It seems that all of the Premier League title chasers who took the pitch on Saturday set their alarm clocks a little later, because they all left it late in matches against pesky opponents.
But three points is three points, and especially when they come away from home, you can chalk it up as a good day.
Manchester United are in a familiar place atop the table, at least until Monday night. The Reebok hasn’t been one of United’s favorite places in recent seasons, and a draw away to Bolton would’ve been a decent result. That’s what it looked like it would be, until Dimitar Berbatov popped up to break Bolton hearts with time running out. Don’t look now, but he’s heating up, with three goals in his last four league matches.
As the clock ticked down inside the last five minutes of normal time at Stamford Bridge, Luiz Felipe Scolari might have been contemplating life after Chelsea, because the Blues were headed for a shock home defeat against Stoke that would have piled even more pressure on Big Phil and intensified (false) reports about Roman Abramovich wanting to rid himself of the club.
Given how they’ve played recently, you’d think they’re miles out of the title race, but they’re actually only two points behind and a bad day by Manchester United and Liverpool away from going top again.
As recently as last season, anytime I was watching Arsenal play from behind or in a tie game heading into the late stages, there was an air of inevitability about them getting a goal that they needed. There’s a lot less certainty about them this season, but when they needed goals late away to Hull City, they got not one, but two to seal a vital three points.
So, the usual suspects are still in it, but pesky Aston Villa are in as good a position as any. Villa could’ve gone third had Chelsea not made their late comeback against Stoke, but they could easily be behind Arsenal in fifth if not for an ugly, Mike Dean-influenced 2-1 win at Sunderland. I bet Howard Webb isn’t feeling so bad now.
Still, Villa are only three points behind and very much in the title race. Are they good, or are they just living off of luck? When things are going your way, they’re going your way, but luck isn’t the only reason why Villa have a chance to do something special this season.
Manchester City did pick up a much needed win against Wigan, who’ll feel hard done by that they didn’t get anything from their last two matches against City and United. For City though, the talk is still about Kaka, who has a bit of a decision to make in the coming days. I’m saving space for him on the confirmed English Premier League transfers list, but will it happen this week? Next week? In the summer? Ever?
They may or may not be getting Kaka this week, but they could be getting Craig Bellamy from West Ham for the questionable price of 14m. Bellamy thought he could whine his way into a Tottenham move, but as it happens, he’s the last player that Tottenham fans want. It also happens that he’s the last player that the Hammers needed in hammering Fulham. Ooh, they showed him!
Tottenham fans don’t want Bellamy, but I’m sure they want better results than what their team’s spitting out right now. Three points were theirs for the taking at home against Portsmouth, but Harry Redknapp just had to be bullish about starting Gareth Bale, didn’t he? A draw lifts them out of the relegation zone for now, thanks to the ever-helpful goal difference, but they may come to rue not making the most of the wealth of opportunities they had.
There is one more match to be played, and it’ll be the first of two meetings between Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton at Anfield in the span of a week. You can follow today’s match via our live match commentary, brought to you as always by Victor Li. Of course, these meetings can never get old for these two sets of fans, and speaking of old, how about going back more than a century in this famed rivalry?
And curiously, even though Liverpool can quickly retake a two-point lead atop the table if they take all three points from the Toffees tomorrow, it seems that Liverpool fans are getting a little nervous about Manchester United’s ascension to the top of the table.
If you were one of the many thousands upon thousands of fans to watch your favorite side at home in person this weekend, hopefully your side made it worth the ticket prices. With the way the economy is going, I certainly can’t blame you if you want to do less watching in person and save money by watching at home.