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Mar 9, 2009

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.

Come on feel the Moyes

Whether you were at the game or watching on television, no-one could have failed to catch a whiff of the inevitable as Middlesbrough went one-up on Everton before half-time.

Scary Davey Moyes had been winding up for an almighty rant well before Boro boot-boy David Wheater used that scarily sized head of his to nod the Smoggies into a 45th minute lead at Goodison Park, but as soon as ball crossed line I'm guessing a few bottom's may have contracted a smidgen amongst the blue-shirted ranks. Moyes admitted after the game he embarked on a foot race with assistant Steve Round to see who could get to the dressing room first and let his beleaguered players have it.

Oh to be a fly on the wall as the crockery went flying and Moyes grabbed each comrade by his short and curlies and delivered a volley of home truths. I do have an inkling as to how things many have played out in the home dressing room though, and if you've a minute to spare visit that popular file sharing website and type "Mike Bassett half time team talk" into the search tab and enjoy. Those of a nervous disposition or with an aversion to regular beeping sounds may want to swerve the adventure, however.

Jangly Jowls meets The Unpronounceable

One can always count on Harry Redknapp to provide some glittering post-match copy but that most unlikely of characters, Ricky Sbragia, has also secured a mention in dispatches after his sinister, whispering rant towards his own players, who surrendered their 1-0 lead with just two minutes left at The Stadium of Light. Funnily enough, among the subjects of their ire were two of the best players on the park.

Redknapp's rage was plentiful even after his team secured a point. God help them if they'd lost. Spurs' man-of-the-match Aaron Lennon wasn't spared either. "If he's got one fault it's his final ball. And sometimes he's too long on the ball," Redknapp said, providing evidence he can't count.

As for Sbragia, his comments need no blathering intro: "I didn't bo***ck them," he began. "I just state the facts. We were f*****g s**t. I told Steed Malbranque to take that late corner short and he said, 'Yes.' Then didn't. Our left-back George McCartney's in the box for it too. Why, I don't know." Classic stuff Ricky, on you go.. "We shot ourselves in the foot throughout - Kieran Richardson's running around like a headless chicken trying to get booked. He was on nine and getting his tenth means he's out for a month."

I have an inkling as to how things may have played out in the home dressing room...

Cave In Cottage

No Ronaldo. He hasn't even travelled with the squad. Please, let Steven Taylor have somehow injured him with that short left hand to the throat up at Newcastle. No, said Sir Alex, the lad's just sitting out this small fry quarter-final while he gets his legs waxed.

Incidentally, Taylor and Ronaldo are reported to have come to blows in the tunnel at St James' Park on Wednesday night. "You're not very good at football', said Ronnie. "You're ugly" quipped Steven with the speed of thought that's made him such a favourite in the North East. Cue Rio intervention. Cue handbags.

A draw was unthinkable Sir Alex opined before this one, adding smugly that, with United chasing the Quintuple, "we just don't need any more games'.

All neutrals were desperate for likeable Fulham to pull off an upset; maybe it's that historic riverside ground that still holds echoes of cheers for past heroes, Rodney Marsh mavericks and Bobby Moore legends dotted in among the years in obscurity.

Or maybe it's because we know this United team is good enough to warrant their deafening arrogance. Once early Fulham salvos had been resisted, and Tevez had rifled in the second, the Cottage just craved the final whistle.

Livin' on prayer

If you've ever played in a five-a-side league after work, at some point you'll have played a team like Chelsea. Probably wearing a spotless retro league kit, sporting matching moustaches and chewing gum, they'll do nothing spectacular, let you chase the ball, then take the game in a cold blooded moment or two, before all driving home in their own cars while you pile your limping team into a three-door Mini Metro.

The Chelsea spine - Terry, Lampard, Ballack and Drogba - controlled this cup tie while Coventry's mix of seasoned pros and youngsters sparred gamely; nineteen-year-old Icelandic international Aron Gunnarsson, in particular, stood out for the hosts.

It was the first sell out at the Ricoh arena since Bon Jovi toured the West Midlands, and Coventry fans felt half way there (sorry) until Drogba dispossessed Scott Dann and scored after a lively opening. "F*** all, you've never won f*** all' sang the charming Chelsea fans, proving again that for some fans football began in 1992, as 1987 Coventry cup winning boss John Sillett looked on from the stands bemused. I wonder how Keith Houchen felt?

Chelsea killed Coventry off on 72 minutes with brutal counter-attacking efficiency and Coventry's fans will have to wait for Take That's visit in June for the next dose of euphoria at the Ricoh arena. They travel to Bristol City on Tuesday.

Arsenal rant: Mark II

Oh, what's that Arsenal fans? Everything's alright now is it? I mean, it was normal service resumed at The Emirates on Sunday wasn't it? Some slick football, three sublime goals and a few returning stars making the difference. I'm so glad. Those previous few weeks where you DREW a few games must have been reeeeally tough for you all.

Of course I had to endure the usual poppycock after I pointed my vitriol gun at the Emirates and spewed forth - namely, that I've got it in for Arsenal, or must a be a Chelsea/Liverpool/ManUtd fan. Rubbish. If I were only allowed to watch one Premier League team between now and the end of the season it'd be Arsenal every time because they consistently play quality, entertaining, attacking football week in, week out.

They've been doing exactly the same of late but have just struggled with the end product, but that's no reason to give them audible grief. You pay your money and can boo if you like, but what good has it ever done for the players?

It's just the rank hypocrisy of it all. Last week boos rained down from the stands after you outplayed Fulham but couldn't find the onion bag. This without the likes of Adebayor, Walcott, Fabregas and Eduardo. Heck, one fan even saw fit to have a go at Andrey Arshavin on the site, saying he clearly wasn't up to Premier League standard, after only THREE games in the flipping country.

But now you've been spoiled by a simply sublime goal from Eduardo, and equally great goals from Vela and Eboue (who you now love, apparently) it's all happy families once more and Arsene Wenger's a genius once again. Well whoop-de-doo.

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