I’ve seen some odd things in football in my time. I watched Torben Piechnik falling over a lot and being spectacularly inept at Anfield during Graeme Souness’ time at the club.
I was at Prenton Park on that incredible night when bottom of the Championship table Tranmere Rovers gave Premier League Southampton a 3-0 head start and came back to win the game 4-3 in the second half.
I’ve seen Tranmere play in a major cup final at Wembley (and, predictably, lose) and I’ve even seen Liverpool hammer Fulham 10-0 at Anfield and last night I saw something else to add to that list.
While watching Arsenal demolish FC Porto, I saw Nicklas Bendtner actually play as fantastically as he believes he is capable of and I also saw an Arsenal performance of customary style, verve and clinical finishing that was on a par with their 6-1 demolition of Everton on the opening day of the season.
And strangest of all, I saw them do all of that without a certain Mr Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings from midfield.
Fabregas and Rooeny: The class acts of the Premier League
Observations on an amazing sporting weekend
Well, I’m not usually a betting man to be honest. I have the odd flutter now and then, but nothing serious (as my win against losses record will testify) but this weekend, I stuck a few quid into a new account, got the best betting bonus I’ve had in a long time and then took this mother of all free bets and wasted it backing Aston Villa to win the Carling Cup! Doh!
It all started so promisingly too, especially when Vidic pulled down Agbonlahor. Quite why referee Phil Dowd didn’t send off the Serbian is anyone’s guess, by all interpretations of the law, the Serbian, one Dowd had deemed his tackle a foul, should have been sent off. 1-0 up and 11 against 10 would have been a very different game.
Dowd’s mistake however wasn’t the reason Villa lost. The reason was Michael Owen and his hamstring. Had the United man not pulled a hamstring late in the first half, Wayne Rooney may have been resting on the bench most of game, instead of celebrating scoring the winning goal and inspiring a fine and deserved United victory, but once again it came with the visible ‘assistance’ of poor officiating which worked in their favour.
While the Carling Cup Final was drama enough, that was nothing compared to what happened elsewhere at the weekend. In a stand-off that even Sergio Leone would have killed for, John Terry met Wayne Bridge in “handshake-gate” and nothing happened! Bridge avoided him! We’ve had replays and analysis of the event and I can concur that about 98% of the country, despite the press going ballistic about the incident, really doesn’t give a flying monkey’s testicle about it.
Even more amusing was what followed at the Bridge as Chelsea were outclassed, outthought and eventually outmanned by Manchester City, who triumphed 4-2. The only down side for the Sky Blues was the fact that the result handed city rivals United a timely boost in their quest for the league title. Ballack and Belletti both saw red and Craig Bellamy, that paragon of virtue and saintliness, followed up his timely double with a withering dismissal of John Terry’s character post game, stating; “Everybody in football knows what the guy is like. But that is off the field.”
Terry meanwhile stated “People in glasshouses should not throw stones”. Presumably because if he does something like this again, that is what he will be living in once his wife has finished in the divorce settlement.
Honestly, you could not see the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Saturday due to the number of dummies that had been spat out upon it.
On a more serious note, I wish Aaron Ramsey a speedy recovery from his terrible injury sustained at Stoke City, though I take issue with Arsene Wenger’s laughable assertion that somehow his players are being routinely targeted and maimed by fellow professionals. While I had sympathy with Eduardo over his tackle, to my eye, Ramsey was a victim not of Shawcross’s wilful intent to hurt, but simply his own speed of thought.
Shawcross tackle was one footed and at great pace. That caused a horrific injury and as sad as that is, it does happen in football. It has in the past and it will again in the future. To then turn this into some “everyone is out to get us” ramble, beggars belief really. Arsenal are not the only team to have players out through broken legs. Djibril Cisse and Stephen Warnock both broke their legs twice apiece while at Liverpool in the space of a few years. I didn’t hear Gerard Houllier complaining of some anti-Liverpool vendetta then.
So it was a good weekend and it would have been even better if Dowd had sent Vidic off and given me a better chance of winning some money…
Ah well, there’s always next time.