Park shines for United, while Keane fails to lift West Ham's gloom
Man City lost to Everton 2-1 but remain on track for Champions League
West Ham's relegation woes continued as it failed to beat Blackburn
Park Ji-sung was arguably Man United's man of the match against Chelsea
Thoughts on the weekend's action in the Barclays Premier League:
"This game was incredible," uttered Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, cradling the back of his head as though it might just fall off if he didn't. He looked physically shaken by the ordeal of seeing his team lose 2-1 at Goodison Park, where Everton had only City's wayward shooting to thank for being just 0-1 behind at halftime. Mancini clawed at his shirt collar while describing the turning of the tide in the second half, as if it tightened with every word.
He introduced Adam Johnson once it become evident that Everton had summoned the wherewithal to forage down the wings, but by then Phil Neville had already made the most of the space by sending in a cross that hung tantalizingly above Leon Osman and Vincent Kompany. Somehow the Everton midfielder, increasingly effective as the game wore on, jumped highest to head home the winner.
Tottenham's failure to beat Blackpool means City is still looking secure in fourth spot, six points ahead of Spurs ahead of Tuesday's match between the two. But this enthralling game was a reminder that the revolution at Eastlands is still in its infancy. For Mancini it was especially galling to throw away a lead that would have left the club 10 points clear in fourth and free to concentrate on the coming FA Cup final against Stoke.
19 -- Manchester United is just a single point from winning a record 19th top-flight title, after outclassing challenger Chelsea at Old Trafford yesterday. If the comprehensiveness of the victory isn't revealed by the 2-1 score line, you need only to dig out some highlights of Antonio Valencia's battle with Ashley Cole to be sure. Carlo Ancelotti, the visiting manager, ended the game joking that he would have liked to have been able to replace his whole team at halftime. Sir Alex Ferguson saluted the crowd, knowing that by the time United returns for the final day meeting with Blackpool, the trophy could already be in his possession -- for the 12th time since 1986.
It wasn't just Robbie Keane's late miss -- forget "glaring", the sight of his instep tapping fresh air burned the retinas with a nuclear intensity -- that prevented West Ham taking all three points against Blackburn Rovers. You could have given Keane and his teammates the rest of the day to finish the game and still fancied they wouldn't find the net, because Christopher Samba was just in one of those moods. The Rovers defender made several crucial interceptions around 18 yards, won almost every tackle he went in for in the box, and dominated in the air. He also made a string of critical blocks in front of goal, getting in the way of a close-range Carlton Cole shot in the final moments.
For years, even those looking to praise Ji Sung Park's contribution to Manchester United's success have focused on his work-rate, his reliability when tasked with closing down a tricky winger. And that Park is a permanent fixture in Europe tells you that he does those jobs well. After his impossible-to-miss performance against Chelsea (only Ryan Giggs had more touches of the ball), the quality of his on-the-ball play is finally getting a mention. The pass through to Javier Hernandez for United's first was weighted just-so, and a deliciously flighted cross could have set up another for Chicharito later in the first half.
Except Kenwyne Jones didn't really have to do anything to get Stoke off the mark in its 3-1 win over Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium. Jermaine Pennant delivered a free kick so perfectly, and Johan Djourou so spectacularly lost track of Jones' run to the near post, that he simply had to get in the ball's way. Some supporters seemed to realize what had happened before the striker did. Arsenal has really suffered from set pieces this season but Pennant and Jon Walters both scored from open play as the Gunners, wearing their yellow change strip, put in a jaundiced performance. The summer can't come soon enough for them.
How many saves would Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes have to make, and with which unlikely parts of his body, in order to make up for each gaffe? There were at least three before Blackpool was awarded a 75th-minute penalty, and his impressive full-stretch dive to keep out Charlie Adam's spot kick makes four. But does all that make up for the subsequent rush of blood to the head that sent him leaping about the box until he clattered in to Gary Taylor-Fletcher to concede a second penalty, seconds later?
"I think a few things had gone on during the game. He came into the changing room at halftime and everyone has talked to him and he's fine. We controlled him at halftime and he will be back next week. He's a true professional and he's going to get on with his game. He will be firing and ready to go for the game next week" -- Ashley Young assures us that if we didn't like Emile Heskey when he was angry, we won't be seeing it again.
The Aston Villa striker barged into the referee for playing advantage when he'd been caught in the back of the head by Wigan's Antolin Alcaraz as the two teams played to a 1-1 draw. He avoided being sent off, but Gary McAllister sent him home to cool down at halftime.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy is probably better known for brilliantly deadpan postmatch interviews than strategic genius, but his decision to bring in Stephen Hunt against West Bromwich Albion looked a masterstroke. Hunt has had to be satisfied with a couple of brief substitute appearances since coming back from injury, but McCarthy opted to drop Matt Jarvis (whose form had recently earned a first England call-up) and start Hunt for Sunday's crucial local derby. He rewarded his manager with a tireless performance, popping up all over the pitch causing problems for West Brom. "I thought Hunty was the man for this occasion," explained McCarthy. "If ever there was a decision justified, thank God it was that one."
#notthatkindofplayer -- how long until we can retire this meaningless line? Any player who commits a nasty foul has proved that he is that kind of player before the words are beyond your lips. After a season of admiring the connection between Charlie Adam's left foot and the ball, some commentators have had difficulty condemning the horrible stamp that connected with Gareth Bale's ankle in the 1-1 draw between Blackpool and Spurs. Arsene Wenger has been a vociferous critic of bad tackles but no word on the dangerous lunges that are becoming characteristic of Jack Wilshere's game, particularly when Arsenal struggles as it did against Stoke yesterday. Pennant's angry reaction to a second-half foul by Wilshere wasn't pretty, but it was understandable.
Georgina Turner is a freelance sports writer and co-editor of http://www.retrombm.com/.