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Barclay’s Premier League Wrap-up Week 19

 Posted by on December 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm  England, EPL
Dec 302013

West Ham 3 – 3 West Bromwich Albion

Nicolas Anelka scores his first goals for the Baggies as they fight for the draw at Upton Park.  This was a match that Hammers’ boss Sam Allardyce said they needed to win.  The message did seem to get through to the boys as they jumped out to the lead in the third minute.  Hammers’ keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen hit a goal kick that went straight to Carlton Cole.  He passed the ball over to Kevin Nolan who set up Joe Cole to finish into the bottom right corner of the goal.  They had an injury concern in the 10th minute when Guy Demel and to replace James Tomkins who had pulled up with a leg injury.  But the one thing that has been a problem for the Hammers, in addition to a lengthening injury list has been their defending and it let them down in the 39th minute.  Chris Brunt was able to put through Anelka onto the Hammers goal and the former Chelsea striker was able to slot the ball into the left corner of the goal for the equalizer.  The Baggies took the lead right at the end of the half due to more bad Hammers defending.  Jonas Olsson’s header of a Chris Brunt cross was blocked, but not cleared and Anelka was able to knock home the loose ball.  As the second half got underway, Modibo Maiga replaced and injured Carlton Cole for the Hammers.  Anelka almost had his hat-trick in the 47th minute when his shot from a Billy Jones cross was saved by Jaaskelainen.  The Hammers would finally equalize in the 64th minute when Maiga slotted home past Baggies keeper Ben Foster.  They even took back the lead in the 66th minute when Maiga’s through header was powered into the goal by Kevin Nolan.  But as has been the recent trend for the Hammers, fortune hid from them and they conceded the equalizer in the 68th minute when Saido Berahino scored.  Try as they might, the home side just couldn’t muster another attack on goal and when the final whistle blew, the fans booed their side off the pitch.  So now they’re stuck in a relegation fight again.  There’s still a ways to go, but can Big Sam keep the Hammers from getting relegated?

Aston Villa 1 – 1 Swansea

Gabriel Agbonlahor scores as the Villains end their four match losing streak.  This match was one ugly encounter. Both sides had not been playing that well.  In addition to the Villains’ bad run of orm, the Swans hadn’t had a win in their last five matches.  So one can be forgiven for not paying too close attention to how this one unfolded.  It was the hosts who scored first in seventh minute when Agbonlahor ended his goal drought by finishing off a move started by midfielder Andreas Weimann.  The visitors nearly equalized in the 17th minute when Villains’ keeper Brad Guzan had to save from Swans’ striker Pablo Hernandez.  The USA international initially spilled the ball, but managed to gather it before anyone could take advantage.  The Swans thought they had scored in the 35th minute when Jonathan De Guzman snapped up a loose ball in the Villain’s defensive area, but his hot was just wide of the goal.  But they did level the score in the 36th minute when Jonjo Shelvey’s hard work set up Hernandez to cross for Roland Lamah to head home.  From then on the visitors dominated the match.  They earned a free-kick in the 52nd minute that Guzan was lucky to tip over the bar and then in the 54th minute Wilfried Bony put his shot well over the Villa goal.  Although they dominated most of the possession, Swansea couldn’t get anything significant on goal and settled for the draw.  The result did not sit well with the home fans and they let the Villain players feel their displeasure when the final whistle blew.  They’re still safe from the drop zone, but that’s not what their fans want.

Hull 6 – 0 Fulham

Tom Huddlestone’s long awaited trip to the barber will finally happen as his second half goal helps heap misery on Fulham.  This is a match that the Cottagers want to forget as soon as possible.  Trouble is, the way things are going for them, they may be trying to forget this in the Championship League next season.  They had a chance to take the early lead in the sixth minute when John Arne Riise’s strike was saved by Hull keeper Allan McGregor.  In fact, the Cottagers had a bit of hope through the first half as they managed to hold the home side goaless all the way up to half time.  But as the second half got underway, Hull kicked things into gear and Yannick Sagbo nearly opened the scoring in the 47th minute when his long shot was saved by Cottagers’ keeper David Stockdale.  But he was beaten in the 48th minute when Ahmed Elmohamady scored from a corner kick.  From there the dam burst on the Cottagers and they went behind by two goals in the 59th minute.  Robert Koren’s shot from a Sagbo cross eluded the entire Cottagers defense and curled into the top right corner of the goal.  It was three in the 62nd minute when George Boyd’s long shot from outside the Cottagers’ penalty area found the bottom right corner of the goal.  Huddlestone got his in the 66th minute when one of his patented long shots finally found the goal.  As he ran over to the bench celebrating one of the trainers grabbed a lock of his hair and snipped a bit off with surgical scissors.  It’s been the England international’s promise that he would cut his hair when he scored and now that promise can finally be kept.  Matty Fryatt got number five in the 73rd minute when he pounced on a loosed ball in the Fulham penalty area.  Koren got his second and Hull’s sixth goal in the 84th minute.  Danny Graham had his shot saved and once again the Cottagers’ defense failed to clear the loose ball and Koren slotted home the rebound.  So while it’s too early and to tight to tell who will actually be taking the drop from the BPL, it’s a good bet that Fulham will be prime candidates, given their horrible form.

Manchester City 1 – 0 Crystal Palace

Edin Dzeko’s second half goal is good enough to lift Citeh to the second in the BPL.  Palace fought with all they had in this one.  They had never beaten Citeh away from home since 1990 and boss Tony Pulis had never been successful at the Etihad.  So the approach to this match for the visitors was to back their own defensive half as much as possible.  While a win would have been nice, the strategy of the day was to concede as little as possible.  That worked for them in the first half as they held Citeh goalless throughout.  The only real chance came late in the half when Fernandinho got forward, but his shot was saved did not threaten keeper Julian Speroni as it went well over the goal.  At the other end, Citeh keeper Joe Hart didn’t really have much to do.  However, in the 30th minute, he and Cameron Jerome had a hard collision that left a gash under the England international’s eye and required Marouane Chamakh to come on for Jerome.  The visitors’ first half performance gave them a bit of confidence in the second half and nearly got them a goal when Jason Puncheon’s shot required a key save from Hart.  Just when it looked like a ray of hope was starting to shine on Palace, the truth set in.  Citeh simply do not give up results at the Etihad.  That truth was realized in the 66th minute.  David Silva, the main author of all Citeh’s success, hit a cross into the Palace penalty area that defender Damien Delany thought he had cleared.  But midfielder Jesus Navas got to the loose ball at the goal-line hit a great cut back pass that Dzeko slotted home with a great first time strike for the goal.  Palace nearly equalized straight away a minute later when Hart got his fingertips to Joel Ward’s volley shot.  They should have scored from the resulting corner kick but Ward’s header narrowly missed the goal off to the left.  It was a valiant performance by the visitors but they came up just short as Citeh was able to maintain their advantage for the win.  Manuel Pelligrini is making a grab for the BPL trophy.  Could he be successful?

Cardiff 2– 2 Sunderland

Jack Colback’s injury time goal helps the Black Cats fight back and salvage a draw at Cardiff City Stadium.   What a mess the last week has been for the South Wales side.  The fans, who were already not happy with owner Vincent Tan for trying to break ages old club traditions, were really angry when he finally fired manager Malky Mackay.  As the match got underway, there were lots of pro-Mackay chants and banners all through the stadium.  A bit of the tension was relieved in the fifth minute when Jordon Mutch opened the scoring for the Blue Birds.  He finished off Frazier Campbell’s assist into the bottom right corner of the goal and the fans were glad to have something positive to yell about.  The Black Cats, thanks to Gus Poyet’s leadership refused to quit and nearly equalized in the 30th minute when Ki Sung-Yueng’s shot was saved by Blue Birds’ keeper David Marshall.  Marshall was called into action action again in the 35th minute when Black Cats’ striker Fabio Borini’s shot looked bound for the bottom right corner of the goal.  Borini had another shot saved by Marshall in the 41st minute as the striker got on the end of a Philip Bardsley cross.  But it was the home side who were still in the lead at the interval.  Borini had to be replaced by Steven Fletcher at half time.  He was later rushed to the hospital with some sort of virus for which he was treated and later released.  This rocked the side a bit as the second half got underway as they went further behind in the 57th minute.  Mutch hit a decisive cross that Campbell finished off expertly by Black Cats’ keeper Vito Mannone.  But the visitors kept fighting and finally halved the deficit in the 82nd minute when Fletcher fired home Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross.  In the 89th minute, Steven Fletcher had his shot saved off the line by Marshall.  But the Black Cats’ hard work finally paid off deep in to stoppage time when Colback finished off a Valentin Roberge square ball.  Although the result doesn’t help get the Black Cats out of trouble, it helps them believe they can actually fight to stay in the BPL.  Meanwhile, the South Wales fans are really angry now.

Everton 2 – 1 Southampton

Romelu Lukaku’s second half strike helps the Toffees get a vital win.  They were trying to bounce back from a humiliating Boxing Day loss to bottom club Sunderland that had ended their season long home unbeaten streak.  So they need a bit of inspiration which they got from Seamus Colman in the ninth minute.  The winger got hold of a loose ball in the midfield, drove past the Saints’ defense and hit a glorious strike for the first goal of the match.  From then on, they seemed content to sit back and absorb pressure from the Saints.  After all, boss Roberto Martinez must have thought that they had this one nailed and they just needed to get through the match without conceding again.  But the one thing Mauricio Pochettino’s side does not do is quit.  Although their form has suffered a but since they got knocked out of third place back in November, they’ve fought in every match and they fought back in the 71st minute.  Substitute Gaston Ramirez hit a shot that eluded Toffees keeper Joel Robles and nestled into the back of the net for the equalizer.  Robles, in goal for the suspended Tim Howard, should have been able to save the long range effort, but it looked to have taken him by surprise.  But the one things that has plagued the Saints’ since November has been their dodgy defending.  It bit them again in the 74th minute when Lukaku was found by a decisive James McCarthy pass which the on-loan Chelsea striker finished off for the winner.  The result has Everton in fourth place, ahead of rivals Liverpool and Manchester United.  So at the half-way point in the season, Martinez has done more for Everton than he was able to do for Wigan FC this time last season.  Not a bad job at all.

Newcastle 0 – 1 Arsenal

Olivier Giroud lifts the Gunners back to the top of the BPL.  This one was a bit scrappy, but Arsene Wenger doesn’t care.  As the longest serving BPL manager, he knows that if you’re going to win the league, sometimes the wins are gonna be ugly.  Just as long as you win is all that matters.  There is talk of a wobble and the possibility of the Gunners being overtaken by the likes of Chelsea, Citeh, or Liverpool.  But the Gunners are top of the BPL on New Year’s Day and they haven’t been in that position since the 2007-08 season.  That season, they finished behind Manchester United and Chelsea.  But those teams were run by Sir Alex Ferguson and Guus Hiddink respectively and neither of those guys is around now.  So one could imagine there was a bit of optimism amongst the traveling supporters at Saint James’ park on Sunday.  While the visitors created most of the chances in the first half, they nearly went behind when the Magpies striker Moussa Sissoko’s shot had to be saved by Gunners’ keeper Wojciech Szczesny.  Deep into first half stoppage time the Magpies had another chance go begging when Mathieu Debuchy’s header bounced off the cross-bar.  Arsenal got the goal they were seeking in the 65th minute when Giroud nodded home Theo Walcott’s looping cross.  Newcastle nearly equalized in the 80th minute from a freak accident when Szczesny blasted his clearance straight into Loic Remy’s face.  The ball tricked back towards goal past the keeper who was happy to see it run just past post for the goal kick.  But that’s as close as the home side came to scoring and the visiting fans kept chanting “One-Nil to the Arsenal” as time ran out.  Sometimes the old ways are the good ways.  Especially if they work, right?

Chelsea 2 – 1 Liverpool

Eden Hazard and Samuel Eto’o score as the Blues beat the Reds at Stamford Bridge.  It was Reds’ striker Luis Suarez’s first match versus the Blues since he had a nibble of Branislav Ivanovic back in April and earned a 10-match ban.  Since serving that ban, the Uruguayan international has been on an absolute tear and leads the BPL in goals scored with 19 goals.  Blues’ boss Jose Mourinho knows that the key to beating a team with such a prolific goal scorer is to deny him the ball and the Blues set out to do just that.  But it was Reds’ central midfielder Martin Skrtel who opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he poked home from Suarez’s square pass.  But this was Stamford Bridge and the Blues, especially the Mourinho-run Blues, just do not lose at home.  They got the equalizer in the 17th minute when Hazard hit a brilliant curling strike that eluded Reds’ keeper Simon Mignolet’s reach and found the upper right corner of the goal.  They then took the lead in the 34th minute when Eto’o poked home a loose ball in the Reds’ defense.  The Reds’ nearly fought back in th 51st minute when Mamadou Sakho’s looping headed bounced off the corner of the bar.  Suarez, who had been guarded closely by John Terry and Ivanovic, had his first real shot on goal in the 57th minute.  But it was a bit weak and Petr Cech easily grabbed the ball up.  Late in the match, Suarez thought he had a penalty claim when he appeared to be tripped by Eto’o after the ball had been cleared.  But the referee was not hearing any protests from the Reds and waved for play to continue.  Right at the end of the match, there was a bit of a row as Brazilian internationals Lucas and Oscar got into it after the Chelsea midfielder’s clumsy tackle into the Liverpool defender.  The free kick ended up being the last kick of the match and the Reds were not able to make anything of it.

Tottenham 3 – 0 Stoke

Spurs get an easy win over the Potters at White Hart Lane.  It’s amazing that all Spurs owner Daniel Levy had to do to get the boys performing again was to get rid of Andre Villas-Boas.  It has lit a spark underneath everyone and has both fans and players optimistic about the future.  So they were able to make pretty short work of the Potters on Sunday.  The visitors were without manager Mark Hughes who had been suspended after getting kicked off the bench in their last match.  It took Spurs a bit to get the opening goal, but they finally got it in the 36th minute.  Defender Ryan Shawcross was penalized when, while standing in the Potters’ penalty area, he blocked Emmanuel Adebayor’s free-kick with his hand.  Roberto Soldado ended his goal drought when he converted the spot-kick into the bottom left corner of the goal.  Adebayor, who has benefited the most from the new Spurs management, was the author of the next attempt as the half came to a close.  He set loose Christian Eriksen, but the midfielder’s shot was blocked by the defense.  In the 51st minute, there was a bit of pushing and shoving when Potters’ defender Jonathan Walters hacked Spurs’ down midfielder Mousa Dembele.  Dembele took exception to the foul and got into Walters’ face.  Ryan Shawcross jumped into the melee and when the referees finally got them separated, all three were booked.  Dembele did manage to get a goal for his trouble in the 64th minute when his long shot from outside the penalty area found the bottom right corner of the goal.  Adebayor helped add the punctuation mark to the match in the 68th minute when he set up Aaron Lennon to score into the top left corner of the goal.  So now the question for Spurs supporters is if the current management team can lead the side to a top four finish.

Lanny Short

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