The end of November was also the finish for Sunderland’s head coach, Steve Bruce. He has an accomplished coaching resume, but his bosses were expecting more bang for their buck with the additions of Wes Brown and John O’Shea (Manchester United) and Niklas Bendtner (Arsenal). He wasn't helped by Asamoah Gyan's (the one-man wrecking crew in Ghana's 2010 World Cup victory over the USA) move to the middle east. Would the Black Cats come out scratching or purring on Sunday? Let’s kick start this thing.
The cats struck like a burglar through a thunderous left-footed blast from Kieran Richardson in the 52nd minute. The lead held up until the 73rd minute when Steven Fletcher would knot the score at one. Then with just nine minutes remaining Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson had his penalty kick turned away and 25 seconds later gloom turned to joy for Wolves as Fletcher found the back of the net yet again. Sunderland's justifiable appeal for a hand ball was denied as they turned certain victory into sure defeat. Martin O'Neill rides to the rescue for Sunderland but he's well known for not playing well with his superiors. Wolverhampton-2 Sunderland-1.
MANCHESTER CITY-NORWICH CITY
This was the Man City that ran roughshod through the premiership in the first two months. A devastating offensive attack that would have made Winston Churchill proud. Five goals for the leaders of the pack although the second tally by Samir Nasri was puffy-cloud soft. Manchester City-5 Norwich City-1.
Like an Italian opera, this contest turned on its head in the opening minutes when referee Mike Dean failed to dismiss Chelsea fullback David Luiz for a clear take down of Demba Ba. It was admirable of Dean to admit that he was wrong after the match, but what about Newcastle's defending ? Daniel Sturridge was given more room than the presidential suite at the Waldorf. Not exactly a wise strategic move by Alan Pardew. Chelsea wins it but the score-line did not flatter Newcastle as they had chances aplenty. Chelsea-3 Newcastle United-0.
Try as I might to root for good-guy Roberto Martinez, his Wigan-side don't have the horses to compete with a league full of thoroughbreds. Case in point was the gunners first goal; somehow Mikel Arteta was able to elude a flailing Ali Al-Habsi from 35 yards away and the rout was on. Of course the caped crusader Robin Van Persie entered the scoring column, but it was Theo Wolcott who did all the heavy lifting. Arsenal-4 Wigan-0.
ASTON VILLA-MANCHESTER UNITED
Man U.'s Mr. Versatility Phil Jones started the game as the central midfielder and he was centrally located to deposit Nani's cross for the game's only goal. Of greater importance is the status of Chicarito Hernandez, who will be sidelined for a month with a serious ankle injury. Once again the red devils took a page out of the late Al Davis' book,"just win baby." But they haven't looked attractive in doing so. Manchester United-1 Aston Villa-0.
Last week we mentioned that Gary Seed, who played and coached for Wales, had passed away at the tender age of 42. As fate would have it, Gareth Bale paid tribute to his mentor by opening the scoring off a corner kick. Spurs would add two more including one from Aaron Lennon. The diminutive winger is the quickest soccer player in the world, but he'd usually rather pass than shoot. On this occasion he would find the side pocket with his right-footed shot. Tottenham is July-hot. They've recorded six consecutive wins and are unbeaten in their last eleven. Their stock is on the rise. Buy now when the price is still low. Tottenham Hotspur-3 Bolton-0.
North Brunswick, New Jersey's Tim Howard was left in a rowboat without oars when Robert Huth deflected a shot past him in the first half. With in-form striker Louis Saha absent, Everton's offensive attack provided little fear to the visitors. A workmanlike yet boring victory for the away side. Stoke-1 Everton-0.
BLACKBURN ROVERS-SWANSEA CITY
Welcome to the Yakubu show, starring the talented Nigerian. How did he score ? Let us count the ways. Goal No. 1 came on a heavy right-footed shot. Goal No. 2 came off his head. The hat-trick was completed with a simple tap-in, while the conclusion came on a penalty kick. Breathing room for abused Rovers boss Steve Kean; at least for a week. Blackburn-4 Swansea-2.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS-WEST BROMWICH ALBION
QPR head coach Neil Warnock can always further his career on MSNBC or the Fox News Channel. He's never shy to voice his opinion, even if he bruises some feelings along the way. He felt wronged (rightly so) when Shaun Wright-Phillips had his apparent goal waved off due to a bogus offsides call by the linesman. Of course when you're running bad, the cards never seem to fall your way. The missed call came back to bite QPR and they had to settle for a draw. After the game Warnock issued a double-barrel attack on the officiating crew. I love this guy; he says what he feels even though he'll be a few quid lighter in a few days. Queens Park Rangers-1 West Bromwich-1.
FOX will broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and if Gus Johnson is one of the announcers providing the play-by-play "voice," then I'm going to switch my allegiance to cricket. This guy is sipping too much Simmons. Bill Simmons ESPN.com's reverent columnist has waved the Johnson banner for years. The result is that Johnson raises the volume to levels that may one day soon break the sound barrier. I had to mute large portions of the Pac-12 and Big-10 conference championship games because he wanted to make us believe that these games were the equivalent of the 14th round of the third Ali-Frazier fight. Oregon was NEVER threatened by a 6-6 UCLA team. And Wisconsin/Michigan State, while compelling, did not merit the level of breathtaking excitement that Johnson tried to convey. Gus Johnson is one of Fox Sports' first-string announcers. I'm sure he's being considered as one of the network's announcers (unless he loses his voice first). That being said, if he's assigned to the world's premier sporting event, I'm going to learn Spanish. Hit me up firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.