x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Bent loses his scoring boots for once, while Al Habsi gives Silva a helping hand

The best and worst of the Premier League weekend, included a glaring miss, a mazy dribble and a level-headed manager.

Ali al Habsi, the Wigan Athletic goalkeeper, collects the ball from the back of the net after fumbling David Silva's shot on Saturday. Jon Super / AP Photo
Ali al Habsi, the Wigan Athletic goalkeeper, collects the ball from the back of the net after fumbling David Silva's shot on Saturday. Jon Super / AP Photo

Worst miss

It is not even clear if you can actually call this a miss. Much was made of the £24 million (Dh142m) paid by Aston Villa to Sunderland for Darren Bent in January.

Villa were paying top dollar for a proven goalscorer. However, Bent also has a capacity for the odd blooper. His time at Tottenham Hotspur was remembered mostly for an open-goal miss that had Harry Redknapp, the manager, comparing Bent's football skills to those of his wife.

The England forward was at it again yesterday at Bolton Wanderers. Put through on goal early on, Bent had all the time in his world to beat Jussi Jaaskelainen. Perhaps he was picturing Ronaldo's great goal for Inter Milan in the 1998 Uefa Cup final - a triple step over shimmy that left the keeper on his behind.

Bent's effort was significantly less spectacular. As one foot tried to take the ball round Jaaskelainen to his right, Bent tackled himself with his other leg, leaving the ball to roll neatly into the keeper's arms and the Villa man with a very red face. Bent later scored one and missed another sitter. Quite a day.

Best reaction

The past week has seen Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger invoke the wrath of the English Football Association with post-match public criticism of match officials.

Refreshing, then, to see the reaction of Steve Kean, the rookie Blackburn manager, to the fact his side lost 3-2 to Fulham due to a dubious penalty decision from Mark Clattenburg.

This is a referee having a bad time of it at the moment, having been criticised for not spotting Wayne Rooney's elbow on James McCarthy last week - an incident he reportedly considered quitting over.

In the 90th minute, he spotted a foul that no one else did from a Fulham corner, allowing Bobby Zamora to win the game from the spot. Clattenburg said that Blackburn Rover's Grant Hanley was holding Aaron Hughes, even though the ball bounced yards away from the pair.

Said Kean: "Technically he was right, there was a bit of contact, but I said to him that if you go on that you'd have to give 10 penalties every game. It's his interpretation of the initial incident and I have to respect that. Referees have the hardest job in the world."

Worst fall to Earth

This time last week, Birmingham City were basking in the glory of a surprise Carling Cup final victory over Arsenal - the club's first major trophy since 1963.

Today, manager Alex McLeish wakes up with his side in the Premier League bottom three after two consecutive defeats, the latest to relegation and local rivals, West Bromwich Albion.

Conceding three goals at home (Birmingham lost 3-1) is not a good habit to get into. Birmingham are the league's lowest scorers with just 26 strikes. Next up, on Wednesday, is a trip to a revived Everton side. Not exactly an easy three points, then.

Though the cup final party is over for Birmingham, they can find solace in the fact that they have two games in hand on most of their relegation rivals and that their fixture list is relatively friendly. But Birmingham need to start scoring, fast.

Worst mistake

Ali al Habsi has had a fine season, establishing himself as Wigan Athletic's No 1 keeper in place of Chris Kirkland. But the Omani international's mistake at Manchester City on Saturday could prove costly in his side's fight against relegation.

Everyone was expecting a big City victory at Eastlands yet Wigan, bottom of the table, were coping remarkably well with the home side's fearsome strike trio - Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and David Silva on this occasion - with half time approaching.

That was when al Habsi let his concentration slip. Silva drove a strike straight at the keeper. It was hardly a powerful shot yet al Habsi ignored the golden rule of goalkeeping - get your body behind the ball. Instead, he bent down, hands between his legs and was nutmegged by Silva's effort. Embarrassing to say the least.

Wigan probably still would have lost, but the game ended 1-0, so al Habsi cost his side a point that could be very important come the end of the season.

Best goal

Foreign players often take a while to settle into English football, so no one was expecting Luis Suarez, Liverpool's Uruguayan striker, to hit the ground running after arriving from Ajax in January.

But he scored on his debut, against Stoke City, and yesterday his incredible piece of skill set the tone for an emphatic win over bitter rivals Manchester United.

Suarez picked the ball up on the edge of the box and dribbled past three United players, displaying his ability with both feet, before nutmegging Edwin van der Sar, the goalkeeper. OK, so Dirk Kuyt tapped the ball home, but all the credit goes to Suarez.