Results: Manchester City 1-0 Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers 0-2 Aston Villa, Chelsea 0-0 Hull City, Everton 3-0 Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland 2-0 Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic 0-0 Fulham, Portsmouth 2-3 Liverpool FC, Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Arsenal, West Ham United 0-1 Manchester United
Going into this February weekend in the 2008-2009 season, only five points covered the top four teams. Manchester United held a two-point lead over Liverpool FC and crucially had a game in hand too. Despite having lost two of their last four matches, Chelsea were still in contention and Aston Villa’s best run for several seasons meant they couldn’t be fully discounted from the title picture.
The weekend’s matches began at The Etihad Stadium and there was more misery for Gareth Southgate and his Middlesbrough side. They were beaten 1-0 by mid-table Manchester City with Craig Bellamy scoring his second goal for his new club since joining from West Ham United. Middlesbrough had only scored one goal now in their last six matches and their Premier League status looked in severe jeopardy.
In the 3pm kick-offs, most attention was focused on Chelsea who looked to close the gap on the top two. However, they suffered a damaging blow to their title hopes after an unconvincing display at home to Hull City which saw the teams play out a goalless draw. At the full-time whistle, boos from the home crowd were notable and banners were hurled out by frustrated fans, calling for manager Luiz Felipe Scolari to be sacked. Two days later, the supporters got their wish as Roman Abramovich parted company with the Brazilian former World Cup winning manager. Chelsea were now looking for their third manager since Jose Mourinho’s abrupt departure 17 months earlier.
Their slip-up allowed Aston Villa to capitalise. They won 2-0 away at Blackburn Rovers, courtesy of goals from James Milner and Gabriel Agbonlahor. This meant they had achieved a club record of seven away victories on the trot and moved Martin O’Neill’s side into third place. They were now genuine contenders for a UEFA Champions League spot at the end of the season.
Blackburn remained in the drop zone, where they were joined by Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion. Albion lost 3-2 at home to Newcastle United but Newcastle’s victory was without their manager. Joe Kinnear had been taken to hospital before kick-off and health problems meant he would have to vacate his position. Assistant manager Chris Hughton would take caretaker charge. Peter Lovenkrands scored his first goal for the club in this five-goal contest.
With Manchester United not playing until the Sunday, Liverpool FC had the chance to go top of the table for a few hours at least. They did it the hard way away to Portsmouth but got the job done. Fernando Torres came off the bench to score a last-minute winner as Rafa Benitez’s side won 3-2, despite trailing twice in the game at Fratton Park. The result left Pompey just four points clear of trouble and they decided to wield the axe on Tony Adams as manager, only a few hours before Scolari’s departure from Chelsea was confirmed.
So, could Manchester United respond? A question was asked and once again, it was responded in style. Ryan Giggs scored his first goal of the season and it was a fine individual effort too to breakdown West Ham United’s resolve at Upton Park. United won 1-0, as they continued their winning run. They hadn’t dropped a single point since returning from FIFA World Club Championship duty in mid-December.
Elsewhere, the North London derby ended in a goalless draw. For Arsenal, it started a worrying run of four successive 0-0 draws which almost cost them a top-four finish.
What else happened in February 2009?
- ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ wins 15 awards combined at the BAFTAs and Oscars, including Best Director for Danny Boyle and Best Film.
- Duffy is the big winner at the BRIT Awards, scooping three gongs, including the MasterCard Album of the Year for ‘Rockferry.’
- UK unemployment reaches 1.97 million.
- Many parts of the UK experienced heavy snowfall at the start of the month, causing plenty of travel disruption and the closure of many schools for the best part of a week.
- Prime Minister Gordon Brown suspends PMQs at the end of February for the first time since 1994, following the tragic death of David Cameron’s six-year old son, Ivan.
- Boxing champion Joe Calzaghe retired after 46 fights. He remained undefeated throughout a 15-year career.
- ITV was forced to apologise after millions of TV viewers missed Dan Gosling’s extra-time winner in the FA Cup fourth-round replay between Everton and Liverpool FC. The gaffe saw an advert for Tic-Tac mints shown instead!