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

Manchester United have at least one hand on the Premier League trophy after producing a late winner to beat Everton at Old Trafford. The league leaders were made to work hard for their victory by a stubborn Toffees side, who belied their woeful form in this fixture in recent years with a committed showing. United struggled to get into their game in the early stages, though produced a handful of snapshots as the half progressed to keep returning keeper Tim Howard busy. Everton increased the tempo in the second period and unsuccessfully claimed a penalty after Victor Anichebe was muscled to the ground by Rio Ferdinand. Edwin van der Sar then kept his side level with a good one-handed stop to deny Jack Rodwell. The Red Devils started to ratchet up the pressure as the clock ran down and they were rewarded seven minutes before the end. Sylvain Distin was caught dawdling in possession by Luis Antonio Valencia and, though he recovered, the ball was played back out to the winger to deliver a deep cross to the far post that span up off Leighton Baines and was nodded home by Javier Hernandez.

Chelsea kept alive their increasingly-slim chances of retaining the trophy after seeing of West Ham in torrential rain at Stamford Bridge. The home side could have been ahead after two minutes, when  Didier Drogba sent Florent Malouda through the middle, only for the winger to plant a poor finish straight at Robert Green. The Blues dominated the game's early stages but the Hammers hauled themselves back into the game and Freddie Sears saw a limp header stopped on the line by Ashley Cole. It looked as if the first half would finish goalless until Michael Essien slipped Cole in on the left and the full-back's low cross was sidefooted emphatically into the top corner by Frank Lampard. The second period largely followed the pattern of the first, with a dominant Chelsea unable to grab a goal - David Luiz's effort from distance bouncing back off the bar - and their visitors soaking up early pressure before beginning to show in their own right. Robbie Keane should have done better with seventeen minutes left but failed to hit the target from eight yards and Carlo Ancelotti brought on the struggling Fernando Torres for Salomon Kalou. The Spaniard's contribution was an instant one, teeing up Nicolas Anelka for what looked a certain goal that Danny Gabbidon came from nowhere to clear off the line. Ten minutes later and Anelka returned the favour with a through ball that Torres, despite it sticking on the water-logged surface, pirouetted onto before finding the corner of the net with a left-footed strike. Stamford Bridge erupted. With time running out, it was Torres's pass that was misread by Anelka but was thundered into the top corner by Malouda. The West Londoners need to win all their remaining games and hope the leaders drop points, whilst their East London neighbours just need points, however they can get them.

It now looks like a bridge too far for Arsenal after they crashed to defeat at Bolton. The Gunners, needing to win, were second best throughout a first half in which it was the home side carving out the better chances. Wanderers got the goal they had deserved seven minutes before half-time when Samir Nasri, on the goalline, could only block Gary Cahill's header back out to the lurking Daniel Sturridge to head into the net. The on-loan striker was heavily involved again early in the second half, going down very easily under pressure from Johan Djourou in the area, but Kevin Davies produced a poor spot kick that was easily saved by Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal were level within a minute, with Robin van Persie playing a cute give and go with Cesc Fabregas before finding the net from the edge of the area. The visitors were now in the ascendancy and Samir Nasri spurned a couple of chances to give them the lead as they laid siege to the Trotters' goalmouth. The goal wouldn't come, however, and in typical fashion Tamir Cohen leapt highest to head home Sung-Yung Lee's corner in the last minute of the game to take all three points.

Manchester City keep up their bid for a first Champions' League place after edging past Blackburn in an excrutiating game at Ewood Park. David Silva hit the woodwork early on as the visitors started reasonably brightly but the match quickly degenerated into a plodding affair with neither outfit looking particularly likely to break the deadlock. If anything, it was perhaps Rovers who looked the slightly more likely. With twenty minutes to go manager Roberto Mancini brought on some extra firepower in the shape of January signing Edin Dzeko and the big Bosnian repaid his gaffer's faith when spanking home after Silva's mis-hit effort had been half-stopped by Phil Jones. The home side tried but failed to respond and remain very much in a relegation scrap.

Tottenham's recent struggles for points continue as they are pegged back by West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane. They suffered a setback on five minutes when Peter Odemwingie, many people's signing of the season, collected Carlos Vela's cross-field pass before curling a shot beyond Huerelho Gomes. Spurs picked up their game and Roman Pavlyuchenko had them level just before the half-hour, making space for himself outside the area before finding the net off the foot of the far post. The Russian then spurned a glorious chance to put his side in front when side-footing over from twelve yards after Rafael van der Vaart's shot had been blocked in the area. The Lillywhites continued to press and did go ahead six minutes after the hour, with a t-shirtless Jermain Defoe embarking on a marauding run into the Baggies' half before finding the net with a low shot. The goal of the game came ten minutes before the end, though, and it was for the visitors. Simon Cox jinked in from the left wing before curling a wonderful effort that beat Gomes all ends up. Harry Redknapp's side now have it all to do if they're to catch Manchester City.

Breathing down the Londoners' necks are a rejeuvenated Liverpool, who smash five past Birmingham at Anfield. The Reds were a goal up after just seven minutes when Ben Foster spilled Jay Spearing's shot into the path of make-shift striker Maxi Rodriguez, who made no mistake. City briefly responded but were further behind on twenty-three minutes through Dirk Kuyt, finishing at the third time of asking after Foster had done well to keep out his initial effort, plus one from Luis Suarez. The keeper was injured in the melee and his replacement Colin Doyle was given no chance on sixty-six minutes when Rodriguez volleyed home Suarez's cross after a misjudgement by Stephen Carr. The Argentine completed his hat-trick with a quarter of an hour left, drilling a shot inside Doyle's near post after being allowed a second bite at the chery again by the Blues' out-of-sorts defence. The stand-in keeper then endured a moment to forget with four minutes remaining when he spilled substitute Joe Cole's snaphot into the net to bring up the nap hand. There's certainly some heft doses of feelgood factor going round at Melwood right now. The League Cup winners, meanwhile, are still looking for that last win that would make them safe.

FA Cup finalists Stoke, meanwhile, move a step closer to safety after picking up a point at Villa Park. The Potters got their game together first after a quiet opening and put together a ten-minute spell of pressure that ended with the opening goal: Kenwyne Jones planting a header into the net from Rory Delap's trademark throw. Villa had been second best for most of the first half but were level two minutes after the break, with Darren Bent guiding home an excellent header from Kyle Walkers cross. The home side used the goal to build steady momentum but were successfully held at arm's length by a determined City backline. A draw may not have been what either side would have wished for at the start of play but neither manager would have been entirely unhappy with the point, either.

Blackpool bounce straight back out of the relegation zone with a home draw against Newcastle. There's never a dull game when the Tangerines are playing and things started in lively fashion at Bloomfield Road with United's Jose Enrique bursting into the area within seconds of the first whistle, only to scuff a tame effort at Matt Gilks. The Seasiders gained the ascendancy, going close a couple of times before conceding against the run of play. Joey Barton took advantage of a communication breakdown in the Blackpool midfield and fed Peter Lovenkrands, who steadied himself before zipping a low drive into the net. Blackpool didn't deserve to be behind and weren't for very long, as DJ Campbell's header from Charlie Adams's corner just about crossed the line before being cleared by Enrique. The home side then went for broke with the Magpies doing well to hold on, with Adam's shot against the post as close as his side were able to get. Out of the drop zone courtesy of goal difference only, it promises to be an exciting last month for the Lancastrians.

Things are looking somewhat bleaker for Wolves. At this critical stage of the season, Mick McCarthy's side are struggling to pick up points and they had to be content with just a single one from their home match against poorly travellers Fulham. The Cottagers began well, with Carlos Salcido a constant menace down the flank, but went behind against the run of play mid-way through the first half as Steven Fletcher headed in Karl Henry's centre. There was no let-up from the Londoners after conceding but they continued to frustrate in front of goal, with even manager Mark Hughes catching the malaise in failing to connect with any of three attempted kicks at a stationary water bottle. Wolves held out manfully but were undone with ten minutes left when the ball fell invitingly to substitute Andrew Johnson to smack home. A deserved point for Fulham tha edges them away from trouble but one wonders where the next one is going to come from the Molineux outfit and times are getting desperate.

Wigan, too, are in trouble after Sunderland's first win since New Year's Day plonks the Latics right back in Trap Door City. Things looked promising for the visitors when Mohamed Diame slashed home a drive seven minutes into the second half of a game that had been awful up to that point. The goal kick-started the match and Asamoah Gyan had the Black Cats back on terms within three minutes when he headed in Steed Malbraque's measured cross from the right. Gyan was then forced off through injury and, with Danny Wellbeck also having left the field, Sunderland were suddenly without a recognised striker on the pitch. No problem. Jordan Henderson burst into the area and leathered Sulley Muntari's through-ball high into the net to put them ahead. Stephane Sessegnon then picked himself up after being barged over by Antolin Alcaraz to tuck away the penalty. Before eleven minutes had passed, Henderson was at it again, converting Sessegnon's lay-off with little fuss. On a weekend for strikers breaking ducks, Franco di Santo slid in to bag his first Premier League goal for Roberto Martinez's side but it would have been of scant consolation and a few more where that came from are required now.

Full results

Aston Villa 1 - Stoke City 1

Blackburn Rovers 0 - Manchester City 1

Blackpool 1 - Newcastle United 1

Bolton Wanderers 2 - Arsenal 1

Chelsea 3 - West Ham United 0

Liverpool 5 - Birmingham City 0

Manchester United 1 - Everton 0

Sunderland 4 - Wigan Athletic 2

Tottenham Hotspur 2 - West Bromwich Albion 2

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 - Fulham 1

 

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