City, Liverpool & Arsenal pressure Chelsea, Premier League round-up

PremierLeague

Two of English football’s biggest derbies took place during this week’s weekend of Premier League football, but the action was not limited to just Manchester United vs. Liverpool and Tottenham vs. Arsenal, as there were plenty more games with goals and big moments that could very well kick-start the season for some sides and make it that much more difficult for others.

Saturday 15th March 2014

Hull City 0-2 Manchester City
With three games in hand over league leaders Chelsea, Manchester City know that they need to start winning by any means necessary to be in with a chance of a title victory, and against Hull they put in a performance that we have seen from plenty of Premier League Champions. A man down early on as Vincent Kompany saw red for dragging down Nikica Jelavic as he broke free, City stayed resilient and minutes later David Silva scored a wonderful curled strike – his first goal for City since December – to give the visitors the lead. Pablo Zabaleta very nearly doubled the lead for City with a thunderous strike that rattled the bar, but Hull eventually settled into the game more and controlled Pellegrini’s 10-man side a bit more in the second half. Both Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic went close for ‘The Tigers’ but they could not make the advantage of having one extra man count, even bemoaning their luck when it seemed as though George Boyd had been taken down by Joe Hart – however, replays show that Boyd attempted to buy the foul and penalty and the referee was right to ignore his claims for a penalty. Eventually, Hull were hit once again late on when Edin Dzeko was played through on goal and the Bosnian striker finished in a clinical manner to punish Hull for their missed chances, giving Manchester City more hope as they reach the closing stages Barclays Premier League season and title race.

Southampton 4-2 Norwich City
It’s safe to say that when Morgan Schneiderlin finished well to put Southampton ahead just five minutes into their clash with Norwich City, the travelling ‘Canaries’ ended up with their heads in their hands at the prospect of another long day at the hands of their opponents. There were a few more decent chances and close calls from Southampton, with Gaston Ramirez, Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse all going close, but ‘The Saints’ could not double their lead until the second half. Rickie Lambert came off the bench and in a typical composed manner, he finished past John Ruddy to double Southampton’s lead and send the south-coast side on their way to a win – a win that seemed all the more certain when Gaston Ramirez scored, making only his second Premier League start this season. A triple substitution very nearly paid dividends for Norwich however, as Johan Elmander prodded the ball in off a poor Jose Fonte back-pass and only a minute later, Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s parried strike fell to Robert Snodgrass who scored to rally the Norwich troops. Norwich pressed for an equaliser, but their efforts were not rewarded when Southampton broke suddenly and Steven Davis played in Sam Gallagher for the youngster to score his first ever Premier League goal, confirming the three points for Southampton and heaping misery on to Norwich, who’ve leaked eight goals in their last two games and look shaky as they look to retain their spot in the Premier League for next season.

Everton 2-1 Cardiff City
A week on from their huge win over Fulham at the Cardiff City Stadium, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff had their work cut out for them as they travelled to Merseyside to take on an Everton side who have been largely impressive this season and having lost only once at home in the last calendar year in the league. Efforts from Deulofeu, Lukaku and Mirallas forced three great saves from Cardiff keeper David Marshall to keep ‘The Bluebirds’ in the game, but the keeper was eventually beat when Deulofeu’s deflected shot went past him and put the home side ahead. Cardiff were back in with a shot when Cardiff equalised through a Cardiff set piece, giving his side a fighting chance of coming away with something. It seemed the game would end 1-1, however, in the dying seconds of the match, Sheamus Coleman was presented with a brilliant chance to score and the Irish full back thrashed at the ball on the volley, scuffing the shot and sending the ball looping into the Cardiff goal to crush the spirits of the travelling Welsh side and win the game for Everton.

Swansea City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
With plenty of speculation surrounding Pepe Mel’s future, getting his first win at West Bromwich Albion was pivotal going into an away game against Swansea City who ‘The Baggies’ have not beaten in South Wales since early 2010. Only two minutes into the game, there is no doubt that Mel and the 2000 travelling Albion fans were devastated as Roland Lamah ran in behind Albion’s pressing wingbacks and finish well to give ‘The Swans’ a very early lead. Ben Foster made a superb save to deny Wilfried Bony whilst Victor Anichebe could not fire past Michel Vorm at the other end of the pitch, as Swansea controlled the game well and went into the halftime break with their one-goal lead still intact. Albion came out as a much improved side in the second half, and they soon got the goal they needed when Stephane Sessegnon’s inch-perfect drive beat Vorm at his near post from outside the box, giving the Spanish-flag adorning Albion fans the sense that maybe their fortunes were turning. Jonathan De Guzman’s effort hit the arm of Gareth McAuley in Albion’s penalty box, however the referee judged a penalty to be too harsh a decision with the ball flying at the Northern Irish defender from close range, and Albion soon struck again. Youssouf Mulumbu picked up the ball and ran at the Swans’ defence with the Swansea players not committing to a challenge on the DR Congo midfield, and Mulumbu stroked the ball into the back of the net to put his side ahead, with WBA seeing out the rest of the game in front and handing the beaming Pepe Mel his first victory as head coach of West Brom.

Stoke City 3-1 West Ham United
West Ham’s resurgence as of late has been mighty impressive, and their good run seemed set to continue as Andy Carroll got up to head in a free kick from Mark Noble just five minutes into their clash with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. The next time either side was presented with a great chance saw another goal scored, but this time the scorer was wearing the red and white of Stoke City as Peter Crouch’s header bounced in off Peter Odemwingie to equalise just before the break. In the second half, the game opened up a bit and there were a few more chances created with Kevin Nolan having a goal disallowed, before Marko Arnautovic put ‘The Potters’ ahead with his second goal for Stoke since arriving in the summer transfer window. Marc Muniesa got away with it not long after when the referee denied West Ham a penalty for a handball from the Spaniard, and West Ham’s misery was only compounded when Odemwingie smashed home the ball with a thunderous strike from a tight angle to consolidate Stoke’s lead and earn the victory for his side.

Fulham 1-0 Newcastle United
Struggling Fulham got their first win under new boss Felix Magath in a victory that will give them a big confidence boost as the Premier League relegation battle against a Newcastle side who were without Alan Pardew as he sat out the first of three games in his stadium ban for head-butting Hull’s David Meyler. Lewis Holtby had en effort saved well by Tim Krul in the first half, but it took until half way through the second half to break the deadlock as the man who won the Bundesliga in a Wolfsburg side where Magath oversaw the team put ‘The Cottagers’ ahead. Ashkan Dejagah picked up the ball and cut inside, firing his shot at Tim Krul, with the ball squirming under the Dutch keeper and into the goal to put Magath’s side in front. Cries for a handball and penalty against Johnny Heitinga in the final minutes of the game from Newcastle went unheard, and Fulham ran out 1-0 winners.

Sunderland 0-0 Crystal Palace
Gus Poyet has come out and said that the home draw to Palace has felt like two points dropped, and that could very well be the case in the long run as both sides are still in and around the relegation zone and serious candidates for the drop. Sunderland controlled proceedings but their poor home form this season continued as they could not make the most of the chances they had. Some good defending from Mariappa denied Steven Fletcher and Vito Mannone recovered from an error to deny Tom Ince, and in the second half there were a few more chances for either side that could have changed the outcome. Borini’s strike cracked off the crossbar whilst Dikgacoi missed a great chance from a few yards out late on, and the score remained as the clock ran down with both side’s sharing the spoils.

Aston Villa 1-0 Chelsea
It’s been a long time since Aston Villa last won back-to-back home games, so fans of Paul Lambert’s side will no doubt be overjoyed, not least because it came against league leaders Chelsea. Jose Mourinho was clearly not impressed with some of the refereeing on display as the referee decided against sending off Nathan Baker for fouling Ramires as he tried to break through Villa’s defence, but Chelsea’s slow performance and Villa’s resilience could be more to blame for his side’s result. Willian, already booked for a foul earlier on the game, was sent off during the second half for a soft foul on Fabian Delph, and it wasn’t long before Villa put themselves ahead. Chelsea were made to missed some of their rued chances as Delph charged forward and his well-timed backheel bounced into the far corner of the Chelsea goal to put Villa ahead with only ten minutes left to play. Chelsea got desperate and searched for a goal, but what little chance of a goal was present was stamped out as Ramires saw fit to stamp himself, leaping onto the leg of El Ahmadi in a horrible challenge that the Brazilian midfield deservedly got sent off for. With a two man advantage, Villa held on a walked out winners to put them into the top half of the table and put a dent in Chelsea’s title hopes.

Sunday 16th March 2014

Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool
It’s the biggest rivalry in English football and it is a game that always promises action, and right from the beginning of the match it seemed that there would be plenty to talk about as always as the impressive Liverpool took charge and Fellaini fouled Luis Suarez in the box, with the Uruguayan forward staying on his feet which perhaps made the referee think twice about giving a penalty. Liverpool eventually found the goal they needed, coming just before the break as Rafael clearly handled the ball in the area – up stepped Steven Gerrard, and Liverpool’s loyal captain scored with typical quality to put ‘The Reds’ ahead. The second half was no different in terms of atmosphere – the Old Trafford crowd that has been subdued often this season were singing aloud, as were the Liverpool travelling fans, accentuating the heated rivalry the clubs had, and there was also a striking similarity in how Liverpool’s second goal was scored as Gerrard converted another penalty following a foul from Phil Jones. Controversy followed later on in the game as another penalty was awarded to Liverpool, as Nemanja Vidic received a second yellow for bringing down Daniel Sturridge, though it looked as though the England striker bought the foul – no further misery from the situation was heaped on United however, as Gerrard failed to convert the third penalty for his hat trick. Liverpool did find the net again however, as talisman Luis Suarez received the ball from a Daniel Sturridge shot and he slotted past David De Gea to ensure that the three points were going back to Anfield, keeping Liverpool in with a great shout of winning the Premier League for the first time in their storied history, whilst only making things worse for Manchester United who look a million miles away from a confident European football-chasing side on the pitch.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Arsenal
The second of the weekend’s two big derbies began in an exciting fashion, as Arsenal broke early on to cause some trouble for Tim Sherwood’s Spurs. Both sides are coming off of unfavourable results in Europe – Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions League in mid-week by Bayern Munich whilst Spurs leaked three away goals to Benfica in a 3-1 loss in the Europa League – and were keen to get a big win here, not least because of their tense rivalry. Arsenal’s early break saw them strike first however, as Tomas Rosicky played a one-two with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and he let rip with a shot of thunderous power to put Arsenal ahead in impressive fashion. From there however, Spurs looked the better side but they were still prone to struggling to deal with Arsenal’s counter attacks, yet they stood strong and nearly found themselves level when Andros Townsend’s cross-box pass very nearly found Emmanuel Adebayor at the back post. Spurs had an even better chance when Nacer Chadli got past Szczesny in the Arsenal goal, however the impressive defensive unit of Koscielny and Mertesacker covered and got back on the line to deny the Belgian from equalising. There were a few more chances for Tottenham to go ahead as Adebayor missed the target with a header, but the frustrated Tim Sherwood’s ‘Lilywhites’ could not find a way back into the game and Arsenal ran out the victors to keep their title challenge alive.

STANDINGS

140317 - Premier League

Table courtesy of Fifa.com

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