We are now roughly two thirds into the Barclays Premier League season and the race for success is heating up. There was plenty of movement around the table this week, with a fierce Welsh derby and some fabulous goals to get talking about, so without further ado here is this week’s Premier League round-up.
Saturday 8th February 2014
Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal
When Arsenal travelled to Merseyside to take on Champions League hopefuls Liverpool, few would have expected the score line to be what it was. Things were not looking good for ‘The Gunners’ from the very beginning of the game as Martin Skrtel got a foot to Steven Gerrard’s free kick to put Liverpool 1-0 ahead just a minute into the game. Things went from bad to worse for the flat-footed Arsenal only minutes later, as Skrtel doubled Liverpool’s lead off another set piece, this time with a fantastic header from a corner. As Arsenal failed to get out of the blocks, Liverpool continued their onslaught and could have scored more than they did with Daniel Sturridge unusually spurning a good chance and Luis Suarez hitting the woodwork with a volley that would have been a sure-fire contender for the 2014 Puskas Award. Eventually, Liverpool struck again as Suarez picked out Raheem Sterling, with the young winger – no doubt hoping to be on the England plane to Brazil – on hand to tuck it away, before Sturridge this time found the back of the net after a brilliantly weighted through ball from Philippe Coutinho. Only 20 minutes had been played by the time that Liverpool were 4-0 ahead, and the next goal did not come until after the half time break when Raheem Sterling added his second as he latched onto his rebounded shot to score again. It had been a terrible performance from Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil, with the German failing to capture the form a £42 million signing warrants since the Christmas period, and when Arsene Wenger subbed him off in a triple substitution, Arsenal eventually found the net. Oxlade-Chamberlain was fouled in the box and Mikel Arteta stepped up to score the penalty although there was no comeback to behold as the clock ticked down and Liverpool ran out more than comfortable as 5-1 winners.
Chelsea 3 – 0 Newcastle
To say that Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s best player this season could be considered an understatement – no, Chelsea have not been underwhelming and have consistently produced astute performance’s, but the marvellous Belgian has been outstanding in his second season at Stamford Bridge. Hazard stole the show at St. James’ Park as the title challengers, starting the move that set up his goal as he played the ball out to Branislav Ivanovic who returned the ball to Hazard, at which point the 23 year old fired a shot past Tim Krul to open the scoring. Despite being a goal down, Newcastle were not willing to lie down for the boys in blue and had Sissoko’s first touch been better as he raced onto a through ball from Davide Santon, ‘The Toon’ could have found themselves level. Ultimately, they were made to rue their missed chances however as Hazard and Eto’o combined in a tricky move to put Chelsea 2-0 up as the Belgian added his second of the game. The three points were sealed in the second half when Hazard stepped up to score the penalty just past the hour mark that had been given for a foul on Eto’o by Yanga-M’Biwa, giving the Belgian his third goal and Chelsea the victory. Finding themselves atop of the heap after wins over Manchester City and Newcastle, can Chelsea go the distance and lift the Premier League trophy at the first time of asking with their iconic manager Jose Mourinho back with his former club?
Norwich 0 – 0 Manchester City
Manchester City’s chance to go back to the top of the Premier League was not seized as Norwich held on at Carrow Road to put a dent in the title hopes of Manuel Pellegrini’s side. City were a little bit sluggish and most definitely lacklustre, as Alvaro Negredo came closest to scoring when he header rattled the crossbar in what was City’s best chance to find the net. In fact, it was Norwich that had the best chance of the game, as Nathan Redmond’s cross couldn’t quite find van Wolfswinkel or Pilkington late-on – a chance that had it gone in could have really hurt ‘The Citizens’. It is clear that Manchester City are missing three of their best players this season: Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho, whilst Norwich will be buoyed by their massive point against City, although frustrated that perhaps it could’ve gone a little bit better for them against Pellegrini’s side as Yaya Toure was lucky not to see red for a kick on Ricky van Wolfswinkel that went unnoticed by the referee. The final score was 0-0 – no doubt a frustrating result for City and a fantastic one for Chris Houghton’s Norwich.
Swansea City 3 – 0 Cardiff City
Prior to the beginning of the season, Premier League fans of all clubs were stating how much they were looking forward to seeing the first Welsh derby in the Premier League. It was Cardiff who ran out winners in the first derby, but a lot has changed since then as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took his relegation-threatened side to Swansea in hopes of ensuring Garry Monk’s managerial reign would get off to a bad start. The first half was a back and forth affair, as Kenwyne Jones went close for Cardiff whilst Routledge and Bony both tested ‘Bluebirds’ keeper David Marshall, but the second half saw Swansea seize control as Routledge latched onto a superb pass from Pablo Hernandez to put the home side 1-0 up. Half an hour later, Swansea doubled their lead as Nathan Dyer sent the Liberty Stadium home crowd into euphoria with an unmarked header, before Wilfried Bony added his 8th Premier League goal of the season moments later to ensure that Swansea would come out on top in this heated Welsh derby.
Crystal Palace 3 – 1 West Bromwich Albion
Tony Pulis has turned the fortunes of Crystal Palace around since taking over in November, taking them out of the relegation zone, whilst West Bromwich Albion are still searching for their first victory under new head coach Pepe Mel. The differences both coaches have made to playing styles was apparent from the very beginning of the game, as but Albion’s pressing style did not work well in the first half with little incisiveness going forward and Palace new-boy Tom Ince struck early on to put Palace 1-0 up on his debut. It was a truly terrible first half display from West Brom, with misery being heaped on to the away side as Joe Ledley took advantage of the free header presented to him to score on his debut and double Palace’s lead. Pepe Mel made a double change at half time, bringing on Scott Sinclair and WBA’s only January signing Thievy Bifouma, and it was the French U21 striker who pulled one back for Albion with the quicker debut strike in Premier League history. Only 36 seconds into the second half, Thievy went on a lightning run that worked him into a position to fire a shot past Julian Speroni at the near post, giving WBA some hope. The chances of a ‘Baggies’ comeback were dealt a severe blow later on, however, as the referee controversially awarded Palace a penalty as Ben Foster was judged to have taken down Marouane Chamakh – on closer inspection, it seemed that the Albion keeper played the ball and got very little of Chamakh, if there was any contact at all. Chamakh converted the penalty, and sent Palace one their way to another home win under Pulis as Albion dropped into the relegation zone.
Southampton 2 – 2 Stoke City
Southampton’s fantastic first half of the season has petered out somewhat, whilst Stoke are still struggling to find some consistency, setting up an affair at St. Mary’s where people could have been forgiven for expecting a cagey game. However, both teams set out to win the game rather than settle for anything less than 3 points. Rickie Lambert opened the scoring after just a few minutes as he wrapped in a well-placed free kick, before Stoke’s newest signing Peter Odemwingie replied not long before half time as he broke free of the Saints’ defence a finished well past Artur Boruc. Southampton managed to get ahead again just before half time as Steven Davies hit the ball across goal and into the back of the net with a cross-come-shot. The final goal of the game again came just before the break, as Peter Crouch used his height to his advantage to head the ball in off a corner and bring his side level. The second half saw no goals with only a couple of chances for either side, and both sides shared the spoils come the end of the game.
Aston Villa 0 – 2 West Ham United
Two Kevin Nolan goals only a couple of minutes apart were the difference makers at Villa Park, as West Ham secured their second win in back to back games to lift themselves out of the relegation zone. West Ham were the better side in the first half and perhaps unfortunate not to find themselves leading come the break, but they scored almost immediately after it as Kevin Nolan got on the end of former Villa man Stewart Downing’s cross to score, before adding his second only a couple of minutes later as he dispossessed Fabian Delph to steer a shot home past Brad Guzan and set his side up for victory. Although, Villa did have the possession to make the visitors pay for sitting back somewhat after going ahead, they could not make the most of it and ‘The Hammers’ ran out 2-0 winners.
Sunderland 0 – 2 Hull City
Hull City’s record signing Shane Long has 2 goals in as many games after scoring on 3 for West Brom in the first half of the season, as it was the Republic of Ireland striker who opened the scoring in the first half when he leaped to knock in a Jake Livermore strike to put his new club ahead after 16 minutes. Perhaps the goal would not have come so soon had Sunderland still had 11 men on the pitch, though Wes Brown had been dismissed for bringing down Long thanks to a poor pass from Phil Bardsley letting the striker get a run at the Sunderland goal – the decision was right, and Brown walked. Adam Johnson, who has been in scintillating form as of late, came close to levelling the score for Sunderland however he could not place his well-hit volley either side of Steve Harper to grab what could have been a vital goal. The defeat for Sunderland was compounded when Nikica Jelavic rose to meet Figueroa’s deflected shot and headed it well past Vito Mannone in the ‘Black Cats’ goal, sending Hull well on their way to the 3 points and bringing the end to a good run for Sunderland.
Sunday 9th February 2014
Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 0 Everton
Roberto Martinez has cited his sides defeat to Spurs as ‘harsh’ after the travelling ‘Toffees’ started so brightly against the North London side. Leading in possession and shots, Everton’s lack of a fit and inform striker – Romelu Lukaku has been pivotal to the success of the Merseyside club – proved to be the difference maker. Hugo Lloris did make some good saves, particularly off of Everton new-boy Aiden McGeady and Leon Osman, however Everton’s end product was clearly lacking and they were duly punished when Adebayor controlled Kyle Walker’s free kick and scored past Tim Howard to put his side in front. Spurs managed to see out the lead, however Everton had strong claims for a penalty turned down after it appeared as though Sheamus Coleman had been tripped by Etienne Capoue in injury time, only for Mark Clattenburg to wave off the cries of ‘penalty’. The decision could be a big one come May when we find out who with clinch that all-important fourth place in the Premier League table.
Manchester United 2 – 2 Fulham
David Moyes will come away from Sunday’s draw with Fulham feeling as though his side had lost and most certainly scratching his head as to how the game played out like it did. Having made more crosses than any other Premier League side since 2006, United were clearly eager to get the ball into the box and punish struggling Fulham, but they lacked a cutting edge as Fulham defended soundly. Steve Sidwell scored against the run of play in the first half and come 75th minute, it seemed as though ‘The Cottagers’ were verging on a famous victory as Rene Meulensteen returned to Old Trafford as a manager. His side had reason to be crestfallen only minutes later however, as Robin van Persie positioned himself well to tap in a Juan Mata pass before United went ahead when Michael Carrick’s shot deflected in off of Scott Parker – it was very much nearly a classic United comeback. However, United were always susceptible to the odd break from Fulham, and the London-side broke on the counter attack late on with United’s defence not well-positioned to stop the attack. Kieran Richardson’s shot was saved by De Gea, but the ball fell to Darren Bent who prodded the ball home with his head to salvage a point for Fulham and leave United flabbergasted. Moyes has come out and said that he never envisioned this season going as bad as it has for Manchester United – the club, so used to success under Sir Alex Ferguson, will be beginning to wonder how much worse it can get, whilst Fulham will hope to use this point as a milestone that acts as the beginning of their Premier League survival.
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
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