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Dec 5, 2011

The great escape

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.

AVB rules OK at the SDA

Another dollop of respite for Andre Villas-Boas and his elderly Chelsea mob with their win against Newcastle, at the global christening of the snazzily-titled Sports Direct Arena - a shrine to cheap and tatty sportswear, mostly worn by delinquents with restraining orders.

Speaking of restraining orders, rumour has it Alan 'I beg your' Pardew slapped in an application for one to prevent Mike Dean ever darkening Tyneside's doorstep again after his seismic bottling of red carding Sideshow Bob, who starts every game as if he's just come from a through-the-night bender on premium strength Macedonian lager. On such decisions seasons and careers can turn. And they did.

Chelsea took full advantage of their frizzy slice of luck to win 3-0, a margin that could have been bigger if Daniel Sturridge had an ounce of clinical in him. Shortly after he'd missed his seventh gilt-edged chance AVB reacted so furiously he nearly kicked himself in the face on the touchline. This is supposed to be England's great hope, but with a conversion rate like this he'll be rivalling Emile Heskey in the potency stakes.

For Newcastle, their season unravelled after David Luiz's escape, as they lost their own curly-haired wonder Fabricio Coloccini for a month and Steven Taylor for the season. Their only centre-half replacement is James Perch, which renders all that back-slapping about their summer transfer activity null and void. Pardew managed to blame everything that went wrong on Dean, as he instantly turned his mind to the desperate battle to pluck 14 more points from their next 24 games in order to stay up.

Define 'goalscoring opportunity'

Dean's dereliction of duty looked even more bizarre when a few hours later at White Hart Lane, Stuart Atwell decided poor old Bolton and poor old Owen Coyle hadn't had enough misery heaped on them this season as he dished out a red card that was the chalk to Luiz's cheese (try saying five times in a row very fast after a jagerbomb).

Atwell, he of the 'ghost goal' fame, came to the conclusion that Gary Cahill had to be dismissed for committing a foul on Scott Parker a full 50 yards from goal. The first of many questions that sprung to mind was, has he seen Parker run? He lollops along like a three-legged donkey wading through treacle. Secondly, how on earth does a foul by the halfway line constitute a clear goalscoring opportunity? I had a clearer goalscoring opportunity and I was watching in Leeds.

With Spurs 1-0 up and Bolton down to ten men, it was an unfair fight, though some of the game's more excitable pundits used this as another chance to trumpet Tottenham's title chances. 'Arry of course, did that thing where he manages to raise and dampen the possibility in the course of one tiny sentence. And nowhere did anyone mention the eight goals they shipped against the two Manchester clubs during their opening two games. Funny that.

What's-a matter you? Hey! Gotta no respect

They are top of the league, still in with a shout of qualifying for the Champions League, and going great guns in the Carling Cup but judging by the reaction of their players when they find the back of the net you'd think Manchester City were on a reverse goal bonus. Either that or the first colleague who ambles over to celebrate in the huddle drops something horrendously stinky out of their rear.

A string of City scorers looked truly disgusted with life after finding the net against Norwich, their celebratory restraint cocking a patronising snook at the poor little Canaries. Naturally, Super Mario was the chief culprit, becoming so cocky as to score a goal with his shoulder; even though he was stood about an inch from goal I still fully expected the ball to skew wide given the huge chip that rests there.

The look of impending doom on each scorer's face was justified when City drew neighbours Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup, meaning their season could implode within a month, if they find themselves reduced to Europa League status by Bayern Munich on Wednesday and the defence of their first trophy in a zillion years finishes at the first hurdle. But perhaps that is just wishful thinking.

Kean on a protest

Another first at war-torn Blackburn on Saturday as a player who had just found the net and was lapping up the admiration of a volatile crowd went from hero to zero simply by high-fiving his manager. A casual slap of palms instantly transformed Ewood Park's cheers to boos, and at that precise moment Blackburn's fickle fans lost the battle for hearts and minds in their bid to oust Steve Kean.

Prior to this moment, the rest of us got it, after all this was a chap who had taken Rovers down, down deeper and down since assuming control. But on Saturday, Blackburn actually won a match and the man entrusted by Kean to take Rovers to the promised land of lower mid-table scored four goals. Despite all that good news, fans still continued with a planned protest after the game, seconds after having clapped their players from the field. At that precise moment the rest of us, in turn, turned on them, the horrible whiny little cretins.

Don't get me wrong, I still think Kean is more of a sham than Big Sham, a fact he underlined by insisting after the game Rovers were "climbing the table." Two places Steve, and you are still in the relegation zone. He also warbled: "If they want to protest there's obviously something else behind it." Erm, I don't think there's much more "behind it" than the fact that they just don't like you Steve. But if it makes you feel any better, we now don't like them.

Wes Brown will take you down

That Kean didn't become the first managerial casualty of the season is down to the generosity of Steve Bruce and Sunderland's defence. How fitting it was Wes Brown - a defender who should have been put out to pasture long ago - that forced Sunderland's board to put Steve Bruce out to pasture after his howler against Wigan.

Not content with ending one Sunderland career, Brown also did for caretaker coach Eric Black after a predictable lapse in concentration during a defining two minutes at Wolves. Seb Larsson's audition to join the Royal Shakespeare Company fooled Phil Dowd but if the Swede isn't familiar with the phrase 'cheats never prosper' he will be now as the good old Gods of footballing karma decreed his spot kick should be saved and his team's slender lead cancelled out within 23 seconds.

Down the other end, Brown laboured under a cross as if he'd just been spun round ten times by John O'Shea and Steve Fletcher snatched the momentum back to leave the Black Cats just one point better off than Blackburn. Still, the man who has been powering up in a darkened room for a year is ready to spring into action. Just a word of advice Martin O'Neill, maybe drop Wes next week, yeah?

And to finish, a line to pay tribute to Socrates, that magician of a footballer, who died at the weekend. "One to be saluted, one to be remembered," as this clip and accompanying commentary, demonstrate .


Don't forget, you can follow The Fifth Official on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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