Stoke 1-2 Man. Utd – With the world, his wife and all their immediate family pre-occupied with the subject of Wayne Rooney last week, the man who overtook Carlos Tevez to become the world’s highest paid boglin on Friday evening spent his 25th birthday sunning himself in opulent Dubai whilst his lesser work colleagues slugged it out in Stoke, a city with the only football team in the country to employ football as a back up tactic. But the gods of football it seems do at least have a sense of humor, if not over troubled with the values of loyalty and perspective, as Rooney’s unknown, unfeted understudy won United the game with the very strikers instinct El Wazza’s been missing this season. Javier ‘Chicharito (Little Pea)’ Hernandez may look like a 12-year-old girl with a crew cut but already looks the part of heir apparent to Ole Solskjaer. His first goal was a gem of genuine originality as he arched like a flying sea lion to reach an awkward pull back, and scored – very deliberately – with the back of his head. To compound the irony, he celebrated by kissing his badge, which now almost certainly means he’ll angle for a move away the second United fail to win the league four times in a row. Gary Neville somehow avoided being sent off for a clear second yellow but was so rubbish anyway it most likely did Stoke a favor. Tuncay leveled with the goal of the game but that only served to wake United up from their second half malaise and Chicharito grabbed his second from close range before celebrating with a fan who looked bigger than all of United’s players put together. But then Wayne Rooney’s head was in Dubai.
Man. City 0-3 Arsenal – What on paper looks like a serious credibility dent in City’s quest to turn the big four into five is tempered slightly by the fact they played for 86 minutes of this encounter with ten men. Boyata received his marching orders in less than five minutes for denying a goal scoring opportunity, a decision which didn’t take into consideration that the recipient was Marouane Chamakh, or that the ball wasn’t four yards out and in the air. Samir Nasri gave the visitors the lead after one of those rare Arsenal moves that actually ends with a shot before their weekly compulsory penalty was saved admirably by Joe Hart. Adebayor was brought on to rally the home side and give the visiting Gooners something to shout at, but the away side made comfortable work of their personnel advantage and after Song had toe punted a resolution to another bout of obsessive compulsive passing disorder, Nicklas Bendtner rounded things off after breaking free of the City defence at the speed of a arthritic dinner lady.
Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn – With ownership issues now thoroughly behind them and with no one to aim overly sentimental minor celebrity endorsed viral video appeals at, Liverpool fans could concentrate on the proper business of supporting their team, and for once this season, their team actually looked worth supporting. So up for it they were in fact that Paul Robinson had his work cut out just trying to keep Blackburn in it in the first half. His valiant, balding resistance was undone only a couple of minutes into the second however as Sotirios Kyrgiakos – who looks like a circus giant who isn’t actually a giant – powered in a Steven Gerrard corner, helpfully assisted by Martin Olsson, who bafflingly decided to direct his headed clearance towards the middle of the goal, despite sanding on the post. Rovers found themselves level only a few minutes later however, as the most loveable man in football El Hadji Diouf, had his scuffed shot cleared off the line by Konchesky, right onto the iron buttocks of Jamie Carragher and back into the net. It was a goal of Laurel and Hardy-esque comic ineptitude, rescued from significance – though probably not an appearance on a football funnies Christmas video hosted by Danny Dyer in a shed – by Fernando Torres, who slotted in the winner from a Joe Cole cross only a few minutes later.
Chelsea 2-0 Wolves – The subplot to this game – as it’s become in every game these two have faced off – was the meeting of Petr Cech and the inspiration behind his iconic headwear, Stephen Hunt. His first action in this game – midway through the second half – was to almost score, rather ironically, by throwing himself head first at a ball that was quite easily volley high, placing his bonce in a fair degree of danger in the process. He may have dished it out, but no one can say he’s not willing to take it. As for the actual football, Chelsea managed to win comfortably without really playing that well and after Florent Malouda had broken the dreadlock, I mean dead lock, they never looked in doubt of doing it either. They had the chances to increase their lead, at one point scuppering their own breakaway by having too many people in it, but any early season hopes fans had of going through the entire campaign beating everyone 6-0 have unfortunately faded.
West Brom 2-1 Fulham – West Brom continued their relentless march to universal respect and admiration, furthering their chances of staying up comfortably whilst also actually playing football, despite being pitted here against a team sneakily employing state of the art camouflage tactics. Such is the odd hue of Fulham’s dark green away number, that at times it was actually quite hard to see them if you squinted, giving the impression that the Baggies were playing no one at all (which probably made the score line quite surprising for anyone slightly visually impaired.) This could also go some way to explaining why the home side weren’t awarded a stonewall penalty when Kelly was brought down in the second half, with the referee presumably assuming him to have tripped over the turf. But by then West Brom were already in charge, having recovered from the second, or first chronological bum goal of the weekend to take and hold a 2-1 lead. Roberto Di Matteo is quickly becoming one of my favorite League managers, despite his obviously having no eyes.
Sunderland 1-0 Villa – In one of those games with pots of chances but woeful finishing, it was left to Richard Dunne to save the day from goallessness, by leaping like a lorry driver to clear a near post cross into his own net. Even more unfortunately for Dunne, this was made all the more pointless by the fact there were no Sunderland players anywhere near him when he did this. He was actually clearing it away from his own team mate’s attempt to clear it away, probably with more success. Sensing the kind of day this was going to be Villa gave up trying to score the regular way and instead devoted the rest of the game to trying to win dubious penalties. Something they thankfully didn’t achieve.
West Ham 1-2 Newcastle – Andy Carroll returned to the pitch after a universally proclaimed “tough week” – though I’m pretty sure it was tougher for his girlfriend – and immediately got himself back amongst the goals. After Carlton Cole had given the ‘Ammers the lead, Carroll set up his land lord Kevin Nolan for the equalizer, possibly as part of some ingenious new rent system, before former fellow friend of the fuzz Joey Barton whipped in a gorgeous cross for Carroll to attack like a ..er..no I probably shouldn’t go there…
Tottenham 1-1 Everton – Fresh from his world alerting hat-trick in the San-Siro, the boy Bale was a little subdued as the Toffees held Spurs to draw at the Lane. Leighton Baines curled in a postage stamp free kick after Yakubu had been fouled by thin air, only for Rafael van der Vaart (who seems to score obligatorily in every match now) violently smashed home the equalizer from half a yard out for no practical reason whatsoever. In the second half Tottenham push forward for the winner, but could only consistently pick out Peter Crouch, unfortunately for them.
Birmingham 2-0 Blackpool – Liam Ridgewell somehow avoided giving away a penalty for handball before nodding the brummies ahead shortly after ensuring Ian Holloway gets worked up by something other than Wayne Rooney this week. Gary Taylor Fletcher – who looks far more like an extra from a cheap Guy Ritchie gangster movie homage made for bravo TV than he does a footballer – had some good chances for Blackpool before human mountain Zigic doubled the home side’s lead after some generous defending from Charlie Adam. Adam then injured himself in a clash with Zigic, but insisted on taking the resulting free kick anyway before running off for treatment, despite said injury being to his striking foot. Unsurprisingly, it was rubbish. The freekick, not the treatment.
Wigan 1-1 Bolton – In the showpiece game of the weekend, Wigan and Bolton slugged it out old school as their fans and players kidded themselves anyone outside of Greater Manchester would still be watching Match of The Day when it came on. Hugo Rodallega gave Roberto Martinez’ side the lead and should’ve gotten a headed winner after Elmander had draw the Trotters level. Franco Di Santo sounds, and looks, exactly like someone who should’ve be a character on the long running but now sadly defunct Sky1 camp football miniseries Dreem Team. In fact he should be, because he seems to serve no other purpose what so ever as far as I can work out.
Other Things I Noticed: The rather amusing sight of Javier Hernandez’ first interview question on Match of The Day, delivered to him in the slow, patronizing, simplistic tone of an Englishman addressing an assumed inferiorly lingual foreigner, only for it to be answered with a perfectly fluent stream of confident and coherent language, much to his surprise. His second question was asked normally.