BPL: Match-Week 24 Review
Chelsea condemned Manchester City to their first home defeat in the Premier League this season as Jose Mourinho’s side picked up a massive 1-0 win at the Etihad. The title race took another twist as Mourinho and Chelsea produced a counter-attacking masterclass which took advantage of City’s offensive instincts. Branislav Ivanovic’s thunderous left-footed strike gave the visitors a deserved first half lead, and Chelsea were unlucky not to extend their advantage as they hit the woodwork three times during the contest. The result gives Mourinho’s team a major psychological boost over thier rivals heading into the latter stages of the season, and the Londoners now stand just two points behind leaders Arsenal and only adrift of City on goal difference. Manuel Pellegrini’s City, who had won 11 out of 11 at home in the league coming into the encounter, missed the chance to return to the top of the table and failed to score in a home league match since November 2010.
Arsenal returned to the summit of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over a determined Crystal Palace at the Emirates on Sunday. Following a goalless first half, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring when he finished calmly after a astute pass from Santi Cazorla. The England youngster, who had missed four months of the campaign with a knee injury, doubled his tally in the 73rd minute after linking up with Olivier Giroud. The three points are vital for the Gunners, who are fighting to win the title for the first time since 2003-04, with Arsene Wegner’s side face Liverpool and Manchester United in their next two league matches.
Liverpool missed a chance to strengthen their grip on fourth place after they were held to a 1-1 draw by West Bromich Albion. Daniel Sturridge tapped home his 14th goal of the season to put the visitors ahead in the 24th minute. Albion improved in the second half and were on level terms after Kolo Toure’s poor pass gifted the Baggies a deserved point. The setback means the Reds are now only two points ahead of local rivals Everton in the fight for fourth place and the illustrious Champion’s League places.
Manchester United’s hopes of a top four finish took another blow as they were beat 2-1 by Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium. Charlie Adam’s double strike gave the hosts their first league win over the reigning champions since 1984 and condemned United manager David Moyes to another miserable afternoon. The reigning champions started Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie, and Wayne Rooney together for the first time but fell behind when Adam’s free kick was deflected in off Michael Carrick. Van Persie equalized early in the second half but Adam responded with a fantastic 25 yard strike to give the home side their first win in six outings. The result was United’s eighth defeat of the season and they also suffered injuries to center-backs Jonny Evans and Phil Jones.
Kevin Mirallas’s superb 25-yard free-kick earned Everton a hard fought 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Goodison Park. Leandro Bacuna gave the visitors a surprise half time lead but substitute Steven Naismith broke Villa’s stubborn resistance with a 16-yard strike. Mirallas’s curling winner five minutes from time moved the Toffees up to fifth in the Premier League, just two points behind Liverpool.
Champion’s League hopefuls Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw by Hull City at the KC Stadium. January signing Shane Long scored his first goal for the Tigers, and their first goal of 2014. Paulinho equalized in the 61st minute to earn Spurs an away point, but the result means they slip to 6th in table. Hull’s new strike-partnership of Long and Nikica Jelavic showed signs of promise which should help Steve Bruce’s team pull away from the relegation zone.
Sunderland earned their third successive win in the Tyne-Wear derby as they thumped rivals Newcastle United 3-0 at St. James’ Park. The Black Cats have been rejuvenated since the arrival of Gus Poyet and moved farther away from the drop zone with their third win in four matches. Winger Adam Johnson continued to push his claims for a recall to the England set up as he scored his sixth goal in four league matches.
England trio Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, and Jay Rodriguez all found themselvthes on the score-sheet as Southampton cruised to a 3-0 win over bottom of the table Fulham. Fulham have now lost five of their past six league matches, conceding 18 goals. Saints, meanwhile, are four games unbeaten in the league and strengthened their grip on ninth place.
Elsewhere, West Ham striker Andy Carroll set up two goals for captain Kevin Nolan before being sent off as the Hammers beat relegation rivals Swansea 2-0. The Swans, who have only won once in their last ten games, have since sacked manager Michael Laudrup.
Finally, Cardiff City picked up their first win under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and climbed off the bottom of the table with a 2-1 comeback victory over fellow relegation candidates Norwich City. Wilfred Zaha, who signed on-loan from Manchester United on transfer deadline day, was introduced after only 38 minutes and helped change the game for the Bluebirds.
Barclay’s Premier League action continues Saturday February 8th and Sunday the 9th:
Liverpool v Arsenal
Aston Villa v West Ham
Chelsea v Newcastle
Crystal Palace v West Brom
Norwich v Man City
Southampton v Stoke
Sunderland v Hull City
Swansea v Cardiff City
Tottenham v Everton
Man United v Fulham
Sources: BBC Sport, sportsmole.co.uk, NBC SportsBPL: Match-Week 24 Review by Craig Smith