Culture of Hoops

Barclays Premier League Capsule: Gameweek 26

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald/Flickr.

The Premier League title-race is re-ignited after a controversial gameweek that saw the gap between first and second-place reduced to five points. The battle for the Champions League spots is well under way with four points separating seventh-place from third. With three of the bottom-four level on points, the relegation battle has begun as teams attempt to claw their way out of the drop-zone. Check out this, and more from an exciting gameweek 26 of the Premier League with this week’s edition of the Barclays Premier League Capsule:

Aston Villa 1-2 Stoke City

Tim Sherwood’s reign at Villa Park begins with defeat as The Potters come from behind to snatch all three points, and extend Villa’s winless streak to 11 matches. Villa opened the scoring after 20 minutes after Scott Sinclair met Fabian Delph’s cross with a powerful header. Victor Moses tested Brad Guzan moments later before Mame Biram Diouf equalised on the stroke of half-time for the visitors. The teams went into the break level. Villa produced the first real chance in the second-half when Christian Benteke sent a header wide of the post after good work from the impressive Sinclair. There was late drama as Ron Vlaar conceded a penalty in stoppage time after he was beaten by Moses. Vlaar was shown his second yellow within minutes of receiving his first. Moses stepped up nonchalantly to send Guzan the wrong way and give Stoke the win. Villa remain in the relegation zone while Stoke remain 10th place.

Best Player:

Scott Sinclair (Villa) – didn’t enjoy the most prolific period of his career while at Manchester City where he spent most of his time on the bench. Villa only had a couple shots on goal, but Sinclair always looked dangerous with his pace. The goal was his first since August 2012.

Victor Moses (Stoke) – scored only his second Premier League goal of the season, but he was always a threat to Villa’s defense. It was his pace that forced Vlaar into making a mistake and conceding a penalty.

Chelsea 1-1 Burnley

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table is reduced to five points after a controversial match at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea who had collected 34 points from 36 at home before this draw almost made the perfect start after new-signing Juan Cuadrado had a header saved by Tom Heaton. Cuadrado was involved again as he worked hard to keep the ball and find Eden Hazard who sent a pass to Branislav Ivanovic to score. The controversy began in the 30th minute after Ashley Barnes escaped a yellow-card after he appeared to kick Ivanovic behind the knee. The Referee waved play-on despite Ivanovic’s protests. Moments later, Ivanovic’s shot struck the out-stretched arm of Michael Kightly, but the referee again waved play on. Chelsea had another penalty claim ignored when Diego Costa appeared to be pushed off the ball inside Burnley’s box. Again, the referee waved play on. Chelsea went into the break ahead, but frustrated. Burnley forced Thibaut Courtois into action soon after the break. With 70 minutes played, Chelsea had Nemanja Matic sent off for violent conduct after he reacted to a challenge from Barnes. Replays suggested that perhaps Barnes should have seen red as well after it appeared that he went studs-first into Matic’s leg. With 10 minutes left, Burnley almost equalised but for the impressive Courtois. But the Belgian could do little to prevent Ben Mee from equalising with a powerful header. Burnley remain in the relegation zone only on goal-difference, but they will be boosted with the point away to Chelsea.

Best Player:

Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) – has now scored four goals in the Premier League this season and is one goal away from his personal best. The defender has been prolific for The Blues in front of goal, but his discipline lets him down at times.

Ben Mee (Burnley) – rose highest to meet the corner and score a priceless goal for his club. At this stage of the season, every goal counts. The header was only his second league goal this season.

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal

The Gunners have done well to recover from their derby defeat to rivals Tottenham, and are now third in the table after this win. Arsenal started the stronger side, and were awarded for their efforts after Danny Welbeck was fouled in the box. Santi Cazorla stepped up and coolly sent the ball into the back of the net. Welbeck was involved again after his shot was saved by Julian Speroni, but Olivier Giroud was on hand to score the rebound and double Arsenal’s advantage. Crystal Palace started the second-half stronger, but Jason Puncheon sent his shot wide. They were almost punished when Arsenal broke on the counter-attack, but Alexis Sanchez could only fizz his shot wide of the post. Palace continued to push forward and they almost scored from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty box, but Puncheon’s effort curled wide. They eventually got their consolation goal in stoppage time when Glen Murray bundled in his shot. Murray could have equalised, but his header in the dying minutes of stoppage time came back off the post. The loss leaves Palace in 13th place.

Best Player:

Yannick Bolasie (Palace) – eventually got into the game in the second-half, and troubled Arsenal with his pace and vision. The winger nearly scored from a tight angle, and it was his cross that almost led to the equaliser.

Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) – has now scored three goals and has provided three assists in his last five Premier League matches. The Spaniard is in form, and he looks to be a key player as Arsenal push forward for automatic Champions League qualification.

Hull City 2-1 Queens Park Rangers

QPR couldn’t make it back-to-back away wins after their loss to Hull but still manage to avoid the relegation zone on goal-difference. Hull meanwhile have won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Hull opened the scoring after a mistake from Steven Caulker, the defender headed a weak clearance into the feet of Nikica Jelavic who volleyed superbly into the net. Although Hull looked the better side, it was end-to-end football until the 33rd minute when QPR captain, Joey Barton was shown a straight red for improper misconduct—he wacked Tom Huddlestone in the nuts. Despite being reduced to 10-men, QPR didn’t let their heads drop and found the equaliser six minutes later through Charlie Austin who headed in clinically from Matthew Phillips’ cross. The teams went into the break level. Hull were patient in the second-half, but their best chance came in the 89th minute when Dame N’Doye had a point-blank header saved brilliantly by Robert Green. However, seconds later N’Doye made no mistake with his second effort, beating Green with his head. Hull climb the table, and are now in 15th place.

Best Player:

Dame N’Doye (Hull) – has been a massive signing for the club since his arrival from Russia. The Senegalese forward didn’t let his head drop after Green had denied him, and scored moments later. He has now scored two goals in two consecutive Premier League starts.

Charlie Austin (QPR) – returned from injury and scored with a clinical header. The striker now has 14 league goals, and still looks the key-man to keep his side away from relegation.

Sunderland 0-0 West Bromwich Albion

The Black Cats record their seventh goalless draw of the season, despite enjoying most of the possession. Sunderland had a chance to take the lead early in the match when they were awarded a free-kick after Joleon Lescott brought down Danny Graham, but the effort was wasteful. Sunderland’s Ricardo Alvarez sent a shot wide before Jermaine Defoe’s effort fizzed across the goal. Adam Johnson thought he had found the opener, but his effort was ruled out for offside although replays appeared to show that he was level with the last defender. Sebastian Larsson had Sunderland’s first effort on goal when he forced Ben Foster into a save with a long-range shot. The first-half ended goalless, but Sunderland should have been ahead. Sunderland began the second-half where they left off the first, but they couldn’t find that elusive goal. West Brom were reduced to long-range efforts, as neither team was able to break the dead-lock. The draw leaves Sunderland in 16th place while West Brom are 14th place.

Best Player:

John O’Shea (Sunderland) – marshalled his defense strongly and denied West Brom’s clinical strike-duo any sight of goal. The defender has started all of Sunderland’s Premier League matches this season and has nine clean-sheets so far.

(West Brom) – N/A

Swansea City 2-1 Manchester United

Despite taking the lead, Manchester United conceded twice and drop to fourth-place as a result. Swansea nearly opened the scoring early-on when Bafetimbi Gomis headed towards goal, but Ander Herrera reacted well to clear off the line. United responded moments later, but Robin van Persie’s effort from a wide angle came off the bar. United began to display their dominance, and after a few half-chances, United took the lead when Herrera struck clinically into the back of the net. Their lead only lasted two minutes when Sung-Yeung Ki equalised for Swansea. The teams went into the break level, but it was Swansea who nearly took the lead after the restart. Ki was involved again, but David De Gea was aware and saved well. United began to dominate possession, but they couldn’t produce enough in front of goal. United were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal when Jonjo Shelvey’s deflected strike beat De Gea. Swansea were ahead against the run-of-play, and eventually held on to claim all three points. The win solidifies their place in ninth as they push forward for a European spot.

Best Player:

Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea) – sent in a clinical cross for the opener, and tried an audacious effort from range to give his team the win. The former Liverpool midfielder is quickly becoming a hero at Swansea.

Ander Herrera (Man United) – did very well to clear off the line in the first half before scoring the opening goal for his side. He was involved throughout as United enjoyed most of the possession, but he couldn’t help his team to victory.

Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle

The Champions won emphatically to keep the pressure on leaders Chelsea and re-ignite the title-race. City were awarded a penalty after just 28 seconds of play when Vurnon Anita brought down Edin Dzeko inside the box. Sergio Aguero stepped up to take the spot-kick and made no mistake to give City the lead. Moments later, City doubled their lead when David Silva found Samir Nasri who sent his shot into the roof of the net. Aguero could have had a second before Dzeko eventually scored the third after a good ball from David Silva. Newcastle provided very little in the first-half, but they nearly got back into the game at the start of the second-half after Papiss Cisse forced Joe Hart into making a save. Despite Newcastle’s best efforts to get forward, it was Man City who found the net again after Silva’s cool finish. The Spaniard scored his second two minutes later with a sweetly struck shot just outside the penalty box. The high score-line offered manager Manuel Pellegrini a chance to give new-signing Wilfried Bony a few minutes, and the Ivorian striker almost scored on his debut, but he was denied by the outstretched foot of Tim Krul. Newcastle have only won twice in their last 10 matches, and as result they drop to 11th place.

Best Player:

David Silva (Man City) – put the game to bed after Newcastle looked like they might just force their way back into it. The Spaniard now has nine Premier League goals this season, and looks in top-form with 12 gameweeks remaining.

(Newcastle) – N/A

Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 West Ham United

The Hammers threw away a two-goal lead in the last nine minutes to settle for a draw against London rivals Tottenham. Tottenham should have taken an early lead but for an amazing save from West Ham keeper Adrian. Nabil Bentaleb sent a scorching shot towards goal, but Adrian dove brilliantly to keep the effort out. Moments later, top-scorer Harry Kane hit the post, and Tottenham were beginning to get worried. West Ham profited from poor Tottenham defending to take the lead. Aaron Cresswell sent a cross into the box, and Cheikhou Kouyate met it with his head to give The Hammers the lead. Tottenham looked shaky in the second-half, and West Ham eventually made them pay in the 62nd minute when Diafra Sakho scored to double West Ham’s advantage. The Hammers continued to push forward, but the impressive Hugo Lloris was on hand to deny them a third. Tottenham thought they had scored their first, only for Harry Kane to be flagged for offside. The Spurs kept piling the pressure and they eventually found their goal through Danny Rose’s effort. With seconds remaining, the referee awarded Tottenham a penalty after Alex Song fouled Kane in the box. Kane stepped up, and although Adrian saved the penalty, he could only deflect the rebound back into the path of Kane who finished well. The draw leaves West Ham in eighth-place while Tottenham drop to seventh.

Best Player:

Adrian (West Ham) – made a string of very important saves to keep his team in the match. He should have done better with the punched clearance that eventually led to Tottenham’s first goal, but he was unlucky to concede after saving Kane’s penalty.

Harry Kane (Tottenham) – hit the post, had a goal disallowed, missed a penalty, but still managed to get on the score sheet and help rescue his team. Kane has now scored 11 goals in his last 10 Premier League matches to take his total for the season to 14.

Everton 2-2 Leicester City

Leicester were denied a victory late on in the match after they came from behind to initially take the lead. Leicester did well to force the first save from Everton’s Tim Howard after a neat exchange of passes between Riyad Mahrez and Jeffrey Schlupp. Everton’s first chance fell to Romelu Lukaku who sent his effort high into the stands before Leicester had a couple chances themselves from Andrej Kramaric and Schlupp. Both teams had to settle for a goalless first-half. Leicester nearly made an immediate impact after the restart, but Schlupp could only shoot wide after Howard has saved Matthew James’ initial shot. Despite their slow, sluggish start, Everton were the ones who found the opening goal when Lukaku found Steven Naismith who finished neatly. Leicester responded moments later after a defensive mess-up between Howard and his defenders. Substitute David Nugent was on his toes to clean up the mess, and bring his team back in the game. Lukaku had a chance to restore Everton’s lead shortly after, but his shot was well wide of the target. Leicester City took the lead after Jamie Vardy found Esteban Cambiasso inside the area. The experienced Argentinian made no mistake with his finish, firing past Howard. Lukaku had a couple chances to equalise before Matthew Upson headed the ball into his own net to level the scores. The draw means Leicester remain bottom of the league while Everton are rooted in 12th place.

Best Player:

Steven Naismith (Everton) – has scored some important goals for Everton this season, and he added another one to his tally. The striker collected the ball well before firing clinically past Mark Schwarzer. He now has a personal best of seven league goals.

Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – came on as a substitute and made an immediate impact after sending in a dangerous ball that eventually led to Leicester’s first goal. He then provided the assist for their second to take his tally of assists to eight this season.

Southampton 0-2 Liverpool

Liverpool score a goal in each half to move within two points of the top-four. Southampton had shouts for a penalty ignored in the opening 20 seconds after Emre Can tugged Filip Djuricic inside the penalty box before Philippe Coutinho scored one of the goals of the season. The Brazilian took a touch from 25-yards out and curled in a brilliant effort to give Liverpool the lead. Southampton were left shouting for another penalty after Djuricic was fouled again inside the box, this time by Joe Allen. But again the cries were ignored. The first-half ended with Southampton left frustrated that they weren’t awarded at least one penalty. Southampton worked the ball well in the second-half, but their best chance fell to Graziano Pelle who sent his shot wide. Liverpool eventually doubled their advantage when Raheem Sterling scored with a clinical effort after Southampton failed to clear their defensive line. Southampton had a free-kick saved by Simon Mignolet before Daniel Sturridge’s tame effort was collected by Fraser Forster. Liverpool eventually hung on to their lead, and collected all three points. The loss means Southampton drop outside of the top-four into fifth-place.

Best Player:

(Southampton) – N/A

Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) – scored a magnificent goal to give his team the lead early in the match. The goal was only his third of the season, but what a finish it was, indeed.

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