Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Morning Keeper: Premier League Week 8

Match of the Weekend - Tottenham v Chelsea

It was a date circled on at least one manger's calendar way back in the summer when the schedules were released; Andre Villas-Boas knew his chance to strike back at his former club Chelsea would come on October 20th when his new team Tottenham hosted the Blues. He had waited almost 8 months for the opportunity to seek his revenge, almost as long as he held the managerial position at Chelsea before he was sacked last spring. While many saw the move but the club as much deserved at the time, I would argue that AVB's strict management of playing time and positioning laid the foundation for Chelsea to go on and win the Champions League and to look unstoppable this season in the Premier League. Naturally, you would think AVB would have the upper hand in Saturday's match having groomed much of Chelsea's current roster himself and with the match played at White Hart Lane.

For all the planning and all the revenge AVB surely had intended, Chelsea simply continued on the same path they have blazed through the entire Premier League season, guarded ball-control through the midfield and capitalizing on opportunities inside the 18 yard box. Just 17 minutes into the match Gary Cahill was handed an opportunity when he collected a poor Tottenham clearance header at his feet and drilled it past Brad Friedel to make it 0-1. The remainder of the first half was a filled with a handful of opportunities at each end of the pitch but both Friedel and Chelsea's Peter Cech were on their marks to keep the score unchanged at the half.

Either a spirited halftime talk by AVB or Chelsea caught slow on the restart, Tottenham scored just over a minute into the second half when Jan Vertonghen played in a perfect cross to William Gallas who pushed it past Cech for the equalizer. Infused with a new found energy following the goal, the Spurs pushed forward with several more attacking runs in the first 15 minutes of the half. Cech was able to deflect two more shots during that time, but a sneaky Jermain Defoe split the defenders to nudge the ball past the Chelsea keeper in the 54th minute to give the home side the lead. As the chants and cheers poured down from the terraces of White Hart Lane, Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo stayed calm, who are we kidding, he barely even sweats he is so calm.

The script for this epic battle would find an unlikely hero halfway through the second when Juan Mata scored twice for Chelsea in the course of three minutes. The undervalued Spaniard first capitalized on a poor clearance (again) to beat Friedel and then received a great pass from Eden Hazard to put the Blue back in front. Mata is a work horse, he will never lead the league in scoring, but he grinds it out every match and makes the most of the opportunities presented to him. Saturday was a rare and well-deserved validation of his abilities. A stoppage time goal by Daniel Sturridge would give Chelsea a 2-4 victory and maintain their undefeated run through the league this season.

Statistic of the Weekend - 74 Red Cards

On a weekend that saw three red cards issued, Steven Pienaar's sending off for Everton in the 61st minute of their 1-1 draw against Queens Park was the club's 74th red card since the Premier League started in 1992. Only Blackburn has more red cards in the league with 76th, but with the Rovers relegated to the Championship this season there is a better than average chance the Toffees may take the league before the end of the season. Averaging close to four red cards per season isn't always due to aggressive play, sometimes it is due to poor officiating, but still Everton has always had a chippy style of play and sometimes they get caught for it.

Star of the Weekend - Edin Dzeko

Manchester City go down a man just 23 minutes into the match then they give up a goal to West Brom in the 67th minute all while Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, and Mario Balotelli were held scoreless. Enter stage right, Edin Dzeko, who was given a very specific task from his manger Roberto Mancini, "pound the net." And that is just what he did scoring a fantastic header off a Tevez free-kick just a minute after coming on. The tall Serbian continued to take shot after shot at the net, some spraying over but the pressure was tangable for all those in attendance at the Hawthorns. And just when both teams felt they would walk away with a well deserved point each, Dzeko found space at the top of the 18 yard box and fired a rocket to the upper right corner in the 92nd minute. Mission accomplished; 12 minutes, 2 goals, and 3 valuable points for City. Thumbs up to the big man on his performance Saturday!

Table Review

Chelsea keep winning, there only blemish on the season being a single draw. Manchester City are the only other undefeated team besides the Blues, but are in third place due to United's high scoring offenses headed by Robin Van Persie. Here is a look at the top and bottom of the table after 8 matches.

1. Chelsea - 22 points, +13 GD (7-1-0)
2. Manchester United - 18 points, +10 GD (6-0-2)
3. Manchester City - 18 points, +8 GD (5-3-0)
4. Everton - 15 points, +6 GD (4-3-1)
17. Aston Villa - 5 points, -7 GD (1-2-5)
18. Southampton - 4 points, -11 GD (1-1-6)
19. Reading - 3 points, -6 GD (0-3-4)
20. Queens Park - 3 point, -10 GD (0-3-5)

1 comment :

  1. Tottenham also had a spot of bad luck missing both Bale and Dembele, arguably their two best players. With that in mind, I think it's impressive that Spurs went toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the league right now for large chunks of the match (Gallas and Walker gaffes aside)using something less than their strongest midfield.


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