Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Foxes Safe on Top While Reds Late Show Denies Palace

After finally catching up with my results from previous weeks, along came gameweek 29 in the Premier League as the season began to journey towards the final straight. An exciting weekend saw seven sides score two or more while just four claimed a shut-out.

The weekend began with possibly the most important North London derby in the league's existence as Tottenham Hotspur hosted fellow title challengers Arsenal at White Hart Lane.  The Gunners opened the scoring with six minutes left of the first half as Aaron Ramsey struck before a triple blow for the visitors in a seven minute period. Francis Coquelin was sent off on 55 minutes before goal from Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane on 60 and 62 minutes put Spurs 2-1 ahead. However, the points would be shared after Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-2 draw with a 78th minute leveller.

The first of six 3pm games saw Chelsea host Stoke City at Stamford Bridge with the Blues looking move into the top half of the table for the first time since the first third of the season. Their hopes were boosted just before half time as Bertrand Traore continued his scoring streak with the opener on 39 minutes. However, Stoke salvaged a point late in the second half as Mama Biram Diouf fired in an 85th minute leveller for 1-1.

Everton hosted West Ham United at Goodison Park with the Toffees keen to move into the top half while the Hammers still had their hopes of reaching the top four. The Blues got off to a great start as Aaron Lennon opened the scoring on 13 minutes but suffered a blow on 34 minutes with the dismissal of Kevin Mirallas. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Everton doubled their lead through Romelu Lukaku on 56 minutes before a superb Hammers double in the space of three minutes made it 2-2.

Michail Antonio continued his scoring streak in the 78th minute before an equaliser from Diafra Sakho on 81 minutes. The comeback was completed late on as Dmitri Payet sealed a 3-2 win for the Hammers in added time.

Manchester City looked to bounce back from their midweek defeat at Anfield as they hosted bottom side Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium. A tight first half saw the sides remain level at 0-0 but Villa were soon in big trouble as City fired in a quartet of goals in an 18 minute period. Yaya Toure got them off the mark three minutes after the restart before a ten minute brace from Sergio Aguero made it 3-0. The rout was completed on 66 minutes as Raheem Sterling made it 4-0.

Relegation battlers Newcastle United hosted Bournemouth with the Cherries knowing that a win at St James' Park would put them close to safety from the drop zone. An early boost for the visitors came on 28 minutes as Steven Taylor hit into his own net for 1-0. The Magpies did well to keep the deficit to a single goal but were unable to draw level before a second for the Cherries came on 70 minutes through Joshua King. Ayoze Perez cut the gap to 2-1 on 80 minutes before the win was sealed for the visitors in added time through Charlie Daniels for 3-1.

Southampton hosted Sunderland at St Mary's Stadium looking to close on the European places while the visitors were keen to move out of the drop zone. The game proved to be a tight one despite the sides differing league positions before a double boost came for the visitors with the dismissal of Jose Fonte on 79 minutes followed by Jermain Defoe's 85th minute opener. However,the ten man Saints did well to claim a point with Virgil Van Dijk salvaging a 1-1 draw in added time.

In a battle at the bottom end of the table, Swansea City hosted fellow strugglers Norwich City with the Swans knowing that a win would open up a huge gap between them and the bottom four. The win they craved came via a single goal as Gylfi Sigurdsson sealed a 1-0 win with a strike in the 61st minute.

Saturday's evening game saw Watford hosting table toppers Leicester City with the Foxes having the chance to open up a five point lead at the top. The game was settled by a single goal in the second half as Riyad Mahrez sealed a 1-0 win that leaves the Foxes in a superb position at the top of the league.

Super Sunday began with Crystal Palace's hosting of Liverpool with the Eagles hoping to extend their hoodoo over the Reds with the 2014's title dent the most famous in recent seasons.

The sides played out a tight and goalless first half before Joe Ledley put the Eagles ahead within three minutes of the restart. The Reds suffered a further blow with the dismissal of James Milner on 62 minutes but they battled back into the game with ten men as Roberto Firmino levelled on 72 minutes. The game was settled deep into added time with the Reds earning penalty which substitute Christian Benteke tucked away to claim a 2-1 win.

The final game of the weekend saw West Bromwich Albion host Manchester United with the Baggies looking to close on the top half and the Red Devils hoping to keep in the top four battle. United suffered a blow midway through the first half with Juan Mata being dismissed on 26 minutes before the Baggies took advantage of the extra man on 66 minutes. The winning goal came from Salomon Rondon who piled more pressure on the United manager Louis Van Gaal with the 1-0 win.