The Weekend in Review: Aston Villa v Portsmouth, Manchester United v Derby County, Chelsea v Sunderland

10 December 2007

Well I am back for the first of two rounds of match reviews. What I am unable to get to tomorrow night will still get a write up. I hope you enjoy and remember all feedback is welcomed and encouraged.

Aston Villa v Portsmouth
: Sulley Muntari's double proved too much for Aston Villa to handle as despite constant pressure throughout, Portsmouth show why they are the top goal scorers away from home as they leave Villa Park with a decisive 3-1 victory.
Aston Villa bit themselves in the backside with some horrific marking and overall bad defending on the day. They gave Portsmouth way too much space coming on the defensive and the center backs simply forgot what was to tightly mark. Going forward they did create a few decent opportunities, but were simply lacking a vital final touch. Once 3-0 down, their decision to throw conventional tactics out the window should have cost them more.
Portsmouth on the day really had one major flaw and that being the quality of their first touches and passes. They defended rather well considering the threat they were under and David James made a string of very fine saves. They could have done a little bit better job marking. However on a day when their opponents are trying too hard, you can get away with minor things. Another thing you can take out of this performance, should he stay consistent, is the fact Sulley Muntari is starting to look like another dangerous threat from the midfield. This will give Utaka more freedom to do what he does best on the wing and should give Benjani more touches forward. One thing you would have to also show some concern about is the fact that despite four chances to counter late, they didn't score on any of them. Those chances should have been taken as great in game training but instead looked something you would do on a training ground.
Defining Moments
Minute 4: Yellow Card John Carew. Sol Campbell out muscles Carew to the ball and in retaliation bends the ankle back on a late rash challenge. Stupid booking to get early on as it would have just been better off to tick it off as a lesson learned.
Minute 9: GOAL PORTSMOUTH, OWN GOAL CRAIG GARDNER. Off a corner, the ball is played to Noe Pamarot. The shot from Pamarot ends up off the foot of Bouma and as Benjani goes to play the ball, Gardner's attempted clearance ends up in at the far post. Everything up to playing the ball to Pamarot was perfect, after his shot it was all luck. Sometimes it's just better to be lucky than nothing at all. Aston Villa 0 Portsmouth 1.
Minute 18: Off an Aston Villa corner, Martin Laursen loses his marker Sol Campbell, but had too much time to think about his header and didn't put much pace on it going far post. David James did try to make the save more dramatic than truly was. You have to wonder if Gardner overcompensated for the weather conditions.
Minute 20: See Minute 18, instead substitute free kick for corner kick, and Gardner was totally unmarked. Of the two chances from Gardner, that one should have been the equalizing goal, no excuses.
Minute 26: David James more lucky than skillful to deny Gabriel Agbonlahor from scoring at the near post. The angle on the Agbonlahor's shot wasn't the best in the world, however Sol Campbell's deflection was what forced James into action. In the end, the fact James kept his foot grounded on the near post was what prevented that from going in.
Minute 40: GOAL PORTSMOUTH, GOAL SULLEY MUNTARI. Simply pathetic marking for Aston Villa. Muntari takes the pass from Johnson on the wing and with two touches gets Martin Laursen to ground. Nigel Rio-Coker was next closest and he doesn't bother trying to get to the ball. Muntari simply sets and fires from 25 and scores going to the upper ninety far post. Simply perfection from Muntari, dreadful from Villa despite taking the game to Portsmouth most of the first half. Aston Villa 0 Portsmouth 2.
Minute 43: Yellow Card Papa Bouba Diop. The camera doesn't really show what he did.
Minute 45+1: Gabriel Agbonlahor forces David James into a point blank save. Agbonlahor beats Sylvain Distin and on the volley blasts right at James who had just barely enough time to react and parry out for a corner.
Minute 55: Niko Kranjcar gets past Olof Mellberg and has a shot that looks to be going in at the far post, but the ball hooks past the near post. Those are the efforts Kranjcar are the most dangerous in and he showed it there.
Minute 61: GOAL PORTSMOUTH, GOAL SULLEY MUNTARI. This all starts from a poor Scott Carson punt. Muntari dispossesses Nigel Rio-Coker in the midfield, takes three touches while nutmegging Zat Knight. Muntari simply sets and blasts the ball in at the far post. That has to go down as one of the top goals we'll see this season. Scott Carson has to be put to blame for this goal as had he gotten a better ball forward, we're not debating this one. Aston Villa 0 Portsmouth 3.
Minute 67: Yellow Cards Glen Johnson and Patrik Berger. Glen Johnson and Patrik Berger share some words and a shove after Berger comes in late and is fouled. The referee has no choice but to give a yellow to both.
Minute 71: PENALTY TO ASTON VILLA, GOAL ASTON VILLA, GOAL GARETH BARRY. Sylvain Distin is beaten by Ashley Young and clips him as he gets by. No play on the ball and only got the leg from behind. Obvious penalty. Gareth Barry goes to his upper right and scores while James goes to Barry's left. Stupid mistake from Barry as with the way Aston Villa had been performing on the afternoon would have probably bottled the cross. Aston Villa 1 Portsmouth 3.
Minute 74: Yellow Card David James. Time wasting before taking the free kick. Almost comical in the way James thought it shouldn't have been a booking.
Minute 76: Yellow Card Noe Pamarot. Takes out Gabriel Agbonlahor from behind. Considering the space Agbonlahor had, it probably was the wisest thing Pamarot could do.
Minute 80: Yellow Card Niko Kranjcar. Fouls Berger from behind before he could play the ball in on the wing. Portsmouth are defending like they're the side two goals.
Minute 84: I think we have the miss of the season here. Mendes finds Diop wide open at the far post with Carson rooted to the near, but Diop gets too fancy with the finish and the ball ends up in the side netting. Diop had everything working for him...but the finish.
Minute 88: Patrik Berger nearly makes things interesting late with an open shot from 20 yards, but goes just high of the crossbar. Got too much of the ball and had just a little too much power.
Minute 90: Gabriel Agbonlahor from close range off the woodwork. Harewood does exceptionally well to get the cross in and had the ball been about six inches lower, Villa pull a second back.

Manchester United v Derby County: Derby County defended well...for the first thirty-nine minutes of the game. After that, questionable marking give Manchester United two quick goals to end the first half. After that, the Red Devils coasted through the second half, and though extremely questionable at the end, Cristiano Ronaldo's goal from the spot gave Manchester United a comfortable 4-1 victory.
Manchester United looked in the first thirty-five minutes to play simply in first gear, however once they upped their tempo, they put the game out of reach. Granted they didn't have to do much work breaking though a back line that leaks goals, but to still get multiple chances the way they did is to be admired. Carlos Tevez showed again how he can punish you should you give him the proper space. Congrats to Ryan Giggs for his one-hundredth Premier League goal, but Cristiano Ronaldo is again a major bone of contention with me. Twice he should have been booked for diving and the fact he wasn't is disgraceful. I guess the Stretford End is that intimidating.
Derby County despite putting everyone behind the ball looked extremely lost defending. They looked caught in two train of thoughts, the old style man marking of the new zonal marking that Paul Jewell is trying to establish. Claude Davis and Darren Moore look like they should be languishing in the lower leagues instead of embarrassing the Rams in the Premier League, and I for the life of me cannot explain what Dean Leacock was thinking giving Tevez space inside the penalty area. I have to credit the midfield and forwards at they at least tried to get forward and create chances, and congrats to Steve Howard for getting his first Premier League goal. Honestly why Howard and Miller isn't the partnership up front is beyond me. The sadder thing is had the pitch been pristine and it been a sunny day in Manchester, instead of the muck and mire of a torrential downpour, Manchester United would have put more than six past them, and that is unacceptable.
Defining Moments
Minute 15: Claude Davis very lucky to not see a yellow card for his clumsy tackle of Ryan Giggs that conceded a free kick 22 from goal. They are also very lucky that the free kick from Ryan Giggs didn't bend but straightened out as it reached it's peak.
Minute 24: What a challenge from McEveley. The pass from Ronaldo to Giggs is centered to Tevez. However from two yards out that should have been 1-0. However James McEveley gets the faintest of deflections that causes the ball to deflect off of the foot of Stephen Bywater. There is no excuse why Carlos Tevez did not bury that ball and cause the back of the net to burst.
Minute 32: Yellow Card Claude Davis. The second ridiculous challenge from Davis, this time in the midfield giving a hip check to Wayne Rooney. Perfectly fine for a hockey rink, will eight times out of ten be a yellow card on a football pitch.
Minute 40: GOAL MANCHESTER UNITED, GOAL RYAN GIGGS. The worst defending you can imagine. The ball to Evra is deflected to Ronaldo. Ronaldo's shot is saved well by Bywater, but no on clears and Ryan Giggs beats James McEveley to the ball and scores from five yards out. Derby County may have had everyone behind the ball, but their reaction to Ronaldo shooting inside the box was woeful, the fact no one tracked back to attempt to clear even worse. Derby cannot give Manchester United second chances. Manchester United 1 Derby County 0.
Minute 43: Claude Davis is a beaten man again he goes after the pass from Rooney instead of playing the man. Rooney gets in all alone with Bywater, and his chip ends up off the far post. Rooney has to capitalize on that mistake.
Minute 45: GOAL MANCHESTER UNITED, GOAL CARLOS TEVEZ. Off a Manchester United free kick, Ronaldo's pass into the penalty area ends up at the feet of Carlos Tevez. Tevez whiffs on his first attempt on goal, which may have been to his benefits as it causes Andy Griffin to dive over the ball. Tevez takes, and scores past a flat footed Bywater. James McEveley was the man who should have marked Tevez better. Either way, good job by Ronaldo to get that ball where chaos would ensue. Manchester United 2 Derby County 0.
Minute 52: Yellow Card Andy Griffin. Challenged Ronaldo and ends up giving up a free kick that should have never been given. Griffin rightfully so is upset and says the wrong words to the official, and sees a yellow for dissent.
Minute 58: Ryan Giggs goes in off the post after Tyrone Mears gifts him all the space he needed near the six yard box. Again Derby County seem caught between two trains of thought at the back.
Minute 60: GOAL MANCHESTER UNITED, GOAL CARLOS TEVEZ. Off a spell of controlled Manchester United possession, Wes Brown gets a perfect pass to Tevez. Tevez uses the first touch to freeze Dean Leacock, uses the second touch to set, and uses the final touch to go in at the far post. What in the world was Dean Leacock thinking not bothering to get up on Tevez before he gets the ball? It surely was mind blowing stuff. Manchester United 3 Derby County 0.
Minute 71: Can anyone explain to me what Gary Teale was doing? Why was he passing the ball back to Bywater when that should have just been launched forward? Stupid mistake.
Minute 76: GOAL DERBY COUNTY, GOAL STEVE HOWARD. Complete shock from Derby County. The ball play from the midfield to Tyrone Mears. Mears then gets by Van Der Sar and centers to Howard. Howard was able to fight off Patrice Evra to get just enough on the ball to carry it over the line. That attack completely threw Manchester United off guard as it was truly route one in every sense of the word. I don't think Steve Howard will mind that to get his first Premier League goal. Manchester United 3 Derby County 1.
Minute 90+1: PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED, GOAL MANCHESTER UNITED, GOAL CRISTIANO RONALDO. For starters that is a yellow card for diving, but from the angle the man in the middle saw it from, Mears stuck his leg out. That's all Ronaldo needed to fall to ground. Ronaldo takes it instead of Tevez which is the next disgrace, and scores going lower left. Bywater went to Ronaldo's right. It should have never been a penalty and the fact Ronaldo took the kick is a slap in the face to Derby County. Manchester United 4 Derby County 1.

Chelsea v Sunderland: An Andriy Shevchenko strike along with a very questionable penalty decision was enough for Chelsea to squeak by Sunderland 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
So much for more expansive football from Chelsea. They had a very difficult time breaking down Sunderland and that was despite them being dared to attack. They failed to really create decent scoring chances. Chelsea were also very lucky to earn the penalty to make the scoreline more deceptive than they play dictated. The back line were about the only positive on the day.
Sunderland played their game plan to perfection save one moment mid way through the first half. Roy Keane picked the right moment to up their tempo and make Chelsea sweat, however they simply didn't get the ball to Kenwyne Jones enough to make a difference. They just seemed one pass too late which didn't help matters either.
Defining Moments
Minute 10: Dean Whitehead gets away with an obvious shove on Shawn Wright-Phillips. The only one it wasn't obvious to was Peter Walton. That should have been a penalty as Whitehead was only concerned with the player, not playing the ball.
Minute 23: GOAL CHELSEA, GOAL ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO. The ball played into Kalou down the left wing beats Greg Halford. Kalou then crosses into Shevchenko who had beaten Danny Higginbotham and scores with the head at the far post. Poor defending after a promising start from Sunderland. Kalou beat Halford way too easily and then Higginbotham assumed where the ball was going, he assumed wrong. Chelsea 1 Sunderland 0.
Minute 33: Kenwyne Jones despite the ball being on his weaker foot, turns John Terry. However his shot wasn't the strongest and Cudicini was there to collect. He probably would have been wiser to try and turn Alex while getting the ball on his stronger foot.
Minute 40: Yellow Card Ross Wallace. Misses the fifty-fifty ball against Belletti and then runs right through him. Petty booking really.
Minute 74: PENALTY TO CHELSEA, GOAL CHELSEA, GOAL FRANK LAMPARD. Off a Lampard free kick, Alex gets in behind Higginbotham. There was next to no contact there and Peter Walton gives the spot kick. Stupid decision to me as it was going on all around in the box. Lampard steps up and scores lower right, Darren Ward going to Lampard's left. Stupid penalty decision. Chelsea 2 Sunderland 0.
Minute 88: RED CARD LIAM MILLER. Talk about losing your temper. Claudio Pizarro ups the knee to Miller's groin but stops before doing so. Miller gives Pizarro a prompt shove and right in front of Peter Walton. That's always going to be a red card. Pizarro should have seen an early shower as well and hopefully since nothing was done, the FA will do something retroactively.
Minute 90+2: Frank Lampard off a deflection out of the penalty area nearly makes it three with a bouncing shot that goes off the far post. That would have simply been extremely harsh on Sunderland.

Until I write again, may the debate begin. Comment here.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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