Manchester derby boils over, is the rivalry out of control?
Premier League talking points from Torres's brace to Cazorla's dive
THE MANCHESTER derby was a thriller that showcased everything good about the Premier League. The game had goals, skills, passion and a dose of late drama. But, once again, things got out of hand, and the headlines today concern an injury to Rio Ferdinand caused by a coin thrown from the crowd, a pitch invasion and allegations of racism. Ferdinand tried to make light of the incident, but the FA has launched an inquiry and Alex Ferguson pointed out that it was not the first time that his players had been hit by missiles this season. At the game against Chelsea objects were thrown on the pitch and Match of the Day showed footage of Wayne Rooney being bombarded with coins as he went to take a corner. As Paul Hayward in The Daily Telegraph noted: "The volcanic end to this derby confirmed an open secret. The Mancunian feud is in danger of veering out of control."
HAS BALOTELLI BLOWN IT?
Is it all over for Mario Balotelli? Perhaps it was his performance in last year's rout at Old Trafford, when he scored twice and unveiled the famous Why Always Me? T-shirt that persuaded Roberto Mancini to play him against United, but the decision backfired. The erratic Italian was, as The Guardian put it, "close-to-hopeless" during his 51 minutes on the pitch. Then there was the usual bout of histrionics and a petulant march down the tunnel when he was finally substituted. Did he really feel that hard done by? The impact made by Carlos Tevez said much about the relative merits of the two footballers. "It was impossible not to look back and see the selection of Balotelli as a decision that cast further doubt on Mancini's judgment," noted Richard Williams in the Guardian.
FERNANDO TORRES BACK ON FORM
Chelsea won their first league game since mid-October as they triumphed 3-1 over Sunderland, and after watching Fernando Torres score twice and create a third, new boss Rafa Benitez announced that he expected the Blues to challenge for the league title. The former Liverpool boss may not be a popular man among the Chelsea faithful, but if he has managed to spark Torres back into life then he will have done his job prospects no harm. "Should he lead Chelsea to victory in the Club World Cup this month and beat Manchester City and United to the domestic title, even the supporters who chanted Di Matteo’s name immediately after Chelsea had taken the lead on Saturday may have to begrudgingly admit he deserves a crack at it long term," noted The Daily Telegraph.
IS CAZORLA A DIVER?
The issue of diving is back in the spotlight after Santi Cazorla won a controversial penalty for Arsenal against West Brom on Saturday. The Spanish midfielder appeared to go to ground under pressure from Steven Reid without being touched, but two days later opinion is still divided. While the Daily Mail's position was clear, it accused the player of "cheating" and Graham Poll called for divers to be banned, others were less outraged. One Arsenal blogger was still insisting on Monday morning that it was a clear foul and anyone who claimed there had been no contact was "blind". Interesting.
LIVERPOOL SHOW THEIR METTLE
Liverpool leapfrogged West Ham in the table thanks to their win at Upton Park on Sunday, and the manner of their victory says much about how the team is developing under Brendan Rodgers. The Reds, who endured a nightmarish start to the season, are now on a run that has seen them lose only once in 11 league games. Even more impressive was the fact that they were without Luis Suarez for the trip to east London. However, Jonjo Shelvey, playing in an advanced role, won rave reviews, even if his late winner turned out to be a James Collins own goal. "Fans will simply hope that Shelvey’s form and the fortunes of their team can continue on this steep upward trend," said Goal.com.