Another weekend, and another three days jammed full of Barclays Premier League action. Plenty of goals and incident for us to get our teeth into, as we bring you all the thrills and spills from a turbulent few days of play. Unfortunately it’s the men in black who steal the headlines this week, as some very poor decisions from referees and their assistants’ have an impact on games and results.
We get underway at St. James’s Park, a.k.a The Sports Direct Arena (who said the romance has gone out of the game), where 4th placed Newcastle United took on 5th placed Chelsea. Newcastle started well, and in the fourth minute, striker Demba Ba looked to race onto a through-ball, Ba was hauled back by, last man, David Luiz and denied a clear goal scoring opportunity. Referee Mike Dean duly awarded the foul and reached into his pocket for a card, to everybody’s surprise, the card he produced was yellow, not red, as the law clearly states that it should have been. An inexplicable and terrible decision, one which undoubtedly had a significant effect on the outcome of the game. Chelsea were awarded a penalty when, the lively, Daniel Sturridge was tripped by Cabaye. Lampard stepped up, only to see Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal produce an outstanding save low down to his left. Chelsea had the better of the first half, Sturridge’s pace and energy causing the Newcastle defence all sorts of problems, Tim Krul and the upright keeping him at bay. The Magpies created a couple of chances of their own, the closest they came was Ba’s header which hit the post. Chelsea took the lead before half time, a contested throw in decision went the way of the Blues, allowing Mata to find Drogba, the latter heading past Krul. Newcastle imposed themselves more in the second half and put Chelsea on the back foot, Drogba headed against his own bar in the early stages. As the half wore on substitutes Shola and Sami Ameobi were unfortunate not to get on the score-sheet, the former smashing a 20 yard drive off the post with Cech beaten, the latter saw his effort cleared off the line by Terry. Chelsea wrapped the game up with two very late goals, first Kalou after Torres’ run, then Sturridge in injury time. Final score Newcastle 0-3 Chelsea, Chelsea just about edged it, however had Mike Dean applied the rules correctly and sent David Luiz off in the fourth minute, the game and the result may have been very different, there can be no argument about that whatsoever.
To Craven Cottage for the Monday Night game where Fulham, looking for only their second home win of the season, took on a Liverpool side unbeaten in eleven games in all competitions. Both teams started brightly enough and both keepers were called into action early on, Pepe Reina keeping out Dembele, and Schwarzer holding onto Carroll’s effort. On 28 minutes Jordan Henderson thought he’d given the Reds the lead when he drove into space on the edge of the area and curled round Schwarzer, only to see his shot come back off the inside of the post. Luis Suarez, who was receiving rough treatment from both the Fulham players and fans and getting nothing in the way of protection from referee Kevin Friend, fired an effort wide of target before the break. Liverpool came out by far the stronger team in the second half, relentless pressure produced five or six corners in quick succession, and only some resolute defending kept the home side level. The onslaught continued as Adam burst forward with a trademark dribble and was cynically taken out by Senderos on the 18 yard line, referee Friend could easily have given a penalty however he chose to award only a free kick, the replay was inconclusive. Still Liverpool pressed, and just after the hour Luis Suarez thought he’d given Liverpool a deserved lead. Suarez played a clever one- two and, after one touch, acrobatically volleyed the ball past Schwarzer into the top corner. The assistant referee however put his flag up for offside, a decision that the replay showed to be totally incorrect. After that, the game went a bit flat for a period, but ten minutes later, the officials again got involved, referee Kevin Friend showing a red card to Liverpool’s Jay Spearing, Spearing clearly took the ball cleanly, with his momentum taking him into Dembele after the ball was won. A very poor decision, one which is likely to be overturned on appeal, however, one that along with the bad offside call, definitely cost Liverpool dearly in this encounter. After the sending off, the momentum changed as Fulham gained in confidence and began to exploit the extra space, Dempsey hit the bar with a curler, before Reina saved from Dembele. The Reds weren’t lying down and substitute Stuart Downing produced a tremendous effort from 25 yards, which he saw Schwarzer, at full stretch, push onto the post. Fulham snatched all three points when in the 86th minute Dempsey pounced on a mistake by Reina to bundle the ball home. Fulham were delighted, and Liverpool left seething as, unfortunately, just like at St James’s Park, the ineptitude of the officials directly affected the result of this game.
We begin our round up of the rest of the action with two more games that involved more poor decision making on behalf of the match officials. Queens Park Rangers took on West Bromwich Albion at Loftus road, the match finished 1-1, Q.P.R. took the lead through Helguson, and should have had a second when Shaun Wright Philips’ excellent goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside. Just like at Fulham, the assiatant referee was looking directly across the line, and just like at Fulham the furthest man back and the first player in his eyeline was a defender, another shocking call. Albion hung on in the game, as Q.P.R. couldn’t make the most of further chances, and ten minutes from time Shane Long scored their equaliser. However at 2-0 Rangers, the game could well have been over. Officials took the headlines at White Hart Lane too, referee Stuart Attwell , again, sending off Gary Cahill, having also done so against Arsenal last season. This time he sent him off for a trip five yards inside his own half, five yards from the touchline. An awful, awful decision, there is no way that it could have been deemed a goal-scoring opportunity and it certainly was not a straight red challenge; again it will probably be overturned on appeal, but again that didn’t help Bolton on Saturday. Spurs were already 1-0 up through Bale, and although Cahill’s red may not have ultimately changed the result, bearing in mind the form of the two teams, it certainly condemned Wanderers to likely defeat. Tottenham could have had eight in the end, some wasteful finishing and great goalkeeping keeping the score down; they did manage three, Lennon and Defoe the other scorers. Spurs up to second in the table, albeit briefly.
Elsewhere, Manchester United continued their no frills performances with a 0-1 victory at Villa Park, Phil Jones with the goal in the first half. Javier Hernandez was carried off after damaging ankle ligaments, worryingly for United, he could face up to two months out. Shay Given, the Villa goalkeeper, was also forced to leave the field through injury. Manchester City got back to winning ways, demolishing Norwich 5-1 at Eastlands, Aguero opened the scoring with a precise finish before Nasri’s free kick and Kolo Toure’s curler made it three. Morrison pulled one back for Norwich with a header, but Balotelli, with his shoulder, and a sweet finish from Adam Johnson made it five. Blackburn finally got a win to give manager Steve Kean a much needed boost. Yakubu, proving he’s still got what it takes to score at this level, with all four goals for Rovers. Lita had levelled for Swansea making it 1-1, cancelling out a wonderful opener, before two close range headers put Blackburn 3-1 up. Swansea rallied and pulled one back through Luke Moore, however Joe Allen’s second yellow eased Rovers’ nerves and Yakubu made it 4-2, converting a penalty following a foul on Vukcevic. Stoke won at Goodison Park for the first time in over thirty years, Huth scrambling the only goal after the Toffee’s had failed to deal with a first half corner. Everton lacked cutting edge in the final third, clearly missing the injured Saha and Drenthe. Arsenal sent Wigan to the foot of the table, running out resounding 0-4 winners at the DW. Arteta, Vermaelen, Gervinho and van Persie the scorers for the Gunners who go fifth. Finally Martin O’ Neill watched his new Sunderland team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday. The Black Cats went 0-1 up early in the second half through Richardson, Larsson then clearly dived to win Sunderland a penalty, another poor refereeing decision, in this instance it was not costly however, as Henessey saved the Swede’s spot kick. That was the turning point, Wolves rallied and Stephen Fletcher, on his return from injury , scored twice late on to send Molineux into pandemonium. O’Neill will take charge of the first team in time for next week’s game at home to Blackburn, and the Northern Irishman has got work to do.
This article was commissioned by and published on http://www.euro-2012-blog.com/ . First published on 07/12/11.