25 February 2007


ARSENAL 1 (Walcott 12)
CHELSEA 2 (Droga 20, 84)

Chelsea came from behind to beat Arsenal in the Carling Cup Final in a game that saw three players sent off in stoppage time and a match that lasted 102 minutes!

Arsenal continued with their policy of fielding the youngsters and fringe players in this competition and their starting XI had an astonishing average age of just 21. Early on it made little difference as Cesc Fabregas forced a save from Chelsea keeper Petr Cech whilst Jeremie Aliadiere almost forced in an effort from Julio Baptiste. Cech then made a brilliant diving save from a stinging shot from Baptiste and although the resulting corner was delayed as Chelsea fans threw objects as Fabregas, it led to the opening goal. The original corner was cleared and collected by Theo Walcott who exchanged passes with Abou Diaby and produced a wonderful finish to slot the ball past the keeper and into the corner. Chelsea were shellshocked but battled back and were level inside eight minutes. The creator was Michael Ballack whose chipped through ball sent Didier Drogba clear and his low shot gave the keeper no chance. Replays showed Drogba to be very slightly offside but it's the kind of decision we keep hearing about the attacker being given the benefit of the doubt. Oddly, whilst Arsenal contnued to hold their own, the rest of the half saw few chances as the defences suddenly tightened up after the excitement of the first twenty minutes.

Arsenal started the second half as they began the first as Diaby was clean through only to be denied by Cech and Fabregas fizzed a shot across goal and just wide of the far post. Chelsea brought on Arjen Robben at half time and produced a mazy run and shot which sailed wide and on the hour had to make another change when John Terry was accidentally kicked in the face, an incident which saw him laid flat out for six minutes and was ultimately stretchered off to replaced by John Obi Mikel. Thankfully the flow of the game continued as Drogba found space and forced Manuel Almunia into a decent save and Frank Lampard, who had done little previously, smacked a dipping shot against the crossbar. Arsenal were still looking as likely though and Kolo Toure should have done better when he sent a free header over, the ball hitting his shoulder rather than him making a clean contact. Five minutes later, he was shown how to do it as Drogba grabbed his second of the game with a stunning header into the corner from a chipped cross by Robben after Arsenal gave possession away in their own final third. Drogba then set up Andriy Shevchenko to clattered a shot against the bar as the game entered SEVEN minutes of stoppage time which didn't seem enough as that only really covered the injury to Terry! The game was played in a good spirit until stoppage time when Mikel and Toure sparked a mass brawl that saw Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho rush onto the pitch to try and resolve matters although ultimately both Mikel and Toure were shown red cards as was Emmanuel Adebayor for mouthing off at the ref and he had to be restrained as his fury continued.

Attendance : 70,073
Red Cards : Mikel 96 (Chelsea), Toure 96 (Arsenal), Adebayor 96 (Arsenal)
Assists : Diaby, Ballack, Robben

BLACKBURN 3 (Nonda 1, Nonda 25, Warnock 50)

Portsmouth's European hopes took a blow as Blackburn recovered from their UEFA Cup exit with an easy win. They were ahead inside a minute when a poor back header from Sol Campbell saw Shabani Nonda slot the ball in from a tight angle. He also added the second with the Portsmouth defence again helping out as both Noe Pamarot and keeper David James left the ball at the near post, allowed Nonda a tap in at the far from Matt Derbyshire's cross. Early in the second half, Nonda could have had a hat trick but set up Stephen Warnock to blast in the third and it looked as though Nonda's third would be forthcoming when James tripped Morten Gamst Pedersen in the area, however Nonda's penalty was pushed around the post by the keeper who was yards off of his line when the kick was taken.

Attendance : 17,434
Assists : n/a, n/a, Nonda

TOTTENHAM 4 (Keane 11, Jenas 19, Keane 22, Lennon 92)
BOLTON 1 (Speed 37 Pen)

Three wins and ten goals in a week for Spurs as they blitzed Bolton at White Hart Lane. The first half was all about Robbie Keane who was involved in all four goals. He scored the first with a blistering near post effort from Dimitar Berbatov's flick and made the second when his shot was saved and then put in by the knee of Jermaine Jenas. The third goal in eleven minutes followed as Keane turned in Pascal Chimbonda's near post cross, however it all went wrong then for Keane up the other end as he handled Ivan Campo's header off the line and was sent off. He claimed that the ball hit his chest which it did, just before he palmed it away. Gary Speed blasted home the resulting penalty. Spurs wrapped up the win in stoppage time when Steed Malbranque broke clear and set up Aaron Lennon who made no mistake.

Attedance : 35,747
Assists : Berbatov, n/a, Chimbonda, n/a, Malbranque

WIGAN 1 (Taylor 40 fk)

Wigan eased their relegation fears after a narrow home win against Newcastle. The only goal was a beauty as Ryan Taylor curled a superb free kick from the left edge of the area into the far top corner. The victory leaves a six point buffer between Wigan and the bottom three.

Attendance : 21,179
Assist : Baines (won fk)

24 February 2007

CHARLTON 4 (Ambrose 24, Thomas 34, Bent 41, Thomas 80)

Two of the bottom three met at the Valley with Charlton leap-frogging West Ham after a comprehensive win. As a sub plot, both managers - Alan Pardew of Charlton and Alan Curbishley of West Ham - used to manage their opponents and it was Pardew who had the final laugh having been sacked by the Hammers just two months ago. His Charlton side had the game won by half time with three excellent goals. The first came from Darren Ambrose whose controlled volley into the corner from Marcus Bent's cross set up the win. Jerome Thomas added the second with a solo run half the length of the pitch and sweet finish across the keeper having been found originally by Ben Thatcher and by the break it was three as a tackle from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink won the ball and then the Dutchman sent Darren Bent through to finish crisply. Thomas wrapped it up late on with a first time finish from a cross by Ambrose, leaving Charlton just three points from safety ahead of the Sunday games.

Attendance : 27,111
Assists : M Bent, Thatcher, Hasselbaink, Ambrose

MIDDLESBROUGH 2 (Viduka 7, Yakubu 69)
READING 1 (Oster 87)

Reading's good unbeaten run came to an end as Middlesbrough clinched a narrow win. Boro started well and took an early lead when Stuart Downing's free kick was nodded across goal by Emmanuel Pogatetz and cheekily back-heeled in by Mark Viduka. The Australian set up the second as he found Yakubu on the edge of the area and he turned and walloped a beauty into the top corner. John Oster scored a late consolation with a far post volley after Glen Little's cross was only half cleared but Boro held on.

Attendance : 26,412
Assists : Pogatetz, Viduka, n/a

LIVERPOOL 4 (Fowler 20 Pen, Fowler 25 Pen, Hyypia 70, Gerrard 73)

No Barcelona hangover for Liverpool as they swept aside Sheffield United at Anfield. Two penalties won by Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool a good start, the first as he was hauled to the ground by Rob Kozluk as he looked to find space from a corner and the second, just five minutes later, as Nick Montgomery dragged him back as he looked to reach the goal-line. Both, although especially the first, were contested by United, however Robbie Fowler converted both, the first with a drilled finish to the keepers left and the second, a more controlled shot to the opposite corner. Two quick fire second half goals srapped the win up as United failed to clear a Jermaine Pennant corner and Sam Hyypia drilled in at the near post and then Gerrard added the fourth himself with a low drive having been found by Fowler.

Attendance : 44,198
Assists : Gerrard (won pen), Gerrard (won pen), n/a, Fowler

EVETON 3 (Fernandes 23, Johnson 25 Pen, Osman 90)

Bottom club Watford edged closer to relegation after they were swept aside at home to Everton. Two goals in three minutes gave Everton an excellent platform. The first came after Tim Cahill's shot was fumbled by keeper Richard Lee and bundled in from close range by a combination of Andy Johnson and Manuel Fernandes, replays appearing to show the latter got the final touch to register his first Everton goal. A minute later, controversy reigned as Johnson burst clear only to go down under a dual challenge from Malkay Mackay and Jay DeMerit. The referee awarded a penalty despite heated arguments from the hosts and Johnson, oft accused of diving this season, stepped up to convert the spot kick. The lead should have been doubled by half time however both Cahill and James Beattie missed close range sitters by firing over the bar with only the keeper to beat. Early in the second half, Tamas Priskin missed a couple of decent chances to get Watford back into the game but it simply wasn't to be as late on the win was clinched by Leon Osman with a long range shot having been set up by Beattie.

Attendance : 18,761
Assists : n/a, Johnson (won pen), Beattie

FULHAM 1 (McBride 18)
MANCHESTER UNITED 2 (Giggs 29, Ronaldo 88)

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning late winner to put Man United nine points clear in a game largely dominated by Fulham.

The home side began strongly and took a deserved lead thanks to some awful United defending. A neat one-two sent Simon Davies away on goal and as Nemanja Vidic tracked back and keeper Edwin Van Der Sar came out, both missed the chance to clear and as the ball fell for Brian McBride, he guided it past Rio Ferdinand on the line and in off the far post from a tricky angle. It sparked United into life and they equalised and Wayne Rooney crossed for captain Ryan Giggs to send a superb volley back across goal and inside the far post.

Fulham began the second half with a purpose as Davies turned well and forced a superb save out of Van Der Sar and Thomasz Radzinski thumped a header against the bar after a deep cross left the goal open. Davies then found space down the middle and drilled a shot at the keeper again who also back-tracked to keep out the looping header from the rebound, also from Davies. United had plenty of the ball but did little in the final third although Giggs did drill an effort over from the edge of the area. Fulham were lucky to keep all eleven men on when Papa Bouba Diop, having already been booked, caught Giggs late near the corner flag only for the ref to award a free kick but not a second yellow. The chances continued to fall for the hosts as Van Der Sar again came to the rescue with McBride's shot from an angle kept out although within a minute, another former Fulham star Louis Saha did have an angled effort saved by home keeper Jan Lastuvka. The stage was set for a late winner and it came for United and Ronaldo who ran half the length of the pitch down the left flank, cut inside and drilled past the keeper with two minutes to go, aided by a slight deflection. Fulham felt they should have had a penalty a minute later when Van Der Sar clattered into Heidar Helguson however the ref waved away the protests.

Attendance : 24,459
Assists : n/a, Rooney, n/a

21 February 2007

Everton 1 (Arteta 42)
Tottenham 2 (Berbatov 35, Jenas 89)

Spurs left it late to move into the top half of the table with a deserved win at Everton. They went ahead thanks to an interception and run down the right by Aaron Lennon and his cross was swept in by Dimitar Berbatov. Everton levelled just before half time after striker Victor Anichebe was awarded a free kick by the ref having been fouled by Michael Dawson despite the linesman flagging for a foul the opposite way! Ironically Mikael Arteta converted the free kick from 25 yards with a shot which went in off the post. Spurs always looked the more likely winners and snatched all three points with a minute left when Jermaine Jenas fired in from long range with a low drive.

Attendance : 34,121
Assists : Lennon, Anichebe (won fk), Malbranque

Watford 1 (Henderson 24)
Wigan 1 (Folan 40)

Bottom club Watford blew the chance to move off the foot of the table after allowing fourth from bottom Wigan to come from behind to earn a point. Things looked good for th hosts when, in a four minute spell, they were a man and a goal up. The red card was harsh as Fitz Hall went in studs first on Johan Cavalli and won the ball, however in the current climate, any studs first challenge is seen as dangerous and Hall was dismissed. Watford then went ahead when a scramble in the area was resolved as Darius Henderson netted from close range after Jordan Stewart fired the ball across goal. Home keeper Ben Foster was injured in a challenge with Caleb Folan but as Watford had no reserve keeper on the bench, he stayed on and Wigan then earned a vital point before half time when Folan chased his own header to fire home from 12 yards.

Attendance : 18,338
Red Card : Hall 20 (Wigan)
Assists : Stewart, Landzaat

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