Bad Weekend For: Pepe, Demba, Johnny & more

It Was a Bad Weekend For…

Pepe ReinaAt some point between rushing from his goalmouth and tussling unsuccessfully for the ball with Sergio Aguero, Liverpool’s Pepe Reina must have wondered whether he was doing the right thing. Unfortunately, by the time that thought crossed his mind, the error-prone stopper (who has, since the beginning of last season, made eight mistakes leading directly to opposition goals) resembled a poker player with too much already in the pot, so he decided to go ‘all-in’ keep up his mindless charge.

Reina’s wanderings may ultimately have cost his side two points but Liverpool have several reasons to be pleased with their 2-2 draw at Manchester City. Daniel Sturridge was excellent; the goals from Sturridge and Steven Gerrard were top quality; and Liverpool outplayed their illustrious hosts throughout the entire game.

That said, the Merseysiders yet again proved vulnerable to balls played diagonally or directly across the pitch – City’s first goal came from a low cross, and it was a crossfield pass which led to Reina’s error before Sergio Aguero’s wonderful finish.

So bad weekends for Reina, Liverpool’s defensive coaches and most connected with Manchester City (who now sit nine points off the title pace) but an excellent afternoon of football for everybody else.

Johnny HeitingaTwenty-four hours before a Pepe Reina howler gifted Manchester City the equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Liverpool, Everton’s Johnny Heitinga was having himself a day to forget. Why? Well let’s ask the man himself: “Played worst game ever in the shirt of Everton. Let teammates and fans down but they never let me down. Will work hard to come back strong.” So Heitinga said on Twitter of his 65 minutes' work on Saturday afternoon.

His performance was undoubtedly poor and certainly contributed to the recently terrible Aston Villa finding themselves with a 3-1 lead at Goodison Park. Fortunately for the Dutchman, Marouane Fellaini was back in the scoring mood to rescue a point for the Toffees during a relentless second half.

With Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin the defensive partnership of choice for David Moyes, Heitinga has regularly been the subject of transfer speculation – something which will not have been helped by Saturday’s antics – but there's no better way to restore your reputation than with a towering performance at Manchester United, where Everton go on Sunday. Johnny, it’s over to you.

Demba BaOK, so Demba Ba deserves less sympathy than most for having the misfortune to turn out for Rafa Benitez’s stumbling Chelsea side – after all, he chose to go there while the rest of the squad had Benitez thrust upon them. But it would take a hard heart (or perhaps the heart of a Newcastle fan) not to have feet a little sorry for the Senegalese striker on Saturday.

In arguably the game of the weekend, Newcastle and Chelsea exchanged the lead regularly before the Magpies won by the odd goal in five. The game had everything, including sensational goals from Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, but Ba will have left St. James’ Park feeling very sorry for himself.

As well as being on the losing side, Ba suffered a broken nose after taking former teammate Fabricio Coloccini’s boot to the face in an incident that Benitez claimed should have led to a penalty and red card. But what will have stung Ba more than his shattered conk will have been the performance of his replacement at Newcastle, Moussa Sissoko.

Sissoko was due to be a summer transfer target for Newcastle before Ba’s flit to Chelsea forced their hand. Impressive in the midweek victory at Villa Park, the Frenchman was thrown in at the deep end with a place in the starting line-up. He caused Chelsea problems throughout the 90 minutes, eventually scoring the goals that won his side the game. Demba who?

Giant killersRewind seven days and we were salivating over the FA Cup exploits of Millwall, Leeds, MK Dons, Oldham and Luton whose giant killings of Aston Villa, Tottenham, QPR, Liverpool and Norwich sprinkled magic all over the fourth round.

Today, each of those sides are rubbing their sore behinds after falling back to earth with an almighty crash this weekend. In the Championship, Millwall and Leeds suffered 1-0 home defeats (to Hull and Cardiff respectively) while in League One MK Dons were hammered 3-0 at home by Bournemouth.

Also in League One, Oldham lost for the eighth time in nine matches, this time 3-1 at Walsall, which led to manager Paul Dickov handing in his resignation. Even Brentford, who drew 2-2 with Chelsea, couldn’t do any better, losing 3-0 at Yeovil.

And down in the Conference (normally outside of the Bad Weekend remit) Luton were beaten 1-0 at Barrow. On the other hand, none of the slain giants lost this weekend – so maybe there’s something to be said for FA Cup humiliation.

Paul GascoigneIn sad, but sadly unsurprising, news it was reported this weekend that former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne’s life is in danger as he again submitted to his alcoholism. His agent Terry Baker took to Radio 5 Live’s airways to plead for Gazza to seek help after the 45-year-old was reportedly disorientated at a charity event last week.

Everybody in football will hope that Gascoigne seeks and receives the help he needs.

Michael OwenLittle Michael Owen of Stoke faces an FA charge this week after throwing a punch at Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta in his side’s 1-0 defeat on Saturday. The fact that poor Michael faces time on the naughty step for his tantrum is bad enough, but it must really grate the former striker that his punching was as wayward as his finishing and his foe received nothing more painful than a whipping by the gush of air generated by Owen’s fist.

Next week, Owen tries to kick a ball boy and falls over.

MiddlesbroughThe annual slump is on at the Riverside. Post-Christmas form has in recent years seen Middlesbrough relegated and miss out on a play-off spot – and it’s happening again.

Four wins in five league games over December saw the north-east side move to within three points of Championship leaders Cardiff. After last season (when Boro won only six games between January and May), fans will have hoped for a steady start to the year.

Alas, it was not to be. Middlesbrough have so far lost every league game this year, conceding 10 goals to Derby, Watford, Leicester and now Ipswich, who defeated them 4-0 at Portman Road on Saturday. Can the slump continue? The visit of relegation favourites Barnsley on Saturday should tell us.

Notts CountyNotts County manager Keith Curle was relieved of his duties this weekend after his side fell to a 2-1 defeat at League One’s bottom club, Hartlepool. The defeat was only County’s fourth in 10 games but was enough to see Curle on his way to the job centre.

Although still eight points from safety, Hartlepool will be heartened by recording back-to-back victories... and by the fact that their scorers were Peter Hartley and James Poole. Hartley and Poole. What’s not to love? You’ve got to credit the board for the joke, which has been in the planning phase since Poole joined Hartley at Hartlepool back in 2011.

Next week at Brunton Park: goals from Jimmy Carr and Sandy Lyle.

Tranmere and DoncasterBut it wasn’t all fun and games in League One as the league’s top two sides, the Rovers of Tranmere and Doncaster, both lost. Tranmere’s 1-0 home defeat to Carlisle and Doncaster’s 2-0 loss at Bury will have given heart to the chasing pack – not least Bournemouth, who cruised to a 3-0 victory at MK Dons to move to within four points of the leaders.

With five teams within six points of the summit, League One could be England’s most exciting division.

Accrington StanleyAccrington were busy on transfer deadline day, strengthening their squad with four new signings to bolster their flagging season. Of the four, two (Paul Rachubka and Mark Hughes) were in the starting line-up for their new side’s trip to Port Vale on Saturday – but neither could help prevent a 3-0 hammering.

The defeat was the latest in a woeful sequence for Accrington who have won just once in their last 10 games (losing seven), a run which has seen them freefall down the League Two table to the point where they sit just three points off bottom place.

No milk jokes please.