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A Game Apart

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A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



Paddy Power

Oakwood Estates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Battle of the Gunslingers: Wilshere the kid has the edge over Vieira the veteran... but City win, Pompey lose their Grant

MANCHESTER CITY'S predictable 2-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, courtesy of a Carlos Tevez penalty and an Emmanuel Adebayor clincher, equally predictably left Owen Coyle fuming.
But those of us of an north London bent were more intrigued by the midfield battle of Gunslingers: the veteran Patrick Vieira, recently arrived at Eastlands from Inter Milan, against Luke Wilshere, on loan from Vieira's old club Arsenal.
French World Cup-winner Vieira, born in Senegal 33 years ago, still has the height but lacks the legs of his Arsenal heydays next to Emmanuel Petit and Gilberto Silva. He looked, in his second appearance back in the Premier League, like the fire which once blazed so brightly had gone out.
Yet there he was, shuffling around the pitch ahead of the superb Steve Ireland. Curious.
Wilshere, making his first start for Bolton, was dynamic, busy and feisty as he eagerly sought to help Wanderers recover from the early penalty.
It came when the excellent Adam Johnson, the former Middlesbrough winger with one eye on a shock place in England's World Cup squad, was brought down by Paul Robinson.
But in the end it was Vieira's inch-perfect long-ball for another former Arsenal man, Emmanuel Adebayor, that clinched it as the Togo striker, caught up in the Cabinda shootings, made it 2-0 with a brilliant finish.
And that was it. Game, set and match to Vieira, despite his advancing years. Shortly afterwards Wilshere was taken off in the 77th minute - with Andy Gray admitting on Sky: "He brings quality to this side. He's a neat, tidy footballer."
Makes you wonder why the young Englishman isn't still at the Emirates Stadium playing ahead of expensive foreign non-entities like Denilson, Tomas Rosicky and Samir Nasri. But who am I to tell Arsene Wenger how to pick his side?
Vieira said: "It was hard but do I look that old? Obviously we're strong enough to finish in the top four."
Coyle, who abandoned Burnley for Bolton in January, felt his side were denied two penalties and claimed: "All the decisions went against us."
At Portsmouth, boss Avram Grant was sent off in their 1-1 draw against Sunderland. Grant, caught up in a Thai Massage row in recent days, rubbed referee Kevin Friend up the wrong way after seeing Ricardo Rocha sent off.
Friend originally showed Algerian Hassan Yebda the red card for the challenge which led to Darren Bent's goal (above) from the penalty spot - but, as a true Friend should do, he did the right thing and sent off the right man. But Grant was fuming and his half-time rant was enough to consign him to the grandstand, where he struggled to find a seat.
Sunderland had Cattermole sent off in the second half but even with ten versus ten, rock-bottom Pompey, facing a winding-up order today, couldn't find the net.
It was only when David Mayler's dismissal left Sunderland with nine they found the space for Jamie O'Hara to set up Aruna Dindane for the late, late equaliser.
Grant gathered his players in a huddle at the whistle and said: "I cannot fight against all the world."
Fulham had few problems, scoring three without reply against Burnley, much to my old coach Roy Hodgson's relief. Danny Murphy, David Elm and Bobby "Bobatov" Zamora got the goals at Craven Cottage.
Hardly a shock result though. Burnley last triumphed at Fulham when they were both Third Division clubs in October, 1980. Burnley's first scorer in a 2-0 win that night was an 18-year-old Brian Laws - now a very worried manager on the way home to Turf Moor.
At the JJB, Wigan went ahead through Paul Scharner but Tuncay levelled for Stoke in a 1-1 draw.
Oh, and what about the much-neglected Johnsons Paints Northern final? Leeds, slowly subsiding after their FA Cup shock over Manchester United, contrived to lose it and Carlisle will go to Wembley despite losing the match 3-2 on the night.
That result left the tie at 4-4 after extra-time and Carlisle won the penalty shoot-out 6-5 in sudden-death with defender Shane Lowry, on loan from Aston Villa, having the crucial spot-kick blocked by Adam Collin.
Greg Abbott, clearly in shock, said afterwards: "We have competed against a massive club and won. The penalty shoot-out was pretty scary but that's Carlisle all over."
Southampton join them in the final after being MK Dons 3-1 in the Southern Final at St Mary's to take the tie 4-1 on aggregate.
Best story of the night? West Brom - 2-0 winners against Scunthorpe - went top of the Championship on goal difference from Newcastle, beaten 3-0, yes 3-0 at Derby. What? The Rams were 18th in the table! Surely the Toon can't mess up their promotion charge now?

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