Andrew Discenza spotlights what was best and worst on the final weekend of Premier League action in the 2007-08 season...
The Middlesbrough midfielder scored one of the best goals of the season on Sunday when he fired in a fabulous free-kick that highlighted his side’s 8-1 demolition of Manchester City. Middlesbrough, who hadn’t previously scored more than two goals in any game this season, ran riot against a City side shrouded in doubt over the future of Sven Goran Eriksson.
Rochemback scored the sixth goal in the home side’s rout, coming only ten minutes from time. Three players surrounded a free-kick from a central position, about 35 yards from goal. It was Rochemback to take, and after a long run up he blasted the ball over the wall, and swerving away from keeper Andreas Isaksson the ball flew into the very top corner. It was a precision strike, and quite fantastic as the shot found its mark from well outside the area.
Rochemback has always shown the potential for scoring incredible goals, and while he doesn’t get many they’re usually of high quality. This particularly great goal epitomized the attitude and ability of Middlesbrough throughout the game, as they played attacking, attractive football and were not afraid of going for goal. The uncharacteristic flood of goals came as a result of the ease of their league position. This kind of performance demonstrates what a psychological advantage is gained when the pressure is relieved. And while Manchester City’s off-the-field issues cost them in the match, Rochemback’s goal was a moment of pure quality, and one to be celebrated.
The Bad – Steve Bennett
The referee for the Wigan versus Manchester United match on Sunday missed a few critical decisions, and while he can’t be accused of handing the title to United, his mistakes critically shaped the final, decisive match of the season. The first decision came early, when Bennett refused to give a penalty for handball against Rio Ferdinand. However, the United central defender clearly leaned his arm out to block the curling shot from Jason Koumas.
After the penalty decision, which the referee awarded correctly, another decision went in favor of the champions. Marcus Bent was bursting free down the touchline, when Paul Scholes, who had already been booked, quite cynically brought down the striker with a push. Mr. Bennet had a stern talk with the United midfielder (who is known for his clumsy challenges) but did not produce the cumulative red card that Scholes’ tackle deserved. If the visitors had gone down to ten men then, the story might have been very different.
Steve Bennett’s next mistake favored Wigan. Scholes, soon after avoiding a sending off, found himself running onto the ball in the box. He took a short touch as Titus Brable went sliding in, and even though the Wigan defender got none of the ball and took out the player, Bennett did not point to the spot. This decision served as a make-up call for the two against the home side, but it still should have been awarded. And while Wigan players would have been aggrieved to see a player who should have been ejected earn a penalty, Bennett still showed his tendency to judge crucial moments incorrectly.
It is unfortunate that the referee had such a heavy hand deciding the title race. However, it is a testament to the competitive level of the Premiership that the champions and runners up were decided by such a small margin.
The Ugly – Petr Cech and John Terry
Chelsea’s two most important defensive players collided horribly on Saturday, and the captain Terry’s injury might have more dire consequences than Sunday’s draw versus Bolton.
Bolton played a long ball from midfield, and it came down near the edge of the penalty area. Terry back-tracked to clear the ball while defending against the bothersome Bolton attacker, Kevin Davies. However, Petr Cech decided to come, and he rose splendidly to gather the ball cleanly. In doing so however, the goalkeeper came through the back of his own defender. On replay, it is clear that Cech’s knee made bone-crunching collision with Terry’s left elbow, which is said to be dislocated. Not only was the collision hard to watch, but the loss of Chelsea’s influential centre-back might prove to be costly come the Champions League final in two weeks' time.
To make matters worse for Chelsea, Didier Drogba went down late with a leg problem, and he is doubtful to play in Moscow. These injuries could prove to be very damaging blows to Chelsea Football Club. And with Manchester United riding the momentum from their domestic championship, Chelsea might just find themselves so close, but so far from two trophies.