Wednesday, October 22, 2008

EPL Weekly Update - P1 Report

Ted's Report:

Do you realize that if the season ended today Hull City would finish third and be in the Champions League next season? Meanwhile, ManU would be on the outside looking in? Dare to dream!

Ah, but fear not for all will be right with the world soon enough. While most American sport leagues strive for parity (or as some call it: mediocrity), the English Premiere League prides itself on its predictability. The Big Four are the Big Four and fifth is the new first.

Still, you have to give it up for the newly-promoted Hull. Most clubs in their first year in the Premiership fight just to stay up (Derby County anyone?), but the Tigers have shown they can play with the big boys. At least they can for the first eight matches of the season. We'll see how the remaining 30 games play out, but I think they will stay up. They certainly aren't as shockingly bad as Tottenham or Newcastle.

As for the Big Four, none of the teams have really played up to expectations thus far in the season. Each have at least one bad loss or draw already this season. Both Liverpool and Chelsea are on top with 20 points each, and both have done so despite injuries to key players. Liverpool have two straight come from behind 3-2 wins against Man City and Wigan. I don't know whether to be excited for the Reds resolve or concerned that they had to play catch up to the likes of Wigan... at Anfield no less.

Liverpool and Chelsea square off this Sunday for early League supremacy. Liverpool is without all-everything Fernando Torres (Club or Country rant coming in another post), but at least the Reds can count on the crafty Dirk Kuyt and his Dr. Seuss-inspired goals. Liverpool were without Torres and Gerrard for their win against ManU last month, and Ryan Babel stepped up to score the winning goal. So who will seize the opportunity at Stamford Bridge this week? Anyone? Anyone? Keane? Keane?

Meanwhile, ManU and Arsenal are overcoming their early-season stumbles and are just a handful of points behind - ManU even has a game in hand. Wins by both clubs this weekend against Everton and West ham respectively will put them squarely in the Top Four thus restoring order to the Universe.

Edith's Report

EPL Blog by Edith Wordsworth

I would like to start this “thing” by looking at some of this weekend's key match ups in the EPL. Everton travels to Goodison Park to take on Manchester United 12:00. Newcastle United will host the boys from Sunderland at 12:25. Also, Chelsea with make the trip to Liverpool to take on The Reds on Sunday at 13:30 (an obvious misprint, I'm assuming they meant 1:30 or 3:30).

The match up I'm most looking forward to and would like to concentrate on is Chelsea against the evil of Tom Hicks. Defense will play a key role in this game. The team that can control the ball and keep the other team from scoring will most likely come out on top.

Saloman Kalou, who scored twice against Middlebrough, thinks the Blues have the belief to win out the rest of the season. With four goals already this season, Kalou's confidence is understandably high.

Kalou took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me for an exclusive one on one interview.

Here is part of the transcript.

Edith: What is the focus here, I mean, you know?

Kalou: “The Focus is to win, the more we win the more we reach our goal to finish first. We can win every game, and we have to go for it and show we want to win” said the 23 year old. “The most important thing is that at the end of the game, we win.”

Edith: Isn't that difficult and stuff?

Kalou: “Every game is difficult, but we have to fight until the end in every game and try to be focused on ourselves”

In the interest of equal time I was able to track down Liverpool's Rafa Benitez.

Edith: What do you think of percentages?

Benitiez: “I don't like to talk too much about percentages but I always say we can improve. For me, 70 per cent could be a figure but its difficult to say.”

Edith: Technically speaking isn't it impossible to give 70 percent.

Benitez: “I think you are thinking of 110%”

Dirk Kuyt believe Liverpool can this week make a major statement of intent for the rest of the season.

“This is a vital week for us, firstly Madrid and then Chelsea on Sunday. Players can get tired with all the club matches and the internationals, but that is the way it is at the top”

Can't wait for this match up on Sunday. It will be a true test of will and determination among highly paid individuals and we can all agree on that kind of entertainment value.

Now on to this week's mailbag.

Dear Edith:

You seem to have a firm grasp on reality and soccer, have you always been this smart?


Judy Cunningham

Dear Judy,

Thanks for the email. I was not born smart. Smart was something I had to learn from public schools.


Dear Edith,

What kind of fraud are you? All you do is make stupid jokes while cutting and pasting articles? Anyone who can Google can do what you do!!

Dan McDowell

Dear Dan,

Anybody can but how many people actually do.


Sorry I could not write more but I'm extremely busy packing for my trip to cover the game in Liverpool this Sunday.

Edith Wordsworth.

Mehul’s Report:

After a week of World Cup qualifiers, EPL action resumed this weekend with a full slate of matches. The Big 4 in England all took care of business, therefore there are no changes in the standings amongst them. This may change on Sunday as Liverpool travel south to face Chelsea in a clash between the league leaders. As an Arsenal fan, I am rooting for a tie, but it should be an entertaining start to Sunday morning before the Cowboys-Bucs game.

Arsenal seem to have regained their form after a 3-1 win against Everton. A goal early in the 2nd half by newcomer Samir Nasri tied it and goals by Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott sealed the victory.

Arsenal showed the kind of fighting spirit they will need to stay the course in the Premier League title race after coming from behind to beat Everton 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger was forced to field a reshuffled defence because of injuries to captain William Gallas and Bacary Sagna, but the new-look back four was exposed after just nine minutes when Leon Osman put the visitors ahead.

However, after another enforced change when Kolo Toure was forced off at half-time because of a shoulder problem and England winger Theo Walcott was introduced from the bench, the team had better balance and soon drew level through Samir Nasri.

Robin van Persie - who on another day could have bagged himself a hat-trick - nodded in from close range to complete the comeback, with Walcott drilling home an angled effort in stoppage time to give the bruised Gunners renewed confidence for more stern challenges over the next seven months.

Chelsea who were on the road at Middlesbrough, dominated from beginning to end with a 5-0 thrashing. Saloman Kalou started the scoring with the first of his 2 goals in the 14th minute. The highlight of this match was a 35 yard strike from Brazilian Juliano Belletti early in the 2nd half.

Luiz Felipe Scolari gained an insight into just how good his injury-hit squad are after seeing them rip Middlesbrough apart.

Despite missing the likes of Petr Cech, Didier Drogba and Ashley and Joe Cole, the Blues were in rampant form at the Riverside Stadium to condemn Boro to the heaviest defeat of Gareth Southgate's reign.

Salomon Kalou fired the visitors ahead with 14 minutes gone, and although Chelsea took the game by the scruff of the neck, they had to wait until six minutes after the break for Juliano Belletti to increase their lead with a stunning 35-yard strike.

Kalou made sure of the points with a deflected 53rd-minute third, and Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda completed the rout on a day when Nicolas Anelka had a goal disallowed, hit the post and was denied by keeper Ross Turnbull.

At Anfield, Liverpool were 3-2 winners over Wigan from an 85th minute winner from Dirk Kuyt. It was Kuyt's second of the match. Liverpool took full advantage a 74th minute red card to Wigan's Antonio Valencia left them a man down.

Liverpool maintained their unbeaten home league record in 2008 with a stunning 3-2 comeback victory, but how Wigan made them fight.

The Anfield men are specialising in dramatic comebacks, and after Chelsea's 5-0 win at Middlesbrough earlier in the day, they knew they could not afford to slip-up.

But they were twice behind to first-half goals from Egyptian striker Amr Zaki, his second an acrobatic volley into the Kop end.

Dirk Kuyt's first equaliser kept Liverpool in the game and they fought their way back to win 3-2, just as they had at Manchester City a fortnight ago.

Wigan battled for everything and the game turned on a red card for Antonio Valencia with 16 minutes left.

The Latics were down to 10 men and Liverpool powered forward, with Albert Riera grabbing the equaliser and Kuyt, with a slightly less clean version of Zaki's volley, secured maximum points for Rafael Benitez's side.

Manchester United scored four 2nd half goals at Old Trafford and shut out West Brom 4-0.

Wayne Rooney continued his scoring spree to inspire Manchester United to a clinical 4-0 victory over West Brom.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov also found the net during a devastating 15-minute period for the Barclays Premier League champions, with Nani completing the scoring in the last minute.

But it was a struggle until man-of-the-match Rooney broke the Baggies' resistance by scoring in his fifth successive game, a run that has yielded six goals for club and country and has now moved United into the top four.

West Brom had every reason to be fearful and it appeared those worries were proved valid when the England striker tucked home midway through the opening period.

On first viewing, Rooney appeared merely to use his strength to push Gianni Zuiverloon to one side as he skipped onto Ronaldo's through ball.

Hull continue their fairytale start with another win, this time 1-0 against West Ham. The win keeps them in 3rd place, ahead of Arsenal and Man United.

Londoner Michael Turner emerged as the latest hero of Hull's remarkable Premier League season as his 51st-minute header at the KC Stadium proved enough to inflict more capital carnage.

Following stunning wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, the Lewisham-born Turner struck to sink Gianfranco Zola's ailing West Ham 1-0 and send the Tigers roaring back up to third place.

Confidence oozing from every pore, the home side deserved their latest win for their attacking intent and Phil Brown's men looked dangerous on the counter-attack right up to the final whistle.

In other scores from the weekend:

Sunderland 0 - Fulham 0
Portsmouth 0 - Aston Villa 0
Blackburn 0 - Bolton 0
Stoke 2 - Tottenham 1
Manchester City 2 - Newcastle 2

Standings after Round 8

1. Chelsea - 20 pts
2. Liverpool- 20
3. Hull - 17
4. Arsenal - 16
5. Man Utd - 14 (game in hand)
6. Aston Villa - 14
7. Portsmouth - 13
8. West Ham - 12
9. Blackburn - 11
10. Man City - 10
11. West Brom - 10
12. Sunderland - 9
13. Middlesbrough - 9
14. Wigan - 8
15. Bolton - 8
16. Everton - 8
17. Fulham - 7 (game in hand)
18. Stoke - 7
19. Newcastle - 6
20. Tottenham - 2

**Don't forget to set your Tivo this week as Champions League play resumes.

Tuesday 10/21
Arsenal vs. Fenerbahce - 1:45 p.m. on Setanta Sports
Celtic vs. Man Utd. - 1:45 p.m. on ESPN 2

Wednesday 10/22
Roma vs. Chelsea - 1:45 p.m. on Setanta Sports
Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid - 1:45 p.m. on ESPN 2

From Brandon:==============

Liverpool 3, Wigan 2

The Reds do it, again. This time, stunning a very game Wigan squad that saw a potential 2-1 upset at Anfield go up in smoke in less than five minutes late in the match.

The Latics were paced by Amr Zaki's two goals. One of which was an absolute gift when Daniel Agger miserably misplayed a pass from Pepe Reina. Zaki pounced on the mistake and promptly put the ball past Reina and into the right corner of the net to open the scoring in the 29th minute.

Eight minutes later, Dirk Kuyt leveled the match thanks to some atonement from Agger, who maneuvered through the Wigan backline before finding Kuyt in front for the score.

Then Zaki struck, again, during injury time with a brilliant bicycle kick into the upper right corner of the net off a Luis Antonio Valencia cross. You can see why the young Egyptian on loan has garnered so much interest from so many clubs.

Wigan continued to nurse the one goal lead when the turning point of the match occurred. Valencia was ruled to have broken free from the wall and violated the 10 yard buffer that defensive players are supposed to allow on a free kick. And as such, he got booked. The re-kick from Stephen Gerrard went wide, but two minutes later, Valencia picked up another yellow on a reckless challenge on Xabi Alonso, putting his side down a man.

And with the man advantage for the rest of the match, Rafa decided to switch to an all out attack that paid dividends when a shot from Albert Riera from just beyond the top of the box found it's way past Chris Kirkland, who made plenty of clutch saves earlier in the match but couldn't get a hand on this one.

And he also couldn't get a hand on Dirk Kuyt's 85th minute strike to give the Reds yet another come from behind win.

Chelsea 5, Middlesborough 0

Meanwhile, Chelsea chalked up another drama-less win in dismantling Middlesborough, 5-0, their fifth consecutive clean sheet. In fact, you have to look off the pitch to find any drama with this club it seems.

The FA is investigating comments from Didier Drogba, who wrote in his autobiography that he wished he had punched Nemanja Vidic in the Champions League Final last May.

Back on the pitch, Salomon Kalou picked up Juliano Belletti's rebound and slotted it past Ross Turnbull. The Blues held that 1-0 lead before pouring it on early in the second half, putting four shots past Turnbull in a 12 minute span with Kalou picking up his second goal of the match with a 53rd minute score.

Manchester United 4, West Bromwich 0

This one was a tight affair as the first 45 minutes came and went without any goals. Though not for lack of effort on the part of one Wayne Rooney, who had quite a few chances to break through in the first half.

In the second half, he finally broke through by cutting in front of Ryan Donk and blistering a low shot past Scott Carson for a 1-nil lead. Rooney then set up Cristiano Ronaldo with a nice feed that the Portugese striker slid under the body of Carson to double up the lead. Dmitar Berbatov made it 3-nil two minutes late and Nani took advantage of another nice feed from Rooney and a lack of marking from the West Bromwich side to make it 4-0 in injury time.

Arsenal 3, Everton 1

The Gunners got a much needed victory, but it came at a hefty price. defender Kolo Toure damaged shoulder ligaments in the match last Saturday and will not play in the club's Champions League group stage match at Fenerbahce.

Arsenal fell behind just nine minutes into the match as Steven Pienaar rushed the ball down the left side and sent a cross over to Leon Osman who poked a shot past Manuel Almunia to stun the crowd at Emirates Stadium. The Toffees kept the lead through the first half before Arsenal finally broke through to level the match in the 49th minute. Tim Howard and the Everton defense successfully denied a corner, but the ball was only half cleared out to Mikael Silvestre who found Samir
Nasri. The Frenchman drilled a shot off Joleon Lescott and into the corner of the net.

21 minutes later, Arsenal took the lead for good thanks to a cross from Emmanuel Adebayor who found Francesc Fabregas. His initial offering was saved by Howard, but the rebound went right to Robin Van Persie, who potted the game winner. In the 89th minute, Arsenal put the match away as Theo Walcott found Vasiriki Abou Diaby, who scored his first Premier League goal at Emirates.

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