Boo-boy silencers & kitten-kickers

The weekend's heroes and villains in the Premier League...

HEROES

Tim Cahill
While it may have come as a slight surprise to see the Australian score with his right boot rather than his noggin, it probably shouldn’t to see him score against Liverpool - this was his fifth goal against the Reds.

Cahill was his usual energetic self in what was, according to Sky Sports, the MOST IMPORTANT FOOTBALL MATCH IN THE WORLD… since the Championship match between Middlesbrough and Leeds 20 hours previously, at least.

The only question mark was over the unusual strapping across his left shoulder visible after the match. Did he celebrate his opening goal with a half-time tattooing?

Roberto Di Matteo
Not for the first time this season, and Di Matteo will be hoping not for the last, West Brom exceeded expectations in picking up what could prove crucial points away from home.

Last time round it was a win at Arsenal, this time a battling draw at Old Trafford which could well have been another shock victory, given how dangerous the Italian’s side looked on the counter-attack in the closing stages with the game level at 2-2.

Their good start has left Di Matteo’s side sixth in the Premier League as we approach the less-regal-sounding-than-halfway quarterway stage, making this their best start to a top flight season since 1983.

But one statistic West Brom will rightly ignore is the one stating that no side has been relegated from the Premier League after as good a start as the Baggies have made this term. They know better than anybody that these little records are there to be broken, having in 2005 shattered the idea that no club bottom at Christmas can survive.

Charles N’Zogbia
There’s no better way to silence the boo-boys on your return to a former club who feel you left somewhat unceremoniously than by sticking the ball in the net. Well, other than sticking the ball in the back of the net twice, which is exactly what Charles N’Zogbia did on his return to St James’ Park.

The irony is that N’Zogbia spent large swathes of the summer pining for a move away from Wigan, and Newcastle fans may wish he’d had his way, for this week at least, with the Frenchman’s first-half double preventing the Magpies from winning at home for the third successive match.

Granted, N’Zogbia’s revenge may have been sweeter had his side managed to hold on for all three points as opposed to just the one, but it was still a decent enough day's work.

David Silva
While the Spaniard’s impact has been far from instant, David Silva displayed his true class at Blackpool on Sunday by scoring what would ultimately prove the winner in an enthralling match.

The 24-year-old showed his control, poise and composure as he weaved between two Blackpool defenders before bending a left-footed shot past a helpless Matt Gilks to put City 3-1 up in a match they eventually won 3-2.

As the old cliché goes, winning when you don’t deserve to is the stuff of champions, although if we see more of Silva at his best that may not be too regular an occurrence.

Blackpool
It’s not often you’ll see a losing team in a league match described as heroes, so apologies if this comes off as patronising, but Blackpool’s cavalier performance at home to one of the Premier League’s financial superpowers was refreshing and compelling, if ultimately fruitless.

A time will come when Ian Holloway's men will need to play ugly in order to eke out points, but in the meantime, the Tangerines are collecting points steadily enough and deserve all the praising being heaped upon them.

VILLAINS

Roy Hodgson
"I refuse to sit here and accept that we were outplayed or in any way inferior." “In the second half we did everything the team could possibly do, we played well.” “From what I saw I thought we dominated the second half.” “I don't think it is a crisis. I thought the way we played today was not the level of a team in the bottom three.”

All quotes attributed to the Liverpool manager following Sunday’s largely feeble showing at Goodison Park, and all evidently said without any hint of irony or crossed fingers.

With panto villains Hicks and Gillett no longer available as scapegoat, Roy really needs to arrest this slump quickly, or the questions will get more frequent and more angry.

Edwin van der Sar
Remember how, when Peter Schmeichel announced he would be leaving Manchester United at the end of the 1998/99 season, his form wobbled and some uncharacteristic gaffes cost United points?

Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping this season ends up the same way - United went on to win the Treble - although he’ll also be hoping it doesn’t take him six years to find a fully capable replacement as it did last time round...

Van der Sar's hapless performance was in stark contrast to West Brom’s last visit to Old Trafford. United's 5-0 win meant Van der Sar broke the Premier League record for consecutive clean sheets.

No such glory this time for the former Ajax and Juventus man. He spilled a cross to gift the equaliser, but his positioning for the first could also be questioned as Chris Brunt drilled in a free-kick to the near post.

Jack Wilshere
The young scamp’s lunging tackle on GiantSerbNikolaZigic presented Gunners boss Arsene Wenger with a double headache. Not only did it mean his side were down to 10 men for the dying minutes of a closely-fought match, but also that he would need to either a) admit his player was massively in the wrong, or b) claim late tackles are part of the game and look an utter raving hypocrite.

To his credit Wenger did the former – although obviously without anywhere near the same passion he would have done had the boot been embedded into the other foot. Presumably only the fact it happened right under his nose prevented him from just claiming he didn’t see it…

Mike Dean (or Law XI)
It’s not very often one finds oneself disagreeing with Alan Shearer’s analysis (cough). But it’s hard to go along with his suggestion that Tottenham defender William Gallas wasn't ‘active’ when Tom Huddlestone’s 25-yard shot bounced half an inch beyond the Frenchman’s outstretched foot before hitting the back of Mark Schwarzer’s net.

Assistant referee Martin Yarby raised his flag as soon as the ball whistled past Gallas and into the bottom corner, only for Dean to eventually overrule him, evidently on the basis that the former Arsenal man hadn’t made contact with the ball.

Quite how a player inside the six-yard box who makes motion to kick the ball barely four yards in front of the goalkeeper can be described as ‘not active’ is a mystery. The notion that Chris Baird may have played Gallas onside by inadvertently deflecting the ball marginally off course as it sailed through the box is surely lunacy.

Law XI (downloadable here) is a well-meaning but confusing ass. It's laudable to give referees the right to make decisions based on their opinions; this is, after all, the basis of the "common sense" about which pundits bang on (until they switch to "consistency" instead). But it's hard to concur with Mike Dean that Gallas was not "interfering with play OR interfering with an opponent OR gaining an advantage by being in that position".

Jermaine Beckford
Bar the week a certain Premier League player punted a kitten off of a pier into the sea, or any of the weeks Karl Henry has featured, the term ‘villain’ is generally more than a little harsh on this blog’s weekly targets.

That certainly applies to Everton forward Beckford, whose only crime was bounding round the Goodison pitch like an over-eager Jack Russell trying to hump the postman’s leg. But his over-enthusiasm (late challenges, crazy shots/passes, the whole shebang) could have cost the Toffees dear, had he had enough time to pick up a second booking, or Liverpool not been playing so terribly.

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