Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Foxes Five Clear While Gunners Cup Run Ends

A unique first in terms of reviews as gameweek 30 in the Premier League is coupled with the FA Cup fifth round replay and sixth round schedule.

First up is the FA cup fifth round from the previous week as Hull City and holders Arsenal met at the KC Stadium with the Tigers keen to finally gain revenge for their defeat in the 2014 final to the Gunners.

A close knit first half looked to be ending goalless between the sides but a 41st minute effort from Olivier Giroud gave the Gunners the lead and ended the equality for 1-0. Theo Walcott doubled the lead as he made it 2-0 on 68 minutes before a six minute double from Giroud saw him strike on 71 minutes before completing his hat-trick in the 77th minute to wrap up a 4-0 success.

The sixth round began on Friday night with a London derby between Championship side Reading and top flight side Crystal Palace. The sides seemed to be evenly matched in a goalless first half and the tight defences remained shut long into the second half before a late show from the visitors. Reading went down to ten men with five minutes remaining as Jake Cooper was sent off and the resulting penalty saw Yohan Cabaye make it 1-0. The win was sealed for the Eagles in added time as Fraizer Campbell completed the 2-0 success.

Saturday's action came from Goodison Park as Everton hosted Chelsea, the two sides met in the 2009 final with the Blues coming out on top and a trip to Wembley was just one win away for either side. The game was a close one in the first hour or so with the sides locked at 0-0, the Toffees managed to strike an opening as former Blues striker Romelu Lukaku made it 1-0 on 77 minutes He struck again in rapid fashion just five minutes later to double the hosts' lead before Chelsea's hopes all but ended with the 84th minute dismissal of Diego Costa for an altercation with Gareth Barry and three minutes later Barry was also dismissed for a second booking. 

Sunday saw the final two ties of the round which began with holders Arsenal hosting Watford in a London derby at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners went into the game knowing just two more wins would seal a third title in a row. However, such success would see them needing to come from behind after Odion Ighalo put the Hornets in front in the 50th minute.

Adlene Guedioura doubled the lead for the visitors on 63 minutes to leave the Gunners defence of the title hanging by a thread. Arsenal's comeback came late on as Danny Welbeck made it 2-1 on 88 minutes to set up a tense finale but to no avail as the Hornets became the first side to beat the Gunners in the competition since 2013.

Manchester United played host to West Ham United at Old Trafford in the final action of the round with both hoping to secure a win that would see a welcome return to Wembley for either side.  Alike the majority of the other games, the first hour or so was a tight encounter but the Hammers ensured there was at least one goal in the game in style as Dmitri Payet's dazzling free-kick made it 1-0.

However, the hosts did well to get back on level terms despite leaving it late as Anthony Martial made it 1-1 on 83 minutes with the effort proving to be enough to force a replay. The Premier League action saw just five games with all of the top three in action across the weekend.

Saturday's early game came from Carrow Road as strugglers Norwich City hosted title chasing Manchester City. The pre-match build-up saw an easy Manchester City win expected as the likely outcome but it result was far from such hopes as the sides played out a 0-0 draw which left the Canaries happier with a point that a City side who missed the chance to close the gap at the top.

The first of just two 3pm games saw Bournemouth host Swansea at the Vitality Stadium with both sides knowing a win would surely confirm safety from relegation worries. Max Gradel opened the scoring for the Cherries on 37 minutes only to see his effort rapidly cancelled out by an equaliser from Modou Barrow within two minutes.

Josh King regained the lead for the hosts on 50 minutes but again the Swans drew level with Gylfi Sigurdsson levelling on 62 minutes but the odd goal in five went to the hosts who secured a 3-2 win on 78 minutes with a strike from Steve Cook.

Stoke City hosted fellow Europa League chasers Southampton at the Britannia Stadium with both knowing a win would put them in a good position to challenge the top four. Graziano Pellé put the Saints ahead early on with an 11th minute strike before adding a second goal on the half hour mark for 2-0. Marko Arnautovic pulled one back for the Potters on 52 minutes for 2-1 but it proved to be only a consolation despite the late dismissal of Sadio Mané for the visitors.

Relegation threatened Aston Villa knew a win was a must as they hosted title challengers Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon. The visitors secured a 2-0 with a brace from Harry Kane within three minutes of the second half with Kane's strikes enough to move Spurs clear in second spot and leave Villa nine points from safety.

The final game of the weekend saw table toppers Leicester City host struggling Newcastle United with the Foxes having the chance to go five points clear and for the Magpies, a win would see them rise out of the bottom three.

Despite the vast difference in their league positions, the goal was settled by just a single goal but it was a stunning strike as Shinji Okazaki's overhead kick on 28 minutes proved to be enough to secure the win for the Foxes.