To say that this is a weekend of Premier League football that could have an effect on the rest of the season is an understatement – in fact, this past weekend of English top flight action could very well define how the Barclays Premier League table looks come tea time on Sunday 11th May. There is action, goals and even a surreal managerial meltdown on the touch line to talk about, so here is the round-up from this weekend’s Barclays Premier League games!
Saturday 1st March 2014
Fulham 1-3 Chelsea
Fresh off of a midweek trip to Istanbul for a Champions League clash with Galatasaray, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea took on West London rivals Fulham, in Felix Magath’s first home game since taking over as the boss of ‘The Cottagers’. Magath’s side, well-drilled and clearly instructed to relentlessly move and pressurise Chelsea, started brightly and restricted Chelsea from punishing them during the first half. However, only a few minutes into the second half, Chelsea managed to find a way through Fulham’s defence thanks to a good pass from Eden Hazard that found Andre Schurrle, with the German finishing well to peg Fulham back. Fulham’s flame had been extinguished with the goal, and from there the title challengers turned up the pressure and found themselves another goal ahead not long after the first. Some more Hazard brilliance assisted Schurrle for the German forward’s second goal, but Schurrle completed the Chelsea scoring and his hat-trick after Fernando Torres turned provider and set up the ex-Leverkusen star who clinically finished once again. There was little fight in the home side but this point, however they did manage to get themselves on the score sheet towards the end of the game when Darren Bent poked the ball to Johnny Heitinga, who scored to get one back for his new side but the score remained an Mourinho’s side ran out 3-1 winners.
Southampton 0-3 Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side have emerged as sudden title contenders after a run of games that has seen England striker Daniel Sturridge scoring goals for fun, coming close to beating Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for consecutive games in which a player has scored. However, it was his magician strike partner Luis Suarez – fresh off a run of five games without scoring – who found the back of the net early on in the tricky away trip to Southampton. The Uruguayan’s performances have still been first class, but no doubt it was a relief for Suarez to find himself on the score sheet when the ball rebounded to him and he finished first time to get his team off to a flier. Adam Lallana stole the show first half for ‘The Saints’, causing Liverpool plenty of issues when he picked up the ball but Southampton – who have had four players called up to the England squad this week, including a first call up for left back prodigy Luke Shaw – couldn’t make the most of the possession they had. After the half time break, Liverpool doubled their lead through substitute Raheem Sterling: a well-timed run from Suarez made space for the forward to square the ball for Raheem Sterling, who finished past Artur Boruc to give his team a bit more room to breathe. There didn’t seem to be many more goals in the game as the clock ticked down, but the ever-impressive Suarez once again found himself in a dangerous position but was brought down, winning his side a penalty. The cool-headed Liverpool captain stepped up, and with great composure and technique, Steven Gerrard steered the ball into the top corner to seal the three points for the high-flying reds.
Hull City 1-4 Newcastle United
When Alan Pardew and his Newcastle side journeyed down the North East of England and into Humberside, the ‘Toon’ manager probably didn’t envision his afternoon going quite like it did. Neither would Steve Bruce or Hull midfielder David Meyler. Just 10 minutes in at the game at the KC Stadium, Sissoko had put the away side ahead when he swept a cut-back cross from Mathieu Debuchy into the top corner, moments after Tim Krul had made a fantastic double-save down the other end. A brilliant cross from Shane Long found the head of Ahmed Elmohamady, but the Egyptian could not finish with a header and thus Hull were still behind when a poor back pass from Maynor Figueroa was intercepted by Loic Remy, with the French striker rounding Alan McGregor and finishing into an empty net. Things were looking bleak for ‘The Tigers’ as the whistle went for half time, but only a minute into the second half Curtis Davies found the back of the net with a header and gave his side a vital lifeline. When Yoann Gouffran’s strike rebounded out to Sissoko for the Frenchman’s second goal of the game, as he tapped in from a couple of yards, it seemed that it was going to be a simple afternoon for ‘The Toon’ from there on out. However, controversy ensued as David Meyler pushed past Alan Pardew to grab the ball and take a quick throw-in, with Pardew responding by getting in Meyler’s face and nudging his head at the Irish international. Pardew was sent to the stands for the head-butt whilst Meyler was booked, with there being no doubt that the Newcastle manager will face hefty punishment for his actions. Despite the head-butt definitely being the most talked about incident of the weekend, the performance of Newcastle cannot be overlooked as they added a fourth and final goal through as Vurnon Anita tapped in at the back post to give the Geordie faithful a pleasing journey home and seal a good victory for ‘The Magpies’.
Stoke City 1-0 Arsenal
It’s been a rough patch of form for Arsenal as of late, and despite Stoke perhaps not being as imposing has they have been in recent years this season, a trip to the Britannia Stadium is scarcely favourable to sides who could do with a win. From the very beginning of the game, the Staffordshire side played well to thwart Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger’s side struggling to ‘get going’ and thus allowing Stoke multiple chances to go ahead, though the home side never really came close until Glenn Whelan challenge Szczesny from distance. Charlie Adam could have been sent off for stamping on Olivier Giroud had the referee seen it, and Peter Crouch tried to control the ball with his feet rather than head in a Charlie Adam free kick – had he gone for the header, it was likely that Stoke would have been ahead. Both sides had been wasteful and it was not necessarily clear that there was a goal coming, though Stoke were awarded a penalty about 10 minutes from the end of the game as Laurent Koscielny was perhaps harshly judged to have handled the ball in the area. Jonathan Walters stepped up and scored the penalty to send the Stoke fans into wild celebrations, and to send Arsenal back to London empty-headed whilst giving his side a massive boost in their hopes of staying clear of the relegation zone.
Everton 1-0 West Ham United
Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to give a massive boost to Everton, both for their clash against West Ham and for the rest of the season, as the ‘The Toffees’ have not quite looked the same going forward without the big Belgian on the pitch. Everton dominated possession against their visitors from East London, with Steven Naismith and Leon Osman both hitting the woodwork with efforts, however West Ham remained strong in their defending and made life difficult for their opposition when it came to scoring goals. On-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu also went close on a couple of occasions, and as the clocked ticked down it seemed as though West Ham were going to seal the hosts out and maybe even score themselves, with Matt Taylor only being denied by the back-tracking Deulofeu. However, Lukaku’s introduction saw the turning point come, as Leighton Baines crossed the ball to the striker who fired home first time to score and seal the three points of his club on his comeback after a one month injury lay-off.
Sunday 2nd March 2014
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Cardiff City
A week prior to hosting relegation battlers Cardiff City at White Hart Lane, Spurs’ challenge for Champions League football was dealt a strong blow when Norwich beat them 1-0 at Carrow Road. Tim Sherwood’s Spurs needed to recover, but in the first half the plucky Cardiff did not roll over and allow Spurs to walk all over them. Cardiff – taking on a little bit of a different approach as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deployed three centre backs to thwart Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado – did well in the opening minutes, but they were soon stung when Roberto Soldado scored his first goal in nine games, surely taking a bit of pressure off him after a torrid time in front of the goal in recent times. Ex-Spurs defender Steven Caulker nearly hit an instant response for the Welsh side as his header rattled the woodwork, but there was no breakthrough to come for Cardiff as the game died down throughout the second half, with neither team having any clear cut chances. It is a result that will please Spurs’ boss Tim Sherwood amidst speculation that he could be replaced in the summer, whilst Cardiff will need to gather points fast to avoid the drop after another defeat.
Aston Villa 4-1 Norwich City
Only three minutes Sunday’s televised Barclays Premier League game, things were not looking good for Aston Villa as their January transfer target Wes Hoolahan put the visiting side ahead, setting up a tense affair and unsettling game for Villa. Hovering just above the relegation zone, it was a goal that Norwich were looking to quickly build on to earn the victory but they were stunned when Christian Benteke scored a fabulous volley past John Ruddy to equalise. The strikers agility and finishing ability was impressive, but his skill-set was further on show when he found the space to score a header from close range off an Ashley Westwood corner only a couple of minutes later. Having been hit with a sudden double whammy, Chris Houghton’s side were reeling, but things did not get easier for them from there as a quick Villa counter-attack saw Leandro Bacuna cut inside well and finish to give Villa a third goal and really hit Norwich hard. Only a few minutes before the half time break, Norwich’s misery was compounded when Sebastien Bassong scored an own goal to ensure Villa would go into the second half with a comfortable three goal lead. The second half was, by and large, uneventful – Gabby Agbonlahor had a few chances to add to Villa’s already sizeable lead, but it wasn’t to be and the score remained at 4-1 as the game came to an end.
Swansea City 1-1 Crystal Palace
Under the guidance of Tony Pulis, Crystal Palace have largely impressed at home however they still find themselves only a few points away from the relegation zone thanks to their poor away form. Fresh off of a Thursday night clash with Napoli in the Europa League, Swansea were perhaps a little ‘leggy’ and this is something Palace could have looked to capitalise on, but they started slowly and Swansea dominated. For all their possession early on, however, they struggled to forge clear cut chances until some nice passing from ‘The Swans’ saw the ball fall to Jonathan de Guzman, with the Dutchman finishing well to put the Welsh side in front. Soon after, Wilfried Bony very nearly added to Swansea’s lead but Julian Speroni pulled off a great save to stop the Ivorian striker and keep his side in the game. Late on, a long ball caused some trouble for Swansea and Glenn Murray was brought down by Chico Flores – who was promptly sent off – although replays suggested that the referee giving a penalty was unfair with contact seemingly taking place just outside the box. Murray was not bothered either way, and stepped up to score the penalty and secure a point for his side.
Table courtesy of Fifa.com
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