Yes, the penalty was contentious. And yes, the more pertinent question is what on earth have West Ham done to upset the match officials this year? But didn’t Leonardo Ulloa take it well? The man had an entire fairy tale on his shoulders and he didn’t falter for a moment. The Argentine forward was a club-record signing less than two years ago, but the success of the Vardy-Okazaki axis has left him out on the fringes this season. With the world watching, this wasn’t a bad way to remind Claudio Ranieri of his qualities.
Heurelho Gomes doesn’t do anything by halves. When he makes a mistake, it’s always an absolute stonker. But when he saves the day, he always does it in style. The veteran Watford goalkeeper stopped not one, but two Saido Berahino penalties in an otherwise drab match. And, of course, it’s not the first time this has happened. Back in 2010, as a Tottenham player, he stopped two from then-Sunderland striker Darren Bent as well. He also wears a mouthguard in Watford colours, so it’s fair to say that he’s pretty much winning at life.
Happy birthday, Rafa Benitez! And what a way to celebrate. Newcastle rode their luck a little in the second half, but for the first time this season they looked as though they had some sort of defence. An actual organised, unified, composed rearguard. It was actually a little bit disturbing. You don’t expect those sort of things from a Newcastle team. There’s still plenty to do and they’ll need far more than this to avoid the relegation that their chaotic season deserves, but this was at least encouraging.
Unfortunately for Benitez, Saturday brought an encouraging performance from Sunderland too. The Black Cats haven’t enjoyed the sort of results that their performances deserve of late, so naturally the twisted logic of football meant that they would start this game poorly and then romp home with a three-goal cushion. A Sunderland team that defends well and punishes other people for their slip-ups is almost as odd as a hard-working, organised Newcastle team. But only one of them can survive. And perhaps neither of them will. Things are getting tense.
Too little too late for the Premier League, but at least Manchester City have finally found their groove. Having gone months without stringing two wins together, they extended their run to three with a fine victory over Chelsea. Admittedly, Chelsea have been on standby mode for a couple of weeks now, but this was still a good three points, and a magnificent hat trick from Sergio Aguero. It won’t be enough to win the league, but if it gets them in the mood for Real Madrid in the Champions League, perhaps there’s a happy ending waiting for Manuel Pellegrini after all.
It isn’t just that Jamie Vardy dove. It’s that it was such a terrible dive. Dives are supposed to be subtle acts of dark-hearted subterfuge. Vardy looked like a clown fired out of a cannon. You’re supposed to go down, not up. And never mind that, why did he take the risk when he was already on a yellow card? He must have known the risks. Did he just think that he and his teammates were so swept up in the wave of narrative that they were immune to punishment? He cost his team two points and they were very lucky it wasn’t three.
Oh, Arsenal. It’s just the same old story, again and again and again, isn’t it? You arrive in style, you present us with flowers, you whisk us off our feet, you take us out dancing…and then it’s all over before midnight because you’ve been sick on your own shoes. We can’t even be mad with you because, well, what’s the point? You’ll never change. This was your chance. The stars had aligned. And now you’re not even certain of fourth.
Mounting a one-man fight against the notion of nominative determinism, Andre Wisdom’s reckless tackle cost Norwich the game, and it could have cost Fabio Borini his shin. Even without the potentially damaging impact, it was a daft thing for Wisdom to do. In a game of such importance, and remember that Norwich could have gone a long way to saving themselves with a win, you can’t wave your studs around in the box like that. He was lucky not to see red. He is young and he may learn. But that foul turned the game.
With so much excitement elsewhere, we’ve all become immunised to the effect of Chelsea’s extraordinary collapse. The champions of England were just humiliated in their own back yard and that’s not even in the top-three most important things that happened this weekend. This is the team that made last season boring, the team that cruised to victory, and they’ve lost as many games as they’ve won. The only good news for incoming manager Antonio Conte is that expectations are going to be lower for him than for any Chelsea manager since Claudio Ranieri.
When it comes to speaking without thinking, this column is hardly in a position to lecture, but Joleon Lescott really does need to start engaging his brain when he’s standing in front of a microphone. When you’ve been paid over £2.5 million for your contribution to one of the worst Premier League teams ever, choosing to describe relegation as, “a weight off the shoulders,” is the sort of thing that can cause offence, especially to the dozens of people whose jobs are about to be sacrificed at the altar of you and your colleagues’ incompetence. Something to ponder.