Another howler from Jens Lehmann, letting a Dunn shot which was straight down his throat squirm through him and into the corner of the net, was enough to give Blackburn a 1-1 draw their game, and certainly their attitude, did not deserve.
This mistake, his second in as many league games, and a more costly one this time around, will again see Jens come under fire, but I still think now is not to time to drop him. While he may be reminding us a little too much of Seaman’s latter years, he has also proved this season that he is still a fine keeper with some outstanding saves. Unfortunately keeper errors are usually fatal, and he cannot afford too many more before he loses his place both for club and country. It will not have escaped his notice that he got back into the German side off the back of some shockers from Oliver Kahn.
All this came after an excellent first half display, in which we’d gone ahead through two of the more unlikely events – a Brad Freidel error, and a scrappy Arsenal goal. Freidel, for me, has been one of the top three Premiership goalkeepers for the past four or five years, and given opposing stoppers’ habit of playing blinders against the Gunners (witness Warner’s fine display for Fulham, followed up by two matches in which he conceded horrendous goals), all was set for another day where we couldn’t get past him. It’s happened before. But Eduardo’s touch squirmed out of his grasp, and after a scramble Van Persie was there to thump the ball home from close range.
The overall performance in the first half was very positive, in the face of Blackburn’s normal intimidation tactic. Quite what Robbie Savage has to do to get sent off is beyond me – it took him five fouls, a couple of them cynical – before finally getting booked, and despite diving in the second half and showing varying degrees of histrionics every time a decision went again him, the referee refused to pull a second card out of his pocket.
The otherwise solid Ryan Nelson, however, did see red for hauling Van Persie back late on, which earned him his second card. But by then Blackburn were level, after a more subdued Arsenal performance in the second half. I felt we invited too much pressure and tried to maintain a 1-0 scoreline that we’re not really any good at achieving. In the end, both teams were going for the win but falling short.
So two goalkeeping mistakes, one far worse than the other, plenty of cards each, and one point each. There were plenty of positives – there is definitely fight in this side, which might see a few cards get dished out but should also ensure less disappointing away days where the team gets muscled out of the match, Sagna was once again excellent and Eduardo looked sharp for an hour. Had it not been for Lehmann’s error, it would’ve been three points well earned, but as it is United lost, Liverpool and Chelsea drew, so nothing much was lost.
Speaking of the Chelsea game, I’m finding it hard to decide which is worse – Blackburn’s constant hacking of every player in sight and their manager’s utterly myopic view of it, or Chelsea’s angry mob approach of hounding the referee repeatedly under their manager’s clear instruction.
Quite aside from what some of the Sky commentators thought, I thought Rob Styles was quite right to book as many Chelsea players as he did. They were utterly disgraceful. But the same word can be applied to his decision to award them a penalty – an awful decision.
So after eight days, only Man City retain a winning record in the league, but if they play like they did today, that won’t last. Heroic defending, but a lot of luck in there too. Credit to them though – as my tip for surprise of the season, I’m glad to see them doing well. Almost as glad as I am to see Bolton rooted to the bottom.
Final thought – is it a sign of improvement that we’re disappointed by drawing in the exact type of match we’re penned as susceptible to losing?