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Oct 3, 2011

Adebayor beats boo-boys

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.

Adebayor beats boo-boys

Tottenham's fickle fans were in dreamland on Sunday night, having beaten their bedraggled north London rivals and taken virgin steps into the usually unchartered territory some like to call the moral high ground. All because a section of Arsenal's long suffering fans channelled their boiling rage at their team's incompetence into ribald chants towards chief derby villain Emmanuel Adebayor, a tactic that only served to debase their beleaguered club yet further.

Adebayor would kiss a marmite badge if you paid him enough money, but no-one deserves to have such a shameful song aimed at them. No matter what Bill Shankly said, football is merely a game after all. But, before Spurs fans start laying claim to a more righteous moral code, they chucked some pretty ripe stuff at Adebayor when he played in red, and dusted off their old favourite about Arsene Wenger this weekend for good measure as well. All told, few people came out of this encounter well, least of all Wojciech Szczesny.

On the field, Arsenal at least made some progress, given that they conceded half the number of goals than at Blackburn in their last away game. Their defence even remembered to stand together in a straight line once in a while. But of course it all ended badly as their goalkeeper dived over one to gift three points to Spurs, one of their better defenders broke his leg and their manager refused to shake hands with Tottenham coach Clive Allen, who responded to this heinous snub by labelling Wenger "two-bob", whatever that means.

It's raining coins

How demoralising it must have been over the summer for hard-up Everton to watch their moneyed rivals across Stanley Park write cheques left, right and centre to swallow up a clutch of mediocre players while the Toffees had to raise their own kitty through a series of car-boot sales in the cramped foyer at Goodison Park.

This burning sense of injustice among the blue half of Merseyside was compounded by the performance of referee Martin Atkinson, who had visited both clubs prior to the game to warn them what he would clamp down on, in the derby game. It seems he left 'perfectly reasonable challenges' off the list. A card hadn't even been issued during the predictably feisty opening exchanges when Jack Rodwell's tackle deprived Luis Suarez of the ball, the Uruguayan rolling to the turf like as if one of the midfielder's studs had lanced through his kidney. He was sent off, but there was far more malice in the swipe Rodwell aimed at a water bottle on his way down the tunnel.

Everton battled manfully after that but couldn't prevent Liverpool's most peerless example of largesse, Andy Carroll, finding the net for the first time this season. As Liverpool edge further and further away from their nearest rivals there is one silver lining: once Everton gather up all that spare change that was hurled at Suarez and Craig Bellamy during the game, they might well have enough money to build a new stadium of their own.

Kean out, Tevez out, everybody out

There was a tinge of rebellion in the air at Ewood Park as Manchester City's circus rolled into town to do battle with everyone's favourite Championship club Blackburn. I'm surprised they didn't opt to play their game under a big top, with trapeze artists and high-wire walkers strutting their stuff overhead. Both crises are entirely of each club's own making, which makes them even more entertaining to watch.

Let us be clear about this, Carlos Tevez is an arse. His risible coup delivered behind a cupped hand to a stony-faced Pablo Zabaleta in Munich was pathetic, and even provoked feelings of sympathy for Roberto Mancini and table-thumping agreement with that firebrand of modern punditry Graeme Souness. Sky Sports News was so keen to get a range of views on the Tevez affair I'm almost surprised they didn't try to exhume Sir Alf Ramsey or Red Rum to ask for their opinion. Neil Warnock summed it up best when he said of Tevez: "The sooner he leaves the country the better."

With City fans calling for their former star striker to be ousted and Blackburn demanding Steve Kean's head - the man who was one step away from ordering an open-top bus parade after their solitary win in the Premier League - it all made for a rather odd atmosphere, one perfectly suited to the Premier League's principle purveyor of the odd, 'Super Mario' Balotelli.

Blackburn's reward for another defeat is a bizarre promotional tour of India, to fulfil their owners' desire to showcase England's second worst top flight team in their home country. What the cluck is all that about?

Frank Lamps on

It's raining goals at the Reebok and the forecast is for more of the same if Bolton continue to defend like they did against Chelsea. In fact, what they produced was so far removed from defending it ought to be given a new name, like dodging or ghosting. Throw in a goalkeeper whose performance turned his face the same colour as his deeply ginger hair and you've got a team that sit rock bottom of the table, with 11 defeats from 12 and a goal difference twice as bad as Arsenal's.

Bolton's calamitous lack of confidence even allowed a geriatric Frank Lampard to notch his fifth hat-trick for the Blues. (Well, they do say life begins at 40). The ease with which Chelsea dispatched the Trotters was epitomised by the fourth goal as David Luiz was allowed to run 50 yards unchallenged like a child gaily skipping through the woods on an Easter egg hunt, before Adam Bogdan offered up his tame shot for Lampard to covert.

At this point, all hell broke loose in the stands as irate Trotters enquired in the most vigorous of terms why their players seemed to be treating the encounter as if it were a 'stay away from the men in blue with contagious diseases' contest. AVB could indulge his spring-heeled goal celeb five times through the afternoon as Bolton's faithful wound themselves into such a rage they even booed the announcement that Kevin Davies was the sponsor's man of the match. And he can only have been chosen purely because he was furthest away from the goalkeeper.

Cap in hand

As ever, despair and delight was sprinkled liberally around the Premier League grounds over the weekend, provoking a series of reactions that ranged from polite and proper to preposterous and paranoid. Mick McCarthy, never happier than when moaning, had plenty to sink his teeth into, after Wolves were denied a penalty and a legitimate goal by a linesman sporting a cap that looked like it had been plucked from a wardrobe, which had been recently opened for the first time in 13 years. It was so awful, it made you wonder if he drives a getaway car for a gang of bank robbers during the week.

Neil Warnock was also able to indulge his stroppy side as QPR were smashed by Fulham, who scored more goals in the game than they had in the previous six. While Martin Jol was able to sport that suggestive smirk of his, Warnock was forced to field questions over Adel Taraabt, who supposedly stormed out of the ground after being hauled off at half-time - the same player who asked for a pay rise a month into the season after contributing next to nothing on the field in their opening games.

Norwich had the chances to propel themselves into the opening paragraph of this diatribe but have to make do with a place in the last after squandering some of the finest opportunities mankind has ever seen at Old Trafford (the only other time I saw 11 bigger turkeys was in Delia Smith's garden on Christmas Eve). But chief hypocrite of the weekend was Tony Pulis, who accused Swansea of rough-tactics and "rugby tackles" after Stoke's defeat in Wales - a statement so rich it doesn't even need a punch line.

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to stimulate more debate on Twitter than Michael Owen at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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