The Fifth Official

An open goal

September 19, 2011
By The Fifth Official
(Archive)

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

The £50m miss

Fernando Torres somehow finds the fans rather than the net
GettyImagesFernando Torres somehow finds the fans rather than the net as the goal gapes at Old Trafford

Somewhere in Israel at about 5.43pm on Sunday a middle-aged man let out a contented sigh as he watched Fernando Torres miss an open goal from six yards out. That man closed his eyes and drank in the ironic cheers that cascaded down the stands towards a broken Spanish striker. That man was Ronny Rosenthal, who felt at that moment a crushing weight lifted from his shoulders.

Few thought Rocket Ronny's miss for Liverpool against Aston Villa in 1992 could ever be matched but then we underestimated the depths to which a £50 million weapon can sink. Some weak-willed souls felt sympathy for Torres - the man who apparently castigated his team-mates as "old" and "slow" but a few weeks ago. Prior to the miss that will come to define his Chelsea career he had actually played well and, shock horror, scored a goal. The old Torres was back, until the new Torres returned in a sickening flash.

His was even quite an achievement to scoop the 'miss of the match' award after Ramires and Dimitar Berbatov provided strong entries. Torres' travails also let a certain Roonatic off the hook after his embarrassing penalty slip, though one can't reject completely the notion he did it just to remind John Terry about his Champions League final tears in Moscow. Chelsea can forget about titles if they play as open as this every week but by Jove it makes for good entertainment. Jolly well done, AVB.

The final frontier of nadir

If Arsenal continue to sink at this rate, they are bound to strike oil at some point in the near future. On Saturday at fellow crisis club Blackburn they managed to score five goals and still end up on the losing side. Arsenal's centre-backs were so far removed from each other they may as well have communicated via smoke signals; yes, this was a defensive performance so abject it had Arsenal fans longing for the days of Igor Stepanovs.

Andre Santos already looks like a proper Arsenal player - in that he insists on operating a yard behind his other three defensive colleagues. Perhaps the Gunners might have been able to cope with the attacking might of Yakubu had he stepped up a yard every now and again. Just imagine the havoc that could have been wreaked if Benjani was still at the club. Both 40-somethings are painfully slow but they are still at least two yards quicker than Per Mertesacker.

Despite claiming three points solely because of their opponents' fragility, Steve Kean celebrated like he'd won the Europa League - even swanning on to Sky Sports News for a full 20 minutes on Sunday to bleat on about how his game plan had worked and how Rovers will be a Champions League club in the future ("I'm sure we'll get there"). He dismissed the 700-strong protest calling for his head before the match, fuelled by his preposterous claims that he had 'discovered' Phil Jones ("he didn't even have a squad number when I came here") and that 20-year-old Jason Lowe is the new Steven Gerrard. He can't be Steve - he's fit, for a start.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T

Given the paranoid claptrap King Kenny spouted last week, demanding referees afford Liverpool a certain level of respect, it was nice to see that Tottenham afford them absolutely none at all when battering the title aspirations out of their opponents with a rousing 4-0 victory. Of course the defeat was made all the more sweet watching Liverpool's ill-discipline catch up with them.

Dalglish seems to have left his summit with referees' chief Mike Riley with the idea Liverpool had impunity from the officials as they executed a prolonged series of hacks, stomps and swipes at White Hart Lane like they were all blood-thirsty serial killers in a slasher movie. Chief culprits being Charlie Adam, who should have seen red last time he visited The Lane, and the hapless Martin Skrtel who was so bad Arsenal are probably lining up a £20 million bid for him in January.

Even the linesman saw fit to disrespect Liverpool by disallowing an offside goal scored by Luis Suarez, who was carded himself for repeatedly calling the assistant a filthy Spanish word. With Liverpool down to nine it was time for cool heads, so Suarez was hauled off and on came that paragon of virtue Craig Bellamy.

This was a thumping so demoralising one half expected Kenny to start frizzing his hair maniacally on the bench as if he was trying to set it on fire. Oh, and by the way, Spurs were really rather good.

Pass the Vole Vons, Joey

Joey Barton
PA PhotosJoey Barton scored the opening goal as QPR secured victory at Wolves - and then hit Twitter again

Nelson Mandela, Stephen Fry, Einstein, Elvis, the Dalai Lama, and err, Karl Henry and Joey Barton. An outside bet those last two would sneak on to anyone's ideal dinner party list but it would surely turn out to be a night to remember. Explosive things tend to happen when the pair inhabit the same football pitch, usually sweary, violent things.

Perhaps it is Barton's veneer of intelligence on Twitter - you can quote clever people Joey but that doesn't make YOU clever - that compels Henry to try and kick that Morrissey style quiff off his face. The Wolves captain followed last year's assault on Barton with a particularly meaty challenge in the dying embers of QPR's victory to spark a predictable slice of shoving and shouting.

Barton ensured the spat rumbled on via his favourite medium, referring to Henry as "Kelvin", labelling him a "Sunday League player" and even quoting Friedrich Nietzsche: "Love your enemies because they bring out the best in you." An appearance on a Sunday morning show ensured the feud rumbled on, taking the gloss off a fine win for QPR and their band of new recruits - one of whom, Armand Traore, who excelled after having been freed from the shackles of a relegation battle with Arsenal.

Brucie's bonus

Spare a thought for this week's winner of the air miles award, Stoke City, who were forced to embark on a painstaking pilgrimage to a desolate outpost in a once proud country, just four days after playing Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine. The weather may be similar, as is the grumpy demeanour of the locals, but the Potters left Sunderland on the end of a four-goal thrashing - their first reverse of the season.

A home win was rather good news for Steve Bruce, who was informed by one north-east newspaper prior to the game that he had 48 hours to save his job. Handy for him then, that Jonathan Woodgate's long overdue first own goal for his new club eased nerves after Titus Bramble managed to pot one at the right end for a change.

Given it was Sunderland's biggest win for 18 months and their 'faithful' fans had a lengthy opportunity to heckle former striker Kenwyne Jones for leaving the club and beanpole Peter Crouch for repeatedly turning down the chance to join, it is a shame 16,000 seats remained empty. It led me to thoughts of existentialism: "If Sunderland score a goal and there is no-one around to see it or hear it, is it still a goal?"

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