You picked a fine time to leave Spurs, Jermain
As Graeme Swann discovered, sportsmen who quit halfway through a campaign should not expect a round of applause. Nevertheless, the reception for Jermain Defoe when he came on to score the second in Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace was heartfelt.
There were reasons to sneer. Toronto is a backwater of a backwater league who will, however, pay Defoe £90,000 a week – double what he earns in London. It means he is unlikely to be a contender for the World Cup squad but this will not be as painful as his leaving of Spurs in 2008. Not only did Defoe find himself cup-tied for Portsmouth’s run to the FA Cup final, he left just in time to miss out on a League Cup final appearance with Tottenham.
Chelsea have rediscovered the Mourinho mean streak
As 2013 turned into 2014, the clocks started to go back at Stamford Bridge – to the last time Jose Mourinho was managing Chelsea. The 4-3 win at Sunderland and the 3-2 defeat at Stoke were not the kind of results anyone has come to associate with Mourinho. He is not Kevin Keegan; like Brian Clough, he cherishes the clean sheet. In his first season at Chelsea, they did not concede a goal between 12 December and 5 March. Saturday’s 2-0 win at Hull was Chelsea’s fifth clean sheet in six games.
Capital One Cup wins inspired Poyet’s men in the league
For a club like Sunderland, glued to the foot of the Premier League since November, the Capital One Cup should have been a monumental drain on energy and resources. Instead, it seems to have inspired Gus Poyet’s side. The 2-1 win over Chelsea in the quarter-final began a sequence that has seen them lose one match in nine. The run includes victories over Everton and Manchester United and now a crushing 4-1 win at Fulham. Not only has Poyet managed to coax the best from Adam Johnson, a fragile character unable to cope with Paolo Di Canio’s brutalist management style, he knows winning anywhere is the best preparation for winning when it matters.
Barry strike was a reminder to Hodgson and Martinez
A broken toe that will keep him out of the Merseyside derby meant Roy Hodgson was denied a glimpse of Ross Barkley. However, the England manager was treated to the sight of Gareth Barry – who has not played for England since before Euro 2012 – scoring his 50th and most spectacular Premier League goal in Everton’s 2-0 win over Norwich. A fee of around £1m would make Barry’s loan from Manchester City permanent but Roberto Martinez says he will assess the 32-year-old’s situation at the end of the season.
T-shirt shows Lallana is still his mother’s sweet boy
To quote Mark Clattenburg’s alleged remark, has Adam Lallana changed since he became an England international? Not if his T-shirt wishing his mother a happy birthday after scoring the only goal against West Bromwich Albion is anything to go by. Craig Richards, who captained the Southampton side that included Lallana, Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale to the 2005 FA Youth Cup final, described him as “a home-grown, down-to-earth, really nice guy”. Just as Robbie Fowler revealed he was more than a scally with his T-shirt supporting the striking Liverpool dockers, this said more about Lallana than any media campaign. It was sweet.
Suarez and Sturridge combination remains lethal
In the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez has been getting on just fine. But the second of his two goals against Stoke, which took his tally to 22 in 16 Premier League games, owed much to his strike partner. A cheeky pass that fooled the Stoke City backline was a reminder of why Liverpool's SAS were becoming the most feared partnership in the Premier League. With the Reds still among the top four, the return of Sturridge may just allow Brendan Rodgers to look to the top.
The offside rule will always be great for debate
Should Cheikh Tiote's 'goal' against Manchester City have been ruled out? He, his manager, Gary Lineker and everyone in Newcastle certainly thinks not. But City manager Manuel Pellegrini said after his side's 2-0 victory at St James' Park that it was "absolutely" offside. Whether Yoan Gouffran was interfering with play or not - these questions without definitive answers are what helps make football so entertaining.
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