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Nov 17, 2008

The last look at the weekend

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 five-star weekend.

Titus Shambles

Poor old Titus Shambles can't get anything right. He spent five years tormenting Tyneside with a string of lamentable performances. He bagged more than his fair share of own-goals during that period, was talked up and then derided by at least three managers. One, Glenn Roeder, openly blaming him for single-handedly putting Newcastle out of the UEFA Cup in 2007.

Then Sam Allardyce came in and showed he meant business by releasing Bramble on his second day in charge of the Toon. Unwanted and unloved he turned up at Wigan having been signed by that powerhouse of management Chris Hutchings, but 75 seconds into his debut under Steve Bruce he missed the ball completely to gift a goal to the then Man City midfielder Geovanni.

Now, he goes back to St James' Park, puts in a decent shift at the back then pops up with a last-gasp equaliser in front of the fans who used to put up with, and now openly despise, him. Calamity that lad.

Paranoid and schizophrenic

Well, that's something you don't see every week, Arsenal getting a spanking at the Emirates. In fact, the two times they've lost at home this season - Hull City were the other team to win, shame on you if you had already forgotten - came immediately after their prodigious youngsters had excelled in the Carling Cup.

Are the senior players shocked into submission by their sight of the Young Gunners running wild against stiff opposition? Are they constantly looking over their shoulder, wondering which of their star-studded reserve side has their first-team spot in their sights? So rattled were Arsenal they were reduced to kicking lumps out of the opposition, something Arsene Wenger had pointedly accused Stoke City of attempting just a few weeks prior. How very non-continental.

The other major surprise after the game was the lack of an admission from Arsene Wenger that he didn't actually see the defeat.

I'm holding out for a Heurelho

Perhaps Harry Redknapp is human after all. At least he knows his goalkeeper is. Once again Heurelho Gomes produced another mesmerising display of self-destruction - this time at Craven Cottage. All those hoping his nasty bang on the head in midweek had knocked some good 'keeping skills into him were left bitterly disappointed.

So pedestrian was Simon Davies' cross it should have had its own lollipop lady. It bounced up gleefully in front of Gomes just waiting to be cuddled. But in his wisdom, the not-so-brilliant Brazilian decided to shun the impending union of ball and chest by chucking it petulantly into his own net. Stunning.

I bet everyone at the club repeatedly thanks former director of football Damien Comolli for that sparkling piece of transfer business. You can just hear 'Arry's mutterings as he scours the market for a new David James.

Ronny's horrible life?

What exactly is Cristiano Ronaldo's beef? Last time I checked he was a mere 23-years-old, fabulously wealthy, universally adored by a loyal (but largely non-Manchester based) army of United fans and with the world's leading clubs lining up if and when he makes himself available for transfer.

He ran amok on Saturday at Old Trafford, pulverising a miserable Stoke side into submission. All was rosy, five goals scored including his 100th and 101st for the club, a clean sheet and not so much as a scratch on him. So why did he spend the game with a face like a slapped arse? Gesticulating to Stoke's fans who gave him a bit of jip? Embroiling himself in a bust-up with Amdy Faye? Looking like he was about to cry every time any opposition player got near him?

With professional misery guts Dimitar Berbatov having joined now too, surely the Red Devils are making a case to be officially appointed the sulkiest club in the top flight. Now all we need is for Nicolas Anelka to jump Big Phil's ship and complete the set.

A Hul-ping hand

What on earth was going on at the KC Stadium on Sunday? It was calamity galore and yet Richard Dunne was nowhere in sight. His replacement Tal Ben Haim picked up where the Republic of Ireland international left off by making a right plonker of himself, cushioning a tremendous ball for the incredulous Daniel Cousin to score the opening goal.

Kamil Zayatte clearly felt such sympathy with Ben Haim he went one better and laid an equaliser on a silver platter for Stephen Ireland, who looked very embarrassed to have scored the simplest goal you'll see in the Premier League. Quite what went through the young defender's mind is anyone's guess. Probably just silence and the odd tumbleweed.

Ireland's first was as scrappy and simple as the second one was sublime. As the cross came fizzing in he controlled the ball dead, shuffled his feet and still had the quickness of thought to curl an unstoppable shot into the far corner. A bold claim yes, but as far as technical skill goes, you won't see a better finish this season.

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