Boxing Day Premier League Round-Up: My Observations
Christmas Day is definitely a hectic one for me, as it was this past Friday. After the kids opened the presents. we headed to my in-laws for Christmas lunch, followed by more presents to open and then tried to stuff them all into my car. We were then whisked away to my parents where we had Christmas dinner, which was then followed by – you guessed it – more presents to open and then dessert. By the time we got home around 8pm, we were all physically drained and exhausted including the kids.
For me, Saturday’s Boxing Day games were a bit of a blur. I watched most of the games but was distracted while helping the kids open presents and cleaning up the mess of strewn boxes, jigsaw puzzles and miscellaneous toys that were scattered all over the house (99% of them seemed to have been made in China, no surprise there).
Other than Birmingham City’s brave performance against Chelsea, very few games impressed me on Saturday. Fulham against Tottenham was anti-climatic with Spurs, especially, not looking very creative in their attacks in the game that ended 0-0. In the West Ham against Portsmouth match, I only caught the highlights so I didn’t get a sense for whether it was an entertaining game or not (the Hammers won 2-0).
Sunderland against Everton was intriguing and definitely held my attention. This was a game that was definitely for the faint of heart. The ball was up in the air far more than on the ground, and I wondered on several occasions during this match how Landon Donovan will cope with these types of matches. Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones teamed up beautifully on Sunderland’s goal. But the equalizer from Everton seemed inevitable (as was predicted by the co-commentator), so when Marouane Fellaini rocketed the ball into the back of the net, few seemed surprised and the 1-1 draw was a fair result for both teams.
You know that things are bad at Liverpool when they make hard work of beating the weakest team in the league, Wolverhampton Wanderers. But when Steven Gerrard finally broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute, it felt like Liverpool had won a last minute winner in the FA Cup Final such was the way that Gerrard, the Liverpool players and supporters erupted. Yossi Benayoun later got the second goal for Liverpool, but this was – to me – another unconvincing performance.
So back to the Birmingham City game, I was impressed once again by the goalkeeping heroics of Joe Hart who made three world-class saves to keep Chelsea at bay. Hart did the same at Manchester City when Sven Goran Eriksson gave him chances there until he hit a spell of bad form and was loaned out to Birmingham City. Just as I was impressed by Birmingham’s recent performances, this 0-0 one against Chelsea solidified my respect for them especially the way they defended. I’ve written about Stephen Carr in recent weeks and how incredible he is as a defender, as he was against Chelsea on Saturday. But praise has to be also be given to Roger Johnson, Liam Ridgewell and Scott Dann who were tremendous. Johnson has impressed me since he played at Cardiff City. Ridgewell has improved since his time at Aston Villa. Dann, meanwhile, is new to me. He played non-league football only three years ago and has made the leap to the Premier League with ease.
I caught bits and pieces of Burnley against Bolton, but the other match I ended up watching most of was Hamburg against Bremen. In addition to being a good match, it held my attention because the pitch was covered in snow. The lines on the pitch were traced in red to stand out from the white snow. The red lines soon turned to brown. The ball was a bright orange, and the snow continued to fall from the sky in generous amounts. It made me wonder how soon we’ll see a Premier League game played in these conditions and whether the Bundesliga’s policy is different than the Premier League’s regarding when to postpone matches. Or is it that the Germans are better organized or more used to organizing matches and transportation in adverse weather conditions such as the one on Saturday? Whatever the answer, the football match was a good one with Hamburg winning 2-1.