Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 29

Courtesy of the FAcup
Although there were EPL matches this weekend, the mixed schedule of Champions League, Europa League, and FA Cup meant only a few teams played on Saturday or Sunday. Without question, the biggest story of the weekend came outside of the league during Bolton's trip to Tottenham for the 5th round FA Cup match at White Hart Lane. Although Bolton got on the board first to the surprise of many only for the Spurs to come back and tie, the soccer world came to a screeching halt at the 41 minute mark in the first half. Fabrice Muamba, the 23 year old midfielder for Bolton, collapsed from cardiac arrest just around the midfield area with no one around him.

I was watching the match live at a bar and at first no one thought anything of it, a single medic came over and the camera showed a close-up of Muamba laying face down struggling for air. Within 30 seconds the full medical staff was attending to him although the broadcasters assumed that he had suffered a head injury for the first few minutes. We would learn after the fact that Muamba's heart had stopped as he was laying on the pitch and doctor's used CPR and a defibrillator in an attempt to re-start it to the horror of the nearly 20,000 people in attendance. Although Fox Soccer showed no further close-ups of the incident the crowd shots said it all with fans visibly shaken, crying, covering their eyes. Referee Howard Webb, quickly consulted with the FA via headset and determined that the match would be abandoned as the players from both teams could hardly control their emotions at the sight of their fallen teammate and friend. At our bar, once word came out on twitter that it was a cardiac issue, silence fell over the room on an otherwise joyous St. Partick's Day. Further details emerged later in the night that Muamba's heart was finally restarted on his way to the hospital where he is still in a medically induced coma in critical condition. The hospital, team, and media have had very limited information with the exception of official press releases to determine Muamba's actual condition. Bolton manager, Owen Coyle, who rode in the ambulance with Muamba came out of the hospital on Sunday morning stating that the next 24 hours were critical for his recovery. As word spread throughout the soccer world, players and supports took to twitter with the #Pray4Muamba hash tag to send prayers to the player and his family. It goes without saying that moments like this really pull the sports world together, that all the teams and fans become one unit for the better good of supporting someone in need.

There was soccer on Sunday, the FA decided to continue on with the 5th round matches with Chelsea hosting Liecester City where one of the most touching Muamba displays unfolded. In the 12th minute, Gary Cahill rose above the crowd off a corner kick to head home Chelsea's first goal of the match. The former Bolton player and close friend of Muamba pulled up his jersey to reveal a t-shirt that simply read "Pray 4 Muamba" to the applause of the nearly full house at Stamford Bridge. With tears coming to his eye and his tribute paid, Cahill and Chelsea went on to score four more times to beat Liecester 5-2 and move onto the next round.

Manchester United, having moved one point ahead of City last weekend, traveled to lowly Wolverhampton to apply their will on the struggling Wolves. It was no contest, and if anyone thought it would be was clearly a Wolves fan praying for the better times of the first four weeks of the season when Wolverhampton sat in the top four of the table. Amazingly enough, it took United almost 21 minutes to score their first goal, but from there the goals continued to pour into the net. Evans, Valencia, Welbeck, and Chicharito all got in on the scoring and with twenty-two shots and nine on goal, United walked away 5-0 winners to increase their lead in the standings to four points, their biggest lead since early fall. For the Wolves, I'm not sure they will get an eleventh hour pardon like they did last season, relegation looks almost certain so much so that they club has delayed expansion of Molineux Stadium.

The other matches from the weekend saw Newcastle winning over Norwich 1-0, Fulham getting spanked 0-3 by Swansea at Craven Cottage, and the battle of the W's, Wigan and West Brom playing to a 1-1 draw.

No table updates this week as we still have several matches on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to be played and just four from this past weekend. Bolton's match against Aston Villa on Tuesday has already been postponed out of respect for the team, players, and Muamba.

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