Inside the Brain of a Teenage Soccer Genius

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Monday, April 16, 2012

This Week in the EPL...

Young is once again the center of controversy after this dive
against QPR and his second dive against Villa on Sunday

Manchester United stay on top with a convincing win at Old Trafford against Aston Villa. Manchester City are not giving up the fight and proved that they are also a team with high quality striking ability when they demolished Norwich 6-1 on Saturday. Swansea are back on track after they secured three points from their fixture against drop zone side Blackburn Rovers at the Liberty Stadium while Sunderland and Wolves played out a mundane draw Stadium of Light. Arsene Wenger’s side dropped valuable points in their fixture against Wigan, who were in need of the boost as they face the danger of the relegation zone but their day was not all bad as their captain Robin van Persie was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award this afternoon.

Saturday April 14, 2012
Norwich City 1-6 Manchester City: Despite a lucky victory over Spurs at midweek, Norwich were unable to hold off Manchester City and their strike force. Carlos Tevez is back and in form just in the nick of time as Manchester City find themselves chasing neighborhood rivals Manchester United for the Premier League title after it looked to be theirs to lose just a few weeks ago.
Manchester City were presumably the first on the attack in the opening minutes. The home side were able to catch them on the counter quite quickly, however, nearly giving them an unexpected 1-0 lead. It would take some acrobatics from Joe Hart and an iffy goaline save from the City back four to keep the clean sheet for the visitors. Manchester City struck the first of their six in the eighteenth minute, the controversial Carlos Tevez struck a fantastic shot, sending the ball dipping and curving into the back of the net. Aguero then took his turn to shoot the ball, slamming a strike past Ruddy on the half-volley ten minutes after Tevez put his side ahead. Norwich managed some great attacks of their own in between the bombardment of their goal, but they were not as successful in converting their chances as the visitors. At halftime, City had the 2-0 lead but Norwich were still contending for the points.
With five minutes gone in the second half, Surman put his side on the score sheet and back into the game when he fired home a great shot past Joe Hart. Norwich had only awakened a beast. The visitors began to blast shot after shot at Ruddy, who was able to hold them off. His fellow keeper had to make some saves of his own at the other end, but not as nearly as many as the Norwich keeper found himself blocking. The Manchester City cut through the home side’s defense with ease and continued to dominate the attack. Tevez netted his second of the match in the 73rd minute, heading the ball over the head of Ruddy after the goalie was caught on the ground making saving the initial shot from Toure. Aguero also got a second in the game just minutes later with a beautiful curling shot into the side netting. Tevez polished off a hattrick after bring out of action for Manchester City for several weeks. His goal definitely secured the win for City, but Adam Johnson’s goal in stoppage time was the icing on the cake for the visitors as they continue their pursuit of the title.
At the end of the day, it was not a dominant performance from the visiting Manchester side. Norwich still held 47% of the overall possession, however the visitors had seventeen on target shots to the eight from the hosts. Joe Hart saved his side many times, as did Ruddy but the finishing quality of Manchester City was just too great for the newly promoted Norwich side to handle.
Sunderland 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers: A much needed point for Wolves, but they are still anchored at the bottom of the table doomed for relegation with 23 points, the next closest team, Blackburn Rovers, with 28. Sunderland are clear of the relegation zone, but any chances of passing Liverpool to move up to eight place were dealt a blow when they were unable to take all three points from the home fixture.
It’s safe to say that relegation is inevitable for Wolves now that they sit at the bottom of the table byfive points and nine points below the safe zone. The fixture opened slowly, with neither side looking like they had the ambition to chase the three points. Sunderland were the first to make an attack but the effort was put well over the bar. Sunderland continued to press the visitors, forcing saves from one of the only consistent players on the Wolves side, Wayne Hennessey. He had a good performance in the goal, stopping the six on-target shots from Sunderland. Sunderland continued to press, but Wolves created their chances well, building from the back and making smart runs into the middle. At halftime, both sides had created opportunities but hadn’t been able to convert them to goals. The scoreline was 0-0 when the teams went into the locker rooms at the break.
Sunderland were the first to attack again in the second half, pressuring the Wolves defense which has now earned a reputation for letting attacking players slip through quite easily. The home side barely dominated, holding 51% of the overall possession but Wolves managed to get eight on-target shots compared to the six from the home side. Both teams continued to create promising chances at goal but great saves from both keepers and a few big misses from attacking players meant that the scoreline ultimately remained 0-0 with each team receiving a single point.
Swansea City 3-0 Blackburn Rovers: Blackburn slipped deeper into the relegation zone after failing to produce any points against Swansea. The Welsh side were suffering from consecutive losses in the English Premier League but are now back on track and can try to climb higher on the table before the end of the season. Swansea are comfortably positioned 12th place, moving up from 14th thanks to the points and three goals from the fixture. Blackburn remain in 19th place five points above Wolves at the bottom but three points from the safety spot of 17th place.
Swansea were not promising in the opening minutes, making a scrappy tackle on Yakubu in their box but only conceding a corner kick and managing to clear it. After a period of Blackburn attacks, they were then able to settle into their usual style of passing and dictated much of the first half. It would take 37 minutes for Swansea to find the back of the net after they passed the ball around in Blackburn’s half for much of the first period of the game. Hoffenheim midfielder Sigurdsson sent a lofty shot over the arms of Robinson. Five minutes later, Swansea added to the scoreline with a goal from Nathan Dyer. The Swansea attack was able to easily pass the ball around the Blackburn defense, moving the ball away from the feet of the chasing Blackburn defenders before Dyer put it in the back of the net. At halftime, the scoreline was 2-0 in favor of the home side.
Dyer was very nearly on the scoreline again when he made the first real attempt at goal. Robinson denied him but started to struggle as Swansea got more and more shots off as the half went on. Swansea continued their dominant play throughout the second half, holding the ball mostly in the front third of Blackburn’s half. After several attempts on goal and a good effort from Paul Robinson to keep the ball out of the back to his net, an unfortunate deflection from his own defender topped off a great run and show of individual skill from Dyer.
Even after their third goal in the 63rd minute, Swansea continued to press the Blackburn defense but were unable to put another goal past Robinson. Vorm made his contribution to the match as well, denying the Blackburn strike force on several occasions and keeping a well-deserved clean sheet for his side.
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Queens Park Rangers: Queens Park Rangers are far from safe as they teeter above the relegation zone. West Bromwich are safely above the drop zone in 13th place with 42 points in between Swansea and Stoke, who also hold 42 points.
Queens Park Rangers were quickly on the attack in the first few minutes following the starting whistle. The possession was soon easily matched, however, and a good portion of the opening half was played out in the midfield. West Brom were easily able to penetrate the Queens Park Rangers defense after the midfield was dispossessed, saved from conceding only by Patty Kenny in their goal. Kenny was not able to stop the stunning strike from Durrans from about 30 yards away from the Rangers goal. The keeper got finger tips to the ball, but the shot was just too powerful and it smashed into the back of the net, putting the home side up 1-0 in the 22nd minute. Neither side were able to find the back of the net before the half, and the scoreline was 1-0 at the break.
The second half opened with scrappy play from both sides. Several turnovers occurred in the midfield and neither team was able to find a good rhythm to their play. Queens Park Rangers were the first to settle in and ultimately ended up with the narrow majority of the possession. Durrans made an attempt at goal from range again, but his shot went bouncing harmlessly into the arms of Kenny. Overall, West Brom enjoyed ten shots on target to the six of the visitors. QPR were given more corner kick opportunities to try to move ahead, but they were unable to convert them to goals.
At the end of the day, West Brom left the fixture with all three points and Queens Park Rangers were unable to escape the depths of the bottom of the table. They are out of the relegation zone but only by two points. Bolton threaten to push them back into the dreaded 18th place spot if they are unable to produce good results in the final weeks of the season.
Sunday April 15, 2012
Manchester United 4-0 Aston Villa: United were not about to drop points after neighbors Manchester City racked up the goals in their fixture against Norwich. After a bump in the road against Wigan in their midweek fixture, Manchester United were ready to get a convincing result and prove that they deserve to be at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Villa were the first to attack the hosts, but Abonglahor’s effort bounced safely into the hands of De Gea between the posts for Manchester United. Manchester United were quickly on the attack down the wings with help from defenders Rafael on the right and Evra on the left. United held possession easily until the 7th minute when Wayne Rooney put the home side up 1-0 with a penalty kick. Ashley Young was caught up in penalty kick controversy yet again after his dive against QPR last weekend when he went to ground very easily under a challenge from the Villa defense. Rooney converted the kick and United had the lead. United continued their domination of Villa, creating several great chances for themselves but not finding the back of the net until English striker Danny Welbeck got his name on the score sheet for his club when he capitalized on a loose cross from Young on the wing. The goal came just before the half and United were able to leave the pitch at Old Trafford for the halftime break with the 2-0 lead.
It would only get worse for the visitors as the home side failed to turn down their pressure cooker of an offense in the second half. Possession started in favor of the current league leaders and Welbeck and Rooney were quickly connecting up front, creating good chances early on. Over the course of the match, the home side held 57% of the possession and had seventeen on-target shots and eleven corners. United’s third and Rooney’s second came in the 73rd minute. Valencia found the unmarked Rooney prowling at the top of the box and got the ball to his feet. The finish was just as clever as he passed the ball between the legs of Collins and into the back of the net. There would be no hattrick for Rooney as he was replaced by Dimitar Berbatov in the 74th minute. Nani put the icing on the cake for United and topped off the win with a cool tap-in past Given and an even more impressive back flip celebration.
Aston Villa are above the relegation zone, but poor performances could prove costly to their campaign and they may end up attempting to dodge relegation in the closing fixtures of the season. Manchester United are top by five points, but for them a slip of form could cost them the title.
Monday April 16, 2012
Arsenal 1-2 Wigan Athletic: Two back-to-back goals in the first half from Wigan meant that PFA Player of the Year nominee Robin van Persie and his side left the fixture empty handed. Wigan were teetering on the edge of the relegation zone, but if they can keep these consistently reasonable performances they should be set for another season in the Premier League.
Arsenal opened the game with good possession and promising attacks. Center back Thomas Vermaelen had the first strike of the game for the home side but his effort went wide of the Wigan post. Arsenal were still on the attack when they were caught on the quick counter by the visitors. Young striker Di Santo lead a picture perfect counter attack against the hosts, scoring his first goal since November when he got on the end of his own chip over Szczesny. No sooner had the Polish keeper picked the ball out of the back of the net did he find himself bending over to pick the ball up again after just one minute. Arsenal’s defense was left in a shattered, shocked mess as they found themselves 2-0 down in the opening ten minutes after they had dominated the first five and could have easily been 1-0 when Di Santo netted the first of the game. Wigan continued to press them and to dominate the attacking play. Wigan simmered down, and Arsenal were able to begin creating chances at goal. The match became so open, it was hard to predict who was going to attack next. Arsenal had been pressing the Wigan goal, knocking the ball around the eighteen yard box when Rosicky sent a curling ball straight to Vermaelen. The Belgian center back met the cross and put the ball right past Al Habsi, snagging a much-needed goal for the home side. The half remained open but at the break it was still a 2-1 scoreline in favor of the visitors.
Although the pace and speed of the attack had slowed, the second half was just as opened as the first. Both sides created decent opportunities and forced some strong work from Al Habsi and Szczesny between the posts for the two sides. In the end, the home side barely out possessed the visitors and had nine shots on target and nine shots wide. Wigan were forced to play very defensively for the second half, but in the end their two goals in the opening ten minutes of the match were enough to keep them the three points from the match and to pull them from the terrifying depths of the relegation zone. Arsenal’s poor form could cost them the third place spot at the end of the season. They are still five points ahead of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur but more losses to sides like Wigan who they are expected to beat could prove costly. Wigan are not out of the woods yet. They sit in 16th place but are only five points ahead of Bolton Wanderers, who occupy the first drop zone spot. They will need to continue to produce good results if they want to see another year in the premiership. 

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