Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 14

Courtesy of ESPN Soccernet.com
After watching the Newcastle v Chelsea match on Saturday morning I am beginning to think the officiating problems that were seen in MLS stateside this season aren't that far removed from the issues faced in the EPL. Keeping it in perspective, the level of competition versus the level of refereeing errors, it seems like the officials are starting to "mold" the outcome of many matches. We all know about card happy Martin Atkinson, already handing out 5 red cards this season, but Saturday morning it was referee Mike Dean sitting on the hot seat. Just 4 minutes into the match, Demba Ba for Newcastle was in on goal all alone when David Luiz hauled him down from behind. To the viewing audience it seemed a red card was a given and it was more of a question of whether or not a penalty would be awarded since the take-down was right on the 18 yard line. To the shock of the St. James' Park crowd Mr. Dean handed out just a yellow card, the wrong call based on every possible camera angle shown of the play. It's not to say that Newcastle needed the man advantage to win, but much like QPR v Chelsea, the man advantage can have its rewards. Ironically enough, Mr. Dean awarded a reasonable penalty kick to Chelsea in the 14th minute was taken by Frank Lampard and blocked by Time Krul who played out of his mind. The match continued at break-neck pace throughout the first half with only a well place header from Didier Drogba to give Chelsea the slim 0-1 advantage at the half. Still the attacks from both sides continued as the Magpies pushed for and equalizer that never came. In the end Newcastle's defense ran out of steam and allowed two more goals in the last five minutes to give Chelsea the 0-3 win. Having only picked up 1 point in the Man City-Man U-Chelsea triple, Newcastle was left with a real gut check and their hopes of making European league competition fading fast.

Now for your weekly "All Things Manchester" update. United can't seem to score more than a single goal, but yet they still find a way to hold on for the tie or victory. You would think at some point that fate would catch-up to the Red Devils, but with just a single goal in each of their last 5 league matches they have 4 wins and 1 tie to show for it. Granted the tie came against Newcastle, which was the only decent team out of that five team group. United's schedule continues to remain soft through the holidays until their January 4th rematch with Newcastle. If scoring wasn't enough of a concern Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) went out in the first half against Aston Villa with an ankle injury that should sideline him for at least a month. Still Phil Jones' first goal of the season in the 20th minute was enough for United's backline to fend off any attacks from Villa and capture the 3 points in the 0-1 victory. At Etihad Stadium Manchester City played host to Norwich City in what shouldn't have been much of a match, and it wasn't. City has a tendency to spend the first half feeling out their opponent, looking for gaps in the defense and any easy free kicks they can get. In Saturday's match Sergio Aguero showed incredible footwork inside the 6 yard box to outwit 4 defenders and fire a shot between one players legs into the net. Of course the second half played out as usual, tired legs for Norwich and fresh attacking substitutions for City. Nasri, Toure, Balotelli, and Johnson all scored in the second half for City leaving the only remaining hurdle being a clean sheet for keeper Joe Hart. However Norwich was able to get on the board late in the match with a great goal by Steve Morison, but City was too much and they walked away with the 5-1 win.

Since we are running a day late with the Keeper for this week we can bring you the surprise result from Monday's match. Much like with the Newcastle v Chelsea match, the Monday tie between Fulham and Liverpool was highly influenced by poor referring decisions. The guilty party this time was referee Kevin Friend who accomplished a trifecta of errors against Liverpool. First he denied a penalty kick for Liverpool even though Charlie Adam was clearly taken down in the box. Next he (assisted by his linesman) waived off a goal by Luis Suarez for being offside even though he was well on-side from every possible camera angle. The final act of stupidity came when Jay Spearing for Liverpool was shown a straight red card for a tackle where he won the ball away from Mousa Dembele. Fulham continued to find scoring chances, but it wasn't until the 85th minute that Clint Dempsey cleaned up Danny Murphy shot from outside the 18 yard box to put Fulham up 1-0 which stood until the final whistle. Kuddos to Mr. Dempsey for setting the all-time EPL scoring record for an American with 37 career goals, taking over the mark previously set by Brian McBride.

That's the weekend as we saw it, what are your thoughts about the matches; email us and let us know. Don't forget we have Champion League matches mid-week, could leave us with some tired teams come EPL next weekend. Here's a look at the top and bottom of the table.

1. Man City – 38 pts, +35 GD (12-2-0)
2. Man United – 33 pts, +18 GD (10-3-1)
3. Tottenham – 31 pts, +13 GD (10-1-2)
4. Chelsea – 28 pts, +14 GD (9-1-4)
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17. Sunderland – 11 pts, -1 GD (2-5-7)
18. Blackburn – 10 pts, -11 GD (2-4-8)
19. Bolton – 9 pts, -15 GD (3-0-11)
20. Wigan – 9 pts, -16 GD (2-3-9)

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