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Dec 17, 2012

I guess that's why they call it the Blues

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.

What's the Yokohama in that?

At least David Luiz had the good grace to keep up the pretence Chelsea cared about the Club World Cup final and didn't just see it as a long-haul mid-season distraction. Sideshow switched on the waterworks and offered the world a sad face while the rest of the squad sloped back to the airport, leaving the team who came armed with intent and 30,000 fans the rightful winners.

The CWC is the Twin Peaks of the football world, operating in a parallel universe, guarded by its own rules. Chief among them seemed to be that the referee was under orders not to show anybody a yellow card in the first half, presumably until the FIFA suits realised how stupid it looked as a series of bookable offences went unpunished and players became curious as to how far they could push it. "Would an atomic wedgey just get me a stern ticking off?" you could hear them thinking.

Continuing this twilight zone theme, and Chelsea's misery, was Gary Cahill's dismissal, for what we presume was violent conduct. The trouble was the television cameras didn't pick up the incident and we weren't given the benefit of a replay, I'm guessing because the powers that be deem that unedifying to broadcast in what is their flagship club tournament. So now we can add censorship to Sepp Blatter's roll call of shame. That, lads, is a slippery slope.

Unbelievable #Bentekkers

Friday: "We are 11 points off second and that can all turn around very quickly." No you're not, Brendan Rodgers, you are 14 points off second and you've just been spanked by one of the youngest sides ever to take the field in the Premier League era. So leave the smug, self-satisfying, slap on the back statements until after you consolidate a top-half place perhaps?

A humiliating defeat it may have been for Liverpool but there is little shame being put to the sword by a wild stallion of a footballer, quickly becoming synonymous with rampages akin to those we used to witness from Hulk Hogan back in the good old days. Christian Benteke might not know exactly where Birmingham is, and may have already revealed a penchant for Arsenal, but there's no denying the impact he's made at Villa.

There is a silver lining to this dark cloud though, Liverpool fans - that barnstorming display from #Bentekkers could push Darren Bent so far into the Vill-derness that he might be available to sign for an extortionate, Jordan Henderson-inflated transfer fee, to offer Luis Suarez a bit of company. Oh and Stewart Downing had a good game. Well, for 20 minutes anyway. Chin up.

Fellaini goes nuts

It's not often you see a good, old fashioned slice of physical violence in this modern day Premier League where bruisers have been replaced by ballerinas and knuckle dusters by Alice bands. But at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday - where else? - we were transported back in time, roughly to the 1970s when you could practically gouge someone's eye out as long as you shook their hand upon the final whistle.

After a series of grapples in the box, Marouane Fellaini, sick of Ryan Shawcross' touch-tight approach to marking at corners, stuck his nut right in his opponent's face, as if the defender had insulted his lass outside a kebab shop at 4am on Matthew Street in Liverpoo;. It wasn't an elephant's leg Shawcross ended up eating though, it was turf, but only briefly as he steeled himself and got to his feet. Had it been Luis Suarez he struck, the Uruguayan would still have been rolling around now.

Mind you, given Fellaini's glorious shock of black hair, and the thick, brillo-pad style padding it provides, I doubt Shawcross was hurt in the slightest, but the gust of wind generated by such a vicious swing of the afro was enough to send him down in gale force fashion. David Moyes had no option to condemn Fellaini's faux pas, and the Belgian can now look forward to an extended winter break.

Revenge mission

Fergie is like Jean-Claude Van Damme - he'll always settle a score. Surveying the scene at the Stadium of Light after the title had been snatched from their grasp last season he pocketed the sight of gurning Mackems delighting in Manchester United's misfortune and vowed to make their life hell. In a sense he'd already done that by selling them John O'Shea, who laid on the first goal for Robin van Persie at Old Trafford. He even chucked Wes Brown in for good measure too.

Not that there was much doubt about the outcome given it's been 44 years since Sunderland ran out winners there, though Martin O'Neill did his best to underline how difficult the task was they were facing by placing Van Persie somewhere on the Messi radar- a cynical tactic when managers suffer a heavy defeat. With RVP on song they are nailed on for the title O'Neill reckons, and their six-point lead was duly restored.

On the other side of the city, Samir Nasri clawed back some much-needed kudos after last week's derby clanger, putting in a solid shift for Manchester City before taking a shot in the danglies and limping down the tunnel - one in the pods for those who reckoned he wasn't prepared to put his body on the line for the cause.

Give it to the fruitcake

It's good to have 'Arry back isn't it? Unbeaten since he took the reins at Loftus Road - otherwise known as Mark Hughes' funeral pyre of management, he's guided Rangers to three draws in a promising start to life in West London, before finally grabbing the club's first Premier League victory of the season at only the 17th time of asking.

He's also a master of an approach I like to call 'the carrot, the stick, the carrot again, then the segway neatly into flouncy hyperbole technique'. Who else could in the same breath dismiss one of his players as a "fruitcake" then describe said fruitcake's display as one of the "all-time great performances"? As in ever. In history. Since time began.

'Arry was, of course, referring to Adel Taarabt, the man who can look like a combination of Pele and Pingu in the same dribble. He grabbed two goals, one fluky, one sublime, as Rangers climbed off the foot of the table for the first time since seemingly the dawn of creation. Next up for newly-confident Rangers a trip to Newcastle, who are handing out goals for fun this season. It has that unmistakable whiff of a six-pointer about it.

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