After a hectic weekend of football in England and Scotland I have finally collected my thoughts and put them to the internet. Enjoy...
Say what you like about the Premier League; the money, the pantomime antics and the politics, last weekend, to use and overused cliché, football was the real winner.
Where to begin? With a record number of goals scored and controversy and brilliance galore last Saturday was, quite rightly, named the greatest Premier League day ever. I have considered many different ways to write about the historic day. I thought about going through it game by game. I thought about doing a timeline of events. But eventually I decided to have a good old rant about the greatest weekend in the (self-proclaimed) greatest league in the world...
Now I'm not a big Newcastle fan. I don't much like them at all. The way Mike Ashley eats his way through managers and 'messiahs' is ridiculous. The expectations of the Geordie fans annoys me and I have a good friend who supports Sunderland.... but my goodness!! Tioté's goal was a screamer wasn't it? 4-0 down after ten minutes, the match ended 4-4, with all Newcastle goals coming late in the second half.
To be goal of the season you really need to take into account the circumstances surrounding the goal and the what meaning the goal holds for the club and their fans. The roar from the Toon when that volley flew past Scezny was astounding (I have a list of superlatives here I am rapidly working my way through).
That strike, and then the noise preceding it, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. What a way to complete a comeback. You could even say it was Roy of the Rovers stuff...
Whatever Pardew said at half time we'll never know but you'd bet that Barton had a hand in it. He certainly had a hand in events on the pitch, almost single handedly pulling his team back from four goals down. He showed commitment, tenacity and, yes, character. Not only did he stick away two penalties but twice he sprinted over the the young Arsenal keeper Scezny to win the ball back, resulting in a scuffle that ended with a booking for both.
The turning point of that incredible match was most likely the sending off of Abou Diaby. And, of course, Barton had a hand in that as well. A fantastic 'crunching' challenge from the Liverpudlian was met with an overreaction from Diaby who gave the referee no choice when he grabbed Barton's neck.
The only thing that could've possibly made Barton's day any better was if it had been him the ball fell to on the edge of the box in the dying minutes and he had completed his hattrick in comic book fashion.
|United's unbeaten run ends dramatically at Molineux|
Manchester United's unbeaten run came to an end at Molineux where newly dubbed 'giant killers' Wolves beat them 2-1 in another tremendous game. Interestingly Wolves meet Arsenal next weekend and United face Manchester City, whose efficient 3-0 win over West Brom was rather overshadowed by the rest of the day's results. Tevez netted a hattrick... not that anyone's interested.
It gets better, with a farcical game at Goodison Park. Everton eventually ran out 5-3 winners over a Blackpool side that showed real 'character' to stay in it. I don't know what else to say about it. So highlights are here. Oh and Louis Saha scored four goals.
I could go on listing Saturday's matches but I would go on too long. Match Of The Day reportedly got it's highest ratings in years and as I watched it I kept chuckling at the absurdity of it all. 41 goals scored? Not the best defending was it Hansen?
Perhaps the most brilliant thing about the top flight results on Saturday is that none of the games were hyped up in the slightest. There was no 'glamour tie' as such. Who would have thought that Stoke vs Sunderland would end 3-2? With Stoke coming back from 2-1 down? With both the equaliser and then winner coming in the last ten minutes? And both goals scored by a centre back??
So often in football the games never live up to the hype beforehand. Think of the last Manchester derby. Or even Chelsea (and Torres) vs Liverpool on Sunday?
On Saturday morning I watched a program about the SuperBowl in America. The program was billing it as 'the greatest show on Earth.' To me it seemed more like a money-spinning, commercialised bore. This year it will be the most watched television program in America. Ever.
Men, bursting out of their tracksuits, called things like Troy and Brett were interviewed and the whole thing seemed a bit... well... tacky. Any sport that needs The Who and Bruce Springsteen playing at half time to make it exciting isn't worth it. The Premier League far outdid the SuperBowl on Saturday. And the SPL wasn't far behind...
|Time for another dramatic shot in the rain I think.|
I mentioned earlier how the Premier League was a pantomime. Football in general is often compared to a pantomime. We have heroes and villains, a battle between good and evil, the underdog victorious, comedic moments, farcical moments and occasionally beauty and brilliance. The pantomime villain in this game was, almost by default, El Hadj Diouf. Unless, of course, your allegiances lie with Rangers.
Diouf seems to be an instant hit at Ibrox and the home fans showed their appreciation for him at every opportunity, roaring him onto the ball. Despite the support Diouf didn't produce anything particularly brilliant although his running and determination were were occasionally impressive. He flew past Kayal on more than one occasion and the Israeli midfielder was lucky to stay on the pitch after a couple of rash challenges.
Celtic came back from behind twice. First Kris Commons equalised after Jamie Ness's 3rd minute opener. Then in the second half Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster was sent off for bringing down Jelavic in the box. Steven Whittaker had a long wait but duely dispatched his penalty.
Scott Brown curled in a delightful equaliser and came the closest to setting off Diouf, who seemed like a ticking time bomb. Brown celebrated, arms wide, right in Diouf's face. However Brown was ignored.
Eventually the most hated man in football tired and was replaced by youngster Vladimir Weiss. If anything Weiss seemed to be looking for trouble more than Diouf. The boyish Slovakian was booked for his involvement in the game's biggest flashpoint, both sets of players were debating a freekick on the edge of the Rangers' box and, as you can imagine, there was rather a lot of squaring up and posturing.
|Diouf; Panto villain|
There was still late drama though. Steven Naismith was sent off for diving in a Diouf-esque way and overall it was a game that lived up to the hype that surrounds the Old Firm.
There won't be long to wait for the next one. This match was a Scottish Cup fixture and will go to a replay. By the end of the season the two Glasgow clubs will have played each other an incredible seven times.
Let's just hope the Manchester derby lives up to it's inevitable hype next Saturday. It's unlikely though.