There have been very few if any boring Premier League weekends so far this season, and this Saturday was another example of why this is one of the most entertaining leagues in the world. Here are my observations from the Saturday games I’ve watched thus far:
Stoke City v Wigan Athletic
- When ESPN2 looked at the fixture list and saw Stoke City versus Wigan Athletic on a Saturday morning in December, they probably weren’t too excited just like many of you, the readers. However, the game turned into an extremely entertaining match with goals galore, plenty of controversy (the penalty decision, and the resulting save from Rodallega) and a wonderful climax to the game with Wigan piling on the pressure but unable to get the winner. The game ended 2-2, but what a way to begin the Premier League weekend!
Bolton Wanderers v Manchester City
- Playing against Bolton Wanderers was never going to be an easy fixture for Manchester City, but a game against such a physical and direct team such as Wanderers was always going to be a perfect test for City to see if they can win the tough games as well as the glamorous ones.
- The Wanderers versus City game reminded me of the Stoke against Wigan game from earlier in the morning. Lots of goals, lots of controversy and highly entertaining. Bolton’s opening goal was contentious when a deflected pass came into the path of Tamir Cohen who knocked the ball into the goal despite being in an offside position. Should the goal have counted or not? Cohen was obviously offside but does the deflected pass put Cohen onside? With a highly contentious decision like this, I rely on the co-commentator to share his expertise and definitively say whether the goal should have been disallowed or not. However, co-commentator Dean Sturridge seemed as unsure as I was over the rule and gave a half-hearted response about Cohen being in an offside position.
- Controversy reared its ugly head later in the game when Craig Bellamy was fouled by Paul Robinson but Bellamy received a yellow card from referee Mark Clattenburg for diving. It was Bellamy’s second yellow card in the game, so he was sent off.
- Overall, what a classic game this was between Bolton and Manchester City. Both teams battled hard. Carlos “Captain Caveman” Tevez, yet again, was exceptional with two brilliant and timely goals. But fair play to Bolton. If they continue playing like this week-in week-out, then they thoroughly deserve to stay in the Premier League and football supporters should get off Gary Megson’s back. For City, it’s another draw but this was a game that they could have easily lost. City should their tough side today by coming back three times after being behind and thoroughly deserved the one point.
Chelsea v Everton
- Before I began watching the second half the Manchester United versus Aston Villa game, I was able to watch the highlights of the Chelsea against Everton match. And incredibly, this was another match that ended in a pulsating draw. American soccer haters who don’t know any better often are dumbfounded by how games that end in draws can be entertaining. Americans are bred to see winners and losers in their sports, but to me a draw is often more entertaining and pleasing than seeing a win.
Manchester United v Aston Villa
- The third entertaining match I was fortunate to watch in a row Saturday was Manchester United against Aston Villa. Martin O’Neill’s side have to be commended for going for the jugular against Man United and trying to get all three points. The side consistently floated in tons of dangerous crosses into the middle of the United penalty area to put pressure on the weakened United back four with Wes Brown replacing the position normally held by Rio Ferdinand and/or Jonny Evans, and Fletcher stepping in as right back instead of the usual Gary Neville and/or Rafael Da Silva. And by half-time Villa was deservedly 1-0 ahead after a picture-perfect header from Gabriel Agbonlahor.
- In the second half, it was quintessential Aston Villa at their best. They defended heroically and threw themselves at every United attempted shot on goal. Plus, they played their typical counter-attacking football which helped Villa ensure there were always enough players back in defense and midfield to prevent United from having clear-cut chances on goal. Whatever you say about Aston Villa, they’re always a hard-working side and never give up. They’re always pressuring the other team as soon as they get the ball and ended up keeping Man United at bay time after time.
- And let’s not forget about Brad Friedel who didn’t have a lot to do on the day, but when it counted the most, he made an incredible save from Dimitar Berbatov’s goalbound shot near the end of the game.
- Rather than criticize Manchester United (and yes Wayne Rooney had an off day), the full credit needs to go to the Aston Villa players and manager Martin O’Neill for a textbook performance against a dangerous Manchester United side. When Villa needed to hold up the ball and keep possession, they did. Congratulations on a well-deserved 1-0 win.
What are your thoughts from this incredible day in the Premier League? Were there matches that I missed that also were just as entertaining as the ones mentioned above? Did you think United had a “bad day in the office” or were Villa simply better? Click the comments link below to share your feedback and opinions.