I wonder if anyone who checks in with our site - other than a scattering of twitter friends who I know to be footy fans - actually noticed that Closing Arguments took a week off last week. After a string of disappointing results from my Liverpool Reds, their Week 6 win against the Wolves at home was not much to write home about. Not to mention the elation and single-mindedness of many Buffalo sports fans following the Pats game, which made it difficult to think that an EPL recap was really the best use of my time.
Well, after the Bills game in Cincinnati, and my accompanying desire to steer clear of Bills analysis, the footy fans amongst you can rejoice!! All three of you! After all, considering it was a weekend full of several cross-town derbies, it would be silly not to take note of some of the crazy stories that went down in England (and Wales...Go Swansea!) this weekend.
So click through for all your soccer needs.
Liverpool takes care of business at Goodison Park
With the recent history of big spending at Anfield, not to mention the deeper history of the Liverpool's comparative success, this fixture did have the feel of David v. Goliath, small v. big market - made all the more compelling because the two teams are in the same city. And, happily for U.S. Men's team fans, the match was also a point of interest since it gave us a chance to see Tim Howard at work.
In the end, though, the big story of the match became officiating (a theme which continued to run through my weekend of audio-visual consumption of sport). About half way through the first half, Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell went in for a tackle on Luis Suarez. The tackle was fairly a foul, but likely not quite deserving of a yellow caution. When Martin Atkinson, the match referee, pulled red, even Liverpool fans were scratching their heads at the severity of the call. Rodwell was sent off, and yet another Merseyside Derby ends up being mired in controversy and squabbling.
The Reds, playing with an extra man for 2/3s of the game, took their sweet ass time putting a decent effort together. A penalty was earned in the first half, but Tim Howard was more that equal to the task as he made a sprawling save to his left against Dirk Kuyt. Howard was on point throughout the game, and kept the Toffees in it. Yet again, the guy proves that he is one of the bets goaltenders in the world (IMO), a player who consistently outplays the vast majority of his national team mates, and I really have to wonder how long a middling club like Everton will be able to keep him.
Despite Howard's play, it was only a matter of time, and by the time Kenny Dalglish dipped onto his bench with the substitutions of Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy, Everton's legs were clearly getting tired. Starting in the 70th minute, the Reds got it going with a goal - a LONG OVERDUE GOAL - from Andy Carroll. His first with the club during league play (he had one against Brighton in Carling Cup play), it was worth the wait. Anyone who wants to say that he doesn't have a lot of quality in his boots is not really paying attention. Whether he, and his team, can put together enough good play so that quality may shine through is a separate issue. Regardless, Carroll's half-volley was enough to beat Howard, and with that the match was essentially won.
Luis Suarez tacked on an insurance marker a short while later with a great individual effort. Seriously, what else can you say about a player who has at moments carried the team on his back since joining them last season? El Pistolero will shoot you down.
The match ended 2-0, and with the controversy of the early and cheap red card, it'll be talked about for a few more weeks as the club teams are on a break for international play. Adding fuel to the fire is the continuing devolution of the Merseyside Derby - previously referred to as the Friendly Derby - into a chance for the lowest common denominators of a fan base to take center stage. While some derbies - the Birmingham Derby, for example - have been riddled with the kind of violence and stupidity that one easily associates with British football, the Merseyside Derby has been a much more civil affair, to the fans credit. On Saturday, Everton fans had every reason to be angry about the red card, but their decision to throw bottles and coins at various Liverpool players indicated a shocking lack of class. WHAT THE FUCK BLUES?!? YOU ARE BOTH BAD AT SPORT AND OBSERVING SPORT. For the non-familiar, that would be like Mets fans belting Jeter with subway tokens while he's at the plate because there was a blown double play call in the 2nd inning. Fucking inexcusable. This may be turning into one of the most contentious and increasingly spiteful derbies in the Premiership, but I nevertheless hope that fellow Reds supporters don't continue this bullshit when the match is played at Anfield later this season.
Tottenham wins, Arsenal continues to spiral
Eat it, Arsenal. EAT. IT.
Nothing like a dagger of a shot from 30 yards out by Kyle Walker -- WHO? -- to send the Gunners and their supporters* home doing their best Wenger-hands-in-the-face impression on the trip home from White Hart Lane.
The match itself was another North London derby for the books. Three goals were scored -- not in any dramatic comeback fashion like Spurs did at the Emirates last year -- but still, quality strikes that gave each side hope for the win. If I remember correctly, Arsenal had most of the possession throughout the match, but Spurs took advantage of the short time they had the ball. Bale was a god damn force on the left side, giving the Gunners back line fits. Per Mertesacker, welcome to the derby, now get the ball out of your own net.
Rafael Van der Vaart put Spurs on the board first with a gorgeous take down and swift boot to put the ball past Szezesny (Polish much!?) for the 1-0 lead. That's how it stayed until halftime, but the action was fast and frantic all the way through. As mentioned, Gareth Bale was a Welshman on a mission for Spurs all match, providing glorious pace and zipping crosses that made the Arsenal back four weak in the knees. However, the Gunners took charge at the start of the second half and got the tying goal on very slick pass that went across goal and found the foot Aaron Ramsey.
The tight, but action filled match went on, but it wasn't until Kyle Walker said "Why the fuck not!?" with his right foot and blew one by Szezseny. As I watched that magical strike weave it's way into the back of the net, I screamed for the second time that morning, upsetting my 4 month old son. He's learning already. Arsenal did the best they could to even it up and earn a point, but it was for naught. Spurs reign supreme in North London for the time being, free to riot and cause a stir on the backs of a derby win.
Up next is a match on the Tyne against Newcastle, but it's not for another two weeks because of stupid, stupid international matches. Whatever, Euro 2012. As always, enjoy the matches folks, and come on you Spurs.
*Supporters is used loosely here since it's just assumed that those who watch and follow Arsenal football do so only on the hopes of "looking cool" in their faded Henry kits.
Fulham welcomes QPR to the West London Derby with a Proper Eff You
Well, that appeared to matter not a fucking lick to Clint Dempsey and his boys, as Fulham cruised to a 6-0 victory. Bananas. The upside of this whole situation is that the West London derby has more typically been between Fulham and Chelsea, and with QPR looking godawful in this one, West Londoners should at least have watchable matches between the Cottagers and the Blues later this season.
The goal scoring, as plentiful as it was, it was largely on the back of Andrew Johnson's triple. Dude just poured it on early, grabbing the first goal in the SECOND MINUTE. That's silly. As for Dempsey, another real American hero from the weekend, his goal took the Cottagers to a 5 goal lead. Fulham improved their standing to 12th, and in a sport where a goal-scorers touch can be ignited by a big game, Cottager supporters have to be hopeful that the team can continue to climb to the upper half of the table.
In the non-derby action of the weekend, Manchester United had a surprisingly tough time against Norwich City, winning 2-0. This is actually a great result from Norwich, being that they didn't allow 5+ like so many teams have against the Mancs this season. Manchester City and Chelsea each kept pace with the top dogs, winning their matches by 4-0 and 5-1, respectively.
In the surprise match of the weekend, Swansea City shutout Stoke with a score of 2-0. As an ardent Stoke hater, this was pleasing. Not that the game was on TV, so what do I know.
And, finally, at least with respect to the games I give a crap about, Newcastle United won again, putting them in the 4th place position. Their win at Wolverhampton was not too surprising, but their place on the table is a bit of a shocker. Man of the Match Tim Krull, Newcastle goalkeeper, played a stellar game, including a key 88th minute save to preserve the win. Solid, Magpies.
And that does it for the EPL action of the weekend. The league is off for a couple weeks while international play gets going. If you're still reading, you like the footy, so should be happy to hear that the Yachtsman and I (along with the Yachtswoman + a friend to be named later) will be heading to Red Bull Stadium on October 11th for US v. Ecuador. We could not be more excited for this. We have 10th row in the corner, so my tentative plan is to heckle Ecuadorians about Darwin and finches. Evolution FTW. Yachter and I hope to hit you all with some in-game thoughts via Twitter, some of them audio thoughts on Soundcloud, so make sure to check out @theycallmedubs and @Y_vo on the 11th. I'm looking at you, @Mechaphil.