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Subtly beautiful malicious cheating

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.

The stealth of Vidic

Oh so now you go and rediscover your big kahunas do you, Arsenal? When it's all academic? After the Lord Mayor's show has been and gone? Still, I shouldn't complain, because your win has opened the door on a right royal choke possibility, as Manchester United face up to the prospect of finishing a season that promised so much without a scrap of silverware *looks to heavens and screams 'please, please'*.

Good job the visitors were sent packing, too, after another controversial decision plagued the Emirates. The subject of it, Nemanja Vidic, has taken the professional foul to such mountainous levels of sneakiness that he is now operating under complete immunity from Premier League referees. His nonchalant flick of the hand to divert the ball away from Robin van Persie's head was, in a way, subtly beautiful, but also painfully malicious. Fergie actually made the case not to give it on the fact it was so hard to detect, unlike Gael Clichy's rake of Michael Owen's jelly-like calf. Oh no, we all saw that one, so it must have been a pen.

As it was, the misdemeanours evened out, meaning Aaron Ramsey's strike was decisive. So after the formality of Schalke - the game is so dead and buried even Owen might even get a start - it is the not inconsiderable clash with Chelsea next Sunday. Now Carlo, don't blow it by starting Torres.

A royal cock-up

Their ground may be close to the King's Road but none of the Cockney urchins at Chelsea got a look in at the Royal Wedding. Instead, the officials treated us to their own version of a royal cock-up, more Andrew and Fergie than William and Kate. Their bog-eyed blunders did at least ensure we have some sort of title race in the damp, dwindling mattress fire that is this Premier League season, but before we get all high and mighty about the injustice of it all, let's remember it did only happen to Tottenham.

Of course, there is a pantomime villain to throw into this heady cocktail of incompetence, namely Heurelho Gomes, the worst No. 1 since Bob the Builder. It's a good job Prince William didn't ask Tottenham's 'keeper to be his best man, because the Brazilian clearly doesn't handle nerves particularly well. In fact, he seems incapable of handling anything well, especially a round white ball with Nike branding on it. And, yes, replays proved he successfully recovered the situation, but the situation was of his own making and as such, my sympathy is diminished to the point of nothingness.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee may have denied Spurs a 1-0 win, and reinforced the fact that Sepp Blatter should step down immediately for having failed to introduce any sort of technology into the game during his painful years in charge at FIFA, but perhaps Tottenham's players were afraid of finding the net after what happened to Sandro. The Brazilian may have potted a beauty from 35 yards and trotted towards his manager for a hug, but all he got was a right rollocking for straying too far up the pitch. That'll learn him, 'Arry.

"Unfortunately the referee does not have a television," Carlo Ancelotti noted after the match, quite correctly. Good job, or he'd probably have been watching Deal or No Deal instead.

Kevin and Andy, with a twist

No wonder Newcastle's fans headed to Anfield with a chip on their shoulder. King Kenny was known as something very different during his ill-fated stint on Tyneside, after flogging Les Ferdinand and serving up such luminaries as Jon Dahl Tomasson, Stephane Guivarc'h, Andreas Andersson and a 36-year-old Ian Rush. Then, weeks after his return to top flight management, he's flushed the Toon's prized asset out of St James' Park with lorry-loads of cash.

Liverpool's new No. 9 couldn't have cared less about the heckling he received from 'his people' it seems, because he was there for one thing and one thing only: an emotional reunion with former housemate and fellow star of the early-season smash sitcom Kevin and Andy. Apparently, they speak on the phone every day, probably about that lass in the cat suit, or how little of Carroll's transfer fee will be re-invested over the summer.

Meanwhile, the team Carroll left is as weak as a four-day old puppy with asthma, even with that Scouse backbone comprising Nolan and Barton. Up front, Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands are about as threatening as a gentle sea breeze while their defence has more holes in it than a golf course. King Kenny's mob are an example of what shrewd spending can do for your team, while Mike Ashley's turn at the checkout is fast approaching. Judging by the cheap tat on offer at his sports stores, I'd be mightily worried if I were a Magpie.

You mean we could get relegated?

It's a good job Steve Kean and Blackburn finally got their act together with a win over Bolton because it turns out the veritable banquet of Indian innocence that is Venky's - favourite dish chicken tikka naivety - didn't even realise that relegation from the Premier League was a real-life, overdraft-inducing possibility.

No wonder they so casually cast aside Sam 'gets the job done ugly' Allardyce soon after their £25 million takeover. They must have been puzzled as to why he played such gritty, agricultural football if there were no fear of slipping out of the league. Perhaps that's why they then employed his back-stabbing deputy, who plays slightly more expansive football, just without the gradual accumulation of points. Imagine their horror, then, when they found out not only was relegation a real thing, it was also a real possibility.

Luckily for Venky's, Rovers were up against Bolton, who have now been nilled by Stoke and Fulham to the tune of eight net bulges but still managed to provoke a vicious wave of introspection at Arsenal in between. At least Kean has his first win since January to tuck under his arm before he makes the long pilgrimage to Pune in India for yet another chinwag in the chapter entitled 'Geographically Inappropriate Board Meetings'.

Notes on a scandal

Another weekend, another minute shifting of the claggy mess at the foot of the Premier League who are all desperately scrambling to suckle on safety's teat. Winnable fixtures keep passing by, as Wolves and Wigan squandered favourable positions due to the sort of mistakes that only occur when players of limited footballing intelligence have their brains gripped by the all-conquering fear that mushrooms with the looming prospect of relegation.

The three Ws now prop up the three Bs, with West Ham looking increasingly doomed. Not surprising when you consider Avram Grant has only succeeded in lifting his last two teams out of the bottom four once in the last 72 weeks. After watching the Hammers' start against Manchester City it's not hard to fathom why . They would have been two down inside a quarter of an hour even if City had employed the explosive mix of Kim Jong-Il and Steven Seagal up front.

After a dreadful start, a spirited fight-back ensued, but the futility of it all surely became apparent towards the final whistle as Grant, dejected by another impending defeat, scrunched up his notes and hurled them towards West Ham's bench only to see the wind catch them, whistle them right back past his nose and across the pitch. Perhaps he should just be grateful they didn't land at Robbie Keane's feet, or he may have had a lawsuit on his hands.

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Leon Knight at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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