As you know, EPL Talk focuses on the Premier League and not the lower leagues of England, but my day didn’t start so well when Setanta-i had technical problems which prevented me and all other Setanta-i customers from viewing the Welsh derby featuring the club I’ve supported all my life, Swansea City, against Cardiff City.
The reason I mention it is because I was forced into finding a dodgy stream of the game — a game that is undoubtedly the biggest football match on my calendar each year. The stream I did find was from Fox Sports in Australia, so I had a chance to experience for the first time a Fox broadcast from down under. It was nothing spectacular, and nothing awful — just different. They had two pundits and one presenter. One of the pundits was former Blackburn Rovers footballer and Australian international Robbie Slater.
One interesting observation however was that they used to the Sky Sports feed for the Swansea versus Cardiff game, with the Sky Sports graphics appearing near the top left corner of the screen, while the Fox Sports logo was positioned near the top right corner.
After thoroughly enjoying Swansea’s 3-2 win against Cardiff — which was a very entertaining game, I had the rare treat of watching three 10am ET/3pm UK Premier Leagues at the same time. Tottenham against Sunderland on TV, with the Aston Villa against Bolton game also on-screen via the picture-in-picture feature, and then the Manchester City versus Burnley game on my laptop courtesy of a now-functioning Setanta-i.
Here are my observations from the three games, as well as the late Wolves against Arsenal match:
- Congratulations to Owen Coyle and his Burnley team for a very impressive performance against Manchester City. Sure, City’s defensive mistakes were awful today, but Burnley defended incredibly well in the first half and limited City to very few chances. The Clarets especially played the offside trap well pushing high up the pitch and preventing City from launching their blistering attacks that were such a part of their game during the beginning of the season.
- The second half was a different story for Burnley as City were able to spread out the Burnley defenders to create more room for cut-backs to the edge of the penalty area where Manchester City began playing target practice. However, even though City were able to play themselves back into the game, their defensive frailties become apparent again as they let Burnley score a late equalizer to make it 3-3 through David Nugent, who is playing like a man reborn this season. As for City, I think it’s time to bench Wayne Bridge for a few games until his form improves. The most expensive defender in English football? You’re having a laugh.
- Perhaps the most entertaining game of the day — and possibly the weekend, we’ll find out after we watch the Sunday and Monday games — was Tottenham Hotspur against Sunderland. My man of the match was Heurelho Gomes, who made several critical saves to give a good indication that the 2-0 scoreline to Tottenham was not indicative of how tight the game actually was.
- Sunderland‘s Darren Bent should have received a yellow card for his dive that led to the penalty after Gomes rushed in to try to get the ball. The incident was exactly like what Wayne Rooney did earlier this season against Arsenal at Old Trafford. As it was, Gomes saved the penalty from Bent and justice was done, but not via a correct refereeing decision but instead through a poor penalty attempt by Mr. Bent.
- Aston Villa made mincemeat of Bolton Wanderers in an impressive 5-1 victory at Villa Park. The most interesting incident in this game for me was the Villa penalty which was saved by Jussi Jasskelainen, but then my “favorite” player Steve Sidwell struck the rebound against the post before James Milnar knocked in the subsequent rebound to score for Villa. Where were the Bolton defenders to allow Villa two extra bites of the cherry?
- In the Wolverhampton Wanderers against Arsenal match, the game was over by half-time after horrible marking by Wolves and a couple of unlucky own goals. Still, even though Wolves came out with a lot of bravado, the difference in class between the two sides was on evidence at Molineux. For Arsenal, this was a walk in the park but still a very important three points after a 4-1 away victory.
- Wolverhampton supporters didn’t have too much to cheer about on the pitch, but at least their fans had a bit of fun after the game kicked off and they started singing “En-ger-lund, En-ger-lund” to make fun of Arsenal’s lack of English players. Plus, even toward the end of the match when Wolves were down four nil, their fans were singing “Super, Super Mick, Super Mick” as a tribute to their manager Mick McCarthy. Now if only their footballers played as well as the Wolverhampton supporters sang.
By the way, while I was scrambling to find a feed of the Swansea against Cardiff game, I did watch ITV’1’s broadcast of the FA Cup first round tie between Paulton Rovers and Norwich City. The opening of the program was highlighted by comic book graphics, which was a refreshing idea especially since most football shows have predictably boring intros. As soon as the opening was cover, the ITV presenter was standing on the Paulton pitch in one of the quaintest grounds you could ever imagine a football match to be played with the rolling hills overlooking the ground.
Excellent coverage by ITV. It’s just a shame that neither Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta Sports decided to show any games from this round. We’ll have to wait until early January before we see FA Cup games on US television.
UPDATED: To clarify, Fox Soccer Channel did actually show FA Cup games from the first round. However, the games weren’t shown live. They were shown on delay instead.
Photo credit: SCFC.co.uk