PFA Player of the Year Awards

By David S. Wills & James D. Irwin

(David’s words will appear in this text, whereas James’ will appear bold, as that’s the only way of making them distinguishable)

Yesterday the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year was announced. The results were hardly surprising:

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award

Wayne Rooney, Man Utd

Carlos Tevez, Man City

Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal

Didier Drogba, Chelsea

PFA Young Player of the Year Award

Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal

James Milner, Aston Villa

Joe Hart, Birmingham

Wayne Rooney, Man Utd

My nominations go to Fabregas and Rooney, in no particular order. They’ve both been the sole players on their respective teams this year. Without Rooney Man Utd would have been battling relegation, and without Fabregas Arsenal will be running down the clock from the kick-off for the rest of the season.

These men are the very definition of one-man teams. Their managers have – for whatever reason – come to rely totally on their genius. Man Utd without Rooney is embarrassing to watch, and not just because of his 34 goals. They’re like a cat with a missing leg, always trying to put weight on it and falling on its face.

And I doubt Mr. Burns Arsene Wenger will be very happy without Smithers Cesc Fabregas, who is out with another injury. Fabregas’ goals from midfield have been crucial to Arsenal’s otherwise lame campaign this year.

I’m still struggling to understand how Rooney and Fabregas can appear in both categories. I mean, surely you’re only eligible for one category or the other. It also surely means that if Fabregas or Rooney win Player of the Year then they have to win Young Player of the Year as well.

Another important question, really, is just who cares about these awards?! They’re clearly flawed and, as David has pointed out, extremely predicatable.

However, if I had a vote in the matter (as I did when I won the Champions League with Leeds on Championship Manager 01/02) then my votes would go to:

Wayne Rooney, mostly because I hate him less than the others. Seriously though, the best way of demonstrating just how good Rooney is is by seeing how bad United are without him. He has gone from being a promising young player to being a potential great in the last few seasons. He could make this summer’s World Cup his tournament, although he probably won’t. Because England always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I’m torn on the Young Player of the Year. I’m discounting Rooney and Fabregas, on the basis that it seems incredibly unfair to allow the awards to be dominated by two players that we already know are pretty good.

I’m tempted to go for Milner, but that is largely due to the fact he played for Swindon for a very brief period. Really it has to be Joe Hart. I mean, have you seen how unnaturally well Birmingham are doing?! The man is incredible, and should never have been replaced by Man City. I was immensely frustrated when they signed Given, because it obvious to anyone with eyes that Hart in the rightful heir to the England number one shirt. He’s already better than Robert Green. I’d probably take him to the World Cup now. We’re going into South Africa in the summer with two relegation battling goalkeepers; James is already a Championship goalkeeper, and Green could well be by the end of the season. It is, I would argue, where he belongs.

I digress: I vote Joe Hart.

We turn now to our fantastic although limited readers to pitch in…

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Getting FOX’d Over Football

By David S. Wills

There are two words frequently used to describe me: honest, and biased.

I’m happy to put my prejudice out there and I could probably argue in my defense by saying that anyone who claims to be truly objective is a big fat liar… But I think I’m just lazy. There are some things in this world I like, and some I don’t, and I really can’t be bothered with pretending otherwise.

When it comes to football we all have our passions. Some of us try to hide those passions and fail miserably. Watching John Motson try to cover his erection when Wayne Rooney’s monstrous head comes into view is one such example. And everyone in Scotland recalls Chick Young’s first interview with Rangers’ Danish legend, Brian Laudrup: “Brian, why are you so good?!”

When it comes down to it, we’re all fools to deny our impartiality. As children we are raised by our fathers to play football, to watch football, to think about, talk about and dream about football. We are dressed in certain colours and indoctrinated from early ages to a certain mindset, and when we deny that we look as foolish as Republicans pretending they are anything but a well organized gang of bigots.

If I tried to write about Celtic’s defeat to Ross Country (!) on Saturday I would become a fraud. It would take me several rewrites to finally pick out each inappropriate use of the word “scum.” I would descend into Bush-like language, comparing Ross County’s victory over the forces of evil to… No, I can’t do it.

I was raised to feel a certain sickness at the sight of a green and white hooped shirt. And whilst I’m above the level of sectarian abuse, I cannot bring myself to approach the subject in a professional manner.

I could take a different approach, perhaps, and talk about the majesty of cup competition being its ability to bring the small and under-funded teams of the world to a position where they may vie for a shot a European success, playing in a national stadium in front of whoever the hell will honestly sit through an hour and a half of Ross County…

But then I rewrote that paragraph several times to remove all references to the stranglehold Rangers and Celtic have over the Scottish game, and that it is not a stranglehold built necessarily upon skill or managerial prowess, but rather upon religious division and financial shenanigans, resulting in a pressure upon referees and players to maintain the deeply unjust status quo.

Oops.

Or I could take a look at the other Scottish Cup semi-final and discuss Dundee Utd’s victory over a typically sub-par Raith Rovers team. But then there’s not a lot of attraction in a third placed Premier League team beating a First Division side. For anyone but a United fan it’s a bit of a disappointment, given this season’s gallery of cup-upsets.

But you see, I happen to be a Dundee Utd fan. I was extremely happy to see my team steamroll over Raith and progress to the cup final. After all, with the Old Firm’s ill-gotten grip on the Premier League, first and second place will probably never again fall to another team. The best United can hope for is third place plus a cup victory.

And a bittersweet cup victory it will be, provided Ross County don’t provide another shock and win at Hampden. Such a thing would be so romantic and provide another example of the beauty of cup football… But of course I’ll cry foul and bemoan the referee’s desire to see United lose the game.

Such is the burden of a passion for football. The only people who write about it should be bred especially for the job – isolated in labs beneath the earth until old enough to watch a game with no predilection towards either team.

Or perhaps we should all switch countries and only write about teams against whom we have no particular bias.

I could write about the Man Utd – Blackburn game that I watched on Sunday (from thousands of miles away in South Korea). But then I’d probably start talking about the moment when Park Ji-sung smashed the world long jump record (previously set by Cristiano Ronaldo). Park – who is fond of falling to the ground when caressed by a slight breeze – managed to leap into the box with no provocation, and expected a penalty in spite of the incident (which I shall refer to as the “foul”) occurring several metres outside the box.

Or I could write about the Burnley or Man City games… But then I’ve been involved in a deathly-serious fantasy football league all season, and both games were vitally important to my chances. I had both Carlos Tevez and Graham Alexander on my team, and so in spite of having absolutely no preference for any of the teams involved, I found myself screaming in celebration for four of the goals.

What about the Championship? No one cares about the crappy Championship…

Don’t spread it around, but I happen to be a Middlesbrough fan, and although I try and tell myself it’s not true, I can’t help but peak at the results each week.

And so I come to the conclusion that it’s all utterly hopeless. There is no such thing as professional, objective journalism. We are all slaves to our own stupidity. We are all hopeless.

The only thing to do is to get FOX’d and just except that we’re all extremely biased, prejudiced, fundamentally sick people. The world wasn’t meant to be full of reporters. After all, Hunter S. Thompson put it best when he said:

 

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits – a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.

A Question Of Support

By James D. Irwin

I’m off to the Country Ground on monday to watch Swindon Town begin the inevitable implosion of their promotion hopes. Embarassingly it’s only my second game of the season— although I’m already two up on every season since I became a football fan.

Swindon were my second team up until a few months ago. Since the 1998 World Cup it’s always been a fervent support/constant disappointment of hanging on any and every piece of news to come out of White Hart Lane, and then checking the Swindon score if I can remember.

But here’s the thing: even though Spurs are having one of their best seasons in years and one win away from the FA Cup Final I’m almost bored and disinterested in them. Perhaps it’s the fact that having been a fan of the team for over a decade I know that we’ll almost certainly throw the fourth Champions League position away and then all the best players will join Man United.

But I don’t think so.

Because when I was at school surrounded by friends (oh, alright: people), all of whom followed Premier League sides. The Football League was ignored by television, brushed into a small half a page section in most newspapers and thus not given much thought to by us young fans. This is despite the fact that my best friends at school also supported their lower league home town clubs Plymouth and Oldham.

I also lived on the other side of the country from Swindon, which meant actually going to games was only possible if we visited old family friends during the football season. This happened twice, so until recently my only experiences of seeing Swindon  were a 2-0 victory over Crewe in 1998, and then more recently a victory over Chesterfield where it was so cold I almost got frostbite and Sam Parkin scored before he left us and got everything he deserved. Bastard.

Apparently when I was three years old my dad took me to see the 1993 Promotion Parade celebrating Swindon reaching the Premier League. It was the last time Swindon really had anything to celebrate since getting back into League One a few years ago.

But how the times have changed. The BBC now has a Football League highlights show featuring the ever charismatic pairing of Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge. If I stay up after Match of the Day and sit through forty minutes of Championship coverage I can catch a brief ninety second glimpse of the mighty Robins.

I also moved to Winchester, twenty minutes from Southampton and an hour from Swindon. This has two benefits: firstly, going to see Swindon at home is no longer merely ‘do-able’, but actually quite easy. Secondly, many of my new friends are Southampton fans, so almost all of our football conversation is focused on League One.

Everything has sort of reversed, and I go straight to the League One scores to see if Swindon have lost it yet, or if I can make fun of my Saints following friends. I’m off to Swindon for the first time in about five years and I was making plans to attend the last game of the season, until I remembered it was an away trip to Millwall…

It’s something that has happened to me in other sports as well. I love cricket, American football and rugby union when they’re on TV regularly, but if I can’t watch it I don’t really give a toss about it. For example, I got hooked on cricket in 2005 and ended up watching pretty much every day of every test. But then it went to Sky, and I didn’t have Sky, so I lost interest until 2008 when my parents got Sky. Because we had Sky I could watch American football each weekend, and again I was hooked on it. It’s a sport that has very vocal detractors in this country, and whilst nowhere near as good as proper football it is an enjoyable game to watch. But then I moved to university, and cable access is far too much for a student. And thus I paid little attention to the last season until the Super Bowl, which is shown on terrestrial.

It’s just a fact that it’s easier to be a fervent supporter of a team if you watch them play, or even have some sort of media coverage. Why? Because that’s what being a supporter is all about, it’s about willing your team on, cheering/shouting in frustration with every kick of the ball and experiencing the highs and lows of the season. That’s the joy of it, sharing the experience with other fans. It’s impossible to experience that by going on Teletext at five pm and glancing at a list of numbers.

has anyone else had this experience? Are there sports or teams you’d be far more passionate about if you could see them love or on television more regularly?

I mean, Premier League football is shown around the world, and Premier League teams have mass global followings. Would Parma, for example, have more English fans if Serie A was broadcast here regularly, or even if they brought back Football Italia  to Channel 4? Nobody ever shouts ‘Golaccio!’ when they score anymore (Golaccio is a made up word which is roughly translated as ‘goaltastic.) Would soccer be more popular in the US if it aired our top teams?

In the 1980s American Football became hugely popular in Britain. Is it really a coincidence that this surge in popularity occured at the same time that American Football was broadcast on British television, and seen a steep decline in popularity since it stopped being broadcast on terrestrial free-to-air channels?

Watching sport is the essence of being a fan in any field. I’m excited for next season, not because I think Swindon are going to do particularly well (especially if we make the Championship), but because I know I’m going to be there for every moment of it, and that I can attend at least ten home games, and either Pompey or Southampton away…

Korea’s Footballing Failures

By David S. Wills

As a lifelong football fan, and a current resident of South Korea, I thought it would be appropriate that my first post concern both these topics.

“But wait!” I hear you say… “I don’t give a fuck about the shitty K-League, and I’ve already heard of Park Ji-sung!”

I have absolutely no interest in the K-League, and I despise Park Ji-sung. The reason for both stems from being immersed in an overly nationalistic country with little to be proud of except excellent track records in suicide, domestic abuse and rape.

You see, Korea isn’t very good at football. That applies to both the North and the South. You might think that this is a terribly harsh thing to say, but it’s true. South Korea holds the record for the worst World Cup performance of all time. In 1954 they managed to concede a staggering sixteen (16) goals in two games.

As ESPN noted, years later, “[South Korea] set the modern standard for World Cup futility.”

Ouch.

But, as you will probably be aware, times have changed. South Korea was an impoverished nation, just emerged from a war, when they were humiliated in Switzerland. Now the country is unrecognizable. It’s one of the richest countries in the world, with mega-corporations like Samsung and Hyundai. It hosted the 1988 Olympics and 2002 World Cup.

“Ah yes, the World Cup. I thought that was in Japan…”

Yes, but it was a joint effort. South Korea made a name for themselves by finishing fourth.

“Which made them the fourth best team in the world, right?”

Not exactly. Two years later Greece won the European Championship, and nobody’s foolish enough to claim they were the best team in Europe, then or now.

South Korea beat Italy and Spain in the knock-out rounds by cheating. Their matches were fixed, and as a result Korea went on to be beaten by Germany in the semis and Turkey in the third-place playoff.

(Click here to view Korea’s World Cup cheating)

It may seem harsh for a Scottish person to judge South Korea’s football performances, but that is not the case. Scotland may be a historically shite nation at football, but we embrace that fact. We do not delude ourselves with the idea that we are the greatest team in the world.

It is rare to find a Korean person who does not consider the Korean race to be the supreme beings of this world. It is written into their culture. This is a philosophy that the Nazis embraced, and that now the Koreans embrace. They believe they are the chosen ones.

When Park Ji-sung joined Manchester Utd this only served to prove to Koreans that they are the master race. Park Ji-sung, they believe, is the greatest player of all time – in the same way that every Korean sportsperson with a modicum of success is also “Number One!” (For more on this observation, please see Kim Yuna.)

The problem is, however, Park was only signed so Man Utd could make money in the Asian market. He is a marketing ploy that has paid off tremendously. Try finding a Korean person who doesn’t like Man Utd…

Take a look at any Man Utd home game and you will see Samsung, LG and Hyundai advertisements littering the stadium. Some of these are even written in Korean, for the benefit of the entire Korean nation – who sit around watching reruns of Park Ji-sung’s “greatest moments.”

These “greatest moments” include the few complete passes he manages to make each season, the several occasions on which he was not knocked over in trying to get possession, and the horrendous injustice that is committed every time Park takes a dive and is not rewarded by the ref.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not an awful player. He just shouldn’t make the first team as often as he does. He runs a lot and tries his best, but ultimately he’s there because you can’t turn on a TV in Korea without seeing his heavily Photoshoppped face.

(People in Korea don’t realise that Park Ji-sung is monstrously ugly. When he appears on TV here his face is digitally altered.)

The worst part is that an otherwise entertaining Man Utd game will be ruined by “player cam.” Thanks to the desire of the Korean people to see nothing but Korean faces, the broadcast will be altered to show Park running around the pitch for 90 mins, or sitting on the bench, as the case may be.

But at least Park’s place in the Man Utd team guarantees an interest in the Premiership over here. Thanks to Park, football is constantly on Korean TV.

Unfortunately, a top of the table, end of season clash will always be preempted for a Park Ji-sung highlight reel, or a repeat of the Korean national team’s glorious “triumphs” over Italy and Spain.

In Korea, nationalism trumps common sense every time. If there were a Korean player in the Championship they would broadcast his performance rather than the biggest game of the season. All Koreans want to see is someone from their mighty nation.

Thankfully there is now Lee Chung-yong, the youngster at Bolton, who has been linked with an £8 million move to Liverpool. He is undoubtedly better than Park, and certainly at a team more suited to his level.

I really enjoy watching Lee play, although I don’t care for Bolton. If Park is benched, you can bet that the Korean broadcasters will choose to show the Bolton game instead, so I hope that he does move to a better team this year.

I also hope that no more Korean players make their way into middle of the road English teams, because I can’t stand having an important match ignored for the sake of nationalism. Last year I was forced to sit through countless Fulham matches for the sake of Seol Ki-hyeon, a man whose performances were so poor he had his contract cancelled in the January transfer window.

Before that there was Lee Dong-gook, a Middlesbrough player of such low quality that he suffered a similar fate to Seol. His contract with terminated, and he went down in history as one of Middlesbrough’s shittiest players. He has plenty competition for that honour, but he’s holding his own.

At present, these Premiership failures are lighting up the K-League and inspiring Koreans to think they might just win the World Cup this summer. Lee Dong-gook (Boro’s shittiest import) is presently the highest scoring player in Korea, and regarded as one of the best players in Asia. He is, embarrassingly, Korea’s great hope for 2010.

Once Upon a Time in Barcelona…

I haven’t played football in about three years. I love football. Even when I want to hate it I can’t look away.

Yesterday I arranged a game at the park for next weekend with a few of my friends. This re-ignited my football fever, and I spent the rest of the day watching clips of the best football moments from my childhood.

To mark my ‘comeback’ I’m looking back at one of the greatest all-time comebacks…

1998/1999 was my first season as a dedicated football fan, and one of its final games is still probably the best game I’ve ever seen.

I am not a Manchester United fan, but my brother is. So I watched every game of Man Utd’s 1999 Chapions League Campaign.

The Champions League is like a World Cup tournament for the best club teams in Europe. In 1999 to qualify as an English team you either had to win the Premier League or the FA Cup. Arsenal won both in ’98, so the second spot went to the team who came second in the league— Man Utd.

But first they had to qualify. All the second spot teams played each other to keep the riff raff out— like Polish league runners up LK Lodz. The 1999 Champions League final is one of the best games in the history of football. Man Utd’s campaign started off with the most boring sporting spectacle I’ve ever seen (and I’ve watched Curling…) It wasn’t just a 0-0 draw, it was a game in which nothing exciting happened at all. I have it on video.

They narrowly progressed to the group stage, I don’t remember anything other than the game against the Austrian champions Sturm Graz. I remember this because Sturm Graz played at the brilliantly named Arnold Schwarzenegger-Stadium. They’ve re-named it now, because like most NFL teams the stadium sold sponsorship rights.

On FIFA 2000 I beat Sturm Graz 126-0. Back in the PS One days you could actually play 90 minute games. So that’s what I did. Every time Graz kicked off I’d charge forward with the tackle, make a run, pass wide to Beckham or Giggs and then square it for Solskjaer to fire home. Sometimes it’d go slightly off plan and someone else would end up with the finish, but 116 times out of 126 Solskjaer was there with the finish.

Anyway: The final. It was exciting. Manchester United were on course to win three major trophies in 1999: the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League. A football grand slam. It was an incredible team. And back then the majority of the team had been playing for United since they turned professional. Only a handful of players had been at United less than a year.

The team they were up against was German, a natural footballing rivalry. Bayern Munich had already been United. On top of this United had lost both their central midfielders, Pauls Scholes and the captain, Roy Keane who had scored two goals in the semi-final, but picked up too many yellow cards.

Five minutes in and the Germans score from a free kick. The free kick is conceded by Ronny Johnson, who my brother has hated all season, for no reason. Mario Basler swings at the ball, it deflects off a United player and bounces past a helpless Peter Schmiechel. 

89 minutes into the game and it’s still 1-0 to the German side. The United manager has brought on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham as a last resort.

United go on what looks to be a last ditch attack, but a low cross is blocked easily for a corner.

There is a mighty roar from the crowd: one last chance.

The engraver has already engraved ‘Baye’ onto the trophy.

‘’Can manchester united score?’’ asks the commentator emphatically. ‘’They always score.’’

David Beckham lines up the corner and swings it in. The ball is loose in the box. Ryan Giggs swings the ball low towards goal. Teddy Sheringham directs it into the bottom corner. It’s 1-1. Veteran German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn lies flat on his arse limply appealing for offside.

Three minutes of injury time are signalled.

Bayern Munich come within inches of robbing it.

United come forward again, the ball is belted out for a corner.

Another roar from the crowd.

Beckham swings in another corner.

Tedding Sheringham gets a head to it. Solskjaer does little more than poke his foot out to meet it.

The ball flies into the roof of the net.

This was one of the final games of my first season as a football fan, and it’s one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

The EPL’s Fosters Drinking Cousin: The Hyundai A-League

The EPL is two games in, but over in Oz, the A-League kicked off two weeks ago!

 With two new teams, the 5th season of the compeition is set to be the best yet.

 The league consists of 10 teams: (reigning champs) Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar, Gold Coast United, Sydney FC, Perth Glory, Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners, Newcastle Jets, North Queensland Fury and Wellington Phoenix.

After the normal season, the top 4 then battle it out in the finals to be crowned better than the rest. A few big names have come from overseas and will hopefully better the competition that actually resembles the skills of the Football League One.

The most notable recruit during the transfer season is none other than the touchline snorting Liverpool legend that is Robbie Fowler. It will be interesting to see how an Englishman used to playing in freezing conditions will cope during the 40 degree plus months of December to February.

I am a Perth Glory fan and attend the home games so will be able to offer you all a totally biased account of their games.

Weekend Round-Up 15th/16th August 2009

The Premier League kicked off this weeked and as the results rolled in, Two Footed Challenge was there to collect them and regurgitate them for your pleasure.

Unusually,  there were no draws on the opening day of the season, but then Shola Ameobi scored a hatrick for Newcastle and Sven Goran Eriksson took a job at Notts County… so, y’know…

Aston Villa 0-2 Wigan Athletic (Rodallega 31, Koumas 56)

Although no one really cares about Wigan and may have thought they were relegated last season, they were not. In their first game under Roberto Martinez they produced the first inspiring performance in their unremarkable 77 year history.

Rodallega scored a stunning volley that several moronic pundits have already dubbed ‘goal of the season’ as they do with any goal from outside the box on the opening weekend.

Aston Villa put in a performance that can only be described as ‘vintage Wigan.’

Blackburn Rovers 0-2 Manchester City (Adebayor 3, Ireland 90+3)

Before the game Blackburn midfielder David Dunn claimed that he would ‘kick lumps’ out of City. Unfortunatley Mark Hughes signed him as he was walking out onto the pitch.

Rovers outplayed City, although jammy strikes 3 minutes into the game and 3 minutes after the game gave the cheating team of mercenaries the win.

Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Sunderland (Bent 5)

Yes, Darren Bent.

Chelsea 2-1 Hull (Hunt 28, Drogba 37 , 90+2)

Hull got a well deserved draw against Chelsea after 9o minutes.

Everton 1-6 Arsenal (Denilson 26, Vermaelen 37, Gallas 41, Fabregas 48, 69, Eduardo 88, Saha 90+2)

Arsenal made a mockery of Two Footed Challenge’s presentation on Saturday by hosting an old fashioned goal fest that is all too rare in the modern game.

Several pundits believed that The Joleon Lescott Saga was to blame for the lacklustre performance.

However it is probably more likely that Everton’s ’80s inspired kits brought back horrific childhood memories for the likes of Tim Howard, Steven Pienaar and particularly Leighton Baines who broke down in tears on more than three occasions.

Portsmouth 0-1 Fulham (Zamora 13)

Portsmouth sold all their best players over the summer, allowing Zamora to capitalize and nab a rare goal.

Stoke 2-0 Burnley (Shawcross 19, Jordan (o.g) 33)

 Premier League new boys Burnley were pushed into the deep end in their first top flight game in 33 years with an away tie at the Britannia Stadium.

Shawcross put in a header just under 20 minutes in. Backup Burnley centre back Jordan compounded the embarassment of being number two to Steven Caldwell by letting a classic Rory Delap throw in bounce of his head and past that fat fucker that is somehow agile enough to be an athlete outside of Darts.

Wolverhapton Wanders 0-2 West Ham United (Noble 22, Upson 69)

Wolves deserved to lose for having the audacity to turn up to a football game in baseball attire. West Ham, in proper football shirts, scored on 22 minutes with a fine strike from Noble. Upson wrapped the game up by following the succession of centre backs scoring close range headers on the opening day.

Oh, and at some point Kieron Dyer, sporting the stubble of a man who has given up on life, love and basic hygiene, attempted to nutmeg the ‘keeper with a back heel. As with everything else in his life, it was a pathetic failure.

Manchester United 1-0 Birmingham City (Rooney 34)

The first game of Sky’s Super Sunday was over on 34 minutes when Rooney scored a ridiculously easy tap in.

Michael Owen nearly scored, but deliberately missed so as to not raise expectations to unreachable levels.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Liverpool (Assou-Ekotto 44, Gerrard pen 56, Bassong 59)

The sole survivor of Newcastle United’s implosion capped an exciting week which included a first international cap, recieving wrong change in his favour and making his debut for Spurs by scoring the winner with a header which could be considered goal of the season stuff— if only for the inevitable ‘I thought he was suspended’ ranting from Benitez and/or Liverpool fans.

Tottenham dominated the first half against a Liverpool side which seemed to have given up their title aspirations when the realised Dimitry Voronin was their best option on the bench.

Robbie Keane should have had two goals but was denied by competent goalkeeping from Reina.

It looked like Spurs would go into halftime having wasted every chance to claim a lead and an advantage against a team that would probably try a bit for the next 45 minutes.

However Tottenham took the lead just before the whistle with a stunning goal of the season contender from professional Alicia Keyes impersonator Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Liverpool nearly lost both centre backs during the first half when Skrtel and Carragher both went for the same ball. Hilarity, concussion and blood were the results, although they both played on.

Liverpool pulled one back after the first of 137 penalty appeals were given. Gerrard made no mistake.

However Tottenham regained the lead and eventually took the points after a strong header from Bassong was buried in the top left of Reina’s goal.

Bassong beat Carragher to the ball, preventing the scouser from adding to his tally of goals for Spurs.

The end of the game was tense as a team famed for their late goals piled the pressure on a Tottenham team that have been known to leave the pitch after 88 minutes. Tottenham wasted time by bringing on Pavlyuchenko only to find the referee add the time on.

The game ended with Liverpool having a minute and half left to score, however instead of going for goals they decided, in a remarkable display of cultural intergration, to start a fight.

As the whistle blew many pundits began to wonder if the result signalled the end of Liverpool’s challenge for the title. Either way, it will only add to the pressure of Stoke’s impending visit to Anfield on Wednesday night.

Team of the Week

Given, Fabio (or Raphael), Bassong, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Koumas, Fabregas, Palacios, Denilson, Drogba, Rodallega