By Joe Behan
After a dull period in the English Premier League, the table begins to turn and, hopefully, it turns upside down during the holidays.
For the fanatic supporters, they will want points from their team; for the general soccer fans, it is a little different. It is important that Arsenal, who beat Newcastle 5-0, close the gap on Manchester United. Ray Parlor hit his first goal of the season for the Gunners and his first hat trick. Closing the gap does mean Utd. dropping points, as they did in the 3-all thriller, during which Charlton were 3-1 down.
Liverpool are not proving to be serious contenders for the title, and will have their work cut out over the next few weeks to stay in touch for European qualification. The Super Reds lost 1-nil to Ipswich, who is maintaining a great run to stay in top flight. The Town can thank Coventry, who beat Leicester 1-0, thus knocking City down a peg in the table.
Sunderland climbed into fifth place after beating Middlesbrough 1-0. Boro are now bottom of the table. Benito Carbone scored in the 89th minute to lift Bradford from the pit of the premier in another 3- all thriller with Spurs.
In the middle of the table, Chelsea thrashed Derby 4-1 to pass over Leeds, who were beaten 1- nil by Southampton. Finally, we hear from Chelsea chairman Ken Bates, who insisted that the club is not in a crisis and the books are balanced, with £43 million in the bank. So we can expect to see Chelsea produce some magic over the holiday, right?
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Spirits were fired up at the Dell. The escalating row between Glenn Hoddle and David O’Leary may prompt the FA into a disciplinary hearing. The former internationals and club rivals still go at it, but for now it is O’Leary in front. Leeds has reportedly slapped a £60 million price tag for the Irish boss with Aussie star Harry Kewell thrown in the mix.
Hoddle is stating than Leeds provoked his players. Southampton’s Kachloul stuck his head and an elbow on Lee Bowyer for all to see. There are no excuses, Glen, just apologize. Violence is not the answer to provocation; it certainly isn’t setting a good example for the EPL game. The players should have more manners for the table.
Players that are making noise just before the most trying period in the EPL may hold the key to the table turning in the next few weeks.
Ray Parlor on target
Ray Parlor and Arsenal punished Newcastle, 5-0, with a hat trick, his first goals in the Premiership this season. On an afternoon when Parlor was outstanding, his first League goal of the season was created by Kanu’s superb weighted pass. Parlor’s finish was a clinical half volley from the edge of the penalty area.
Robson’s own forgettable afternoon in the capital was finished off when Parlor scored Arsenal’s fourth with a close-range header from a Pires cross. Parlor completed his hat trick in the dying moments, scoring from the craftiest of passes from Pires.
The Arsenal midfielder has been quiet for the first half of the season. He has shown good promise in the last few years, and if he is to find his form then that hat trick could be the ignition he needed.
Welsh wizard Giggs
Another player who appeared with a bang after a similar quiet spell like Parlor was Ryan Giggs for Utd. The Welsh wizard is compared to George Best at old Trafford. Glimpses of those comparisons saw Giggs catch the ball on the halfway line and lift it onto the crossbar. Ole Gunnar was all over the rebound and scored. Giggs scored a nice curling shot and his weaving runs did bring back memories of George Best.
Sunderland 1, Boro 1
Peter Reid’s players have now lost just one game in their last 16 despite not playing well in the Premiership. Last year they faded away, next year they could finish strong.
Terry Venables has just joined Middleborough and witnessed a 1-0 defeat by Sunderland. Just to add some spice for the holiday games, the controversial manager couldn’t have timed his return to the EPL any better. He will no doubt add many flavors to Boro and opposition will not expect a feast when they take the field with Tel Boy’s tactics.
Ipswich 1, Liverpool 0
Two Premiership matches on Sunday were key games that shifted the table even more. Ipswich took their spectacular away form to Anfield and came away with a one-goal win. Marcus Stewart’s 10th goal of the season shattered any hope Liverpool may have had of challenging for the championship.
Ipswich has won more away league games than anyone else in the Premiership. The Town with only one win in 28 visits to Anfield, showed the confidence that comes from such a bright Premiership start, with simple and sharp possession.
Coventry City 1, Leicester City 0
Gordon Strachan’s £6.5 million signing from Norwich, Craig Bellamy, lifted Coventry out of the bottom three of the Premiership with a first-half decider in their midlands derby against Leicester at Highfield Road. Lee Carsley made an instant impression in midfield on a quietly consistent debut after his £2.5 million move from Blackburn.
He provided a calming influence and the ability to find his teammates with some probing passes. In contrast, Leicester were out of sorts in one of their most ineffective performances since Taylor took over from Martin O’Neill as they began life after Neil Lennon’s departure to Celtic. The Bhoys pulled a 2-1 win out of the bag to maintain the gap on Rangers, who won also.
Bradford staged a magnificent comeback to snatch a point and leave Spurs still looking for their first away victory of the Premiership season. Benito Carbone scored in the 89th minute to gain a valuable point for his club. Bradford was able to over come Ledley King’s 10-second goal — the quickest in Premiership history, which came almost straight from the kickoff. Manchester City’s Joe Royle must have enjoyed the thumping his side gave to Everton.
Based on this week’s games, we are in for a delightful feast of entertaining football during the holidays. For the fanatic, this period can be a determining factor for their team.