FREE KICK - The media feasted upon the Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o stories to the point where crumbs were hard to find. "Hoax" is the word most commonly associated with those stories; "joke" is the word that first comes to mind when describing recent officiating decisions in the BPL. Mark Halsey's penalty kick ruling in last week's Aston Villa/Southampton match was comedy on a Chris Rock level. Time to recap the weekend that was in the premiership, just for laughs. Let's kick start this thing.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR vs. MANCHESTER UNITED - The match took place in a winter wonderland of snow making for slippery footing for all except Aaron Lennon. More on him in a jiff but first up is Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman fired the first salvo placing his head on a Tom Cleverley pass at the far post. RVP continues to reign supreme as the BPL's top goal scorer. Man U keeper David DeGea marred a terrific overall performance deep in stoppage time when he failed to clear a Spurs delivery into his goal crease. Lennon slotted a pass to Clint Dempsey and the Texan was tall in the saddle, tapping home the equalizer. Lennon was in fourth gear for the entire 90 plus minutes with the other 21 players stuck in 2nd. The diminutive midfielder has been reborn during this 202-13 season. Manchester United - 1 Tottenham Hotspur - 1.
CHELSEA vs. ARSENAL - The Yankees/Mets or Cubs/White Sox city rivalry of British soccer was played in frosty and snowy conditions; however it was the blues that were doing the sledding albeit with an assist from referee Martin Atkinson. Juan Mata's tally will best be remembered for Atkinson failing to whistle a clear foul on Ramires in the midfield. Ramires would make his presence known ten minutes later when he fell to the turf like a snowflake when barely grazed by goaltender Wojciech Szczesny. Frank Lampard delivered the goods from the PK spot and Chelsea was riding high. Fernando Torres factored into the scoring early in the second stanza but not in a good way. He was relieved of the ball far too easily in the midfield. Theo Walcott raced in to pick up the scraps and Arsenal was on the board. They hardly posed a menace in the final 35 minutes allowing Chelsea to claim all three points. Much like 8 days earlier against Man City, the gunners failed in the clutch. They remind me of a guy prepared to take a seat only to have the chair pulled out from under him. Chelsea - 2 Arsenal - 1.
MANCHESTER CITY vs. FULHAM - Roberto Mancini decided to start the same 11 from last week's victory against Arsenal and once again the well-groomed Italian made the right choices. Early in the proceedings goalie Mark Schwarzer spilled Edein Dzeko's drive right into the path of David Silva. The Spaniard was more than glad to soak up the mess and City was off and winging. Silva doubled his pleasure early in the second half when his sinker entered the strike zone from seven yards out. The only blemish for the defending champions was Pablo Zabaleta's hamstring injury. The fullback has been Charles Atlas-strong since the beginning of the campaign. Fulham appeared to put in a 9-to- 5 workday, when an 8-to-6 overtime effort was required. Manchester City - 2 Fulham - nil.
LIVERPOOL vs. NORWICH CITY - The reds scored on a grand slam and a scratch run as they continued to lift their level play since the beginning of December. Jordan Henderson's opener in the first 12 minutes was all Megan Fox in its' beauty. The midfielder picked up a loose ball at the top of the box and lobbed a curve ball that would have been the envy of Justin Verlander. I wrote in last week's issue that Liverpool's tag - team of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge brought back memories of the Road Warriors and this week Liverpool's Legion of Doom lowered the boom. Sturridge first created a diversion by allowing a through-ball that Suarez chased down into a breakaway. With Norwich keeper Mark Bunn begging for mercy the Uruguayan tapped home the home side's second goal of the contest. Sturridge would net his third in as many games in a reds uniform early in the second half and the rout was on. Captain Steven Gerrard's laser from 18 yards out and an own goal put an end to the carnage. After a promising start to the season the glut of games during the holiday period has left Norwich tired and worn out. Liverpool - 5 Norwich City - 0.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs. ASTON VILLA - Both sides were in desperation mode; WBA entered the contest winless in their last three while AV were just one - point above the relegation level having not won in five. Surprisingly it was the visitors who started on the good foot. Christian Benteke's shot a laser beam to begin the scoring; a right-footed strike into the right corner pocket. Gabriel Agbonlahor made it 2-nil in the 31st when AV took advantage of a counterattack. WBA came out on fire to start the second half with Chris Brunt narrowing the lead in the 49th. The villains defended the fort with resolve until the 84th when Peter Odemwingie scored off a corner kick. Needless to say both clubs wanted three points, but had to be satisfied with one. WBA - 2 Aston Villa - 2.
WEST HAM UNITED vs. QUEENS PARK RANGERS - QPR reminds me of the guy who's asked by his friend if he'd like to come over for dinner; instead of a yes or no, the guy answers what are you having? The cellar-dwellers are the mad scientists of the BPL; constantly changing their roster in search of the perfect blend. Their latest import is Loic Remy. The French striker took just 14 minutes before paying dividends beating Jussi Jaaskelainen on the short side. WHU had a penalty appeal in the 29th minute vetoed by referee Howard Webb. Replays showed that Webb, one of the best in the sport, got it wrong. Joe Cole rescued the hammers late in the second half when he poked home a rebound from a Carlton Cole header. Once again Julio Caeser was a savior between the QPR pipes. West Ham - 1 Queens Park Rangers - 1.
STOKE vs. SWANSEA CITY - A quiet first half came to life in the 49th minute when Ben Davies zigged when the Stoke defense zagged. Jonathan DeGuzman put the game to bed with tallies in the 57th and 80th minute respectively. Michael Owen would score in stoppage time but it would hardly satisfy the disappointed home supporters. Swansea - 3 Stoke - 1.
NEWCASTLE UNITED vs. READING - Midfielder Yohan Cabaye is the Miguel Cabrera of a Newcastle side mired in hard times. The Frenchman returned from an injury and he put a hurting on the visitors when he fired a 35-yard free kick past a dazed and confused Adam Federici. 1-0 homeboys. Newcastle's confidence is in short supply and Adam LeFondre took full advantage of the void scoring six minutes apart deep into the second half. The magpies haven't won a game since December 3 and are sinking fast. Reading - 2 Newcastle - 1.
WIGAN vs. SUNDERLAND - Sunderland's Steven Fletcher came in with plenty of questions that Wigan had no answers for. The black cats’ most dangerous player constantly tested Roberto Martinez's men and they failed miserably. The scot has scored 10 of Sunderland's 26 total goals on the season, two coming in this match. His second goal was tucked neatly inside the left post. The only missing item was a pillow. It seems like every season Wigan is life and death to avoid relegation. Me thinks this year will be no exception. Sunderland - 3 Wigan - 1.
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