ANDREW VORCE - Thursday, December 30, 2010
Jonathan Spector and Tim Howard traded punches in an all yank affair while Eric Lichaj and Brad Friedel were hit for four by Manchester City in a full midweek of English action.
West Ham 1 - 1 Everton
Tim Howard and Jonathan Spector split the spoils when Everton travelled to West Ham on Tuesday.
Just 16 minutes in West Ham had the lead through a Tony Hibbert own goal. Everton failed to clear their lines and Howard was only able to beat out James Tomkins' header. Radoslav Kovac attempted a bicycle kick, and Hibbert was forced into making a challenge on the ball which he diverted past his goalkeeper.
Spector could have played a bigger defensive role in Everton's equalizer as the American chose to mark the wrong man on the build up.
Seamus Coleman was sneaking in on the back side, and after a quick look to assess the danger behind him, Spector chose the mark in front of him. Two seconds later the ball was played to Coleman who was left unmarked at the back post for the equalizer in the 42nd minute.
Kovac was the only player booked in the outing, as West Ham face Wolves at home on Saturday while Everton travel to Stoke City.
Manchester City 4 - 0 Aston Villa
Brad Friedel was beaten four times away at Manchester City when his back line let him down, especially Eric Lichaj who was found out on two goals.
Lichaj was at fault for the first goal as Aston Villa had no answer for the slick passing of Manchester City. After a slew of passes, Mario Balotelli was released into the box, beating Lichaj for pace. The American defender could only wrap up the City striker, forcing him to the ground and giving up the penalty kick. Friedel had no chance against the composure of Balotelli who took his own penalty kick in the 12th minute.
The second goal came when Villa fell asleep on a 13th minute City corner. Joleon Lescott was left to make a free header, snapping the ball to the far post. Barry Bannan was unable to head the ball clear in time as the assistant referee had deemed the ball had crossed the line before Bannan's clearance.
City's third goal came in the 30th minute when Lichaj lost his marker on the back post. The home team played keep away, luring all but one Villa player back to defend against the City front four. Friedel did well to deflect away Da Silva's initial shot, but Balotelli was quickest to react. Leaving Lichaj in the dust, the City striker had the simplest of tap-ins from inside the six yard box.
The final strike came when Adam Johnson was given enough time to recover from a bad first touch in order to attack the Villa defense. Twisting and turning his way into the box, Marc Albrighton left a trailing leg in his defensive lunge which was enough to trip up Johnson. Balotelli stepped up to sink his third of the night with ultimate ease.
James Milner was the only booking for City as Lichaj and Stephen Warnock were both booked for Villa. Friedel and company will look to bounce back away to Chelsea.
Stoke 0 - 2 Fulham
Eddie Johnson didn't make the bench as Clint Dempsey and Fulham won away from home at Stoke City.
Fulham's goals came from the unlikeliest of places through Chris Baird. Stoke City failed to clear their lines but no one expected the goal from the big defender. Baird stormed forward and unleashed a monster shot that gave Asmir Begovic absolutely no chance as he buried his fourth minute shot.
Baird added to his tally in the 12th minute after a brilliantly taken free kick. With three players surrounding the ball on the edge of the penalty area, Baird was the final touch, bending his shot around the wall and into the bottom right corner.
Fulham absorbed massive amounts of pressure but were able to keep their shutout. Robert Huth was the only Stoke player booked, while Baird and Dempsey were both booked for Fulham. Up next for Fulham is a trip to north London to take on Tottenham.
Chelsea 1 - 0 Bolton
Stuart Holden was subbed out by Owen Coyle after nearly scoring twice for Bolton.
Controversy surrounded the game as all of Bolton thought Didier Drogba had been caught offsides when the visitors tried to pull the trap. Michael Essien bounced through two tackles before releasing the onsides Drogba. Taking his space, the forward eventually passed across the face of Jussi Jaaskelainen to Flourent Malouda who had a tap in into the empty net in the 61st minute.
Holden had a shot soon after that clearly struck the arm of John Terry, but no call was given. The American also forced Petr Cech into a fingertip save after his powerful goal bound header.
Branislav Ivanovic was booked for Chelsea while Matthew Taylor was booked for Bolton who next face Liverpool away from home.
Marcus Hahnemann was on the bench as Wolverhampton Wanderers won 1-0 away at Anfield against Liverpool.
Frank Simek and Mike Grella will have to wait once again as Carlisle United's game against Exeter was postponed due to the weather.
Jemal Johnson did not leave the bench as Milton Keynes Dons beat Bournemouth 2-0.
Anton Peterlin did not make the game-day roster as Plymouth tied Notts County 1-1.