With the Premier League season drawing to a close and still so much to be decided we look at this week’s talking points.
Expect the unexpected
When will we learn? Premier League football doesn’t follow scripts. When many saw the line ups for this weekend’s big game, Liverpool vs Chelsea, they thought one thing. With the Blues loss to Sunderland last week denting their title hopes and with a Champions League semi final coming up Jose Mourinho had rested key players and surely surrendered the title to Liverpool. How wrong we were.
Chelsea’s tactics for the game were clear from the outset. Mourinho had seen the lightning quick start that Liverpool had made in big games this season against teams like Arsenal, City and Spurs. In those three games along Brendan Rodgers men had scored seven goals in the first half an hour.
With this in mind Chelsea set out to slow down the play at every opportunity. They look their time with goal kicks and throw ins and it stopped it frustrated the home side and stopped them from being able to build any momentum.
When playing like this it’s rare that you will create chances so when you do you have to take them and that’s exactly what Demba Ba did in first half stoppage time. The Senegalese striker was alert to a slip from Steven Gerrard and raced through finishing the one on one to put his side ahead.
For the whole of the second half Liverpool threatened but Chelsea kept up their tactics, defended valiantly and with the home side desperate to score in second half stoppage time they were exposed at the back, Fernando Torres got clear and taped the to Willian for an easy finish to the game. 0-2 to Chelsea the final score.
So what does the result mean? Well, the title is no longer in Liverpool’s hands. With Manchester City winning comfortable against Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon they move to three points behind Liverpool and Manuel Pellegrini’s side have a game in hand. City also have superior goal difference by 8 goals and should they and Liverpool win all of their remaining games, this will settle the title.
Manchester United start life without Moyes
After a turbulent 11 months in charge it was announced on Tuesday morning that David Moyes had been sacked as Manchester United manager. The current defending champions sit a lowery 7th in the table and are guaranteed their worst ever Premier League finish and will not be playing in the Champions League next season.
For United, the rebuilding starts in the summer as they hunt for a new boss to help them thrive for the first time in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era. Until that time United player and talisman Ryan Giggs will take charge of the team for the remaining three games of their season, starting with Norwich at Old Trafford.
Despite being in desperate need of points to steer clear of relegation the away side offered little in the way of a threat and Giggs’ side were allow to turn on the style. Wayne Rooney added the first from the penalty spot and his second from long range after the break.
Then Giggs made his first change around the hour mark, bringing on Juan Mata, and it turned out to be an inspired move. Just three minutes later the Spaniard had scored and he added his second before the full time whistle, 4-0 the final score.
The result doesn’t do much for United. With Spurs winning at Stoke Giggs’ men stay in 7th meanwhile Norwich are still far from safety, especially with their last two games, away at Chelsea and at home to Arsenal.
Everton’s Champions League hopes are dented
So far it’s been a great season for Everton. Their new manager Roberto Martinez has guided them to their highest ever points tally and, at this late stage of the season, they are challenging for fourth place and Champions League football.
A win at Southampton would have seen the Toffees climb above Arsenal, who play on Monday night, into that all important fourth spot. For Southampton, only pride to play for, they sit 8th in the league well clear of the relegation zone and with European football out of reach.
When the full time whistle came it was Everton who had been the masters of their own downfall. There were only 54 seconds on the clock when Everton’s Antolin Alcaraz headed Rickie Lambert’s cross into the net for an own goal.
Half an hour later and Everton had gifted Southampton a second goal, another own goal, this time Seamus Coleman heading into his own net.
Martinez’s men improved after half time but could not score, 2-0 the final score. The result is a huge blow to Everton’s Champions League hopes and they will need Arsenal to make mistakes in their final three games.
For Southampton, they reach 52 points, equalling their best Premier League season. If they can take a single point for either of their last games, against Swansea and Manchester United, it will be their best Premier League season ever.
Fulham throw it away
At this stage of the season things are tight at the bottom and points are more precious than ever. For that reason surrendering a two goal lead is the cardinal sin for a team that wants to survive as a goalless first half gave way to an exciting second half on Saturday afternoon at Craven Cottage.
The home side took the lead through Ashkan Dejagah’s curling effort and double that lead with Fernando Amorebieta’s header on the hour mark. The home side had just 30 minutes to hold on to what could have been a vital three points.
However Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long had other ideas, their two strikes in the last 15 minutes scuppered the home side’s hopes of escaping the relegation zone. Fulham finish the weekend in 18th.
The Jonjo Shelvey show
Have you seen it yet? No? Right. Open up another tab and find it. Everyone’s talking about Jonjo Shelvey’s goal of the season contender. With the score at 1-1 between Swansea and Aston Villa the former Liverpool man knocked the ball up and volleyed it from just inside the center circle.
The strike traveled straight and true, all of 40 yards, and sailed over Brad Guzan’s head and into the net. If you haven’t seen it yet, seek it out. It gave the Swans the lead in a game they would go on to win 4-1.
The Great Escape is on
When the half time whistle came at the Stadium of Light the theme tune of the The Great Escape echoed around the ground. Sunderland, who have been routed to the bottom of the table for most of the season, are starting to look like they might just survive.
This weekend they simply had to win. Fellow strugglers Cardiff were the visitors in a relegation dogfight that will have a huge say in who stays up and who goes down. Conor Wickham gave the home side the lead after 26 minutes and Borini added a second from the spot before the break in an incident that saw Cardiff reduced to ten me.
Emmanuel Giaccherini added a third after halftime before Wickham scored his second of the game from a header, 4-0 the final score. The result means that, for the first time since the 9th of February, Sunderland climb to the dizzy height of 17th and safety for now.
If Sunderland do stay up this season it will be only the second time that a team who occupied bottom spot on Christmas day have survived to play in the Premier League the next season, West Brom in 2005 the last team to do that.