Liverpool 5-0 Norwich
The Reds make mincemeat of the Canaries at Anfield. I’ll bet that Canaries boss Chris Hughton is running his boys ragged at practice this week. They were made to look completely stupid from the opening kick-off. There was a question or two for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool coming off their defeat at Old Trafford in the last round. Pepe Reina was rested and there was also some doubt that Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez would be able to play together and you would have thought that the visitors would want to avenge previous maulings at the hands of the Reds. But, it was never a contest as Jordan Henderson put them in front in the 25th minute when Suarez was able to put the midfielder through on goal. The Uruguayan, who had been condemned for admitting earlier in the week to diving, stayed on his feet despite to hard tackles and set up Henderson’s first time shot that went into the top right-hand corner over keeper Mark Bunn. The second goal came in the 37th minute from Sturridge’s clever leave of Lucas Leiva’s through pass which allowed the ball to end up on Suarez’s foot and he tucked it into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. The second-half saw more the same domination and Sturridge got on the goal sheet himself in the 58th minute when he put home Stewart Downing’s superb cross from the right of midfield. Not wanting to be left out of the party, Steven Gerrard made it 4-0 in the 65th minute when Glen Johnson made a great run down the left and set up the Liverpool captain to hit from 25 yards out. Goal number five came when substitute Raheem Sterling made another run through the Canaries’ defense and hit his shot off defender Ryan Bennett. So the warning to the BPL opposition has been issued, Liverpool have a strike force that has to be reckoned with. Can we finally say that Luis Suarez ain’t a racist now?
Manchester City 2-0 Fulham
David Silva’s double helps the Champions cut into their neighbor’s lead at the top of the BPL table. With the news that Mario Balotelli may have played his last match in England, Citeh got off to a great start. Edin Dzeko, who has won the starting striker’s job over the Italian, was in on goal and allowed to shoot from 25 yards out. Cottagers’ keeper Mark Schwarzer parried the effort away, but Silva was able to slam the rebound home to give the home side the lead in the second minute. Fulham have been struggling with their form this season and Martin Jol hasn’t been able to figure out what to do. This was an easy match for the Champions and they are starting to get their groove back as Dzeko, Carlos Tevez, and James Milner all nearly scored. Just like he was last season when they put together the run that won them the title, Silva was the man for this match. There simply was no way through for the Cottagers and the Spaniard end the match as a contest in the 68th minute when Tevez made a brilliant pass for Silva to poke into the bottom right corner of the net. Some good news for the Champions as Sergio Aguero was able to make an appearance in the 80th minute for Carlos Tevez and it looks like his leg has healed. Aguero, practicing for more end of season heroics, nearly scored in stoppage time, but he missed off to the left. But the race for the title is on now and it looks like Citeh have every intention of keeping the trophy safely locked in the cabinet at the Emirates Stadium.
Newcastle 1-2 Reading
An Adam Le Fondre brace gives the Royals a much needed win and puts Newcastle in deeper trouble. The fans at St James Park are once again angry with their manager. They were angry when he replaced Chris Hughton, the man who got them promoted from the Championship two seasons ago, but forgave him when he nearly got them into Europe. But fortunes have changed this season. Their best striker Demba Ba is gone and they’re back into a relegation fight. Alan Pardew knew that the Magpies needed a win badly and managed to get his boys to start well. They laid siege to the Royals goal and were rewarded in the 35th minute when Yohan Cabaye scored a beautiful free-kick from 35 yards out. They should have had more by half time but that was all they could muster. Reading came from 2-0 behind to beat West Bromwich last round, so they didn’t panic as they started the second half. They remembered their lessons from the last match. First secure the defense and they made the home side’s attack look ordinary. Pavel Pogrebnyak nearly got the equalizer in the 62nd minute when he hit Jimmy Kebe’s downward header over the goal. Pardew tried to build up his defense by bringing on James Perch for Sylvain Marveaux. But, Kebe was able to get down the right of Newcastle’s midfeld in the 70th minute and hit a cross that was not properly cleared. Le Fondre, on for Danny Guthre was able to put home the goal and the comeback was on for the Royals. In the 76th minute, it was yet another cross that wasn’t dealt with that finished off Newcastle. Substitute Hope Akpan was the instigator this time and Le Fondre the beneficiary. Papiss Cisse and, in stoppage time, Gabriel Obertan tried in vain to get an equalizing goal for the home side who now sit two points and two places off the bottom three.
Swansea 3-1 Stoke
Two Jonathan De Guzman goals in the second half help the Swans condemn the Potters to another defeat. This was a match Stoke were never really in. Perhaps it was the Welsh winter weather, but the visitors definitely were the lessor team on Saturday. After a slow first half, Swansea came out of the half-time interval with a bit of purpose. They took the lead in the 48th minute when Ben Davis beat defender Ryan Walters to a low pass from Sung-Yeung Ki and out ran the Potters defense before depositing into the bottom right corner of the goal. De Guzman netted his first in the 57th minute when he hit a wonderful curling free-kick into the top corner over the outstretched fingers of Asmir Begovic. Danny Graham, a transfer target of several teams came on as a substitute in the 72nd minute for Itay Shechter. As Graham came on, he couldn’t help but be touched by the fans appreciation chants of “We want you to stay” and he repaid their support as he set up De Guzman’s second goal in the 80th minute. He got a great ball from Wayne Routledge and placed the ball into the Dutch International’s path for him to lift over Begovic to score the third goal for the Swans. Stoke got a stoppage time consolation goal when substitute Michael Owen flicked in a header, but that damage had been done.
West Ham 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
Joe Cole rescues a point for the Hammers. This one’s gonna hurt for QPR fans. They had gone ahead in the 14th minute when new signing Loic Remy scored in the 14th minute from an Adel Taarabt assist. They then tried to sit back and defend that goal for the win and should have succeeded were it not for old Hammers’ hero Cole. QPR did dominate the first half and had several chances to double their lead. The home side pressed really hard for the equalizer when the second half started but keeper Julio Cesar was more than equal to nearly every attempt. Until the 68th minute when substitute Carlton Cole’s shot rebounded off Cesar and landed at Coles feet. The Hammers’ legend put home his first goal for his second spell at the club. The good news is that QPR didn’t completely collapse like they had done in the past and managed to hold out for a precious point. But they need to get wins if they mean to stay up.
Wigan 2-3 Sunderland
The Latics lose a close one at home. They had started so well. David Vaughan got them the early lead in the fourth minute when he put the ball into his own net. But luck hasn’t been with the Latics this season and in the 16th minute James McCarthy was judged to have committed handball in their penalty area when he blocked Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick. Craig Gardner scored the spot kick and three minutes later the Blackcats had the lead. Alfred N’Diaye made a wonderful cross for Steven Fletcher to put volley home past keeper Ali Al-Habsi. Fletcher made it three for the visitors in the 41st minute when he was there to press home an Adam Johnson knock-back of a Craig Gardner free-kick. The home crowd boo’ed off their team at the half and Roberto Martinez needed to find some sort of inspiration for the next half. He tried replacing Ronnie Stam with Roger Espinoza and it seemed to lift the side a little. Shaun Maloney nearly scored for the home side in the 49th minute when his shot was saved by keeper Simon Mignolet. The Latics thought they had their own penalty claim a bit later when Franco di Santo had a shot blocked in a similar manner to the manner to which James McCarthy had been punished in the first half. However the referee wouldn’t hear of it. Substitute Angelo Henriquez did get a goal back for the home side in the 78th when he headed home Maloney’s cross. To their credit, the Latics pressed hard for the remainder for that elusive equalizer. But alas, as the final whistle blew, Wigan found themselves back in the bottom three.
West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Aston Villa
Peter Odemwingie’s late second half goal denies the Villains a much needed win. Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert has received the dreaded confidence vote from the ownership as it looks like their skid will continue for a while. They needed a win in the worst way and a visit to The Hawthorns stadium might be a way to start something good. Things really did start out really well for the visitors as Christian Benteke got them on the board first in the 12th minute. It was his 10th goal of the season and he got it when he was able to take Charles N’Zogbia’s pass and get around defender Claudio Yacob before firing a rising strike past WBA keeper Ben Foster. It was clear that the Villains had a bit of fight to them coming into this match and in the 20th minute, tempers flared when Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jonas Olsson came together after the former’s cross and the latters’ challenge. Both players were booked, but an inspired Agbonlahor made it two for the visitors when he took another N’Zogbia pass through the WBA defense and finished under Foster and into the net. When the half time whistle blew, WBA boss Steve Clarke was not very happy with his team’s performance and undoubtedly let them know about it during the interval. Whatever he said to them, it worked as they managed to pull a goal back in the 49th minute. Romelu Lukaku took a Jerome Thomas cross and made a wonderful pass into Chris Brunt’s run so that he could curl a 15 yard strike past Villains’ keeper Brad Guzan. Perhaps it was the fear of dropping more points, or maybe Villa really are headed for the drop. But whatever it might be, they slowly lost their grip on the match and it was a matter of time before any hope of three much needed points would be gone. It happened in the 82nd minute when WBA were awarded a corner kick. Brunt took the kick and the Villain defense failed to clear, leaving Odemwingie to volley past Guzan’s desperate grasp.
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Two referee decisions help the Blues do the double over their London rivals. It was not a good week for the Chelsea faithful coming into this match. They had blown a two goal lead in their make-up match against Southampton on Wednesday. Their dream manager, Pep Guardiola, had decided to take the Bayern Munich job when it becomes available in the summer. So, one couldn’t blame the Stamford Bridge faithful for being a little grumpy. It could have gotten really bad for boss Rafa Benitez had Olivier Giroud not missed his shot in the fifth minute. Theo Walcott, giddy from his new contract signing, had wiggled through the Blues defense in the fifth minute and set up the French striker who should have scored. On the counter, Blues midfielder Ramires looked like he had fouled Francis Coquelin and the ball broke to Cesar Azpilicueta. He hit Juan Mata with a keen cross-field pass that the Spaniard controlled with one touch then smashed it into the top left corner of the goal. With Gunners boss Arsene Wenger fuming on the touch-line Eden Hazard nearly made it two a short time later as keeper Wojciech Szczesny had to make a diving save. Wenger was made even angrier in the 16th minute when Ramieres darted into the Gunners’ area and tangled with Szczesny. The referee pointed to the spot, but replays showed that the winger fell on his own. The spot kick was taken by Frank Lampard and as the crowd chanted “Super Frank” and “Sign him up”, he hammered the penalty kick home in his usual manner. The home side dominated the rest of the match as they usually do at Stamford Bridge. There was a little apprehension when Walcott got a consolation goal in the 57th minute, but there was no way back for Arsenal. I think Rafa can take some solace in the win and the fact that Wenger is having a much harder time that he is at the moment.
Southampton 0 – 0 Everton
A cold, stalemate is all there was for the hard core fan at St Mary’s Stadium. This had been a really weird time for the Saints. Nigel Adkins, the man who got them promoted from the First Division to the Championship Division and then on to the BPL, had been surprisingly fired. Saint’s fans, fearful that the ownership was repeating the same mistake that Blackburn Rovers made last season, had planned on protesting the new boss, Mauricio Pochettino as he took charge of the team for Monday’s match. Things were almost called off as a snow storm blew through and dumped several inches of snow throughout the city. When things got started, it was the home side that seemed to have the better of the play. Gaston Ramirez and Rickie Lambert both got a chance to start and they wreaked a bit of havoc in the Everton goal in the fourth minute. A couple minutes later, Jason Puncheon had his shot blocked by defender Phil Jagielka. There was a penalty shout in the 32nd minute when Saints defender Maya Yoshida went to ground from a Sylain Distin challenge. But the referee ignored any claims and waved play-on. Despite the pressure from the home side, that was as close as anyone would come to scoring in the first half. Everton came out of the half time interval with a little more fire and Saints keeper Artur Boruc and to twice save a sure goal from midfielder Marouane Fellaini. If the first half had belong to the home side, the second half was owned by the visitors as Nikica Jelavic, Victor Anichibe, and later substitute Kevin Mirallas had their attempts on goal saved by Boruc. And so neither side could make any breakthrough and the final whistle gave Pochettino his first point as the new Southampton boss.