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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
What the fans say...

Soccernet Correspondents

Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea

Dan Hobbs: Another strong performance against one of the 'big four', and another hard luck story. Blues again put up more than a good fight against one of the top teams but failed to secure any points. Play like this against Sunderland and Derby in the next two games, and we will have some breathing space again. The restoration to the line-up of Kapo in place of McSheffrey gives the team more creativity and confidence. Plus, somebody has said something to Maik Taylor and his game has picked up. All in all there are plenty of encouraging signs, and watching the Blues is enjoyable again. The real test starts at the Stadium of Light.

Alex Perras, Soccernet reader Super-sub Claudio Pizarro kept our Premier League title hopes alive with the only goal of the game late on against a battling Birmingham team at St Andrews. Coincidentally the Peru international's only other goal for Blues since his summer move from Bayern Munich had been on the opening day of the season against the same opposition. He obviously needs to score more goals but the winner here was very welcome.

Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Middlesbrough

Alan Griffiths: More of a point gained than points lost in this home game against Boro. By rights if Boro had put their chances away, a true reflection of their dominance would have been a 4-1 win in their favour. Once renowned for our no nonsense defending, the defence has lost its cohesion and marking at set pieces would now allow room for a bus to drive through it. To be honest the whole team was lifeless, with too many players off form. Hopefully Hughes can pull another rabbit out of the bag during the transfer window to bring in someone that can lift the spirit in the team.

Daniel Gray: Boro had clearly left a multitude of umbrellas up indoors, walked under a street's worth of ladders, and spilt so much salt that slugs as far away as Montevideo perished. No one has been as unlucky since that bloke found himself sharing a train carriage with the presenters of 'Loose Women'. We really should buy a striker who can get on the end of all the glorious chances our slick play creates: Alves must enter the building, and not at the cost of creator-in-chief Downing.

Fulham 0-3 Arsenal

Tom Wille: The African Cup of Nations started on Sunday in Ghana and unfortunately for Fulham, Togo did not qualify. Because of that, Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor was able to play for Arsenal and score a first half brace to help the Gunners cruise to a 3-0 win over a lifeless Fulham. The Cottagers were no threat at all and over the course of the season have shown little to make people believe this team will not get relegated. The team lacks scoring up front. They lack creativity in the midfield and they do not possess quality of defenders at the back. Fulham and new boss Roy Hodgson have a long climb to get out of the relegation zone and wins are of huge importance going forward.

David Young: Arsenal re-discovered something of their early season form against a struggling Fulham last Saturday. After quelling some early hustle and bustle from their hosts, they settled into their rhythm, took a two-goal lead by half-time and finished the job off with a Tomas Rosicky strike near the end. The Gunners dominated the match and seemed to be playing well within themselves for most of the second half. With Fulham dropping down the table like a stone, anything other than a victory would have been a disappointment. And with Chelsea and Man Utd winning too, three points was essential.

Portsmouth 3-1 Derby County

Scott McLachlan: Relief at Fratton Park as Pompey at last scored goals at home and beat a poor Derby side. New signing Lassina Diarra was a busy force in midfield and provided a crucial heartbeat that was missing against Sunderland last week. Benjani became only the 14th player in Premiership history to bag a second hat-trick in one season and all was right once more on the south coast.

Roderick Coustan The Rams' Welsh international Nyatanga started his first Premier game by scoring in the 4th minute, tapping in after a free kick from Lauren Robert was headed against the bar. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe are not going to the African Cup of Nations, so Benjani was here and on song to score his hat-trick. He has now scored the 1st, 48th, 49th & 50th goals against the Rams in the Premier League.

Reading 0-2 Manchester United

Paula Marcus: A spirited Reading performance wasn't quite enough to see off Manchester United. Opting to go all out attack Reading could easily have earned a morale boosting draw with Kitson and Lita causing the United defence plenty of problems. At last Reading seem to have found a player that can actually defend, with Cisse marking Tevez out of the game. But as players tired it was the away team who sealed all three points with two late goals.

Charlie Olsen, Soccernet Reader: After the breathtaking performances of recent weeks this was a return to grinding out a result; although maybe that is a bit harsh given that both teams really went for it. Reading decided they had nothing to lose and attacked and could have scored if their finishing was less paniced. In the end class told as wayne Rooney scored another goal in front of the watching Fabio Capello and Ronaldo scored his 23rd of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Sunderland

Colin McCullough: A classic 'game of two halves', with Spurs utterly dominating the first half and being outplayed and outfought in the second. Robbie Keane's 100th goal for Tottenham right at the end put a gloss on what was otherwise an unconvincing victory against one of the favourites for the drop. On the plus side, it was a fourth consecutive league win at White Hart Lane, another clean sheet, and three valuable points. Yet despite moving up a place, Spurs still remain in the wrong half of the table.

Peter Osborne: I guess you could say with a centre half at right back and a centre forward at left wing what do you expect? The makeshift right back not clearing properly and the left winger not tracking back and its 1-0 down in 111 seconds, not ideal, but I guess you can only field what you have. I was pleased we were only one down at half-time as it could and should have been far worse. Murphy, our makeshift left winger created most of our numerous second-half chances in a much improved performance, but as seems to be the case this season, the finish was lacking. Quite a few Spurs fans stated we would be ok if we played like we did in the second-half, I agree, but lets hope for six or seven dull, boring un-entertaining 'lucky' 1-0 wins.

Newcastle United 0-0 Bolton Wanderers

Correspondent Wanted: A nil-nil draw is not exactly what the Geordie masses were expecting on Kevin Keegan's return but a clean sheet is a decent achievement after only a single training session. KK now has real idea of the size of the task facing him and I think his biggest problem will be to finish high enough this year to attract some top players next season.

Matthew Kilsby: Well, well, well: Keegan's return wasn't quite the party that was predicted by the 'Geordie Nation' and its sycophantic media, which I am understandably overjoyed about. Despite being written-off before the game, the Wanderers acquitted themselves brilliantly and could well have won with a bit of luck. In the first half we outplayed Newcastle with some decent football and solid defensive work whilst in the second half, with the exception of a ten minute spell, Newcastle never threatened. Back to our belligerent best and, to be honest, I loved every minute of it.

Wigan Athletic 1-2 Everton

Liam O'Connor: In a game which lacked quality and a cutting edge, Wigan came out the hungrier team, although another costly mistake from the Titus Bramble collection let in Andy Johnson for a goal which totally changed the game, another goal from Lescott took the points, and although Wigan got the only goal of the second-half, Everton created the best chances and even though they weren't at their best, Wigan didn't take their chances, and that lost them the game.

Carl Woodward, Soccernet reader: Two goals in three minutes late in the first half gave us a hard-fought, and some would say undeserved, 2-1 victory at Wigan Athletic that lifted us into the top four and above that red shower from across the city. Andy Johnson bagged his sixth goal of the season, thanks to titus Bramble, and Joleon Lescott scored yet another to grind out a win that put us right on course for Europe. Can we steal Liverpool's expected fourth place?

Manchester City 1-1 West Ham United

Wallace Poulter: A poor performance from City against West Ham which highlighted the one area that must be strengthened over the next 10 days or so. No, not the striking options but a box to box midfielder to play when Michael Johnson is injured. 'Colin Bell Jr.'s' value has never been more evident as the lack of support play at both ends of the field continues to plague City. All in all a fortunate point and continuation of the unbeaten home streak in the league.

Billy Blagg: It's difficult to see how West Ham have come away from the City of Manchester stadium with only one league point to show for their efforts. The Hammers bossed the game virtually from start to finish and deserved to take all three points. In fact, they would have done had Carlton Cole's excellent opening strike not been ruled out by a Darius Vassell goal that was offside by any laws of the game I understand. Alan Curbishley was rightly incensed, but any fear that the Hammers would buckle after the equaliser were unfounded as the team continued to dominate play.

Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa

Robert Williams, Soccernet reader: This was a disappointing result because we dominated this game but still only managed to draw at home against a Villa side that was very poor on the night. after the game Steven Gerrard said all the press talk about the American owners had effected the players while Rafa Benitez said it hadn't. Meanwhile, I have to go to work and listen to all those gloating Blue Noses.

Jerrad Peters: A split of the points was a fair result on Monday. That said, nobody would have batted an eyelid if Villa had claimed all three. Which, but for a last-gasp Peter Crouch equalizer, they very nearly did. With both sides level on 40-points as the campaign enters the winter grind, Liverpool have a right to be uneasy. Rafael Benitez fielded his strongest lineup against Villa. But the visitors, without Scott Carson and Gareth Barry, did not look at all out of their depth at Anfield. The final pair of European places will probably be decided in May. That Villa have no Champions' League or FA Cup commitments only enhances their chances in the league. Oh, and Fabio Aurelio is absolute rubbish; Titus Bramble comes to mind.

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