Monday, 23 March 2015

Mata Double Sinks Reds

Ahead of the impending International break, the feature of this weekend's Premier League action was the tightness and excitement of all but one game which saw a three goal difference between the sides.

The aforementioned game was the first of the weekend on Saturday as Manchester City cruised past West Brom with a 3-0 win which began controversially with the mistaken dismissal of Gareth McAuley inside two minutes instead of Craig Dawson (corrected earlier today by the FA). Wilfried Bony put the hosts in front on 27 minutes before Fernando added a second five minutes before half-time with David Silva confirming the victory with a 77th minute strike.

Swansea left it late to secure a narrow 1-0 win away to Aston Villa whose good run under Tim Sherwood ended as a result. The crucial strike came in the 87th minute as Bafetimbi Gomis struck to ensure the Swans remained in the top ten.

 Arsenal kept up their slim title hopes with a 2-1 win away to Newcastle with Olivier Giroud's four minute brace on 24 and 28 minutes putting them in control. Newcastle fought back with a strike from Moussa Sissoko on 48 minutes but were unable to salvage a point.

Southampton boosted their European hopes with a 2-0 win at home to struggling Burnley with Shane Long opening the scoring on 37 minutes before Jason Shackell sealed his side's fate with a 58th minute own goal.

Crystal Palace look to be safe from relegation after opening up an 11 point gap with a 2-1 win away to Stoke with Mame Diouf's 14th minute strike cancelled out by Wilfred Zaha's 41st minute equaliser and Glenn Murray's 45th minute penalty as the Eagles sealed victory.

A seven goal thriller saw Tottenham edge out Leicester 4-3 to boost their top four hopes and dampen the Foxes survival hopes.

Harry Kane's early brace in the sixth and 13th minutes put Spurs in control but strikes from Jamie Vardy and Wes Morgan saw the Foxes level at 2-2. Kane restored the hosts' lead with a 64th minute penalty before Jeff Schlupp's 85th minute own goal made it 4-2 and surely sealed the points but David Nugent's 90th minute effort set up a frantic finish which saw the hosts hold on for the win.

The late-kick off saw West Ham end a run of poor form with a narrow 1-0 win over Sunderland handing Dick Advocaat an opening defeat in charge of the Black Cats with the crucial strike coming late on as Diafra Sakho secured all three points for the Hammers in the 88th minute. 

Super Sunday began with the huge clash between Liverpool and Manchester United in a game that will live long in the memory after a unbelievable horror show from Steven Gerrard rather than United's 2-1 triumph.

Juan Mata put the visitors ahead in the 14th minute before what can only be described as a 'moment of madness' saw Steven Gerrard come on at half-time before being dismissed after 38 seconds for a stamp on Ander Herrera and the ten men soon fell further behind to a spectacular volley from Mata on the hour. Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool hope with a 69th minute strike which served only as consolation as United complete a double over their fierce rivals.

The second part of Super Sunday saw a Chelsea come out on top in a five goal thriller with Hull City. The Blues raced into a 2-0 lead through Eden Hazard and Diego Costa inside nine minutes before Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernandez struck twice in as many minutes before the half-hour to make it 2-2. Loic Remy sealed the win for the table toppers just minutes after coming off the bench with a 77th minute strike.

Everton bounced back from their Europa League exit in Kiev with a 2-1 win away to struggling QPR with Seamus Coleman opening the scoring on 18 minutes. Eduardo Vargas equalised for the hosts on 65 minutes but the win went to the Toffees as Aaron Lennon struck for the first time since his January transfer from Tottenham to seal the points in the 77th minute.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Henderson Extends Reds Run

As of this post, this blog will feature coverage from all Premier League matches rather then the usual report based just on Liverpool in a sweeping change across my blog spectrum. The weekend's action saw surprise results fro the top two which allowed the chasing pack to close the gap.

Saturday's lunchtime kick-off saw a London derby between Crystal Palace and QPR with the Eagles sealing a 3-1 victory which began with Wilfred Zaha'a 21st minute opener before James McArthur added a second on 30 minutes. Palace looked to have sealed the win before half-time when Joel Ward made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute which is how the score stayed until a stunning consolation strike from Matt Phillips in the 83rd minute.

The day's second London Derby saw Arsenal host West Ham United with the hosts sealing a 3-0 win which keeps them in the hunt for a top four spot and began with Olivier Giroud's opener just before half-time. The Gunners confirmed the victory with a late double as Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini struck on 81 and 84 minutes to complete the triumph.

Leicester City hosted Hull City with the Foxes looking to close up on their fellow strugglers at the bottom but despite playing the final 28 minutes with an extra man advantage after Tom Huddlestone's dismissal, they were unable to prevent a 0-0 draw.

Aston Villa continued their great start under Tim Sherwood with a 4-0 thumping of Sunderland, a result which led to the sacking of Gus Poyet who leaves Sunderland on the fringes of the bottom three. Villa made a superb start with two goals in three minutes from Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbolahor in the 16th and 19th minutes before both strikers completed braces on 37 and 44 minutes to wrap up the win inside the first half.

West Brom extended their gap from the bottom three with a narrow 1-0 win at home to Stoke who remain eighth after the defeat. The Baggies secured the points early on with the crucial goal coming on 19 minutes through Brown Ideye.

Burnley buoyed their survival hopes in style with a shock win over champions Manchester City which saw the visitors title challenge suffer as a result. The Clarets moved to one point away from exiting the bottom three with a narrow 1-0 win which was sealed by a stunning strike from George Boyd on the hour mark.

Super Sunday began with a clash between table toppers Chelsea and in-form Southampton which saw the two sides come away with a point apiece after a 1-1 draw which saw both goals come in the first 20 minutes. Diego Costa put the Blues ahead on 11 minutes but saw his effort cancelled out just eight minutes later by a penalty from Dusan Tadic as the Saints denied the Blues from extending their gap at the top.

After a 2-1 home win over Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, Everton made it two wins in a row at home this week with a comfortable 3-0 win over Newcastle which saw James McCarthy open the the scoring in the 20th minute before a double blow for the Magpies just before the hour with Romelu Lukaku's penalty soon followed by the dismissal of Fabricio Coloccini three minutes later. Everton confirmed the win late on with Ross Barkley's 90th minute strike.

Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 win at home to fellow top four hopefuls Tottenham who as a result slipped away from the top teams after a superb first half treble from the hosts sealed the points.

Marouane Fellaini opened the scoring on nine minutes before Micheal Carrick added a second in the 19th minute, Wayne Rooney capped off United's good start with the third on 34 minutes which saw a satirical boxing celebration in response to recent events.

The weekend's action came to a close on Monday night as Liverpool extended their unbeaten run in 2015 with a narrow 1-0 win away to Swansea which saw Jordan Henderson strike the crucial goal on 68 minutes which put the Reds firmly in contention for a top four finish.  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Coutinho Stunner Halts Champions Charge

After seeing their European adventure ended by Besiktas on Thursday night, Liverpool returned to domestic duties with a huge clash against reigning champions Manchester City who looked to end a run of 12 visits to Anfield without a win. 

The starting XI saw four changes from Thursday with Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic all included as the Reds looked to bounce back from playing over two hours in Turkey. 
A fairly quiet start from both sides saw the first chance come from Coutinho combining with Lallana which saw the latter fail to test Joe Hart with an awkward effort but they linked up again minutes later with Lallana rifling an effort past Hart before being denied due to a flag for offside. However, the breakthrough did come in stunning style in the 11th minute as Coutinho picked out Raheem Sterling who in turn fed a great pass to Jordan Henderson who curled a superb effort into the top corner to open the scoring.
A euphoric Anfield came close to turning silent when David Silva clipped a pass over the Reds backline into the path of Sergio Aguero who clipped a shot from a narrow angle and despite beating Simon Mignolet saw the effort cannon off the post. Despite the miss, Aguero soon turned creator as he picked out strike partner Edin Dzeko who first touch saw him hit past Mignolet to equalise in the 25th minute. 

Liverpool's next response came from Coutinho who hit a long-range effort which proved to be comfortable for Hart to claim as the sides went into the interval on level terms. However, the parity could have ended just 20 seconds after the interval as Pablo Zabaleta swung in a dangerous cross which met the head of Aguero whose effort narrowly missed the crossbar.

As the sides remained level after the hour mark, Daniel Sturridge looked set to come on to try and alter the balance but what proved to be the decisive impact came before he could come on as Philippe Coutinho continued his run of superb goals with a stellar strike from the edge of the area which sailed past Joe Hart and into the top corner.

City came close to claiming a point when Aguero hit a low effort just wide of the target but it was not to be City's day as Liverpool held firm to claim a superb victory that boosts their top four hopes and extends their unbeaten run to 11 games making them the sole side in all four divisions yet to lose in 2015.

Reds Exit Europa After Shootout Loss

After securing a narrow first leg advantage thanks to Mario Balotelli's late penalty at Anfield, Liverpool made the trip to Turkey for the return leg against Besiktas which saw them re-visit the Ataturk Stadium which staged the famous 2005 Champions League final comeback as they secured a fifth European Cup title.

Thoughts of such a repeat on Thursday night were far from the even the wildest imagination but with a Liverpool travelling party lacking the strength of Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva, Philippe Coutinho, Glen Johnson and Lazar Markovic, the Reds knew their task would not be easy.

The absentees meant a starting eleven featuring Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge up front and Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno in defence while Academy duo Cameron Brannagan and Jordan Williams were named on the bench. The match began with a roaring atmosphere from both sets of fans with the hosts making an aggressive start with some tasty challenges.

The first chance of the game came in the 20th minute with Moreno collecting a pass from Balotelli on the wing before picking out Raheem Sterling who hit for goal only to see his effort parried by Cenk Gonen. The threat from the Reds began to grow and the next chance came from Sterling who saw a turning shot blocked by Necip Uysal.