Wednesday, April 2, 2008

PremCorrespondent – That’s the league done and dusted then

With the title unofficially won, the apparent highlight of this weekend seemed to be the latest instalment of a Merseyside Derby that doesn’t include Tranmere Rovers.

With a place in the doubly misnamed Champions League at stake there was more to play for than local pride. And as usual Liverpool won. Everton have done so just twice this century, neither time at Anfield. And that is unlikely to change if they keep trying to win 0-0, with a back up plan of holding out for a 1-0 defeat when Liverpool take the lead.

The result means Liverpool will now finish fourth, a fantastic reward for bringing Fernando Torres to the Premier League. The guy is a natural born winner and surely won’t be satisfied with playing the part plucky lesser neighbour to Manchester United as he previously did to Real Madrid.

So with the title settled last week, and the European places decided this week thanks to Everton looking set for fifth spot, we must look to the bottom of the league for further excitement.

Derby became the first team since Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1984 to be relegated in March. And if I’m honest I was a bit drunk that year so they may in fact have gone down as late as the 43rd of that third month.

Still, even that now retired team could surely have done better than Fulham this weekend. The 2-2 result offered all the excitement that comes from rubbish defending. And while it hammered the last nail into Derby’s coffin, it also put the deposit down on Fulham’s six-cylinder Hurse.

Completing the relegation trio are Bolton Wanderers. Two-nil and a man up against an Arsenal side with only pride to play for after failing to win in weeks, and they blew their chance of a status saving win by falling apart under minimal pressure.

Of course we shouldn’t write Bolton off - even as they languish several points adrift. Not because they don’t deserve it. They do. They are woefully inadequate and will be no great loss to top flight football. But I’m not willing to let go of the dream that others may yet join them.

And so to Wigan.

A poor penalty and their overwhelming inferiority to a Defoe inspired Pompey ensured they lost 2-0. And despite signing Bramble to make themselves one of the worst sides of this century, they sit comfortably safe above the drop zone.

Their manager Steve Bruce suggested that 35 points might be enough to keep his side up after the defeat. Sadly I fear he is right.

And thus Birmingham City seem set to survive as well. Their surprisingly impressive 3-1 win over Sven’s Manchester City came despite Franck Queudrue's first half sending off. And it put enough water between them and the Wanderers to breath easily for at least three weeks.

Elsewhere in games that no longer mattered…

Chelsea took the chance to experiment now that their league campaign is over. They tried an already tried and tested combination of boredom and luck to successfully beat Boro 1-0 at home. Sadly for the North East team, the woodwork was Chelsea’s best defender, saving the blues three times and drawing speculation that Keegan may bid £6million in the summer.

Speaking of Newcastle, they experimented with not being rubbish and actually winning a game. The last time they won two in a row was in 2007 when they beat Fulham followed by Spurs. They repeated that trick with a 4-1 win over Tottenham, who were themselves experimenting with trying not to get hurt ahead of the summer holidays.

West Ham tested their fans with the tactic of letting the home side beat them with a 95th minute stunner that Sunderland were pleased to claim during their end of season warm down.

Blackburn took their foot off the pedal too, only earning five yellow cards in an otherwise meaningless game against Reading that ended 0-0 and that few people even noticed.

And finally the new champions experimented yet again with battering opponents into stunned submission with such fast flowing, talented and powerful attacking play that Villa fans could only marvel at how this side might end up with just the title to celebrate this season.

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