EPL: Day 16, Part 2

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
December 14th, 2003 • 12:08 pm

As usual, things didn’t turn out quite as expected. The Arsenal vs. Blackburn game at Highbury (1 – 0) was more about tension and fatigue then anything else. Those big Blackburn thugs got a handful of yellow cards (and Gilberto finally managed to get his first-ever in the EPL — quite an achievement in itself). Blackburn was more threatening offensively than a team such as recent visitors Fulham, and it couldn’t have been comfortable trying to preserve a single goal advantage for such a long period of time… But, in spite of a few close calls and decent saves by Lehmann, it ultimately boiled down to Bergkamp’s nice finish after a wonderful run by Kolo Touré — who is becoming more and more exciting as a player, trying to give Ashley Cole some competition on the offensive front! — and to Robert Pirès’ nice shot just hitting the bar early in the second half. Two goals would have been more comfortable, but one was enough, and proper order is restored at the top of the League.

Elsewhere, the real excitement was the Leeds vs. Fulham game. But teams are in somewhat surprising league positions at this stage of the season, so you didn’t quite know what to expect. It turned out to be a roller coaster of emotions for Leeds fans, who got ahead somewhat fortuitously in the first half, and then had barely finished celebrating Viduka’s return to form with a nice finish when Saha got one back for Fulham and things got very tense again for Leeds. Saha managed to expose their defensive frailties a second time 5 minutes before time and it looked as if Leeds were heading towards a disappointing draw once again — but up jumped Matteo, of all people, on a Harte free kick, and in the ball went, for what was an emotional release for the Leeds captain (who hadn’t scored in 5 years!) and for the Leeds team who had improbably rescued their three points! It won’t lift them out of the relegation zone, but 7 points in three games isn’t bad at all — and they’ll probably avoid being the “team at the bottom at Christmas”, which almost always ends up being the relegated team (and it’s looking more and more likes Wolves this year).

The Monaco – Strasbourg game in France wasn’t particularly exciting, with the Ligue 1 leaders somewhat undeservedly taking the lead just before half-time and doubling it later on in the second half, in spite of several nice attempts on goal by the Strasbourg team and especially a couple of very close free-kicks by Ljuboja. Oh well. Best wishes to Monaco in the title run.

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