zaterdag 11 februari 2012

Premier League - February 11

Manchester United 2 - 1 Liverpool

'Disgraceful Luis Suarez should never play for Liverpool again' - Sir Alex Ferguson furious after Patrice Evra handshake snub
The Manchester United manager slammed the Uruguayan's behaviour before kick-off, insisting that he 'could have caused a riot' given the tensions between the two clubs

Sir Alex Ferguson
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has slammed Luis Suarez's refusal to shake the hand of Patrice Evra, insisting that the striker should never play for Liverpool again.

Two goals from Wayne Rooney, before a late consolation from Suarez, handed United a 2-1 victory in a match that was overshadowed by the tension between Suarez and Evra.

"I couldn't believe it," Sir Alex told Sky Sports following the match. "I just could not believe it.

"I had a chat with Patrice this morning, and he said 'I'm going to shake his hand. I've got nothing to be ashamed of and I want to keep my dignity.' And then he [Suarez] refuses - he's a disgrace to Liverpool Football Club.

"That certain player should not be allowed to play for Liverpool again. With the history that club has got, and he does that in this city today - he could have caused a riot.

"I was really disappointed in that guy. It was terrible, what he did.

"It created a tension - you've seen the referee, he didn't know what to do about it. It caught him off-guard, and it was a terrible start to the game. There was a terrible atmosphere created."

Sir Alex added that the debate over the wisdom of pre-match handshakes should not be allowed to hide the issue of racism in the game that has arisen this season.

"That's a different issue altogether. That started when the Premier League started, of course, and it's never been a problem really until this season, with regards to racism. It's never been a problem," he added.

"So really we better get our house in order in terms of fighting racism - it's an issue, it's absolutely an important issue in this country. Football's come a long way from the days of John Barnes and throwing bananas to where we are today - we can't go back.

"We have to go forward, in a positive way, and ban it altogether."

Moments after the half-time whistle, Suarez appeared to provocatively kick the ball away towards the dugouts, when questioned over the incident Ferguson replied: "Maybe that's the kind of character he is."

The United boss did admit, however, that Evra shouldn't have celebrated in front of Suarez at the end of the match, adding: "He shouldn't have done that."

Everton 2 - 0 Chelsea
Pienaar & Stracqualursi strikes defeat visitors as pressure grows on Andre Villas-Boas
The visitors were dominated from start to finish by a Toffees side who have been rejuvenated by their work in the January transfer window

EPL - Everton vs Chelsea, Daniel Sturridge

Everton gained their second 'top-four' scalp in two games at Goodison Park, beating Chelsea 2-0 on Saturday.

The Toffees opened the scoring just five minutes in thanks to the returning Steven Pienaar's wonderfully controlled strike.

They then pinned Chelsea back with some brilliantly incisive attacking and got a deserved second through Denis Stracqualursi to follow up their win over Manchester City with another impressive victory.

The hosts made just one change to the side which was held to a frustrating draw against Wigan, with captain Phil Neville replacing Tony Hibbert at right-back. New signing Nikica Jelavic failed to make his first start for the Toffees after coming down with a virus and Denis Stracqualursi was thus charged with leading the line for the second game in a row.

For the visitors, Gary Cahill was the man to pay for the defensive struggles against Manchester United as the January signing was replaced by Branislav Ivanovic in the middle, with Jose Bosingwa coming in at right-back. Elsewhere, Frank Lampard made his return to central midfield as Florent Malouda dropped to the bench.

Given that Everton had beaten the league leaders at Goodison Park in their last home game, it was unsurprising they started full of confidence and somewhat caught Chelsea on their heels. The visitors looked shaky defensively and paid the biggest price just five minutes in as Everton took the lead.

A coming together between Tim Cahill and Lampard saw the ball loop over the Blues’ defence and fortuitously into the path of Pienaar who controlled brilliantly on his chest and smashed beyond Petr Cech.

Despite the nature of the goal, it was no more than the hosts deserved and they almost added to it just moments later as a Neville cross was met by the head of Stracqualursi, who nodded inches wide of the post.

A Donovan drive from distance, which stung the palms of Cech, gave the hosts further hope of gaining a Premier League surprise, as Andre Villas-Boas’ men appeared rattled.

It took 25 minutes for the Londoners to show any sort of fight, but a chance for a Fernando Torres head at goal was brilliantly denied by Sylvain Distin before Daniel Sturridge saw his shot desperately blocked at the edge of the box.

Lampard then rolled wide from a similar distance to confirm Chelsea’s arrival in the match just early enough for them to perhaps make a go of salvaging a result.

Tim Howard’s flap at a cross from the right almost allowed Lampard in again shortly agter before a Leighton Baines free-kick was equally poorly dealt with by Cech at the other end, the Czech shot stopper being let off with the linesman’s flag indicating Cahill’s offside position.

A wild kick from a frustrated Raul Meireles on the breaking Stracqualursi conveyed Chelsea’s frustrations in the first-half, but the hosts failed to capitalise by wasting the free-kick, taking it short.

A Torres header from close range was then easily collected by Howard as an entertaining first period was brought to a close with Everton leading.

The pace did not appear to have slowed as the second half commenced, with both sides continuing to show the attacking intent which had made the first period so good to watch.

A Pienaar-led Everton break, after Torres’ wasteful control at the other end, saw the South African buy a free-kick brilliantly. Unfortunately for the hosts, a rare poor delivery from Baines could not beat the wall but the endeavour to win the set-piece proved they had little to fear from a side who are chasing European football next term.

Stracqualursi’s twist and turn in the box moments later ended in a blocked shot but emphasised Chelsea’s position as the side under the cosh from an Everton whose creativity has improved no end since a productive January.

Another weak Torres header from a deep cross served to underline Chelsea’s lack of attacking thrust and there appeared no way back into the game with Everton counter-punching brilliantly.

And it was to prove so as the Toffees landed the knockout blow with 15 minutes remaining on the clock. A brilliant run in off the right from Donovan found the Blues’ defence backpedalling, and the American’s wonderfully weighted pass allowed striker Stracqualursi to smash beyond Cech, despite the keeper getting a palm to the ball.

Chelsea's game was up with that goal and Villas-Boas appeared to know it, removing Mata - one of their few impressive performers - for youngster Romelu Lukaku.

Everton were then little troubled by their visitors, as they had in truth been throughout the match, and kept the ball patiently in order to see out a deserved win which may mark yet another late-season renaissance.

Sunderland 1-2 Arsenal
Thierry Henry grabs dramatic late winner as Gunners fight back to go joint fourth
Thierry Henry says farewell to the Gunners in true Hollywood style by scoring late on to complete the comeback and seal all three points for the visitors

EPL - Sunderland v Arsenal, Alexandre Song and Thomas Vermaelen

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry bade farewell to the Premier League in fairytale fashion with a 90th minute winner as the Gunners came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.
Substitute Henry, playing in what could be his last ever Premier League game as he prepares to return to Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls, scored from close range to complete an impressive Arsenal fight-back.

Arsenal had seemed to be heading for defeat when James McClean put Sunderland ahead but fellow substitute Aaron Ramsey equalised before Henry struck a dramatic winner.

The Gunners had been quickly into their stride and skipper Robin van Persie wasted a decent early opening following a slip by Michael Turner but he went for precision over power and Simon Mignolet saved comfortably.

The Gunners, who showed one change from the side that crushed Blackburn 7-1 with Bacary Sagna coming in for Francis Coquelin, remained on the front foot as Alex Song and Mikel Arteta dominated the midfield exchanges

Kieran Richardson had to resort to illegal means to halt Arsenal when Alex Song sent Sagna off down the wing and was booked for a poorly timed challenge as the full-back sped goalwards.

Theo Walcott came close to putting his side ahead midway through the first half when he was teed up by Van Persie but his angled shot went skidding past Mignolet’s far post.

Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill tried to halt Arsenal in their tracks by ordering his team to defend more deeply and the negative tactics worked because the visitors were unable to find the space necessary to get to Mignolet.

It was clear that Sunderland were ready to rely on counter-attacks and the ploy nearly worked. Indeed Arsenal hearts were in mouths when Black Cats fans called for a penalty after Per Mertesacker slipped and the ball bounced up on to his arm but referee Neil Swarbrick ignored their appeals.

Sunderland continued to invite Arsenal pressure but Wenger’s team lacked the creativity to unpick the defence and they almost paid the price at the other end when John O’Shea set his sights on goal following Craig Gardner’s deflected free-kick but he skied his shot over.
That seemed to invigorate Sunderland and Gardner went close to breaking the deadlock but his raking 25-yarder was pawed away by Wojciech Szczesny.

Thierry Henry was sent on to regain the initiative but the move was to no avail as Sunderland went ahead in bizarre circumstances in the 70th minute.

There seemed little danger when Per Mertesacker picked up possession just outside the box but then he crumpled to the ground and McClean showed no mercy, picking up the loose ball beyond slamming a low shot beyond Szczesny.

Mertesacker was taken off on a stretcher and Arsenal looked doomed but then his replacement, Ramsey, popped up on the edge of the box to equalise five minutes later.

This time Lady Luck smiled on Arsenal as the ball ricocheted off Gardner and fell kindly to the Wales captain who beat Mignolet with a shot from just outside the box that went in off a post.

Henry, who will make the final appearance of his loan spell for Arsenal in the Champions League on Wednesday, had the final say when he nipped in ahead of Michael Turner to turn in Andrey Arshavin’s cross for his 229th goal in Arsenal colours.


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