EPL: Day 15

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
December 6th, 2003 • 8:24 am

This day in the English Premier League had, unfortunately, a familiar smell… the smell of last season. But with a new twist.

First of all, Manchester United had no opposition whatsoever for 90 minutes against Aston Villa at Old Trafford and the only reason why the score stayed at 4-0 is that they didn’t play at all for most of the second half. In truth, it was a dreadfully boring game, with van Nistelrooy being his typical poaching self, and that’s about it. Nothing new compared to last season then.

Arsenal was travelling to Leicester and the game wasn’t televised… It sounds like the first half was boring as well. With Thierry Henry absent, the attack needs more inspiration from other players, I’m afraid. Then somehow Gilberto did find an opening in the second half and scored a goal, but then Ashley Cole was sent off for a foolish two-footed tackle, and Leicester managed to grab a goal at the very last minute, probably due to some defensive frailties following the sending off. Sounds all too familiar too: Arsenal getting the lead, and unable to keep it. And players getting sent off foolishly.

Then there was the nail-biting encounter between Leeds and Chelsea at Leeds. Given the news in the other games, it could have been a very bad day for Arsenal. Leeds being last in the table and Chelsea first, one couldn’t have much hope. And yet, very surprisingly, but not undeservedly, Leeds took the lead with a fabulous goal by on-loan Arsenal striker Jermaine Pennant. (We need to keep this player!) And then, I was very surprised by Leeds’ excellent defending. This is the same team that has let in so many goals this season… Somehow, they have found the guts and grit necessary to defend properly again. Everybody was involved, except for Viduka, who was still disappointing. And they defended. And defended.

They had to defend for something like 70 minutes, and almost managed to get a second goal just before half-time. A somewhat unlucky bounce, however, was enough to enable Chelsea to get a scruffy goal back. But instead of giving up, Leeds still kept on defending after that, and Chelsea didn’t create much more. Full credit to Leeds for getting a deserved point, and for halting the progress of Chelsea at the top of the table. This means that things are now tighter than ever, with only a point separating the top 3.

It was hardly the best way for Arsenal to prepare mentally for the crucial Champions’ League game at Highbury against Kiev in mid-week — but let’s hope they’ll still find the strength to snatch a victory and go through. We won’t see that game, unfortunately, so I’ll have to follow text reports on the net.

The remaining fixtures tomorrow look dreadfully boring, and I don’t think we’ll be watching them. The week-end highlights show should suffice.

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