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Marcotti: Platini's missed opportunity

FIFA 16 hours ago
Read
Jan 18, 2010

Fifth Official: Are 27,000 people wrong?

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 weekend when the big freeze hit the Premier League.

27,000 people think you're an idiot

I'm running out of ways to describe how much of a twit Rafael Benitez is, but he gave me 27,000 reasons to keep trying at the weekend. After 80 minutes of turgid football that had me inching closer to my third floor balcony with the intention of leaping off, two of the Premier League's most limited sides finally chucked up something worth watching, but even the last ten minutes of drama was only half as amusing as Rafa's ridiculous post-match blather.

Once again, he tried to coat his obvious disgust for the officials in a complex package of bluster and irrelevance, maniacally repeating eight times that "27,000 people in the stadium saw the incidents and three people in the stadium didn't". Benitez was referring to two penalty shouts involving Lucas, both of which were reasonably valid, but he should instead be focusing on Dirk Kuyt's horror miss - a typical lack of quality from exactly the sort of donkey that epitomises how average Liverpool are minus Stevie and 'Nando.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos' goal was about as pretty as a clone made up of half of his DNA and half of Kuyt's, but at least it procured Liverpool a point as they let Robert Huth in at the last minute. Tottenham are next, on Wednesday, when a grinning Robbie Keane will be aiming to force Rafa to complete the same walk of shame out of Anfield that he did a year ago.

Mancini out

It was only in November that I declared the 'Mark Hughes P45 countdown 2009-10' officially open and ready for business. After Manchester City's drubbing at Goodison Park on Saturday, it seems I'd better hastily declare the 'Roberto Mancini P45 countdown 2010' off and running too.

This dismal display made City's battering at Spurs look respectable. Yes, they may have shipped fewer goals but the only way Mancini could have made his side appear less cohesive is if he binded all 11 players together with duct tape and sent them out for the second half as one big, disappointing blob. The best thing about their afternoon was Mancini's exquisite piece of control as a long ball floated out of play by the bench. The worst was watching a £32.5 million footballer contribute less to his team's display than a pint of water would have done. Robinho is fast becoming an expensive embarrassment and was further embarrassed when subbed after having come off the bench himself.

If City, and Robinho especially, were poor then Everton were brilliant as the likes of Louis Saha, Steven Pienaar and even Phil Neville turned in sparkling displays. Without doubt, the finest player on show was Marouane Fellaini, who capped a virtually flailing-elbow-free 90 minutes with a glorious Zidane turn, whuch bamboozled Craig Bellamy about as much as asking him what 3x44 equals, and sent Goodison into raptures.

"When I said a few weeks back that Fellaini was as good as anyone in the league, people looked at me as if I was losing my marbles,'' Moyesy said, with those wild eyes that could stun a leaping salmon from 40 yards burning like a wood fire doused in petrol. "But anyone who was watching today can see that I'm right.'' No arguments here, Dave.

Black Cat slaughter

Just 22 minutes had gone at Stamford Bridge before Steve Bruce fixed a furious stare on his watch and implored the hands to start dancing faster towards 5pm. Fair play to the manager, though, because the word he used to describe his side's display - "inept" - was absolutely spot on.

Chelsea simply ran riot and jinked their way past Sunderland's defenders as if they were made of papier-mâché. When John Terry lays a devastating pass on for Ashley Cole to control, Cryuff-turn inside and plant a shot into the bottom corner, you can be pretty sure your charges aren't giving it everything they've got. Steed Malbranque was so accommodating to Cole down the left, I was convinced he'd break out in applause the second Chelsea's sublime third goal hit the net.

After a bright start to the season, Sunderland have now won just one league game in the last 12 and find themselves slipping towards the drop zone. Bruce's desperation even saw him suggest Anton Ferdinand's presence might have prevented such a beating at the Bridge. Just after he said it, though, Bruce started furiously scratching his hands and swatting an imaginary fly above his head. Careful, Steve - that's how Keano started.

The Laws of the jungle

A baptism of fire at Old Trafford for Brian Laws, who somehow landed a Premier League job after driving Sheffield Wednesday fans to despair during three years of dismal football in the lower half of the Championship. If he deserves a crack in the top-flight, I deserve to win the Pulitzer Prize for services to journalism.

Having said that, Laws' outfit actually put the frighteners up Manchester United, probably because the Clarets' away kit is a similar shade to the shirts Leeds United wore when they dismantled Fergie's FA Cup dream last time Old Trafford hosted a game. If Steven Fletcher and David Nugent had shown a bit more composure in the penalty area, Laws would have been 2-0 up on his big day and the Clarets on their way to a famous double over the champions.

But those glorious openings were spurned, and Burnley persisted in allowing Dimitar Berbatov so many chances he was bound to score in the end, even if he is only operating on one and a half knees at present. Only time will tell how Burnley fare under their new boss, but I hope he at least lasts long enough for me to roll out my entire repertoire of Laws-based puns. Based on that logic, it could well be bye bye-Laws in six weeks' time.

Go on Myhill son

It'd be interesting to know what Boaz Myhill had for breakfast on Saturday morning. Maybe all those smoggy fumes in London went to his head and lifted him on to a higher state of consciousness. Whatever it was, 'Arry was after some as he stood shell-shocked in front of the cameras and told the 27-year-old he'd never play like that again in his life. A bit harsh perhaps, 'Arry.

Phil Brown purred like a cat in a sunbeam and compared Myhill's heroics to those of Jim Montgomery, who helped Sunderland win their FA Cup final against Leeds United in 1973 with a similarly miraculous display of goalkeeping. Brown may be keeping his head down these days, but his grasp of tact needs work given that Steve Bruce's side had just shipped seven over the other side of the capital.

The Tigers still haven't won in seven games but this felt like one. Myhill broke new ground with his heroics but so did Nick Barmby, by picking up a yellow card for time wasting when there was still over an hour to go. Stephen Hunt chipped in with cheekiest touchline banter of the weekend, too. During a stoppage for an injury, he wandered over to Harry Redknapp for a chat. The Spurs managed enlightened us as to their conversation: "He [Hunt] said, 'Harry, have you filled your tax return in?' I can't tell you what I said to him."

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