EPL : WEEKEND WRAP
As the Barclays Premier League boils down to the business end, this weekend yielded results that may have far reaching implications for every team- whatever position and aspirations.
The happiest of the teams this weekend is Liecester City. Claudio Raneira’s troops fought hard to be rewarded with a 1-0 victory away to Watford to go five points clear at the top and virtually take the driver’s seat in the title run in.
There had been little to separate the two sides, until influential Liecester midfielder Riyaad Mahrez’s moment of magic. The Algerian’s magnificent curling shot in the 55th minute was all Liecester needed to grab all 3 vital points and open up a little breathing space from the chasing pack.
Earlier in the day, the closest chasing pack had played to a thrilling 2-2 draw when Tottenham Hotspur met Arsenal in the North London derby in the early kick off in the match of the weekend.
In a packed White Hart Lane backing Spurs to win the vicious encounter and firmly assert their title credentials against their old foes, the game had burst to life with high tempo and great temperament.
Spurs’ early barrage of well crafted attacks and high pressing game had been met by an alert David Ospina in goal and a much improved collective defensive display from Arsenal.
Against the run of play, Arsenal took the lead courtesy of a neat cross by Hector Bellerin on the right that was met by a clever back heel towards goal by Aaron Ramsey 6 minutes before the break.
The game burst to life.
Right when Arsenal thought had things under control Arsenal defensive midfielder Fransis Cocquelin was sent off for his second yellow. Spurs made the numerical advantage count as they exposed Arsenal’s defensive frailties in dealing with set pieces.
Spurs scored two from set pieces in two minutes via defender Toby Alderweired and striker Harry Kane to turn the tables and hold the game by the neck.
However, there was still enough time for Alexis Sanchez to steal the headline as his 76th minute equaliser from another Bellerin pass saved the day for the visitors.
Cocquelin’s red card was the first of five for the weekend. Kevin Mirallas and Jose Fonte were the other players sent off on Saturday for Everton and Southampton. On Sunday James Milner for Liverpool and Juan Mata were too sent off.
Mirallas redcard at 1-0 had had no immediate impact on the game as Everon winger Aaron Lenon had doubled the Toffees’ lead after half time and the home side still had the luxury to miss a penalty later on and a chance to make it 3-0.
However, Everton were made to pay for their mistakes as a late surge by West Ham finally paid off as dramatic 11 minutes spell completed the comeback as they went from 2-0 down in the 77th minute, to 3-2 victors after full time.
The Hammers climbed to 5th on the log and boost their chances of European football.
Chelsea dented theirs.
Guss Hiddink, Chelsea’s manager had made his intent for continental football clear when they met Stoke at home. After taking the lead through Bertrand Traore before half time, a late equaliser from Senegalese Mame Diouf ensured the sharing of the spoils at 1-1 and remained 10th on the log.
Manchester City had no problems whatsoever as they routed a typically woeful Aston Villa 4-0 with striker Sergio Aguero scoring a brace and even missing a penalty. All goals came in the second half. Villa seem to have come to terms with relegation as they remain footed at the table.
Newcastle’s 3-1 loss at home to Bournemouth and Norwich’s 1-0 away to Swansea ensured the two sides complete the bottom three.
On Sunday, a 10 men Liverpool already trailing 1-0 down before the red card to midfielder Milner showed character and fighting spirit to win 2-1 away to strugglers Crystal Palace. A late controversial penalty on Christian Benteke and coolly taken by him deep into stoppage time completed a dramatic comeback after Roberto Firmino had cancelled out Joe Ledly’s opener.
Manchester United’s cameo winning streak of 4 straight wins came to an abrupt end when they lost for the very first time in the Premier League to West Brom at the Hawthorns. Already under immense pressure from the home side who looked sharper, United’s chances were further curtailed by Mata’s red card which came from two quick yellow cards in space of a minute.
Although United tried to hold on for a result, they only seemed to delay the inevitable as Salomon Rondon’s beautiful strike finally rewarded the home side’s patience.
The result sees United drop to 6th on the log and do serious harm to their chances of Champions League next season and possibly Louis van Gaal’s desire to keep his job.
Saturday 5 March 2016
Spurs 2-2 Arsenal
Southampton 1-1 Sunderland
Swansea 1-0 Norwich
Chelsea 1-1 Stoke
Newcastle 1-3 Bournemouth
Everton 2-3 West Ham
Man City 4-0 Aston Villa
Watford 0-1 Liecester
Sunday 6 March 2016
Crystal Palace 1-2 Liverpool
West Brom 1-0 Man United