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  16-Dec-2018 05:03 GMT  

Five Spices From Chairman Damon

Log on to this page after each round of games for the lowdown on how each team fared. He’s harsh, but fair and you won’t find anything quite like it elsewhere. Enjoy our Chairman’s pithy post match analysis of the overpaid heroes and goats that make up the “Happy Band” of the EPL. If you're in the prawn sandwich and skim latte club, or part of the "Dippy Darling" brigade this column is not for you!!

Who's hot? Who's not? Who's left their bottle at home? Watch this space carefully as the season unwinds.

Who was hot before?  Visit Damon's 2008/09 season archives to find out!

Previous Analysis:

Round Thirty-Four.... Round Thirty-Three.... Round Thirty-Two.... Round Thirty-One.... Round Thirty.... Round Twenty-Nine

Arsenal grabbed a win at the Emirates that threatens to open up a title race that had seemed run. Leaders Manchester United weren't on their game and the home side were able to dominate for much of the match. They had a let off mid-way through the first period when both the referee and linesman failed to spot Nemanja Vidic's volleyball slap in the area to deflect Theo Walcott's cross away from the incoming Robin van Persie but the Londoners got the goal they deserved ten minutes after the break. Van Persie held up the ball on the right-hand side of the area before finding Aaron Ramsay as he slipped his marker and the midfielder placed his finish into the bottom corner. United responded belatedly and Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a good save to deny Nani after the winger had broken through. Three minutes from time, the away side saw a penalty shout of their own ignored, after Gael Clichy scraped his studs down substitute Michael Owen, but hadn't really deserved anything from the game and were unable to create any further chances.

At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were able to close the gap on the leaders, albeit in controversial win over Tottenham. The Blues started extremely brightly and Huerelho Gomes had to be sharp to tip Didier Drogba's free-kick onto the bar and he was also called into action to deny Frank Lampard and Michael Essien. Just as it looked as if Spurs were going to be overwhelmed, they took the lead thoroughly against the run of play when Sandro welted a bouncing Rafael van der Vaart lay-off past Petr Cech from twenty-five yards. Chelsea came storming back and were level just before half-time through one of the weekend's talking points. Gomes comically spilled a Lampard effort from distance and scrambled back to make a stop with at least 99% of the ball over the line. The assistant referee decided the whole of the ball was over and gave the goal, despite the visitors' protests to the contrary. The second period was as equally one-way traffic as the first had been and the West Londoners were unfortunate not to be given a penalty after Younes Kaboul went through Salomon Kalou in the area. Luck went their way late on, however, when Kalou, half a yard offside, was allowed to poke Drogba's dragged effort into the net to give his side a chance of retaining their title.

Manchester City tightened their grip on the fourth Champions' League qualification spot by seeing off bottom-of-the-table West Ham at Eastlands. City were out of the blocks quickly and went ahead after ten minutes when Nigel de Jong latched onto a clearance and fired home from distance for his first goal for the club. Things started to look ominous for United when Pablo Zabaleta ran onto David Silva's flick and beat Robert Green, with Lars Jacobsen only able to help the ball into the net in his attempt to clear. The Sky Blues seemed to take their foot of the gas at that point and the Hammers took advantage by reducing the deficit just after the half-hour: Demba Ba reacting first after Thomas Hitzlsperger's cross into the box had bounced down off Joleon Lescott's arm. Despite taking the initiative, the Londoners were unable to make any further headway and remain rooted to the foot of the table.

At Anfield, Liverpool took advantage of Tottenham's ongoing travails to move into fifth on the back of a comfortable win against Newcastle. The in-form Maxi Rodrigues got them on their way on ten minutes, his volleyed effort deflecting in off Danny Simpson to leave Tim Krul with little chance. The Magpies fought hard to overcome their hosts' dominance but they were further behind just before the hour. Luis Suarez nicked the ball off Mike Williamson as the defender looked to shepherd it out of play and then collapsed in a heap under fairly minimal contact to earn a penalty, which Dirk Kuyt converted with little fuss. The Uruguayan then scored a third for the Reds just five minutes later, clinically despatching Kuyt's superb through ball. European football is suddenly back on the agenda.

Blackburn took a massive step towards safety with a good win at Ewood Park. With Wanderers looking out of sorts, Rovers were able to make the most of the running in the first half and took the lead on twenty minutes. Rampaging full-back Martin Olsson was the goalscorer, smacking in a low shot from distance after having earlier been denied by Paul Robinson's goal-line clearance. The away side came out looking marginally better in the second period but it was still Blackburn who enjoyed the better chances, only to spurn a handful of good chances. Nonetheless, they were able to hold on for all three points which probably leaves them needing just two points from their last three games to be safe.

Blackpool remain just outside the drop zone after securing their first goalless draw of the season at home to Stoke. The Seasiders, as is their wont, looked to make the pace but struggled to create much in the way of clear cut opportunities. The Potters carried a threat on the break and Kenwyne Jones gave hope to pub team players the world over when firing past the goal after rounding Matt Gilks on the stroke of half time. The sides exchanged shots from distance at the start of the second half, before City enjoyed their best period of the game, with Jones and then Glenn Whelan going close. The hosts had deserved their point, though, and still have every chance of beating the drop that was universally predicted for them this season.

Wigan spurned a great chance to get out of the bottom three after thowing away a lead against Everton at the DW Stadium. The Latics started positively but the Toffees responded in kind and it was slightly against the run of play when the home side took the lead on twenty-one minutes. Charles N'Zogbia looked to have taken the ball too wide when stumbling to collect James McCarthy's chipped through-ball. However, with the defence standing of fhim, the Frenchman was able to regain his composure before scorching a left-footed drive beyond Tim Howard. Everton upped their game again and had a chance to level from the spot after N'Zogbia's clumsy clatter into Leon Osman. Mikel Arteta's penalty wasn't a completely poor one but Ali Al Habsi flung himself to his left to claw the effort away. Victor Moses then went close to extending his side's lead and Wigan looked as if they were set for a much-needed three points. However, with ten minutes to go, Hugo Rodallega inexplicably handled a Leighton Baines corner and the full-back stepped up to positively hammer the resulting penalty into the top corner. Wigan, and Rodallega in particular, went all-out in their search for a winner as the game drew to a close but were unable to find a way through and remain behind Blackpool on goal difference.

Wolves, too, remain in trouble after failing to make their numerical advantage count against ten-man Birmingham. Wanderers were gifted the perfect start when Ben Foster's skewed kick skidded straight to Matt Jarvis and the keeper upended Steven Ward as he ran onto the winger's through ball. Steven Fletcher made no mistake from the spot. The game had started in feisty fashion and both Craig Gardner and Jamie O'Hara saw yellow after a difference of opinion in the middle of the park. Gardner was then clattered by Richard Stearman on the edge of the box, with Sebastien Larsson's free-kick coming back off the crossbar. Larsson was able to put his side level just before the half-hour, running onto Michael Mancienne's disastrous attempted nod back to Wayne Hennessey and beating the keeper with a composed finish. Gardner was given his marching orders soon after, picking up a second yellow after throwing himself to the ground with Jody Craddock in attendance. Wolves signally failed to make use of the extra man, however, and the game swiftly and strangely fizzled out into a non-event, despite both sides still being in danger of the drop. It promises to be a nervy last couple of weeks.

There are no such worries for West Brom, who saw off Aston Villa. It's been a disappointing season for Villa but they began the day well at the Hawthorns, taking the lead when Abdoulaye Meite ineptly sliced Stuart Downing's cross into his own net in the fourth minute. The away side continued to have far the better of the match for the opening hour but were to rue their inability to make the game safe. Signing of the season Peter Odemwingie had the Baggies level on the hour mark, converting from close range after a goal-mouth scramble. Just two minutes later, Paul Scharner was sent for an early bath after picking up a second booking and the visitors regained the ascendancy. Again, though, they failed to make use of it and when, six minutes before the end, Simon Cox threaded a fine ball through the Villa back-line, Youssuf Malumbu left his marker to lift the ball over Brad Friedel for the winner.

It appears as if Sunderland's players knocked off for the season a couple of months ago and they proved comfortably second-best against the usually travel-sick Fulham at the Stadium of Light. Struggling without a recognised striker in their starting line-up, the Black Cats briefly sparkled but went behind to Gael Kakuta's bundled effort just after the half-hour. The home side tried to lift their game and carved out a couple of openings but were further behind just after the hour, with Simon Davies arriving late to drive Steve Sidwell's cut-back into the bottom corner, and didn't look like clawing it back. The Cottager's third came with fifteen minutes left; Davies again the scorer as he walked the ball into the net after Simon Mignolet and Anton Ferdinand had made a complete Horlicks of dealing with Bobby Zamora's cross into the box. Fulham move into the top ten, whilst Sunderland look forward to next season.

 

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