Fans of the English Premier League need little reassurance that the English top flight consistently provides excitement and interest that is matched by no other domestic league. Any dissenters or doubters just had to tune into some EPL coverage over the weekend to be rewarded with a full slate of action packed games which, in several instances, featured late game drama that had considerable impact, particularly at the top of the table.
A quick review of the Saturday timeline:
(Note the match between Hull and Arsenal was the late game but the goals have been included in the timeline as it is based on the 90 minute game clock of the Saturday action)
4 mins: WBA take the lead against Middlesbrough courtesy of Chris Brunt to get them on their way.
11 mins: Danny Collins scores for Sunderland at home to in-form Villa.
30 mins: Emmanuel Adebayor gives a rejuvenated looking Gunners side the lead at the KC.
HT: All other games goalless which meant Man Unt were being held at Bolton and Chelsea were tied at home to Stoke.
52 mins: Pablo Zabaleta scores for Man City at home against Wigan to relieve a little of the Eastlands pressure.
54 mins: Richard Dunne gets sent off making the task that much harder for City.
54 mins: Robert Koren adds to Gareth Southgate’s problems as WBA take a 2-0 lead.
60 mins: James Milner pulls Villa level at the Stadium of Light.
60 mins: Rory Delap gets in behind the Chelsea defense and Stoke, yet to win away this season, take the lead at the Bridge.
61 mins: Benny McCarthy scores from the spot and Blackburn grab the advantage against Big Sam’s ex-team.
62 mins: From bad to worse at the Hawthorns for ‘Boro as Didier Digard sees red.
65 mins: After being denied a penalty shout, Hull equalize through Daniel Cousin and Arsenal appear to be on the back foot.
66 mins: Jason Roberts doubles Blackburn’s lead against Newcastle.
67 mins: Koren gets his second and Brom’s third, and Boro’ are well beaten.
72 mins: Villa star Ashley Young is sent off with the match still locked at one each.
80 mins: Gareth Barry scores from the spot and short-handed Villa grab the lead.
83 mins: Nicky Butt gets his orders at Ewood Park ending any unlikely Newcastle comeback.
86 mins: Roberts gets another and Big Sam’s vengeance is complete.
86 mins: Nicklas Bendtner finishes a sweeping Arsenal attack and there’s no way back for Hull.
88 mins: Juliano Belletti, minutes after fluffing a free-kick opportunity, nods in an equalizer and Phil S. breathes a huge sigh of relief.
90 mins: Frank Lampard hits a ferocious drive and, despite a valiant effort, Stoke will leave the capital empty handed.
Seven goals in the last 10 minutes and all four of the top five teams that were in action left it late before securing victory. The strikes by Berbatov and Lampard, though similar in terms of the manner in which they secured the points, appeared to have somewhat different ratifications. United’s goal was reminiscent of typical title contending squads in securing a game that they were expected to win. In contrast, Lampard’s late score brought massive relief to both the Chelsea faithful and Phil Scolari alike. Some of the home fans were headed for the local even before Belletti equalized assuming that Stoke had secured their first away victory of the season at their expense, as the Blues had appeared to be out of ideas. But, the team continued to battle and after the comeback the manner in which Lampard and his mates headed to the bench to celebrate with Big Phil seemed to be a direct statement to dispel recent reports that the relationship between Scolari and his players had soured.
This past weekend was another example of the ongoing excitement and drama that can be found around the English Premier League on any given week, even during the grinding winter months of the fixture list. This appears to be more evident in the 2008-09 season as the league is packed tighter than it has ever been this late into the calendar.
Saturday’s action was followed by an intriguing matchup at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Harry welcomed his former club but watched in frustration as Pompey earned a deserved point. West Ham continued their recent revival as they dispatched Fulham 3-1 behind an inspired performance by Carlton Cole; and the first of two Merseyside derbies in the space of a week is still to come. Bring on the drama, and as always feel free to comment and record your thoughts on the weekend action. Cheers!