FREE KICK - Chelsea had an excused absence from the weekend's domestic proceedings; the blues were in Japan to take part in the FIFA Club World Cup. One would think the world championship of club football would be an event worthy of a Vince McMahon, Dana White or Don King type promotion. However this tournament is Tiny Tim compared to the international World Cup's King Kong. It's like going on vacation to a beautiful, exotic island only to find out that you're staying at a Days Inn outside of town.
We have reservations for eight, the number of games on this weekend's schedule. Let's kick start this thing.
MANCHESTER UNITED vs. SUNDERLAND - The black cats were on the prowl following a much-needed midweek win against Reading. Man U had the confidence of Thor courtesy of a six-point advantage over runner-up Man City in the standings. Three minutes was all it took for the red devils to wake up, warm up, and put this game to bed. Robin Van Persie was the game's MVP and the dunking Dutchman opened the scoring in the 16th with Tom Cleverley netting the second in the 19th. Early in the second Van Persie zigged while two black cat defenders zagged. The end result was an easy Wayne Rooney tap-in goal. The BPL leaders are so tough they can make an onion cry, and they added even more steel when defender Nemanja Vidic made his first appearance of the season following knee surgery. Manchester United-3 Sunderland-1.
LIVERPOOL vs. ASTON VILLA - While Liverpool dominated the early goings, an AV counter-attack in the 30th minute proved their undoing. Christian Benteke delivered the goods following a reds turnover, 1-0 visitors. An Andreas Weimann tally and yet another strike from Benteke turned the cathedral of soccer into a tomb; Steven Gerrard's goal in the latter stages of the match was more booby than consolation prize. U.S national team number two 'keeper Brad Guzan was solid between the pipes for AV. Aston Villa-3 Liverpool-1.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR vs. SWANSEA CITY - It was one-way traffic in favor of Spurs but they had nothing to show for their driving skills. Finally in the 75th Jan Vertonghen one-timed a free kick past a helpless Gerhard Tremmel. Even the mighty Michu was below par for a Swansea side that is winless in their last 15 away from home. Spurs-1 Swansea-nil.
MANCHESTER CITY vs. NEWCASTLE UNITED - Pressure can burst pipes and it's also what the defending BPL champions thrive on. They were like a rash on this day and Newcastle didn't have a remedy to smooth their surface. After only ten minutes of action Sergio Aguero found the back of the net with YaYa Toure and Samri Nasri providing first and second aid respectively. Javi Garcia took off like a jet to head home MC's second, however Demba Ba pulled one back for the visitors with a nod of his own. The magpies huffed and puffed but could not blow over the steely City defense. Yaya sealed the deal and calmed frayed nerves late in the contest. Manchester City-3 Newcastle United-1.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs. WEST HAM UNITED - Between the penalty boxes this match proved more entertaining than a Michael Jackson video. However the finishing in the lower third was square-dancing awful. Pucker up guys as you kiss your sister. WBA-0 WHU-0.
STOKE vs. EVERTON - Come and listen to a story about a man named Ryan Shawcross. What an eventful contest for the Stoke captain. To begin with he was credited with an own dawn following Steven Pienaar's cross into the box. Shawcross made amends when he used his driver to provide the primary assist on Kenwyne Jones equalizer. This was no A-to-B dinky pass but more like A-to-R. An accurate 50 yard airborne delivery that found Jones in stride within the Everton penalty area. Real estate within 10 yards of goal is the high-rent district and Shawcross found himself evicted not once but twice by Marouane Fellaini. On the first occasion the Belgian went Bobo Brazil; striking his human target with a well-placed coco butt to the noggin. A few minutes later Fellaini summoned his inner Mike Tyson delivering a right hook to Shawcross' pre-frontal lobe. The Stoke midfielder walked woozily to a neutral corner while Fellaini somehow escaped punishment. Where's Mills Lane when you need him. To be sure premiership officials will render a verdict during the week that will cost Fellaini multiple games. Everton-1 Stoke-1.
NORWICH CITY vs. WIGAN - Wigan net minder Ali Al Habsi was the only man who stood in the way of a Norwich blowout. He made a number of terrific saves that helped keep his side in the same area code as the canaries. 30 minutes from conclusion Wesley Hoolahan settled matters with a header from the sweet spot. Norwich-2 Wigan-1.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS vs. FULHAM - Somehow Fulham was sleep-walking for the first 30 minutes of this all-London affair while QPR was on the scent for its' first victory of 2012. Enigmatic Abel Taarabt can either be steak or hamburger. On this day he was filet mignon, medium-rare, scoring both goals for the home side. Not long ago this blogger tabbed Fulham as a team that could reside in the top seven by season’s end. I need a mulligan from that belief. QPR-2 Fulham-1.