x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Best & Worst: Comeback kid Darren Fletcher raises smiles

The Scotsman's goal should make any fan happy, while a couple of keepers were just laughable, writes Thomas Woods.

Manchester United's Darren Fletcher, right, marked his first Premier League game of the season with a goal against QPR. Jon Super / AP Photo
Manchester United's Darren Fletcher, right, marked his first Premier League game of the season with a goal against QPR. Jon Super / AP Photo

Worst goalkeeping error I

Ali Al Habsi, the first player from the Arabian Gulf to appear in the Premier League, is a pretty underrated goalkeeper. He has played a big part in helping Wigan Athletic avoid relegation the past two seasons.

But when he makes an mistake, it is usually an absolute howler. A schoolboy error at Manchester City towards the end of the 2010/11 season springs to mind, when he gifted three points to the home side by letting a David Silva shot trickle through his hands.

Saturday's blooper at home to Reading eclipsed that, by a long way.

A shot from a Reading player deflected off a defender and looped high into the air. Players turned their attention away, expecting Al Habsi to make a simple catch.

Instead, the Omani managed to deflect the ball into the net, via his hands and his face. Luckily for him, the midfielder Jordi Gomez saved the day with a last-minute winner, to complete a hat-trick and make it 3-2.

Worst goalkeeping error II

Maybe Al Habsi had been influenced watching Saturday's early kick off, West Bromwich Albion's fine 4-2 victory at Sunderland that moved the Baggies up to third.

Steve Clarke's side were helped on their way by an awful blunder from Sunderland's Simon Mignolet.

A through ball from West Brom's Chris Blunt overshot its intended target, Shane Long, by a good five feet. Mignolet flopped onto the ground to collect the ball, except he didn't.

The Belgian must have had his mind on something else, maybe he was longing for the days when Al Ain's Asamoah Gyan led the line for his now goal-shy team.

He took his eye off the ball and let it bobble out of his gloves, straight into the path of Long, who was the only player to carry on running. Credit the West Brom striker for chasing a lost cause.

Best comeback

Manchester United have as many haters as they have fans, but even they must have surely mustered a smile after Darren Fletcher scored in the victory over Queens Park Rangers.

The Scottish midfielder, marking his first Premier League game of the season, put United into the lead and they went on to win 3-1.

Fletcher had not played in the league since November 2011, after taking a break to combat the bowel condition ulcerative colitis. He had feared he would never play again but, even though he faces a daily challenge to keep the illness under control, Fletcher made a quicker-than-expected return to action.In an era of mercenary footballers who will fly anywhere from China to Dagestan in search of big money, its heartwarming to see a one-club man, and captain of his country, get back in action for his club - even if it is United.

Worst anticlimax

It had all the makings of a grudge match. Former manager returns to club he left in the summer, taking team's best player with him. On top of that, home side's centre-back releases autobiography in which he says he wanted (or wants) to "knock out" visiting team's controversial Uruguayan star striker.

Swansea City v Liverpool should have had some tension in the air. In the end, it was a bit of a let down.

There were no goals. There were no flying tackles. No red cards. There wasn't even any trouble between Ashley Williams, the man with the new book, and Luis Suarez.

And because these were two teams guided by Brendan Rodgers, they simply cancelled each other out. Swansea passed the ball about for five minutes, then Liverpool did the same.

Worst transfer rumour

Since he took the reigns at QPR any player that has once graced a team managed by Harry Redknapp - and that is four previous Premier League clubs - seems to be linked with a move to Loftus Road.

Peter Crouch and Scott Parker are two luminaries doing the rounds in British newspapers, but surely the most laughable is Jermain Defoe making the move across London.

The England striker notched his sixth and seventh goals of the league campaign against West Ham United yesterday, and is thriving under Andre Villas-Boas. But then again Redknapp has signed him three times in the past.

However if Tottenham were to sell Defoe they would be left with just one senior striker in Emmanuel Adebayor, and that would be a crazy thing to do. Just ask Brendan Rodgers.


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