Liverpool did not do enough to win the match and once again the overall lack of creativity and a moment of insanity by Javier Mascherano proved to be the Red's death knell. There is genuine pressure now for them to compete for fourth place. Jamie Carragher's 600th game ended in heartache and some soul searching is again required.
Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur are both staking legitimate claims for the fourth Champions League slot with excellent displays against Stoke City and Blackburn Rovers respectively. Villa in particular, are continuing the stealthy climb up the league table and Martin O'Neill is definitely a Premiership manager who can get the best out of his players. Putting aside the controversy of a sneaky Christmas party, Peter Crouch underlined the attacking threat that Spurs possessed. Both teams are really peaking at the right time and look in great form for the busy Christmas-New Year football fixtures.
Birmingham is easily the team in their best form the last two months having notched up five consecutive wins prior to last weekend. Their nine-match unbeaten run continued with a well-earned draw against Everton.
Samir Nasri's petulant act almost derailed Arsenal's quest for three points but in the end, the referee's leniency allowed him to stay on and the Gunners ran out 3-0 winners. At the City of Manchester Stadium, a topsy-turvy match ended with Manchester City getting the win. The lack of Premiership wins finally took its toll on Mark Hughes and he was replaced that very Saturday evening by ex-Leicester player, Roberto Mancini. Incidentally I had listed the sacking of Mark Hughes as one of five must-sees for this season. There is something about a former Red Devil managing the Blue half of Manchester that made this termination inevitable.
At the Boleyn Ground, West Ham United restored some pride into their season with a battling 1-1 draw against Chelsea. The Hammers' performance would have put a smile on celebrity comedian, Russell Brand's face.
Scott Parker and Guillermo Franco both had great performances. Diamanti also played very well, although Iain Dale thought the Italian could do better. Still, Diamanti scored that go-ahead penalty for West Ham and it always takes nerves to do so when the pressure is that intense. Likewise, Frank Lampard had to endure two retakes before tucking the third penalty attempt away. It was a controversial penalty given by referee, Mike Dean as Matthew Upson was wrongfully adjudged to have brought down Daniel Sturridge in the penalty box. More positively, West Ham kept up the intensity the whole match rather than fading in the second half as they have done so often this season. With the left footed Diamanti playing on the left side of midfield, West Ham had balance and width to worry Chelsea. In spite of the poor penalty decision, the draw must be viewed as a point earned and a real confidence booster for West Ham's next match against Portsmouth.
The most stunning result of the weekend had to be Fulham's masterclass display over Manchester United. Because the Red Devils fielded a make-shift defence, they were there for the taking. Fulham did not disappoint as they controlled the midfield area and Bobby Zamora was a menace to a patched-up United central defence of Fletcher and Carrick. Devils assassin, Danny Murphy emerged once more as the scourge of United when he latched onto lax possession play from Paul Scholes to stroke the ball past Kuszczak.
Sir Alex Ferguson paired Wayne Rooney with Michael Owen in attack. There were always criticisms that the two can never play together and these were confirmed. Neither looked threatening in front of goal nor did they show any understanding at all. Perhaps it was the formation that Fergie chose to field (3-5-2) did not quite work as the whole team looked totally disjointed. Fulham fully deserved their win and they are also in the mix for that fourth Champions League spot. Roy Hodgson's side do have Spurs and Chelsea in their path though.
|Saturday, December 19, 2009|
|FT||Portsmouth||2 - 0||Liverpool|
|FT||Aston Villa||1 - 0||Stoke City|
|FT||Blackburn Rovers||0 - 2||Tottenham Hotspur|
|FT||Fulham||3 - 0||Manchester United|
|FT||Manchester City||4 - 3||Sunderland|
|FT||Arsenal||3 - 0||Hull City|
|Sunday, December 20, 2009|
|FT||Wolverhampton Wanderers||2 - 0||Burnley|
|FT||Everton||1 - 1||Birmingham|
|FT||West Ham United||1 - 1||Chelsea|
Who's Hot?: Birmingham, Fulham, Aston Villa
Who's Not?: Sunderland, Blackburn, Everton
The Flat Back Four's weekly English Premier League reviews:
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 1 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 2 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 3 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 4 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 5 & 6 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 7 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 8 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 9 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 10 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 11 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 12 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 13 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 14 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 16 Preview