Cracking under the pressure
It all got a bit too much at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with Sunderland’s shock 3-1 lead over Manchester City clearly rattling Roberto Mancini’s men, as arguments spilled out across the pitch.
The home side may have pulled it back to 3-3 to secure a point, but it could well prove one stumble too many in the title race.
The former Inter boss looked like a bit of a numpty throughout the game, hollering and screaming at poor Jimmy Milner as the players trudged in at half-time trailing 2-1, with the ex-Newcastle man repeating the sentiment towards the Italian.
Hard-working, head down, industrious Milner having a pop at his boss following a bit of criticism? That’s when you know the pressure is being cranked up a notch too far.
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Mancini just stood there in his technical area, muttering under his own breath feeling sorry for himself as Nicklas Bendter and Sebastian Larsson, who notched the Black Cats’ first and third, found the back of the net. That’s Rafa Benitez behaviour, and the 47-year-old knows it may not be long before he faces the axe.
Tensions also boiled over between Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov, as they had to be separated by captain Vincent Kompany after indulging in a bit of handbags over who would take a free-kick.
Luckily the pair were able to channel their anger, with the forward striking past Simon Mignolet to make the score 3-2, having earlier beaten the goalkeeper from the penalty spot, before the Serbian full-back’s shot from distance found its way through the melee in the Sunderland box to level.
Up popped Mancini, fists pumping in the air having spent the entire second half sulking, but City couldn’t complete the comeback.
Worst diving competition
Andy Carroll & James Perch (Newcastle v Liverpool)
Liverpool were not just beaten by Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, but almost mocked as a Papiss Cisse double helped the Magpies to a 2-0 win to pull 11 points clear of Kenny Dalglish’s men in the table.
Andy Carroll, on his first return to the Sports Direct Arena since his £35 million switch to Anfield in January 2011, ensured that any friendly boos quickly became laced with malice when taking the most awful dive to try and swindle a penalty against his boyhood club. Playing with Luis Suarez is clearly rubbing off on him.
It was an appalling effort at a tumble, and completely unnecessary with the big striker presented with an open goal to aim at, and referee Martin Atkinson was quick to brandish a yellow card.
It only got worse for the 23-year-old, with his afternoon capped off by a teasing standing ovation from the Geordie faithful as he stormed down the tunnel in a strop after being replaced by Dirk Kuyt.
Liverpool could not do much to stop Cisse’s opener, but were completely screwed over for the Senegal international’s second, which was allowed to stand despite the former Freiburg man standing a full two-yards offside. Linesman, you’ve had a 'mare.
The visitors were also denied a penalty after Danny Simpson seemed to use his arm to prevent a Carroll header on the line, but the real tragedy was that the Reds were unable to score against a backline that had Perch and Mike Williamson at centre-back.
Just when MTW was thinking things probably couldn’t get much worse for Dalglish’s side, Pepe Reina was sent off for 'head-butting' Perch.
The Spaniard did move his head towards the defender after he had tripped him in the box, but the goalkeeper must have had some seriously strong garlic breath because there certainly was not much contact with the Newcastle man who flung himself to the floor.
In one last humiliation for Liverpool’s former Newcastle contingent, and with the Reds having used up all of their substitutions, Jose Enrique was forced to cover in goal and watch on as the Magpies all but sealed their place in the top six – a finish the full-back suggested they would never achieve under the ownership of Mike Ashley.
A new low? | Carroll's awful dive saw him mocked on his return to Newcastle
The Spaniard capped off a fine week as he helped Chelsea to victory over Aston Villa, with the former Liverpool man’s flick-on teeing up Branislav Ivanovic to restore the Blues' advantage before he scored his first Premier League goal since September.
The former Gunners striker bagged a hat-trick and an assist for New York Red Bulls as they eased to a 5-2 victory over Montreal Impact and pulled into second place in the Western Conference.
The 36-year-old led Inter to victory in his first game in charge of the Nerazzurri as they saw off Genoa 5-4 in a thrilling encounter at Giuseppe Meazza to pull within four points of the Champions League qualification places.
Following the news that captain Stiliian Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, the Villans are in serious danger of being dragged into a relegation battle after the 4-2 defeat to Chelsea leaves them five points above the drop zone.
Preston North End
After falling to a 2-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough this weekend, manager Graham Westley took the heat off himself by claiming four of his players had leaked tactical information to the opposition.
It was another unhappy visit to Craven Cottage for the Canaries this weekend as they fell to a 2-1 defeat, their first fixture at Fulham since the 6-0 defeat back in May 2005 which sealed their relegation from the Premier League.
Having a stinker
Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal)
With Arsenal’s seven-game winning streak coming to an abrupt end away to QPR on Saturday, Vermaelen had an afternoon to forget as he gave a defensive performance akin to a new-born baby foal.
The Belgian centre-back allowed Adel Taarabt to score his first Premier League goal, as the Moroccan, who is not exactly renowned for his pace, burst past the former Ajax man to give the Hoops the lead.
Vermaelen was then bamboozled by Jamie Mackie on the flank as the 26-year-old skipped into the box to tee up Samba Diakite’s winner with the Arsenal man’s attempts at defending limited to trying to haul the Rs forward down just outside the box after an untimely slip.
Quote of the weekend part I
"It is the correct result, the draw. I'm happy only for the last 10 minutes, for the other 80 minutes I am unhappy because we didn't play very well"
– Roberto Mancini admits it will be "hard" for Manchester City to win the title after their draw with Sunderland.
Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic)
If there were any doubts as to why the Latics are currently locked in another relegation dogfight, then Beausejour’s woeful attempts at goal against Stoke City on Saturday were a timely reminder.
Roberto Martinez’s side still secured a 2-0 victory, their second Premier League win on the bounce, but the former Birmingham City man certainly needs reminding where the goalmouth is.
Twice he fluffed golden opportunities when free in the box, with his first skewed attempt most definitely THE miss of the season, as he somehow managed to not even threaten Asmir Begovic’s goal from six yards out, instead slicing the ball sideways. Shocking.
The Chilean winger did manage to redeem himself when providing a superb cross for Antolin Alcaraz’s headed opener though, as Wigan moved to within goal difference of safety.
Quote of the weekend part II
"We can bring [Roy] Keane back if he wants and make it interesting. Apparently he's retracted it a bit but it's interesting"
– Sir Alex Ferguson suggests reigniting the former Manchester United captain's fiery rivalry with Patrick Vieira after the now City official criticised the Red Devils.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham)
Spurs' five-game winless streak came to an end on Sunday afternoon, with an Emmanuel Adebayor double helping Harry Redknapp's men to a 3-1 victory over Swansea.
The Togolese forward headed past Michel Vorm twice to pull Tottenham level on points with north London rivals Arsenal, after Gylfi Sigurdsson had cancelled out Rafael van der Vaart’s opener.
Mark Davies (Bolton)
The 24-year-old added his own entry to the dive of the week competition against Wolves on Saturday, as his shocking simulation was rewarded with a penalty as Bolton came back to defeat Terry Connor’s men 3-2.
The Trotters midfielder even looked a bit embarrassed himself when getting up off the floor, with everyone but the referee seemingly aware of his cheating antics.Follow Andrew Kennedy on