Monday, March 31, 2008

Game Week 32-Review

To use the old cliché, Manchester United are saving their best for last as the Premier League reaches its business end, but Chelsea and Arsenal are intent on taking the race for the title to the wire.On Saturday evening Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated all of his been there and done that experience as United purred past Aston Villa 4-0 at Old Trafford in a manner which, at times, appeared to be a training ground exercise.The irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo reinforced his claims for World Footballer of the Year in 2008 as his deft back-heeled flick set United on their way before Carlos Tevez doubled the lead and Wayne Rooney found time to weigh in with a second half brace to allow the striker to bring to an end his six-match goalless run.

Meanwhile, Liverpool secured local bragging rights on Merseyside and sit in box seat in the race for the final UEFA Champions League place as they defeated neighbours Everton at Anfield.Popular opinion appears to suggest Liverpool have sewn up a fourth-placed finish as they came out on top in the Merseyside derby with a 1-0 win over Everton by a goal from Fernando Torres.Everton were never at the races and striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni, for one, will have been grateful it was a short coach journey home across Stanley Park after the Nigerian's dilly-dallying on the edge box allowed a combination of Xabi Alonso and Dirk Kuyt to set up Torres.

Earlier on Saturday, Arsenal's cliff edge-clinging title tilt gained an ever so feint leg up as they dug their fingers in to secure a 3-2 turnaround against Bolton.The Reebok Stadium has been far from a happy hunting ground for Arsene Wenger's men over recent years and as Matt Taylor fired their hosts into a two-goal first half lead the Gunners appeared to be heading for their sixth successive year without success at Bolton's home.However, Arsenal's youngsters proved that they never know when they are beaten as William Gallas struck, Robin van Persie converted from the penalty spot and Jlloyd Samuel haplessly deflected past his own goalkeeper in the final minute to plunge Bolton further into the relegation mire.The scintillating comeback becomes all the more impressive when it is remembered Arsenal were also forced to do so with 10 men after Abou Diaby was handed his marching orders after half-an-hour.

On Sunday Chelsea manager Avram Grant will have been quivering in the home dugout to almost the same frequency of the vibrations of the Stamford Bridge woodwork as the Blues rode their luck in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.Ricardo Carvalho gave Chelsea a sixth minute lead, but Boro then almost reinforced their reputation as a 'big four' bogey team as the Teessiders rattled a combination of crossbar and post on three occasions.Were it not for the ongoing misfiring of Boro's record signing Afonso Alves, who struck the frame of the goal twice to accompany the so close yet so far effort of David Wheater, the head honchos at the Premier League may already be dressing their prized piece of silverware in United colours

The sob story of the weekend, though, was at Pride Park as the inevitable became reality as Derby's draw with Fulham - combined with Birmingham's victory over a plummeting Manchester City at St Andrews - condemned the Rams to relegation.Emanuel Villa gave Derby a 10th minute lead in a surprisingly entertaining encounter to spark hopes of the most unlikely of Great Escapes, but Diomansy Kamara and a Dean Leacock own goal handed Fulham the lead.Villa - who has been backed to shine by manager Paul Jewell - gave Derby a lifeline in the closing minutes, but it was not to be as the solitary point was not enough to save the Rams from the dreaded drop and also leaves Fulham looking anxiously downwards.

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan created flashbacks to the mid-nineties as his side rolled past Tottenham in style at White Hart Lane to spark memories of his first stint in the Magpies hot-seat.Tottenham continue to demonstrate that their season ended following their Carling Cup success in February as they capitulated 4-1 at home to Newcastle.The Magpies, though, appear to be fixed on finishing as strongly as Spurs are eager to throw in the towel as goals from Nicky Butt, Geremi, Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins secured the points in North London.Darren Bent had put Spurs in front, but Keegan - who has now recorded two successive successes since breaking his duck upon his return to Tyneside - and Owen - who has netted three times in his last hat-trick of outings - will be wondering what all the previous panic was about.

Portsmouth could be forgiven for having one eye on their FA Cup future, but Harry Redknapp is having none of it as his side brushed aside Wigan 2-0 at Fratton Park.A double from Jermain Defoe handed Pompey the points to leave the South Coast outfit hot on the heels of fifth-placed Everton in the race to secure a place in the Uefa Cup via the league.

Birmingham - who had Franck Queudrue dismissed - not only snubbed out Derby's top-flight flame with a 3-1 win over City, but they also moved themselves four points clear of the drop zone.

After a sensational start to life in England, City boss Sven Goran Eriksson - who had only an Elano penalty to cheer - appears focused on assuring the English public he is not a managerial genius and on reminding of his days in the international hot-seat as the Blues well and truly run out of legs.

Sunderland also eased relegation worries as the Black Cats were grateful to a last minute strike from Andy Reid after Kenwyne Jones had cancelled out Freddie Ljungberg's opener.

And finally Blackburn and Reading, who had Marek Matejovsky red-carded, gave an excellent demonstration of two sides desperate to avoid defeat as they played out a goalless draw at the Madejski.

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