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Premier League Replay: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Premier League Replay: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Andrew Discenza’s new series spotlights what was best and worst about the weekend's action in the English Premier League…
Premier League Replay: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
The Good – Emmanuel Adebayor

For the second week running the Arsenal striker appears in this feature, this time in recognition of his sensational hat-trick that led Arsenal to their 5 – 0 thrashing of Derby County on Saturday.

The capacity crowd at Emirates Stadium was treated to another fantastic display of football by their side, who extend their winning streak in all competitions to six games, having scored at least three goals in the last five matches. Adebayor was a constant contributor throughout the match, not only in front of goal but providing crosses and working to win 50/50 balls.

He opened his account on 25 minutes, when Cesc Fabregas sent a long ball over the top and the Derby defenders were too slow to react. Through on goal, Adebayor took two touches to round keeper Stephen Bywater and calmly slid the ball into the net. The Gunners extended their lead five minutes after the restart, as Adebayor fed the ball into the box for Eduardo, who was awarded a penalty when Matt Oakley was adjudged to have held him back. There was a sense of inevitability about the penalty, which the Togolese striker calmly side-footed to his right, and although Bywater could get a hand to it he couldn’t keep it out.

Adebayor completed his hat-trick 11 minutes from time, when a lofted delivery from Denilson found him on the edge of the area. He expertly controlled with his chest, taking all of the pace off the pass and opening him up to move in on goal. The defenders closed down but he kept his cool, sliding the ball again toward the lower right corner, with Bywater getting a piece but yet again not enough to prevent the goal. Arsenal will not be too carried away by this predictably dominant performance over the Rams, but their recent string of flowing play and comprehensive victories could be enough to place them among the title contenders for the first time since 2004.

Honorable mention here goes to Carlos Tevez, who took a step this afternoon to silencing his critics in Manchester. His scrappy, persistent play was a thorn in Chelsea’s side all afternoon, and the Argentine playmaker thoroughly deserved his goal.

The Bad – Rafael Benitez

The Liverpool manager can be accused of being too conservative for the second straight Premiership game, as the Reds were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Birmingham on Saturday. Having to balance Euro 2008 qualifying and the Champions League Group Stage with the regular domestic fixtures, the Spanish manager chose to leave £26 million striker Fernando Torres on the bench, to be replaced by Andriy Voronin. This is the second match running that Voronin has started in place of the 23-year old Spanish international, and it seems to be no coincidence that Liverpool have failed to score in both of those fixtures. In contrast, the last match in which Torres started he grabbed two goals in a 6 – 0 win against Derby in the result of the season so far. Benitez did bring Torres on after 60 minutes, and Peter Crouch on for Voronin after 74, and Liverpool’s attack was noticeably energized. Torres showed his class toward the end with an audacious overhead kick that flew just over the bar. After a promising start to the season Liverpool lie in fourth place in the table, but after an unimpressive 1 – 1 draw to Porto in midweek, Benitez has failed to justify his tactic of giving his best goal scorer the weekend off.

The Ugly – Mike Dean

The referee for Manchester United’s 2 – 0 defeat of Chelsea made the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Sunday, having reduced the visiting Blues to ten men after only half an hour. Jon Obi Mikel, having shown too much of the ball to Patrice Evra, went in studs up on the French fullback, and Dean did not hesitate in producing red for the Nigerian midfielder. However, replays show that although the spikes were showing on Mikel’s right boot, his challenge seemed to stop short once Evra cleared, and that, despite the danger of the tackle, it was not malicious, but rather a genuine effort for the ball. Chelsea’s trips to Old Trafford will always be tight affairs, and on this day the visitors were unable to overcome the one-man deficit. And perhaps a cooler head by Mike Dean might have produced a yellow card, and a more evenly matched Premiership contest.

Dean furthered Chelsea’s woes when he extended stoppage time in the first half by ninety seconds, giving the home side time to score what would prove to be the deciding goal. Then, in the 89th minute, Dean awarded a controversial penalty for a foul on Luis Saha, who made the most of a tame challenge by Tal Ben Haim. The French striker fired straight down the middle past Petr Cech’s flailing legs, and sealed victory for the Red Devils. Although none of his decisions were clear-cut howlers, it must be said that anytime a referee takes the game needlessly into his own hands (especially a match of this magnitude) it is a blow to the integrity of the Premier League and the sport itself.

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