Premier League – Weekend winners and losers

 

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There were plenty of heroes in an amazing weekend that will live long in the memory of football fans up and down the country.

2007-2008 FA Cup Barnsley-Middlesbrough Odejayi Essien - 0

 

 

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WINNERS

Kayode Odejayi: In a textbook example of ‘classic centre forward play’ – ie “Just lump it up t’big man, lads” – the Barnsley forward caused nothing but problems in the air for the Chelsea defence. Rising above goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, he headed in the goal that sends the Tykes into their FA Cup semi-final since they won it in 1912. For all those Barnsley fans that couldn’t make it to Anfield (or even see the 2-1 win over Liverpool live on television), Odejayi’s first goal since September gave the rest of the Oakwell faithful their own memory to cherish, as well as a trip to Wembley.

Cardiff City: Being drawn against Middlesbrough at the Riverside always screamed of a potential upset, and Peter Whittingham‘s star turn made it so to complete a miserable weekend for Premier League sides. The Bluebirds now have every chance of making the final, something that has happened to the conquerors of Boro in this competition for the past two years. Now if they can just stay in business long enough…

Fans of cup craziness: There are not many better sights in football than seeing a goalkeeper come up for a last-minute corner, but an outfield player donning the gloves because there is no keeper on the bench is one of them. Rio Ferdinand had to do just that when Tomasz Kuszczak was sent off after coming on to replace Edwin van der Sar against Portsmouth. There was to be no Rio of the Rovers-style fairytale though, as his first touch was to pick Sulley Muntari‘s penalty out of the net as United crashed out of the cup. Spare a thought for Harry Redknapp, who has now knocked the 11-times champions for the third time with three different clubs, but that achievement has been buried by results elsewhere.

West Bromwich Albion: Widely regarded as the best footballing side not in the Premier League, West Brom showed some of the top flight boys a thing or two with their 5-1 defeat of the plucky Bristol Rovers, who found that all the FA Cup pixie dust had been used up by the time they kicked off at the Memorial Ground. A Baggies final against Portsmouth may well put the stilted top-four affairs of recent years to shame.

Everton: Back to the humdrum business of the Premier League, and Everton kept themselves well in the race for fourth place with the 1-0 win over Sunderland courtesy of Andy Johnson’s shoulder. They are now level on points with Liverpool with just nine games to go.

Jimmy Bullard: Regular readers will know all about our fondness for the Fulham dynamo, who to us is everything a footballer should be. His cracking free kick that rescued a point late on against Blackburn now means him held in even higher regard around these parts. Oh, and also gives the Cottagers a fighting chance of staying up this season.

Gilberto: He may never be fully forgiven for his horrendous debut that cost Tottenham the UEFA Cup first leg against PSV Eindhoven, but the Brazilian began his path to redemption with a smooth finish in the 4-0 drubbing of West Ham.

LOSERS

Arsene Wenger: The Arsenal manager was right to describe his team’s trip to the JJB as an “anti-climax” after their heroics at the San Siro in midweek. Four days after winning in one of the world’s top stadiums, the 0-0 draw with Wigan was played out on a muddy, churned up pitch that made you long for those lamp-induced scorch marks from a few weeks ago. It’s strange the Gunners seem to garner more sympathy than most because of the state of the pitch because of their style of play, but these are just the sort of tests you need to pass to win a 38-game league. The initiative is now handed to Manchester United, who are two points behind with a game in hand.

Avram Grant: Defeat in his first cup final could just about be forgiven, but being dumped out of the FA Cup by Cardiff will now have him branded as a big-match bottler by Chelsea fans. Even winning the Champions League may not be enough to save the Israeli from the axe come the end of the season.

Phil Bardsley: Not so long ago, the question was asked how long football would take to recover from Eduardo’s horrific leg-break. The answer would seem to be two weeks, if Sunderland defender Bardsley’s abhorrent studs-up lunge on Everton’s Steven Pienaar is anything to go by. The full back’s attack emulated his manager’s playing days for all the wrong reasons.

West Ham: Three matches, three defeats, 12 goals conceded and zero scored for Wet Sham. It looks as though the end-of-season Curbishley Curse has struck again.

Manchester City: City fans’ hopes of European football were put into context with the 2-0 defeat at Reading. Without the suspended Martin Petrov and with the uninspiring Elano, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side looked one-dimensional and lacklustre. The Swede – and his Thai boss – has brought the club a long way, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

Newcastle United: This is getting boring now, so we’ll just let Kevin Keegan do the talking: “We must make sure that this club not only survives but builds and goes forward. We still need must get to 40 points, and we need four more wins to do that.”

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