Manchester City continue to roll through at the top of the table while the veterans secured the victory for neighbors Manchester United. The Arsenal-Tottenham London derby will go down as one of the comeback stories of the season while the Merseyside derby was put on hold as Liverpool defeated Cardiff City in the Carling Cup final at Wembley.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Chelsea 3-0 Bolton: Bolton’s only highlight of the fixture at Stamford Bridge was a strong showing from American centerback Tim Ream whom they signed from New York Redbulls in the January transfer window. Ream was a crucial part of Bolton’s defense as they struggled to keep Chelsea’s attacking players at bay. Despite the continuous bombardment of Bolton’s goal, Adam Bogdan and his defense were able to hold off the home side, going into the halftime break at 0-0. Chelsea fans surely thought they were in for yet another nightmarish results after poor performances in European competition at midweek but David Luiz revived their hopes after the break in the 48th minute, putting Chelsea in the lead. Didier Drogba scored Chelsea’s second in the 61st minute off of a Frank Lampard assist and the English international, filling in as captain for an injured John Terry, put an assist from Juan Mata past the keeper in the 79th to finish off Bolton’s hope of any points from the fixture and put Chelsea back on track. Chelsea are still struggling to work their way back into fourth place and the UEFA Champions League spot. Despite the win, Arsenal’s 5-2 win in the London derby means that Chelsea sit in fifth but are level on points. Bolton are battling the relegation zone, second from the bottom but separated from the safety zone by only a point.
Newcastle United 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanders: Two early goals got the home side off to a good start but they were unable to hold on to the win as Wolves came from behind to secure themselves a point as they battle the threat of relegation. Newcastle are hoping to hold on to the EUROPA League 6th place spot but Liverpool are close behind and every point matters as crunch time approaches. Cisse scored the opener just six minutes into the first half to put the home side up 1-0. Jonas Gutierrez added to the scoreline in the 18th minute and Newcastle likely believed they were on track to the full three points at the Sports Direct Arena in Northern England. They would go into the halftime break with the lead, but Wolves came out fighting. Five minutes in Mike Jarvis got on the end of a Kevin Doyle assist to put his side back in the game and Doyle himself scored the equalizer in the 66th minute. Wolves did not have to go home empty handed and Newcastle will surely regret the two point loss if point deficit costs them the European spot at the end of the season. Although Wolves are two places clear of the bottom spot in 16th, only two points separate them from the bottom teams, Bolton and Wigan. Newcastle are sitting four points above Liverpool in the last European football spot and are hot on the heels of Chelsea and Arsenal.
Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Fulham: Fulham’s early goal in the 7th minute would be the only goal of the game, although QPR would come close to equalizing with eight shots on target after Pogregnyak scored for the visiting side. The match would be more a match of defense than goals. The home side committed seventeen fouls while the visitors were not much better, fouling the QPR offense twelve times. QPR’s Diakite saw his second yellow in the 33rd minute, just thirteen minutes after the first, and was sent off, giving Fulham the advantage, but they were unable to score on the ten man QPR. The sides were evenly matched despite the home team playing a man down for a majority of the game, with the visitors holding 51% of the possession and QPR holding the ball well and filling the gap left behind after Diakite was sent off. Fulham maintain their mid-table position but QPR are dangerously close to the relegation Zone. A good result for Blackburn against league leaders Manchester City would have meant that Queens Park Rangers would have slipped into 18th place at the top of the relegation zone but luckily the Rovers were unable to produce and they remain safe.
West Bromwich Albion 4-0 Sunderland: West Brom hosted the Black Cats at The Hawthorns, giving their home fans something to cheer about as they took the early lead and didn’t stop scoring until the final whistle. Odemwingie scored the first for the home side and his first of the evening in the third minute. The scoreline would remain 1-0 until the 41st minute before the close of the half when James Morrison, with an assist from Thomas, gave his side the 2-0 lead going into the break. Odemwingie score his second of the night and West Brom’s third after the start in the 49th minute with some help from Fortune to put the nail in Sunderland’s coffin. The home side boasted on-target shots in the double digits (thirteen) while the visitors were only able to get a good glance at goal four times and were unable to force a single corner kick from the West Brom defense. As if Sunderland’s evening could not get any worse, Andrews finished them off in stoppage time to ensure the win for West Brom and send Sunderland home empty handed. Despite the win, West Brom dropped from 12th to 13th place thanks to Stoke’s victory over Swansea. They are safely above the relegation zone and continuous strong performances could mean that they finish out the season as high as 9th place, where Sunderland currently sit two points below Norwich City.
Wigan Athletic 0-0 Aston Villa: Despite fourteen corners and a combined fourteen attempts on goal, both on target and off, Wigan were left with only a point at the conclusion of their fixture with Aston Villa. The visiting side from Birmingham were surely hopeful of collecting three points at Wigan, who sits at the bottom of the table, but they were outplayed from the start of the match. Villa held only 40% of the possession and Albrighton, Collins, Agbonlahor and Cuellar were all booked as they grew frustrated with the Wigan possession and continuous attacks. The result didn’t cost either team their league positioning. Wigan are still bottom and their situation looks dire as they seem unable to produce any good results to pull them from the relegation spot zone and the bottom of the table. Aston Villa are in 15th place at tail end of the close-knit middle of the table. Only four points separate them from 8th place but with the unpredictable nature of the league, who knows where everyone will sit come the end of the season in May?
Manchester City 3-0 Blackburn Rovers: Manchester City continue to roll in the points as they hosted Blackburn Rovers at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. The controversial and highly entertaining Mario Balotelli scored City’s first goal in the 30th minute with some help from Kolarov and the scoreline was 1-0 at the half. Manchester City dominated, as expected, holding an impressive 77% of possession and shooting thirteen times on the target. Sergio Aguero scored the second goal for the home side in the 52nd minute and Edin Dzeko topped off the win in the 81st minute just two minutes after coming on for Balotelli. Manchester City are still top, but Manchester United are not giving them any slack as they trail by only two points. Blackburn still sit just inside the relegation zone, goal difference being the only thing standing between them and the 17th place safety spot.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham: London derbies rarely fail to entertain and that was certainly the case of the Arsenal and Tottenham derby. Arsenal were close to another blow to their European football hopes and Arsene Wenger was definitely in the hot seat as they hosted neighboring side Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium. The home fans were dealt a hard blow early on as Saha netted Tottenham’s first goal just four minutes from kickoff with an unfortunate deflection from Arsenal’s defense that went up and over the head of Szczesny. Emanuel Adebayor made it 2-0 in the 34th after Gareth Bale was fouled inside the Arsenal box but Sanga put his side back in the game in the 40th minute. Robin van Persie was sure to score this game, as he does almost every other game he plays, and made it 2-2 before halftime, boosting the morale of his team and the Arsenal supporters. Rosicky gave his team the lead in the 51st minute with a great finish past Brad Friedel and Tottenham began to unravel. Theo Walcott struck his first in the 65th and his second just three minutes later to finish off the visitors and send them home empty handed. The five goals put Arsenal above Chelsea on goal difference and they are now in 4th place and the last UEFA Champions League spot but Tottenham are a safe seven points clear of them in third place.
Norwich City 1-2 Manchester United: Manchester United are over the road bump they faced in the UEFA Champions League and are continuing their chase for the top spot in the Barclay’s Premier League. They travelled to Carrow Road to play a strong Norwich City side, whom they were able to beat 2-0 when they met in October thanks to youngsters Anderson and Welbeck. It would be the two veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs who brought home the three points for United. Scholes scored early on in the seventh minute, putting United up 1-0 for the remainder of the half and up until the 84th minute when Holt put the home side level 1-1. The elation for the home fans was short lived as United’s most loved midfielder Ryan Giggs scored the winner in the 91st minute. United trail City by just two points and Norwich sit in 8th place, two points above the 33-point four-way tie between Sunderland, Everton, Fulham and Stoke City.
Stoke City 2-0 Swansea City: Despite dominating with their quick passing and possessive play, Swansea were unable to find the back of Stoke’s net or keep the ball out of the back of their own. Upson put the ball past Swansea keeper Gerhard Tremmel in the 24th minute and Peter crouch added to it in the 39th before the half. Swansea had several good attempts on goal coming out of the break, but the match concluded in Stoke’s favor, the final scoreline 2-0 and all three points going to the home side. Stoke entered the 33 point fray, moving up above West Brom to 12th place while Swansea dropped down to 14th place with 30 points.