Crystal Palace made it three wins in a row with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday. Jason Puncheon scored the winner with fifteen minutes remaining. Pulis’ men have become very difficult to beat and Speroni and co performed well again, keeping another clean-sheet. Villa find themselves being slowly dragged into the relegation battle and will need have to turn their form around before its too late.
Felix Magath led Fulham to a 1-0 win against a Norwich City who were playing their first game since Chris Hughton’s dismissal. Hugo Rodallega scored the only goal. With Norwich’s remaining games being against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal they must now be favourites for the drop. They sit in 17th place, two points ahead of Fulham and three ahead of Cardiff. No other team facing the drop has such a tough run-in however and it is hard to see where they could pick up any more points.
Cardiff City continue to be the most consistently inconsistent team in the division. Cala scored in what is possibly there most impressive away performance all season. Pochettino and Southampton seem to be just stumbling to the end of the season now with the World Cup or summer holidays on the minds of the first-team squad.
Stoke and Newcastle met in an end-of-season mid-table dead-rubber of a game. Pieters scored the only goal in what was another 1-0 scoreline at the weekend. Only two of the weekends eight games did not finish with a 1-0 scoreline.
A Wes Brown own-goal gave Everton the three points in a huge game for both teams. As a result Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the table and are now seven points from safety. It’s looking grim for Poyet and his troops. Everton have now won six in a row and are two points clear of Arsenal in 4th.
Spurs completed a fine comeback and got a 3-3 draw at the Hawthorns after being 3-0 in the first half to the hosts. West Brom impressed from the start and Vydra and Brunt had them two up within five minutes. Sessegnon made it 3-0 on the half-hour mark before Spurs fought back through a Jonas Olsson own-goal, a strike from youngster Harry Kane and an injury-time equaliser from the in form Christian Eriksen.
The title race was the focus on Sunday. Liverpool hosted City on an emotional afternoon at Anfield. The lives of those 96 souls who passed at Hillsborough were remembered on this the 25th anniversary. Credit to City and their fans who done themselves proud, respecting the minutes silence impeccably. The game itself certainly lived up to its billing. Liverpool started strongly and Sterling had them one up after six minutes. Skrtel made it two twenty minutes later with a headed effort from a Gerrard corner. City fought back in the second-half and David Silva scored the first and forced the own-goal off Glen Johnson for the equaliser. There were thirty minutes left at this stage and City now looked the stronger of the two teams. Liverpool showed a calmness and character however that would lead you to believe that maybe now they actually are capable of winning the title. An uncharacteristic Vincent Kompany mis-kick sent the ball rolling into Coutinho’s path in the box. The little Brazilian finished it brilliantly with his first-time effort, making it 3-2 with twelve minutes left. That was how it finished. There was more drama as the over-eager Jordan Henderson got a straight red for his challenge in injury-time. Henderson now misses three of the last four games through suspension. Yaya Toure limped off during the game for City and Liverpool’s Sturridge also left the field injured. Both sets of fans will be awaiting updates on these inuries.
Chelsea went to Swansea with the pressure on. They knew they needed to win to keep up with Liverpool and initially struggled to break Swansea down, even after Chico Flores’ sixteenth minute dismissal for his second yellow card. Demba Ba chanced a hopeful shot from twenty-five yards in the second half and Vorm will be disappointed with himself that he did not keep it out. It was enough to give Chelsea the points and keeps them within two of Liverpool.
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February 23rd, 2014
Game of the Day
Liverpool 4 – 3 Swansea City
Talk of a push for the title is being downplayed at all costs on Merseyside. This is to avoid a possible implosion that could accompany unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic as those expectations may be however, the subject can not be brushed under the carpet forever.
Last week they had a battling away win to Fulham and they followed it up with another three points today in a game that they never really controlled. Swansea came to Anfield without any fear under new manager Garry Monk and arguably deserved a point.
The Reds came out of the blocks fast and Raheem Sterling unsettled Nathan Dyer within three minutes, stealing the ball from him in Liverpool’s half. Sterling broke down the left and hit a sublime pass from the halfway line with the outside of his right foot to release the ever-ready Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge let Vorm commit himself outside the box, took it around the Dutchman and finished confidently in the empty net. With that goal Sturridge became only the second player in Premier League history to score in eight consecutive matches.
Sterling had a shot from the left which forced Vorm into a save at the near post just minutes later. Swansea were not lying down however and had plenty of possession in Liverpool’s third but lacked any penetration early on.
In the twentieth minute Luis Suarez played it wide to the right where Sturridge picked it up. Sturridge took on two defenders as he cut inside before rolling the ball across the box to Jordan Henderson. Henderson took a touch to steady himself and with his second he curled the ball into the top-left corner of the net, leaving Vorm standing helpless in the middle of the goal.
Again Swansea showed courage in the face of this steepening hill however and within three minutes they were back in the game. Nathan Dyer cut in from the right and squared it to ex-Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey placed a fantastic first-time effort in off the crossbar. Shelvey did not celebrate at his old home ground and acknowledged the appreciation he was shown from the Anfield crowd, recognising the quality of his strike.
In the twenty-sixth minute Martin Skrtel put in a challenge on Shelvey about thirty yards out from Liverpool’s goal on Swansea’s left-hand side. Skrtel was booked for this challenge. This looked a harsh decision at first but in the replay he could clearly be seen leaving his foot in after the challenge, scraping his studs down the back of Shelvey’s standing leg. From the free-kick Wilfried Bony met it with his head and his effort deflected off Skrtel’s shoulder and into the empty side of goal with Mignolet already committed elsewhere.
At 2-2 Swansea were good value for it and there could have been no complaints from Liverpool if the scores had remained level at half-time.
It was time for the SAS to enter the equation though. Liverpool played some nice, neat, short passes around the edge of Swansea’s area before eventually the ball found its way to Suarez wide on the left. Seemingly with very little effort the Uruguayan pinpointed his cross to land on the head of Sturridge who could not miss from six yards.
Wilfried Bony almost added a sixth goal of the half just before the break but Mignolet tipped his low, long-range shot just around the post.
Swansea came out with clear intentions in the second-half and a nervous Martin Skrtel bundled over Bony in the box within a minute of the restart. The penalty was given without hesitation and Skrtel may have been fortunate to avoid a second yellow card. Bony placed it in the bottom-left corner, just beyond Mignolet’s reach.
Suarez almost replied within minutes when Sturridge put him through inside the box on the right-hand side. Suarez took it wide and his effort was well saved by Vorm.
Any time that Swansea attacked the Liverpool defence looked very shaky. The Reds backline is certainly short on confidence and clean-sheets have been few-and-far between for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
Further forward Jordan Henderson was busy giving Liverpool fans what they have come to expect this season. The midfield-dynamo was the engine behind most of Liverpool’s moves, constantly pressing, passing and pushing forward all the time.
Joe Allen came on for Sterling with about twenty minutes remaining. He looked lively and was closing his old teammates down at every opportunity. Allen stole the ball and released Sturridge shortly after coming on but Ashley Williams made a brilliant blocking challenge on Sturridge’s right-footed shot.
Liverpool began to push for the win and in with a quarter of an hour remaining Luis Suarez created the opening. He took on the Swansea defence from the left side of Liverpool’s attack. Suarez took his shot from outside the box and Williams blocked it before Vorm had to make the save. Henderson reacted instinctively and his first-time shot was saved by Vorm but he couldn’t stop Henderson putting in the rebound.
Swansea never looked like equalising near the end and Gerrard came closest to another goal when his shot deflected off of Chico Flores onto the post, rebounding kindly for Swansea enabling them to clear it to safety.
Liverpool are now the highest scoring team in the Premier League with seventy goals in their twenty-seven games. Their problem however is that they have only the tenth-best defence.
Swansea are four points clear of the relegation zone in twelfth position after today. Garry Monk will be looking to get them to safety in May, then hoping to be given the opportunity to mould the team his way for next season.
For Liverpool however, their dreams are still very much in the present.
Newcastle United 1 – 0 Aston Villa
Loic Remy scored a vital winner in injury-time for Newcastle as Villa’s woes continued. This had been coming, Remy having hit the post earlier in the second half and Cisse blazing over a mostly-open goal in the first-half.
Norwich City 1 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur
Robert Snodgrass curled in a lovely strike to earn the three points for Norwich early in the second-half. Chadli and Soldado were guilty of missing key opportunities to equalise later in the game for Spurs. This result leaves Spurs six points behind Liverpool and the coveted top-four spot.
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