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January 18, 2010

Top Three in England breaking away

Older readers might remember a game played towards the end of the 1971/72 Division One season when Leeds United destroyed Southampton 7 – 0 with a display of breathtaking football. It was certainly as fine a performance that the writer can remember and, if you want to see the goals again then it’s possible thanks to YouTube:

I mention this because Saturday’s performance from Chelsea in their home game against Sunderland was just about as comprehensive a beating as there has been since then. It was not just the goals – Anelka and Lampard with 2 each and others from Malouda, Ballack and an Ashley Cole gem – but the fact that they could have had just as many more. Poor depleted Sunderland deserve credit for persevering enough to score through Zenden and Bent but it was probably scant consolation on Saturday evening. So much for Chelsea missing their African players this month!

Manchester United’s 3 – 0 success against Burnley, who had Brian Laws in charge for the first time, was more straightforward than appeared likely for much of the game. Burnley had enjoyed the better chances but strikes from Berbatov and Rooney put the game out of reach and then substitute ‘Mama’ Diouf scored late on in his home debut.

Everton continued their fine form that they showed last week against Arsenal by completely outplaying Manchester City and winning 2 – 0. A free kick from Pienaar ( scorer in three consecutive games) and a Saha penalty were scant reward for all Everton’s dominance. One of the highlights of the performance was the outrageous piece of skill displayed by Fellaini when embarrassing Craig Bellamy in the midfield. Poor Robinho’s humiliation was probably greater than Bellamy’s, however; substituted after coming on as a replacement himself.

Liverpool must have thought their bad week was at least ending on a good note, going into added on time at Stoke leading by a solitary, if scrappy, Kyrgiakos goal. Followers of Stoke, though, know the Staffordshire side never stop fighting and Robert Huth grabbed a late equaliser. Their was still time for Liverpool’s Kuyt to head against the post, but it ended up all square.

One of the best individual displays of the weekend came from Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill who produced some simply breathtaking stops in the goalless draw at Tottenham, preventing the Londoners taking advantage of the Manchester City and Liverpool’s setbacks.

In Saturday’s final game, Wigan deservedly won by two goals away at Hull, with McCarthy and N’Zogbia finding the net.

On Sunday, Aston Villa continued the unwanted weekend trend of teams not being able to consolidate their position in the quest for the fourth Champions’ League spot when they shared a goalless draw with West Ham at Villa Park. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s two goal success at Bolton, under the stewardship now of Owen Coyle, included a ‘typical’ Cesc Fabregas goal – a crisp passing movement followed by a clinical finish. Young Fran Merida, reportedly the target of several La Liga sides, scored the second. Blackburn’s victory by the same 2 – 0 scoreline against Fulham provided much-needed relief for Sam Allardyce after a miserable run of form – defenders Samba and Nelson getting the goals.

The top three teams are beginning to pull away now with Chelsea top with 48 points from 21 games played, Manchester United with 47 from 22 and Arsenal with 45 from 21. Fourth place is really up for grabs with Spurs and Manchester City on 38 points and Aston Villa and Liverpool on 34 – all of them now having played 21 games. The bottom three teams are Portsmouth, Bolton and Hull City.

Only three Saturday games in Spain but two of them were of great significance. Barcelona’s home victory against Sevilla and Real Madrid’s single goal defeat in Bilbao mean that the gap at the top of La Liga has grown to 5 points. The habit of many Spanish fans of arriving late to the game would have been very annoying at Atheltic’s San Mamés stadium. The home side hit the post twice and scored with a Llorente header within the first two minutes and, although Real dominated most of the rest of the game and hit the woodwork themselves, they were unable to find a way past Iraizoz in the home goal.

Barcelona struggled during the first half against a Sevilla team fresh from knocking the Catalans out of the Cope del Rey in midweek but, once Esudé had sliced into his own net at the beginning of the second period, the home side were in total control. The customary Pedro goal – following a sublime slide-rule Xavi pass – was followed by two from Messi and it all looked comfortable by the close.

Osasuna also beat Espanyol on Saturday with goals from Juanfran and the seemingly ageless Pandiani, whom Birmingham fans might remember from a few years back.

In Sunday’s matches, Atlético completed their ‘semana grande’ with a hard fought 3 – 2 victory over Sporting – Forlán, Assunçao and Ibrahima scoring. Mallorca continued their fine home form by beating Deprtivo 2 – 0, Málaga scraped an important victory by a solitary goal against Getafe and the matches between Almería and Tenerife and Zaragoza and Xerez were both drawn.

In the late game, Valencia got to within 3 points of Madrid by emphatically beating neighbours Villarreal 4 – 1 – goals from Villa (2), Banega and Silva. Most media attention, however, for the second week in a row will probably be focussed on the incredibly talented Sergio Canales who scored yet another exquisite goal in the 1 – 1 draw between Racing and Valladolid. All the top clubs in England and Spain are falling over themselves trying to attract the player when he leaves Racing at the end of the season. Not bad for an 18 year old with only 5 first team goals to his credit. If you want to see what the fuss is about have a look at his two against Sevilla:

The table now has Barcelona with 46 points, Real Madrid 41, Valencia 38, Mallorca 33, Deportivo 31 and Sevilla and Athletic 30 points respectively; all from 18 games. Last season’s three promoted teams now occupy the bottom places – Xerez with 8 points, Zaragoza 14 and Tenerife 16.

Posted by admin @ 12:09 pm
Category: Premier League,Spanish League


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