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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 3 hours ago
Read
Nov 9, 2009

Fifth Official: Hughes struggles as Blues go clear

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.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Allow me to declare the 'Mark Hughes P45 countdown 2009-10' officially open and ready for business. He's had a relatively quiet start to the campaign, thanks to a decent points haul but, as Burnley snatched a late point at Eastlands on Saturday to make it five draws in a row, the natives unleashed an avalanche of booing that could probably be heard all the way to Abu Dhabi, where City's liver-picklingly rich owners reside.

The Clarets profited from a miserable performance from Wayne Bridge, who looked about as solid as a cling film viaduct. As a Burnley attack broke down, the left-back could be seen haring forward expecting a swift counter downfield. Except, Barry lost the ball and Owen Coyle's men then explored the gaping hole vacated by brainless Bridge to slot their second.

After City had overhauled the deficit, Bridge was the culprit again, offering the ball up to super sub David Nugent with a weak clearance, before the cross found its way into Shay Given's net via Kevin McDonald. Hughes said through gritted teeth City had failed to ''do the right things at the right times.'' Like defend, tackle, pass, shoot, etc.

The missing Venegoor of Hessel-link

Phil Brown looked like a man being led to the gallows as he arrived for Hull's showdown with Stoke, as a string of club officials - the coach driver and the parking attendant - patted him consolingly on the back as he made his way to the dressing rooms for what many would have you believe was his final game in charge.

But thanks to Stoke's capitulation and Rory Delap's quarterback radar being on the blink Brown may just have bought himself some time (and another week of sunbed sessions). Everything came off for plucky Phil, after substitutes Nick Barmby and Jan Venegoor of Hesselink turned the game. Heck, even walking knee-trauma victim Jimmy Bullard managed a full game.

You'd think Phil would have demanded a microphone upon the final whistle so he could sing a valedictory victory ode to the KC Stadium but, given that his new chairman Adam Pearson has told him to wind his neck in, he sent out assistant Brain Horton to address the press. "Phil's having a Guinness," said Horton. "He deserves one. He's a gregarious guy, he's a good person to be with. He's not just doom and gloom. He does like the spotlight, doesn't he? There's nothing wrong with that." Not when you write a weekly column and are regularly short of material Brian, not at all.

Bent over backwards

Darren Bent is so obsessed with social networking he has recently had the Twitter logo weaved into his new football boots. Perhaps it was no surprise the news was revealed just a week before Bent made his return to White Hart Lane and was reunited with the club chairman he famously lambasted on the t'interweb.

Daz was hell-Bent on making an impact on his old team and especially Harry Redknapp, the gabbling gaffer who famously didn't fancy him, and said of one chance the centre-forward spurned during his White Hart Lane tenure that even "My missus could have scored that." Now I don't know Mrs Redknapp personally, but I reckon she's probably less of a Twitter from 12-yards. Bent, aggrieved at being denied a penalty in the first half, made sure of one in the second and was already pirouetting with tuck before 'keeper Gomes made contact. But his penalty was as weak Luka Modric's tibia and the flying Brazilian made amends.

It wasn't all bad news for Bent though, despite turning in one of his poorest performances of the season he was called up to the England squad by Fabio 'at least you're not Michael Owen' Capello. Bent was Tweeting within minutes of the news: ''Thank all people connected to SAFC for making it possible again.'' All together now, ahhhhhh.

Is that bloke brushing his teeth?

Before John Terry's 75th minute shoulder glance into the net, the most entertaining event of Sunday's overhyped intergalactic clash between Manchester United and Chelsea had been Johnny Evans' double roundhouse karate kick into Didier Drogba's chest. As the Ivorian lay prostrate on the floor his legs started wobbling like jelly as if he was having a fit. It was, of course, just a fit of amateur dramatics, a genre he is all too qualified in.

Speaking of hissy fits, no wonder Fergie loves Darren Fletcher so much. After all, he's Scottish, and the mirror image of his manager of the pitch with all his snarling, whining and yapping at the referee. How nice it was then that he was penalised for a very dubious foul that led to John Terry slash Nicolas Anelka's decisive goal as the Blues went five clear at the top.

United regrouped, and Wayne Rooney spent the rest of the game desperately trying to register a goal he could dedicate to Kai Wayne Rainbow Fish or whatever his baby is called. After a bit of fisticuffs, that inevitably involved Ricardo Carvalho, the only other thing to mention was surely a world first in the stands: the sight of a grown man wearing sunglasses on a dark November afternoon behind the Chelsea bench who appeared to be brushing his teeth just as Michael Owen came on. The match may have been hyped within an inch of its life, but no-one told us there'd be a Twin Peaks moment. I'd have tuned in for that alone.

Robin, Rome and hapless Hibbert

A tale of two touches and a gaggle of Cottagers now, as we excitingly whisk round three grounds in three paragraphs. Kick of the weekend goes to Robin van Persie for his sublime lay off to Cesc Fabregas to allow him to score Arsenal's third in their rout of Wolves. It was only Wolves, yes, but what a gorgeous, understated touch.

No such superlatives will be used in this next par as I lambast Tony Hibbert for his hilarious own goal for Everton at West Ham. Junior Stanislas's shot was barely trickling towards goal when big Tone got to it, and there were still three yards to go until it crossed the line, but he helped it on its way with a ham fisted, left-footed shank and planted it into the top corner. A truly priceless own goal.

And finally this week, to Wigan, where Fulham's army of travelling fans had to be downgraded from a battalion to a platoon after they took just 298 fans to the DW Stadium. That is truly pathetic. In fairness, Roy Hodgson's side had played AS Roma three days earlier and if you had a choice between travelling to the Eternal City and Wigan, which would you choose? Precisely.

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