Culture of Hoops

Barclays Premier League Capsule: Gameweek 25

Image courtesy of Ben Sutherland/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Ben Sutherland/Flickr.

Chelsea is racing toward the title after late drama at Stamford Bridge, while Manchester City gets its first victory after going winless in its last four matches. Elsewhere, there are new faces in the relegation zone as the scramble for safety tightens up. Here’s all the news, review, and opinion from gameweek 25 with this week’s edition of the Barclays Premier League Capsule:

Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City

The Gunners recovered from their derby defeat to Tottenham and held off a battling Leicester to record all three points. Arsenal enjoyed a 2-0 half-time lead, but it was Leicester who won the first corner inside the first four minutes after Riyad Mahrez’s shot was blocked by defender Laurent Koscielny before he fizzed a shot wide of the goal eight minutes later. Arsenal recorded their first shot on target in the 15th  minute when Theo Walcott forced a save from keeper Mark Schwarzer. The returning Alexis Sanchez sent a header over moments later. Schwarzer had to make another save after Mesut Özil dribbled in the box before shooting on goal. Koscielny eventually scored from the resulting corner, meeting Özil’s accurate ball. Leicester battled on forcing Arsenal to stay on its toes. Leicester’s push to score always left them vulnerable in the back, and Arsenal took advantage when Özil’s shot wasn’t confidently saved by Schwarzer and Walcott pounced on the rebound. Leicester put in an inspired performance in the second half, testing Arsenal keeper David Ospina inside the first 15 minutes before Andrej Kramaric scored with a fierce, low shot. Santi Cazorla nearly restored Arsenal’s two-goal lead, but for a fine save from Schwarzer. The win moves Arsenal back to fifth, while Leicester remain bottom of the league.

Best Player:

Mesut Özil (Arsenal) – Provided two assists, and nearly scored on a couple of occasions. The German international now has two goals and three assists in his last three starts.

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester) – Was nuisance to Arsenal throughout the match, but his finishing let him down. He sent in a dangerous ball in the box that eventually led to Leicester’s goal.

Hull City 2-0 Aston Villa

The Villains sacked manager Paul Lambert after his team dropped into the relegation zone. Villa haven’t recorded a win since its 2-1 home victory against Leicester in December, and have only picked up three points from its last eleven games. Hull scored the opener after keeper Allan McGregor’s goal-kick was brought down brilliantly by new signing Dame N’Doye before he sent a ball to Nikica Jelavic whose deflected shot beat the helpless Brad Guzan. N’Doye almost scored when he sent a header wide before he scored moments later from six-yards out after Guzan made the first save. A McGregor double-save denied Villa any consolation, and Hull went on to record all three points. The win moves The Tigers out of the relegation zone and into 15th-place. Villa fans will be hoping their team can climb out of the relegation zone before the end of the season.

Best Player:

Dame N’Doye (Hull) – Scored and provided an assist in his first start since signing from Lokomotiv Moscow. The Senegalese forward could have had a couple more, looking determined throughout.

(Villa) – N/A

Sunderland 0-2 Queens Park Rangers

QPR recorded its first away win of the season, climbing out of the relegation zone in the process. QPR took a 2-0 halftime lead where Leroy Fer and Bobby Zamora both scored. Matthew Phillips sent a precise cross from the right into the box, that Fer met with a ferocious header. QPR’s opener was well deserved as they took advantage of the home team’s poor start. Into stoppage time, and Phillips sent another cross into the box, this time a low one into the path of the onrushing Zamora, whose first-time shot curled into the top corner. Sunderland couldn’t find a way back into the game and record its fifth home loss of the season, and drop to 15th. QPR, who is without a manager, gets its first away points of the season and is now 17th place.

Best Player:

(Sunderland) – N/A

Matthew Phillips (QPR) – Produced two quality crosses to help his team to victory. The midfielder hadn’t featured consistently under Harry Redknapp, but has started his last two matches, and will be hoping he can get more minutes before the end of the season.

Liverpool 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli scored his first goal of the season late in the match to help his team record all three points. Daniel Sturridge started his first match in the Premier League since August, and nearly scored inside the first 10 minutes when his tame shot was bundled up by Hugo Lloris. Steven Gerrard and Lazar Markovic both came close before Sturridge produced another save from Lloris. Markovic eventually made Liverpool’s dominance count when he scored the opener with a hard shot. Tottenham slowly came back into the match, and equalized after a good pass from Erik Lamela found Harry Kane who scored confidently. Jordon Ibe came close before Sturridge hit the post with a back-heel effort on the stroke of half-time. Almost immediately after the start of the second-half, the influential Sturridge was brought down in the box and Steven Gerrard stepped up to score the penalty. Simon Mignolet dove brilliantly to his right to keep out a vicious Lamela effort but was helpless when Tottenham eventually equalised, with Moussa Dembélé tucking in from close-range. Liverpool was determined to regain its lead, and eventually did when substitutes Adam Lallana and Balotelli linked up to give Liverpool the victory. Tottenham drops back to sixth-place as a result, while Liverpool record its fourth win in its last five Premier League matches.

Best Player:

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – Looked dangerous throughout the match, and nearly scored on a few occasions always disrupting the Tottenham defense with his pace and speed. He provided the assist for the opener and won the penalty for the second.

Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Scored yet again, and provided an assist to keep the pressure on Liverpool. The striker is quickly moving up the goal-scoring chart and now has 13 Premier League goals this season.

Chelsea 1-0 Everton

Chelsea scored a dramatic late winner to maintain its grip on the top of the Premier League table. Nemanja Matic sent a shot wide before Steven Naismith was lucky not to give away a penalty after the ball appeared to strike his arm in the box. Everton had the first real chance to score when Romelu Lukaku was sent in on goal, but his low drive was saved by the feet of Petr Cech. Tim Howard was forced into action moments later, saving a headed effort from Loic Remy. Howard made another fine save to deny Matic a goal from a free-kick as Chelsea shifted gears in the second-half. Cech showed his experience, reacting brilliantly to deny Lukaku a goal against his former club. Chelsea had a goal disallowed for offside after Matic’s strike hit Ivanovic on the shoulder before going into the net. Chelsea was fired up and with two-minutes remaining, Everton was down to 10 men. after Gareth Barry received his second yellow card. With two minutes of normal time remaining, Chelsea found the winner thanks to a clinical strike by Willian. Chelsea remain seven points clear at the top, while Everton’s worries continue as they remain 12th-place.

Best Player:

Petr Cech (Chelsea) –Has kept five clean sheets from all five of his Premier League appearances this season. He made several important saves to keep his team in the match.

Tim Howard (Everton) – Made a return from injury and the goalkeeper was on his toes the entire match. He could do very little about Willian’s effort, though.

Manchester United 3-1 Burnley

The Red Devils regain third-place after they recorded their third win in their last four Premier League matches. Miscommunication between Phil Jones and David De Gea almost led to a Burnley goal from a corner. Jones injured himself from the resulting corner and had to be replaced by Chris Smalling. But it was a blessing in disguise as the substitute scored immediately after coming on. Patrick McNair forced a save from Tom Heaton, and Smalling was aware to pounce on Radamel Falcao’s flick-on. Burnley responded astutely as Michael Kightly tested De Gea. Burnley continued to push forward, and Danny Ings scored with a diving header to level the scores. Ings almost added a second, but De Gea reacted well. United would go into the break one goal up after Smalling rose highest to meet an Angel Di Maria cross. Burnley looked to make an immediate impact in the second-half, and Ings almost scored again, but the brilliant De Gea was on the scene to deny him. United wasn’t at its best, but had a chance to seal the win when Di Maria was brought down in the box after Scott Arfield’s clumsy tackle. Robin van Persie sent Heaton the wrong way to secure all three points for United. United is back in third-place while Burnley’s back in the relegation zone.

Best Player:

Chris Smalling (Man United) – Probably didn’t think he was going to play today, but he came on and scored two important goals to ensure United got all three points.

Danny Ings (Burnley) – Could have had a hat-trick but for David De Gea’s brilliance. The striker did well to get into attacking positions, scoring with a smart header, but will be lamenting his missed chances.

Southampton 0-0 West Ham United

A goalless draw at St. Mary’s stadium means that Southampton is back to fourth-place, as the fight for Champions League spots heats up. Southampton nearly took an early lead, but Carl Jenkinson did well to clear Sadio Mane’s effort off the line. West Ham had to play the last thirty minutes with ten-men after goalkeeper Adrian was sent off after he handled the ball outside of his box. The over-confident keeper tried to dribble outside his own box, but was under pressure from Mane. Despite its man-advantage, Southampton couldn’t find the opener and Graziano Pelle was guilty of being wasteful in front of goal. Jussi Jaaskalainen made two saves, first from Jose Fonte and then Dusan Tadic, to deny Southampton a victory. West Ham remains eighth, and will be hoping that it can start moving up the table before the end of the season.

Best Player:

Sadio Mane (Southampton) – Was involved throughout the match, and could have scored on several occasions. The Senegalese international looks full of confidence at the moment, and will play an important part in Southampton’s quest for a top-four finish.

James Tomkins (West Ham) – Did well to keep Pelle quiet for large parts of the match. He marshaled his defense well after the red card and deserves his clean sheet.

Stoke City 1-4 Manchester City

The Champions dug deep and eventually ran away convincing winners against an in-form Stoke team. Stoke passed the ball around with confidence early on and Victor Moses forced Joe Hart into a fumble that led to a Stoke corner. Peter Crouch nearly scored from the resulting corner, but his header was blocked by James Milner. Crouch cried hand-ball, but play resumed. Crouch had a goal disallowed for offside, before Charles N’Zonzi tested Hart. Stoke continued to attack, it was City who scored first after Sergio Aguero finished superbly on the counter-attack. Stoke didn’t let their heads drop and equalized moments later when Crouch met Marko Arnautovic’s cross with his head. Agüero thought he had restored City’s lead, but his goal was disallowed for a hand ball. The teams went into the half level, but it was City who came out the stronger of the two after the break. James Milner scored inside the first 10 minutes of the second-half with a controlled header. City’s third came from the penalty spot after David Silva was brought down inside the box. Agüero stepped up to score his second of the match in emphatic style. Samir Nasri sealed the victory, if it was ever in doubt, with a clinical shot after a dizzying run in midfield. City is still on the hunt, and will no doubt keep prowling until the end of the season. Stoke, meanwhile, has picked up seven points from its last four Premier League matches and is still in 10thplace.

Best Player:

Peter Crouch (Stoke) – Is a big game player, and he proved it again, scoring and creating several goal-scoring opportunities. The tall Englishman now has six league goals this season, scoring in his second consecutive match.

Sergio Agüero (Man City) – Finally gets off the mark for 2015 with a brace. The Argentine’s last goal came on December 3 against Sunderland, but he was a handful throughout the match, and took his tally to 16 for the season.

Crystal Palace 1-1 Newcastle United

Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace had to come from behind to snatch a point against his old side. Palace was on the front foot immediately and after an exchange of passes between Maroune Chamakh and Wilfred Zaha, the latter forced a save from Tim Krul. Fraizer Campbell thought he had given his team the lead, but his header was ruled out for offside. Newcastle slowly got into the match, and when Palace failed to clear its lines, it was punished. Daryl Janmaat sent an inviting cross into the box where Papiss Cissé met it with his head. Newcastle offered little after their opener and was satisfied to sit back and defend. Palace kept moving forward, and with 20 minutes remaining, Campbell scored the equalizer after Yannick Bolasie’s dangerous cross. Zaha almost gave Palace the lead, but his shot was well blocked by the Newcastle defense. Time Krul was forced into a save late on as Newcastle held on for the draw. Newcastle remains 10th while Palace is slowly moving away from the danger zone; they sit 13th.

Best Player:

Fraizer Campbell (Palace) – Had a goal disallowed but looked determined and eventually got on the score sheet to record only his fourth goal of the season.

Papiss Cisse (Newcastle) – Scored with a powerful header and almost added a second one later on in the match, but his shot was well wide. The striker will be happy with his 10th Premier League goal of the season.

West Bromwich Albion 2-0 Swansea City

Tony Pulis’ side continues to climb up the table after their victory at home to Swansea. Lukasz Fabianski was forced into action early on as West Brom pushed for an early opener after he deflected Craig Dawson’s header away. Swansea’s first shot on target came as a result of its first corner. Striker Bafetimbi Gomis sent his shot straight into the arms of Ben Foster, however. West Brom took the lead in the second-half after Saido Berahino fed Brown Ideye who scored with precision. Swansea pushed for an equaliser but Wayne Routledge didn’t connect cleanly enough with Neil Taylor’s cut-back. West Brom did well to break-up Swansea’s efforts to move forward, and Saido Berahino doubled his team’s advantage after he curled in Brown Ideye’s pass into the net. The loss moves Swansea further away from the European places; they remain ninth.

Best Player:

Brown Ideye (West Brom) – Made his first full start since the last week of December and has now scored two goals in his last two matches. The potential strike partnership between him and Berahino should excite West Brom fans, indeed.

Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea) – Made a couple important saves early on to give his team a chance. He could do very little to prevent West Brom running out comfortable winners, though.

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