Man City's title hopes hit by goal of the season... again

Mar 26, 2012
Jonathan Harwood

Premier League talking points from the genius of Peter Crouch to the madness of Djibril Cisse

Poor old Manchester City. Their title challenge was derailed by Stoke and an absolutely ridiculous goal from Peter Crouch on Saturday, just over a year after a wonder strike from Wayne Rooney helped kill off their title hopes last season.

Who knows what possessed Crouch to try his luck from 30 yards, when his back was to goal and the angle was against him, but it paid off in spectacular fashion was the ball flew over Joe Hart and into the corner of the net.

City eventually emerged with a point, and returned to the top of the table on goal difference, but if Manchester United beat Fulham tonight they will open a three-point gap at the top of the table and that means that in all likelihood they will be able to visit the Etihad at the end of April and play for a draw, knowing that a point would all but win them the league.

Roberto Mancini refused to speak to the press afterwards, claiming that he did not want to talk himself into trouble because he was so angry about Stoke's physical approach to the match. That can hardly have come as a surprise to the Italian and it is more likely that he simply couldn't believe his luck after seeing Crouch's goal.

After all City fans will not need reminding that this is the second season in a row that the goal of the season has been scored against them in a crucial encounter. Last year it was Rooney, this time Crouch.


Magnificent seven for reborn Arsenal
Now it is seven out of seven for Arsenal, who put three past hapless Aston Villa at the Emirates on Saturday. That win along with the draw between Chelsea and Spurs means that the Gunners are now eight points clear of fifth plance and, barring another collapse in form, will be back in the Champions League next season.

The win also opened up a three-point gap over Spurs, and that could be enough to secure third place.

The Gunners have games against both Chelsea and Manchester City in April, but both are at home and in their current form Arsenal will be confident of taking at least four points from the two fixtures.

Next up for the Gunners are QPR next weekend, and the chance for a third consecutive clean sheet in the league. Something that they have not managed all season and something that seemed like a ridiculous pipe dream before Christmas.

Newcastle strike force send out a warning
Newcastle made short work of West Brom on Sunday, tearing the Baggies to pieces in the first half. Afterwards manager Alan Pardew praised the "champagne stuff" his front three of Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa.

The Toon are now level on points with Chelsea in sixth place and if their front three can carry on where they left off at the Hawthorns they have every chance of overhauling the Blues.

Sunday's display was particularly impressive from Hatem Ben Arfa who finally showed what he is capable of and rewarded Newcastle for the faith they have put in him. The former Marseille player joined Newcastle on a season-long loan in 2010 but suffered a horrendous broken leg less than a month after making his debut. He was ruled out for a year but during that time Newcastle signed the crocked winger on a permanent basis, and now that he has finally made a full recovery they are reaping the rewards.

His partnership with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse looks impressive and if Newcastle can hold onto them, the Toon will terrorise many a Premier League defence this season and next.

Anfield no longer a fortress
When Kenny Dalglish was a player for Liverpool Anfield was a fortress, but those days are long gone. The Reds' defeat at the hands of Wigan was only their second of the season at home, but it prompted the unusual sound of jeers and boos from the Kop.

A total of 19 goals in 15 games at home, and only five wins to show from it paints a sorry picture. Indeed, Dalglish's team have lost five of their last six league games and are 13 points off fourth place and the Champions League, and eight points behind Newcastle in sixth spot.

However, King Kenny has denied there is a problem and points out that his side are on course for a cup double having won the Carling Cup and reached the FA Cup semi-finals. But there's no doubt that fans are beginning to question Dalglish, and one can only wonder how another manager would get on at Anfield if they had a similar record.

Spurs and Chelsea struggle for form
If the 0-0 draw between Chelsea and Spurs on Saturday lunchtime proved anything it was that neither team is in form at the moment.

Had it been a boxing match Spurs would probably have won on points, but it was hardly an exciting affair and the fans who enjoyed it most would have been from Arsenal and Newcastle.

Rafael Van Der Vaart had the best chance of the match in first half injury time but he was thwarted by Petr Cech and Ashley Cole.

Chelsea's chances of a top four finish now look slim at best, and who knows what that would mean at Stamford Bridge. Roman Abramovich got rid of Andre Villas Boas because his attempts to freshen up the squad and end the reliance on the old guard did not bear fruit. But if the old guard fail to salvage anything from the season under Roberto di Matteo, Abramovich may have to admit that he was wrong.

Meanwhile Harry Redknapp says Spurs need to win six of their last eight games to overhaul Arsenal for third. At the moment that looks like an ambitious aim.

Djibril is no angel
Djibril Cisse can have no complaints about his sending off against Sunderland. His kamikaze, two-footed flying lunge at Frazier Campbell could have caused serious injury.

Cisse has now played five times for QPR, scored three goals and been sent off twice. He now faces a four-match ban which will mean he will not return until the game against Tottenham on April 21.

The Hoops also have to play all of the Premier League's top five clubs during their run in. Things look bleak at Loftus Road.

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Poor old Dalglish! He is trying hard, but the damage the Spaniard did a couple of years ago, has been more serious than could be imagined. The club's big boss hired an inexperienced manager from Spain who enjoyed the excellent stud that existed already. Then the Spaniard's manner regularly ruined the team. This is routine with famous expensive foreign managers in England. They come; inherit a very good team; gain a few trophies, and if they are clever enough -as the Special One was- leave before being too late. The Spaniard dreamed of staying with the Reds for good. He stayed on and did the real harm to the once an excellent team.   The club executives were not as keen and as wise as the Internazionale chief to sack the Spaniard before the damage was done. Now the respectful Scotsman has to witness the flame of the supposedly best English mid-fielder be down along with the hopeless team. Only if the Spaniard had been sacked earlier. Only if he had never been hired at all.