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Page last updated at 19:46 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

Saturday football as it happened



To get involved use 606 or text us your views & comments on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide). (Not all contributions can be used)

By Jonathan Stevenson

1942: Now that is what they call a proper Saturday of football. There are over 10,000 words in this live text, and I think someone's waving the white flag at me. Match of the Day is on BBC One and this website at 2230 GMT and The Football League Show follows it at 2350 GMT. Enjoy, and I'll see you precious bunch back here tomorrow. You're the best.

From BoisterousCitizenTom on 606: "Absolutely terrible defending today. Horrific passing, we gave the ball away so many times. I don't think there's anything good to say about that City performance."

From newarchivist on Twitter: "It's great, as a US supporter, to see Donovan get such a warm send-off from the Everton crowd. It warms my heart."

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Goodison Park: "Roberto Mancini samples defeat for the first time since he arrived at Eastlands - and it was far more emphatic than the scoreline suggests. Everton were superior in every department to expensively-assembled Manchester City. Everton fans afford their team a standing ovation and it is fully deserved. And literally head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch was Marouane Fellaini. Top-class."

1931: Remarkably, that is Everton's first win in a Saturday evening kick-off at home since March 1967, when they beat Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup. OK, so this is only their seventh game since then, but it's still a great stat.

Full time
1928: Full-time Everton 2-0 Manchester City
The hosts should be absolutely delighted with that - they were by a mile the better team. Roberto Mancini suffered his first defeat as a Premier League manager.

1927: ... Craig Bellamy fires it into the wall and Pablo Zabaleta slams the rebound miles wide. Roberto Mancini looks like a man about to give his team a right good kicking in the dressing room.

1926: Manchester City have a free-kick 22 yards out, centrally, after Steven Pienaar clumsily brings down Pablo Zabaleta. Shall I build up some tension...?

1925: Jose Baxter, 17, comes on for Landon Donovan, who has had a cracking home debut, the American.

1924: Into injury time at Everton and there will be about three minutes of the stuff.

1921: Standing ovation at Goodison Park for a magnificent piece of skill from Marouane Fellaini, who won the ball off Craig Bellamy and pirouetted around the Welshman a la Zinedine Zidane. The 'ole's' begin in earnest - it's party time in the blue half of Merseyside.

From Neil, Arborfield, via text on 81111: "Has Tim Howard had a save to make yet? Hope I haven't jinxed it now."

1918: Lovely bit of control by Roberto Mancini on the touchline - he's done more than Robinho this evening now. Everton send James Vaughan on for Louis Saha.

1916: Great ball into the Everton box from City this time, but Johnny Heitinga manages to hammer the ball clear with Carlos Tevez desperately trying to get a shot in.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1915: Terrific stuff - Leighton Baines swings over a fabulous cross from deep on the Everton left and Tim Cahill gets up above Vincent Kompany to thump a header against the crossbar with Shay Given beaten.

1915: Ten minutes left at Goodison Park and it remains Everton 2-0 Manchester City.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1912: Magnificent save from Shay Given. Landon Donovan's corner from the right is powerfully headed towards the top corner by the imperious Marouane Fellaini and Given at full stretch tips it on to the bar, with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov crashing the rebound over.

From LivingForFootball on 606: "I think it's a little early to write off City. This game isn't over yet, although I like Everton's play today. Mancini is a good coach. He'll make adjustments over the season."

1908: Everton still look the more dangerous of the two teams and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov turns into space inside the City area, but his left-foot shot is blocked by a Toffees defender.

BBC Radio 5 live
The peerless Jimmy Armfield on BBC Radio 5 live: "Everton have been very good today, because of the team-work and work-rate right the way across the pitch. They've never let City settle and never let them back into it after going in front."

1905: Young Seamus Coleman comes on for Sylvain Distin for Everton.

1904: Nice move by City and Roberto Mancini applauds. Shaun Wright-Phillips does well down the left and when Carlos Tevez's cross to the far post is helped back into the area by Pablo Zabaleta, Craig Bellamy volleys over.

1903: Roberto Mancini has not sat down once. He's unlikely to be very impressed with what he's seen so far. Everton 2-0 Man City.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Goodison Park: "Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini will create a stir by substituting his substitute Robinho - but I applaud him for his bravery and decisiveness. The Brazilian was shocking, with no moment worse than when he very obviously decided against going into a physical challenge with Marouane Fellaini. Good, strong management."

1858: OK, back to the game. Shaun Wright-Phillips goes on a decent run down the left and Phil Neville slides in with a fabulous challenge to thwart the little winger.

1857: Hang on, just gimme a minute while I tweet Darren Bent, below, about percentages...

From DBTheTruth on Twitter: "Bad day today, feel sorry for any supporter who went. We will bounce straight back I'm convinced. 150% committed to the cause."

1855: Oh, the ignominy. At £32m, the most expensive footballer in the history of the British game, Robinho - who came on as an early sub for Man City - has been hauled off and replaced by Shaun Wright-Phillips. Of course, Robinho goes straight down the tunnel. On his way out.

1852: Shaun Wright-Phillips is stripping off on the Manchester City bench. Such early substitutions - is Roberto Mancini like the anti-Rafa Benitez?

From Flavio, London, via text on 81111: "City are shipping too many goals. Mancini has had his chance - time for him to go."

1849: Micah Richards steps forward out of defence and catches Steven Pienaar in the face as he tries to win possession. Nothing intentional there, but the South African will need a bit of treatment.

1848: Louis Saha tries to fashion an opening in the Man City box, but Vincent Kompany clears against the Frenchman and the ball ricochets a couple of yards past Shay Given's right-hand post. Could have been calamitous.

1846: Javier Garrido curls a free-kick towards Tim Howard's goal - it's a cross, about 35 yards out, but it arcs just past the angle of post and crossbar. Bit wasteful, that.

1843: Marouane Fellaini has been absolutely magnificent today in the heart of that Everton midfield. Quite frankly he's bossed the game, the enormous unit.

1842: Craig Bellamy chests down a long pass in-between two defenders, but Leighton Baines gets back really well to head into Tim Howard's arms.

BBC Radio 5 live
The peerless Jimmy Armfield on BBC Radio 5 live: "I do feel a little bit for Roberto Mancini, because some of his plans for this match must have been based around Roque Santa Cruz and he loses him after about four minutes."

1839: Manchester City make a second change, with Benjani coming on for Martin Petrov at the start of the second half. We're back under way at Goodison.

From Anon, via text on 81111: "Letter of the law - penalty. Soft - maybe. Micah Richards - stupid, he has three clear tugs of his shirt in the area. Credible for the linesman to give - no."

From tomwfootball on Twitter: "First shirt tug: foul, referee plays advantage; second shirt tug: still a foul, now a penalty. Simples."
Hey tomwfootball, does your name mean we're related via Twitter?

1830: Everton boss David Moyes will be thrilled by the scoreline at Goodison right now. This is what he said in his programme notes: "There is no doubt Man City treated us with little respect and broke rules in the summer transfer of Joleon Lescott. I found it very difficult to accept that a club with so many similarities to Everton should suddenly start acting with no class."

From Im_partial on 606: "Well done Everton for showing the zillionaires how to do it with good old-fashioned tackling and some clever play by the likes of Fellaini, that Billy fellow and the always pesky Pienaar and Cahill."

Half time
1823: Half-time Everton 2-0 Manchester City
I was just about to say you could hardly argue if Everton were 2-0 up at half-time. But somehow, I think there will be a fair bit of arguing about that decision.

Everton goal: City are furious. Micah Richards gets a load of Louis Saha's shirt, though the initial contact is outside the area. He gets another load of his shirt inside the area, and then the assistant referee flags, the referee agreeing and pointing to the spot. Saha steps up himself and with Shay Given diving away to his left, rolls the ball down the middle.

1822: GOAL Everton 2-0 Manchester City


1819: My word that was nearly 1-1. A good passing move ends up with the ball at Craig Bellamy's feet and his right-foot curler from on the left-hand side of the Everton box is tipped away via the fingertips of Tim Howard.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Goodison Park: "Everton have taken over and that goal had been coming. Manchester City started so well but Everton deserve the lead, given to them by Steven Pienaar - such an intelligent player. New territory for Roberto Mancini. He has not seen his side put under this sort of pressure since he succeeded Mark Hughes."

1816: Everton are rampant. Tim Cahill chests a long pass down brilliantly into the path of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and the Russian's searing left-foot drive flies inches past Shay Given's left-hand post.

1815: Tim Cahill gets into space in the City area, but he doesn't want to shoot on his left foot and tries to find a pass with his right, but the chance goes begging.

1813: After an opening dominated by Man City, Everton have bossed it in recent times. Robinho has hardly had a touch since that miss.

Everton goal: Strange one, that - but the Toffees definitely deserve their lead. Steven Pienaar takes the set-piece, curls it over the wall and gets it down to beat Shay Given at his bottom right-hand post. Odd wall, odd positioning from the usually flawless Given.

1810: GOAL Everton 1-0 Manchester City

1809: Louis Saha tries to cut in from the Everton left, but Pablo Zabaleta shoulder barges him to the floor. The Argentine will say it was harsh, and he might have a case. Free-kick 20 yards out for Everton...

1807: Benjani was stripping off, but Carlos Tevez - who was struggling with a hamstring injury a moment ago - just broke into a run and looked OK. Louis Saha heads wide for Everton.

1804: The hosts are all over City. Marouane Fellaini wins a 50-50 and sets up Phil Neville down the right, the former Man United star winning a corner thanks to a nifty little stepover. Roberto Mancini's side eventually clear their lines, but the Italian might be starting to worry a little.

From CreatingSpace on 606: "Good game this. Must say I'm impressed with the creativity from Donovan."

1801: City half clear a cross but Diniyar Bilyaletdinov reacts quickly to chest it down and volley goalwards, Shay Given tipping over. From the corner, Tim Cahill nods over the bar.

1759: Marouane Fellaini slashes a left-foot volley a few yards wide from 20 yards and Everton really have got themselves a firm footing in this game now.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Goodison Park: "Manchester City looking the better side but that was a great chance for Landon Donovan. First touch a little heavy from the man on loan from LA Galaxy. He has looked lively so far. City showing plenty of variety in attack and this one is coming to the boil nicely."

1757: Corner from the Everton left is met by the giant Belgian Marouane Fellaini at the far post, but the angle is tight and his header is straight at Shay Given.

From TomGoulding on Twitter: "On a lighter note, Spurs have gone 546 minutes without conceding, stretching back to Kevin Doyle's goal on 12th December."

1753: So close to Landon Donovan's first goal for Everton as Louis Saha's sliding tackle sends the American away into space on the right of the City area, but his controlled clip over Shay Given lands wide of the far post.

1751: City are controlling a lot of this game, confidently playing the ball around at the back. When Everton get possession, City are chasing them down furiously.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce: "There's no getting away from it, we have had our backsides well and truly kicked. We've got a lot of players missing defensively and this is a hard enough place to come when you have a full strength side. But we couldn't get near them today, it was a procession, and we can only hope that we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, and respond."

1747: Chance for Robinho. A ball from the Man City right is flicked on by Carlos Tevez and it falls on the volley to the Brazilian about eight yards out, his left-foot effort flying a few yards over.

1745: Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's header is saved by Shay Given, after great work down the right from Everton's home debutant Landon Donovan.

Burnley boss Brian Laws: "If you look at key moments in games we should have taken the lead when David Nugent went through. When you come to places like this you need to take your chances when they come and the score didn't reflect the performance we put in. If we apply ourselves as we've done this afternoon we can be confident of staying in the Premier League."

1743: Martin Petrov is already having some joy cutting in off the City right, and this time his ferocious, low 30-yard shot is parried away by Tim Howard. The visitors have started very brightly.

1742: The change is made. Robinho, without a goal for Manchester City since 2 May 2009, replaces the injured Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz.

1741: Man City counter with pace and Martin Petrov plays a near-audacious no-look pass into the path of Carlos Tevez, only for the ball to run through to Tim Howard.

1739: Roque Santa Cruz limps off. I think his evening is over almost before it had even started. Robinho begins warming up.

From Darrell, via text on 81111: "I am a Norwich fan , we were sensational today. Holt, Martin and Hoolahan are the greatest attacking force in League One. It is the best day of my life."

Hull keeper Boaz Myhill: "Definitely my best performance of late. I'm very glad to help my team-mates in any way I can and I'm delighted we got the result. The game's a bit of a blur and I didn't know a lot about one of the saves!"

1734: Tim Cahill gets in a reducer early doors, challenging Javier Garrido in the air and leaving the defender on the floor. He's OK, though.

1734: Under way at one of the great old grounds of English football as Everton take on Manchester City.

Hull boss Phil Brown on keeper Boaz Myhill: "It was a fantastic performance. He must have pulled off half a dozen world-class saves. When he was beaten by the first shot at times he followed it up with another one and he did that on a couple of occasions. It was fantastic display from all the players, none more so than Boaz."

1729: By the way, I didn't mean at 1725 GMT I'm dead. I just meant it was a bit later than usual. Football League Danny thought I should point that out. I hope that ends any confusion.

1728: The teams are out at Goodison Park and we're moments away from kicking off on Merseyside.

From philmcnulty on Twitter: "Just seen Everton & Man City chief execs Robert Elstone & Garry Cook shaking hands & having chat. Acrimony of Lescott deal in the past."

1725: Oops, almost forgot the late Stevo's Predo:
Everton 2-3 Manchester City
Lawro's Premier League predictions

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti: "We have just given maybe our best performance of the season. This is how we should continue to play from now until the end of the campaign."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "It was a funny game. We had so many opportunities it was almost embarrassing we didn't score in the first half. One thing you need is patience to wear teams down and we have that."

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty at Goodison Park: "Everton and Manchester City showing plenty of positive intent with these line-ups. David Moyes could never seriously contemplate playing Lucas Neill before his move to Turkey. Manchester City have, perhaps surprisingly included Craig Bellamy, even though it is known he struggles to play games in quick succession and they face Manchester United in the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday. City will know this is a great opportunity after Spurs and Liverpool dropped points - but Everton are a rapidly-improving side."

1716: And some more Football League Danny: "In League One, Norwich had a remarkable 5-0 win at Colchester, MK Dons matched that margin of victory at Hartlepool - but arguably the performance of the day was Exeter, inflicting only the second defeat of the season on leaders Leeds, winning 2-0. Meanwhile in weather-hit League Two, Bournemouth lost 2-1 at home to Bury."

1715: Football League Danny has a lot of bones to pick out of, er, stuff: "Pick the bones out of that then. Some remarkable matches today - key scorelines include Forest 2-1 Reading. Eighteen league games unbeaten for Forest. Bristol City beat Preston 4-2 in a disappointing start for new Preston boss Darren Ferguson, but former Preston manager Alan Irvine had a much better day with his new club Sheffield Wednesday who beat Yorkshire rivals Barnsley 2-1."

From KrakowSpursFan on 606: "Once again we've totally dominated a game but somehow failed to win. Myhill was incredible, but our strikers would have got past him if they'd been on form."

1710: Unsurprisingly, Everton manager David Moyes has dropped Lucas Neill, who agreed terms to move to Turkish side Galatasaray in the week, so Sylvain Distin returns in defence against his former club. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov is the other change, in the side for Leon Osman. Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini makes one change from the starting XI which so convincingly beat Blackburn 4-1 on Monday, with Paraguay international striker Roque Santa Cruz starting alongside Carlos Tevez and Benjani relegated to the bench.

1706: Everton v Manchester City line-ups:
Howard, Neville, Heitinga, Distin, Baines, Donovan, Fellaini, Pienaar, Bilyaletdinov, Cahill, Saha.
Subs: Nash, Vaughan, Forshaw, Coleman, Duffy, Baxter, Mustafi.
Man City: Given, Zabaleta, Richards, Kompany, Garrido, Petrov, De Jong, Barry, Bellamy, Tevez, Santa Cruz.
Subs: Taylor, Onuoha, Sylvinho, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Mwaruwari, Boyata.
Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands)

From Steve, Nairobi, Kenya, via text on +44 7786200666: "Any sympathy or empathy for Jenni, 1458!"

1701: I am sorry for the slowness of the updates at a crucial stage there, thanks for being patient.

1658: Football League Danny: "Double extraordinary - it's Colchester 0-5 Norwich. Grant Holt with the goal. That makes it 7-6 on aggregate to Colchester in the two matches this season, or 12-1 to Paul Lambert if you want to look at it that way. Cripes."

1658: Full-time Tottenham 0-0 Hull City

1657: Still going at Spurs, where Boaz Myhill has made some of the saves of the season to keep Hull in it.

1656: Full-time Wolves 0-2 Wigan

1654: Full-time Manchester United 3-0 Burnley

1654: Full-time Chelsea 7-2 Sunderland

Man United goal: Manchester United make it 3-0 in added time. A long ball from Valencia finds substitute Mame Diouf who is able to head over Brian Jensen and into the net. His celebration is even more impressive, cartwheeling away in delight.

Sunderland goal: The most consolatory of all consolations as Darren Bent taps in from close-range. Presumably most of the Chelsea players have gone home already, no?

1652: GOAL Manchester United 3-0 Burnley

1652: GOAL Chelsea 7-2 Sunderland

1651: Look no further for your player of the day - at Spurs, Peter Crouch heads Niko Kranjcar's cross goalwards and Boaz Myhill makes a magnificent one-handed save.

Chelsea goal: That completes Sunderland's misery and it also matches Chelsea's biggest winning margin in the Premier League. Nicolas Anelka fizzes a cross in from the right and Frank Lampard gets his header on target and in.

1649: GOAL Chelsea 7-1 Sunderland

1648: Only one game still up for grabs in the Premier League - it's Spurs 0-0 Hull. Time running out.

From BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Colchester v Norwich on Twitter: "Turning ugly as one Colchester fan makes a run towards the away end and is promptly arrested. What was the point of that?"

1645: Football League Danny: "Extraordinary - Exeter are 2-0 up against Leeds. Former Weston-super-Mare man Ryan Harley makes it a mare for Simon Grayson's side - surely they're slumping to a second league defeat this season. Meanwhile, MK Dons are 5-0 up at Hartlepool. Great display. Speaking of which, it's Colchester 0-4 Norwich."

Someone has struck the woodwork
Someone has struck the woodwork
1644: Cross from the Burnley left and it falls for Steven Thompson, but he heads against the post. At Chelsea, Joe Cole heads against the post from four yards when it genuinely was easier to score.

1643: Prolific. Football League Danny: "Gary Taylor-Fletcher puts Ian Holloway's Blackpool 2-1 up over QPR. And Nicky Bailey has restored Charlton's lead at Wycombe - they're 2-1 up at Adams Park and no doubt rejoicing in news that Exeter remain 1-0 up against Leeds."

1641: Niko Kranjcar wants a penalty at Spurs after his shot flies into some part of Anthony Gardner, but it was hit with such force it would have been a bit harsh.

1639: Hull's Boaz Myhill makes another fine save, diving away to his left to keep out Luka Modric's left-foot drive. What a game the Tigers keeper has had today.

From Vic, Welwyn Garden City, via text on 81111: "Commentator at Wolves v Wigan match after second player sent off: 'Sawdust for brains, some of these footballlers.'"

1635: Chris Iwelumo forces a fine save from Chris Kirkland at Wolves - the hosts need something quickly. At Chelsea, Marton Fulop saves well from Nicolas Anelka, six yards out, as the Frenchman misses a chance to score his hat-trick.

Wigan goal: The sending off hasn't put Wigan off their stride - they've gone and doubled their lead. Hugo Rodallega wins his physical duel with Michael Mancienne and Charles N'Zogbia takes over then, cutting in from the right and slamming a left-foot shot in off the post.

1633: GOAL Wolves 0-2 Wigan

1632: Uh-oh. Football League Danny: "Good and bad news for Nottingham Forest. Lee Camp saves a Reading penalty - but Nicky Shorey is sent off. Forest stay 2-0 up, but they have 10 men for the remainder."

Man United goal: That's probably that, then. Dimitar Berbatov races on to a pass on the right-hand side of the Burnley box and his shot across goal is saved by Brian Jensen. From the rebound, Wayne Rooney takes his time before slotting past the big Danish keeper.

1629: GOAL Manchester United 2-0 Burnley

Red card
1627: SENDING OFF (Hendry Thomas, Wigan)
Thomas follows Richard Stearman into having an early bath after a clumsy challenge on Stephen Ward to pick up his second yellow card. It's 10 v 10 now at Molineux.

1627: Statuesque defending from Man United and Chris Eagles takes advantage to dance past a couple of tackles before shooting weakly at Edwin van der Sar.

Chelsea goal: Sunderland's brief rennaisance is over. Yuri Zhirkov's cross is flapped at by keeper Marton Fulop and Nicolas Anelka is on hand to side-foot into an open net from the edge of the area. There might be a few more goals at the Bridge too, before we're done.

Man United goal: Finally the hosts sneak in front at Old Trafford. On the edge of a crowded area Wayne Rooney plays a clever ball through for Dimitar Berbatov and the Bulgarian holds off Michael Duff before firing in - via the defender - past Brian Jensen.

1624: GOAL Chelsea 6-1 Sunderland

1624: GOAL Manchester United 1-0 Burnley

1623: Peter Crouch comes on for Robbie Keane at Tottenham, with Harry Redknapp's team starting to dominate against Hull.

1622: Burnley with a superb breakaway at Old Trafford. Chris Eagles carries the ball into the United half before feeding David Nugent, who holds off the challenge of Johnny Evans but is only able to poke his shot wide. He should have scored.

Wigan goal: The visitors take the lead against the 10-men, and it won't surprise you to find out that Marcus Hahnemann made a save from Hugo Rodallega in that bit of action. Charles N'Zogbia raced down the right and crossed and after Rodallega's shot was saved, James McCarthy coolly slots into the Wolves net.

1620: GOAL Wolves 0-1 Wigan

1619: Football League Danny: "Championship goal slam - Jack Colback fires home to put Ipswich 2-1 up on Coventry. Bristol City are 3-1 up on Preston thanks to Louis Carey. Sheff Utd are 1-0 up on Middlesbrough thanks to Richard Cresswell. And Adel Taarabt's penalty has levelled for QPR at Blackpool - that's 1-1."

Someone has struck the woodwork
1617: United continue to press but a header from Paul Scholes and a long-range Nani effort are easily saved by Brian Jensen, whilst Wayne Rooney hits a snap shot over from 12 yards. Dimitar Berbatov goes so close from a Luis Valencia pass, slamming a left-foot shot against the post from 10 yards.

Sunderland goal: A long ball is headed down by Kenwyne Jones and Bolo Zenden, just on and against his former club, fires a left-foot shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

1616: GOAL Chelsea 5-1 Sunderland

1615: Luka Modric's shot from the edge forces another save from Boaz Myhill and he makes another great stop from Robbie Keane on the rebound.

1615: It's a two-man game at Wolves, still, as Marcus Hahnemann saves from Hugo Rodallega for the 47th time this afternoon. Nearly.

1614: Football League Danny: "Peterborough have got problems at home against Derby. They've had two men sent off - both their centre-halves. It's not taken the Rams long to capitalise - DJ Campbell puts them 2-0 up, expect more. Dean Shiels has put Doncaster 1-0 up against Watford. And in East Anglia, Paul Lambert continues to reign supreme - it's Colchester 0-3 Norwich."

From Jag021 on Twitter: "Nottingham Forest chanting 'Are you watching Liverpool?' Painful. Benitez has turned us into a laughing stock. Rafa out!"

Chelsea goal: Seriously, I know they are stretched, but this is among the worst defending you will see in the top flight. Joe Cole crosses from the right, the Sunderland defenders are in no-man's land and Michael Ballack heads past poor Marton Fulop from six yards. Shambles.

1611: GOAL Chelsea 5-0 Sunderland

Someone has struck the woodwork
1609: More action at Stamford Bridge. Nicolas Anelka smashes one in from 25 yards that Marton Fulop somehow tips on to bar and then post and away to safety. Stunning shot, sensational save.

1606: And they're playing once more in the Spurs 0-0 Hull and Manchester United 0-0 Burnley games too. Wolves have brought on David Jones for Matt Jarvis.

1605: Under way at Wolves-Wigan too.

1604: Chelsea take John Terry and Ashley Cole off for Alex and Yuri Zhirkov, while Sunderland bring Bolo Zenden on for Steed Malbranque. Back under way at Stamford Bridge.

From Paul in Carshalton, via text on 81111: "I'm reading reports that Rafa has resigned, or been sacked. Any truth in that?"
Nope. Not that we've heard, anyway. Will keep you posted.

1601: Football League Danny with a very different kind of chat: "Don't forget, Football League fans - BBC One's new football magazine show Late Kick Off makes its debut on Monday. There are seven regional shows featuring all the clubs in your region. Find out more at or follow BBCLatekickoff on Twitter."

From BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Colchester v Norwich on Twitter: "'We want seven,' chant the Norwich fans. Paul Lambert punches the air and the atmosphere starts to turn ever so slightly ugly. I'm wet."

1557: It's enough to make me fall in love with Football League Danny all over again: "Great stuff from Nottingham Forest - Rob Earnshaw puts them 2-0 up against Reading and they look set to make it 18 league matches unbeaten. Elsewhere, Steve Davies' penalty on the stroke of half-time puts Derby 1-0 up at nine-man Peterborough. In League One, Exeter lead Leeds 1-0 in what could be one of the more eye-opening results of the day. Norwich are 2-0 up at Colchester - making Paul Lambert's aggregate in league matches between these sides this season 9-1 by my maths. And in League Two, Bournemouth trail Bury 2-0."

From TheSaviourSeya on 606: "Scholes and Carrick can't play together. It's one or the other partnering Fletcher, or in today's case Anderson as Fletch is missing. On a brighter note, Nani is playing well."

1551: We are at half-time in every Premier League game this afternoon. Only goals are at Chelsea, as they lead Sunderland 4-0.

1550: Another good save from Boaz Myhill at Tottenham, this time the Hull keeper standing tall to deny Jermain Defoe after a brilliant through ball from Luka Modric.

Red card
1548: SENDING OFF (Richard Stearman, Wolves)
The Wolves defender picks up his second booking of the half for tugging back James McCarthy in the penalty area and he can't really argue with that. Hugo Rodallega steps up but his penalty is saved well by Marcus Hahnemann, with Paul Scharner remerkable slotting the rebound wide.



1545: Wayne Rooney fires a shot past the post from about 20 yards out, before Luis Valencia's cross falls for Nani, who knocks the ball up and overheads kicks goalwards, forcing a save from Brian Jensen. They haven't been at the races really, Manchester United today.

1543: Football League Danny: "Bit of a nightmare for the Cherries - Bournemouth look like being pipped by Bury as they aim for some vital League Two promotion points. David Worrall has put Bury 2-0 up at Dean Court."

1542: Good save from Petr Cech at Chelsea from Daryl Murphy after Kenwyne Jones had flicked the ball on to his team-mate.

From Mark, Switzerland, via text on +44 7786200666: "If it would cost £20m to let Rafa go, do you think Spurs would exchange him for Robbie Keane? God knows we need all the help we can get up front!"

1538: Wilson Palacios tries to lift the fans out of their boredom at Spurs but Boaz Mhyill brilliantly parries his shot, before the keeper makes an even better stop from Robbie Keane's follow up.

1537: Ashley Cole's goal, by the way, was the 18,000th Premier League goal. And what a way to do it. Magnificent solo effort from the new Stuart Pearce.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1536: Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega is getting closer at Molineux - he rasps a fierce drive against Marcus Hahnemann's post from 20 yards.

1536: Man United are dominating possession and look threatening in attack. However, the final pass is too often missing and on the occasions that a good final ball is provided the shooter fluffs their effort. Nani and Dimitar Berbatov being the chief culprits with miscued efforts. However, Burnley are not simply playing second fiddle and look dangerous on the break against a vulnerable United defence.

Chelsea goal: Well this is just ridiculous. Chelsea have two against one down their left, Nicolas Anelka feeds the marauding Ashley Cole and his cross misses the two Sunderland defenders at the near post, falling for Frank Lampard six yards out to volley home.

1534: GOAL Chelsea 4-0 Sunderland

1533: Huge Rodallega goes close again at Molineux, his left-foot strike this time tipped around the post by Marcus Hahnemann. At Chelsea, Marton Fulop's feet deny Nicolas Anelka.

From BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Colchester v Norwich on Twitter: "Spicy, real spicy. Colchester v Norwich has gone from bhuna to madras in a matter of minutes after Chris Martin put the visitors 1-0 up. Tasty."

1531: Wigan ball over the top and Hugo Rodallega fastens on to it, but he scuffs his left-foot shot and a sprawling Marcus Hahnemann makes the save.

1530: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake still cannot get on the scoresheet in open play in the Premier League this season, heading Stephen Ward's cross wide at Molineux against Wigan.

1529: Football League Danny: "Who doesn't like goal-filled full-blooded Yorkshire derbies? Not Football League Danny, that's for sure and Barnsley-Sheff Wed isn't disappointing me. It's 2-1 to the visitors thanks to Jermaine Johnson. Meanwhile, Darren Ferguson's Preston are coming back at Ashton Gate - Chris Brown makes it Bristol City 2-1 Preston."

1528: Not great at White Hart Lane still, I regret to announce. Poor Harry, on his 500th Prem game an all.

From Rafael & Fabio - Perfect Combination on 606: "So we have an almost full-strength team out and we are struggling against Burnley whilst Chelsea are, without a few very important players, winning 3-0 against Sunderland? Hmm, doesn't bode well."

Chelsea goal: Our match reporter just claimed that Ashley Cole scored a goal that Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud of, and I laughed in his face. Well he's right. He shows a stunning touch to bring down John Terry's long ball just inside the penalty area down the left, wonderfully turns inside a defender to leave him flummoxed on the floor and he majestically dinks it over Marton Fulop. It's the 16th goal of his career, and better than all the others put together. Stunning.

1523: GOAL Chelsea 3-0 Sunderland

1522: Here's Football League Danny, with news to warm all of our hearts: "Unstoppable (apart from in the FA Cup) Nottingham Forest are 1-0 up against Reading thanks to Paul Anderson. Blackpool lead QPR 1-0 and Scunthorpe are 1-0 up on Cardiff."

1520: The ball breaks to Wolves' out-of-form striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and he toe-pokes wide from the penalty spot. Last season he would have burst the net with that chance. Gilt-edged.

Chelsea goal: I bet Steve Bruce wishes he had John Terry in his team today - his team have defended appallingly so far. Florent Malouda bursts past a couple of Black Cats on halfway and then goes unchallenged, firing in low right-footed from just inside the Sunderland box.

1518: GOAL Chelsea 2-0 Sunderland

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez: "The fans are amazing. If I decide to stay here it will be because of the fans. I will keep going. Sometimes you have bad moments and now is the time when we have to show character."

1516: Robbie Keane narrowly fails to get on the end of a long pass at Tottenham, while Charles N'Zogbia forces Marcus Hahnemann into a decent save at Wolves.

1515: Very little happening at Molineux, but Wigan's Hendry Thomas has just picked up his eighth booking of the season - he's the league's most booked player, presumably an award Marouane Fellaini won last term.

1514: Hearing you loud and clear, Football League Danny: "Bad to worse for Fergie Jr - it's now 2-0 to Bristol City over Preston. Elsewhere, League One leaders Leeds are behind 1-0 at Exeter. And Bournemouth, who have a chance to steal a march on their League Two promotion rivals, are 1-0 down at home to Bury."

From mydailyheadache on Twitter: "Woah, where did that John Terry to Hudds Town info come from? Remember that Bruce also paid £1m for George Donis whilst there."

1511: Harry Redknapp is presiding over his 500th Premier League game in charge today, but his Spurs side have not started too well at home to Hull. They're still marginally the better of the two teams, though.

1510: Football League Danny: "Fans of quickfire goals coupled with bad starts for new managers will be pleased with the events at Ashton Gate. Danny Haynes has put Bristol City 1-0 up against Darren Ferguson's Preston after just 85 seconds. More early Championship goals too - it's already Barnsley 1-1 Sheff Wed and it's Ipswich 0-1 Coventry."

Chelsea goal: It was coming, and now it's arrived. Michael Ballack's first-time ball forward finds Nicolas Anelka just onside and he rounds Marton Fulop before slotting home.

1508: GOAL Chelsea 1-0 Sunderland

1507: New Burnley boss Brian Laws is off his bench, but Steven Fletcher can only drill a couple of feet wide of the far post after good work by David Nugent.

1506: Patrice Evra's ball to the back post is headed to near the penalty spot by Dimitar Berbatov, but Wayne Rooney gets his overhead kick all wrong and it sails harmlessly behind.

1504: Close for Man United, but it looks like Nani's free-kick comes off Stephen Jordan and behind - just - for a corner, while Ashley Cole heads Joe Cole's cross wide at Chelsea.

1503: Early half-chance for Chelsea after Florent Malouda heads forward and Joe Cole looks like he's through, but the ball gets caught under his feet and Marton Fulop races from his line to deal with the danger.

From Matt, via text on 81111: "Stevo, I'm at Saltergate for Chesterfield v Torquay, with my good friend who's a Spireites fan. This will be her last game at Saltergate, because she's going travelling in a month. Apparently it's the oldest ground in the world and they're leaving it in the summer. It's League Two-tastic, days like this are why football's so awesome."

1501: Under way at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane and Molineux. By the way, apparently in 2000 while he was manager of Huddersfield, Steve Bruce had a £750,000 bid ACCEPTED by Chelsea for their young defender John Terry. Brilliant that, isn't it?

1458: While Jenni, below, wonders how on earth to console her fella for the umpteenth time this season, it's time to look ahead. The three o'clock kick-offs are about to get under way. Yeah!

From Jenni in Southampton, via text on 81111: "As a Sunderland fan I thought football had made me suffer enough, then I got myself a Liverpool-supporting boyfriend."

Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt: "It feels like a defeat. We're not playing the greatest football at the minute, but we fought so hard for that game. We just angry that we gave a goal away and didn't win. It's really disappointing. Confidence isn't very high as you can guess, but we must work hard and come out of this as soon as possible."

1451: More Football League Danny: "In League One, expect a fascinating East Anglian derby as Colchester host Norwich. The U's won 7-1 at Carrow Road in an extraordinary opening-day fixture. Norwich have since acquired boss Paul Lambert from them and hit superb form. Aidy Boothroyd's men are in the play-off mixer themselves, although they did recently crumble 7-0 at Preston in the FA Cup. I'll bring you chat on League Two, too."

1450: Here he is. It's the great Football League Danny: "In the Championship, Nottingham Forest hope to steal a march on high-flying rivals Newcastle and West Brom, who play on Monday. Forest host Liverpool's FA Cup conquerors Reading. Meanwhile, expect some form of craziness at Bloomfield Road where Blackpool boss Ian Holloway, faces his old club QPR, who are fresh from shedding their sixth full-time boss in 36 months."

1447: Well that was a lively start to today's proceedings (eventually), wasn't it? Here's a little ray of sunshine for everyone - Football League Danny is on the way...

1446: With Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien and Salomon Kalou on Africa Cup of Nations duty, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti rings the changes for the visit of Sunderland, with Nicolas Anelka back after a hamstring injury to lead the line, Branislav Ivanovic at right-back and Juliano Belletti in midfield. Sunderland boss Steve Bruce welcomes Kenwyne Jones back into his XI in place of Fraizer Campbell in the only change to the side that beat Barrow 3-0 in the FA Cup last time out.

1444: Liverpool have now dropped 29 points in this Premier League season. They dropped 28 in the whole of their last campaign.

1442: Full-time Stoke City 1-1 Liverpool
Can be such a cruel game at times can't it, football? Looked for all the world as though Rafa was going to get his much-needed win, until a stoppage time leveller. He'll feel hard done by, the Spaniard. Shocking game, though.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1441: Unbelievable. Cross from the Liverpool left - with more than five minutes played in injury time - and Dirk Kuyt heads against the post. Looked like Lucas might have been fouled, too.

1440: Stoke plough another corner into the mixer, but Liverpool get it clear. Maxi tries to counter, but he's easily dispossessed. One minute left of stoppage time.

1437: We are one minute into five added minutes. There's time for a winner yet.

Stoke goal: Rafa looks on impassively, but you have to feel for him. Matty Etherington swings over a corner, Danny Higginbotham heads it back across goal, Salif Diao glances it on and Robert Huth pokes home at the back stick.

1434: GOAL Stoke 1-1 Liverpool

1433: Three minutes left plus stoppages for Stoke to salvage something. It's still 1-0 to Liverpool and they probably cannot believe their luck at how badly the hosts have played today. Alberto Aquilani comes on for David Ngog.

1432: Wolves are boosted by the return of top scorer Kevin Doyle, who is passed fit to partner Sylvan Ebanks-Blake up front with Chris Iwelumo dropping to the bench. Marcus Hahnemann returns to replace Wayne Hennessey between the sticks in the only other change for Mick McCarthy's side. Wigan's new signing Gary Caldwell goes straight into the centre of the Premier League's leakiest defence, alongside Titus Bramble. Meanwhile, 19-year-old James McCarthy, makes his first Premier League start in the Latics' midfield.

From grandoldteam on Twitter: "This is, by some distance, the worst 'football' match I have ever seen."

1429: If you want to watch Final Score (UK only), then might I suggest you refresh your browser and watch it appear at the top of this page? Marvellous.

1428: Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp opts to start Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane up front with Peter Crouch on the bench. Ledley King is out once more so Sebastien Bassong plays at centre-back alongside Michael Dawson. Alan Hutton misses out. Hull boss Phil Brown restores several first-choice players after his side's cup defeat to Wigan, with only Boaz Myhill, Kamil Zayatte, Geovanni and Richard Garcia remaining from that team. Jimmy Bullard is not yet ready for a first-team return but Paul McShane is back in the starting line-up. Jozy Altidore has been given compassionate leave to track down relatives caught up in the Haiti earthquake.

1426: Stoke are ploughing the ball into the Liverpool box, but Pepe Reina does really well to punch clear with several Potters players around him. Ten minutes to go.

1426: Edwin Van de Sar returns in goal for Manchester United, replacing Tomasz Kuszczak and, at 39 years and 79 days becoming United's oldest ever post-war player in the process. Other changes see Gary Neville replace Rafael Da Silva, Nani in for Ji-Sung Park and Dimitar Berbatov recalled up front in place of the suspended Darren Fletcher, signifying a shift in tactics to two in attack. For his first game in charge of Burnley, Brian Laws makes four changes from the side which beat MK Dons in the FA Cup. Three of those changes come in defence where Tyrone Mears, David Edgar and Stephen Jordan replace Christian Kalvenes, Richard Eckersley and Andre Bikey. The other change sees David Nugent start in attack in place of Robbie Blake.

1424: Maxi Rodriguez comes on to make his Liverpool debut with 12 minutes left. Philipp Degen, who didn't have a great game, is hauled off.

1423: Tottenham v Hull City line-ups:
Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, Palacios, Kranjcar, Defoe, Keane.
Subs: Alnwick, Bentley, Jenas, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch, Naughton, Rose.
Hull: Myhill, McShane, Zayatte, Gardner, Dawson, Garcia, Boateng, Hunt, Barmby, Geovanni, Fagan.
Subs: Duke, Mendy, Kilbane, Mouyokolo, Ghilas, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Cairney.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire)

1421: Matty Etherington swings over a corner from the Stoke right and Ricardo Fuller's glancing header is saved easily by Pepe Reina.

1421: Salif Diao is booked by the remarkably incompetent Lee Mason, who seems to have got most big decisions wrong today. I wonder if he's related to cricket umpire Daryl Harper?

1419: Wolves v Wigan line-ups:
Hahnemann, Stearman, Craddock, Mancienne, Ward, Foley, Henry, Milijas, Jarvis, Doyle, Ebanks-Blake.
Subs: Hennessey, Elokobi, Surman, Jones, Berra, Vokes, Iwelumo.
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Caldwell, Bramble, Figueroa, N'Zogbia, Scharner, Diame, Thomas, McCarthy, Rodallega.
Subs: Stojkovic, Amaya, Watson, Scotland, Gomez, Sinclair, Boyce.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire)

1418: Chelsea v Sunderland line-ups:
Cech, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Belletti, Lampard, Joe Cole, Anelka, Malouda.
Subs: Hilario, Zhirkov, Paulo Ferreira, Sturridge, Matic, Alex, Borini.
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Cana, Da Silva, McCartney, Malbranque, Henderson, Meyler, Murphy, Bent, Jones.
Subs: Carson, Zenden, Campbell, Liam Noble, Healy, Ryan Noble, Liddle.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

1416: Stoke head forward down their left, but Danny Higginbotham's ball is woeful and Liverpool have a goalkick. The hosts' passing today has been abject - and that's being kind.

1415: Man Utd v Burnley line-ups:
Man Utd:
Van der Sar, Neville, Brown, Jonny Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Nani, Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs: Kuszczak, Owen, Anderson, Park, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Diouf.
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Edgar, Duff, Jordan, Alexander, McDonald, Eagles, Elliott, Nugent, Steven Fletcher.
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Eckersley, Blake, Thompson, Guerrero.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

1413: Lucas steams into a challenge with Matty Etherington and it's a fair one as he wins the ball, but the Stoke winger is left limping a little. Not great news when you've just made your last substitution.

1411: Change for Stoke and with 25 minutes left it'll be their last one, with Ricardo Fuller on for Mamady Sidibe.

From Ronaldo's Ball-Swerving Sixth Toe on 606: "After all the bad luck he's had this season, I think Rafa deserves this awful goal in the most awful match Liverpool have played during his reign. Hope they can inch this one out without conceding late on!"

1407: Stoke launch another long throw from the left and it is headed on to the back stick where Tuncay leaps high only to nod over.

1406: On the 'As It Stands' Premier League table, Liverpool's goal has just moved them up to sixth, two points behind Manchester City in fourth. Hmm...

Liverpool goal: It's a goal befitting of the encounter, but will Rafael Benitez give a flying..? Fabio Aurelio curls in a free-kick from the Reds right, Thomas Sorensen flaps it at Sotirios Kyrgiakos and the Greek makes sure by toe-poking over the line.

1403: GOAL Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool

From Kenneth Gyang, Lagos, via text on +44 7786200666: "Word out here is that Nigeria are lining up Rafa as their gaffer once Hiddink steps in at Anfield. No surprise. They lack confidence, those two teams."

1359: It's rubbish, is this. Hoof ball from one end to the other, and the hoofs aren't even that accurate.

1357: ... Liam Lawrence's right-foot curler clips the top of the wall and goes behind for a corner, which first Sotirios Kyrgiakos and then Pepe Reina deal with well.

1356: Javier Mascherano jumps into Dean Whitehead and Lee Mason hands Stoke a free-kick about 25 yards from Pepe Reina's goal...

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live's Chris Waddle: "When Liverpool get the ball they do try and pass it, but they've got absolutely nothing in the last 30 or 40 yards of the pitch at all."

From BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher at Colchester v Norwich on Twitter: "Colchester - wet, damp, with a muddy car park and soaked stewards. But I wouldn't be anywhere else, which perhaps says a lot about me."

1351: Back under way at Stoke. Team news and line-ups for the 1500 GMT kick-offs shortly.

From davidmarriott on Twitter: "Rumour has it that the lino had the speaker volume turned down and couldn't hear the 'slight nick' as Lucas was taken out."

From stattylegend on 606: "Can't even see how that might be a penalty in a million years. He was on his knees when the tackle came in. Ridiculous suggesting it was a pen. Disgusting dive."

From Spencer, London, via text on 81111: "Pacheco and Rodriquez should be brought on at half-time, we need some creativity or it will be another 0-0 against Stoke."

1338: Stoke have had one shot on target in the first half, but that's probably no surprise given that they've only had 60 all season long. That's the fewest in the Premier League, by the way.

Half time
1334: Half-time Stoke 0-0 Liverpool
Not exactly incident-packed, but certainly enough happened there to keep us busy. A dive or not a dive, that appears to be the $64,000 question.

1331: Stoke pump two more high balls into the Liverpool area, but the visitors have dealt really well with everything so far (if they concede now, it's absolutely not my fault). Into three minutes of stoppage time.

1329: Neither keeper has made a save, yet. Liverpool look the more comfortable of the two teams, Stoke seem to have been put off their stride by the two early forced substitutions.

1326: Five minutes left in the first half. For such a poor game of football, it's fairly flown by. Unusual.

From orlenschlink on Twitter: "Stevo, could you be any more of a Liverpool fan, you Arsenal-supporting Chelsea muppet!"

1322: Emiliano Insua slams over a 'head-me-in' cross from the Liverpool left, but there's no-one there again to nod home inside the six-yard box.

1321: The actual game has lost a bit of impetus after a decent start, and the crowd have followed suit. They're just cancelling each other out at present.

From Dave, Oxford, via text on 81111: "Would one of those penalty box refs have spotted that that was a Liverpool pen?"
No, they are every bit as useless on the evidence so far

1316: Haha, The Great Liverpool Penalty Debate has started again - weren't we here on Wednesday too? Some of you reckon Lucas was already on his way down. Maybe he was - a fraction - but he was still clattered into in the area.

1314: I'm left wondering once again what the hell the assistant referee is there for? He must have been standing 10 yards away from Lucas when he was fouled - if the ref hasn't got a good enough position to see it, the linesman has. Pathetic.

1312: Stoke lose Abdoulaye Faye to injury now, with Andy Wilkinson coming on in his place. That really was a shocker from the ref, that penalty call.

1311: Liverpool want a penalty, but Brazilian midfielder Lucas is booked instead for diving - and there might not be a worse decision this weekend. Lucas plays a gorgeous one-two with Philipp Degen and Danny Higginbotham takes him out, nowhere near the ball. It's another stonewall penalty, but Lucas picks up a caution that will mean a suspension for him. Shocking refereeing from Lee Mason.

1309: Abdoulaye Faye needs a bit of treatment too, as Liam Lawrence comes on for Rory Delap.

1308: Rory Delap is struggling big time and Liam Lawrence is preparing to come on for the hosts. That changes things somewhat.

1307: Mamady Sidibe tries to make headway down the Stoke right, but Sotirios Kyrgiakos does really well to stop him passing and wins the goalkick too. The Greek has much to prove after some iffy displays this term.

1305: Liverpool are rapidly improving and Lucas takes a couple of touches on the edge of the Stoke box before firing in, Dean Whitehead blocking this particular shot.

From Darandio on 606: "Re: Farrell, Fulham fan. Those facts just don't cut it any more, essentially it is two trophies in nearly six years, not good enough. The most galling thing now is to see nothing has been built, we have a team with absolutely no depth."

1302: Fabio Aurelio's ball into the Liverpool box causes some problems and Lucas has a shot bravely blocked by Abdoulaye Faye. Moments later, a Philipp Degen cross from the right finds no Reds players inside the Stoke area. They must commit more players forward than that.

1300: It's electric at Stoke, once again a truly magnificent atmosphere. Having come from Turkey, maybe that's why Tuncay decided to go to the Britannia. A rare visitors' counter-attack sees Fabio Aurelio's volleyed cross-shot deflected into Thomas Sorensen's arms.

From Farrell, Fulham fan, via text on 81111: "I do feel kind of sorry for Rafa, considering that in his tenure at the club he has won the Champions League, the FA Cup, reached the final of the Champions League again and the League Cup. He even managed to finish second above moneybags Chelsea last year, so I think one bad season can be allowed, no? And we are only just past the halfway stage, why not wait until the end of the season to make your minds up?"

1256: Mayhem in the Liverpool box from a massive Rory Delap throw, and Pepe Reina flaps it away unconvincingly, before winning a free-kick for his troubles. They don't half play to their strengths, Stoke.

1254: ... only to smash it straight into the wall. Maybe he didn't realise what a big build-up I'd given him, the occasionally reckless German.

1253: Stoke have a free-kick easily 30 yards out, and Robert 'the hammer' Huth is lining it up...

1250: Fabio Aurelio shoots - from 10 yards inside his own half. It dribbles out for a throw in down the Stoke left. Did Rafa hypnotise them before the game? "Son, your name is Xabi Alonso, and you are brilliant at football." Wonder who David Ngog thinks he is...

From paulp1989 on Twitter: "We can all moan at Rafa, but he always brings us lots to talk about don't he?"

1247: Great start - from the fans. "You'll Never Walk Alone" rings around the Britannia from the visiting end, bringing boos from the other three stands. A Liverpool fan produced a giant P45 before the game, with Rafa's name on it and tomorrow's date. Cruel.

1246: Under way. Expect the pitch to cut up big time - Stoke have apparently trained on it three times this week.

1243: Led by Abdoulaye Faye and Jamie Carragher, the two teams emerge from the tunnel at the Britannia Stadium. It's early in the weekend for such a huge game, but we're almost ready to roll.

1240: So I've taken Roberto Mancini's advice by smashing down a glass of wine and a pizza and I'm ready to rock and roll. Beats Alan Shearer's chicken and beans any day of the week.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez: "The players know that it is an important game for us and we have to show character on the pitch. If we can attack together and defend together maybe we can keep the balance. Today is going to be a physical game. Every game for us until the end of the season is important now and this is the first one."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis: "I'll be amazed if Liverpool come here as anything other than a team who wants to prove a point and I think it makes it a lot more difficult for us. But it'll be a fantastic atmosphere and the fans will be looking forward to it against one of the biggest clubs in the world."

1234: Senor Benitez just needs the three points now, but it's a tough trip to Stoke that lies in store for Liverpool this lunchtime. A year ago, after the original "facts rant", he took his team to the Britannia Stadium and watched them horribly labour to a goalless draw. They were top then, too. Today, only victory will do.

1230: Stevo's Predos:
Stoke 1-1 Liverpool
Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland
Man Utd 3-0 Burnley
Tottenham 4-1 Hull
Wolves 0-0 Wigan
Lawro's Premier League predictions

From Alex, Merseyside, via text on 81111: "I'm a Liverpool fan and quite content with that team, it's good that Rafa realises he can't play the Gerrard-Torres formation without Gerrard and Torres. Looks like three centre-backs and two wing-backs rather than a proper 5-3-2. Probably a 3-2-4-1. Basically, Liverpool will win."

From chrisu1970 on Twitter: "Six defenders & two defensive midfielders in the starting line-up. A new low! Unacceptable. What is Rafa doing to our club?"

From 5ForKeeps on 606: "Although the line-up is a bit negative, why is everyone jumping on Rafa for not picking Aquilani or Maxi? Aquilani played the full 120 mins against Reading and Maxi hasn't played for Atleti in a while. So take a chill pill, key for Liverpool today is to battle and win. Moan afterwards for gods sake... if it doesn't work."

1221: Do drop us a line. But remember, if you are at a game you score more points, and if your banter is particularly awesome you've got a great chance of seeing your name up in lights. So get texting to 81111 (UK) and +44 7786200666 (worldwide), bare your soul on 606 and Tweet the ridiculously-named Stevo_football. Options.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez: "If the message is always the same, it's because it has to always be the same. I've got five years on a contract and I cannot stop fighting, I have to continue. At this moment, we are in the race and when you are in the race you have to fight as much as possible."

1217: Goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen returns from his finger injury for Stoke City. Liverpool are without injured trio Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun. Midfielder Javier Mascherano is back from a four-match ban, while Fabio Aurelio and David Ngog also start. Defender Daniel Agger also misses out with Sotirios Kyrgiakos coming in, while midfielder Alberto Aquilani drops to the bench where he is joined by new signing Maxi Rodriguez.

1215: Alan Green on BBC Radio 5 live calls Liverpool's line-up today "inexplicable". The omission of £20m midfielder Alberto Aquilani, in particular, has infuriated the commentator. Looking at that team, it's hard to see how they can win today (that's an away banker, if ever I saw one).

BBC Radio 5 live
BBC Radio 5 live's Chris Waddle: "I've tried to analyse why Liverpool aren't doing very well. I just think in the full-back areas and wingers they've never, ever improved the team. The centre of the side is very good, but if you stop them playing there you stop the team. I cannot remember a winger this team having that you would struggle to play against."

1209: Stoke v Liverpool line-ups:
Sorensen, Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Delap, Whitehead, Diao, Etherington, Sidibe, Sanli.
Subs: Simonsen, Whelan, Lawrence, Fuller, Pugh, Collins, Wilkinson.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel, Insua, Degen, Lucas, Mascherano, Aurelio, Kuyt, Ngog.
Subs: Cavalieri, Aquilani, Riera, Maxi, Spearing, Darby, Pacheco.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

1207: Firstly, credit where credit is due. After a shatteringly demoralising week, Rafael Benitez showed on Friday that he has not lost his sense of humour, mimicking his actions from a year ago by pulling a sheet of paper from his pocket, saying 'right, some facts,' and - as the tension in the room became unbearable (probably) - proceeding to apologise to Liverpool fans for their rubbish form. You can go either way on this, but I'm a fan. Well done, Rafa.

1203: Um, what I actually meant was that Portsmouth's home Premier League game against Birmingham has been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Welcome to Saturday's action, and on a classically sodden January day, football is our little ray of sunshine.

1200: The snow lingered for longer than anyone could have anticipated, but when the rains came, they did so with vengeance, wreaking havoc on all they surveyed.

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Premier League table snapshot

As it stood on 16 Jan 2010 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Chelsea 21 34 48
2 Man Utd 22 30 47
3 Arsenal 20 30 42
4 Tottenham 21 20 38
5 Man City 21 12 38
6 Aston Villa 20 11 35
7 Liverpool 21 12 34
8 Birmingham 21 2 33
9 Fulham 20 4 27
10 Everton 21 -4 26
11 Stoke 21 -7 25
12 Sunderland 21 -8 23
13 Wigan 20 -21 22
14 Blackburn 21 -18 21
15 Burnley 21 -21 20
16 Wolves 21 -21 19
17 Hull 21 -22 19
18 West Ham 20 -9 18
19 Bolton 18 -10 18
20 Portsmouth 20 -14 14

see also
Saturday's football photos
16 Jan 10 |  Football
Football on the BBC
11 Aug 10 |  Football

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related internet links:
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