Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Footy - Saturday, September 30

September came to a close in an exciting fashion in the English Premier League on Saturday. With only ten teams in action, the five games provided plenty of it. The big shocker was Bolton outmuscling Liverpool at the Reebok. Reds keeper Pepe Reina was erroneously called for handling a ball outside the box. On the ensuing free kick, Ivan Campo tapped the ball to Welshman Gary Speed, who somehow drove the ball through a mess of players and into the net. A Campo header in the second half ensured Liverpool would not be able to fight back against the Wanderers, which climbed to second in the table.

Speed's goal was not special in itself, but his strike against Watford on September 9 made him and Manchester United's Ryan Giggs the only players to score goals in every season of the English Premier League's existence. Gary Speed is old. I was watching this Tony Yeboah highlight reel and saw that one of the players Yeboah was celebrating with was Gary Speed. Yeboah and Speed were last Leeds teammates in 1996. Gary Speed is old.

In a London derby, Charlton coughed up a Darren Bent-produced lead to two Robin Van Persie strikes, giving the gooners a much-needed three points. Across the Thames at Stamford Bridge, Aston Villa battled with hosts Chelsea to a 1-1 draw, with Didier Drogba continuing his red-hot form of late, netting the opener after just three minutes. However, the game was there for Villa to take. After Gabriel Agbonlahor equalised just before the break, Villa had numerous chances in the late going, including a sitter that Angel woefully flailed at. The draw slowed Chelsea, which is now only two points to the good atop the table.

The remaining two Premiership matches were both marked by late heroics. At Goodison Park, Manchester City trailed for the entire second half after an Andy Johnson goal shortly before the interval. With four minutes of added time, City's play became increasingly desperate. The ball was knocked around in the Merseysiders half for an extended period of time, before a Sylvain Distin long ball into the box was flicked on by Bernardo Corradi and fell to defender Micah Richards, who made no mistake with a drive off the underside of the bar and into the back of the net.

It gets even better, though; during the ensuing pandemonium, City midfielder Joey Barton actually mooned the home supporters. Randy Moss, you have nothing on Joey Barton.

Finally, in the late game, hosts Sheffield United drew first blood via a Rob Hulse goal, but Aiyegbeni Yakubu equalised for Middlesbrough shortly after halftime. Yakubu had been one of the goats for Boro up to that point, having hit post from point blank range after doing a clever job of rounding keeper Patrick Kenny. The game remained 1-1 until the very last, when midfielder Phil Jagielka collected a half-clearance and produced a very Yeboah-esque wonderstrike from thirty yards out, putting a dagger in the hearts of the Teesiders and in doing so, became the first Blades player not named Rob Hulse to score a goal this season.

The three points for the Blades moved them out of the relegation zone. The team that replaced them there was none other than Tottenham Hotspur, meaning a positive result is all but crucial in tomorrow's clash with league upstarts Portsmouth tomorrow morning. As if there weren't already enough tension for the Yid Army, Mido jumpstarted things by calling out Pompey centerback Sol Campbell, referring to Judas "the easiest defender I've ever played against." Granted, Mido probably won't even be in the starting XI, with the excellent news coming that Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe, along with skipper Ledley King, are all looking fit for tomorrow. Martin Jol did the saving-face routine, describing Mido as "disrespectful and irresponsible," but the damage has been done, and I wouldn't even be all that surprised if it was Jol who had instructed Mido to stir up the hornet's nest.

See, Spurs and their supporters all know far too well that Sol Campbell tends to have a delicate psyche. The story of Campbell coming up through Spurs academy and becoming the best English centerback of his era, being named captain of Spurs, and then throwing it all away by ditching us for our North London rivals, Arsenal, on a free transfer, has been well publicized. Since then, Spurs supporters have gone out of their way to make Campbell as miserable as possible. Last year in the first leg of the North London Derby at White Hart Lane, Mido did indeed run all over Sol, and it was clear that the fans really were getting inside of his head. It wasn't long after that before Campbell went AWOL during halftime of a 3-2 loss at the hands of West Ham and didn't let anyone know where he was for nearly a week, leading to all kinds of fun speculation.

After the season, Sol "retired" to the south coast, where he and his Pompey comrades have combined to form the best defense in the early going of the EPL, allowing just one goal on the season. He seems to have found peace of mind, but Mido's barbs, along with a vicious home crowd tomorrow, could start unraveling Sol once again. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out. Spurs need points, and in a hurry.

And of course, this entry wouldn't be complete without mentioning that Shamrock Rovers burst into the semifinals of the FAI Cup in dramatic fashion by scoring two goals in the final seven minutes of the match in Athlone on a cold and rainy night (although considering it's late September, that should go without saying).

1 comment:

Medical Blog said...

Since then, Spurs supporters have gone out of their
way to make Campbell as miserable as possible.