Heroes and Villains: Sensational Saints and blundering Balotelli
‘Kun’ Aguero certainly lived up to his nickname against Tottenham. The record-breaking Argentina attacker takes his tag from classic Japanese anime character ‘Kum-Kum’, who he is supposed to bear a striking resemblance to. Dubbed the “prehistoric Dennis the Menace”, Aguero channelled his namesake by terrorising and toying with Spurs’ rearguard.
Four sublime finishes, the courage to step up and take three penalties, and smashing compatriot Carlos Tevez’s record as top City scorer, all combine to make Aguero a more than worthy Sky Blues hero.
The Saints (8/1 for a top-four finish) were just one goal away from equalling the Premier League’s biggest margin of victory, still held by Manchester United after their 9-0 demolition of Ipswich in 1995.
There were many potential protagonists vying for the starring role in Southampton’s win, though, as both wily coach Ronald Koeman and prolific Graziano Pelle justified their Manager and Player of the Month awards with aplomb.
New boy Dusan Tadic was also in flying form, orchestrating four of the Saints’ goals to equal the Premier League record for number of assists in one game, illustrating he is a hero in his own right, not just a foil for the forwards.
Own goals were level with Aguero in these round of fixtures as the biggest threat to goalkeepers, with four players managing to hit the back of their own nets. Whilst clearly villains to their teammates and faithful fans, own goals certainly made a contribution to neutrals’ enjoyment in these latest round of fixtures.
Santiago Vergini got opposition team Southampton off the mark with a fabulous folly, inexplicably managing to volley the ball past clubmate and keeper Vito Mannone, before not-so-super substitute Liam Bridcutt embarrassed Black Cats fans further.
Lacklustre Liverpool were also the beneficiaries of own goals causing havoc, as both Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker blundered to hand the Reds a last-gasp victory over QPR.
The Black Cats’ collapse against Southampton, where they conceded eight times in what was a comically bad performance, ranks as one of the heaviest defeats in Premier League history. Whilst fingers can easily be pointed at coach Gus Poyet, Sunderland’s own goal offenders and ramshackle rearguard, the whole team should take the flack for their part in a calamitous clash.
Fans will certainly be viewing the players as villains after forking out for tickets and travel fares to be greeted with such a spectacle. Black Cats (11/4 to be relegated) keeper Mannone, who inadvertently provided an assist for Southampton after a poor clearance fell to Tadic, has redeemed himself somewhat with his comments after the match.
Speaking of refunds for fans, beleagured stopper Mannone stated: “I will talk to the team to see if it is possible to pay their tickets and their trip.”
Whilst penalties did provide plenty of drama, they also almost stole the headlines from Manchester City and Spurs and Stoke City and Swansea City’s thrilling encounters, with contentious refereeing decisions having far too much influence on the flow of the games.
There were a total of four goals scored from the spot this weekend, with an incredible four being awarded in City’s win alone. At least three crucial decisions, including Federico Fazio’s red card, and decisions given for presumed fouls on Frank Lampard, Roberto Soldado and Victor Moses caused controversy and a feeling of injustice.
Balotelli is often considered football’s most entertaining anti-hero, but the highly-rated Italian attacker has become more famous for his off-field antics than his influence on a football pitch in recent times.
After slipping down the pecking order in the Italy squad, and with new club Liverpool clearly needing a hero to rescue them from their poor performances in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Balotelli has gone MIA. The 24-year-old’s contribution against QPR consisted of a number of pot-shots, a lack of team spirit and missing a gilt-edged chance. The controversial forward needs to add goals to his bluster before he becomes a symbol of the Reds problems.