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Mar 122014

Cardiff 3 – 1 Fulham

Steven Caulker’s double lifts the Bluebirds closer to safety.  Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer had never lost to the Cottagers when he was a player and really worked hard to make sure that the Bluebirds didn’t to the same on Saturday.  Both sides need a win to have any sort of fighting chance at avoiding relegation.  There was a bit of encouragement when they learned of West Bromwich losing to Manchester United earlier that day.  The first chance of the match came in the 10th minute when Fulham midfielder Ashkan Dejagah hit Johnny Heitinga’s free-kick pass just wide of the goal.  From there it was fairly tense as both sides were trying not to give up that first goal.  It didn’t come until first half stoppage time when Steven Caulker tapped home a corner kick into the center of the goal.  It took the Cottagers to the 59th minute to equalize with Lewis Holtby knocked home a Heitinga corner-kick.  Cardiff nearly re-took the lead in the 66th minute when midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung’s left footed shot was saved by keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.  They did take the lead in the 66th minute when Caluker scored his second goal of the day by heading home a Jordon Mutch corner-kick.  Goal number three came in the 71st minute when some goal mouth chaos ended with Cottagers’ defender Sascha Riether’s clearing attempt going into his own goal.  So while the result doesn’t quite lift the Welsh side out of the bottom three, it does give them a fighting chance at avoiding relegation.

Crystal Palace 0 – 1 Southampton

Jay Rodriguez’s first half goal is good enough for the win for the Saints.  They had hit a bit of a snag during the winter break this season.  Back in November, there was talk of the possibilities of playing in the Europa or UEFA Champions’ League next season for the Saints.  But December and January were not good months for them and they slipped down toward the middle of the table.  Palace, on the other hand, had taken 10 points from a possible 18 coming into the match an Saturday.  Boss Tony Pulis looked like he might have found the formula for keeping his side in the BPL for next season.  The match itself was a bit on the dull side as both sides struggled to put anything on target.  But the Saints got lucky in the 37th minute when Rodriguez was able to take advantage of a really bad header from Jason Puncheon toward keeper Julian Speroni.  The Saints striker was able to latch onto the loose ball and poke it into the empty net for the match’s only goal.  The loss for Palace, coupled with Cardiff’s win over Fulham now means that the Eagles are not safe from relegation.  If they do manage to survive, it will be the first time ever in the club’s history.  With 10 matches remaining, there is a lot that could happen.

Norwich 1 – 1 Stoke

The Canaries and the Potters share the points.  Jonathan Walters must be feeling like a real cad after Saturday’s match.  The first half was a bit dull and ended scoreless, but Bradley Johnson headed in Robert Snodgrass’s 56th minute free-kick to put the home side into the lead.  But the Potters were given a chance to level the score in the 73rd minute when Canaries midfielder Sebastien Bassong fouled John Guidetti in the home side’s penalty area.  Walters, who scored from the spot to beat Arsenal last weekend, took the spot kick and easily converted it to even the score.  But then in the 78th minute, he had a brain cramp and challenged Alexander Tettey with a high, cleat-first challenge that caught the Canaries midfielder on his thigh.  The referee immediately reached for the red card and the Potters were reduced to 10 men.  However, they were able to defend resolutely for the last 12 minutes of the match and go home with a draw.  The result hurts the Canaries more as it leaves them with only a four point cushion between themselves and the bottom three.

Chelsea 4 – 0 Tottenham

The Blues get an emphatic win over Spurs and go seven points clear at the top of the table.  This one was a typical “Blue Domination” at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea dominated from the opening whistle.  Although Spurs were able to hold them off for the first half, things changed when Blues’ boss Jose Mourinho replaced Frank Lampard with Oscar.  At first it didn’t seem like the change was helping the home side that much as both Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kabol each had opportunities to put Spurs into the lead.  But Samuel Eto’o finally got things going in the 55th minute when he buried his shot into the bottom left corner of the goal.  Things got easier for the Blues in the 58th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick after Kaboul fouled Eto’o in the Spurs penalty area.  Kaboul was judged to have prevented a goal scoring opportunity with the foul and was ejected from the match.  Eden Hazard converted the spot-kick to make it 2-0 to the Blues.  Goal number three came in the 88th minute when Demba Ba, on for Eto’o, finished a fine move through the Spurs defense for the score.  Ba got his second and Chelsea’s fourth in the 89th minute when his long shot found the goal past Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.  In the post-match interview, Mourinho urged caution about any thoughts of sewing up the BPL title.  He realizes that Manchester City and his rival Manuel Pellegrini, although they’re nine points behind, have three matches in-hand.  Indeed, there’s still a way to go.


Lanny Short

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