Let me walk you through some of my top talking points that I think will be the talk of the terraces this weekend…
Premier League Love Stories
When Allen met Deeney
The incident at Vicarage Road on Saturday afternoon had all the hallmarks of a climactic love epic.
As the game edged towards its passionate conclusion, Stoke, who were 1-0 up, passed the ball out of play after Erik Pieters crumbled to the deck with a bout of cramp. It was immediately after a spat between Abdoulaye Doucoure and Mame Biram Diouf, so hearts were already racing and emotions were high.
Now, “fair play” dictates that the opposition, having willingly received possession from the other team in this fashion, should play the ball short to their captain who must then try and whip in a cross and attempt to score a goal. Watford followed this custom to a T, but clearly Joe Allen had not been reading up properly on the unspoken rules of football, and he took issue with the situation and faced up to Watford veteran Troy Deeney.
And that’s when everything changed.
Seeing the Lilliputian figure of Allen staring up at him, the towering Deeney smiled back. For a second, time stopped. The unremitting roar of the Vicarage Road faithful drained into nothingness. Even the protests of notorious hard-nut centre-back Ryan Shawcross were no match for the couple’s newfound love, as Deeney brushed the colossus of a man seamlessly to the ground.
Deeney caressed Allen’s face and Allen clung to him. It was only the ensuing 12-man brawl that could prise the pair apart. These violent delights have violent ends.
The heartless FA may have dished out fines to both sides and a three match ban to Deeney, but love will always prevail.
Saturday’s clash between Liverpool and Huddersfield at Anfield brought the forbidden love affair of Jurgen f*ckin’ Klopp and Ennis del Wagner painfully into the light. Yes, contrary to the popular belief that Jurgen Klopp and David Wagner are actually the same person, they are in fact the very, very best of friends.
The game on Saturday must have presented a peculiar clash of loyalties for the managers of both teams. As they stared lovingly at each other across the void between the two dugouts, the game itself made much better viewing for the home fans than the travelling Huddersfield faithful.
Liverpool had been peculiarly sluggish in the first half – especially given their wholesome shafting by Tottenham the week before – manifested in Mohamed Salah’s very ‘meh’ penalty that was saved on the stroke of halftime. It was almost as if Klopp’s Liverpool could not bring themselves to muster the ruthlessness necessary to destroy what they loved – in this case, a resilient Huddersfield side coming off the back of a historic win against Manchester United.
At halftime, things changed. Jurgen f*ckin’ Klopp realised his loyalties had to lie with his rodeo riding Liverpool side (played by Anne Hathaway) if he was ever going to have a normal life. Liverpool came charging out of the blocks into the second half. Goals from Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and a thumper from Georginio Wijnaldum despatched Wagner’s Huddersfield side, apparently still ensnared by Stockholm syndrome.
Still, at least now Wagner and Klopp can resume their relationship away from the limelight, in the land where bluebirds sing and there’s a whiskey spring.
Alan Shearer loves the Kooks – pass it on
Crystal Palace 2 – 2 West Ham
This was a game devoid of much quality, to be honest. But West Ham nevertheless found themselves in a commanding position 2-0 up at half time with goals from Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew. Joe Hart had a brilliant game in the West Ham net, including a spectacular double save in the first half from a James Tomkins header and Jeffrey Schlupp rebound.
As with seemingly all the games I like to talk about, it was at the end when things really spiced up. Palace had clawed a goal back early in the second half with a penalty from Luka Milivojevic. The game sprung to life, and action was largely focussed on the West Ham goal, with Yohan Cabaye hitting the post shortly after the penalty and a number of subsequent Palace chances superbly turned away by Hart, including a curling Cabaye free kick.
In the dying seconds of the game, having faced an absolute tirade throughout the second half and clung on to their 2-1 lead, Hammers substitute Michail Antonio skipped past a clearly exhausted Schlupp and wisely headed for the corner.
But the forward clearly had a change of heart, and instead opted for the much funnier option of floating an incredibly shit cross into a box devoid of West Ham players, which Palace keeper Julian Speroni dutifully collected.
He sent his team off on a last-gasp counter-attack which culminated in Wilfried Zaha picking up the ball in the opposite box, turning inside and out, and out of nowhere sliding the ball into the far corner beyond a hapless Hart for a deserved Palace point. Selhurst Park went mental, and I could already hear Alan Shearer’s head exploding with frustration at Antonio’s actions at the other end.
Instead, the Match of the Day pundit broke into song, describing the West Ham performance in the final seconds as “so naïve”.
“I know, he knows, that I’m not fond of asking, to just hold the sodding ball at the corner flag!” he said (sort of).
I hope you have that song in your head for as long as I did.
Champions League Heroes
I absolutely love this guy. For one thing, he only turned 18 during the summer, and now he’s starting in goal for Benfica in the Champions League. He’s living the dream.
However, he also already has the most hilarious love-hate relationship with football ever.
When he started the home fixture against Manchester United two weeks ago, he broke Iker Casillas’s 1999 record and became the youngest goalkeeper ever to play in the Champions League.
He played fairly well, from a goalkeeper’s perspective, for the majority of a game which was incredibly boring (a boring Mourinho’s Manchester United game?? Shock, horror). But he also managed to make an absolute howler in catching Marcus Rashford’s 40-yard in-swinging free kick and carrying it over his own line, resulting in the only goal of the game.
Then on Tuesday, in the 15th minute of the reverse fixture, he became the youngest ever Champions League goalkeeper to save a penalty after diving left to deny Anthony Martial.
But at the end of the second half, Nemanja Matic lined up a long-range driven shot which Svilar dived to try and save, only to have the ball rebound off the post, onto his outstretched back and into the net for an own-goal. Brilliant.
You’ve got to love watching Celtic in the Champions League. The home nations’ little underdog side facing the best teams in Europe. And, despite the age old debate about how Celtic would fare in the Premier League, they never seem to really embarrass themselves against the big boys.
I mean, yes, expectation levels are pretty low (I mean, Burton Albion could probably manage an unbeaten season in the SPL, right?) but that’s beside the point.
The fact is, Celtic put out a very good showing against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, despite a couple of costly mistakes.
A long kick from Bayern keeper Sven Ulreich totally confounding the Celtic backline, allowing Kingsley Coman to scamper through and evade all of them by skipping past Craig Gordon and sliding the ball into the net. Other than that poor error, however, Celtic were well in the game in the first half, regularly catching Bayern on the counter.
They also came out well in the second half, creating a number of chances and keeping the German champions hemmed in. Callum McGregor brought the home side level in the 74th minute with a well-worked and well-deserved equaliser.
But, in fairly classic Celtic fashion, the visitors were immediately ahead again three minutes later when Javier Martinez rose above Nir Bitton to head beyond Gordon and give Bayern the lead.
But the goalscorer suffered for his efforts, ending up bloodied after a well-timed Glasgow kiss from Bitton: “Welcome tae Scotland ya wee Spanish f*ck,” the Israeli defender said (he’s gotten used to life in Glasgow).
Celtic might not always get results from their Champions League opponents, but they always leave their mark.