Tuesday, 8 March 2011

High as a Kuyt - Weekend Observations 5th-7th March 2011: Part One

For the second time this season, a Liverpool-Manchester United match has been settled by a hat trick from an inconsistent and much maligned striker who often slated for generally laclustre performances. After Dimitar Berbatov's treble back in September, it was the turn of Dirk Kuyt to take centre stage as Liverpool swept aside Manchester United 3-1 with relative ease on Sunday.

One must admit that the 'Kenny effect' seems to have actually turned Liverpool around this season and it is surely a formality that Daliglish will be given the nod permanently come the summer. Who would have thunk it? Not me, that's for sure!

Liverpool's form since the turn of the year is only bettered by the top two and if they keep it up between now and May, a campaign that looked dead in December could well and truly end up being relatively productive. Fourth place is maybe a little ambitious but not entirely unthinkable at this stage. There, I said it. It's out there.

Hat trick hero Kuyt won't score three easier goals. People have been rather unkind by doubting the 'quality' of his strikes - even I wouldn't have found trouble scoring from less than 6 yards each time... maybe - but quite frankly, if you are in the right place at the right time then does it matter how they go in? Poaching ability is still ability and a reminder that football doesn't always need to be 'pretty' – something doubly true when Dirk Kuyt is involved.

The scousers win was inspired mostly by the incredible Luis Suarez who actually came away from the game more deserving of the man of the match award than the abovementioned 3-goal hero. It was his fantastic run leaving most of the United defence on their arses that led to the opener and his free kick that led to the third. The Uruguayan spent the entire afternoon tormenting the United defence. So much so, Wes Brown and Patrice Evra have filed a joint complaint to the police for unlawful sodomy.

At the risk of taking a running jump straight onto the bandwagon of kneejerk ill-considered overreactions: Fernando who?

The game was overshadowed by a disgraceful tackle on Nani by Jamie Carragher that should have seen the Liverpool man sent off. Phil Dowd only issued a yellow and set the tone for two more terrible challenges, by Maxi and Rafael, that on another day would have also seen reds. The referee essentially gave licence to these tackles and risked the safety of the players by not properly punishing Carragher's foul which was so bad that the Portuguese was lucky to only come away with a nasty looking gash rather than a broken leg. The fact that the Liverpool man cannot be reprimanded after the game again exposes the ridiculous flaws of the retrospective punishment law that I spoke of last week.

Unfortunately, Nani being Nani, it's hard to actually sympathise given how keen he usually is to cry wolf. The fallout saw United continue their childish and pathetic media blackout as they refused to talk to the press afterwards. Leaving aside the fact that this act of petulance endears the club to no-one, surely the silence is more a mark of disrespect to their own paying fans who will at least want an explanation as to why their side was so abject? Sir Alex Ferguson's ongoing dictatorial stance is becoming so extreme that he is beginning to make Col. Gaddafi look like Nelson Mandela.
And so the title race takes more twists and turns than a child with Scoliosis on a roller coaster. United have now lost three in five and not really showing the form befitting of potential champions. But then again, who is? Arsenal continued to embrace their tag as bottlers following a 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland. Things might have been different if Andrei Arshavin hadn't had a goal wrongly flagged for offside and then denied a blatant penalty but in truth, for the gunners to complain about refereeing decisions merely deflects from the fact that they failed to score against a defence featuring Anton Ferdinand and Titus Bramble.

Wenger's team are now actually have their own destiny in their own hands. With a game in hand and still to play United at the Emirates, the Gunners "only" have to win all of their remaining games to be champions.

In the space of a week, Chelsea have seemingly catapulted themselves right back into contention following a controversial defeat of United last Tuesday and a straightforward 3-1 win against relegation fodder Blackpool on Monday night. Now only 9 points off top spot with a game in hand, The Blues trip to Old Trafford later this season could now have huge implications as to the destination of the Premier League trophy.

Manchester City did their title ambitions no harm with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Wigan and did what the top two failed to do this weekend by winning despite not being at their best. The only goal of the game came when Ali Al Habsi let a David Silva shot slip through him and into the net. The Omani goalkeeper has been one of the very few shining lights at the DW this season and his mistake probably signalled exactly why the Latics will be playing Championship football next season. When your otherwise reliable last line of defence is making costly errors then you have no hope.

No Roberto, you're going DOWN!

Part Two to follow...

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