|photo by Miss Sydney Marie||via PhotoRee|
Round 29 combined BPL action with the weekend's FA Cup bouts, leading to a mishmash of football, and many teams playing twice in a very short period of time:
o I've got to say I was impressed with referee Michael Oliver, who oversaw a testy match on Saturday between Wigan and West Bromwich Albion. Showing maturity well beyond his 26 years, Oliver did a masterful job of straddling the very fine line between being a disciplinarian and letting the players play the game. In the process, he certainly didn't please either team -- but the mark of a fair deal in my book is one in which both sides feel a little aggrieved. There are big things in store for this kid: mark my words.
o The scenes out of White Hart Lame on Saturday were distressing and terrifying to witness, and made me realize -- once again -- that it's just a game we're watching. Full credit to the players, fans, officials and announcers who immediately grasped the impact of what they were viewing -- you could see the shock, terror and worry etched in their every face. Howard Webb's decision to abandon the game was the proper one, and greeted with great respect by the fans, who could easily have reacted differently. Our prayers go out to Bolton's Fabrice Muamba, and we wish him only the best, and a speedy recovery.
o It was the weekend of the misfit: how else to explain the fact that Fernando Torres and Stewart Downing both found the net on Sunday...?
o I tried to watch Sunderland at Blackburn, but I have to be honest: the contest just seemed devoid of life. There were fan scattered around empty seats, and the general crowd din was so low you could practically hear individual voices. All in all, it kind of reminded me of watching a Florida (Miami?) Marlins game, and trust me -- that's not a glowing recommendation for the BPL.
o I'll say this only once this season: Without Junior Hoilet, Blackburn's season would be in the toilet. But thanks to the best Canadian export to the BPL since a certain fragile midfielder in Manchester, Rovers look as if they may indeed beat the drop.
o It was great to see Fernando Torres returning to his unassuming life as Clark Kent mid-week against City, after a quick weekend cameo as Superman against Leicester City. Misjudging balls, displaying the touch of a deaf, dumb and blind man, and seemingly afraid to shoot -- yup, that's the Torres we've grown to know and love.
o When in doubt, resort to cantenaccio: City went with their vaunted three holding midfielder offense, featuring Nigel De Jong, Ya Ya Toure and Gareth Barry all on the pitch for the second half against Chelsea. With Samir Nasri also playing, it made for quite a crowd in the middle of the pitch, but in the end it got a result. And wouldn't you know that the play which kept City's title hopes alive would involve the only two men on the side who haven't been played to death this season by Roberto Mancini: Samir Nasri and a certain Carlos Tevez. And for that very play, we are awarding our Player of the Week title to Sami -- you didn't think it was going to Tevez, did you?
o Meanwhile, I thought Chelsea set up even more negatively than City, and were lucky to get even their single deflected goal. Sticking the aforementioned 'Nando up front all by himself, and leaving him there to provide "offense," RDM's plan must have involved shutting City out at home. Either the guy is brilliant and has brass balls, or he's a complete and utter idiot -- and the manner of City's 2-1 win made Di Matteo appear rather foolish in the end.
o The Arsenal - Everton game, which began so brilliantly, eventually settled down into a rather drab and dour 1-0 affair. People can talk all they want about what a great job David Moyes has done, but with his record of producing goals at Goodison this season, I hope he moves up into second place on the BPL's list of longest-tenured coaches after Sir Alex retires....
o Sight of the week: Spurs' fans leaving White Hart Lane with their team down 1-nil in the 85th minute. Talk about fair weather: too bad they missed Rafael Van der Vaarts's dramatic stoppage time equalizer, which kept Tottenham's Champion League hopes alive -- by a thread. With the Blues' loss on Wednesday, the game this weekend between the two London clubs is shaping up into a Champions League six pointer.
This is farlieonfootie for March 23.