PREMIERSHIP ROUND 23
 
1 February 2004

Blackburn (1) 2 (Flitcroft 3, Gallager 87)
Chelsea (2) 3 (Lampard 25, 35, Johnson 88)

A stunning late winner from full-back Glen Johnson gave Chelsea a narrow win
at Blackburn after it looked as though an equaliser from Rovers meant they
would have to settle for a draw.

Blackburn began strongly and after Jonathon Douglas forced a fine save from
Carlo Cudicini at the far post, they took the lead. A depp cross from
Michael Gray was nodded across goal by Marcus Babbel and volleyed in from
close range by Gary Flitcroft. It took Chelsea a while to get a foothold in
the game, although Claude Makelele should have done better when he skied an
effort whilst unmarked 12 yards out, however after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
grazed the bar from long range, the Dutchman then found space on the right
and cut the ball back for Frank Lampard to sweep in via the far post.
Hasselbaink then sent a header over whilst unmarked in front of goal,
although just two minutes earlier, Andy Cole fired just over the angle as he
turned well in the area. The home side looked uncertain at the back all
afternoon and when Tugay's misplaced pass in his own final third fell to
Emmanuel Petit, his first time ball sent Lampard through on goal and his
clinical finish gave Chelsea the lead for the first time. Within two
minutes, Rovers almost levelled matters after Cole's fizzed cross was
fumbled by the keeper, however Dwight Yorke couldn't find the touch to prod
the loose ball home.

The second half began scrappily, although Adrian Mutu had two chances as he
sent an acrobatic volley wide and then his chip sailed over keeper Brad
Friedel but also sailed wide. A double change from Rovers saw Alan Mahon and
Paul Gallager introduced and the pair combined well for the latter to tap in
a cross from the former, however the goal was rightly ruled out for offside.
Mutu then tried again only to force a flying save from Friedel after his
fiercely struck free kick was heading for the net and with ten minutes to
go, the American keeper repeated his feat with a fantastic stop to deny
Lampard a hat trick from a close range header. It proved to be a couple of
vital saves as Rovers then equalised with four minutes left when Gallager
did get his name on the scoresheet, converting a deep far post cross from
Mahon. To their credit, Chelsea came straight back and after John Terry was
allowed to collect a deep corner at the far edge of the area, the ball fell
to Glen Johnson who beat his marker and lashed the ball into the top corner
from 15 yards. They almost added a fourth in stoppage time only for sub
Eidur Gudjohnsen to shoot wide when well placed, however it mattered little
as they held out for a crucial win.


Arsenal (1) 2 (Tarnat (og) 37, Henry 83)
Man City (0) 1 (Anelka 88)
RED CARD: Anelka (Man City) 89

Arsenal return to the summit of the Premiership after a narrow win against
Man City, although the game ended with tempers flared after a late City
consolation caused mayhem.

The Gunners took the lead in the first half of a game playing in continuous
driving rain as Thierry Henry's cross was heading for Freddie Ljungberg
before being diverted past his own keeper by Michael Tarnat. It stayed that
way until seven minutes from time when Henry collected a pass on the left
from Robert Pires, cut inside and drilled home a bullet shot with tore into
the top corner of the net from fully 25 yards. The game should have been
remembered for that Goal of the Season contender, however sadly it will be
recalled for the scenes after Nik Anelka pulled a goal back, controlling a
Shaun Wright-Phillips cross before sweeping past the keeper. The Frenchman
then went to collect the ball to assist a quick restart only for Ashley Cole
to refuse to release it, resulting in tempers flaring and Anelka holding
Cole's head with both hands before players from either side ploughed in.
Ultimately Cole was booked and Anelka was sent off, but others could also
have gone.


31 January 2004

Man United (2) 3 (Saha 18, Scholes 37, Van Nistelrooy 60)
Southampton (1) 2 (Ormerod 38, Phillips 53)

Man United lost a two-goal lead only to bounce back and beat Southampton 3-2
to regain top spot in the Premiership after a hugely entertaing encounter at
Old Trafford. United's new 11m man Louis Saha made it a dream debut with a
goal albeit courtesy of a massive deflection. The former Fulham man struck a
free kick from the edge of the area which was headed into his own net by
Kevin Phillips on the end of the wall, although Saha will claim that his
effort was heading toward the far corner. The lead was doubled when Saha's
long range effort wasnt held by Antti Niemi, allowing Paul Scholes to drill
home the rebound. Within a minute, the lead was halved and again it was due
to a stroke of luck as Phillips made up for his earlier error with a 25 yard
shot which deflected off of team mate Brett Ormerod to leave Howard
flat-footed as the ball sailed past him and in. Eight minutes after the
restart, Southampton stunned their hosts with an equaliser and this time
there was no doubt over the scorer. Fabrice Fernandes found a square pass to
Phillips whose 25-yard daisy-cutter flew into the bottom corner giving
Howard no chance, however United clinched all three points when Saints
failed to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo's cross, leaving Ruud Van Nistelrooy
on hand to sweep the ball in from close range, again via a deflection from
Jason Dodd, although replays suggested that the Dutchman was offside when
the kick was first taken.


Birmingham (0) 1 (John 90)
Newcastle (1) 1 (Speed 37)

Newcastle were denied an away win at Birmingham thanks to a stoppage time
equaliser from sub Stern John. The visitors went ahead thanks to a
blistering Gary Speed strike from 35-yard which sailed in via the post,
however with time almost up, the home side snatched a point when John was on
hand at the far post to slot in Kenny Cunningham's free kick.


Charlton (1) 1 (Johansson 12)
Bolton (1) 2 (Pedersen 1, Nolan 78)

Bolton move into eighth after a fine away win at Charlton who began their
post-Parker era badly. Bolton took under half a minute to go ahead when
Jussi Jasskelainen's long kick was headed on by Kevin Davies for Henrik
Pedersen to find the corner from the edge of the area. The hosts levelled
matters when Jonaton Johansson was at the far post to convert Claus Jensen's
cross with a diving header, however Bolton secured the win late on when
Kevin Nolan turned and shot home via the hands of Dean Kiely after Ibrahim
Ba's effort had been deflected.


Fulham (1) 2 (Malbranque (pen) 45, McBride 67)
Spurs (1) 1 (Keane (pen) 18)

Spurs' good run came to an end at London rivals Fulham, despite taking an
early lead. Robbie Keane was creator and scorer of the penalty as Ian Pearce
handled under pressure from the striker, who then made no mistake from the
spot. On half time, Fulham were level, also from a penalty after Luis Boa
Morte was fouled by Michael Brown, although Spurs felt that the contact was
outside the area. It made little difference as Steed Malbranque fired home.
The winner came courtesy of two debutants as Pearce's header was saved only
for Brian McBride to bury the rebound from close range.


Leeds (0) 0
Middlesbrough (0) 3 (Zenden 53, Job 77, Ricketts (pen) 89)
RED CARD: Robinson (Leeds) 88

Leeds remain rooted to the foot of the table after another poor display,
with Middlesbrough taking full advantage. After a goalless first half, Leeds
began the second half well only to fall behind when Massimo Maccarone found
Boudewijn Zenden who drilled home from the edge of the area. The lead was
doubled when a ball out of defence was dummied brilliantly by Juninho,
allowing Joseph Desire Job to run half the length of the pitch unchallenged,
round Paul Robinson and slot in from a tight angle. Salt was rubbed into the
gaping wounds late on as Michael Ricketts breached the backline and was
tripped by Robinson who was sent off. Ricketts then dispatched the penalty
past reserve keeper Scott Carson.


Leicester (0) 0
Aston Villa (0) 5 (Vassell 50, 60, Crouch 57, 68, Dublin 64)

Aston Villa destroyed Leicester at the Walkers Stadium with a five goal
burst in eighteen second half minutes, although that wasn't the story which
made the back pages. The opening goal came five minutes after the interval
as Darius Vassell was sent clear by Thomas Hitzlsperger and finished well
from 20 yards. Peter Crouch then doubled the lead with a brave stoop at the
far post to head home Hitzlsperger's cross, although he did get a kick in
the face whilst scoring and within three minutes, Vassell scored again with
a crisp shot from the edge of the area after Nol Solano and Crouch combined
well. It was all too much for one Leicester fan who evaded the almost
non-existant security to get onto the pitch and exchange words with keeper
Ian Walker, however he didnt bargain for Walker being less than amused and
was promptly pushed to the ground by the home stopper before the referee ran
over to restrain him. It clearly didn't help matters as four minutes later
the fourth goal went in, this time Dion Dublin scrambling the ball home at
the far post after Crouch had helped on Hitzlsperger's cross. The fifth
wasn't long in coming as Crouch turned well to score after Mark Delaney had
crossed.


Liverpool (0) 0
Everton (0) 0

No goals in the 170th Merseyside derby, but this was no bore-draw as both
goalkeepers made brilliant saves throughout. Everton veteran Nigel Martyn
denied Steven Gerrard as he somehow pushed his effort against the post,
whilst at the other end, Jerzy Dudek was at full stretch to make a flying
save from an Alan Stubbs header.


Portsmouth (0) 0
Wolves (0) 0

No goals either in the big relegation battle at Fratton Park, although
Portsmouth will feel aggrieved having hit the woodwork FOUR times! Eyal
Berkovic, Teddy Sheringham and Linvoy Primas were all denied by the frame of
the goal and as the game wore on, even Wolves defender Lee Naylor got into
the act when he hit his own post whilst trying to clear!


Gary Dowden - Joint Admin Topica Premier-L list
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