x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Analysis: Best and worst in Premier League last week

Forty-one scored in a goal glut on a record-breaking Saturday – and it should have been more

Cheick Tiote's spectacular goal completed Newcastle's memorable comeback against Arsenal.
Cheick Tiote's spectacular goal completed Newcastle's memorable comeback against Arsenal.

Best comeback

The last time Joey Barton was involved in an inspirational comeback he was watching from the sidelines.

In 2004, Barton had been sent off before half time as his 10-man Manchester City side came from 3-0 down to win 4-3 away at Tottenham Hotspur in an FA Cup tie.

On Saturday, the midfielder was at the centre of an unbelievable turnaround as Newcastle United came from 4-0 down with 68 minutes gone to draw 4-4 at home to Arsenal.

It was the first time in Premier League history that a team has let a four-goal lead slip. Two bad tackles from Barton - the side of his game that has got him into trouble in the past - ironically sparked the comeback when Arsenal's Abou Diaby reacted badly, pushed Barton over and was sent off.

The Newcastle midfielder then converted two penalties and put in a display that had his manager Alan Pardew promoting his player for an England call-up.

Best goal

It has been a tough week for Newcastle after the departure of Andy Carroll, the man many fans had hoped would lead a revival.

The locally-born forward left in a transfer deadline day £35 million (Dh206.5m) move to Liverpool, leaving the club with a huge hole up front – especially as fellow striker Shola Ameobi fractured his cheekbone in midweek against Fulham.

The club's massive fan base has become accustomed to false dawns and disappointment in the Premier League era and they must have been sensing the start of a another decline when they were four goals down after 26 minutes against Arsenal.

But their incredible comeback showed that Carroll was not the only man capable of scoring a goal or two. The strike to make if 4-4, from Cheick Tiote, the Ivorian midfielder, with three minutes to go was the best of the lot.

As a clearance looped to him on the edge of the area, he displayed fine technique to fire home a left-footed volley and send St James' Park wild. Well, most of the stadium anyway - some fans had walked out in disgust at half time. Oh ye of little faith.

Worst refereeing

Saturday was a record-breaking Premier League afternoon, with 41 goals being scored, the most on a single day since 1993.

However, despite plenty of fine attacking play and finishing ability, the league's much-maligned referees played their part in the goal glut.

There were frankly awful penalty decisions at Newcastle, Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur. Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill was also booked for diving against Spurs when it should have been a penalty.

But by far the worst decision came from Kevin Friend at Goodison Park and ironically, it denied a goal. Louis Saha scored four in the match, but it should have been five.

Seamus Coleman was tugged back by Blackpool's David Carney on the right wing, but was still able to play the ball to Saha, who lashed it home. However, seconds earlier, Friend had blown his whistle for the foul, on the advice of his linesman. The referee was therefore in the ludicrous position of disallowing a perfectly legitimate goal to award a free kick. No wonder he was booed off the pitch at half time and jeered again after the restart.

Best individual display

Football is full of outrageously talented players who never quite fulfil their potential, be it through injury, temperament or just bad luck. Louis Saha is one of them. The Everton striker is in his 12th Premier League season, yet a series of injuries have restricted him to an average of just 25 league games per campaign.

His time at Manchester United was blighted by injury, though he still managed to contribute to two Premier League titles and a Champions League.

When he moved to Everton in 2008, it was just like his time at Old Trafford - when fit he had pace, skill and lethal finishing ability, but that is not very often.

It is hard not to feel sorry for Saha; you get the impression he has had more bad luck than one player deserves. For example, he picked up a needless booking in France's 2006 World Cup semi-final win over Portugal even though he was only on the pitch for five minutes, therefore missing the biggest game of his career.

That is why nobody can begrudge Saha his four-goal haul against Blackpool. Amazingly, it was the first hat-trick of his career, but he deserved it for his work rate and attitude.

Worst miss

Games between Chelsea and Liverpool are usually tight, often decided by a piece of magic or an error. So, it is not a good idea to pass up easy chances.

That is what Maxi Rodriguez, the Liverpool winger, did at Stamford Bridge yesterday, and chances do not come much easier.

This is a man who scored one of the best World Cup goals ever - a 25-yard volley for Argentina in extra time of a second-round match against Mexico in 2006.

Yet, presented with the ball barely three yards out yesterday, he found the route to goal a lot harder.

Steven Gerrard's first-half cross from the left of the area fell to Maxi with half of the goal gaping. A solid connection would have put the ball in the back of the net.

Instead the Argentine fluffed his lines, and sliced the ball on to the crossbar. Probably the miss of the season but luckily for Maxi, Liverpool went on to win.

 

twoods@thenational.ae