Four things we learned from the EPL
One could argue that Liverpool not starting 35-million-pound man Andy Carroll against Norwich on Saturday made sense. Up against two physical central defenders, the pace of Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy might be considered the better option. And Bellamy duly scored in the entertaining 1-1 draw at Anfield.
But what must the Liverpool striker's confidence be like now? He was probably champing at the bit to face a newly promoted side that shipped goals away from home.
Yes, the Carroll saga continues, and those pushing for more playing time for the ponytailed tower will say that when he entered in the 80th minute, he caused havoc. He worked himself into a good position in the box in injury time, only to see his header go fractionally wide. An in-form Carroll, and that comes from getting a run of games, would have buried it for the winner. Call it a surprise if Carroll doesn't start against burly Stoke City in the Carling Cup on Wednesday.
It's the next installment of the Carroll Watch.
Ironically, Norwich's equalizer in the second half emanated from its own striker frozen out recently, Grant Holt. Holt is a great story, hitting the heights of the Premier League after plying his trade in lower divisions. He's now scored at Chelsea and Liverpool, though the goalkeeper provided a helping hand on both occasions.
In this tale of strikers, Suarez was his usual buzzing self, registering a season-high 11 shots, six on target. He was unlucky not to join Bellamy and Holt on the score sheet.
Norwich keeper John Ruddy pushed his shot onto the post in the first half and defender Russell Martin got in his way in the second, the ball hitting the post again. On virtually the last kick of the game, Ruddy tipped Suarez's strike away from danger.
The Canaries, always dangerous on the counter, inched up to seventh -- still only three points behind the more fancied Reds.
Here are some thoughts on action elsewhere Saturday in the Premier League:
The Wolves are out
When they start chanting, "You don't know what you're doing," it spells trouble.
Mick McCarthy was the unfair target, his Wolves team about to lose a sixth straight Premier League game. Swansea, like Norwich a Premier League newcomer, came to Molineux without a point on the road and took a 2-0 lead, confidently playing its customary possession-based soccer, led by former Chelsea winger Scott Sinclair. Wolves were anything but confident, as striker Kevin Doyle later pointed out.
McCarthy, the no-nonsense Irishman, made a desperate double substitution midway in the second half that angered a sizable portion of the stadium. But the move paid off, perhaps preventing him from becoming the first Premier League manager to get the axe this season.
How quickly the Wanderers faithful forget.
McCarthy's role in keeping Wolves up the previous two seasons shouldn't be underestimated. Former Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann, in several conversations with ESPN.com, labeled Wolves the hardest working team in the division. The catalyst is McCarthy.
They have to be, since McCarthy doesn't have much else to work with. Doyle, Jamie O'Hara and Matt Jarvis are the lone three starting offensive sparks in a lineup where the quality isn't spread throughout. Doyle scored Wolves' opener in the 84th minute and set up O'Hara in the 86th as the home team earned a morale-boosting point, 2-2.
McCarthy looked hurt in his post-match interview.
"I got that all wrong," he sarcastically told Sky. "The substitutions were hopeless. I am a really lucky man here today."
Sarcasm is nothing new from McCarthy. Then, however, he turned serious.
"It's funny, when you're having a toil and struggle, everything is wrong, from me to the performance of the players," he said.
The points need to accumulate to take more heat off McCarthy, but the fixture gods aren't immediately helping. Wolves visit league leader Manchester City, Everton and Chelsea in three of their next four league outings.
Good times are back at Newcastle
David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Peter Beardsley and Faustino Asprilla, allowed to roam by manager Kevin Keegan, brought champagne football to Newcastle United in the mid-1990s. Pretty football and success: the perfect combination.
The Magpies came close to edging Manchester United in 1995-96, undone down the stretch. Keegan famously lost it as title hopes faded, Alex Ferguson the object of his lack of affection in a television rant.
After relegation and controversy surrounding owner Mike Ashley in the last decade, good times are back for Newcastle's long suffering supporters (no major trophies in more than 40 years). Newcastle remained fourth ahead of Liverpool, but now only three points behind Manchester City, thanks to a 1-0 win against hapless Wigan.
Although Yohan Cabaye's late winner was a beauty, champagne football it wasn't. Not that it should detract from the job Alan Pardew is doing.
"It's about our resilience as well," Pardew told Sky. "It ain't always about playing champagne football. We didn't do that today, for sure."
Pardew, unlike McCarthy, seems to finally have the fans' backing; Chris Hughton was unfairly dumped a season ago. Team spirit, fostered by Pardew, is a major reason for the early success, if you listen to Newcastle players.
With relegation now not a concern -- there were those who thought, justifiably, it would be due to the departures of Carroll, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique -- loftier goals shouldn't be discounted. Finishing in the top 10 and going deep in a Cup competition, maybe?
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The weekly sending off
There's nothing like a red card to kill a derby. Mind you, if it's warranted, no one can complain.
West Brom manager Roy Hodgson and Aston Villa counterpart Alex McLeish predictably saw things differently in the aftermath of Chris Herd's sending off. The young Villa defender tangled off the ball with Jonas Olsson inside his box in the first half and got his marching orders from referee Phil Dowd.
Trailing 1-0 at the time, West Brom overcame the resulting missed penalty to prevail 2-1 at Villa Park.
Hodgson told the BBC: "It was a kick. He stamped on him. The referee saw him and sent him off."
McLeish's take? "In the pictures I have seen it looked as if Chris was extricating his foot from Jonas Olsson's grasp, and Olsson didn't react to it. If you'd been stamped on, you'd expect the player to complain."
Villa began the season well but lost a second straight; West Brom, shaky early, is unbeaten in four.
Considering the number of dismissals this season, might we see another red in Sunday's Manchester derby?
London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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