It is shaping up to be a fascinating end to the Premier League season, with plenty of teams in contention for the Premier League trophy and European football, and many others scrapping to avoid the dreaded drop come May. There were goals galore and some fantastic moments in this weekend’s Premier League action, with plenty for us to mull over until the next round of games comes!
Saturday 22nd February
Arsenal 4 – 1 Sunderland
It’s been a bit of a rough patch for Arsenal as of late, but ‘The Gunners’ came back strong in their clash with Sunderland at the Emirates, as the man shrouded in controversy at the moment – Olivier Giroud – opened the scoring with a smart finish in the opening few minutes. The Arsenal onslaught continued, as the home side moved the ball around well and Lukas Podolski tested Vito Mannone from distance with a typical powerful strike – and a little while later Arsenal had doubled their lead. A risky back-pass from Phil Bardsley saw Giroud run onto the ball and finish sublimely with a first-time effort, giving the French striker something to smile about in some no doubt difficult times on a personal level. Not long after, Tomas Rosicky got on the score sheet following a fantastic one-touch play team move that saw the Czech midfield dink the ball over Mannone and into the Sunderland goal, capping off a goal for the footballing aesthete. After the half time break, defender Laurent Koscielny added a fourth with a headed effort from an Arsenal corner, but despite being firmly in control for the majority of the game, ‘The Gunners’ were stung late-on by Sunderland as ‘The Black Cats’ added a consolation goal through a well-struck effort from Giaccherini. Arsenal eventually ran out 4-1 winners, showing that £42 million man Mesut Ozil – dropped today after a poor spell of form and through probably being in need of a rest – is not always as imperative to a ‘Gunners’ title challenge as some may believe.
Chelsea 1 – 0 Everton
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have been in solid form as of late, with his side unbeaten in twelve consecutive Premier League games, however they could consider themselves lucky to come away with anything from their home tie with Everton in which the away side were unlucky to not take at least a point back from Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, looking disjointed and sluggish, struggled to cope with some good build up play from Everton throughout the first half, however the team from Merseyside could not regularly test Petr Cech enough to force a goal. They did come close with a couple of missed chances and a superb strike from Leon Osman that forced a good save from Cech, but ultimately, Everton’s lack of a clinical goal scorer may have cost them dearly. It seemed that the game was set to end as a goalless draw, but in the final minutes, a great set piece delivery from Frank Lampard went in by way of John Terry and scrambling Everton keeper Tim Howard, with Terry claiming the goal that earned his side three points that could make a massive difference in the title race.
Man City 1 – 0 Stoke City
Unlike their fellow title challengers Chelsea, Manchester City have not looked at their best over the last few games – especially after a mid-week Champions League defeat to Barcelona, whilst Stoke are still languishing just above the relegation zone. It was a must win game for the title hopefuls in order to keep hot on the heels of Chelsea, however they were unconvincing in the approach to a game where the away side made themselves rather difficult to break down as they searched for a results to upset their hosts. The breakthrough did come mid-way through the second half when Yaya Toure ghosted into the box to hit home a Kolarov cross that sent the Etihad into frenzied celebration, with Edin Dzeko very nearly doubling the lead only to horribly mis-kick his shot that should’ve seen an easy goal scored. City saw the game out and ran out 1-0 winners in a display typical of a Premier League title winning side: whilst it wasn’t their best, they came up big when needed.
Cardiff City 0 – 4 Hull City
It’s been a very different season for two of this season’s promoted sides – Cardiff have found themselves struggling whilst Hull have been relatively solid for the majority of the season. ‘The Tigers’ did have an early scare when some excellent footwork from Wilfred Zaha opened up a scoring opportunity, but a good save denied the on-loan Man United winger. It was Hull who struck first, however, as a thunderous Tom Huddlestone striker deflected into the back of the Hull net, before Hull’s new strike partnership did well to carve out another opportunity soon after, with Shane Long teeing up Jelavic perfectly for a good finish that doubled Hull’s lead. After the half time break, it was Nikica Jelavic who struck again, heading in a Liam Rosenior cross to add to score line and only heap more misery on a struggling Cardiff side. Things got even worse for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as El Mohamady set up Jake Livermore to send Hull well on their way to a 4-0 victory.
Crystal Palace 0 – 2 Manchester United
Since the arrival of Tony Pulis at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace have been a very tough not to crack, but David Moyes’ Manchester United managed to crack that nut with Robin van Persie and £300,000-a-week Wayne Rooney doing the business down in London. After a first half that saw many United chances go to waste, the deadlock was finally broken when Patrice Evra was fouled just inside the box by Marouane Chamakh – it was a close call, but seemingly the right one from the referee. Cameron Jerome forced a great save from David De Gea with the striker very nearly scoring a huge equaliser for the home side, but it was Wayne Rooney who found the score sheet next. With all the talk of his blockbuster contract, there is no doubt Rooney was out to silence some of his critics and he went a long way to doing just that with a fantastic half volley to double his side’s lead. Robin van Persie nearly added another after a good effort, but the score stayed the same as United left victorious and dealt Palace a home loss that ‘The Eagles’ fans will not be used to these days.
West Ham 3 – 1 Southampton
It’s been an up and down season for West Ham, and ‘Hammers’ fans could be forgiven for thinking it would be ‘one of those days’ as Maya Yoshida put the travelling ‘Saints’ 1-0 ahead early on. The revived West Ham soon had a response however, as Matt Jarvis ran onto a Kevin Nolan pass in a very close call for offside and neatly finished past Artur Boruc. West Ham’s fortunes got even better soon after, as only minutes later Carlton Cole pounced on the rebounding ball of a corner and scored his 50th Premier League goal to put his side in front. In the second half, Southampton pressed well and made things a tad more difficult for the home side, but West Ham managed to strike again as the ball fell to Kevin Nolan in the six yard box, with the West Ham captain acrobatically finishing well to leave ‘The Saints’ ruing their missed chances, with West Ham running out 3-1 winners.
West Bromwich Albion 1 – 1 Fulham
Fulham welcomed their new manager Felix Magath to the dugout against a West Brom side without a win under new boss Pepe Mel – that West Brom win seemed even further away during the first half when after a few decent chances for both sides, Dejagah scored Fulham’s first goal of the Felix Magath era, running over to celebrate with his team mate and the boss he has been reunited with. In the second half, Chris Brunt forced a good save from Stekelenburg, and it seemed that the West Brom breakthrough was never going to come – however, eventually it did. Substitute Victor Anichebe did well to set up Matej Vydra, whose effort squeezed past a scrambling Stekelenburg and with the aid of goal-line technology was confirmed to have crossed the line. Albion fans rejoiced at what could be a massive point for either club, with it all to play for in the remainder of the season for both sides.
Sunday 23rd February 2014
Liverpool 4 – 3 Swansea City
In Sunday’s only untelevised game, ex-Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers saw his former side arrive in Merseyside to take on his high-flying Liverpool team, with an attack spearheaded by two players in fantastic form for the season. In eight consecutive Premier League games, Daniel Sturridge has found himself listed amongst the game’s goal scorers and it wasn’t long before he was at it again, as the England striker rounded Vorm in the Swansea net to open the game’s scoring. Soon after, Sturridge found himself in an advanced position with the ball once again, squaring for Jordan Henderson who guided a precise shot well past Michel Vorm and into the back of the net to double Liverpool’s score. Swansea soon had a reply however – in a wonderful display of support and admiration of the beauty of a well-struck goal, Liverpool fans found themselves applauding ex-Red Jonjo Shelvey when he replied for Swansea with a great curled finish. Minutes later, there was no applause from the home stands at Anfield as Wilfried Bony’s headed effort deflected off of Martin Skrtel to draw ‘The Swans’ level. As the clock ticked down towards half time, there was still time for one more goal: with the days of Shearer and Sutton long gone, the Premier League’s new ‘SAS’ combined well with Suarez’ lovely chipped cross finding the head of Sturridge – a striker in simply scintillating form – who guided it into the Swansea goal to send his side in at the break with a 3-2 lead. Only a couple of minutes into the second half, Swansea had hit back at Liverpool once again: Martin Skrtel was judged to have brought down Wilfried Bony in the box in a true ‘we’ve seen them given and we’ve seen ref’s turn a blind eye’ moment, with the Ivorian striker stepping up to bury the penalty for his side and bring Swansea level. There were a few more chances for Liverpool, with Sturridge coming close on more than occasion, though ‘The Reds’ could not find the goal they needed until a Luis Suarez shot was cleared by Ashley Williams…straight to the feet of Jordan Henderson, who’s initial shot was saved by Vorm only for the midfield to latch onto the rebound and fire home for his second of the game. Liverpool were not content to sit back and defend their lead, as Steven Gerrard rattled the inside of the post with a shot from distance, but there were no more goals in a game that had brought many and provided a great display of football from both sides.
Newcastle United 1-0 Aston Villa
It took a last minute winner to end a poor run of form for Newcastle United and down a Villa side that posed quite a threat for Newcastle in the first half on the break. Gabby Agbonlahor went close for the travelling team on more than one occasion, threatening to sink the hosts early-on if they didn’t turn it around. They very nearly did when Papiss Cisse received a Loic Remy pass inside the penalty area, but the Senegalese striker fired over in an ever that perhaps should never have found it straying away from the target and left ‘The Toon’ all the more desperate for a goal. They had to wait for it, but in the fifth minute of injury time, they got that goal that they needed: Luuk De Jong’s shot deflected fell to Remy who struck the ball into the back of the net to send Newcastle on their way to victory.
Norwich City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
With Norwich fighting for their lives and pressure building on Chris Hughton, Spurs were not the ideal side to come up against in a point in the season where every single point really does count. ‘The Canaries’ were rewarded with three for some great spirit and hard work on the pitch, as after a goalless first half, Norwich stole possession from Spurs only minutes into the second and Bradley Johnson threaded a pass through to Robert Snodgrass, who cut inside and finished well to put the home side on top. It was no fluke, as Norwich showed up a Spurs side who never got going and they very nearly doubled their lead when Tettey’s attempt at a backheel into the back of the net didn’t quite come off and Bradley Johnson also rattled the woodwork with a thunderous strike. The home side held on to send Sherwood’s Spurs back to London having not scored a goal in the league for the first time under Sherwood, with Norwich picking up a massive three points.
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
Click on Jack’s name above to follow him on Twitter