x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

EPL analysis: Rooney's bicycle kick in all-time best

Wayne Rooney's matchwinning bicycle kick in the Manchester derby was among the Premier League's greatest ever goals, while Ian Holloway deserves respect for standing up to sexist fans.

Best goal

The Premier League has been the stage for some cracking goals in its time.

Remember Tony Yeboah's fearsome volley which crashed in off the bar for Leeds United against Liverpool in 1995?

Or what about Denis Bergkamp's logic-defying flick past Nikos Dabizas to score for Arsenal against Newcastle United in 2002?

Or David Beckham's iconic goal from the halfway line for Manchester United at Wimbledon in 1996?

On Saturday, Wayne Rooney conjured up a strike to match them all.

Anyone who has ever tried a bicycle kick in training or during a kick about will know how hard it is to pull off.

First you have to launch yourself in the air with reckless abandon, then your timing has to be spot on so that you are upside down as the ball reaches your foot (if you have managed to get your legs in the right place that is).

After all that, the connection with the ball must be sweet enough and accurate enough to at least send it towards the goal, hopefully away from the keeper.

When your Average Joe tries a bicycle kick, 99 times out of 100 he will end up on the floor looking rather foolish and probably in a lot of pain.

So for Rooney to pull off such a perfect overhead kick in the heat of a Premier League game was spectacular. For it to be the winning goal in the Manchester derby was magical.

Best full debut

Professional footballers earn a decent living, that's for sure. Any player turning out in one of the top European leagues is getting paid a pretty good sum to kick a ball around each day. It is hard to feel too sorry for them.

Yet a contract with a Premier League club is something else. This is a league that pays better than anywhere else, with some of the best players earning upwards of Dh900,000 every week.

So in that context, it was possible to feel just a smidgen sorry for Demba Ba, the France-born Senegalese striker from a poor background, who was on the verge of a big-money move from Germany to Stoke City in the January transfer window, until he failed a medical.

It was not as if he could go back to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim - Ba had refused to train for his club in an attempt to clinch a move.

Luckily for him, West Ham United stepped in with a loan move and he paid them back on Saturday with a two-goal performance on his first start that saw them come back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at West Bromwich Albion

Best quotes

Plenty has been said about the sexist comments which saw Andy Gray and Richard Keys - two television pundits who have been synonymous with Premier League coverage in England since it began - lose their jobs two weeks ago.

But spare a thought for the poor woman who was the subject of their chauvinistic chatter. A few weeks ago Sian Massey was an unknown. Now the lineswoman will forever be synonymous with the duo's sexist demise - as if she would have been given the job if she didn't know the offside rule. She is going to be the focus of attention for a while until the row is consigned to memory.

Massey was back in Premier League action on Saturday, running the line for the Blackpool-Aston Villa match. And she had to contend with chants of "there's only one Andy Gray" from some of the home fans.

They may have found it funny, just as some supporters probably thought it was clever to sing racist songs in the dark days of the 1980s.

Luckily, Massey had the support of a knight in shining armour, so to speak, as the colourful Ian Holloway, Blackpool's manager, sprang to her defence.

"I didn't like some of the shouts," he said. "Is that funny? 'There is only one Andy Gray'. That's rude. You have got to forget about all of that and get on with things, haven't we." Well said.

Best comeback

Niko Kranjcar looked to be on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur in the transfer window.

The talented Croatian playmaker found himself the victim of manager Harry Redknapp's penchant for signing midfielders with Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart, Tom Huddlestone, Stephen Pienaar and Jermaine Jenas ahead of him in the pecking order.

Kranjcar had started only one game all season. At the end of November, he told a Croatian new agency: "As things stand, a transfer somewhere else is not that far away. I am not angry or too disappointed.

"I don't want to spend my years just sitting on the bench because I love this sport, which is why I'm unhappy when I'm not playing more regularly."

However, no move materialised and fortunes have started to changed for the midfielder. With the Spurs squad hit by injuries, Kranjcar has begun to feature and for the second consecutive week he has proved his side's match winner, keeping them in with an outside chance in the title race.

Last week it was a last-minute screamer to beat Bolton Wanderers. On Saturday it was fine volley to see off a dangerous Sunderland team. It proves the value of having a big squad and is a credit to Kranjcar for putting his head down and not sulking like some players would have.