Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table as Manchester City continue to stutter in their title-defense. The race for the top-four remains heated as four points now separates fifth from second. Elsewhere, the relegation battle tightens up with new faces lingering near the flames. Here’s a round-up of all the action from gameweek 29 of the Barclays Premier League:
Crystal Palace 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
QPR suffer their fourth consecutive loss after going down three goals at half-time. After a stale 20 minutes, it was Palace who eventually took the lead when Yannick Bolasie sent a dangerous cross across goal for Wilfried Zaha to tap in before colliding into the post. QPR’s only real chance fell to Adel Taarabt, but the winger could only shoot over the bar. Palace continued to dominate and doubled their lead when Bolasie sent another inviting cross across goal for James McArthur to score. Two minutes later and Palace had three goals. Zaha danced around a couple QPR defenders before finding Joel Ward who placed his shot smartly past Robert Green in goal. QPR came out in the second-half with purpose, and they came close to scoring when Charlie Austin met Taarabt’s cross, but the striker couldn’t get enough power behind his header, sending the ball straight into the arms of Julian Speroni. Palace were clearly content with their lead, offering very little going forward. They contained QPR’s threat well, but when Matthew Phillips scored a screamer from 40-yards out, the Palace players were mere spectators. Phillips nearly had a second moments later, but this time Speroni saved well. The loss leaves QPR five-points away from safety, they sit in 19th place. Palace, meanwhile, remain in 12th place.
Yannick Bolasie (Palace) – has been a key player for his club this season, providing two assists in his last three Premier League starts. He was involved throughout the first-half when Palace looked to kill the game, and takes his assist’s tally to eight for the season.
Matthew Phillips (QPR) – has been one of QPR’s in-form players recently, scoring one and providing four assists in his last five league matches. His 40-yard will definitely be a contender for goal-of-the-season, no doubt.
Arsenal 3-0 West Ham United
The Gunners followed up their FA Cup quarter-final victory over Manchester United with a comfortable win against their London rivals. Arsenal should have been awarded a penalty after five-minutes after James Collins brought down Theo Walcott in the box, but referee Chris Foy waved play on. West Ham’s first chance fell to Kevin Nolan, but David Ospina reacted well to save his shot. Moments later, West Ham’s Adrián was forced into a few saves, tipping over Aaron Ramsey’s shot before getting in the way of Walcott’s effort, and then diving to his right to push out Alexis Sanchez’ shot. Arsenal took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Olivier Giroud fired a powerful shot past the impressive Adrián. West Ham came out in the second-half searching for an immediate response, but they couldn’t break through an organised Arsenal defense. Arsenal scored two goals in three minutes to put the game well beyond West Ham. Ramsey scored clinically after a one-two with Giroud before Mathieu Flamini tapped in Santi Cazorla’s cross. Arsenal are now one point behind Manchester City after this win, while West Ham continue to drop points, having only won once in their last 10 Premier League matches.
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) – has hit top form at the perfect time as he takes his goal-tally for the season to 11, scoring six in his last eight league appearances.
Adrián (West Ham) – was a doubt before the match after hurting himself in the warm-up, but the goalkeeper kept his place in the lineup and produced several outstanding saves to keep his team in the tie early-on.
Leicester City 0-0 Hull City
Leicester remain favorites to be relegated this season after their goalless draw at home to Hull City. Leicester had the first attempt at goal when Andrej Kramaric tried to chip Allan McGregor, but his effort was wide. Hull almost took the lead when Ahmed El Mohamady sent the ball to Nikica Jelavic, but the striker couldn’t sort out his feet to make proper contact with the ball. Moments later, Jelavic thought he had given Hull the lead, but his goal was disallowed after the referee had already blown for a foul on goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Hull were reduced to 10-men in the second-half after Tom Huddlestone received his second-yellow card for a foul on Jamie Vardy. Leicester looked intent on making their man-advantage count, but they couldn’t produce any real effort on goal. Leicester almost conceded late on, but Schwarzer reacted well to deny Abel Hernandez after Hull had taken a quick free-kick. The draw means Leicester remain bottom of the league, while Hull are now three-points away from the relegation zone in 15th place.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – was involved throughout the match, and looked dangerous whenever he got the ball. His pace troubled the Hull defense, notably forcing Huddlestone into the foul that resulted in his dismissal.
Dame N’Doye (Hull) – couldn’t continue his fine goal-scoring form, but his presence always unsettled the Leicester defense. His quick thinking from a free-kick nearly paid off, but his teammate couldn’t finish.
Sunderland 0-4 Aston Villa
A brilliant first-half display ensured The Villains secured all three points and moved three points above the relegation zone. Villa took the lead after 15 minutes when Christian Benteke met the cross of Leandro Bacuna to slot home. Gabriel Agbonlahor extended Villa’s lead two minutes later when he latched on to Ciaran Clark’s ball and coolly scored past Costel Pantilimon. Scott Sinclair should have made it three goals just before the half-hour mark, but he could only scoop Bacuna’s cross over the goal. Sunderland had a penalty shout moments later after the ball had appeared to strike the arm of Clark, but the referee ignored their cries. Villa continued to push forward, and they were awarded for their efforts when Agbonlahor scored a third goal, curling the ball beyond Pantilimon. Benteke made it four right on the stroke of half-time with a decisive header to put the game beyond Sunderland. Villa could have made it five moments after the restart, but Pantilimon was equal to Charles N’Zogbia’s effort. Sunderland showed signs of improvement in the second-half, but it wasn’t until the 81st minute where they had their best chance of the match after Steven Fletcher hit the post. The loss means Sunderland drop to 17th place, and are now one point above the relegation zone resulting in the dismissal of manager Gus Poyet.
(Sunderland) – N/A
Christian Benteke (Villa) – has now scored three goals and provided one assist in his last two matches after going three months without finding the net. He put in a commanding performance, and looks to be building a formidable partnership with Agbonlahor.
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Stoke City
The Potter’s couldn’t make it four wins in-a-row after they fell to defeat against West Brom, who bounced back following their derby defeat to Aston Villa. Saido Berahino forced Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic into a save early-on as West Brom searched for a quick goal to unsettle the visitors. West Brom eventually took the lead when in-form Brown Ideye met Craig Gardner’s cross with his head. Ideye thought he had doubled West Brom’s lead moments later, but his goal was rightly ruled out for offside. West Brom had the one-goal advantage at half-time. The Baggies were forced to replace their keeper, Ben Foster after he hurt his knee in a collision with Stoke striker Peter Crouch. Substitute Boaz Myhill was forced into a save moments after replacing Foster, but he did well to tip Jonathan Walters’ effort over the bar. Stoke continued to push for an equaliser, but West Brom stood firm in defense. Ideye almost doubled their advantage in the 67th minute, but Begovic reacted quickly to deny the forward a second goal before diving to his left to prevent James Morrison from scoring moments later. Stoke City remain in eighth-place despite their loss, while West Brom also remain unmoved in 13th place.
Brown Ideye (West Brom) – was a handful and he used his strength well to disrupt the Stoke defense. The Nigerian has now scored three goals in his last six Premier League matches, providing one assist.
Asmir Begovic (Stoke) – had a comical moment in the first-half when the ball slipped from his hands, but the offside flag saved his blushes. The keeper didn’t let that affect his performance though, as he made numerous important saves to keep his team in the match.
Burnley 1-0 Manchester City
The Clarets ruin Man City’s quest to defend their title, after narrowly beating last season’s champions. Burnley have now taken four points off of Man City this season, after a 2-2 draw in late December. Burnley started well and managed to contain Man City until the half-hour mark when goalkeeper Tom Heaton was forced into two quick saves from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero efforts. Burnley responded at the other end, with Scott Arfield having an effort from the edge of the box saved. After a goalless first-half, it was Man City who showed real intent after the restart with David Silva forcing Heaton into another save. Once again, Burnley responded by creating a chance of their own with George Boyd’s shot inches wide of the goal. Boyd scored with an excellent volley after Vincent Kompany’s ineffective clearance set the ball nicely for him. Man City were shaken, but pushed forward nonetheless. Substitute Wilfried Bony had a chance to score, but couldn’t get enough power behind his shot, before Aguero headed over. Man City had a valid shout for a penalty after Ben Mee brought Pablo Zabaleta down unfairly in the box. However, the referee didn’t think it was a foul, and instead awarded a free-kick to Burnley. Burnley are now one point away from safety after their win. Man City, on the other hand, are now six points behind leaders Chelsea.
George Boyd (Burnley) – scored in Burnley’s 2-2 draw against Man City earlier in the season, and scored another one to dent their title chase. The midfielder’s goals have helped his team earn six points this season. Every point counts, especially in the race to avoid the drop.
Sergio Aguero (Man City) – created goal-scoring chances but he couldn’t help his team to victory. He will be hoping that he can help his team rebound quickly in order to save their title hopes.
Chelsea 1-1 Southampton
The Saints earn a draw against the league leaders, after an inspired performance at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea nearly made the perfect start, after a one-two between Eden Hazard and Willian, but Southampton cleared the danger. Chelsea opened the scoring in the 11th minute after Hazard dribbled his way into the box before finding Branislav Ivanovic who sent a cross for Diego Costa to head home. Southampton didn’t let their heads down and almost scored when Sadio Mane’s effort was saved by Thibaut Courtois. Southampton began to dominate, and they eventually had a chance to equalise when Mane was brought down in the box by Nemanja Matic. Dusan Tadic stepped up and confidently scored his penalty. Ivanovic had a cry for a penalty ignored before Chelsea found themselves scrambling to clear after a mix-up between Courtois and Gary Cahill. The teams went into the break level. Southampton were awarded a free-kick moments after the restart and nearly scored but for Courtois. Chelsea began to regain control of the match with Costa’s effort coming back off the post, before Fraser Forster was forced into a double-save. Forster was forced into action again, denying Oscar before diving to his right to beat away a fierce Cesar Azpilicueta shot. Forster was unbeatable, and he made one final save to deny Chelsea in stoppage-time. The Blues remain top, and extend their lead to six points with a game in hand over second-place Man City. Southampton, meanwhile, are now six points away from the top-four.
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) – made a string of impressive saves to deny Southampton the three points. He nearly saved Tadic’s penalty, and will be happy with his performance.
Fraser Forster (Southampton) – was a brick-wall, denying Chelsea throughout the match. He was left rooted for Costa’s goal, but produced plenty of saves later.
Everton 3-0 Newcastle United
The Toffee’s hadn’t scored three goals in a Premier League match since December 15 when they beat QPR, but they were clinical against Newcastle. It was Newcastle, though, who forced Everton keeper Tim Howard into a save before having shouts for a penalty denied after the rebound hit the arms of James McCarthy. Romelu Lukaku had an effort saved by Tim Krul at the other end, before he laid the ball off to McCarthy who scored. The first-half ended with Everton in the lead. Moments after the restart, Everton were awarded a penalty after Aaron Lennon was fouled by Yoan Gouffran. Lukaku stepped up and sent Krul the wrong way to double Everton’s advantage. Things got worse for Newcastle after captain Fabricio Coloccini was shown a straight red after a bad challenge on Lennon. Newcastle were forced to defend, with Krul saving a fierce Arouna Kone shot before pushing a Leon Osman effort wide. Moussa Sissoko was denied by Tim Howard at the other end, with the American keeper making a brilliant one-handed save. Everton scored a third after Ross Barkley rounded Krul and slotted the ball into the net. The win was only Everton’s second in their last 10 league matches, and they remain in 14th place. Newcastle lose two consecutive league games but remain in 11th place.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – used his strength well to cause Newcastle problems throughout the match. The striker scored his eighth goal of the season, providing an assist as well.
(Newcastle) – N/A
Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur
The Red Devils have now won three consecutive matches in the Premier League, after a magnificent first-half display against Tottenham. Man United almost made a horrendous start after David De Gea was forced to concede a corner from a Phil Jones back-pass. They recovered from that early scare, and took the lead just before 10 minutes when Marouane Fellaini scored decisively. Tottenham were rattled, and Man United extended their lead 10 minutes after opening the scoring after Michael Carrick headed confidently past Hugo Lloris. Tottenham continued to defend poorly and conceded a third goal just after the half-hour mark when Wayne Rooney raced into the box and slotted home. Tottenham improved in the second-half, but Man United continued to push forward with Ander Herrera hitting the side netting with a shot before Rooney had a goal disallowed for offside. Harry Kane, who was invisible for large parts of the match, came close to scoring a consolation goal, but he couldn’t steer his shot past De Gea. Man United remain in fourth-place after their victory with Tottenham six points behind them in seventh-place.
Wayne Rooney (Man United) – lead his team with confidence, and put in a confident display against a Tottenham side who many thought would give Man United a real challenge. The striker has now scored 11 times this season including three in his last three starts.
(Tottenham) – N/A
Swansea City 0-1 Liverpool
Liverpool are undefeated in their last 13 Premier League matches, and are fifth-place, four-points behind second-place Man City. Daniel Sturridge was lively in the opening moments of the match, shooting wide before setting-up Adam Lallana who shot straight at Lukasz Fabianski. Swansea weren’t content to sit-back, and had a chance of their own to score when Simon Mignolet had to stretch to save Bafetimbi Gomis’ shot. Swansea began to grow in confidence, and Gylfi Sigurdsson was the next player to come close, but his shot was over the bar. Mignolet was forced into action again, making a formidable save to deny Sigurdsson. Despite all the action, the first-half ended goalless. Liverpool came out searching for a goal in the second-half, and nearly found it after Philippe Coutinho hit the post. Liverpool continued to press forward, and Joe Allen was the next player to come close, but Fabianski reacted well to deny him. Liverpool eventually made their pressure count when Jordan Henderson scored, albeit fortuitously. Sturridge had a chance to put the match beyond Swansea late into stoppage-time, but his placed effort struck the post. Swansea remain in ninth-place, having only won two of their last five Premier League matches.
Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea) – was unlucky to concede a goal, and made several decent saves to deny Liverpool a routine victory.
Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) – was relegated to the bench earlier in the season after a poor run of form, but he looks back at his best after putting in an exceptional display. His save from Sigurdsson’s shot is definitely a contender for save of the season. Exceptional goalkeeping.