x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Premier League best & worst: Best QPR goal adds to Newcastle highlights

Another spectacular goal from Newcastle United, while Modric's shooting boots could do with a polish.

Leon Best scored his first goal in nearly four months.
Leon Best scored his first goal in nearly four months.

Best Best - Leon

Given the relatively stringent budgetary constraints Alan Pardew has had to work within since he took charge at what was then St James' Park, his Newcastle United really should be a no-frills, workaday XI.

However, the Toon are partial to the odd eye-catching goal at the moment.

Before going to the African Cup of Nations, Demba Ba had been putting together an impressive portfolio on his own, most notable his forget-me-not against Manchester United. Ryan Taylor is potent from long-range free-kicks, while Hatem Ben Arfa's effort against Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup was utterly sublime.

The magic dust has even landed on the unlikely figure of Leon Best, the shot-shy forward. You would not have guessed from the deftness of his match-clinching effort against Queens Park Rangers yesterday that Best had been without a goal in nearly four months.

Worst job - Refereeing

Level par is the best referees can ever hope for. There is no way for them to get ahead of the game: if they get a decision right, well, that is what they are supposed to do; get one wrong and the whole world hates them.

Even when they are right, someone will say they are wrong. Yakubu's foul on Danny Murphy, the Fulham midfielder, in Blackburn's rousing win at Ewood Park was a case in point.

"We felt as though it looked a nasty one but I was surprised when it was a red card and not yellow," Steve Kean, the harrowed Blackburn manager, said of the glaringly-obvious red card offence.

Very nice chap, that Yakubu. Would never have meant to hurt Murphy. Which is all right then.

Perhaps all referees should be given a sheet of character references for all the players they officiate on a Saturday afternoon, and base all their decisions on that.

Best celebration - Lampard

The statistics are not available for how many times Frank Lampard has made a beeline directly to his manager, Andre Villas-Boas, to celebrate scoring a goal this season. If it is more than none, the "New Mourinho" should count himself lucky.

The England midfielder's matchwinner against Sunderland was his 11th of the campaign for Chelsea, and he toasted it by running in the opposite direction to his boss and taking the acclaim of the fans on his own.

As is his wont. Villas-Boas reportedly blanked Lampard on the team bus, when he opted out of one of the "strongly advised" team celebrations, which includes the coaching staff, after a Chelsea goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers recently.

"It's not coincidence that he's one of the best goal scoring midfielders in the world and his timing is magnificent," Villas-Boas said of Lampard after the win over Sunderland, most likely through gritted teeth.

Worst myopia - Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson did not get where he is today without believing the whole world is against him and Manchester United.

"There has been some very negative things written about [the return of Paul Scholes], but that is probably just because it is United," the Scottish manager said in a television interview.

Which suggests he only reads what is written about United. He should have heard what people were saying about over-the-hill Thierry Henry down at Arsenal.

Admittedly, Scholes is arguably the best English player of the past 15 years, but people should surely be allowed to question whether he has had his time?

He retired because he, like many observers, felt he was past it. An availability crisis in United's midfield, allied to an early midlife one for the player, and suddenly he is up to it again.

It is up to Scholes to prove he is worth it, and he went a good way about doing so with his goal against Bolton Wanderers.

Worst shooting - Modric

All the greats have one significant flaw. Achilles had that dodgy heel, Scholes gets laughed at when he tries to make a tackle, while Luka Modric is in danger of suffering the same when he shoots.

Many Manchester United supporters regard Tottenham Hotspur's Croatian maestro as the potential long-term replacement for Scholes.

He directs operations in the Spurs midfield with Scholes-esque dexterity, but he could certainly do with some lessons from the ginger schemer on how to shoot from range.

Modric had five shots from the edge of the box against Wolverhampton Wanderers at White Hart Lane, most of which dribbled wastefully wide.

He did get a goal eventually, but only when Wayne Hennessey, the otherwise solid Wolves goalkeeper, apparently showed pity on him and kindly let the ball roll under him.