Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 11

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The last time Manchester United walked off the pitch at Old Trafford they had suffered what was considered the greatest defeat of the Alex Ferguson era; a 1-6 drubbing by their cross-town rivals Manchester City. It seemed fitting that upon returning to their home pitch on Saturday, United honored Sir Alex's 25 years of outstanding leadership by naming the main grandstand after him. Oh the irony. It's hard to imagine that Fergie didn't have a lump in his throat during the naming ceremony, whether it was honor or embarrassment, we will never know. In all honesty, Alex Ferguson's tenure at United is the stuff of legend and naming a stand in his honor is the least the club could do to the architect of the greatest team in modern soccer history. You have to imagine that if Fergie gets a stand after being thumped at home, the creative City fans will be hanging "David Silva Stand" and "Vincent Kompany End" banners at the Etihad next weekend. Things didn't look a whole lot better on Saturday as Sunderland came into Old Trafford, with the luck of an own-goal off a Nani corner just before the half being the lone goal of the match. Sunderland had a few chances in the second, especially the handball penalty that was given and then taken away by referee Lee Mason. Not really the statement game United were hoping for on their return home, but a 1-0 win still gave the Reds 3 points to keep pace with City.

Speaking of the Citizens, City went into Loftus Road trying to avoid the same fate that Chelsea suffered at the hands of QPR. Jay Bothroyd ensured a very similar start to the City match by burying a header into the bottom corner past Joe Hart to give QPR the early lead. For the first time this season City found themselves trailing and looking somewhat lethargic for the first 30 minutes of the match. James Milner was able to thread an excellent pass to Edin Dzeko who waved off a streaking Aguero and took the ball straight in near post to draw the match even. The second half saw much of the same ebb and flow that finished the first 45 minutes of play. David Silva scored shortly after the restart putting to rest any concerns of his back injury from Champions League play earlier in the week. QPR were not done and they attacked Hart again and again finally drawing an equalizer off a Heidar Helguson deflection. Mario Balotelli was read to enter the match for City when "everyone likes to say Ya-Ya" Toure put the ball in the back of the net running his streak to 3 goals in two matches. QPR had some final chances in the last minutes of the match, but City won a thriller 2-3 to maintain their 5 point lead on United.

Newcastle briefly took over second place in the tables with their 2-1 win over Everton at St. James' Park on Saturday. Ian Darke was absent from the call on ESPN2, he was stateside to call a bigger match. Not LSU-Alabama, it was the western conference championship for MLS on Sunday. I'm sure he is contractually obligated to call predetermined MLS matches, and he did a great job as always, but Derek Rae just doesn't paint the picture like Darke. Regardless, the match had its thrilling points, that being Everton trying to find a way to lose just about every match they possibly can. The Toffees played well out of the gate, even after the own goal by John Heitinga they didn't seem out of it, but the backs continued to leave too much space while on defense. Ryan Taylor made Everton's backline pay when he smashed a fantastic shot over an outstretched Tim Howard and into the top right corner of the net. The Toffees drew one back just before the half and looked to equalize throughout the second, but it was all for not as the Magpies held on for the win. For Newcastle, it might be the last chance at 3 points this month as they will face City and United back-to-back following the international break.

If you were wondering why all of the teams were wearing red flowers on their kits this weekend, it was in memory of all the soldiers who have fought for their country; the British form of Veterans Day. For us stateside the holiday falls on Friday 11-11-11 make sure to honor the men and women who defend our freedom so we can enjoy liberties like soccer. No matches next week, so as always, take that time to catch up with your wife and children. Here are the standings going into the break, we will see you in two weeks!

1. Man City – 31 pts, +29 GD (10-1-0)
2. Man United – 26 pts, +16 GD (8-2-1)
3. Newcastle – 25 pts, +9 GD (7-4-0)
4. Chelsea – 22 pts, +9 GD (7-1-3)
17. Everton – 10 pts, -4 GD (3-1-6)
18. Bolton – 9 pts, -9 GD (3-0-8)
19. Blackburn – 6 pts, -11 GD (1-3-7)
20. Wigan – 5 pts, -13 GD (1-2-8)


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