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Lanny Short

Aug 162013

Liverpool – Stoke City

Could this be the year the Reds’ boss Brendan Rodgers finally puts things together?  Well, they made a couple of key moves this season by bringing in defender Kolo Toure from Manchester City on a free transfer and La Liga players Luis Alberto (Sevilla) and Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo) for around $10m each.  They’re going to miss the leadership of retired central defender Jamie Carragher and Stewart Downing has joined Andy Carroll at West Ham.  With striker Luis Suarez’s status with the club has yet to be resolved, look for the Reds to depend heavily on Daniel Sturridge.  Stoke City, on the other hand, are experiencing their own summer chaos as they are one of five BPL clubs with a new manager.  Mark Hughes replaced Tony Pulis who voluntarily left the club two days after the end of last season.  The move made the home fans very angry and one fan spent the summer driving a van around town with a “Hughes Out” banner.  If Hughes recent managerial record is any indication, expect Stoke City to be one of the teams fighting relegation this season.  Liverpool should win this one easily.  Prediction: Liverpool 3-0 Stoke City

Arsenal – Aston Villa

Of the teams that finished in the top four of the BPL last season, the Gunners were the only team not to replace their manager.  There is a lot expected of Arsene Wenger this season and there has been a clean-out of a lot of players over the summer.  Among those out are Marouane Chamakh, Gervinho, and Andrey Arshavin.  While they’ve been linked to strikers such as Gonzalo Higuain, Wayne Rooney, and Luis Suarez, they have yet to land anyone of significance.  There has been a bit of grumbling among the Gunner fans because it’s been 8 years since they’ve last won a trophy.  If they fail again this year, expect the fans to be calling for Wenger’s sacking.  Villa, meanwhile, are feeling better about their chances this season.  They were able to keep star striker Christian Benteke by offering him a new contract.  They also offered a contract to US International goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who had a spectacular season between the posts for the Villians.  This match should be a good one to watch.  Villa boss Paul Lambert will want to improve his away record this season and the Emirates Stadium would be a great place to get that started.  But the Gunners aren’t going to be easy to beat at home.  I expect this to be the start of a campaign for the Gunners that will have them contending for the BPL Trophy in May.  Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa

Norwich – Everton

Well, Roberto Martinez had to go somewhere after his former club was relegated.  But, nearly every single Everton fan I’ve spoken to is angry that he ended up on their side of the Mersey River.  On the good side, Martinez did manage to keep Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, despite interest from their old boss, David Moyes at Manchester United.  Norwich boss, Chris Hughton looks to extend the Canaries stay in the top flight and made some interesting transfers over the summer.  Among them are Gary Hooper from Celtic and Martin Olsson from Blackburn.  The one thing the Canaries did well last season was to defend their home ground.  I look for them to do the same this season.  It will be interesting to see how the Everton players respond to their new boss.  This one will be an interesting first test for Martinez.  Prediction: Norwich 1-1 Everton

Sunderland – Fulham

Well, Blackcat’s boss Paolo Di Canio still hasn’t really endeared himself with the fans yet.  There is some hope that the summer transfers that he has made might make a significant contribution.  Among them is US International striker Jozy Altidore.  Di Canio is hoping that making Sunderland more offensive might get some buy-in from the fans.  Cottager’s boss Martin Jol made a significant move himself by bringing in Moroccan International midfielder Adel Taarabt on loan from Queens Park Rangers.  While Jol’s job is not necessarily in jeopardy, he’ll be wanting his club to perform a lot better than they did last season.  This match should be an interesting one for US fans.  Can Altidore build on his mid-week hat-trick he got with the US Team’s in their last win over Bosnia-Herzegovina? Prediction: Sunderland 2-2 Fulham

West Bromwich Albion – Cardiff

Here is an interesting match.  The Baggies did ok last season as they managed to stay in the BPL even as they seemed to run out of steam toward the end of the season.  Newly promoted Cardiff are the second Welsh team to feature in the BPL and look to build on the momentum that got them promoted from the Championship division.  This match also features two of the games more eccentric strikers in the game today.  Nicolas Anelka, who came from Juventus on a free transfer, suits up for the Baggies and Craig Bellamy lines up for the Welsh side.  This is one of those matches that will be intriguing because you just don’t know what to expect from either side.  Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Cardiff

Swansea – Manchester United

Well, the David Moyes era at Manchester United started out with a victory as the Red Devils won the Charity Shield.  While that earned the new boss some good press and such, there are still several issues he has to deal with.  The biggest one remains what to do about striker Wayne Rooney.  The word is still that he is not for sale, but he has yet to play a match for the club since March.  Swansea look to build on their campaign that saw them good enough to make the Europa League qualifying rounds.  The Welsh side were very good at home last season and boss Michael Laudrup is looking to build on that.  This one is a hard match to predict as it will go a long way to show if United have the stuff to defend the BPL Trophy.  But that’s why they play the matches, right?  Prediction: Swansea 2-2 Manchester United

Crystal Palace – Tottenham

Well, the Gareth Bale saga drags on as Real Madrid continue their pursuit of the Welsh winger.  He didn’t play in Wales’ mid-week friendly and it looks like he won’t play on Sunday.  That shouldn’t matter as Spurs travel to newly promoted Crystal Palace.  Palace are excited with their new signing as Morouane Chamakh is set to join 40-year-old Kevin Phillips up front.  Spurs boss Andres Villas-Boas in under a bit of pressure this season as Spurs failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions’ League last season.  This one should be a win for Spurs and would be a good start to silence Villas-Boas’ critics.  Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham

Chelsea – Hull

Now that the “Special One” has returned to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea are the odds on favorite to win the BPL this season.  A home win should go a long way to get that campaign started.  The one story still out there is whether or not Jose Mourinho will be able to obtain the services of Wayne Rooney.  Both bids for the England International have been rejected, but Mourinho is not one to take rejection lightly.  Hull, back in the BPL after a season in the Championship, are hoping that Tom Huddleston and Jake Livermore, both signed from Tottenham, will give them enough strength in their midfield.  But this is a match where they really don’t have much of a chance.  In fact, I’ll bet that even Fernando Torres scores in this one.  Prediction: Chelsea 5-0 Hull

Manchester City – Newcastle

Manchester City had the best team on paper last season.  Their biggest problem was their idiotic manager Roberto Mancini.  Now that he has been replaced by Manuel Pellegrini, there has been a lot of change at the “Blue Half” of Manchester.  Notable exits have been Carlos Tevez, Wayne Bridge, and Kolo Toure.  The question now is if Pellegrini can make this team his.  The Magpies were lucky not to be relegated last season and Boss Alan Pardew hopes that new transfer Loic Remy will give his midfield a needed kick.  I look for Citeh to win this one easily as it is at home and they’re one of the sides who are expected to contend for the BPL this season.  Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Newcastle

May 162013

Aston Villa 1 – 2 Chelsea

Super Frank breaks Bobby Tambling’s Chelsea goal scoring record.  It was the England’s first start in a while and what may prove to be one of his last for the Blues.  The match started out a bit badly for Chelsea who needed the win to secure their bid for UEFA Champions’ League football next season.  Christian Benteke was able to beat Blues’ defender Gary Cahill to a Brad Guzan clearance in the 15th minute.  He worked a great one-two with Yacouba Sylla, then glided past Cahill again and poked his shot past Petr Cech for the opening goal.  They nearly had a second in the 17th minute when Fabian Delph was able to get away from Ramires’ challenge, but his shot went just wide of the goal.  During the 19th minute, when the home fans were doing their usual applause for Stiliyan Petrov who is still battling leukemia, Demba Ba nearly equalized when he got on the end of a Juan Mata chipped ball.  But keeper Guzan made a brilliant save to deny the close range attempt.  Things got worse for the Blue right at half time when Ramires was sent off for receiving his second yellow card after a high footed challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor.  The second half saw things tilt back in Chelsea’s favor when Benteke was sent off in the 58th minute for receiving his second yellow card for a high footed challenge on John Terry.  In the 60th minute Lampard got the goal that leveled the scores and equaled Tambling’s record.  Eden Hazard gave him a great square pass and Lampard hit a great flaring shot that finished in the top left corner of the goal.  Chelsea thought they had gone ahead in the 71st minute when Cahill’s shot on goal bounced around in the six yard area and Ba got a foot to the loose ball.  Ashley Westwood appeared to have cleared the ball off the line, but replays showed that the ball actually crossed the line.  Chelsea had a bit of bad news in the 77th minute when Branislav Ivanovic had to substitute for Terry who was stretched off for a serious leg injury.  But just when it looked bad for the Blues, Lampard was on hand as he has always been for the 12 years of his career in Blue.  Ashley Cole made a great move into the Villa half and made a fine pass for Edin Hazard who knocked the ball across the goal for Super Frank poke home for the winning goal.  The result ensures Chelsea have a lock on third place and with it, automatic qualification for Champions’ League next season.  Why don’t they give this man a contract?

Stoke 1 – 2 Tottenham

Emmanuel Adebayor rescues the win for Spurs.  Spurs needed three points from this match to have any hope at all of Champions’ League Football for next season.  The Potters are never easy to beat at the Britannia Stadium and they took the early lead in the third minute when Steven Nzonzi headed home Charlie Adam’s cross.  Gareth Bale, like he has done all season, tried to pick his team up onto his shoulders and nearly did so when his sixth minute shot on goal was saved by Asmir Begovic.  He had another long range effort in the 10th minute that went just wide of the post.  Clint Dempsey thought he had gotten the equalizer in the 15th minute but his goal was ruled out for offside.  But the American international did level the scores in the 19th minute when he took advantage of a defensive mistake by Begovic and lobbed the ball into the empty net.  Things got more contentious as the half wore on as both sides pressed for some sort of advantage.  Adam was booked for a bad challenge on Spurs midfielder Jan Vertonghen in the 42nd minute.  Adam nearly made up for the booking right at the half time whistle when his shot was blocked by Scott Parker.  But when the second half started, Adam made another bad challenge on Vertonghen and was sent off for a second booking.  But the one thing the Potters have been able to do this season is lock down their defense and boss Tony Pulis pulled Peter Crouch and Matthew Etherington off in favor of Cameron Jerome and Andy Wilkinson.  It was then a matter of bunkering in and not allowing Spurs any looks at goal.  It nearly worked for the Potters until the 82nd minute.  This time Bale was the provider as he started the move by sending Dempsey through.  The American was able to hit a neat square pass for an on rushing Adebayor who poked home the winner to keep alive Spurs’ chances at Champions’ League football for next season.

Everton 2 – 0 West Ham

David Moyes’ last home game in charge of the Toffees ends in a win.  One of the notable endorsements that the future Manchester United boss got was from club captain Phil Neville, who is also leaving Everton as a player this summer.  He stated that he had never met a harder working man than Moyes.  That sentiment was shared by the rest of the squad as they worked hard to send the boss off with a win.  In the sixth minute, Leighton Baines found Marouane Fellaini who linked up with Steven Pienaar’s fine run to the area and the South African set up Kevin Mirallas to power home from the edge of the penalty area.  In a day that was all about the home side at Goodison Park, Darron Gibson nearly hit a thunderous volley in the seventh minute.  There wasn’t much resistance offered by the visiting team and as the match progressed, the visiting fans resorted to trying to taunt their hosts by chanting “Where’s your Moysey gone?”  The reply back from the Everton supporters of “You’ve got Sam Allardyce, you’ve got Sam Allardyce” was a direct poke at the Hammers’ boss and a signal to the Toffee ownership of the kind of boss they did NOT want to see in charge of their team.  The closest West Ham would come to scoring was in the 30th minute when Kevin Nolan when he forced a fine save out of keeper Tim Howard.  Everton should have scored their second goal in the 57th minute when Leon Osman hit a shot through the Hammers’ six yard area that no one could press home.  But they did get goal number two in the 60th minute when Pienaar found Mirallas’ run through the defense and the Belgian’s shot was deflected into the goal off James Collins.  As the celebrations continued, Leon Osman nearly made it three in the 67th minute when his shot was blocked by keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.  Hammers’ on-loan striker Andy Carroll had a change to get a goal back in the 89th minute, but his header went wide of the goal.  So when the final whistle blew and players left the pitch, the Everton squad made a honor guard for Neville and then Moyes.  And so he ended his time at Goodison Park to a standing ovation and warm appreciation from all the Toffee fans.

Fulham 1 – 3 Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge grabs a hat-trick for the Reds.  The Cottagers have looked really bad lately.  Whether it’s due to injuries or just bad luck is anyone’s guess.  They have been bitten by the injury bug this season and they lost Kieran Richardson in the 14th minute to an injury.  Martin Jol had to shuffle his line up a bit as replaced Richardson with Urby Emanuelson.  The home side seemed to have gotten their focus back on the match and went into the lead in the 32nd minute through Dimitar Berbatov’s fine finish of Sascha Riether’s cross.  But the one thing that has killed Fulham all season has been inconsistency in defense.  In the 35th minute they were made to pay for their defensive complacency when Andre Wisdom found Daniel Sturridge’s run and the striker was able to finish into the top right corner of the goal.  It looks like Sturridge will have to fill the large boots of Luis Suarez as the Uruguayan serves his ten match ban.  The England striker might just do that as long as he has the likes of Phillippe Coutinho to play with.  The Brazilian winger has been a great asset for the Reds and he was the architect for Sturridge’s second goal in the 61st minute when he supplied a wonderful pass that Sturridge poked home with ease.  Coutinho has again involved in the 84th minute when he wreaked a bit of havoc in the midfield.  Sturridge latched onto the loose ball and was able to make fine lob into the top right corner of the goal to secure his hat-trick.  So as the summer off-season looks to prove to be a chaotic mess of coaching changes, player changes and other fun, Liverpool fans can feel better about their side seems to be coming together.

Norwich 4 – 0 West Bromwich Albion

The Canaries win big in their effort to avoid relegation trouble.  The result of this match was a gift that boss Chris Hughton is more than happy to receive.  They were clearly the better side on the day and nearly got the early goal from a three minute corner kick that Shane Long did well to clear off the line.  But the Canaries kept pressing the Baggies and that pressure finally paid off in the 24th minute Wes Hoolahan set up Robert Snodgrass to score the first goal from inside the Baggies’ area.  Hoolahan nearly got the second a short time later when his shot was saved by keeper Ben Foster.  Grant Holt got the second goal in the 61st minute when Foster had a huge brain cramp as he came out to clear Hoolahan’s shot and totally missed the ball.  Holt took to offering and waltzed toward the goal and rolled the ball into the net.  Things went from bad to worse for WBA in the 64th minute when defender Gareth McAuley headed Robert Snodgrass’ cross into his own goal to make the score 3-0 to the Canaries.  The final face-punch for the Baggies happened in right at the end when Jonathan Howson scored the fourth goal from a Luciano Becchio pass.  Lucky thing for WBA that all the relegation places have already been filled.

Queens Park Rangers 1 – 2 Newcastle

The Magpies get a crucial win.  Boss Alan Pardew must be relieved now that his boys have breached that magic 40 point barrier.  The match did not start well for the visitors who went behind in the 10th minute.  QPR were awarded a penalty after Mathieu Debuchy fouled David Hoilett in the area.  Loic Remy scored the spot kick and it looked like QPR might have a chance to steal a win before they went down to the Championship Division.  But in the 17th minute Jose Bosingwa fouled Hatem Ben Arfa in the QPR area and Newcastle were awarded a penalty kick for themselves.  Ben Arfa scored the spot kick to level the score and the home fans vented their frustration on the players.  Newcastle thought they had the lead a short time later when Papiss Cisse headed the ball into the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside.  They did get the lead in the 35th minute thanks to another defensive brain cramp from Bosingwa.  Keeper Rob Green rolled the ball to Bosingwa and the Portuguese defender couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with it.  He rolled a very weak pass back to Green whose kick was knocked down by Jonas Gutierrez and rolled over to Yoan Gouffran who hit it into the bottom right corner of the goal.  The home side was booed off at the half time interval.  Boss Harry Redknapp tried to change the mood a bit by taking off Bosingwa and Shaun Derry and replacing them with Fabio Da Silva and Stephane Mbia.  There really wasn’t more to this match except in the 80th minute when Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot, already on a yellow card, received his second booking for a handball outside of his area.  Pardew had to take off Ben Arfa in favor of keeper Steve Harper, but his boys were able hang on for a crucial victory.

Sunderland 1 – 1 Southampton

Job done for Paolo DiCanio.  This match was a bit nervy for both sides.  At kick-off time, neither side was assured of a place in the BPL next season.   Both sides knew that the best way forward was to win.  The visitors had the better of the first half, but neither side could create a real goal scoring chance at the start.  Simon Mignolet was the first of the keepers to be called into action in the 30th minute when he had to save from Jay Rodriquez.  Rickie Lambert had a chance in the 36th minute, but his shot went wide of the goal.  At the other end, Saints’ keeper Artur Boruc had to save from Adam Johnson’s shot as halftime approached.  When the second half started, Danny Graham should have put Sunderland into the lead from Danny Rose’s pass across the face of goal.  But Graham completely whiffed his kick.  Sunderland did finally score the first goal in the 68th minute Phil Bardsley’s shot deflected in off defender Jos Hooiveld.  But DiCanio’s celebrations were cut short in the 75th minute when Jason Puncheon headed home substitute James Ward-Prowse’s cross to level the score.  Lambert nearly won the match for the Saints in the 87th minute when Mignolet pulled off an amazing save to keep ensure the draw.  With this result and a bit of help, it looks like DiCanio has done enough for the Blackcats for this season.


Arsenal 4 – 1 Wigan

Bye-bye Wigan.  A bit of history was written on Tuesday as Wigan became the only side to win the FA-Cup and get relegated in the same season.  It was always going to be a difficult task for the Latics to win 72 hours after lifting the trophy.  The task got harder in the 11th minute when Lukas Podolski headed home Santi Cazorla’s corner kick.  But the one thing the Latics have had this season, as in past late season fight-backs, is the ability to get goals when they’re needed.  And they got a chance right at half time when Shaun Maloney earned a free kick in a dangerous area after being fouled by Mikel Arteta.  Maloney took the free-kick and hammered home a great shot into the bottom right corner of the net.  But in the second half, the Latics lost Callum McManaman to injury and had to replace him with Franco Di Santo.  The Gunners, who knew that a win would all but secure fourth place and Champions’ League for them, began to take the impetus and in the 62nd minute Santi Cazorla set loose Theo Walcott and the England striker scored the go-ahead goal.  That was pretty much it for the Latics at that point.  Cazorla set up Podolski to score his second and Arsenal’s third in the 67th minute.  Cazorla was also the architect for Aaron Ramsey’s goal in the 70th minute.  So the win was good news for Sunderland and Newcastle and the speculation has begun about Latics boss Roberto Martinez’s future.

Reading 0 – 2 Manchester City

While the story day was the off the pitch action happening to Citeh, there was a match played on Tuesday.  Kune Aguero scored in the 40th minute and Edin Dzeko scored in the 88th minute.  Brian Kidd was in charge of the side on Tuesday and it looks like there will be chaotic days ahead for the Etihad.   Who will replace Roberto Mancini, who was fired after his side lost the FA-Cup to relegated Wigan?  Another question that is begged is will Mancini ever work again?  After all his side were the BPL champions and they are the best side on paper in the BPL.  But alas, they finished the season with no trophies and a public civil war in the locker room.  What will become of the “noisy neighbors”?

May 092013

Wigan 2-3 Swansea

Well, perhaps Roberto Martinez isn’t “Big X” after all.  The Latics when ahead twice on Tuesday, yet the one thing that Martinez has not been able to fix all season bit him again as two defensive brain cramps cost them the win.  They had done so well on Saturday at West Brom and they knew that their destiny lay in their own hands.  They started out well as they continued the momentum from their last match.  The Swans were never going to be an easy team to beat as their mid-table position clearly shows.  But keeper Michel Vorm failed to properly clear a Ben Watson cross right at half time and Roger Espinoza was able to volley home to make the score 1-0 for the home side right at half time.  There was quite a bit of speculation on how incredible it would be if the Latics were able to win this and the rest of their matches and pull off the incredible “Great Escape”.  But as the second half got started, it was the Swans who carried the initiative and they nearly equalized in the 46th minute when Dwight Tiendalli’s shot from the corner kick went just over the bar.  The visitors did get their equalizer in the 49th minute when Wayne Routledge was able to chip over Espinoza’s shoulder to Angel Rangel’s feet for the forward to poke home to the bottom right corner of the goal.  Wigan got the lead back in the 52nd minute when James McCarthy was put through on goal and the Northern Ireland international drove through the Swans’ defense to hammer home a great shot.  James McArthur should have secured the win for the Latics when he was found by a 55th minute Arouna Kone cross.  But alas, the Scottish midfielder put his shot wide.  The home side were made to regret that miss in the 58th minute when Gary Caldwell had the first Latics defensive brain cramp when his clearance went straight to Pablo Hernandez.  The Spaniard gratefully fed the gift on to Itay Shecter who then equalized for the second time for the Swans.  The Latics had a chance to re-take the lead in the 66th minute, but keeper Vorm was able to make a great save from Franco Di Santo’s point-blank shot.  The entire Latics defense committed the second, and perhaps most fatal, brain cramp of the match in the 75th minute.  First Emmerson Boyce failed to properly clear the ball out of the Latics area.  Then both Shaun Maloney and McArthur stood and waited for each other to clear the loose ball out of their six yard box.  Tiendalli was able to score one of the easiest goals if his career and that was that.  There was a tragic postscript to the match as Swansea lost Vorm to a scary clash of heads with Ben Davies.  The Latics, who face Manchester City on Saturday for the FA-Cup, are hanging by a thread in the relegation zone with two matches left.  It ain’t looking good for them.

Manchester City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion

Citeh secure second place in the BPL while preparing for the FA-Cup final.  It was clear, at the Etihad Stadium, that the hosts were more concerned with Saturday’s upcoming match.  The match clearly lacked any sort of edge and although Romelu Lukaku had a couple of early chances, WBA were never going to win this one.  There was some concern from some of the fans about if their side was even going to score, but that was put to rest in the 35th minute when Edin Dzeko volleyed home a Carlos Tevez cross.  There was one important hiccup for Citeh as Joe Hart appeared to have picked up a knock and is doubtful for Saturday.

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham

On a day where the football news was about activities going on off it, Blues and Spurs play to an exciting draw.  The pre-match distractions were all about Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement from football at the end of the season and speculation as to his replacement.  So maybe one couldn’t be blamed for being slightly distracted from the encounter at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.  But this is where the season’s drama for the BPL is located now.  Third and fourth places and the UEFA Champions’ League qualification that comes with those spots are still up for grabs.  Spurs, who had made such a dramatic comeback on Saturday, have never won on Chelsea’s home ground in more than 23 years.  They soon found themselves down a goal in the 10th minute when Juan Mata’s cross found Gary Cahill.  Although Cahill’s header appeared to be going wide of goal, an unmarked Oscar was there to poke the loose ball home.  If there is one Spurs player who has been a real enigma this season it has been Emmanuel Adebayor.  The Togo striker has often been missing in action when he has been most needed, but he showed up on Wedneday and in the 25th minute, he was able to hit a wonderful curling shot into the top right corner of the goal to level the score at 1-1.  Then in the 38th minute Fernando Torres, playing without his trademark protective mask was able to cut through the Spurs defense and set up Ramires to score to put the Blues back into the lead.  As the second half started, Spurs kept pressing to equalize with Blues keeper Petr Cech doing his usual professional best to deny each Spurs attempt.  The Blue should have sealed the match in the 50th minute, but Torres had his shot saved by Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.  With the Blues defense making Gareth Bale a non-factor in the match, Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas tried to shake things up by bringing on Aaron Lennon and later Clint Dempsey.  In the 74th minute, Dempsey nearly equalized when his shot was blocked by Blues defender Branislav Ivanovic.  Ivanovic was on hand to also clear away the resulting corner kick.  Last year, the Blues condemned Spurs to the Europa league when they won the UEFA Champions’ League and it looked like they were going to get that done again on Wednesday.  But in the 80th minute Adebayor was “Johnny on the Spot” again for Spurs when he was able to put Gylfi Sigurdsson in on the Blues goal and the midfielder was able to poke the ball home past keeper Cech.  Bale had a chance in stoppage time to win the match for the visitors.  But his free kick from just outside the Blues area was right at Cech and that was that.  The result sees Chelsea  tighten their grip on third place by three points over Spurs and two points over Arsenal.  This one will probably go down to the last day.


May 062013

Fulham 2 – 4 Reading

The Royals deliver a face-punch to the Cottagers on their way down to the Championship.  They might be relegated, but the Royals decided to leave the BPL with a win to remember on Saturday.  To be fair to Fulham, the really didn’t have anything play for and their mid-table position assured them safety for BPL next season without the bother of European football.  So the neutral observer could understand why the home side seemed to be going through the motions all through the match and why the home fans were not happy about it.  The rout started in the 12th minute when Hal Robson-Kanu was awarded a penalty after being fouled by Fulham defender John Arne Riise.  Kanu took the spot kick to give the visitors the good start.  As the match wore on, one couldn’t help wondering where on earth the home side’s players were.  The second half was not much better and Kanu put the visitors up by two in the 62nd minute when he poked home Garath McCleary’s pass.  Bryan Ruiz did get a goal back in the 70th minute for the Cottagers after he was set up by Hugo Rodallega.  But substitute Adam Le Fondre restored the visitors’ lead in the 75th minute when he took hold of Jem Karacan’s cross and, after dribbling around goal keeper Mark Schwarzer, poke home a fine finish.  Ruiz tried to rescue the Cottagers again in the 77th minute when he headed home Alex Kacaniklic’s cross.  But any thoughts of a comeback by the home side were dispatched in the 82 minute when Karacan fired home from Adam Le Fondre’s set-up pass.  The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Fulham and the fans let their players feel their displeasure as they booed them off.  The loss is the fourth in a row for Martin Jol’s side and it was not a good match to lose.

Norwich 1 – 2 Aston Villa

Villa grab three more valuable points at Carrow Road.  You really have to hand it to Aston Villa, they are not going down without a fight.  Villa boss Paul Lambert knows that winning matches like this is the key to a successful BPL survival fight.  It was a hard fight for the visitors as the Canaries have made a habit of tough to beat at home.  In fact, Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass were quite dangerous down the flanks for much of the match.  To complicate things for the visitors, Matthew Lowton had to go off injured in the 27th minute, to be replaced by Eric Lichaj.  The visitors were nearly broken in the 39th minute when keeper Bradley Guzan was forced to make a fine save from Pilkington.  But both sides held firm and the score remained at zeros at half time.  Right from the kick-off, the visitors pressed hard to score and Christian Benteke nearly did so but his shot was saved by keeper Mark Bunn.  Benteke tried a shot from distance in the 47th minute that went just wide of the goal.  Villa finally did get the goal they had been pushing for in the 55th minute when Gabriel Agbonlahor made a fine solo effort to cut through the Canaries defense after grabbing a loose ball in the midfield.  The England midfielder was able to surge forward and unleashed a bullet from 25 yards out that finished in the bottom corner of the goal.  Perhaps some of the players were thinking this would be another rout like Monday’s match had been.  But Norwich were not going away quietly and they were awarded a penalty kick when Joe Bennett made a bad challenge on Snodgrass in the Villains’ area.  Grant Holt slotted home the spot kick to level the scores and it looked like Villa would have to settle for a draw.  But Ashley Westwood found Agbonlahor’s run into the area and he was able to poke home the finish that secured the vital win for Aston Villa.  They have now hit the magic 40 point goal that usually means BPL safety.  The loss for Norwich means that at 38 points, they’re now caught up in the relegation fight with four other teams.

Swansea 0 – 0 Manchester City

A boring draw in Wales as Citeh save it all for next week’s FA-Cup final.  The Swans haven’t won in their last seven BPL matches and they felt like they got screwed by the referees in the first half when Matiha Nastasic appeared to bring down Miguel Michu in the Citeh penalty area.  It was clear that Citeh were more concerned with their only chance for silverware this season.  Although boss Roberto Mancini replaced a lethargic Yaya Toure with Edin Dzeko, they just did not look like their hearts were in the match.  They had their own penalty claim waved away when Chico Flores appeared to foul Dzeko in the Swansea penalty area.  The draw secures second place in the BPL for the team from the sky blue half of Manchester.  While that ensures UEFA Champions’ League qualification for next season, Mancini knows that to keep his job, he’d better bring home the FA-Cup.

Tottenham 1 – 0 Southampton

Gareth Bale does it again.  What on earth is there that can be said about the PFA Player of the Year that hasn’t already been said?  Once again he grabs his team, hoists them on his shoulders and carries them on to victory.  The match had been delayed for some traffic fun outside of the stadium.  When things started a half-hour late, Jermain Defoe nearly scored in the fifth minute when he made a fine run though the Saints’ defense, but his shot went into the side netting.  The Saints had an opportunity in the 10th minute when Rickie Lambert sent Nathaniel Clyne through with a very clever chip over the Spurs defense, but Clyne’s volley was just wide of the goal.  Lambert was creator supreme again a bit later when he put through Guly Do Prado, but the cut-back pass was cleared by Michael Dawson.  Spurs suffered an injury blow in the 35th when Mousa Dembele had to be replaced by Lewis Holtby.  For most of the match Bale was watched quite closely by the Saints defense.   In fact the Welsh midfielder hardly had a touch in the first half.  The second half saw the visitors come the closest at the start as both Lambert, missing the upper left corner of the goal, and Jay Rodriquez, who had his header blocked, nearly put the Saints into the lead.  Not even Emmanuel Adebayor, brought one for Aaron Lennon in the 60th minute, could find any break through and it looked like Spurs would have to settle for the draw and concede Champions’ League qualification to their London rivals for the second consecutive year.  But in the 86th minute, Bale nicked the ball off Holtby and made one of his trade mark runs forward before unleashing his shot past keeper Artur Boruc.  The result means that the race for third place in the BPL is back on again.  Things should be fun at Stamford Bridge next weekend.

West Bromwich Albion 2 – 3 Wigan

Could the Latics escape relegation again?  We’ve seen this before.  After a season of mediocrity and underperformance, Roberto Martinez waves his magic wand and the Latics pull off a miraculous escape from relegation.  This time they have a bit more to play for as they face Manchester City for the FA-Cup final later this month.  So Martinez had a bit of a dilemma on Saturday at The Hawthorns Stadium.  Does he put the focus on BPL survival, or does he focus on winning silverware?  That must have been on his mind when Shane Long grabbed the first half lead for WBA in the 29th minute.  The Latics came back in the 38th minute when Arouna Kone headed home Jean Beausejour’s cross to make the score 1-1.  WBA get the lead back in the 49th minute when Gareth McAuley headed in Graham Dorrans’ free-kick.  But the Latics equalized once again in the 58th minute when James McArthur out jumped everyone to head home from Shaun Maloney’s cross.  WBA seemed like they were satisfied with sharing the points with the visitors, but in the 80th minute Callum McManaman put the Latics into the lead when he finished off Shaun Maloney’s free kick.  From there it was all hands to the pump to defend the advantage and assure the win.  Although the Latics, at three points behind their fellow strugglers, are still in the relegation zone, they still have a match in hand.  That match goes off at home on Tuesday versus Swansea and should be exciting to watch.

West Ham 0 – 0 Newcastle

The Magpies are still in trouble as they fail to score at Upton Park.  There is a distinct possibility that Newcastle could be headed back to the Championship again.  At 38 points and a -23 goal differential, they sit one place above Wigan who have a match in hand.  It may be possible that they lost their mojo when they got gob-smacked last week.  But their performance Saturday was simply awful.  Papiss Cisse came the closet to scoring when he had his first half shot cleared off the line by Winston Reid.  The match itself was dull both ways since the Hammers are already safe and have nothing to play for and the Magpies, quite simply, are struggling for form.  They still have a chance to fight for their place next week when they face relegated Queens Park Rangers.  Alan Pardew had better hope his boys do better in that part of London.

Queens Park Rangers 0 – 1 Arsenal

The Gunners take care of business early in this match.  Theo Walcott sealed the victory in the first 20 seconds of this match and put pressure on the other London rivals for third place.  It was easy to see that QPR weren’t really interested in this match as they seemed to go through the motions.  Loic Remy came the closet to getting a goal for the home side, but keeper Wojciech Szczesny was more than able to keep the clean sheet as Arsenal eased their way to their fifth consecutive away win.  No doubt the Gunners will be watching the Wednesday London Derby between Chelsea and Tottenham with interest.  They have the easiest end of season run-in as their opposition are in the bottom third of the BPL table.

Liverpool 0 – 0 Everton

It was a very boring Merseyside Derby on Sunday.  It had been 14 years since Everton had won at Anfield.  At sixth place in the table and five points ahead of their neighbors, the Toffees had every advantage over their rivals.  But alas, the only real high light of this match happened in the 20th minute when the Everton fans set off a smoke bomb and the blue smoke blew back into their faces.  This fixture is usually filled with lots of angst and drama, but only chances in the whole match fell to Marouane Fellaini in the first half and to Steven Gerrard in the second half.  Fellaini volleyed his close-range shot wide of the goal, while Gerrard had his shot cleared off the line by Sylvain Distin.  This match was a real test of the Suarez-less Reds and they struggled without his creative genius.  And so the 220th version of the Merseyside Derby was quite forgettable.  The result sees Everton secure their ticked to Europa League football for next season.  Incredibly, Liverpool could also qualify for the Europa League via the UEFA Fair Play rule.  Yeah, I couldn’t believe that one either.

Sunderland 1 – 1 Stoke

John O’Shea rescues a precious point for the Black Cats.  The visitors took the lead in the ninth minute Jonathan Walters was the first to pounce on a loose ball from a Charlie Adam corner and poke it home.  Things have gotten a bit stormy for Paolo Di Canio lately especially after their butt-whipping last week by Aston Villa.  The storms got rougher in the 32nd minute when Craig Gardner was sent off for a bad studs-up challenge on Adam.  Steven Nzonzi was lucky not to have been sent off himself for a dangerous tackle on Alfred N’Diaye in the 43rd minute.  When the second half started, Stoke brought on Geoff Cameron for Marc Wilson and the American almost gifted a life line to the Blackcats when he made a real meal of an easy play and horrible clearance.  But James McClean couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.  Cameron almost made amends for his mistake in the 58th minute when his shot was blocked by O’Shea.  The one thing that O’Shea has been throughout his career is “Johnny on the Spot”.  He was for Cameron’s shot and he was in the 63rd minute when he prodded home Seb Larsson’s corner kick for the equalizer.  Increadibly it was 10-man Sunderland who nearly stole the match when Danny Rose’s 80th minute shot from outside the area bounced off outside of the post.  The result has Sunderland, at 38 points, two places above the drop zone ahead of both Norwich and Newcastle.  The final run-in for the last relegation place should be interesting to watch.

Apr 292013

englishflag Barclays Premier League Week 35 Wrap Up

Everton 1-0 Fulham

Could the Toffees sneak back into the European places?  They had lost last week to Sunderland and it looked like Everton would not be quite good enough to finish in the top five again this season.  But, thanks to Steven Pienaar’s 16th minute goal, they’re back in the running for Europa League qualification.  The match itself was a bit boring as the Cottagers are satisfied that their position in the BPL is safe and don’t have much ambition left for this season.  Everton boss, David Moyes will be a bit worried about his side’s current form, especially with the Merseyside Derby coming up next week.  He’ll be asking his boys to be ready for the trip to Anfield next Sunday.   Fulham boss Martin Jol, who lost Dimitar Berbatov to injury will be hoping to finish the season without any more costly injuries.

Southampton 0-3 West Bromwich Albion

Ten men of WBA get the win over the nine men of Saints.  This was a weird match in that the referee was making his BPL debut and what should have been a quiet, mid-table match, turned into quite the scrappy affair.  WBA opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Marc-Antoine Fortune a loose ball from Graham Dorran’s corner kick.  At first, it looked like Saints’ defender Daniel Fox had hacked clear the ball, but replays showed that it had clearly gone over the line.  Romelu Lukaku nearly made it two in the 18th minute when his shot was saved by Saints keeper Artur Boruc.  The closest the Saints would come to scoring in the first half would be from a Nathaniel Clyne strike and a Rickie Lambert free-kick.  Saints’ boss Mauricio Pochettino tried to shake things up at the start of the second half by replacing Jack Cork with Gaston Ramirez.  At first things seemed to start a bit better for the Saints and they earned a corner kick in the 48th minute, but it was successfully cleared by defender James Morrison.  But then Lukaku finally did get the second goal for the visitors when Fortune was able to turn his marker easily and provide a through ball for the Chelsea on-loan striker to poke past Boruc.  Three minutes later, all hell broke loose as Saints’ midfielder Gaston Ramirez threw an elbow to the face of Shane Long.  Fortune, upset with Ramirez’s actions against his teammate confronted the Uruguayan by putting his hands to his face.  The referee was left with no choice but to send both players off for the offenses.  Things went from bad to worse for the Saints in the 76th minute when Lukaku got through them again and set up Long to score the third goal for WBA.  It was truly a bad day for the home side and the frustration was too much for Daniel Fox.  He was sent off in the 82nd minute for a dumb two-footed tackle on Steven Reid and that pretty much was that.  There were some of the home fans who blame the referee for their team’s result.  But each red card was warranted and the Saints’ have no one to blame but themselves for their abysmal performance on Saturday.

Stoke 1-0 Norwich

A win over the Canaries makes things safe for the Potters.  I think the long season has taken its toll on the Canaries.  Although they’re safe and secure in 14th place in the BPL table, one can tell from their play that they’re just trying to see out the season.  Their play was very uninspiring and they rarely tested Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic.  This was a match that the home side clearly dominated and Charlie Adam’s 46th minute goal ended a five-month goal drought for him and gave his side their first back-to-back victory since December.  The Potters’ end of season run-in is fairly smooth for them and Tony Pulis and his boys should be able to end the season in relative safety.

Manchester City 2-1 West Ham

Citeh get the home win.  Well there is a bit of gloom at the Etihad Stadium as the Premiership Trophy is on its way over to their neighbors place.  Boss Roberto Mancini, who looks like he’ll be the Citeh boss next year, has demanded that summer transfers be much more efficient and have a bit more quality this time.  They shouldn’t go trophy-less as they’re playing Wigan for the FA-Cup on May the 11th.  So this match against the Hammers was more of a training match.  The Hammers have done well for themselves this season since returning to the top flight this season and have, at 10th place, assured that they’ll be in the BPL next season.  Carlos Tevez, who has taken over the role as the number one striker since Mario Balotelli left for AC Milan, nearly score in the 7th minute when he broke through the West Ham defense.  It took a fine save from keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to deny the Argentinian.  It took until the 27th minute for Sergio Aguero to get the opening goal.  It was a fine text book move that belies the talent that Citeh have had all season.  Yaya Toure started the move by exchanging passes with Samir Nasri.  The French midfielder then played a great one-two with David Silva to get into the Hammers’ penalty area and then hit a low cross toward the near post for Aguero to easily poke home.  They could have made it two in the 29th minute when Jaaskelainen failed to hold a shot from Tevez that Pablo Zabaleta pounced on.  But the Hammers’ keeper was able to block the Argentinian strikers’ point blank shot on goal.  There was a touch of class as both sets of fans gave a minutes applause for Marc-Vivien Foe, who had played for both clubs before dying of heart failure 10 years ago during a match.  The score looked like it was going to finish at 1-0, when in the 82nd minute, Yaya Toure was able to take a pass from Nasri and hit a clinical shot from outside of the Hammers’ penalty area into the top corner of the goal.  There was a bit of drama at the end of the match when Andy Carroll got a consolation goal for the visitors.  It looks as if CIteh keeper Joe Hart injured himself and Carroll’s shot rolled right through his legs.  Citeh fans are hoping he’ll be ready for the Wembly trip in a couple of weeks.

Wigan 2-2 Tottenham

An Emmerson Boyce late own goal seals a point for Spurs.  In a match that both sides had to win, Boyce became first the hero and then the goat for the Latics.  The one thing that has been plaguing the home side all season has been brain cramp in the defense and it surfaced in the 8th minute when Maynor Figueroa and Joel Robles started goofing off in their own half and Robles bounced his wayward pass off an approaching Gareth Bale.  The ball bounced off the Welsh winger and straight into the net for the opening goal.  To their credit, they responded directly from that set back and were equal in the 10th minute.  They aggressively pressed Spurs and earned a corner kick.  Shaun Maloney took the kick and Boyce was able to out-jump everyone and head home past keeper Hugo Lloris.  Spurs looked to regain the lead, but the Latics were able to do a much better job defending their goal.  They had a setback in the 34th minute when an injuried Figueroa had to stretchered off and replaced by Ronnie Stam.  But Roberto Martinez’s men were able to keep the fight up and the scores were still level when the half time whistle blew.  Then as the second half got started, the Latics grabbed the initiative as Callum McManaman put home James McCarthy’s pass to make the score 2-1 in favor of the home side.  Most fans were thinking that Wigan had a much needed win, but it was substitute Aaron Lennon who applied the late pressure and his low shot bounced off the unfortunate Boyce and into the Latics goal in the 89th minute.  Bale nearly stole all three points for Spurs in stoppage time had it not been for Robles’ great save from the Welshman’s free kick and the Latics’ last ditch defending to keep the loose ball out of their net.  The draw has Wigan 5 points from safety with a match in hand and Spurs two points behind their London rivals for the last UEFA Champions’ League place.  The next couple of weeks should be interesting for both.

Newcastle 0 – 6 Liverpool

The Reds do just fine without Luis Suarez.  They’ll be without their Uruguayan talisman for 10 matches, which means they won’t get him back until sometime in late September or early October of next season.  There have been so many stories and speculations on what Boss Brendan Rodgers will do or if Suarez will be sold or salvaged.  But that wasn’t the story of the day on Saturday at St James’ park.  The Reds grabbed the early lead in the 2nd minute when Daneil Agger headed home Phillippe Coutinho’s cross.  The Magpies needed to win this match to get themselves out of relegation trouble, but they couldn’t find any sort of foothold in this match and went further behind in the 16th minute when Daniel Sturridge was able to cut through the home side’s defense and set up Jordan Henderson to score a low shot in the middle of the goal.  Steven Gerrard nearly made it three in the 28th minute when his shot missed just left of the goal.  Newcastle did finally earn a corner kick in the 40th minute, but it was easily claimed by keeper Jose Reina.  The second half was more of the same and was soon over as a contest in the 53rd minute when Hatem Ben Arfa had the ball nicked from him by Coutinho.  The Brazilian winger raced forward and slid a great pass to Sturridge who blasted home past keeper Rob Elliot.  The Magpie defense got carved open again in the 60th minute when Gerrard and Jordan Henderson combined to set up Sturridge for his second and Liverpool’s fourth goal.  Rodgers brought on Fabio Borini for Gerrard in the 71st minute and two minutes later the Italian, back from a long injury spell, got in on the goal-scoring fun when he headed home Stewart Downing’s cross to make it 0-5.  As if Newcastle didn’t need anything worse to happen to them, Mathieu Debuchy got himself sent off in the 75th minute for a studs-up challenge on Coutinho.  Jordan Henderson was able to score directly from the free-kick as none of the Newcastle players could get to the ball as it arched into the net for the sixth goal.  So it looks like Newcastle have found themselves involve in yet another relegation fight as they are now fourth from bottom.

Reading 0– 0 Queens Park Rangers

A goalless draw sees both teams relegated.  This one was quite dull and since there really is not much to write about, suffice it to say that the inevitable has finally happened.  The only thing for both sides now is whether or not they will be able to rebuild and come straight back into the BPL after a season in the nPower Championship.  QPR will have the more difficult time as they’ve spent the most money.  They’ve got to find a way to either shed their payroll load or get the current players to come together.  Time will tell.

Chelsea 2 – 0 Swansea City

Frank Lampard gets his 201st for the Blues.  He is one goal closer to the record set by legend Bobby Tambling and the Blues have reclaimed third place over their London rivals.  With a crucial Europa League semi-final match coming up on Thursday, Rafa Benitez was looking for a better performance and bit of revenge for the Blues embarrassing exit from the Capital One Cup where Eden Hazard was sent off following the “Ball-boy Incident” at the Liberty Stadium.  Many of the Blues fans are wondering why the 35 year old Lampard has not been offered a new contract when he truly is one of the main leaders of their squad.  He started the match on the substitutes’ bench and only came on in the 23rd minute for an injured Ramieres.  Up until that time, the match was quite lifeless.  The old man instilled some pace and got the Stamford Bridge crowd into the match.  He nearly scored the first goal in the 34th minute but his shot was just over the bar.  David Luiz nearly was able to head home Oscar’s cross in the 36th minute and Lampard had an opportunity in the 39th minute saved by keeper Michel Vorm.  In the 42nd minute, John Terry was able to find Lampard with a long pass that the latter was able to poke through for Oscar to poke home for the opening goal.  Right before half time, Juan Mata was tripped by Leon Britton in the Swansea penalty area.  “Super Frank” stepped up and slammed home the spot kick in his usual fashion and the Stamford Bridge crowd started chanting “Sign Him Up!”  There wasn’t much going on in the second half as the Blues ease to the win.  Jonathan de Guzman had a chance to get a consolation goal when he stole the ball from Terry, but the Chelsea captain was able to recover and make up for the mistake.  So the Blues next two matches, at Old Trafford next week and home to Spurs the following week, will be crucial in deciding who has third place in the BPL and the last automatic qualifying UEFA Champions’ League spot.

Aston Villa 6 – 1 Sunderland

Christian Benteke gets a hat-trick as Villa delivers a face punch to Sunderland.  It was the Villains’ biggest win since 2008 and it couldn’t have come a better time.  At first the match started out a bit scappy as both sides tried to find their form.  But in the 30th minute, Ron Vlaar was able to collect the loose ball at the center circle, sprint forward and let fly from 30 yards out into the bottom left corner for the first goal.  Sunderland were able to equalize straight away in the 30th minute when Danny Rose was able take a Danny Graham pass and hit a powerful swerving finish.  But if there were any worries from the fans at Villa Park, Andreas Weimann put those to bed in the 37th minute when he was found unmarked by a wonderful Matthew Lowton crossfield pass.  The Austrian was able to ease his way into the area and poke home from close range.  Benteke got his first and Villa’s third in the 54th minute when he headed in Gabriel Agbonlahor’s cross.  In the 58th minute, he scored again when he rose above everyone made a fine headed goal from Ashley Westwood’s cross.  That got the Villa Park crowd going and they started chanting insults at Black Cats’ boss Paolo Di Cannio.  Di Cannio’s day got worse in the 69th minute when Stephane Sessegnon was sent off for a violent tackle on Tacouba Sylla.  Agbonlahor set up Benteke for his third in the 71st minute when he found the Belgian’s run though the Sunderland defense.  Agbonahor scored the sixth goal at the end of a wonderful day for Villa fans who have hope now that their team will survive relegation.  The result has them five points clear of the drop zone and are now fifth from bottom and have a +1 goal difference over Newcastle.  It should be an interesting race to see who stays in the BPL.


Apr 242013

englishflag Barclays Premier League Week 33 Wrap up

Fulham 0 – 1 Arsenal

Steve Sidwell lets his side down by getting sent off again.  He had just come back from a three match ban for violent conduct and boss Martin Jol was giving him a chance to get his starting place back in the midfield.  But just 12 minutes into the match, Sidwell made a really dumb, cleats-up, challenge that caught Mikel Arteta on his ankle.  The referee had no other choice but to send off the midfielder and chances are he’s played his last match for the Cottagers this season.  The Gunners really did not take advantage of the extra man and nearly paid for some slow play in the 20th minute when Dimitar Berbatov forced a good save from Wojciech Szczesny.  But that was as close as the Cottagers would get and they dropped the inevitable goal right as half time approached when Per Mertesacker headed home after Laruent Koscielny headed Theo Walcott’s free-kick across the goal.  Fulham tried hard to press for an equalizer when the second half got underway, and they had a free-kick opportunity in the 51st minute.  There was some yelling by the home fans as Arteta, who conceded the kick, was shown only a yellow card for his foul on Urby Emanuelson.  But alas, the Cottagers scoring form has been pretty poor of late and it showed when Bryan Ruiz’s free kick went nowhere.  The rest of the match was relatively easy for Arsenal as they eased themselves into third place and the last UEFA Champions’ League qualification spot.  There was a stoppage brain cramp by Olivier Giroud when he was sent off for making the same sort of challenge on Cottagers’ midfielder Sanislav Manolev as Sidwell had done.  But the Gunners have assumed the inside lane of the race to third over their other two London Rivals.

Norwich 2 – 1 Reading

The Canaries win just their second match in 17 tries and drive one more nail in the Royals’ coffin.  This was one that the visitors had a chance to get three much needed points.  The Canaries were vulnerable and nearly went behind late in the first half when Pavel Pogrebnyak fired what should have been a sure goal over the bar.  But when you’re on your way down, these are the kinds of things that do not work in your favor.  Sure enough, Reading went behind in the 49th minute when, from a Grant Holt corner kick, chaos in front of goal left Ryan Bennett with an easy tap-in.  The second goal happened almost immediately afterward when Alex McCarthy missed cutting out a Robert Snodgrass cross and Bennett latched onto the loose ball and poked it through the hopeless keeper’s legs.  The home side had a chance to grab a third goal in the 56th minute this time when Snodgrass’ shot was saved by McCarthy.  Although the visitors did get a goal back in the 71st minute from Garath McCleary, this was a match that confirmed that they’re all but relegated and will most likely finish at the bottom of the league.  Shame really as they initially looked like one of the newly promoted sides that could have stayed up.

Queens Park Rangers 0 – 2 Stoke

The Potters drive the Rangers closer to relegation.  It’s a good bet that Tony Pulis has saved his job for another season.  While the Potters’ aren’t quite safe just yet, by beating bottom three QPR, it’s a pretty good bet that they’ll be in the BPL next season.  The man of the match was definitely Peter Crouch.  While QPR and their main guy Adel Taarabt looked dangerous at times, it was Crouch, someone who QPR boss Harry Redknapp knows well, who made the most contributions for the win.  The start of the match saw QPR pressing hard as any Redknapp-coached team would do.  Taarabt should have scored from distance in the 14th minute, but his effort from outside of the penalty area was just wind.  In the 16th minute, Loic Remy nearly scored from a Taarabt corner kick.  The Loftus Road faithful were on the edge of their seats in the 23rd minute when Remy’s effort was barely saved by Potters’ keeper Asmir Begovic.  But alas, disappointment for the home fans was the order of the day in the 42nd minute.  Marc Wilson took advantage of some slack midfield play and was able to hit a great through ball to Cameron Jerome whose cross was slotted home by Crouch.  So as both teams went into the locker at the break, there was a cloud of doom over the home side and the home supporters.  Remy tried to buoy-up QPR spirits in the 55th minute when his shot was saved by Begovic.  But the 77th minute will be marked by most QPR fans as the time when their season died.  As a cross came into the QPR penalty area, Clint Hill grabbed a handful of Crouch’s shirt, leaving the referee no choice but to award Stoke a penalty.  Jonathan Walters put home the spot kick and the energy simply leaked out of the stadium.  While they’re not mathematically relegated yet, their destiny does not lie in their hands and it is not likely that they’ll be able to overtake the two teams above them.

Sunderland 1 – 0 Everton

Holy Cow!!  Paolo Di Canio gets his second win in a row as Black Cats’ boss.  OK, here is now you endear yourself to your new fans and make some of the critics be quiet.  You take on a side bound for European football next season and swipe three points off them in front of your home supporters.  The one thing to say about Di Canio is that he has inspired the players to play a lot better than they had been under Martin O’Neill.  They were still basking in the Tyne-Wear Derby win over Newcastle their last time out and should have opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Danny Graham, who has yet to score for Sunderland, fired his shot straight at keeper Tim Howard.  In the 12th minute, Sebastian Larsson’s shot from a free-kick went just over of Howard’s goal.  So it went for the home side as they kept pressing.  Howard was doing his usual great stuff in goal for the Toffees, but right at halftime, Stephane Sessegnon’s shot was initially saved by Howard, but the rebound trickled over the line for the match’s only goal.  Sunderland nearly made it two in the 52nd minute when Danny Rose was able to get past defender Leon Osman, but his shot went wide of the goal.  Everton had a life line given to them in the 77th minute when Larsson hit a back-pass that nearly went over keeper Simon Mignolet’s head.  When the Belgian keeper caught the ball, the referee had no choice but to book him and award an indirect free kick to the visitors.  But the Sunderland defense held firm as Everton tried a bit of trickery and Leighton Baines shot rebounded off the wall of defenders in front of goal.  That was pretty much all that was needed and the win sees Sunderland safely away from the drop zone and it looks like Everton will be playing Europa League football next season.

Swansea 0 – 0 Southampton

Swans and Saints play a dull goalless draw on Saturday.  Swans boss Michael Laudrup called this match a must-win as the Welsh side is trying to finish in the top 10.  The Saints on the other hand are still trying to climb away from the drop zone and boss Mauricio Pochettino looks like he done enough to make that happen.  Swans had a chance to take the early lead in the 8th minute when Jonathan de Guzman’s shot was blocked by Jos Hooiveld.  The Saints took a while to get going, but they forced a great stop from Michal Vorm in the 25th minute when he had to be at his best to stop Jay Rodriguez’s shot.  In the 39th minute, the Saints thought they had scored when Vorm failed to hold a Rodriguez cross and Adam Lallana poke the ball into the net.  But the goal was disallowed as the referee judged that the midfielder had interfered with the keeper to get to the ball.  As the second half got underway, Laudrup tried to shake up the Swans midfield by substituting Wayne Routledge for Luke Moore.  The change nearly worked as the half got underway as Routledge made a cross for Miguel Michu, only the Spanaird missed his header just to the left of the goal.  As the match wound down, the Saints dropped deeper into their own half and packed the midfielder.  Keeper Artur Boruc made to excellent saves to deny first De Guzman and later Kieran Dyer to keep the match scoreless.  The end result for both sides was ninth place for Swans and 12 place for the Saints.  It’s a good bet they’ll be playing BPL football next season.

West Bromwich Albion 1 – 1 Newcastle

Billy Jones rescues a point for the Baggies.  This was a chance for the Magpies to haul themselves clear of the relegation fight.  They had taken the lead in the eighth minute when Yoan Gouffran finished from a pass from Yohan Cabaye.  Newcastle wanted to put the disappointment of last week’s Tyne-Wear Derby behind them and the nearly had a second goal a short time later, but Cabaye’s shot from distance was just over the bar.  That’s how the rest of the first half went for the visitors as they missed opportunity after opportunity.  One of the best happened when Steven Taylor got behind the defense, but failed to beat keeper Ben Foster.  WBA had an opportunity right at the break when James Perch judged to have fouled Graham Dorrans.  Although the free-kick was awarded just outside of the area, replays showed that the incident occurred in the area.  The free kick, taken by Chris Brunt, went wide of the goal as the referee blew for halftime.  When the teams came out after the break, WBA were the better side and they should have scored in the 57th minute when Romelu Lukaku’s shot went over the goal.  They did score in the 63rd minute when Jones scored as Lukaku this time had turned provider.  WBA almost scored the winner in the 65th minute when an unmarked James Morrison had his header saved off the line by Magpies’s keeper Rob Elliot.  The match kind of fizzled out from that point onward as both sides were content to with the draw.

West Ham 2 – 0 Wigan

The Latics are in deep trouble.  It doesn’t look like Roberto Martinez is going to be able to pull another great escape this season.  They’re in the FA-Cup final, but if they continue to play the way they played on Saturday, not only will they lose the FA-Cup, it’s a good bet they’ll lose their place in the BPL.  The Latics started well enough and made the first attack on goal as Antolin Alcaraz, who went off injured in the 15th minute, shot straight at keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.  But that’s as close as they would come in the first half and they were behind in the 21st minute when Matthew Jarvis’ cross from the left eluded everyone and ended up in the net.  The Hammers had a penalty shout waved away a short time later when James McCarthy appeared to trip Kevin Nolan just as he was about to shoot.  The Latics came out after the half time interval with a little bit more vigor and nearly scored as Jaaskelainen had to save from both Jordi Gomez and Arouna Kone.  They dominated play for the next 15 minutes and made Jaaskelainen work hard to keep his clean sheet.  But any worries the fans at Upton Park had of their side losing the lead were put to rest in the 80th minute when Nolan got onto an Andy Carroll pass and hit a volley past keeper Joel Robles.  Carroll should have added a third in the 85th minute when his left-footed shot went just wide of the target.  The loss for Wigan means that it’s a good bet that their last day match with fellow strugglers Aston Villa will determine which of the two teams stays in the Premiership.

Tottenham 3 – 1 Manchester City

Gareth Bale comes back from injury to put Spurs back into the UEFA Champions’ League race.  Although Citeh boss remarked that the league had been won several weeks ago, it was confirmed on Sunday as the Champions gave away the game and the BPL Trophy.  Citeh started out the match in fine form, taking the lead in the fifth minute when Carlos Tevez got past the Spurs defense and cut a back pass to James Milner.  Milner then fed a fine pass to Samir Nasri and the former Arsenal man took pleasure in scoring again on Spurs with a cushioned volley shot.  For much of the first half Citeh dominated the play and only fine saves from keeper Hugo Lloris from first Edin Dzeko and later Tevez kept the home side in the match.  The second half was more of the same and Citeh looked satisfied with going back to the Etihad with a nice boring win.  But in the 70th minute, Spurs boss Andreas Villas Boas decided to take off Emmanual Adebayor in favor of Jermain Defoe and move Bale into the center of the attack.  The move finally took hold in the 75th minute when Bale got hold of the ball in the middle and drove straight at the Citeh defense.  As they kept backing away from the Welshman, he whipped in a great low cross that Clint Dempsey was able to poke home from close range to level the score.  That goal lifted the spirits all over White Hart Lane and the fans went nuts in the 78th minute when Jermain Defoe got on the end of a Lewis Holtby through pass and hit a beautiful curling shot past a sprawling Joe Hart.  Of course the dagger through the Citeh hearts would come from Bale as he made a brilliant run though the defense and lifted a gentle chip over Hart.  The win sees Spurs two points behind their London rivals for third place and the last automatic qualifying place for the UEFA Champions’ League.  With a bit of luck and some help, perhaps they might just get there.

Liverpool 2 – 2 Chelsea

Is Luis Suarez completely insane?  Coming into this match, Suarez was the BPL Leading Scorer and a one of the top candidates to win the Player of the Year award.  He was having a decent year and was responsible for the bits of success that the Reds have had this season.  It looked like Suarez had finally conquered the inner devils that had plagued him in Holland when he bit PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal when he played for Ajax, or that plagued him last season when he got banned for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.  The day started out with former Liverpool boss and current Chelsea Rafa Benitez’s day as he returned to Anfield to the praise and applause of the home fans.  They still remember what he did for them back in 2007 when they won the UEFA Champions’ League.  His leadership for the Blues, despite how much they hate him, hasn’t been too bad and they took the early lead in the fifth minute when Oscar out jumped Jamie Carragher to head home from a corner kick.  There was very little in else of note for the rest of the half and Reds boss Brendan Rodgers replaced an ineffective Phillipe Coutinho with Daniel Sturridge for the start of the second half.  The switch paid off as Suarez showed his brilliance by finding Sturridge in the 51st minute and the striker equalized in the bottom right of the goal.  But then Suarez’s inner devils started taking control of his actions and he conceded a penalty kick in the 56th minute when he handled a corner kick in his own penalty area.  Eden Hazard poked home the spot kick to put the Blues back into the lead and it looked like they would be able to reclaim third place from their London rivals.  Deep into the match, as the Reds pressed for the equalizer, Suarez, who was being closely marked by Branislav Ivanovic, grabbed the defender’s arm and bit him.  Neither the referee nor the assistant saw anything, even though there is clear video evidence of the incident.  So, although the Blues protested vehemently, no punishment was forthcoming.  Deep into stoppage time, though, he was able to quell his demons long enough to produce a moment of brilliance when he headed home Sturridge’s cross for the equalizing goal.  So the Liverpool management have a hard choice to make.  Do they keep this brilliant striker who is prone to fits of insanity, or do they cut him loose?

Apr 152013

englishflag Barclays Premier League Wrap Up Week 32

Arsenal 3 – 1 Norwich

The Gunners make a late second half charge to claim victory.  The score line would indicate that home side dominated this match and that the Canaries were no match.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact the first half was the good ole days of the “boring-boring Arsenal”.  Yes they dominated possession for long periods, but they really did not put much on goal.  You would have thought that the Gunners had no UEFA Champions’ League ambitions for next season if you watch how they were playing.  The second half didn’t start out much better for the home side and the Emirates fans were getting restless at the poor display.  They were downright livid when their side went behind in the 56th minute when Canaries’ midfielder Michael Turner headed in Robert Snodgrass’ cross from close range.  Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger knew that changes were necessary and he took off Gervinho and Jack Wilshere, who had been playing like crap, and put on Theo Walcott and Lukas Podoloski.  The changes seemed to help pick up the pace a bit, but Norwich were equal to everything Arsenal threw at them and looked like they would grab three needed points.  But an 82nd minute corner kick for Arsenal changed everything.  The kick itself was cleared away by Kei Kamara, but the assistant referee raised his flag to indicate that Kamara had pulled down Gunners’ striker Olivier Giroud.  The replay showed that the two players had a firm grip on each other, put a penalty kick was awarded to the Gunners and it was calmly put away by Mikel Arteta for the equalizer.  They took the lead five minutes later when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was able to cut though the defense and charge into the area, chop the ball back, where it went into the goal off the unfortunate Canaries’ defender Sebastien Bassong’s foot.  The insult to injury occurred in stoppage time as Podolski was able to hit an 18 yard bomb into the corner of the goal.  The result sees Arsenal grab third place from their London rivals whose match had been postponed for Chelsea’s FA-Cup semi-final match.

Aston Villa 1– 1 Fulham

A Fabian Delph own goal denies Villa a chance to pull well clear of the bottom three.  They had done such a fine job in their last match when they humiliated Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.  One could almost make the case that Villa are better away from Villa Park this season.  But given all the fun they’re having, it’s a good bet that they’ll beat the drop this season.  Although Saturday, they had a chance to remove all doubt.  They should have had the lead in the 24th minute when Christian Benteke close range shot from Andreas Weimann’s cross went over the goal.  In the 31st minute Benteke and Charles N’Zogbia made a series of great one-two passes with other and the latter had his shot expertly saved by keeper Mark Schwarzer.  Fulham spent most of the first half and the first part of the second half on the back foot and wend behind when N’Zogbia finally scored in the 55th minute from Weimann’s cross.  But the one weak point for Villa at home has been their defending of set pieces and it bit them in them in the butt in the 66th minute when Bryan Ruiz’s corner kick was headed into his own goal by defender Fabian Delph.  Fulham nearly stole the match a short time later when substltute Mladen Petric knocked Ruiz’s cross just wide of the goal.  Villa had their own chance to regain the lead in the 73rd minute when Delph blasted a Wiemann cross high and well wide of the Cottagers’ goal.  So while Villa did not get the win they craved, a point is a point and they’re three precious points above the relegation zone with a couple of tough matches coming up.

Everton 2 – 0 Queens Park Rangers

The Toffees push QPR further toward the relegation trap door.  I think QPR boss Harry Redknapp is thinking that his boys are pretty much gone this season.  One thing that a team in relegation trouble needs in a bad way is a bit of luck and QPR just don’t seem to have any of it going their way.  Everton got their goals on either side of half time as Darron Gibson’s was a deflected strike in the 40th minute and Victor Anichebe’s was a great finish in the 50th minute.  While they’re not mathematically down yet, QPR must win all their remaining matches and their next two are against fellow strugglers Stoke and Reading.  So, let’s hope for their sake their luck changes quickly.

Reading 0 – 0 Liverpool

Goal keeper Alex McCarthy has a heck of a match and holds the Reds goalless.  This is one of those matches that, no doubt, has left Reds’ boss Brendan Rodgers quite frustrated with his side.  It should have been an easy trip to the Madejski Stadium for the visitors as they played the worst team in the BPL.  Reading had lost seven straight BPL matches and it looks like boss Nigel Adkins will not be able to rescue them from their fate.  Prior to the start of the match, there was a minutes silence for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough Disaster that happened 24 years ago this Monday.  Right from the opening kick-off Liverpool were all over Reading and should have taken the lead in the 13th minute when defender Chris Gunter cleared Luiz Suarez’s shot off the line.  In the 20th minute, McCarthy made a double save from first Daniel Sturridge and then Phillipe Coutinho to keep the score at zeros.  Then in the 33rd minute, Liverpool were given a gift when Gunter gave the ball away to Sturridge who then sent Suarez on his way.  But McCarthy was again able to react brilliantly to stop the shot and Steven Gerrard knocked the rebound over the goal.  As the half drew to a close, McCarthy was called on again to save a shot from Jordan Henderson and Sturridge’s effort from the resulting corner kick.  The Reds were finally able to put the ball into the net in the 48th minute, but alas, the goal was disallowed as Coutinho, who made the play, was judged to have been offside.  Reading did finally make one good chance in the 65th minute when Pavel Pogrebnyak played in Noel Hunt, but Reds’ keeper Jose Reina was able to block the shot with no trouble.  As the match wore on, frustration shown on the Liverpool side as Suarez, Gerrard, Downing, Sturridge, and Coutinho just couldn’t get past McCarthy as he made save after save.  It was a gutsy effort by Reading, and while it might be too little too late, it was very admirable.

Southampton 1 – 1 West Ham

Andy Carroll rescues a point for the Hammers at St. Mary’s Stadium.  There has been some speculation as to where the loanee striker will end up next season.  He was left out of the trip to Anfield last week and he was missed.  Lots of Hammers’ fans want boss Sam Allardyce to fork over the cash and make the England international a permanent part of the squad.  The match itself was a bit dull as both sides are safe from relegation and the weather at St Mary’s Stadium was absolutely miserable.  It was one of those matches that was difficult to play in and even more difficult to watch.  So it was no surprise that there were no real chances in a very soggy first half.  Carroll got the first real chance in the 55th minute when he latched onto a loose Saints’ clearance and hit his strike just wide of the goal.  The Saints were first on the board in the 58th minute when Gaston Ramirez was found by a Artur Boruc free kick which the striker cooly poked past Hammers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.  It didn’t take the Hammers long to equalize and they won a free-kick just outside of the Saint’s penalty area in the 65th minute.  Gary O’Neil played short for Carroll and he fired a low shot that deflected in off Steven Davis.  There wasn’t much more action of note as the match splashed toward its conclusion.  Both sides remain at 11th and 12th places respectively and can count this season as a relative success as newly promoted clubs who will remain in the BPL next season.

Newcastle 0 – 3 Sunderland

Blackcats’ boss Paolo Di Canio celebrates his first win in charge of Sunderland.  I guess one way to ingratiate yourself with the supporters of your club is to win the local derby.  This would prove to be brilliant win for the Wearsiders, although the Tyne-Wear derby was marred by post match violence.  Perhaps the Magpies were still down from being knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday.  Perhaps it really was their bad run of league form, only 2 wins out of their last 5 BPL matches.  Whatever it was, there was no spark for the Toon Army on Sunday and they were will beaten.  The visitors nearly opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Phil Bardsley tested keeper Tim Krul with a shot on goal.  They would get the breakthrough in the 27th minute when Stephane Sessegon benefitted from some poor play from defender Jonas Gutierrez.  Sessegnon grabbed the loose ball and cut inside towards the goal then unleashed a low shot past Krul into the bottom corner of the goal.  Newcastle had a chance to equalize in the 27th minute when Papiss Cisse was able to turn inside Bardsley, but Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet was able to block the shot.  The Belgian keeper made another fine safe in the 29th minute when he saved Cisse’s left-footed poke off his line.  As the second half got underway, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew tried to shake up the attack by replacing Yoan Gouffran with Shola Ameobi.  The move seemed to work as the home side seemed to be attacking a little better, but things went really bad for them when Tim Krul had to be substituted after separating his shoulder after landing awkwardly from a save of a Adam Johnson free kick.  Newcastle thought they had an equalizer in the 61st minute when Cisse was poked the ball into the net.  But the goal was ruled out for offside, but the replay showed that the assistant referee clearly got the call incorrect.  Any hope Newcastle had for this match was gone in the 73rd minute when Johnson was able to hit his left-footed shot past substitute keeper Rob Elliot.  Di Canio’s triumph was completed in the 81st minute when David Vaughan hit a wonderful curling shot from the edge of the box into the top right corner of the goal.  It was a good result for the ex-Lazio and ex-West Ham player, although his side are quite far from safe.



Apr 112013

englishflag Barclays Premier League Week 31 Wrap up

Reading 0 – 2 Southampton

The Saints put the Royals closer to relegation.  This was Nigel Adkins first match in charge of the Royals and there was some talk of him getting revenge on the team that had unceremoniously sacked him a couple of months ago.  In fact the fans were chanting “There’s only one Nigel Adkins” as the match got underway.  They had a chance to open the scoring in the third minute when Sean Morrison’s header from a Danny Guthrie free kick went harmlessly over the goal.  They had another chance in the 22nd minute from another Guthrie cross, this time the shot was taken by Adrian Mariappa and saved by Saints’ keeper Artur Boruc.  The Saints made their own attack in the 34th minute when Rickie Lambert was able to take advantage of some poor defending and find Jay Rodriquez’s run into the area and the Uruguayan poked home the first goal through keeper Adam Federici’s legs.  Rodriquez had a chance to make score again shortly before half time.  This time though, Federici saved the shot and Gaston Ramirez put the rebound just wide of the goal.  Adkins tried to shake things up for the home side by bringing on Mikele Leigertwood for Hope Akpan.  The change seemed to work for a bit when Boruc was forced to save from Noel Hunt’s early shot. But alas, that was as close as the home side would get to scoring.  In the 71st minute, Rodriquez put Adam Lallana through on goal and the substitute scored the second goal to ensure the win for the visitors.  The result leaves Reading rooted to the bottom of the table and, given the late date of the season, a sure bet to be relegated to the Championship division next season

Norwich 2 – 2 Swansea

Luke Moore’s second half strike rescues a draw for the Swans at Carrow Road.  The goal for Chris Hughton and the Canaries this season has been survival and although they’re in 14th place in the table, with 35 points are dangerously close to the relegation zone.  So they really needed a win over the Swansea.  The Swans, who had won the Capital One Cup earlier in the year, were stuck in a bit of a slump.  They had lost three of their last four matches coming into Carrow Road and wanted to get back on track.  Things didn’t start out too well for the hosts as their keeper Mark Bunn had to be substituted in the 15th minute for a groin strain.  But they nearly made up for the loss when Michael Turner nearly scored from Robert Snodgrass’ fine cross.  Swansea keeper Michel Vorm made the save and Luke Moore was able to clear the resulting corner kick.  Lee Camp, the Canaries’ substitute keeper was tested by Jonathan de Guzman’s free kick, but he was more than equal to save comfortably.  But there wasn’t much he could do in the 34th minute when De Guzman has able to find Miguel Michu with a fine pass and the Spaniard ended his goal drought with a fine finish into the top right corner of the goal to put Swans into the lead.  Nathan Dyer should have made it two for the visitors in the 38th minute but he dragged his shot wide of the target.  The home side took advantage in the 40th minute when Robert Snodgrass headed home Elliot Bennett’s cross from the right wing.  Norwich took the lead in the 60th minute when they took advantage of some dodgy Swansea defending from Bennet’s free-kick.  The ball went past everyone and landed at Michael Turner’s feet and he was able to finish into the top left corner of the goal.  That should have been good enough for the win for the Canaries, but one of their problems this season has been their defending.  It showed up again in the 74th minute when Michu nearly scored from De Guzman’s corner-kick.  Swansea did get their equalizer in the 75th minute when Angel Rangel’s cross landed at the feet of an unmarked Moore who gratefully scored the equalizer and denied the Canaries a much needed win.

Stoke 1 – 3 Aston Villa

Matthew Lowton’s late second half stunner helps Villa climb out of the relegation zone.  This is one of those matches that the Villains can point at with pride.  They had to win and Stoke looked like a good team to try and beat.  The Potters hadn’t won in 12 matches and have been sliding down toward the bottom three.  Boss Tony Pulis tried to change his attack coming into this match by dropping Peter Crouch and Cameron Jerome in favor Jon Walters and Kenwyne Jones.  The home side had an early penalty shout when Walters’ shot bounced off defender Nathan Baker’s arm in the Villa penalty area.  The referee wasn’t interested much to Pulis’ obvious disgust on the touchline and he got even angrier in the ninth minute when Gabriel Agbonlahor buried Lowton’s cross to give the visitors the early lead.  The goal gave the visitors a bit of confidence and they should have made it two when Christian Benteke’s shot was right at keeper Asmir Begovic.  A bit later, midfielder Andreas Weimann broke through the Potters’ defense only to bounce his shot off the post.  The home side were under siege for the rest of the first half and were booed off by their fans at the half-time interval.  The second half started as the first had ended with the visitors dominating the play.  Jerome was brought on in the 51st minute for an injured Marc Wilson.  Although the shape was more attacking it was quite some time before the Potters were able to mount anything of significance on goal.  It was finally in the 80th minute that Charlie Adam found Michael Kightly who was able to poke home the equalizing goal for the home side.  In matches past this season, the Villains would have played for the draw or gone down to defeat.  But in the 86th minute, Charles N’Zogbia’s corner kick was cleared out by Ryan Shawcross.  But the ball flew right to Lowton and he hit a great volley into the top left corner of the goal over Begovic’s reach and Villa were back into the lead.  The icing on the cake for the visitors came in stoppage time when Benteke broke through the Stoke defense at the half line and raced through to the goal and finished in the past Bogovic into the bottom right corner of the net.  The win gives the Villains some hope as the now sit two places above the drop zone and one spot below the Potters.  I wonder if Pulis will be the latest boss to lose his job this season…

West Bromwich Albion 1 – 2 Arsenal

A Thomas Rosicky brace helps earn the Gunners a win over the Baggies.  This one should have been an easy win for the visitors.  Although they were without injured duo Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, they were far the better team on Saturday.  With the exception of a chance from a corner in the 11th minute, West Brom didn’t really have much to contribute and they were behind in the 20th minute when Mikel Arteta’s long pass was seized on by Gervinho, who juked past defender Gareth McAuley before crossing for Tomas Rosicky, who then headed the ball home from close range.  West Brom tried to equalize and came close in the 23rd minute when keeper Lukasz Fabianski was forced to save Chris Brunt’s free-kick.   Arsenal nearly double their lead right before the stroke of half time when Aaron Ramsey’s shot went just wide of goal.  The second half started with more Gunner domination and in the 49th minute they got their second goal when Ramsey’s pass was volleyed on goal by Rosicky.  Keeper Ben Foster couldn’t hold the rebound and Rosicky was the first to react and poked the ball home from eight yards out.  West Brom were given a life line in the 70th minute when Per Mertesacker was sent off for fouling Shane Long in the Gunners’ penalty area and for being the last defender.  James Morrison converted the spot kick and there was some home of the Baggies salvaging a draw.  But alas, they could not put together any attack of significance and the Gunners ended the match two points behind their London rivals for the last UEFA Champions’ League place.

Liverpool 0 – 0 West Ham

The Reds’ inconsistent form bites them again as they suffer a goalless draw versus the Hammers.  The one thing that has killed the Reds this season has been their inconsistency and it showed again on Sunday.  The start of the match there was a beautiful ceremony and a moment of silence to honor the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster.  The Hammers, for their part, were always going to approach this match in a very defensive manner as boss Sam Allardyce’s goal for this season was survival.  He had set a goal of 38 points for survival and it looks like his side will achieve that goal.  So it was no surprise that the home side dominated possession for most of the first half although Mohamed Diame did beat the Reds’ defense and hit his shot just over the bar.  The fans in the Kopp end thought their side had scored at last when substitute Daniel Sturridge, on for Stewart Downing, took a shot on the turn.  But keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen was able to save to preserve the goalless draw at halftime.  After the break, Liverpool increased the pressure on the West Ham goal.  Steven Gerrard’s effort was blocked off the line by James Tomkins.  They did manage to get the ball into the net a little while later when Sturridge turned in Jordan Henderson’s pass, but the goal was disallowed for offside.  Both sides had penalty shouts turned down.  West Ham’s was denied when Liverpool defender Jose Enrique tackled Tomkins in the penalty area.  Liverpool’s looked a bit more credible when Tomkins appeared to bring down Gerrard without getting any part of the ball.  The visitors nearly stole all the points right at the end when defender Lucas Leiva cleared off Stan Collison’s header from the goal line.  The result makes it pretty much a given that the Hammers will stay in the BPL, but it looks like the Reds will probably miss out on European qualification for next season.

Tottenham 2 – 2 Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson’s late strike rescues a draw for Spurs.  They had lost their star Gareth Bale last Thursday to injury and there was a lot of worry amongst the faithful at White Hart Lane on Sunday.  They were also without Aaron Lennon and the duo were sorely missed as they struggled with the Toffees.  At first there was the feeling that things would be OK when Jan Vertonghen was able to drive through the Everton defense in the first minute and find Emmanuel Adebayor who was able to poke the ball past keeper Tim Howard.  But that was really Adebayor’s only contribution as he was marked out of the match by defender Sylvain Distin.  Everton nearly equalized in the 10th minute when Spurs defender Michael Dawson gave the ball right to right to Leon Osman 15 yards from goal, but the Everton defender’s shot was high and wide of the goal.  They did equalize in the 15th minute when Phil Jagielka headed home Leighton Baines’ corner kick.  Spurs had a penalty claim denied in the 30th minute when Clint Dempsey’s cross appeared to brush Darron Gibson’s arm in the Toffees’ area, but the referee waved play on.  The second half saw Everton pressing hard and their work nearly paid off right after the restart when Gibson’s shot curled just wide of the goal.  They did take the lead in the 52nd minute when Kevin Mirallas was able to drive through past the Spurs defense and slot into the bottom left corner of the goal.  Things got desperate for the home side as it looked like they would again throw away their chance at UEFA Champions’ League football.  In the 83rd minute, Dempsey thought he had earned his side a penalty kick, but he was booked for diving.  The miracle came for Spurs in the 87th minute when Sigurdsson seized on the loose ball that had rebounded off the post from a rare Adebayor shot on goal.  While the draw doesn’t kill Spurs chances yet, they have surrendered third place in the table again to Chelsea.

Chelsea 2 – 1 Sunderland

The Paolo Di Canio era in charge of the Black Cats starts with a loss to the Blues at Stamford Bridge.  I’m betting that TIO Rafa is loving the fact the press spotlight is off him for a while and onto the new boss of Sunderland.  Why Martin O’Neill was fired remains a mystery and it’s a good bet that the Sunderland board will regret this decision.  None of the Sunderland fans are backing Di Canio at the moment and the bad press from his time coaching at Swindon and his boneheaded actions while playing at Lazio aren’t helping.  But Sunday was a time to set politics aside and Sunderland are in a relegation fight at the moment.  They got a gift right at the stroke of halftime when John O’Shea’s header from Adam Johnson’s corner kick deflected in off Cesar Azpilicueta.  But the Black Cats gave the gift back as the second half started when defender Matthew Kilgallon deflected Oscar’s shot into his own net to level the scores.  The Blues got the winner in the 54th minute when from a short corner kick from Juan Mata to David Luiz, the latter’s shot deflected off deflected in off Branislav Ivanovic.  There really wasn’t too much more to note about the match, but it’s a good bet that Sunderland will be struggling to stay up as the odds and history are not in Mr. Di Canio’s favor.  I wish him luck.

Newcastle 1 – 0 Fulham

Papiss Cisse’s stoppage time goal wins it for the Magpies.  This was a match the home side really wanted to win so they could climb away from the bottom three.  The visiting Cottagers are secure in their mid-table position so they could afford to play for a draw.  They spent so much time absorbing attack after attack from the Magpies, and didn’t break and even had Dimitar Berbatov nearly score in each half.  But just when it seemed that Newcastle would have to settle for a point and increased possibilities of a relegation battle, they made an attack in the third minute of stoppage time.  Vurnon Anita and Yoann Gouffran each hit the post and Cisse latched onto the loose ball and poked home the winner.  He jumped into the St. James’ Stadium crowd to celebrate his goal and was booked for it, but the result moves his side five points clear of the relegation zone.

Queens Park Rangers 1 – 1 Wigan

Shaun Maloney’s stoppage time free-kick gets the Latics a draw at Loftus Road.  They had it.  QPR had it in their hands.  Victory was theirs and a chance to haul themselves closer to safety was within their grasp.  QPR knew this was a match that they had to win.  Wigan were one place above them and struggling for good form.  So QPR pressed hard from the opening whistle and nearly scored in the fifth minute when Bobby Zamora’s back heel pass was missed by both Loic Remy and Junior Hoilett.  Remy had another chance in the ninth minute when his hard, driving shot beat keeper Joel Robles, but it bounced off the post.  The hosts were clearly dominating the match until the 21st minute when Zamora had a complete brain cramp.  While attempting to get to a throw in, Zamora challenged Jordi Gomez with a studs-up high boot that caught midfielder in the face.  The referee had no choice but to send Zamora off for the offense.  To their credit, QPR kept fighting and keeper Julie Cesar kept then in the match when he stopped a long shot from James McCarthy to keep things scoreless.  As the match wore on, Wigan should have taken the lead in the 85th minute when they were awarded a free kick 40 yards out from goal.  But the kick was not taken well at all and Stephane Mbia grabbed the loose ball and raced down field and squared to Remy who scored his fifth goal since transferring in from Marseille in January.  But while Mbia was one of the heroes for home side, he became the goat in the 90th minute when he fouled Maloney just 20 yards out from the QPR goal.  The midfielder picked himself up, dusted himself off and curled in a picture perfect strike into the top right corner of the goal.  While the draw doesn’t get the Latics out of the bottom three, it does push QPR one more step closer to their fate.

Barclay’s Premier League Week 30 Wrap-up

 Posted by on April 3, 2013 at 1:58 am  England, EPL
Apr 032013

englishflag Barclays Premier League Week 30 Wrap up

Arsenal 4 – 1 Reading

The Gunners keep pressing for UEFA Champions’ League qualification.  Not sure what Royals’ new boss Nigel Adkins was thinking when he took over the team.  They’re going to be relegated and it’s going to be a long painful slide downward.  There was a bit of remembrance by the Arsenal fans in the 7th minute as they honored former Gunner and England midfielder David Rocastle who died 12 years ago from cancer at 33 years of age.  Then the home fans had a positive thing to celebrate when Santi Cazorla set up Gervinho to score early in the 10th minute.  They had a penalty shout denied by the referee when Olivier Giroud was knocked over by defender Stuart Taylor.  Gervinho should have made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute when he went through the Reading defense, but his shot on goal was wide of the target.  They did get their second goal in the 47th minute when Gervinho set up Cazorla to finish into the top right corner of the goal.  Gervinho was the architect again in the 66th minute, this time he set up Giroud to score to make it 3-0 to the Arsenal.  Reading thought they had a life line in the 67th minute when Hal Robson-Kanu headed home a Jobi McAnuff cross to make the score 3-1.  But any idea of a miracle comeback was taken away in the 76th minute when Adrian Mariappa was penalizd for fouling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the Reading penalty area.  Mikel Arteta scored the spot kick and that was pretty much that.  The win brings the Gunners within 2 points of the last Champions’ League spot and within 4 points of the last Champions’ League automatic qualifying position.

Manchester City 4 – 0 Newcastle

The Champions deliver a punch in the mouth to the Magpies in a bid to keep pace with their neighbors.  This was a good result for Citeh with the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford looming.  There were some concerns that perhaps at 18 points behind their neighbors coming into this match; the title might be slipping away from the Champions.  In fact, there seemed to be more thoughts and emphasis on the FA-Cup semi-final coming up in a couple of weeks.  The visitors’ attention also seemed to be on their upcoming UEFA Europa match on Thursday.  So it was no surprise that the first half of this match was a bit boring.  In fact, it took until the 40th minute for Carlos Tevez to score the first goal when he poked home a pass from Gael Clichy.  The goal woke up the home side and their fans and deep into first half stoppage time they got their second goal when David Silva buried a fine pass from Samir Nasri.  Vincent Kompany ended the match as a contest in the 55th minute when he combined with Gareth Barry and hit his shot into the top right corner of the goal.  Insult to injury occurred in the 68th minute for the Magpies when James Perch turned Yaya Toure’s shot into his own goal to make it 4-0.  The result has Newcastle barely avoiding the relegation fight so far.  This is one match they’ll be wanting to forget as soon as possible.

Southampton 2 – 1 Chelsea

The Saints beat TIO Rafa and the Blues at St Mary’s Stadium.  The Interim One, as Chelsea fans call their manager, is acting like the FA-Cup and Europa League are really as good as the Blues are this year.  That has Blues fans absolutely angry and wanting the former Liverpool boss to just go away.  The Saints have claimed their fair share of top team scalps this season and took the initiative in the ninth minute when Jay Rodriguez’s shot had to be saved by keeper Petr Cech.  There was no stopping Rodriquez in the 22nd minute when he played a fine one-two with Steven Davis to get behind the Chelsea defense and slotted his shot past Cech to open the scoring.  The Blues nearly equalized in the 24th minute when Fernando Torres, wearing a “Phantom of the Opera” mask cover a face injury, made a delicate ship over keeper Artur Boruc.  But the goal was disallowed for handball.  But they did get the equalizer in the 33rd minute when John Terry headed home Marko Marin’s corner kick.  But the Saints went back into the lead two minutes later when, after being awarded a free kick outside of the Blues’ penalty area, Steven Davis hit a wonderful strike that nestled into the top left corner of the goal.  The second half saw the Saints equal to everything the Blues threw at them.  As the away fans grew more and more frustrated, each time their team tried to mount some sort of attack, the home side were able to hold on and when the final whistle blew, Chelsea had given third place in the BPL table back to their crosstown London rivals.

Swansea 1 – 2 Tottenham

Gareth Bale and Jan Vertonghen combine to heave Spurs back to third place in the BPL table.  A friend of mine keeps teasing me that the transfer price for Bale keeps going up this season because of his great performances so far.  We both know that Spurs would be foolish to sell their best player and he proved his worth in the seventh minute when was able to drive around the Swans defense and put Vertonghen in on goal.  Vertonghen finished off the move into the bottom left corner of the goal and Spurs were off and running.  They should have had a second goal in the 13th minute when Moussa Dembele put Emmanuel Adebayor through on goal.  But the Togo striker must have still been suffering jet lag from playing for his country last week as he weakly shot directly at keeper Michel Vorm.  But not to worry, Bale got the second goal in the 21st minute.  This time it was Vertonghen who was the provider and the Welsh winger got the ball at the edge of the Swansea area, took one touch, and then slammed a gorgeous strike past Vorm who could only watch it go past him into the upper corner of the goal.  It took until the 24th minute for the home side to mount a significant attack on goal.  Dwight Tiendalli’s shot was pushed out by keeper Brad Friedel who was deputizing for an injured Hugo Lloris.  Jonathan de Guzman took the resulting corner kick, but Bale was there to clear the ball away.  That was pretty much how the rest of the match went with Spurs defending nearly each Swans attack.  Swans did get a consolation goal in the 70th minute when Miguel Michu headed home Sung-Yeung Ki’s corner kick.  But that was all the home side could do as Spurs reclaimed the last Champions’ League automatic qualification spot.  The fight for this place will be interesting.

West Ham 3 – 1 West Bromwich Albion

Andy Carroll gets a brace to help the Hammers win at home over the Baggies.  I think it can be said that the Hammers will be in the BPL next season.  There had been some question as to whether boss Sam Allardyce was going to make Carroll’s move from Liverpool permanent.  Saturday the England striker made a really good case for staying in East London.  The one reason for having a striker like Carroll is his aerial dominance and he made good in the 15th minute when he got above everyone else to head home Gary O’Neil’s corner kick.  A short while later he flicked on James Collins’ long kick into the path of Matt Jarvis, but the shot from eight yards out from goal went over the net.  The Hammers got their second goal in the 28th minute when Ricardo Vaz Te made a great run at the WBA defense then laid the ball off to O’Neill, who then chipped over the keeper Ben Foster and into the gaping goal.  There was a penalty shout for the home side right before half time as Jarvis appeared to have been fouled in the area by Billy Jones, but the referee wasn’t interested.  As the second half got underway, Romelu Lukaku nearly got a goal back for the Baggies when he shouldered O’Neill off the ball and charged in on goal.  But his shot was just over the upper corner of the net.  A short time later WBA thought they had a penalty when Youssouf Mulumbu tangled with Collins’ in the Hammers’ area, but the referee again wasn’t interested.  But it was Carroll scoring again in the 79th minute when he was again found by a Collins’ long ball and he hit his volley shot in past Foster.  The Baggies did get their consolation goal in the 87th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick from Matthew Taylor’s challenge on Lukaku  Graham Dorrans took the spot kick, but the day ended in infamy for the Baggies as Mulumbu was sent off for picking up the ball and in a clear brain cramp kicked it at O’Neill’s back.  The win sees the Hammers in eleventh place in the BPL table which is as good a place as any to blow bubbles with no worries.

Wigan 1 – 0 Norwich

Arouna Kone scores late to help the Latics in their survival fight.  Roberto Martinez and Wigan have been here before.  Last season, a result at Carrow Road in March was what they needed to start a winning run that saved them from the drop.  So it’s no surprise that when the Canaries come to DW Stadium on Saturday, the thought was the same.  Get a result, start the great escape.  For most of the match, the Latics didn’t look like they were going to get much of anything.  They were lacking an edge for the first hour of the match.  But Kone, who passed a late fitness test to make the side, was working hard to make amends for his last BPL appearance when he made that infamous knee-high tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara that has yet to be punished by the FA.  Kone sparked the Latics’ revival and nearly scored several times.  He finally got his goal in the 81st minute when Jordi Gomez nicked off the ball of Wes Hoolahan in the midfield and picked out Kone’s run.  He smashed home his drive into the bottom right side of the goal and assured that his side are out of the bottom three.  Will they pull off the great escape again?

Everton 1 – 0 Stoke

Kevin Mirallas scores a fine goal that helps the Toffees win at home.  This was US keeper Tim Howard’s first match back since injuring his back last month.  He was called into action in the third minute when he had to save Robert Huth’s shot.  There was very little in attacking in the first 25 minutes and it looked like Everton would fall victim to Tony Pulis’ strategy of not losing a match as opposed to winning one.  But in the 28th minute, Howard punched clear a short free kick from Marc Wilson and the ball landed at the feet of Mirallas.  The Belgian midfielder was able to get clear of Steven Nzonzi at the halfway line, then accelerated to a full speed attack on the Potters’ goal.  He was able to poke his shot past keeper Asmir Begovic’s grasp and into the net for the match’s lone goal.  The best response that Stoke could muster in response was from Jonathan Walters and Howard easily palmed his attempt away from goal.  The second half saw very little in attack from Stoke as they just don’t seem to have much punch to them lately.  So Howard was able to ease his comeback with a clean sheet and Everton are now one place away from the European qualification places.

Aston Villa 1 – 2 Liverpool

The Reds win at Villa Park to keep the Villains in the bottom three.  This was one of those matches that Villa should have won.  They started in such a fine fashion and nearly scored early when Lee Westwood set defender Joe Bennett off on a run down the left.  Bennett delivered his cross to the near post and Christian Benteke just barely failed to make contact with the ball.  Gabriel Agbonlahor should have scored in the 17th minute when his run was picked out by Matt Lowton’s curling cross.  But alas, the striker’s shot went straight at keeper Jose Reina.  The home side finally did take the lead in the 31st minute when Benteke drilled home Agbonlahor’s pass across the opposition’s area.  The Reds tried to equalize a bit later and Luis Suarez nicked the ball off Barry Bannan and had a free run at goal, but keeper Brad Guzan made a great save to keep out the low strike on goal.  Guzan later tipped away a long range effort from Steven Gerrard and the Villains went into the locker room at half time with the lead.  But they must have gotten over confident at the start of the second half because Liverpool equalized in the 47th minute.  Winger Philippe Coutinho set Jordan Henderson on his way and the midfielder was able to poke the ball past Guzan for his fourth goal of the season.  To their credit, Villa did try to get back in the lead and nearly had a chance in the 56th minute when Barry Bannon’s cross was cleared by Daniel Agger.  But things came apart for the home side in the 60th minute when Nathan Baker fouled Suarez in the penalty area.  Gerrard scored from the spot to put the Reds into the lead and that was pretty much it.  Benteke did get the ball in the net at the end of the match, but the goal was ruled out for offside.  If the Villains to get relegated, they will look at this match as one that started the downward slide.

Fulham 3 – 2 Queens Park Rangers

Three first half mistakes doom Rangers to another loss and closer to being relegated.  I hate to say that any team is going down at this stage of the season, but after watching this match, I have to say that QPR are as good as down.  The first mistake they made was in the eighth minute when Christopher Samba tripped Ashkab Dejagah in the QPR penalty area and Dimitar Berbatov scored the spot kick.  Their second mistake happened in the 21st minute when Samba gave away the ball at the edge of QPR penalty area and Berbatov coolly finished to make the score 2-0 to the home side.  The third mistake came in the 41st minute when defender Clint Hill put John Arne Riise’s cross into his own net.  QPR did get a goal back right before half when Adel Taarabt scored from a Bobby Zamora assist.  In the 48th minute, QPR were awarded their own penalty when Adel Taarbt was fouled by Giorgos Karagounis.  But Loic Remy’s kick was saved by keeper Mark Schwarzer.  Remy did score in the 50th minute when his shot bounced off the underside of the bar.  QPR had their chances to rally enhanced when Steve Sidwell was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Armand Traore.  But try as they might, QPR just couldn’t come up with the equalizer and now they sit tied with Reading at the bottom of the table.

Barclay’s Premier League Week 29 Wrap-up

 Posted by on March 21, 2013 at 1:43 am  England, EPL
Mar 212013

englishflag Barclays Premier League Week 29 Wrap up

Everton 2 – 0 Manchester City

Leon Osman and Nikica Jelavic score as the Champions’ grip on the BPL trophy loosens.  It had been a rough week for the Toffees coming into this match.  They had lost their FA Cup quarter-final match to Wigan and hadn’t been playing that well coming into this match.  Citeh were looking to gain three points and close the gap on their neighbors as their campaign to retain the Premiership is approaching the critical stages.  The Toffees weren’t going to be easy push overs and Marouane Fellaini made his intentions clear when he put in a hard challenge on James Milner in the 7th minute.  The booking he received is his 10th which means that he’ll be serving a two match ban.  Everton should have had a goal in the 13th minute when Kevin Mirallas got the ball into the net.  But the goal was ruled out for offside.  The hosts truly wanted to make their mark in the match and they kept pressing and Citeh defender Kolo Toure was forced to clear away a 20th minute Leighton Baines cross that posed much danger in the visitor’s penalty area.  In the 25th minute Everton winger Steven Pienaar went into the referee’s book for a hard foul on Gareth Barry.  In the 31st minute, defender Seamus Coleman was able to set up Leon Osman with a great pass and the midfielder hit a beautiful shot into the top left corner of the goal to put Everton into the lead.  That was how the match stood at the half.  When things got underway for the second half, The Champions knew they had to get things moving and nearly did when Aleksandar Kolarov narrowly missed his early shot on goal.  Their task to get back into the match got easier in the 60th minute when Pienaar was sent off for his second booking for a foul on Francisco Javi Garcia.  They nearly equalized in the 67th minute when Carlos Tevez had his shot saved by substitute goal keeper Jan Mucha.  The rebound rolled over to Milner but his shot was blocked by Mucha who had thrown his body in the way.  Citeh put together another great charge on goal, but Mucha again saved from Pablo Zabaleta.  Mucha, deputizing for injured Tim Howard, was called on time and again to keep the Everton nets empty as he saved from Zabaleta in the 78th minute and from substitute Gael Clichy in the 82 minute.  As the match wound down toward the end, Citeh tried to lay siege to the Everton goal.  They had a penalty shout in the 85th minute when Fellaini blocked Tevez’s shot with his arm in the penalty area.  But the referee indicated that the infraction occurred outside the area and awarded the free-kick at the edge of the area.  The free kick went straight into the wall.  Mucha again saved from Zabaleta in the 88th minute.  In an effort to waste a bit of time in the 89th minute, Everton boss David Moyes brought on Jelavic for Victor Anichebe.  Incredibly, they were able to counter-attack right at the death and Fellaini was able to pass wide to Jelavic and his shot deflected past keeper Joe Harts grasp to secure the win for the Toffees.

Aston Villa 3 – 2 Queens Park Rangers

Christian Benteke’s late match winner helps the Villians out of the relegation zone.  This one was pretty much the Match of the week and is one of the things that make the BPL so interesting to watch.  QPR needed to win over their relegation rivals to have any hope of not getting relegated from the BPL.  Aston Villa needed to win to haul themselves out of the bottom three.  One of the Villains’ heroes this season has been American international keeper Brad Guzan.  He made two really fine saves in the space of 60 seconds to keep the early score level in the 8th minute.  The first save was when he turned away a looping header from Christopher Samba over the bar.  The second save from Samba again was even better as it came from just inside the six yard box.  Villa had to make a substitution in the 20th minute when defender Nathan Baker collided in the air with Samba and appeared to have a concussion.  Baker was replaced by Joe Bennett.  The new replacement made a really shaky start when in the 22nd minute he misplayed a square pass in his own half that was jumped on by Jermaine Jenas.  Jenas released Bobby Zamora into space and while the shot was parried by Guzan, Jenas poked the rebound home for the first goal.  QPR could have gone ahead by two goals in the 41st minute where it not for Guzan saving again from a Samba header.  But in first half stoppage time, Villa equalized when Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was unmarked on the far post, headed home Matt Lowton’s cross from the right wing.  It was the inspiration that the home side would need to take into the locker room at the half and when things got started in the second half, they took the initiative.  First in the 53rd minute, Samba had to help clear a Villa corner kick and Julio Cesar had to save the resulting corner re-take.  Then in the 57th minute Bennett, trying to atone for his first half mistake, hit a cross to Andreas Weimann that forced Cesar to tip wide.  Bennett did come good in the 58th minute when he was able to set up Weimann for a nice goal that put the home side into the lead.  Christian Benteke should have made it three goals in the 61st minute but his shot was saved by Cesar.  In the 65th minute, QPR boss Harry Redknapp decided to gamble and substituted midfielder Adel Taarabt for defender Fabio Da Silva.  One could say that the move nearly back-fired because Ciaran Clark nearly scored from a corner kick.  But Cesar was able to save the shot and in the 72nd minute, QPR were able to equalize when Ji-Sung Park sent Andros Townsend through on the Villa goal.  That should have been good enough to start a comeback for QPR and a collapse for Villa.  But the home side refused to give in and in the 81st minute Weimann turned provider as his low cross was put in by Benteke.  Things look quite bleak for QPR now as they’re now seven points adrift from safety with eight matches to play.  But stranger things have happen and it’s not over yet.

Southampton 3 – 1 Liverpool

The Saints get a vital home victory at Saint Mary’s park.  This match defines the frustrations that Liverpool fans have had with their team this season.  Last week they pulled off a convincing win at home over Spurs.  But on Saturday, they looked lost and ordinary away from home.  The hosts, fighting relegation, got on the score sheet in the 6th minute when Gaston Ramirez’s cross was nodded into Morgan Schneiderlin’s path by Jay Rodriguez and French midfielder poked it past Reds’ keeper Brad Jones.   Things got worse for the visitors when Rickie Lambert scored the second goal for the Saints in the 33rd minute from distance.  The Reds did manage to pull a goal back right at first half stoppage time when Daniel Sturridge blocked shot rolled over to Phillippe Coutinho who poked the loose ball home.  When the second half started, Coutinho found the back of the net again but the goal was disallowed for offside.  But although Liverpool did what they could to get a tying goal, any hope of a draw was ended in the 80th minute when Rodriguez was able to brilliantly get around defender Martin Skrtel and, although his initial shot was saved by Jones, slot home the third goal for the Saints.  Jose Enrique and later Luis Suarez tried to get something for the Reds, but alas, this was just not their day.  The win moves the Saints four precious points away from the bottom three and gives hope that they will be able to stay in the BPL.

Stoke 0 – 0 West Bromwich Albion

The Potters end their losing streak with a goalless draw at home.  Well, the Tony Pulis plan of success by not losing matches works once again.  There really wasn’t a lot to this math as neither side are in any sort of relegation trouble, nor is either side contending for any of the European places.  Suffice it to say that no-one was injured.  No one was booked.  Nothing much in the way of highlites to write about, but Stoke do move up to 10th place.  So I guess that’s good enough for Pulis and Stoke.

Swansea 0 – 2 Arsenal

The Gunners keep their UEFA Champions’ League hopes alive with a comfortable win over the Swans.  This is one that Arsene Wenger knew his boys really needed.  If they had any shot at all at playing in Europe next season, this was a match they needed to win.  They nearly had the lead in the fifth minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was able to scoot past defender Angel Rangel and past keeper Michel Vorm.  But his shot clipped off the top of the bar.  In the 15th minute, a brain glitch from midfielder Carl Jenkinson gifted the ball to Jonathan De Guzman.  His fine pass put Miguel Michu in on goal, but the Spanish international’s effort went wide of goal.  The rest of the half was both sides mounting attacks on goal and catching the bar or missing wide.  As half time came, it looked as if the Welsh side were going to be frustrate the London side just like their Rugby brethren had done to England later that day.  They nearly went ahead in the 50th minute when midfielder Sung-Yeoung Ki’s shot was blocked by Laurent Koscielny.  But the Gunners finally went into the lead when Olivier Giroud heavy touch of Theo Walcott’s 74th minute corner kick ended up on Nacho Monreal foot to poke past keeper Vorm.  Gervinho then made the result safe when he slotted home Aaron Ramsey’s pass in the 90th minute.  The win sees the Gunners within five points of third place and four points of third place.  Perhaps they might make it back into Champions’ League after all.

Sunderland 1 – 1 Norwich

Controversy mars this match at the Stadium of Light.  This is a match where neither team were doing all that well.  Sunderland had slipped to 16th place and were in danger of getting caught in a relegation fight.  Norwich, came into the match with only one win in their last 12 BPL matches and needed something to get them going in a positive direction again.  They almost went behind early if keeper Mark Bunn not been able to get off his line and block Danny Graham’s point blank shot after grabbing a loose ball in the Canaries penalty area.  But the visitors were able to settle down and in the 26th minute, they went into the lead.  Striker Kei Kamara was able to out jump the Black Cats’ defenders to meet Robert Snodgrass’ corner kick and the loose ball was poked past keeper Simon Mignolet by Wesley Hoolahan.  The home fans were quite upset at going behind, but three minutes later, their side was handed a lifeline.  Graham has chasing a through ball through the Canaries defense and nearly got to it when Bunn blocked it with his arm outside of the penalty area.  Bunn was sent off for his trouble and things went from bad to worse in the 39th minute when Sebastian Bassong was judge to have committed handball in his penalty area when the ball bounced up and appeared to strike his chest and graze his arm.  Craig Gardner leveled the score from the spot and things seemed to be on the up for the home side.  Sunderland determined to take advantage of their numerical superiority in the second half, but Norwich remained resolute in defense as replacement keeper Lee Camp did a good job in Bunn’s place.  He made a great save in the 59th minute when Craig Gardner struck from distance.  Gardner did well again in the 61st minute when he claimed Adam Johnson’s long distance strike.  In the 70th minute, Norwich thought they had a penalty claim of their own when Russell Martin’s cross hit Sunderland defender Danny Rose’s arm clearly inside the penalty area.  However the referee indicated that the free-kick would be taken just outside of the area.  Sunderland’s defense cleared easily, but Norwich had another chance to go in front in the 72nd minute when Black Cats’ substitute Titus Bramble let Grant Holt get behind him and in on goal.  But the Canaries luck just was not in on Sunday and Holt’s heavy touch allowed keeper Simon Mignolet to grab the loose ball.  Stephane Sessegnon had a chance to grab the winner at the end for the home side but his effort from Gardner’s cross went wide of the far post.

Tottenham 0 – 1 Fulham

Dimitar Berbatov gives his old team a good punch to the gut at White Hart Lane.  Things are not looking for Spurs fans at the moment.  They had a firm grip on third place on the BPL and looked good in their last London Derby as they made Arsenal look really ordinary.  But now they’ve lost three successive matches and are only four points ahead of the Gunners.  Could this be a repeat of last season when they tripped over themselves at the end of the season and failed to qualify for the Champions’ League?  Actually the match itself started out quite dull as neither team came to in with a spark.  But as the second half got underway, Gareth Bale tried to put his stamp on the match as his 50th minute strike was saved by keeper Mark Schwarzer.  But then Spurs’ defense had a massive brain cramp when Berbatov was able to waltz through the middle of the park unmarked to bundle home Ashkan Dejagah’s square pass.  Jermain Defoe, brought on as a substitute, nearly equalized in the 70th minute when his shot was cleared away by Schwarzer.  But that was as close as Spurs would come as it looks like they’re reliving their end of season slump and they still have Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City on their schedule.

Chelsea 2 – 0 West Ham

Frank Lampard gets goal number 200 for Chelsea as they reclaim third place.  This was an easy one for the Blues as they rode in on the momentum of their Europa League win on Thursday.  The Hammers did have a bit of hope about doing the double over their cross London rivals, but Lampard ended that in the 18th minute.  He was left unmarked in the West Ham area when he met Eden Hazard’s clipped cross from the right with a firm header for his 12th league goal of the season.  The home side did their usual domination at Stamford Bridge and for once, the crowd celebrated their heroes and hardly ever made mention of their hatred of TIO (The Interim One) Rafa Benitez.  As the Blues eased their way to victory Demba Ba, David Luiz, and Juan Mata wreaked havoc on the Hammers defense.  Hazard got the second goal in the 49th minute when he was set up by Mata’s fine assist.  There was a bit of concern in the 77th minute when David Luiz, substituted in favor of John Terry, hobbled off the field and straight into the locker room.  Lampard should have had another goal in the 86th minute when he uncharacteristically knocked his shot over the bar from Oscar’s cross.  But the day belonged to the Blues as they stepped over rivals Tottenham in the BPL table.

Wigan 2 – 1 Newcastle

The Latics grab a needed victory through an Arouna Kone stoppage time winner.  While the result doesn’t lift them out of the bottom three, it gives them a fighting chance to pull off another great escape.  The match started out with the Magpies dominating proceedings in the first 15 minutes.  The one thing the visitors failed to do during that time was to put anything significant on goal and in the 18th minute, they were behind a goal when Callum McManaman’s cross was put home by Jean Beausejour.  Some controversy developed in the 26th minute when McManaman made a studs-up challenge on Massadio Haidara that left the latter injured and in need of a stretcher.  The referee did not seem to see the challenge and gave no foul as it looked like the McManaman did get the ball.  When the half time whistle went, Magpies assistant coach John Carver had to be restrained as he tried to confront the Latics forward.  Carver was sent to stands for his trouble but his boys found a bit of resolve and went about trying to get back into the match.  It took the visitors a while, but they did get an equalizer in the 71st minute Papiss Cisse took advantage of some bad Latics defending and set up Davide Santon to score.  But the Latics were not going to cede the draw and Kone pounced on a loose ball in the Magpies area from a corner kick.  The Latics’ next match is against the Champions, but this win might give them a bit of momentum.  But first, they’ll probably have to answer a question or two from the FA.