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Apr 16, 2012

Ghost goal, Tevez back in the swing

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

A line in the sand

Last week his eagle-eyes managed to miss Super Mario's ugly attempt to give Alex Song a third, detachable leg, this week his 20/20 vision managed to create a goal out of pure fiction, during a semi-final at Wembley in the greatest domestic cup competition in the world. Good job then, that Martin Atkinson will be a goalline assistant for the upcoming European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. This is not a joke.

Perhaps all this spectacular good luck Chelsea are enjoying at the moment was actually meant for Andre Villas-Boas, but was sent from on high via Royal Mail - hence the delay. Two offside goals gifted them a win over Wigan, a preposterous penalty offered a draw at Fulham and now a goal that wasn't even close to threatening Wembley's goalline has helped to book the Blues an FA Cup final slot.

The only blot on Chelsea's copybook came from a brainless section of their fans, who chose to desecrate a minute's silence for the victims of Hillsborough. At least the club moved quickly to distance themselves from this heinous violation of football's unspoken code of conduct.

Back on the field, Chelsea are eating up all this good fortune at such a ferocious rate it is bound to run out around about the same time the plane carrying Lional Messi, Xavi Hernandez and co lands at Heathrow on Tuesday morning. At least they go into the game with the confidence of having scored four legitimate goals. Spurs on the other hand, are floundering at precisely the wrong moment. Before 'Arry can swan off the Euros with Atkinson, he needs to arrest the decline and finish in the top four.

The £35 million goal

It's all smiles again at Liverpool, emotional scousers getting carried away to such an extent that even Jamie Carragher, in his ubiquitous, squeaky style, suggested that Andy Carroll's late header justified his extortionate £35 million price tag on its own. In truth, Carra was just delighted that his slice of six-year-old defending, combined with Carroll's one man miss of the century show, hadn't handed an FA Cup final place to the blue half of Merseyside.

It's not often managers go into a semi-final on the back of a vote of confidence, but King Kenny managed it. He had a golden chance to prove his judgement was getting slightly better this week in the wake of Damian Comolli's sacking - but missed his own open goal by failing to pin all his terrible signings on the departing Frenchman. About time that Messrs Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing delivered a small Dairylea triangle-shaped slice of redemption then.

Given Liverpool's poor league form this defeat was utterly demoralising for Everton and manager David Moyes, for if they can't beat their city neighbours when they are scratching around for a top-nine finish then they may never best them again. Moyes had suggested the world wanted Everton to win. He might have been right, but his comments provided all the incentive Liverpool needed to edge their way towards another face-saving cup triumph.

Much too much, much too Young

Has there ever been a game in which anyone was given less chance of picking up a result than prior to Aston Villa's trip to Old Trafford? A measure of how deeply average Big 'Eck's lot are comes with the realisation that not one sane person gave them a hope in hell of picking up even a point, even though they were heading to the home of a side who had just mustered a paltry one shot on goal during their first ever Premier League defeat at Wigan.

Spanked they duly were, but only after the door was prised open by one of their old boys, whose turf-munching antics this season have seen him elevated into the supreme category of continental divers frequented by the likes of Sergio Busquets and Cristiano Ronaldo. Young isn't even subtle about it anymore, feeling the merest brush of cotton upon boot before splaying his legs as if he'd just been rammed from behind by a frisky bull. After Shaun Derry was added to the 'pranked' list last week, so was Ciaran Clark this.

Shorn of Darren Bent and Charles Insomnia, Villa are as toothless as a four-month old baby. That, combined with Fergie's insistence that his squad spend a full four days after defeat at the DW in an isolation chamber, contained within a hair-dryer chamber, rendered this contest well and truly over before the teams even emerged from the tunnel.

Tevez to a tee

You can't keep a good man down ... in Argentina. Carlos Tevez's rehabilitation is seemingly complete, after he tore the Canaries to shreds, feather by feather. Like all those identikit Steve Seagal films that follow Channel 5's Europa League coverage and contain a section near the end entitled 'final throw of the dice', backing a renegade mercenary to reignite your title charge is so darn wacky it might just work.

The pressure of Squeaky Bum Town (population you, bro) has turned Roberto Mancini into the Premier League's chief dissmisser out of hand-er. First Tevez, was never going to play for City again, then Mario Balotelli's career at the club was over (only for the gaffer to admit he'll be back for the derby) now the title is "finished", even after Fergie's mob folded at mighty Wigan. Roberto even went so far as to say he didn't know Manchester United were in action on Wednesday night - poppycock of the highest order.

At least his lot are finding the net again though, largely thanks to Tevez. Despite the jocular nature of his celebration at scoring a hat-trick, I'll wager the mock golf swing didn't go down too sweetly in the away end, given that his trickery might have come in handy during the six-months he was on the fairway instead of the pitch. With all that time spent on the course, you'd think his swing might be a little better, rotating his hips more through contact to offer a fuller, cleaner strike of the ball, but then his technique seems wonky - just like his priorities.

Back in the mire

Just a few short weeks ago, as Blackburn hit the lofty heights of 16th following back-to-back wins, some foolhardy people wrote them off as safe; the protest group who had been calling for Steve Kean's head all winter folded up their oversized, mock P45s and the entire universe acted as if the previous seven months of toil and tears hadn't occurred in the first place.

At Swansea though, Blackburn got thoroughly beasted by a team who enjoyed 73% possession during the match. Clearly, Rovers' top brass didn't get the memo from the rest of the Premier League, who had finally figured out the way to beat the Swans was to allow them their pretty, tippy tappy passing style with ten behind the ball before hitting them on the break. Four teams in a row had done it to them, and four teams had won. Instead Blackburn went out and played in such a ragged fashion that an XI made up of intoxicated mid-40 somethings plucked straight from a hen do could have kept a more reasonable shape.

As ever, Steve Kean managed to pluck a couple of nonsensical positives from the game. This time he almost celebrated the defeat for the clarity it brought to Blackburn and their bleak situation, as if the clouds had parted and a higher power had spaketh down to point out something that hadn't quite occurred to him: "Oi, Steve, you need points - fast."

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Leon Knight at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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