Wayne Rooney netted a superb volley from all of 57 yards against West Ham on Saturday to mark the highlight of a wonderful Premier League soccer weekend. The goal, which has been compared to David Beckham’s similar effort from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996, was the first of a double scored by the 28-year-old striker to ensure Man United left Upton Park with three points. The Red Devils stay in 7th place (eighteen points from the top) whilst the Hammers go down to 14th (six points above the relegation zone).
In Saturday’s early kick-off, Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 6-0 at Stamford Bridge to maintain their four point lead at the summit of the league. The game will be remembered for referee Andre Marriner’s incredible error of sending off Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs for a handball made by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a decision made inside 20 minutes with Eden Hazard converting the resulting penalty. The defeat severely dents Arsenal’s title hopes, with the Gunners trailing leaders Chelsea by seven points with one game in hand.
In an equally entertaining game at Cardiff City Stadium, Liverpool hit six past a floundering Bluebirds defense to keep themselves in the title race, with Uruguayan forward Louis Suarez bagging himself a hat-trick. Cardiff managed to score three in between, but the result will do nothing to improve their situation in 19th place and three points from safety. Liverpool go into their game against Sunderland on Wednesday in second place having played a game less than Chelsea.
In the other game involving a Welsh side, Swansea City were unable to wrestle a point away from Goodison Park as they went down 3-2 to Everton. The result leaves the Toffees in a commanding position to qualify for Europe in 6th place but with two games in hand over 5th placed Tottenham (who are two points ahead). Swansea on the other hand remain perched precariously just above the relegation zone in 15th.
Meanwhile at Carrow Road, Alexander Tettey scored a magnificent 30-yard volley in the second of two first-half goals that were enough to overcome 18th place Sunderland. Whilst not quite as impressive as the goal scored by United player Rooney, it was certainly of a standard good enough to be considered for Premier League Goal of the Month for March. Norwich now appear a little safer from relegation, but Sunderland remain three points inside the bottom three albeit with two games in hand.
West Brom’s abysmal season continued at Hull, losing 2-0 in a lackluster 90 minutes at the KC stadium. Shane Long scored against his old club and also won a penalty as Hull City continued their fight to distance themselves from the foot of the table. The Yorkshire club now find themselves in 12th place, but a distinctly flat looking West Brom side stay in 16th, just two places above the bottom three.
Manchester City’s bid for the Premier League crown was helped by a resounding 5-0 victory over Fulham at the Etihad stadium. Offensive midfielder Yaya Toure scored the first hat-trick of his career (two goals of which were penalties) to keep the pressure on Chelsea and secure the top spot should they take advantage of their three games in hand over the London club. New Fulham manager Felix Magath has now only won one of his first five games in charge, meaning his side are still rooted to the foot of the table.
Fans inside St James’ Park had to wait until the 90th minute before they saw a goal in Newcastle’s game against Crystal Palace. The match looked like it was heading for stalemate before Papiss Cisse headed home the winner for the Magpies to send the home crowd into raptures, and condemn Palace to their 5th game without a win. Newcastle now move into 8th place (five points behind Man United) but the Eagles stay just one place above the relegation zone.
In the first of Sunday’s games, Tottenham also scored a late winner to break Southampton hearts at White Hart Lane. Gylfi Sigurdsson sealed a thrilling comeback for Spurs, who fought from 2-0 down to end the match 3-2 up and keep their battle with Everton for a European place alive. The defeat for Southampton still keeps them firmly at mid-table in a good season for the southern club.
Sunday’s late kick-off saw an inspired performance by Stoke enough to hammer Aston Villa 1-4 at Villa Park. The visitors went behind inside five minutes but replied brilliantly to earn a first Premier League away win since August, 2013. Stoke are now 12 points above the danger zone, and Aston Villa are three points behind them in 11th.
In a weekend that saw excellent soccer and high-scoring matches, Wayne Rooney was the focal point of a seemingly rehabilitated Man United side. Despite wonderful goals in the league so far, the long-range effort from Rooney will go down as an all time great, and probably the best goal of the 2013/14 Premier League season.
Commentary by Zachary John