Torres Double Overshadowed by Mike Riley

28 September 2008

Fernando Torres two goals in three minutes is the difference as Liverpool take the short trip to Goodison Park and come out 2-0 victors that was marred by the horrific refereeing of Mike Riley.

I am going to say it like I see it here, Mike Riley has officially ended the FA's respect campaign over the last two weeks. Last week, Soccernet picked up 40 fouls Riley called between Chelsea and Manchester United. Today, Soccernet picked up 43 and the Guardian showed 39. Fact remains, the majority of fouls Riley has called over the last two weeks have not only been severely questionable at best, but have tested the patience of even the most patient people.

To make matter worse this week unlike last week, as far as I'm concerned, Tim Cahill was unjustly sent off ten minutes from the ninety. Yes the tackle was nasty, but it was just as bad as Arbeloa's tackle four minute earlier. No one from Liverpool expected red, no one in the EPL Talk Chat expected red, and I'm convinced the only one who was convinced it was red is Mike Riley.

This is the second high profile match Riley has refereed in six days. As far as I'm concerned he's made some serious errors in judgment that have to be taken into account. From the farcical ending to last week's Chelsea/Manchester United fixture to Cahill's sending off, Riley has made big mistakes that seem to be forgiven by the FA. Yes refereeing is a tough job and they deserve respect, but when a referee continues to make mistakes to the magnitude Riley has of late, it's very hard to give Riley any at all.

As to the match itself, Riley's whistle made sure there was no flow to the match. Liverpool though dominated from the kickoff. Everton only had about ten minutes where they were on the ascendancy, even then they were unable to test Jose Reina. Liverpool in the first half were unable to break Everton down in the final third. Everton's back four and midfield were being way too forgiving and pretty much allowing Liverpool all the space they wanted when they were pushing forward.

Both Liverpool goals boil down too two fatal flaws. The first being losing possession in the midfield and the second being defenders abandoning their space giving Torres all the space in the world to do his job. On the first goal, Alonso gets the ball in the midfield and it's Joleon Lescott abandoning his space trailing Kuyt's run near post. How no one else was marking Torres I haven't a clue. Torres with that much space and time one on one with any keeper in the world is rarely going to miss. On the second goal, it was Torres himself who starts the play in the midfield after Everton fail to possess a throw in. The final blow was when Joseph Yobo went in trying to clear a tackle when the ball fell perfectly to Torres. With Howard off his line, the finish was automatic.

Robbie Keane is starting to mold into the team, but Rafa has to let him be what he is, a forward. Playing on the wing has done him no favors, and it was only when he was able to get more central was when he was his most dangerous. Everton need to figure out a way to win at home. It would also help to get chances that challenge a keeper. Yakubu up front by himself is not going to work and hopefully once Louis Saha is fully fit, David Moyes will revert to a 4-4-2. Everton's back line is also becoming a massive liability. It hasn't helped Moyes that he is just now getting a chance to mold this squad.

A few other observations
1) As much as I slagged Riley off at the beginning of this piece, I have to give him all the credit for rightfully booking Yakubu to start the second half for diving. There was at least 2 feet of space between him and Jamie Carragher.
2) Marouane Fellaini just looks out of place. Unfortunately because of his price, expect him to continue to start.
3) Liverpool's defense is reminding me of Manchester United's from last season.


Premier League Predictions: Gameweek 6

26 September 2008

First off, I welcome everyone to join us in the EPL Talk Chat this weekend. Starting Saturday from 7:20 am and Sunday from 8:20 am.

Now onto the predictions. All times are Eastern and TV Schedules are subject to change without notice.

Everton v Liverpool
(Saturday 7:45 am, Live on Setanta Sports from 7:30 am. Replay, Monday 6:00 pm): One thing seems certain about this game, a red card or two. Everton cannot afford the slow start they had against Hull City last Sunday. Liverpool will more than likely mark Yakubu out of the game if he's the lone man up front, so it's going to be up to Cahill and Arteta to effectively get into the attack. With Liverpool only averaging one goal a game, now would be a good time to come out of that shell. However on the road, I'm not liking those chances. The last time these two teams drew was January of 2004, I expect that in this game. Everton 1 Liverpool 1.

Aston Villa v Sunderland
(Saturday 10:00 am. On delay Setanta Sports 4:00 pm, Monday 4:30 am, 2:45 pm): Aston Villa did not beat Sunderland last season and will be looking to do so at home. Roy Keane's side over the last week hasn't been all too convincing, yet has picked up two victories. With Aston Villa probably naming the same starting eleven that has featured this season in all the games, I don't see how Sunderland are going to be able to get a result. Tainio, Nosworthy and Leadbitter are all out. With those three forced changes alone, I can only see one result. Aston Villa 3 Sunderland 1.

Fulham v West Ham United
(Saturday 10:00 am, Live on Setanta Sports Xtra and Setanta Broadband 2. On Delay: Setanta Sports 2:15 pm, Monday 6:15 am, Tuesday 9:15 am): This will be a truer test for Zola than was Newcastle United last weekend. However this is a trickier tie to predict than one would assume. In the last five meetings of these two clubs at Craven Cottage, Fulham has only scored once. West Ham are joint leaders in goals scored, but haven't recorded a point on the road this season...Fulham haven't dropped one at home. I expect Bullard to be the difference maker here. Fulham 2 West Ham United 1

Manchester United v Bolton Wanderers
(Saturday 10:00 am. Live on Setanta Sports from 9:45 am. Replays: 5:45 pm, Sunday 5:00 pm, Monday 7:45 pm): Manchester United have scored four goals in their four league matches this season...they could very well double it against Bolton at Old Trafford on Saturday. Elmander is facing a late fitness test, but coming off an injury against Manchester United is going to be a daunting task. With Ronaldo looking to be in the starting lineup in the league for the first time this season, I expect Manchester United to look more metered than they have so far this season. This one won't be pretty. Manchester United 4 Bolton Wanderers 0.

Middlesbrough v West Bromwich Albion
(Saturday 10:00 am. No TV): Middlesbrough have to be the most unlucky side in the Premier League this season. They have played some decent football only to be on the losing end of matches they should have gotten at least a point out of. Mido should return to the lineup for this one. West Brom will get chances against Boro's backline, but I don't think they have the class up front to get a share of the spoils. Middlesbrough 1 West Bromwich Albion 0.

Newcastle United v Blackburn Rovers
(Saturday 10:00 am. On delay Fox Soccer Channel 8:00 pm and Monday 1:00 pm and Thursday 3:00 pm): I almost feel like I need to theme music to M*A*S*H when looking at the Newcastle United squad as it reads of one that's all in the infirmary. With Martains out, Michael Owen is going to have to do it all up front. He's capable of doing it, but against Blackburn's back four that's going to be a challenge. Santa Cruz needs to get back on form or it could be a long day for Blackburn. Jason Roberts had a fast start, but has faded as of late. Don't expect many in this one. Newcastle United 0 Blackburn Rovers 1.

Stoke City v Chelsea
(Saturday 10:00 am, live on Fox Soccer Channel. No Replay): I see this as a big trap game for Chelsea. With Carvalho, Deco and Essien out, Chelsea's spine has been severely breeched. Stoke City aren't afraid to attack at home, but have to get better on set pieces. I expect them to defend as they did at Anfield, but Chelsea somehow steal one at the death. Stoke City 0 Chelsea 1.

Arsenal v Hull City
(Saturday 12:30 pm, live on Fox Soccer Channel. Replay Tuesday 3 pm): For Hull City, this has Wigan Athletic written all over it. Arsenal are scoring at will and keeping the goals out at home. Myhill will be peppered from minute one and I don't think the back four will do him many favors. To me the only question is will someone for Arsenal score a hat trick? Arsenal 5 Hull City 0.

Portsmouth v Tottenham Hotspur
(Sunday 8:30 am, live on Setanta Sports. Replays, 6:45 pm, Monday 8:00 am): This is a key game for both sides. Portsmouth have been leaking goals left and right while Tottenham are looking for their first win in the League. I'm still worried about where Tottenham are going to get goals from, and that's what makes the difference for me. Portsmouth 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0.

Wigan Athletic v Manchester City
(Sunday 11:00 am, live on Fox Soccer Channel. No Replay): Can Zaki keep Wigan Athletic on his shoulders? Manchester City will be looking to rebound after the Carling Cup defeat (granted with weakened squad). Wigan cannot allow teams to get off to quick starts as that's been their weak point all season. My head says draw, but my gut says Manchester City winner. Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester City 2.

Banker Game: Manchester United v Bolton Wanderers
Insurance Game: Everton v Liverpool

Season Stats: 26 of 49 correct (53 percent), 2 of 5 bankers (40 percent) 3 of 5 insurances not losing points (60 percent).

Full match reviews this week from me: Everton v Liverpool and Wigan Athletic v Manchester City

I hope to see you all in the chat!

Read more... To Be Free Next Season?

22 September 2008

Adweek has a very interesting article about network and league sites that are getting into online streaming. In it, MLS gets a mention and rightfully so. Since day one of the league, they have always had an online media presence in some way or form. From being the first to stream games, to their partnership with YouTube (something the Premier League would probably never do in our lifetimes), Major League Soccer was always ahead of the curve.

While I have a subscription to the service, there is a possibility that next season everyone will be able to enjoy the service free of charge. Now there is no mention of how this would be treated internationally, but at least for those in the United States it will go back to the days when they first started streaming no cost. Now there will be advertising, but if you can get something for free I'll take it.

Nothing is finalized as of yet, but the fact it's being discussed is a positive move. Disney (ABC, ESPN) and FSC games won't be eligible for the free streaming on as the networks own the online rights as well.

With the days of all the various video streaming sites, this is a great way to get people looking at your site instead of others.

Thanks to MLS-Rumors for the story.


Kalou Keeps Chelsea Streak Intact Against Manchester United

Salomon Kalou's header ten minutes from time cancels out Ji-Sung Park's opener and preserves Chelsea's unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea and Manchester United ends honors even at 1-1.

Unlike the Liverpool/Manchester United clash last weekend, this was more typical big four fare. The game wasn't pretty by any means, plenty physical and full of controversy. If a game was ever going to challenge the new FA's respect campaign, this was it. It didn't help that Mike Riley was way too quick to use the whistle as depending on which source you believe, there were either 34 fouls (the Guardian) or 40 (Soccernet). I did attempt to find the number on the Premier League's website, but was unsuccessful in doing so.

Manchester United started out the promising side and were nearly rewarded nine minutes in. Petr Cech should have left the ball played in to his back four to clear but instead ended up 18 yards off his line when Berbatov volleyed goal ward. He didn't have enough pace on it, but left it perfectly for Rooney, who only missed the far post by a couple of inches. Cech would have been beaten and it would have been an embarrassing opener to give up.

United's pressure was rewarded eighteen minutes in. Patrice Evra is sprung on a great run and is able to center to Berbatov. Had Fletcher not made a dummy run in, Chelsea probably clear. However Fletcher's run held back Chelsea's line and Berbatov was able to put a shot on Cech. It was a shot that Cech should have saved, but when the ball sprung free, Park had an empty net to tap in, unmarked at that. Chelsea's back line on the whole sequence left Cech out to dry, but it's a shot Cech should have caught.

Two Chelsea players need to be taken to task for their shocking performances on the day. The first being Joe Cole who after Rooney's volleyed miss stays onside, has Van der Sar on the ground, and hits the side netting. The second ties into the second player who should be taken to task, Nicolas Anelka. On the first occasion, sixty-six minutes in, Joe Cole was too greedy when Anelka was unmarked on the far post. The second one comes seven minutes later when Joe Cole centers to Anelka who pretty much blocked the ball off the line when he could have equalized for Chelsea.

Looking at Salomon Kalou's equalizer, there are a few things there as well. How Manchester United let him into the mixer unmarked is beyond me. Secondly, while there was contact on Rio Ferdinand, it was barely the tips of his fingers and wouldn't have mattered in the long run. And for those who thought there was a foul, Ferdinand was marking Terry heavily and pretty much ran into him about the time Kalou headed in. Mikel's free kick was inch perfect.

Two injuries played a key factor in this one. The being Ricardo Carvalho's injury thirteen minutes in, and probably had something to do with Manchester United's opener as the back line was adjusting to Alex's inclusion. The other being Edwin Van der Sar's twenty seven minutes in. It was a nasty collision with Florent Malouda and Van der Sar took the brunt of the contact squarely on the shoulder. I give him credit for giving it another go, but only lasted six more minutes. You have to wonder if Edwin Van der Sar was in and not Tomass Kuszczak, would Kalou had had the easy header?

The last talking point I have from this game is the sheer number of yellow cards Manchester United got. Looking at the seven yellow cards, you could understand why Riley called them. The two dissent bookings were the ones that made me smile the most, but it should have been both ways. However when Evra gets in the face of a lineman shouting and Ronaldo is motioning to Riley that he was shoved, those are the easiest dissent calls to make. The ultimate act of disrespect though had to come at the end. For Rio Ferdinand to scream at Mike Wiley and call him and I quote "A shit ref" should result in some sort of FA sanction. Granted no one in the world knew if Riley had awarded a free kick or had blown for full time, but that is no excuse.

A few other observations
1) Had Manchester United not sat back after taking the lead and attacked with the same intensity that led to the opener, do they name their own scoreline?
2) Florent Malouda is a good player for Chelsea in the Champions League, yet never seems to be able to perform in the league.
3) How bad was it for Drogba that he wasn't completely ready for the second half kickoff?


Chopra ignites passionless Wear-Tees Derby

21 September 2008

Michael Chopra's two goals in the final ten minutes are enough to see off Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Stadium of Light.

A game that was more frantic than metered, this was a game that took a long time for anything to build. Yes both sides had plenty of chances (per Soccernet, 21 for Sunderland, 18 for Middlesbrough), but not many tested either Craig Gordon or Ross Turnbull. Both midfields did well to spring the attack, but nothing really seemed to matter up front as both sides rushed and wasted countless opportunities.

Craig Gordon was the busier keeper in the first half and pulled off two very good saves. The first coming on nineteen minutes when Alves's free kick hit the wall and bounced perfectly to Stewart Downing. His near post volley was just parried out by Gordon for a corner to which it was promptly wasted. The second came eighteen minutes later when Afonso Alves got into space, but was unable to pick out a post. Gordon though didn't see that shot until late and did well to collect.

I think this game turned in Sunderland's favor in two places. The first coming at the end of the first half when Teemu Tainio had to be replaced by Michael Chopra. Sunderland were lacking imagination and any real bite up front and the forced sub when Tainio injured his shoulder was a much needed shot in the arm. The second came in the sixty-second when Ross Turnbull was unable to collect what seemed to be an easy ball to hold. Cisse was wise to poke it out to Malbranque but it was Malbranque who took too long in shooting. It was these two moments where Sunderland had turned the screws the most.

Turnbull came up trumps in the seventy-first denying Richardson well on a far post effort and just three minutes later Nyron Nosworthy conceded a bad penalty to Middlesbrough. With Sunderland losing the ball in the defensive third, Jeremie Aliadiere was already out of control on the run. Nosworthy should have never given a tug to the shirt because I think either way Aliadiere was going to go down. In my eyes it was a penalty, but was never capitalized on. Stewart Downing has already missed one earlier in the season, but this penalty miss could be candidate for penalty miss of the season. It was never close and gave Sunderland the lifeline they needed.

Getting back to Michael Chopra, he looked a new man today. After taking care of some personal demons, he meant business today. The first goal was great team play by Sunderland to keep possession and the build to the goal came when Chopra fought on the edge of the penalty area to gain possession. He find Richardson to start the 1-2 sequence and that close to goal 1 v 1, Chopra put Sunderland ahead. The second in stoppage time was great vision from Steed Malbranque. Instead of playing hero after the blocked shot of Daryl Murphy, Malbranque got Turnbull to commit before giving Chopra the empty net. The second was a bit harsh, but that is the consequence of a back line giving up on a play.

I was surprised by one thing, how lifeless the crowd seemed to be. There were plenty of empty seats as the announced attendance was just over 38 thousand. They pretty much sat on their hands until about 15 minutes to go when Downing missed from the spot. It was only then that the crowd woke up and the atmosphere lived up to that of a derby. Granted there wasn't much to cheer for as a Sunderland supporter until then, but not willing the team on was a little surprising to me.

A few other observations:
1) Is it time for Brad Jones to go back between the sticks? If he's fully fit, shouldn't he get his spot back?
2) For the debut Djibril Cisse had, he hasn't looked good since.
3) Credit has to be given to Roy Keane for making two positive substitutions in the sixty-ninth minute bringing on Andy Reid and Daryl Murphy. Speaking of subs in the sixty-ninth, Justin Hoyte has not looked at all effective for Middlesbrough.

I'll be back later with a review of Chelsea against Manchester United.


Delap Throws, but Cahill Sees Everton Through

15 September 2008

Tim Cahill comes to the rescue again as Stoke City's set piece defending comes back to haunt them as despite coming back to level at two thanks to Rory Delap's throws, Everton leave the Britannia Stadium 3-2 winners.

One goal from open play, four set piece goals, and an extremely entertaining game at the Britannia Stadium. To me, this was the game of the weekend. Plenty of chances, back and forth action, and unfortunately a moment of controversy.

Rory Delap is someone that football managers should look at more closely and find someone who can actually pull off the direct long throw. Delap's long throws I knew were special, but after his third mind throw that was only 18 inches short of going directly into the back of the net did I really realize his potential. His corners are more efficient and lethal than any free kick or corner kick I've seen in quite a long time. Every time he throws one into the mixer, keepers freak and end up weakly punching, and the defense doesn't have a chance to properly clear it.

Everton were really having the game taken to them by Stoke until they put in the opener. Up until this point in the game, Stoke City did extremely well to clear their lines. The first time they don't Cahill finds Yakubu for the near post finish. Sorensen was caught on the wrong foot and wasn't going to get to it.

Mikel Arteta's set pieces were sharp today, but Stoke City's lousy marking helped. Where was the man responsible for Victor Anichebe on Everton's second? It was the easiest flick on I think he'll ever see.

Back to Delap's throws. Tim Howard should have dealt with the Stoke's first goal much better than he did. To give Olofinjana such an opportunity at the volley was inexcusable. Then on Stoke City's equalizer, Phil Jagielka has to give his keeper an opportunity to save. The flick on attempted clearance was never going to be put out for a corner, and Howard was playing Cort's shot. Stoke City should be commended for pulling level, even with the first moment of controversy in-between.

I've gone back and forth on Ricardo Fuller's disallowed goal, and after the beauty of the rewind button, have finally decided that Alan Wiley made the right decision. He did just enough to take Joseph Yobo out of the play. What surprised me about this decision was how quick Wiley was to blow the whistle.

The other moment of controversy was 12 minutes later. Leon Cort was rightfully called for hand ball, but Wiley and the linesman blew it by now awarding the penalty. Even after the conference, Wiley should have gone with his correct reaction instead of using the linesman. Yes the linesman was better positioned to make a call. But by not properly using the flag to award the penalty, it caused the decision to be the incorrect one. Moyes losing his top about though was funny.

The game winner again came from poor marking. How Stoke City let Tim Cahill get that wide open inside the penalty area was poor. The man who knows where to be late in matches latched onto Arteta's corner and onto the near post. Despite Stoke City's fight, set piece defense let them down again.

Tony Pulis has to work on set piece defending. It's the only thing right now that is keeping this team from living up to it's full potential. While there aren't many people that can score from open play, Rory Delap's long throws will give them plenty of chances. David Moyes is starting to get key players fit, but it's a matter of keeping them fit throughout the season that is going to be crucial to their play. Winning a game at home would also be a good start.

A Few Other Observations
1) Liam Lawrence's crosses Sunday were downright awful. Hopefully that doesn't happen too often this season.
2) For all the possession Everton had, it's still hard to believe they were out shot by Stoke City. Again, the power of the long throw in.
3) Nice touch of class from David Moyes to shake the Stoke City fans hands at full time.


Marlon King Further Dampens Day As Newcasle United Fans Protest

14 September 2008

Before I write, I want to thank everyone for the turnout this weekend for the EPL Talk Chat. You honestly have no idea how happy it made me. Anyways enough of the gushing, back to the meat of this post.

Marlon King's double was enough to see off Newcastle United 2-1.

I have to admit, I'm torn about what direction to take this particular article. Really this should be about how Hull City was able to take advantage of a club in crisis and get a win at St. James' Park. Instead, I'm more focused on what happened in the stands to start the second half.

As the ‘Cockney Mafia Out' banner circled the ground to start the second half, I actually got disgusted. Yes everyone in the world knows Newcastle United fans are not happy with Ashley at the helm and they sure as hell aren't happy with how Kevin Keegan had to leave the club this time around. But to parade around with a sign is just disgraceful to those on the pitch trying their best to get a result for the club that you claim to support. To make this protest even more comical was the fact Ashley or Wise weren't even there, and it was pretty obvious they weren't going to be. Yes they didn't take their venom out on the players, but if you're focusing your time on taking it out on the board, can't you argue fans are taking it out on the players by ignoring what they do on the field?

Look, if you want to protest to your club about what is going on there, it's pretty simple. Don't buy anymore merchandise. Protest outside the club, don't show up. If you want to even sing songs of protest to the board, while I'm not thrilled with it, I can even understand that. But to draw attention to yourselves by circling the ground with a banner is about as low as it can go as far as I'm concerned.

What's even sadder is this game was more or less a side show to the protests on offer at the ground. The game itself though wasn't that great of a game. Newcastle United had the promising start, but couldn't take advantage of their three best chances to score inside of half an hour. Then the penalty and I've gone back and forth on this one. The way I see it, Peter Halmosi came back into the tackle of Nicky Butt. From my vantage point, it shouldn't have been a penalty, but I won't fault Andre Marriner for awarding it. Marlon King did his job from the spot even though Given guessed correctly and Hull had their lead.

The start of the second half was pretty much more of the same for Newcastle. Create chances, but got caught out on one quality counter. Charles N'Zogbia should be taken to task for being caught so far out of position. Marlon King had plenty of space to run in and even with N'Zogbia tracking back, it was too late. King did well to keep composed on the ball and slot home far post.

Xisco I felt had a good game, and got his reward nine minutes from the ninety. It was simply clean up duty as Charles N'Zogbia found space through the traffic to go far post. Myhill dove for it and was simply not able to get up in time as Xisco did well to stay onside and finish.

The ending though has to leave a black eye on the fans who did come out. Danny Guthrie has to know better that you just can't go in and attack the legs unprovoked. Hell he got away with one hack at Caleb Fagan's legs, but to blatantly dive in with what appeared to me an intent to injure is a joke.

In the end, Hull City get three points and do the business in the strangest of environments. Newcastle United just have too many issues to deal with right now and while they have enough talent to stay away from true relegation hell, it's going to be another long season of turmoil for them.

A Few Other Observations:
1) If Geremi is Newcastle United's best crossing threat, that's not a good thing.
2) Could Shola Ameobi have had a worse game? At the moment, he doesn't even look league one standard, even if he is coming off an injury.
3) If Dean Windass doesn't have a realistic chance weekly to come on, shouldn't he be smart enough to just step aside and let those who are more able in? It their four matches this season, the only one he's come on in was during a blowout.

I'll be back tonight with a review of Stoke City taking on Everton.


Premier League Predictions: Gameweek 4

13 September 2008

Before I begin writing my predictions for this weekend, I would invite everyone into the EPL Talk Chat this weekend. Staring from 7:30 am Eastern/12:30 pm UK on Saturday and from 8:20 am Easter/1:20 pm UK on Sunday, join myself and many others as we discuss all the action from the Barclays Premier League...and whatever else comes to mind. In the morning, check this blog for a post with a simple link to the chat.

Well my predictions before the internationals flat out stunk. Only three predictions correct (14 of 29 this season, 2 perfect predictions), missed on my banker predictions (1 of 3 this season), and ended up getting points on my insurance (2 of 3 this season in not being punished for a wrong insurance prediction). Hopefully my predictions form after the international break changes.

As usual, I'll be doing these from banker to insurance. However if I keep on the bad form, I may change that. All TV times are Eastern and are subject to change without notice.

Banker Game of the Weekend: Stoke City v Everton
(Sunday 8:30 am live on Sirius. Replays: Fox Soccer Channel 11:00 am and 11:00 pm. Setanta Sports Sunday 6:45 pm). Not the safest of banker bets, but I have a feeling Everton will right the ship this weekend. Don't know how good the quality will be on the field, but should be plenty of chances. Everton up front I think is the difference and I see them getting the goals that puts it away. Stoke City 0 Everton 2.

Portsmouth v Middlesbrough
(Saturday 10 am. On delay Fox Soccer Channel 11 pm, Monday 1 pm). Portsmouth rides the pre-international break wave of defeating Everton at Goodison Park and parlay it into a late win against Middlesbrough. Portsmouth 2 Middlesbrough 1.

West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United
(Saturday 10 am, Setanta Broadband 2. On delay Setanta Sports 4 pm). I don't see when West Brom will score a goal. Despite the fact West Ham United has just changed managers, I see them finding a late goal to win a gritty affair. West Bromwich Albion 0 West Ham United 1.

Fulham v Bolton Wanderers
(Saturday 10 am, Setanta Xtra. On delay Setanta Sports Monday 8 am, Thursday 6:15 am). Jimmy Bullard proves the difference in this one. Johan Elmander's absence is hurting Bolton. Jussi Jaaskelainen will give Bolton a chance for a draw, but there isn't enough up front for Bolton. Fulham 1 Bolton Wanderers 0.

Liverpool v Manchester United
(Saturday 7:45 am, Setanta Sports. Replay: 5:45 pm, Sunday 5 pm). Was the game of the weekend until Robinho was bought by Manchester City. My problem with Liverpool right now is that without Fernando Torres in the lineup, stopping Liverpool for a Manchester United side is easy...stop Steven Gerrard. I don't expect the football on offer to be all that great, but in games like this, Manchester United just always seem to find that late goal to win...and they have just the right person to do it (not that he isn't sulking). Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1.

Tottenham v Aston Villa
(Monday 3 pm, Setanta Sports. Replay 7:45 pm). I expect this to not be that much of a competitive contest. Aston Villa to me have just more class up front and that is the difference for me. Tottenham probably gets a late consolation goal. Tottenham 1 Aston Villa 2.

Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal
(Saturday 10 am Setanta Sports). This game should be fun. Plenty of chances, a few hard tackles from Blackburn, and Paul Robinson making enough messes for Arsenal to pull one out. Blackburn Rovers 1 Arsenal 2.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland
(Saturday 10 am, no TV). Can Zaki be stopped? I have a feeling this is going to be more entertaining than most people expect. In the end, I think Zaki and the form he's on will prove the difference. Wigan Athletic 2 Sunderland 1.

Manchester City v Chelsea
(Saturday 12:30 pm, Fox Soccer Channel. Replay Tuesday 1 pm). The Oil Bowl, the Robinho Derby...whatever you want to call it, this has become a massive fixture. With Michael Essien out, can John Obi Mikel not show his red card tendancy? Manchester City fans will probably make this an interesting atmosphere, but I have a feeling they may be disappointed. I see two results for this game, 0-0 or 1-2. I think Chelsea steals this one late. Manchester City 1 Chelsea 2.

Insurance Game of the Week: Newcastle United v Hull City
(Saturday 10 am Fox Soccer Channel). Newcaslte United are in turnmoil. Hull City are going to have to recover from a 5-0 pounding they took from Wigan Athletic. I have a feeling teams have quickly figured out that to neutralize Hull City, all you have to do is take Geovanni out of the game. Right now, I don't see anything between these two teams. Newcasle United 1 Hull City 1.

May the weekend of football be a good one and I'll see you all in the chat!


Podcast and Chat Updates

11 September 2008

Just a quick update to say my podcast will no longer be released via CSRN.

I will be taking the next couple of weeks to set up with a podcast service and once I do, I will announce a new release date. I am also toying with the idea of going twice a week.

My weekly chat has also moved from CSRN and will now be hosted at EPL Talk. The chat this Saturday will start at 7:30 am Eastern, 12:30 pm UK and on Sunday from 8:25 am.

It's a new start for me and I look forward to everyone joining me along for the ride.


Joe Cole Can't Save England Blushes

06 September 2008

Fabio Capello asked for patience.

Between the Czech Republic last month and Andorra today, I would say the fans patience has run out.

England's performance against Andorra this afternoon can only be described in one word, dire. From the team selection that had me wondering if Fabio Capello thought this was a friendly, to a first half that saw England huff and puff and not finish, it took two early second half goals from substitute Joe Cole to put this game away. Yes it must be said that Andorra played everyone behind the ball, but that is not an excuse for a failure to miss chances.

As I said above, I was shocked at Fabio Capello's team selection. Understanding this was a somewhat weakened squad already with the absences of Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand, I was stunned to see Stewart Downing and Theo Walcott start. However, of the England starters in the first half, Theo Walcott was the only one who lived up to any potential on the pitch.

It wasn't surprising to hear the reaction at halftime, and I would argue it was louder than the reaction England received during Euro 2008 qualification. However those boos quickly subsided with Joe Cole and Emile Heskey's inclusion to the match. Joe Cole's opener was a decent move off Lampard's free kick. The flick on from Lescott to Joe Cole set him up perfectly to fire far post. It was Wayne Rooney's deft pass that set up the second.

When it's said and done, England have to accept they played poorly. However if you listened to the post match from Setanta Sports, they weren't. Yes it was a job done, but a job that was poorly done at that. If their performance against Andorra is the same performance against Croatia on Wednesday, it will not be pretty for England.

Now with that said I have a little rant I need to get off my chest with regards to Setanta Sports. I know they do a poor job of advertising their Setanta Broadband package out in the general public and for that they should be ashamed. However to hide the fact that if you've paid for a year's subscription to Setanta Broadband you would get to see not only the Andorra/England match, but the Croatia/England match is downright embarrassing and someone at Setanta has to be held accountable. The match at any point was never listed on Setanta's live broadband page on the Setanta website, and it was only going to the PPV events page itself after signing in did you see the fact the game was being shown (after scrolling past GAA PPV reminders).

To more or less make people think they would have to pay the pub cover charge or the 20-25 PPV charge depending on your service provider makes you wonder if they wanted people to know at all. I guess you could say I'm doing their bidding for them, which is something that shouldn't have to happen.


The Third Half 015 is Live

04 September 2008

This week’s show is now up as a podcast. You can listen to the show from here, via the On Demand player, or you can subscribe to the show via iTunes.

Plenty to talk about on this week’s show.
* I give you my take on the Alan Curbishley resignation and I give you what I think happened with Kevin Keegan and Newcastle United on Tuesday.

* Manchester City has new ownership. I give you my thoughts on that as well as break down the closing of the transfer window.

* I give you my thoughts on the weekend that was the Barclay's Premier League.

* I give you my thoughts to the CSRN five questions of the week.

* I've finally had enough of MLS and playing through the international break. You'll hear what finally caused me to snap.

* I give you my brief thoughts on the Champions League draw.

Any comments or feedback are always welcome. You can leave them here, on the CSRN Message Board, or at


Premier League Reviews: Round 3 Batch 1

01 September 2008

First batch of match reviews from the past weekend. The final batch will be up tomorrow morning. Note there won't be a second full match review as I was unable to see Sunderland v Manchester City in full.

Everton v Portsmouth: Jermain Defoe's two goals and assist see Portsmouth go away and get an emphatic 3-0 victory at Goodison Park.

I've gotten onto Harry Redknapp before for not being able to adapt his tactics. Saturday Harry showed me one thing, that he a trick up his sleeve, a 3-5-2. It was a shape that threw Everton for a loop, even more so as Portsmouth kept their shape extremely well.

Everton had their chances and it must be said that on any other day, they have one goal. However David James made three exceptional saves. The first in the twenty-second, then the Yakubu penalty save, and finally in the seventy-fifth.

Portsmouth have navigated a tough opening three weekend about as well as they could. Granted it's just one game, but today the Crouch/Defoe partnership up front played like it did on the international stage when they played together.

I wonder if Jack Rodwell is ready for the top flight. He looked out of position most of the afternoon. Yakubu while he had a few good chances, shouldn't be the doing any crossing. Last time I checked you're a natural striker and should be letting guys like Leighton Baines and Mikel Arteta do what they do best.

West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers: Two goals in second half stoppage time gave West Ham United a pull away victory 4-1 against Blackburn Rovers from Upton Park.

The scoreline is way too flattering. This was a very evenly balanced match until the start of second half stoppage time. Blackburn had plenty of opportunities to pull level, and in reality I think Blackburn was robbed on Matt Derbyshire's disallowed goal. From my eyes, Behrami kept him level.

Now on the ‘controversial' goal that pulled West Ham United 2-0 up, the linesman got this right. Had the ball at any time hit off of Dean Ashton, the play is offside, but since it was Samba who made contact, the goal has to stand.

Blackburn had their chances and the finishing was off. Jason Roberts continues to impress, as long as he's not on the spot. His penalty take was worse than Yukubu's. But for Paul Ince's men, it was just one of those days.

It was nice to see Craig Bellamy come on and make an immediate difference. Once he gets back to full fitness, it will make the attack all that more solid. West Ham have gotten off to the start they needed to, and while it hasn't been easy in any of their first three matches, they are just pushing on. This result should quiet those who were thinking Curbishley was on thin ice.

Hull City v Wigan Athletic
: Two goals inside the opening fifteen minutes were all Wigan Athletic needed. However Zaki added two more in between Emile Heskey brace as Wigan Athletic go to the KC Stadium and pound Hull City 5-0 in what I'm dubbing the Rugby League derby (okay I'll work on the name).

Let's be perfectly honest about this game, this was not at any point a competitive contest. This game was in effect over by minute twelve and it was more than confirmed in the sixty-third. The only time Hull City had any ascendancy in this game was the first five minutes of the second half.

Zaki is proving to be a quality loan signing more and more by the day. The key is going to be signing him permanently. This guy just scores goals and can do it in any fashion possible. However I thought Wigan were too lax at the back for their own good at times and Hull City did create a few decent half chances.

This was the ultimate wake up call for Hull City after four points in their first two games. Their back line was a mess all day long. The midfield never truly kept their shape and the chances they created weren't that great. This is the ultimate learning experience and how they react over the next few weeks is going to be crucial to how the rest of the season goes.

Again, the second batch will be up tomorrow morning. More like late tonight, but it will be available as you wake up in the morning.


10 Man Stoke City Foiled by Tuncay

Tuncay's winner five minutes from time is all the difference as Middlesbrough win at the Riverside 2-1.

First off it must be said that Middlesbrough were pushed to the limit. Despite being a man down for seventy minutes (if you add both first and second half stoppage time), Stoke City were resolute at the back, but two breakdowns proved to be all the difference in this one.

For the first thirty-five minutes, this was a very balanced game with both sides getting up the field. However with the two footed lunging challenge of Amdy Faye, the game completely changed. I agree with the red card entirely. Shawky was trying to collect a poorly weighted pass and was trying to collect the ball. Amdy Faye raced in trying to take the ball, but what he ended up doing was lunging in two footed with studs up right into the lower legs of Shawky. Yea he got the ball, but only after taking Shawky out of the play. Amdy Faye knew he was in trouble and

Afonso Alves's free kick promptly made it 1-0 with a free kick that was simply perfectly taken. Stoke City set the wall perfectly, Sorensen was correctly on his line, but with the bend and curve of Alves's free kick, no keeper was going to stop it.

Despite being at a severe disadvantage in the second half, Stoke City was resolute at the back though it wasn't easy. Even with Ricardo Fuller up front, he didn't get too many opportunities to create. Even when Stoke was able to push forward, most of the time it was Liam Lawrence, Ricardo Fuller, and from time to time Dave Kitson.

Stewart Downing had the perfect opportunity to put this game away in the sixty-forth minute. Carl Dickinson knew he was beaten by Afonso Alves and just gave him a shove. It's an inexcusable foul to concede. Downing though from the spot though was poor. Sorensen guessed incorrectly, but Downing put too much power into his shot, and saw the crossbar for his trouble.

For all the defending Stoke City did, and the numerous missed chances Middlesbrough had, it was almost inevitable Stoke City was going to equalize. Liam Lawrence put in good crosses all day, and Middlesbrough's fatal error was giving him any space. Boro's failure to close Lawrence down gave him the opportunity to find Dave Kitson on the far post. Justin Hoyte marked him well, and you could even argue even too well. Lawrence's cross in was pin point accurate and Hoyte was unable to clear. Instead his attempt to chest the ball down failed as he lost his balance and using the arm, put the ball in his own net.

The final ten minutes though Stoke City looked fatigued, and it proved the difference in the end. Stewart Downing made up for his penalty miss by setting up the game winning sequence. Taylor's pass to Downing on the wing was weighted well and Downing did well to cross into an area where the clearance wouldn't be easily cleared. Didier Digard did well to collect, and found Tuncay who was kept on by Andy Wilkinson. Tuncay one v one with any keeper is going to always end badly, even when the far post is exposed.

Middlesbrough made hard work of this game and you could even argue they were extremely fortunate to get out with a win. However when it's said and done, they did what was required when a man up to get the three points. Stoke City are showing they are no pushovers and will make most match days interesting. Rory Delap didn't have many chances with the long throws, but after a couple of shaky ones early on, made things interesting. As long as Liam Lawrence has target men up front, he will get balls into the mixer. They were unlucky in the end, but when you have to defend a man down for any length of time, most times it will result in zero points.

A few other observations:
1) How stupid was Andy Griffin for picking up a yellow card by trying to be cheeky before a throw in?
2) Jeremie Aliadiere look off him game today?
3) Middlesbrough look a little light in numbers whenever Stoke City pushed forward. Had they defended properly, I don't think Stoke City gets the equalizer.


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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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