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Soccer Scene Premier taking shape as Arsenal, Liverpool join hunt

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones

The Premier league looks back to normal with Arsenal and Liverpool back in second and third place behind Manchester United. Liverpool at the moment look strong, as they are still very much fancied in the domestic cups. While there is supposed to be less emphasis on the domestic scene at Old Trafford, it is precisely these competitions that can and do make the difference. While United beat Everton 1-0, Liverpool won 3-0 with Robbie Fowler hitting a brace. Arsenal won 1-nil with Bergkamp appearing like he does to score winners toward the run in to the championship.

Other teams are developing and get to play those extra cup matches that build much more than good play. Indeed, it builds the club and strengthens the support. Finally, Leeds and Chelsea appear nearer the top six, although Chelsea were beaten while Leeds won 2-1 away to Ipswich. The competition is really heating up as Sunderland, beaten 1-nil at Derby, and Ipswich, losing 2-1 at home to Leeds, begin to feel the pressure in top flight with top clubs breathing down their necks.

The teams at the minute that look like bashing it out for the big European prize are Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Sunderland, Ipswich, Leicester, Leeds, Chelsea, Newcastle and Charlton. It’s healthy to see half of the league fighting for something. It does look like, with the way teams are improving behind this pack, that within the next few games the pool of teams will be narrowed. The most noticeable result last weekend was Derby County. Middlesbrough and Man City battled out a 1-all draw, and while Southampton’s game was postponed they, are beginning to click and may prove to be a handful in the closing stages of the season.

Derby 1, Sunderland 0

Derby County are at work already to avoid the big drop from the premier after demonstrating the desire to remain in the premier by beating Sunderland 1- nil. It seems like it’s overnight that Sunderland have gone from second in the league to possibly struggling for a European spot by the end of the season. But we should not underestimate Peter Reid’s fighting side. The Champions League may be a tall order for Sunderland, but for Derby it’s a matter of survival.

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Having gone four games without a win, Derby were desperate to triumph. County will have definitely stirred things up for Reid’s squad with Liverpool up next, a game Sunderland must not lose. Things have been falling apart a little for Sunderland after they left the field two men down during last week’s game against Manchester United.

Much talk of Philip being an international player was not evident in this game, where Sunderland just simply didn’t have it up top. Perhaps the absence of a one Niall Quinn could explain the lack of presence in Sunderland’s attack. Reid was quick to point out the County performance giving us the insight that it is more than scoring goals and the beautiful game.

"Credit to Derby. They’re fighting for their lives," the Sunderland manager said. The seven yellows Derby received serves proof to this statement by Reid.

The game was fast and furious and the referee was all over the place. Within the first 10 minutes, Derby’s Horacio Carbanari hit a nice 25 yarder only to be denied by the woodwork. Kevin Phillips, without Quinn’s assistance, did produce a bit of magic in the 23rd minute, but his effort flew just wide. Out of all the hustle and bustle, it was Stefano Eranio who created the moment of composure to set up the incoming Craig Burley for the all-important County winner. Sunderland threw everything at the Derby goal, but the Rams held out with Burley in the thick of it whenever possible. Man of the Match went to Derby’s keeper Andy Oakes. While the Derby team and coaching staff can be proud of the win, they may not be so proud of the violence that erupted in their home stadium, Pride Park.

Manchester City psyched

Before City drew with Boro over the weekend, controlled violence was a part of Joe Royle’s preparation against Liverpool, in which they drew 1-all. Royle had his players work on some martial arts in an effort to get his team fired up for the Liverpool game. A sports psychologist, influenced by karate, met with the City boys to inspire their performance and determination.

Richard Dunne, Irish international, claimed the team was chopping planks of wood with their bare hands. The fighting inspiration carried through for the Middlesbrough showdown, yet another 1-all draw for City over the weekend. While Royle had a bit of luck with an own goal, it is the fighting attitude that now seems to be the belief of the lower-tier clubs. And that’s hard to contend with, especially that threatened with relegation clubs are demanding it now and not when it’s too late.

Dunne claimed the psychologist just told them not to look at the wood and believe that there were no objects in the way that could stop them. It certainly gave City a massive lift ahead of the Liverpool game because Maine Road’s faithful were all thinking positively City have a lot to do, if they are going to do it, well, this is the start of the revival.

Quote of the week

Peter Taylor has put his name behind Rio Ferdinand’s status as the world’s most expensive defender by claiming that the Leeds United player is on the same playing field as AC Milan’s legend Franco Baresi. That frightens the life out of soccer scene that a premier manager would make such a ridiculous statement like this one. There is only one Franco Baresi. Taylor went on to nominate Emile Heskey and Kieron Dyer good enough to play in Serie A. Come on, Peter, ease up there, don’t fall into the trap of setting players up for the fall. They are good players that could benefit from playing with better players, Peter, players like Liam Brady make it on the continent, just for the record.

Paolo di Camio played with Baresi at AC Milan and cited him as the best defender ever.

"It was his movements on the pitch which set him apart," he said. "He was like a virtual footballer. It was as if he wasn’t real and there was a computer controlling him, shifting him around the pitch with mathematical precision. His timing was exceptional and he never made a mistake. He made everything look effortless. He was to defenders what Maradona was to forwards — the standard against which everybody else was to be judged. Need more be said of the legendary sweeper. Leicester beat Chelsea 2-1 which put a stop to a great Chelsea run.

Roundup

The rotation system is in full swing at the moment with Manchester United. Brown, Irwin, Silvestre, Chadwick, Cole and Yorke are back in, while Keane, Solskj’r and Sheringham are out. United beat Everton 1-nil with Andy Cole hitting the winner, making his new contract of loyalty to the club even more impressive. However, talk of United able to focus on bigger competition after getting knocked out of the FA Cup remains to be seen.

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