While we romanticize about Boxing Day fixtures in English football, the two things I often forget are (1) the matches are often low-scoring encounters since the quality of the pitch and weather this time of the year isn’t the greatest, and (2) there’s often a surprise result in store. We got both of those today. Here are seven observations I learned from today’s matches:
- Queens Park Rangers were robbed today. West Bromwich Albion’s second goal should have been disallowed when Marc-Antoine Fortune used his back to impede QPR goalkeeper Rob Green. Plus, QPR should have been awarded a penalty kick late in the game after Liam Ridgewell handled the ball in the area.
- Reading deserved to win today. Michu wasn’t on form today for Swansea, while Reading had the better chances and applied more pressure on their opponents goal throughout most of the match. Worryingly for Swansea, this is their third match in a row where they’ve been unable to keep possession as well as they’re used to.
- Newcastle threw away a golden opportunity. Manchester United was there for the taking: Poor defensively, without Wayne Rooney and leaking goals. Yet Newcastle United were unable to maintain the lead they had on three separate occasions because their defending was worse than Manchester United’s.
- Sir Alex Ferguson should have been sent to the stands. If any other managers had treated the referee and his assistants the way that Ferguson did at the beginning of the second half today against Newcastle, they would have been sent to the stands. The way he got in their faces and remonstrated over and over again was disappointing of a manager who has been in the game for so long. At the same time, his seniority and power in the top league was presumably why referee Mike Dean decided to not punish the Scot.
- Kelvin Davis did it again for Southampton. It was another embarrassing mistake by the Southampton goalkeeper again this season. This time he gifted Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov a goal after he palmed the ball into the path of the Bulgarian striker. If the Saints go down, a lot of it has to go down to their poor goalkeeping.
- Bale stole the show, but Defoe deserves credit. Gareth Bale hit his first Premier League hat trick of his career today but it was striker Jermain Defoe who opened the scoring in what had until that point been a cagey match at Villa Park. So far this season, Defoe has scored or assisted 12 of Tottenham’s 18 goals in the league when he’s started the match.
- Stoke City deserve more credit. Today FOX Soccer presenter Rob Stone described Stoke as having a “style of play [that] is not exactly the easiest on the eye.” They’re defensively sound, but they counter attack well and the team can be exciting to watch when given a chance. As we saw against Liverpool, their style of play isn’t continuous long balls into the box. The Potters mix it up with some quick, short passing into the box as well as crosses into the area, but they will combine it now and again with a long ball about 30 yards for goal where they’re hoping a flick on to one of their players running into the box.
What are some of your observations you saw today that aren’t mentioned above? Share them in the comments section below. Or if you agree or disagree with any of my points, let me know why.