Now, they can’t seem to drum up the effort to finish teams off. Birmingham, meanwhile, might almost be disappointed not to take United’s scalp, but now haven’t lost in 13 straight matches, and, if the F.A. Cup tie happens today, will finally force one of England’s hottest teams to finally be broken, as there has to be a loser in the Birmingham/Nottingham Forest clash.
Manchester City 4 – 1 Blackburn
Right from the start City pressed Rovers and were rewarded on a bit of a mishap strewn stretch. Martin Petrov’s corner came to Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson, who, blocked off slightly by his own defender, punched the ball only as far as Benjani, who promptly screwballed the shot horribly, except that it hit off the knee of Carlos Tevez and in. Blackburn came into the match, creating a standstill for the next halfhour until Micah Richards stole a Morten Gamst Pedersen pass, then began to run. And run. And run some more. Blackburn stared in amazement as the central defender rumbled some 60 yards before offloading to Benjani, who managed to smack the post, but the deflection went back into the path of Richards, who continued on and put it in from an acute angle to put City up 2-0. Benjani would set up the third, more by accident again, when his intended cross three minutes into the second half missed Petrov and two Blackburn defenders before Tevez swept it home past a despairing Robinson. Pedersen would pull one back with twenty minutes to go when City decided to not pass well, ending when Vincent Kompany overhit a touch, which Pedersen stole then curled beautifully around Richards and Shay Given. City closed the door when Tevez swept in his hat trick, making up for a blown header ten minutes earlier.
Not a terrible shock that City have taken all 9 points in Premier League play since Mancini took over. The talent level at the club is enormous and it seems that Mancini can piece it together well. There were times that City turned off for a while but nothing serious enough to threaten their lead, though Blackburn did decide to play a little bit after Pedersen struck. That said, Rovers have to find some sort of attacking talent if they intend to not get sucked into the relegation battle. They are awful up front and have only outscored four other clubs this term. Conversely, they have given up the fourth most goals in the same span. That’s not exactly a winning combo, as they join the ranks of the 10 loss sides, now up to seven in total.
The postponed matches read as follows:
Hull City v. Chelsea
Burnley v. Stoke City
Fulham v. Portsmouth
Sunderland v. Botlon
Wigan Athletic v. Aston Villa
West Ham v. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Liverpool v. Tottenham
The last two matches have drawn some ire from many people, seeing as Upton Park was playable and the area around it quite manageable, with photo evidence backing up the claims. As it was a late scratch, many questioned the logic behind it. Liverpool were clamoring for their match against Spurs called on the Friday before hand. The excuse of weather, however, seems to be a front for the Anfield and Hammer crews.
Neither side has been playing particularly well of late, as has been well documented by most. For the Hammers, the delay gives them hope that Carlton Cole could be back for more matches or that they can find an addequate striker to fill his void. With a six pointer against Wolves in the offing, West Ham saw good reason to step back and catch them later.
For The Barnham and Bailey Circus Liverpool, playing Spurs was a season defining fixture in January. That said, the way the side was playing there wasn’t any guarantee that they wouldn’t be embarrassed any more than they already have. (See: Tom Hicks Jr.) Massive unrest and poor form are hammering the Reds, and the chance to get out of such a crucial clash was a lifeline to them. Now they will have to contend themselves with Reading again at Anfield, though if they can opt out of that match, don’t be surprised if they will. Reading, after all, are a far better road outfit than at home, which is probably not a good thing to be, but they can continue the shame at Anfield with an F.A. Cup win.
With any luck, conditions will improve as the weeks go on and the three match weekends will be a thing of the past. That’s assuming that teams aren’t weaseling out and hoping for a better day (or team).
Tags: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Hull City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Portsmouth, Soccer, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers