x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Premier League best & worst: Demba Ba proves to be a handful

Stoke's substance prevails, Ferguson needs a time check and Ba gets away with a handball, writes Chris Pyke.

Demba Ba, right, scored twice for Newcastle United to forge a 2-2 draw with Reading, the first goal a sizzler but the second one not so much so.
Demba Ba, right, scored twice for Newcastle United to forge a 2-2 draw with Reading, the first goal a sizzler but the second one not so much so.

Chris Pyke


Best ideology?

One team are seen as the anti-thesis of football, one that could nullify the joy of watching Lionel Messi and his teammates should Barcelona grace the Britannia Stadium.

That is Stoke City.

The others are the so-called Premier League cousins of the Catalan giants, with similar beautiful, passing possession football.

That is Swansea City.

On Saturday the beautiful game was defeated as Stoke won 2-0 with their direct style of play. And both goals came from the "big fella" up front - Peter Crouch.

Swansea won a plethora of plaudits for starting the season with 10 goals from two wins and a draw. They have now gone three games without scoring a goal.

Stoke never get much praise yet the two teams now sit on equal points and equal goal difference, seven points and plus one.

Long ball versus keep ball - only the league positions in 32 games' time will really tell which is the dominant philosophy.


Worst timekeeping

Did he really say that? Was his tongue in his cheek?

Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United's manager, bemoaned the referee's time keeping skills at the end of his side's 3-2 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

"Fergie time" is named after the man, but without a hint of irony he told BBC Sport: "It is a flaw in the game that referees are responsible for timekeeping". He also added: "They gave four minutes. It is an insult. It is ridiculous. It is denying you the proper chance to win the football match."

Does anyone remember the great Scot making any comments over time keeping when United won their first league title in 26 years, thanks in part to a 97th-minute winner against Sheffield Wednesday?

Or in 2009 when Michael Owen scored in the 4-3 win over Manchester City six minutes into injury time? Or countless other times the Manchester side have benefited from an extra few minutes.

The man may have a point, but he just looked a sore loser.


Best start

Everton have often romped home as the season ends leaving many wondering what would have happened if they had started the campaign in such spirited form. Stuttering starts have become their trademark.

But this year we may just find out what they are made of.

Granted it is only six games into the new campaign, but the Merseyside team have looked in excellent shape, so much so that David Moyes, the manager, has said he would even pay good money to watch his team.

He also put the breaks on the fans jubilation by telling them not to get "too dizzy".

The last time Everton won 13 points from their opening six league games, in 2004/05, they finished fourth.


Worst guest

Luis Suarez does not exactly have the red carpet rolled out at any of the grounds he graces, but Carrow Road will no doubt be dreading the next time the Uruguayan comes to visit.

The Liverpool forward's hat-trick this weekend was his second in five months at Norwich City's ground. He became the first Liverpool player to score three goals in the same away league fixture in successive seasons - it was also only the 25 year old's 50th league outing for the club.

Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, described the individual display as a masterclass in attacking before praising the rest of the team for their passing style.


Best handling

Demba Ba's first goal in Newcastle United's 2-2 draw at Reading was an absolute cracker, a first-time volley on the run from a 40-yard pass by Cheick Tiote. His second was not so pretty, especially from Reading's point of view.

The Senegalese striker stooped to get his head on a cross from the left, missed the ball entirely, but managed to deflect it with his right fist through the Reading goalkeeper's legs.

It was blatant handball, except the referee and his assistant both missed it.

They were probably confused by the fact Ba ran off celebrating like he had just scored the goal of his career.



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