x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Jermaine Beckford's tame show - but they all count

Jermaine Beckford shows that it doesn't matter how you score, as long as the ball hits the back of the net, in our review of the Premier League weekend.

Striker's brace was hardly the stuff of dreams, but a win is a win, writes Thomas Woods

Worst finishing

When you are paid to score goals, it does not matter how the ball finds the back of the net, just that it gets there. Sure, every player would like to head the ball as well as Alan Shearer every time, or connect with it as sweetly as a Wayne Rooney bicycle kick, but it is not going to happen.

Perhaps one of the most famous exponents of that "just-get-the-ball-in-the-net" mentality is Pippo Inzaghi, the AC Milan striker, who has two Champions League winners medals and almost 300 career goals. Of those strikes, he probably connected cleanly with about 10 per cent of them.

On Saturday, Everton's Jermaine Beckford scored two of the softest shots you will see. The first, scuffed off his heel, probably was not even going in until it hit the knee of Titus Bramble, the Sunderland defender. The second he hit so tamely that it took about five seconds to trickle into the net between the goalkeeper and a defender. But a goal is a goal and the record books read Everton 2-0 Sunderland, Beckford (2).


Worst self control

Attacking players these days have it easy, when even legitimate tackles by defenders are penalised by referees. In the past players with such no-nonsense nicknames as Ron "Chopper" Harris and Norman "Bite Yer Legs" Hunter used to ply their trade in England's top division.

Things changed in 1994, when Fifa outlawed tackling from behind. Nowadays, centre-forwards are like a protected species, with even the slightest contact from a defender earning them a free kick.

Even so, defenders do their best to unsettle attackers with the odd nudge, a word in the ear and perhaps a little dig to the ankles every now and then. It is a forward's job to ignore it, play their game and score goals. That is why Premier League strikers are paid so much.

What is unacceptable is to react in the way that Blackpool's DJ Campbell did against Wolves. Ian Holloway, his manager, attempted a half-hearted excuse for his forwards' behaviour.

"He's got scrapes down the back of his Achilles. [Richard] Stearman had kicked him however many times before that," Holloway said. But does not mean that Campbell had a right to turn round and perform a double-handed throat lunge on his marker. A red card and rightly so.


Best signing

When Sam Allardyce was their manager, Bolton Wanderers had a habit of making shrewd loan signings to give their season a boost and it seems that, though "Big Sam" is long gone, the tradition remains.

Last season, Owen Coyle picked up Arsenal's Jack Wilshere in the January transfer window. The move was a success and look at Wilshere now - an Arsenal regular, England international and preparing for Barcelona in the Champions League. This season, another hot prospect from London has made the journey up north. Daniel Sturridge, the 21-year-old Chelsea striker, was given the chance of regular first team football by Coyle and he has not disappointed. His equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle United was his fourth goal in four league games to move Bolton up to seventh place.


Best goal ratio

While bigger names arrived in the Premier League this summer, Javier Hernandez has proved to be on of the shrewdest signings. The Mexican impressed at the World Cup, but Manchester United had already agreed an undisclosed fee for him - thought to be around £7 million (Dh41.3m). And he has made some impression at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are United's first-choice strikers, but when Hernandez has been called on, he has delivered.

Two goals on Saturday at Wigan Athletic mean Hernandez has now netted nine times in eight Premier League starts, a ratio most strikers can only dream of. Many of his appearances have come off the bench though, earning Hernandez comparisons to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the great Norwegian forward, who once scored four for United in 10 minutes as a substitute against Nottingham Forest. Hernandez has a long way to go to reach Solskjaer's level, but he has made a quick start.


Best goals

West Ham United have struggled for most of the season, but they suddenly look capable of racking up a score against any team.

The Hammers have now scored three times or more in five of their last six games. Yesterday, in their surprise 3-1 victory over Liverpool, it seemed like they were having a best goal competition.

Demba Ba's headed strike - his fourth in four games - that made it 2-0 was pretty special. The Ivory Coast forward had to stretch his neck, with Scott Parker's cross just behind him, to guide a header into the top corner.

Carlton Cole's late goal that sealed the win, had everything you would expect from a powerful forward - the strength to hold off Martin Skrtel, the pace and control to power through on goal and the composure to drive a shot past Pepe Reina.

But it was Parker's opener that takes the prize. A one-two with Thomas Hitzlsperger was finished with a beautiful curled effort with the outside of his foot into the far corner. A delightful moment from the club's player of the season.