Culture of Hoops

Barclays Premier League Capsule: Gameweek 23

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald/Flickr.

Things are sweltering at the top of the table as we get set for a tight finish to the Premier League season. The relegation battle is wide-open as well, as clubs claw and climb over one another to avoid the drop. Here’s all the news, review, and opinion from an action-packed gameweek 23 of the Barclays Premier League:

Hull City 0-3 Newcastle United

Newcastle win their first Premier League match since Alan Pardew’s departure, leaving Hull in the relegation zone. This was also their first league win of 2015, their last win coming against Everton in late December. Remy Cabella gave the visitors the lead five minutes before the end of the first half with a left-footed strike from 18-yards after a defensive error from Hull. Newcastle started the second half the stronger side, and with five minutes played, they took advantage of another Hull mistake to double their advantage. Jack Colback picked up a loose pass in Hull’s half, played in Sammy Ameobi who, from 25-yards out, didn’t need an invitation to shoot, firing the ball into the net. Hull enjoyed most of the possession, but couldn’t beat an inspired Tim Krul in goal. With a little over 12-minutes remaining, it was Newcastle who found the third and final goal of the match. Yoan Gouffran made an incisive run through the Hull defense before sending a deflected shot into the back of the net—his second in his last two matches. Newcastle remain 11th, but look in good shape to stay in the Premier League. Hull, meanwhile, haven’t scored in their last three outings and are one-point away from the safe-zone.

Best Player:

(Hull) – N/A

Remy Cabella (Newcastle) – has been in good form in recent gameweeks, making his third consecutive start. The Frenchman scored his first goal for his club, and was a strong presence throughout the match. He will be hoping to notch a few more before the end of the season.

Crystal Palace 0-1 Everton

Alan Pardew’s fairy-tale start at Palace comes to an end after his suffer defeat for the first time under his management. Everton, who hadn’t won a Premier League match since their 3-1 home win against QPR, took the lead inside the first two minutes. Steven Naismith sent a shot towards goal from the left-side of Palace’s box, but the keeper could only flick it onto the on-rushing Romelu Lukaku to bundle home. Palace almost found an equaliser moments later through Dwight Gayle, but Phil Jagielka was on the line to clear the ball and prevent his team from conceding. Palace continued to pile the pressure with Maroune Chamakh and Jason Puncheon both coming close, but Everton’s defense was firm. The Toffees almost doubled their advantage late on, but Aiden McGeady’s shot was saved by Julian Speroni before Lukaku sent a shot into the side netting. Despite the win, Everton remain 12th place while Palace are one spot below them in 13th.

Best Player:

Julian Speroni (Palace) – was only tested a couple times, but he did well to stay focused and keep his team in the match. He made one spectacular save to deny McGeady a goal late in the match.

Phil Jagielka (Everton) – did extremely well to react and clear what looked a certain goal off his own line. The England international barely put a foot wrong, and was up for the challenge when Palace pressed for an equaliser. Deserved his clean sheet.

Liverpool 2-0 West Ham

The Reds make it three wins in-a-row as they put their Capital One Cup semi-final defeat behind them. Liverpool started the stronger side, with Raheem Sterling enjoying lots of possession inside West Ham’s half. The Hammers defended well though, but Liverpool continued to search for the opening goal. Former Red, Andy Carroll was a threat from set-pieces and corners, but he couldn’t find that clinical header. The best chance of the first half fell to Lazar Markovic, who sent his shot wide of the post. Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty after Sterling was felled in the box, but the referee waved play on, and when Markovic was through on goal, he couldn’t find the target. The first half ended goalless, but Liverpool found the opener moments after the restart. The influential Sterling finished neatly after being sent in on goal. West Ham continued to press forward, but it was Liverpool who doubled their advantage when Daniel Sturridge scored. Sturridge hadn’t played for Liverpool since August 31 because of an injury, but he looked in top-form sending a right-footed strike past Adrian in net. Liverpool remain in contention for a top-four spot, they move up to seventh-place. West Ham’s poor form continues as they drop to eighth-place.

Best Player:

Raheem Sterling (Liverpool) – was a menace the entire match, twisting and turning the West Ham defenders. He worked impressively well with Philippe Coutinho, and it was an exchange between the two that led to the opener. He has five Premier League goals so far this season, and will be hoping he hits double-digits before the end of the season.

Adrian (West Ham) – made some crucial saves to deny Liverpool an easy victory. He was helpless for the first goal, but probably shouldn’t have been beaten at his near post for the second. The Spaniard made five saves to take his tally for the season to 78.

Manchester United 3-1 Leicester City

It wasn’t to be another upset, as The Red Devils recorded a convincing victory this time around against Leicester. United always looked comfortable in possession, as Leicester were content to sit behind the ball, but they couldn’t find a final ball. It wasn’t until the 27th minute when Daley Blind won the ball in the Leicester half before finding Robin van Persie who fired past Mark Schwarzer in goal. United found their rhythm, and five minutes later they doubled their advantage when Radamel Falcao scrambled home Angel Di Maria’s saved effort. Any thoughts of a dream comeback were dashed when Wes Morgan sent the ball into his own net moments before the half time whistle to give United a three goal advantage. Leicester started the second half with intent, but they couldn’t trouble the United defense. They eventually found a goal late in the match, when Marcin Wasilewski headed the ball past David de Gea. It proved only a consolation as United went on to record the victory. Leicester remain at the pit of the Premier League table, while United are now third place, 10 points from leaders Chelsea.

Best Player:

Daley Blind (Man United) – was tasked with guarding the defensive line, and he did it exceptionally well. The Dutchman worked well to move the ball forward, and provided two assists as a result.

(Leicester) – N/A

Stoke City 3-1 Queens Park Rangers

Queens Park are still without a win on their travels, and remain in the bottom three after this defeat. The Potters, who are without influential striker Bojan Krkić for the rest of the season, played well and are on course to remain in the Premier League for another season. Jonathan Walters gave Stoke the lead inside the first 20 minutes with a right-footed effort after Stephan Ireland took advantage of poor Queens Park defending. Victor Moses almost doubled Stoke’s advantage with a curling free-kick, but his effort went just wide of the top corner. Stoke eventually doubled their advantage moments later, and it was Ireland again who pounced on a sloppy pass from Queens Park to set-up Walters for his second. Queens Park found a goal two-minutes later when Charlie Austin’s deflected shot found Niko Kranjcar who tucked home. Queens Park were back in the game and almost equalised moments after the restart but Eduardo Vargas’ bicycle kick was saved. They had another chance to equalise from Joey Barton’s free-kick, but Asmir Begovic made a spectacular save to deny the Englishman. Stoke City made it three late in the match, when Jonathan Walters charged into the box with a header to seal his hat-trick. The win keeps Stoke in 10th place, while Queens Park remain second from bottom.

Best Player:

Jonathan Walters (Stoke) – scored a perfect hat-trick, netting with his right foot, left foot, and head. The Ireland international now has seven league goals this season and is one goal away from his personal best of eight in the 2012/2013 season.

Niko Kranjcar (QPR) – scored before the end of the first half to bring his team back in the game. QPR took the initiative after his goal and were unlucky not to find an equaliser. The Croatian is a Harry Redknapp favorite, and he will be hoping to continue to repay his manager’s faith in him.

Sunderland 2-0 Burnley

The Black Cats record their first win of 2015 at home to relegation threatened Burnley. The win was only their second home win of the season. Sunderland put the ball in the net early in the match, but the referee had already blown for a foul to the dismay of the supporters. Connor Wickham eventually found the opener with a headed effort after Anthony Reveillere did well to send a cross into the box. Burnley’s George Boyd came close to finding an equaliser, but he slipped at the crucial moment and scuffed his effort. Sunderland doubled their advantage five minutes later, and it was new signing Jermaine Defoe who poked home a Patrick van Aanholt lay-off. Defoe could have scored again in the second half, but his effort on goal was a tame one. Burnley continued to search for a goal, and almost found one late in stoppage time, but Costel Pantilimon was equal to Jason Shackell’s header. Sunderland move four points away from the relegation zone and are now 14th place. Burnley, meanwhile, remain in 17th place, one-point away from the drop-zone.

Best Player:

Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland) – defended well and got into attacking positions as well. The former Chelsea left-back stormed forward on several occasions and even grabbed an assist—his third of the season.

(Burnley) – N/A

West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Tony Pulis recorded his first defeat as West Brom boss, while Tottenham continue their push for a European spot. Tottenham found the opening goal inside the first seven minutes when Christian Eriksen scored a fantastic free-kick. Moussa Dembele was fouled before he took a shot which led to the free-kick, and Eriksen made no mistake with his effort. Tottenham doubled their lead eight minutes later, this time the in-form Harry Kane sent a ruthless shot past Ben Foster after collecting a Dembele pass. James Morrison thought he had pulled one back for West Brom, but he could only watch agonisingly as Hugo Lloris made a wonderful fingertip save. Lloris made another significant save minutes later after a creatively worked West Brom free-kick. Claudio Jacob struck the ball from a few yards out and Lloris did well to palm it out of danger. West Brom continued to push forward, and they were unlucky not to score when Craig Dawson’s effort came back off the crossbar. Tottenham started the second half stronger, and Eriksen nearly scored his second, but his shot went just wide of the post. They were awarded a penalty after Joleon Lescott handled inside his box, and Harry Kane stepped up to score his second of the match. Tottenham remain sixth place and remain one of the favorites to claim that fourth Champions League spot. West Brom, on the other hand, are three points away from the relegation zone, they sit in 15th place.

Best Player:

(West Brom) – N/A

Harry Kane (Tottenham) – has now scored eight goals in his last eight Premier League matches to take his tally for the season to 10 goals, and 20 in all competitions. The young Englishman looks better and better after each gameweek, and he has definitely done enough to receive a call-up to the national team.

Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City

The mouth-watering clash between the Premier League’s top two teams ended in a stalemate, but it wasn’t without controversy. Chelsea were without leading goalscorer Diego Costa, and talisman Cesc Fabregas, and there were early signs that they would miss the two. City had the first real chance right after kick-off, and Jesus Navas’ shot stung the palms of Thibaut Courtois in goal. Chelsea offered very little going forward, and they were almost punished after Branislav Ivanovic was caught in possession, but Sergio Aguero’s effort was well saved by Courtois. Chelsea almost profited from a City defensive error when Loic Remy dispossessed Vincent Kompany, but when the ball eventually fell to Oscar, he sent a weak shot into the arms of Joe Hart in goal. Chelsea scored first just before the half time interval after a strong counter attack. Ivanovic sent the ball into Eden Hazard who hit a first time ball across the face of goal with Remy waiting to tap home. City found the equaliser moments through David Silva. The Spaniard slid in to connect with an Aguero shot that was just going wide. The goal came after Chelsea felt that City shouldn’t have had a throw-in. Replays suggested that Hazard had kept the ball in play, but the referee gave the decision against them. City dominated the second half as Chelsea failed to register a single shot on goal but couldn’t find a winner. The draw leaves Chelsea five points clear at the top with City still chasing.

Best Player:

Willian (Chelsea) – looked like he was playing for his position, and that may be the case after reports confirmed that Chelsea have signed Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado. The Brazilian barely put a foot wrong in the match, and it was his strength and perseverance that led to the opener. He was substituted through injury, but will be hoping he did enough to keep his place in the team.

Fernandinho (Man City) – was strong in the middle of the pitch to deny Chelsea any easy passes. He has really stepped up since the absence of Yaya Toure, and the Brazilian looks in top form. He did particularly well to minimize the threat of Hazard and Oscar.

Arsenal 5-0 Aston Villa

A host of players returned from injury for The Gunners as they look to push forward strongly as the season is coming towards its climax. Arsenal scored the first goal after eight minutes when Mesut Ozïl flicked the ball towards Olivier Giroud who rushed towards goal and beat Brad Guzan. Santi Cazorla hit the bar before Ozïl had a goal disallowed, before Villa almost grabbed an equaliser. Villa started the second half with purpose, but Christian Benteke’s shot was wide. Arsenal doubled their lead moments later when Giroud, this time, found Ozïl who struck clinically into the back of the net. Theo Walcott scored a third goal with a curling effort. Giroud hit the crossbar with a header before Guzan brought down Chuba Akpom in the box, giving away the penalty. Despite getting hands to it, Guzan couldn’t keep out Cazorla’s well struck penalty. Arsenal continued to dominate and create plenty chances. Hector Bellerin found a fifth goal in stoppage time to seal the victory. Arsenal are fifth place, with only goal-difference separating them and Southampton in fourth. Villa haven’t scored a single goal in their last six Premier League matches. They edge closer to the relegation zone and are now in 16th place.

Best Player:

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) – provided two assists and scored a clinical penalty to help his team to victory. The Spaniard now has two goals and three assists in his last two matches. He will be an important player as Arsenal aim to finish the season off strongly.

(Villa) – N/A

Southampton 0-1 Swansea City

The Saints suffer a rare defeat at home as they concede third-spot. Southampton had the first chance of the match, but James Ward-Prowse’s effort was saved by Lukasz Fabianski. Swansea’s Bafetimbi Gomis had a chance to give his team the lead, but his curling effort went wide of the post. Jonjo Shelvey hit the post in the second half as Swansea began to up the tempo. It was Shelvey who netted the winner late in the match with a sensational strike from 20-yards out. Southampton almost equalised minutes later after Sadio Mane found an opening, but his strike was cleared off the line by defender Ashley Williams. Southampton’s day got worse after left-back Ryan Bertrand was shown a straight red-card for a clumsy challenge on Modou Barrow. The loss means Southampton move to fourth-place, but they will be hoping that they can remain in contention for a top-four finish. Swansea, meanwhile, remain ninth-place but will be happy with this victory, no doubt.

Best Player:

(Southampton) – N/A

Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea) – was involved throughout the match and always looked the most likely player to break the deadlock. His strike was only his second Premier League goal of the season, but what a strike it was.

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