x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Maradona is inspiration at Cottage

The Argentine's surprise appearance in London inspires his compatriots in the best of the Premier League and there were some bad moments as well.

Diego Maradona, the former Argentina national team coach, watched as Carlos Tevez inspired Manchester City to a 3-0 win at Craven Cottage yesterday against Fulham.
Diego Maradona, the former Argentina national team coach, watched as Carlos Tevez inspired Manchester City to a 3-0 win at Craven Cottage yesterday against Fulham.

Best lucky charm: Maradona

The Argentina legend turned up unexpectedly at Craven Cottage last night when Fulham took on Manchester City and he seemed to inspire City's Albiceleste contingent.

Carlos Tevez, who has been likened to Diego Maradona for his stocky build, strength on the ball and clinical eye for goal, opened the scoring in the first half.

The 26-year-old, who netted twice against Mexico at this summer's World Cup when "El Diego" was the national team manager, outmuscled Carlos Salcido, the El Tri defender, before smashing the ball into the corner

Tevez's compatriot Pablo Zabaleta doubled City's lead 25 minutes later with a superb drive from distance. The two combined again in the second half when Tevez exquisitely flicked the ball over Mark Schwarzer with his back to goal from Zabaleta's fierce drive into the box.

Zabaleta was overlooked for Maradona's World Cup squad, but he showed his worth last night.

City want to buy the best. In Maradona, they may have acquired the best lucky charm in football.


Best goal: Varney

With Blackpool having failed to win in their previous three matches and Wolverhampton Wanderers managing just one win in their past nine, something had to give at Bloomfield Road, but few expected it to come in such spectacular fashion.

Blackpool had not claimed a victory over Wolves for 42 years, but showed no signs of playing second fiddle when Luke Varney, in only the third minute, took a long ball down on his chest out on the left before volleying - to quote his coach Ian Holloway - an "out-of-this-world" dipping drive into the top corner from 20 yards.

Varney is on loan from Championship side Derby County, but has scored four league goals in the top flight so far for the Seasiders. Even if he extends his deal and remains in the Premier League for the rest of this season, he will struggle to top the magnificent goal he struck on Saturday.


Worst loser: Wenger

Arsenal's French manager has appeared increasingly animated in recent weeks. Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, labelled him "a nutter" earlier in the season when Arsene Wenger confronted the fourth official following the Gunners' 1-1 draw with Sunderland.

On Saturday, as Arsenal threw away a 2-0 goal lead at home to Spurs, Wenger was caught throwing his dummy, sorry, his water bottle, out of his pram, sorry, his dugout.

When Younes Kaboul, the Tottenham defender, crashed home a header to give Spurs their first league win at Arsenal since 1993, Wenger was pictured crouched like a man demented picking at the grass before putting his head in his hands.

In a post-match interview, the 61-year-old revealed his eyesight is sharp enough to conclude that the free kick leading to Spurs' equaliser was not fair because Alex Song had taken the ball fairly. When quizzed on Cesc Fabregas's handball that came directly from the free kick, Wenger answered: "[Long pause...] I did not see it."


Best Decision: McLeish

Alex McLeish had said before his Birmingham City side hosted Chelsea, the league leaders, on Saturday that victory was not out of the question. He also said that Alexander Hleb, a summer signing, had to step up and start playing to his level of ability. How surprising it was then when McLeish overlooked Hleb in favour of 33-year-old Lee Bowyer when it became apparent Craig Gardner, Birmingham's top goalscorer this season, was not going to be fit to feature.

Bowyer certainly was not going to see his own level of ability put into question. The midfielder put in a fine performance and scored the only goal of the game as Birmingham pulled off a huge upset. It was the former Leeds United player's first goal of 2010 and it could be one of the most important he will score at St Andrews.

The win lifted Birmingham out of the relegation zone and up to mid-table. It also stopped a run of 11 games with only one win. And, crucially, it proved McLeish was right in his decision to opt for players who bring results rather than inflated reputations.


Worst performance: Coloccini

Newcastle United's Argentine defender, Fabricio Coloccini, was given a torrid time by Bolton Wanderers' physical frontline of Johan Elmander, the in-form Swede, and Kevin Davies, the Englishman oft-overlooked by his national side. Coloccini was caught dallying in defence for Bolton's second goal.

Under pressure he passed to Danny Simpson, who was then dispossessed before Chung-yong Lee provided Bolton a two-goal cushion. It was the 28-year-old again who was at fault for Bolton's fourth, being outmuscled by Elmander, who cooly rounded Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal.

Moments later Coloccini's afternoon was ended prematurely when he was adjudged to have elbowed Elmander in the face. Replays appeared to show vicious intent, but either way, his arm was high and dangerous and Howard Webb, the referee, had little choice but to send him off.