Premier League teams at both ends of the table put in a few surprising performances this weekend, but none more so than the two that went head-to-head at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Chelsea were looking to cement their first place status against a Crystal Palace side still finding it difficult to burst completely free of relegation-zone shackles, but when the home side went ahead after 52 minutes, courtesy of a John Terry own goal, Jose Mourinho’s title hopes were dented as his men just couldn’t come up with a reply. Their defeat leaves an opportunity for Manchester City to take advantage of the games they have in hand.
Things would actually be a lot worse for Chelsea if Man City managed to hang onto their 0-1 lead over Arsenal at the Emirates, but it was a task that proved too difficult and Mathieu Flamini’s scuffed equalizer ensured a well-earned point for the Gunners. That being said, a draw wasn’t really enough for Arsenal to maintain a realistic title challenge. The Sky Blues on the other hand are now two points behind Chelsea with two games in hand, and strong favourites to take the crown back to Manchester.
Southampton bounced back from their disappointing loss to Tottenham last Sunday by thrashing Newcastle United 4-0 in front of a jubilant St Mary’s crowd. Goals from Lambert, Lallana, and two from Rodriguez blew away the Magpies, who have now scored none and conceded seven in their last two games. Southampton are now six points behind Man United in eighth, with Newcastle one place and two points below them in ninth.
On a Premier League weekend that saw Chelsea title hopes dented, Manchester United were able to keep up their bid for a European place by beating Aston Villa 4-1. With Juan Mata netting his first goal for the Red Devils, who would usually be up there with the rest of the trophy contenders, his team stay seventh, six points away from a top five finish. The result has Villa in 12th, not quite free of relegation fears but certainly not among the favourites to go down.
Stoke won their third match in a row against Hull City at the Britannia Stadium, Peter Odemwingie with the only goal in hard-fought affair between two well-matched sides. It leaves the Potters on course to record their biggest points total in a Premier League season to date, whilst condemning Hull to further niggling worries regarding top division status next season, hovering above the relegation zone by seven points.
Norwich City were unable to expand upon their impressive result against Sunderland last weekend, losing 3-0 away to Welsh club Swansea. A De Guzman double followed by one from Wayne Routledge sentenced the Canaries to their fifth defeat in 10 matches and an uncomfortable finish to the season with regards to the relegation dogfight. The win eases Swansea’s own demotion fears but not by much, a single point separates them from Norwich, sitting in 13th and 15th place respectively.
A six-goal thriller was played out at the Hawthorns between West Brom and Cardiff, with the spoils being shared in a 3-3 draw after 90 minutes. The Baggies thought they’d won it when Thievy Bifouma scored in the last-minute of normal time, but Mats Moller Daehli replied after five minutes of injury time to earn the Bluebirds a point. Cardiff stay in the relegation zone and West Brom are just a single place and three points above it, although it’s impossible to say whether that will remain the case after the full 38 games have been played.
In the first of Sunday’s two games, Fulham’s misery persevered as they went down 1-3 at home to Everton. An own goal by Stockdale and two late efforts from Mirallas and Naismith prevented Dejagah’s fine finish from being anything other than a consolation, and sees Fulham’s hopes of survival diminish even further as their gap to safety increases to five points. Everton however, now look like they might be able to snatch fourth place away from Arsenal, who are just four points ahead of the Toffees having played a game more.
Tottenham’s abysmal record against the top four continued at Anfield, where they once again capitulated under pressure and lost 4-0 to add to their list of high-scoring defeats against the clubs that matter. On this evidence they’ll miss out on a European place to either Everton or Man United and lose manager Tim Sherwood, with replacement Louis Van Gaal apparently waiting in the wings. Liverpool’s merciless battle for the title shows no signs of slowing down as they now top the table above Chelsea and Manchester City (the latter of which has two games in hand to make up the four-point difference).
Sunderland face West Ham tomorrow evening with the aim of clawing to within a point of safety at the bottom of the table, whilst their north London visitors would like to get a little closer to the traditional safety mark of 40 points sooner rather than later.
As the end of the Premier League season starts to come into view, it is still anybody’s guess as to who will reign supreme and who will unfortunately fall at the final hurdle. After Chelsea saw their title hopes severely dented this weekend, every other team will now be looking over their shoulder, hoping the same thing doesn’t happen to them.
Commentary by Zachary John