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Barclays Premier League Round 25 Wrap-Up

 Posted by on February 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm  England, EPL
Feb 062013

Arsenal 1-0 Stoke

Lukas Podolski’s deflected free kick gets the Gunners a much needed win.  Man, did Arsenal need this win.  They’ve only gotten five points in their last 5 matches and look like they’re going to be fighting with Everton and Tottenham for the last of the European places.  Arsene Wenger made five changes to the starting lineup including January transferee Nacho Monreal.  The Spanish international, making his debut, replaced injured Kieran Gibbs.  The Gunners tried to start things out right away and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was disappointed to see his first minute effort go just wide of the upper left-hand corner of the Potters’ goal.  It took the visitors 14 minutes to get into the match.  Jonathan Walters shot was gathered by Gunners’ keeper Wojciech Szczesny.   But this match was about as dull as the score line would suggest.  Tony Pulis did his usual “play not to lose” tactics and they seemed to be working as the match ground on.  But in the 75th minute, everything changed.  Andy Wilkinson made a bad challenge on Theo Walcott that produced a yellow card for the defender.  Podolski took the free kick which deflected off defender Geoff Cameron’s heel and past keeper Asmir Beovic.  There was some question as to whether the goal should have counted as Theo Walcott appeared to be offside, but after the referee consulted with his assistant, the goal stood.  A little while later, Santi Cazorla nearly made it two for the hosts when his shot was sent behind the goal by Begovic.  That was the extent of the scoring in this match as Stoke couldn’t make any significant headway through the Arsenal defense.

Everton 3-3 Aston Villa

The Villains lose a two goal lead and a chance at a much needed win.  Poor Paul Lambert, since coming to Aston Villas from Norwich, he has had the worst luck with the Villains.  They’re stuck in a relegation fight and could have used three points on Saturday.  They started out so well.  Christian Benteke grabbed the lead for the Villains in the 2nd minute when he got by defender John Heitinga to put home the pass from Charles N’Zogbia.  Marouane Fellaini nearly equalized in the 4th minute, but his drive from outside the penalty area went just wide of the goal.  The Toffees did equalize in the 20th minute when Victor Anichebe was able to hold off and turn defender Ciaran Clark and fire a left-footed bullet past a sprawling Jeff Guzan’s grasp.  But the Villains were able to get straight back into the lead when Gabriel Agbonlahor was able to head home Ashley Westwood’s cross in the 23rd minute.  Both Steven Pienaar and Darron Gibson had chances to get Everton level toward the end of the first half, but the Villains held firm and were feeling mighty good about their lead going into the locker room.  They were feeling even better when the second half got under way and were ecstatic when Benteke got them a third goal in the 60th minute by slamming home Matthew Lowton’s cutback pass through the area.   That should have been that for the visitors.  But alas, the one weakness that has been killing them all season has been their defending.  Sure enough, they conceded in the 68th minute.  Victor Anichebe was able to keep the ball away from the hapless Villain defenders and find Fellaini’s run and the Belgian midfielder put the ball away into the bottom right corner of the goal to make the score 2-3.  He scored the equalizer deep into stoppage time when he out muscled the defense to head home Leighton Baines corner kick.  So, it looks like Aston Villa will be joining their Birmingham City neighbors in the Championship division next season.

Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea

The Magpies win a close one over the hapless Blues.  It was Demba Ba’s first visit back to St James’ park since he moved to Chelsea in the January transfer window.  The Geordie faithful voiced their displeasure at what they felt was his chase for money and his disloyalty to the club that had done so much for him.  His new employers nearly grabbed the lead in the 15th minute when Frank Lampard blasted Ashley Cole’s pullback over the bar.  Ba nearly scored in the 32nd minute when his shot was saved by Magpies’ keeper Tim Krul. Ba headed the rebound just wide before colliding with Fabricio Coloccini and getting a bloody nose.  While he was off getting treated, Jonas Gutierrez headed Newcastle into the lead by meeting Davide Santon’s cross into the Blues area.  Shortly thereafter, much to the amusement of the home crowd, Ba was substituted for Fernando Torres.  As the second half progressed, Frank Lampard showed his leadership by scoring the equalizer in the 54th minute with a fine shot from outside the area.  The Blues took the lead in the 60th minute when Torres made a perfect lay off for Juan Mata to hit a wonderful curling shot over Krul and into the top corner of the goal.  You would have thought Chelsea would have been good enough to see out the result, but in the 68th minute, keeper Petr Cech made an uncharacteristic mistake with a Yoan Gouffran shot rebound that Moussa Sissoko poked home to make it 2-2.  Sissoko ensured the win for the home side at the end when he and Santon combined to get through the Blues defense and the Frenchman drilled his shot past Cech.  I wonder who Roman Abromavich is interviewing for the Chelsea manager’s job this time.

Reading 2-1 Sunderland

Jimmy Kebe gets a brace as the Royals continue their wonderful start to 2013.  Kebe started the scoring in the sixth minute as he slammed home Jobi McAnuff’s pass from the edge of the Sunderland penalty area.  That looked like it was going to be the only goal of the half until the 29th minute when Sundeland captain John O’Shea was fouled in the Royals penalty area by Pavel Pogrebnyak.  Craig Gardner scored the spot kick and the sides went into half time level.  It looked like that would be how the match ended as both keepers managed to keep their respective opposition from scoring.  But it was an Ian Harte free kick in the 84th minute that did in the Sunderland defense.  The Republic of Ireland international knocked the ball to the back post and Kebe rose the highest to head home for the win.  The victory now sees them out of the bottom three and has Royal fans dreaming of BPL football for next season.

West Ham 1-0 Swansea

Andy Carroll comes back from injury to score for the Hammers.  It was a welcome win for the home side and lifts them up and away from any relegation fight.  Carroll hadn’t started for the Hammers since November and was a greeted with mad cheering from the home side.  His presence fits into boss Sam Allardyce’s tactic of defend first and score second.  The home side managed to hold Michu in check for most of the match, limiting him to one header that he missed over the bar.  Swans keeper managed to keep the visitors in the match by making some fine, important saves from Kevin Nolan and Ricardo Vaz Te.  But in the 77th minute, Carroll was not to be denied as he out jumped everyone to head home Mark Noble’s corner kick from the left.  The win leaves West Ham in 11th place in the BPL table and that ain’t a bad place to hang around and blow bubbles for a bit.

Wigan 2-2 Southampton

The Latics and the Saints battle each other to a draw at the DW Stadium.  The Latics will not be happy about dropping three vital points in their fight to stay in the BPL.  They took the lead in the 25th minute from a Gary Caldwell header and were happy to take their one goal lead into the locker room at the interval.  But the Saints have proven a hard side to beat with a single goal this season.  They equalized in the 62nd minute when Rickie Lambert finished Jay Rodriquez’s pass.  The energized visitors began pouring on the pressure and the Latics defense cracked in the 84th minute when the Saints broke through on a counter-attack and Mogan Schneiderlin scored from inside the six-yard box.  A late goal like that should have ensured the win for Southampton, but Shaun Maloney managed to poke home a loose ball from a corner kick right at the end of the match to grab Wigan a point.

Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Norwich

Yet another draw for Redknapp as QPR’s fight against relegation continues.  Harry Redknapp spent a lot of money in the transfer window as he works to save QPR’s future in the BPL.  One story during the window was the saga of Peter Odemwingie and the mix-up as he thought he had been transferred from West Bromwich Albion, but transfer actually had not gone through.  But the current priority for Rangers was getting wins.  Midfielder Adel Taarabt clearly the key for any QPR survival, nearly scored in the 10th minute when he drill a hard, low shot just wide of the goal.  A bit later, the Moroccan created an opportunity for Jamie Mackie, but he also shot wide.  Norwich were content to defend and left Grant Holt on his own at the top of their formation.  So it went for much of the match as one side or the other would mount an attack, but couldn’t keep the goal attempt on target.  QPR should have taken the lead in the 61st minute when they were awarded a penalty kick.  Mackie took advantage of some poor Norwich defending and as he got into the penalty area, was tripped by keeper Mark Bunn.  Taarabt took the spot kick that Bunn was able to beat away with a fine save to preserve the draw.  As the match drew to a close, both sides pressed hard for a goal that would never come.  Redknapp has got to know that these draws have got to start turning into wins if QPR has any hope of survival.

West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Tottenham

Spurs secure their place in the top four and threaten Chelsea for third place.  This match turned on a bit of boneheadedness on the part of defender Goran Popov.  The match was an evenly fought affair as WBA were equal to everything Spurs threw at them.  When the two teams went into the half time interval, it looked like the Baggie would be good enough to hold out for the draw.  Then Popov had a major brain cramp.  In the 48th minute, he and Spurs defender Kyle Walker bowed up to each other after fighting hard for possession of the ball.  Then Popov spat in the general direction of Walker and the referee instantly sent off the WBA left back.  After that it was all downhill for the home side as they were put under constant pressure.  WBA keeper Ben Foster was able to keep the visitors at bay as he saved first from Holtby and later a close range effort from Gareth Bale.  But in the 68th minute, the Welsh wingman got a great pass from Walker and unloaded a 20 yard missile that flew past a diving foster for the match’s only goal.

Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool

The Champions drop points to the Reds at the Etihad Stadium.  Well, Mario Balotelli is gone now.  Roberto Mancini’s desire to end off field drama and focus on defending the BPL trophy should have been fulfilled.  After Edin Dzeko had been more than filling the role of second striker with Sergio Aquero.  Joe Hart was still England’s number one keeper.  David Silva was the engine that drove Citeh forward.  All the elements that were needed to string a similar run to the run that won them the Premiership were all in place.  Surely they would be able to run over Liverpool. Dzeko made that prediction seem to come true in the 22nd minute when he scored from close range past keeper Pepe Reina.  But the one great improvement Liverpool has made has been the acquisition of striker Daniel Sturridge.  He got the equalizer for the Reds in the 28th minute, although not without a bit of controversy attached.  Liverpool defender Daniel Agger seemed to have fouled Dzeko to gain possession, but the referee did not award the free kick.  Instead Liverpool made their way forward and captain Steve Gerrard put Sturridge through on goal and the former Citeh man hit a left-footed bomb past Hart.  The visitors were the far better side by the time the half time interval came.  It only got worse for the champions in the second half when, in the 73rd minute Gael Clichy made a poor clearance that went right to Gerrard.  The England captain controlled the ball on his chest and smashed a low, dipping volley that Hart had no chance of getting to.  The Champions did get the equalizer in the 77th minute when Aguero was able to take advantage of a defensive mix-up in the Reds’ defense and hit a fine curling shot from a tough angle to make the scores level again.  But that’s as close as Citeh would come and when the final whistle blew, they found themselves nine points behind their neighbors.

Lanny Short

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