Culture of Hoops

Barclays Premier League Capsule: Gameweek 34

Image courtesy of Crystian Cruz/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Crystian Cruz/Flickr.

Manchester City are now mathematically out of the title-race, with Chelsea needing only three points to lift their crown. The race for the top-four is not quite finished, with Manchester United and Liverpool both losing. And elsewhere, the relegation battle looks set to go down to the wire with six teams involved in the race to avoid the drop. Here’s a review of all the action from a superb gameweek 34 of the Barclays Premier League.

Southampton 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham had to come from behind twice to settle for a draw against Southampton who are chasing a European spot. Both teams started cautiously with Southampton’s Jose Fonte forcing Hugo Lloris into a save after his team’s first corner. Soon later, Southampton were in the lead after a quick counter-attack involving Sadio Mane. The pacey winger lost the ball after he miss-controlled, but striker Graziano Pellè reacted well to strike home after some poor Tottenham defending. Tottenham didn’t let their heads drop and continued to attack Southampton. With two minutes remaining before the end of the first-half, Erik Lamela touched home a Harry Kane flick-on to make sure his team went into the half level. The goal was Tottenham’s first shot on target.

Southampton started the second-half stronger, but Steven Davis couldn’t keep his shots on target. Tottenham continued to be pinned back, and Southampton eventually went ahead after Pellè met Shane Long’s cross with his head. The lead didn’t last too long, however, as Nacer Chadli scored an equaliser five minutes later. Fonte almost found the winner in stoppage time, but he couldn’t keep his header down. The draw keeps Tottenham in sixth-place, a point ahead of Southampton, with The Saints in seventh-place.

Best Player:

Graziano Pellè (Southampton) – hadn’t scored a goal in 14 matches, but now has three goals in his last three games. Pellè’s brace takes his goal tally to 11 for the season.

Nacer Chadli (Tottenham) – is quickly becoming a reliable player for Tottenham as he scored his second goal in as many matches. The winger used his strength well to beat his defender before slotting home.

Burnley 0-1 Leicester City

Leicester City win their fourth straight Premier League match to condemn their relegation rivals to the bottom of the table. The Foxes started well with a couple of early efforts towards goal, but Burnley responded winning a corner at the other end. Matthew Taylor had a shot on goal from the corner that was saved well by Kasper Schmeichel.

After a nervy first-half, Burnley began the second-half winning another corner. Michael Duff sent a header towards goal, but Leonardo Ulloa was on hand to head clear for his side. Burnley continued to push forward in search of the first goal, with Danny Ings producing a fine save from Schmeichel before Taylor was fouled in the box from the follow-up. Taylor grabbed the ball confidently, and stepped up to the spot, but he missed his spot-kick. Leicester reacted immediately with Jamie Vardy scoring at the other end to put his side in the lead. Burnley didn’t give-up and continued to chase the match, but they couldn’t beat an inspired Schmeichel. Tom Heaton made a late save to deny Leicester a second, as Burnley settled for defeat. The win moves Leicester out of the relegation zone, while Burnley are now bottom, and five points away from safety.

Best Player:

(Burnley) – N/A

Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester) – was in exceptional form, denying Burnley throughout the match. His reflex saves were impressive and he had to react quickly to deny an own-goal from one of his defenders. Schmeichel made five saves and has now helped his team keep two consecutive clean sheets.

Crystal Palace 0-2 Hull City

Hull City end a run of five matches without a win after their victory away at Crystal Palace. Palace had the first real chance of the match early in the game, but Glen Murray’s effort was well saved by Hull goalkeeper Steve Harper. Moments later, Dame N’Doye missed from close-range for Hull before Julian Speroni did exceptionally well to keep out a Tom Huddlestone curler. Harper was forced into action again at the other end to deny Palace’s Wilfried Zaha an opening goal.

Hull City came out in the second-half the much stronger side and nearly found the opener through N’Doye, but the striker’s effort was saved by Speroni. Hull would eventually take the lead moments later after N’Doye tapped in from close range. The striker was in hot form, nearly scoring a second, but he couldn’t keep his shot on target. It was all Hull, until the last eight minutes when Palace thought they had equalised only for the referee to rule out Yaya Sanogo’s header for a foul. Hull’s Liam Rosenior hit the crossbar with a wicked effort before N’Doye sealed the victory with a second late in the match. The loss means Palace miss their chance to break into the top half of the Premier League table.

Best Player:

Julian Speroni (Palace) – made a string of important saves to keep his team in the match, but his team couldn’t produce at the other end. The goalkeeper was unlucky to concede the opener after the ball appeared to strike Robert Brady on the arm before he passed to N’Doye for the tap-in.

Dame N’Doye (Hull) – was all over the pitch, and deserved his brace. The striker’s positioning was impressive, and he took both his goals well. He now has five goals in eight starts for Hull, and looks to have settled in the Premier League well.

Newcastle United 2-3 Swansea City

Newcastle fell to their seventh straight loss, as their poor form continues. Swansea started the match stronger, but it was Newcastle who took the lead after Emmanuel Riviere raced down the left flank to cross the ball to Ayoze Perez who struck home. Newcastle were on the front-foot after their goal, and Riviere nearly added a second but for a good save from Lukas Fabianski, diving to his left to deny the Frenchman. Swansea won a corner in stoppage-time as they chased an equaliser, which Nélson Oliveira scored with a downward header.

Swansea began the second-half where they left off the first when Gylfi Sigurdsson put them in the lead after some poor defensive clearance from Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul. Swansea began to pass the ball around with more confidence as they contained Newcastle. They eventually extended their lead through Jack Cork after another defensive error by Newcastle. Fabianski was forced into a save moments later to deny Perez a second before Siem de Jong scored late in the match to create a nervy finish. The win keeps Swansea in contention for a European spot, with eight points separating them from sixth-place Tottenham. Newcastle, meanwhile, continue to edge closer to the relegation zone, they sit 14th place.

Best Player:

Emmanuel Rivière (Newcastle) – was involved throughout the first-half, and helped put his team into the lead after a good run and cross for Perez’ opener. He faded in the second-half, but if Fabianski didn’t keep out his header it would have been a different match, indeed.

Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea) – took his assist tally to 10 for the season, while scoring his sixth goal as well. The midfielder hit a dip in form in recent months, but looks to be back to his best with a goal and two assists in his last four starts.

Queens Park Rangers 0-0 West Ham United

The Rangers missed their chance to move closer to safety after their goalless draw at home to an out-of-form West Ham who are without an away win since December’s 2-1 victory at West Brom. QPR looked intent on scoring first, after catching West Ham on a swift break before Sandro’s shot was saved by Adrian inside the first minute. West Ham’s threat came down the left-flank where they won a succession of corners leading to a shot being cleared off the line before defender James Collins conceded a penalty for handball at the other end. QPR top goalscorer, Charlie Austin stepped up to take the penalty, but his weak effort was saved by Adrian.

West Ham came out in the second-half much stronger, and nearly scored from an Aaron Cresswell free-kick, but Robert Green reacted well to save his side. Just before the hour mark, Green was tested again, this time having to rush off his line to prevent West Ham from breaking through on goal. With a little over 15 minutes left, QPR thought they had scored, but Richard Dunne’s goal was ruled out after the referee decided that Adrian was fouled in the build-up. Cheikhou Kouyate had a chance to put West Ham in the lead with eight minutes remaining, but his shot from 10 yards was well over the bar. In the end, both teams had to settle for a draw after a succession of impressive saves from Adrian. QPR remain in the relegation zone, while West Ham sink to 11th place.

Best Player:

Robert Green (QPR) – was impressive against his old club, and made several key saves to deny West Ham the victory.

Adrian (West Ham) – is probably The Hammers’ best player this season, and he proved again why he is so reliable after saving Austin’s penalty and producing a number of acrobatic saves to keep QPR out. The Spanish goalkeeper has made three penalty saves this season, keeping eight clean sheets in the process.

Stoke City 1-1 Sunderland

Despite scoring inside the first minute, The Black Cats couldn’t hang on to their lead as Stoke battled back for a draw. Sunderland made the perfect start after Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic fumbled a cross, allowing striker Connor Wickham to tap in from close range. Stoke responded with a shot from Charlie Adam that was saved by Costel Pantilimon before, he was forced into action moments later to deny Jonathan Walters. Stoke continued to dominate as they searched for an equaliser, but they nearly went 2-0 down after a defensive error that let Jermaine Defoe on goal. However, the striker could only hit the side-netting with his shot. Stoke equalised minutes later when Adam struck a sweet shot into the top corner.

Sunderland began the second-half stronger with Begovic having to save a swift Defoe shot before defender Ryan Shawcross’ brilliant tackle denied Wickham a shot on goal. Billy Jones had a chance to put Sunderland ahead, but his tame effort was deflected out by Begovic. Stoke finished the match stronger with Mame Biram Diouf and Adam both having shots saved by Pantilimon. The point leaves Sunderland in the relegation zone, one point away from safety. Stoke, meanwhile, are ninth-place and well on course to finish in the top-half of the table.

Best Player:

Charlie Adam (Stoke) – scored an absolute screamer to bring his side back into the match. The midfielder could have scored a winner late in the match, but the goalkeeper was on hand to deny him. Adam has now scored two goals in as many matches, taking his tally for the season to five.

Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland) – made seven saves, including a late diving save to deny Adam a winner. The goalkeeper could do very little about Adam’s wonder strike, but looked confident throughout.

West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool’s dip in form continues as they have now only picked up four points from a possible 15 in their last five matches. It was a slow start for both sides as Liverpool controlled the match, with West Brom happy to sit back. It wasn’t until the 26th minute when Steven Gerrard narrowly missed the goal with his free-kick before Mario Balotelli sent his curling effort over the bar.

Liverpool continued to push forward in the second-half and nearly took the lead, but Boaz Myhill did well to save Philippe Coutinho’s effort before denying Jordan Henderson on the follow-up. West Brom’s first real chance fell to Craig Gardner just before the hour mark, but the midfielder could only hit the side netting. Liverpool should have been ahead six minutes later, but Jordon Ibe’s fierce shot hit the crossbar. A defensive mix-up in the back for Liverpool almost led to a West Brom opener, but Simon Mignolet did well to save before Dejan Lovren had to clear off the line. The keeper was called into action late in the match to deny Callum McManaman as both teams settled for a draw. West Brom ease further away from the relegation zone, but will still feel the breath of their relegation rivals panting in their race for survival.

Best Player:

Boaz Myhill (West Brom) – made a double-save to deny Liverpool an opener, as his side were intent on sitting behind the ball waiting to counter. Myhill has now helped his side keep two consecutive Premier League clean sheets.

Dejan Lovren (Liverpool) – wasn’t asked many questions from the West Brom attackers, but he reacted well when called upon, clearing off the line to deny West Brom a goal. He hasn’t had the best of seasons following his move from Southampton, but he will be happy with his clean sheet.

Manchester City 3-2 Aston Villa

The Sky Blues leave it late to beat Villa, amidst controversy, as they record consecutive wins for the first time since February. Man City were gifted the lead after Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan passed the ball straight to Sergio Aguero to tap in for the opener. Aguero looked lively after that and almost added to his tally with Guzan looking shaky throughout the half. Christian Benteke had Villa’s best chance of the half, but his shot was saved by Joe Hart despite replays showing the striker in an offside position.

Man City began the second-half in search of a second goal, with two shouts for a penalty ignored before Aleksandar Kolarov scored a curling free-kick to double his team’s advantage. With a little over 20 minutes to play, Villa were back in the match after Tom Cheverley’s goal. Kieran Richardson had a shot saved by Hart moments later as Villa pushed for an equaliser. The equaliser came from a corner-kick with Carlos Sanchez lobbing over Hart after the goalkeeper’s weak clearance. With a minute left, Benteke was sent through on goal and tripped by Hart, but the play was called back for offside. Video replays revealed that the striker was in fact onside, with Hart lucky to escape a red card. It all fell apart for Villa at the other end as Fernandinho bundled in a shot from a corner-kick to give Man City the victory. The win moves Man City back up to second-place while Villa remain flirting with relegation in 16th place.

Best Player:

Fernandinho (Man City) – passed the ball well in the midfield, and did well to break up Villa’s attack as they pushed for an equaliser. The Brazilian won the foul for Man City’s second, and reacted well to latch onto the ball and score the winner for his side.

Tom Cleverley (Villa) – was instrumental as Villa pushed forward for an equaliser, with the former Manchester United player scoring to bring his side back into the match.

Everton 3-0 Manchester United

The Red Devils lose back-to-back games for the first time this season after their defeat away to Everton who now remain undefeated in their last six matches. Everton’s opener came from a Man United corner-kick. The Toffees were quick on the counter-attack moving the ball up to the other end of the pitch, with James McCarthy providing the finish. Man United remained calm despite conceding after just four minutes, but chances from Maroune Fellaini and Ander Herrera were ineffective. Everton doubled their lead with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the first-half when John Stones rose highest to head home a Leighton Baines corner-kick.

Man United looked determined in the second-half but Wayne Rooney couldn’t beat goalkeeper Tim Howard. Everton gradually found their pace in the second-half, and Romelu Lukaku fizzed a pass across the face of goal before a Man United giveaway led to a Kevin Mirallas goal. The Belgian midfielder was calm with his finish, wrong-footing goalkeeper David De Gea. Radamel Falcao thought he scored for Man United, but his finish was ruled out for offside. With five minutes remaining, De Gea made a brilliant save to deny Mirallas a second goal. The loss means Man United remain in the top-four, but are three points away from automatic Champions League qualification. Everton, on the other hand, break into the top 10 as they look to end their season on a high.

Best Player:

John Stones (Everton) – scored his first Premier League goal for Everton with a powerful header. The defender was solid in the back as he kept out the threat of Rooney and Falcao.

(Man United) – N/A

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Arsenal couldn’t derail Chelsea’s title aspirations after they played out a goalless draw at the Emirates stadium. Chelsea were without top goalscorer Diego Costa, while Loic Remy and Didier Drogba were both unfit to start. Jose Mourinho chose to start Oscar upfront, and the midfielder was involved in two penalty shouts from Chelsea. The first looked a bit soft, but the second, after he had been knocked to the ground by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, looked a stronger case. No penalty was given, and Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas was booked for diving moments later after the referee decided he went down too easily inside the box. Arsenal had a penalty claim of their own ignored after Santi Cazorla’s shot appeared to strike the arm of Chelsea defender Gary Cahill. Ramires wasted a good chance to put Chelsea in the lead, shooting tamely at Ospina, with Mesut Ozïl doing the same at the other end.

Arsenal were dominant, and in full control in the second-half, despite Mourinho bringing on striker Didier Drogba. However, Chelsea contained the pressure well, defending everything Arsenal threw at them. Per Mertesacker and Cazorla both wasted chances to give their team the lead, shooting wide of the goal. Arsenal’s best chance of the match fell to substitute Danny Welbeck, but the striker couldn’t connect with the ball and the opportunity went begging. The draw keeps Chelsea on course to lift their fifth Premier League title, as Arsenal continue to strive for a second-placed finish.

Best Player:

John Terry (Chelsea) – marshalled his defense well, leading his team to a valuable point. The defender was everywhere across the back-four and did well to clean up after his fellow defenders.

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal) – couldn’t find his finishing touch, but he was Chelsea’s biggest threat every time he was on the ball.

Hull City 1-0 Liverpool

The Tigers win back-to-back games to aid their chances of survival and dent Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish. Liverpool threatened inside the first two minutes through Mario Balotelli who was fouled by Tom Huddlestone, winning his side a free-kick. Unfortunately, the Italian could only hit the wall with his effort. Hull’s Dame N’Doye saw his header pushed away by Simon Mignolet before Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho‘s shot was well saved by Steve Harper. Hull began to threaten Liverpool down the left-flank and it took a double-save from Mignolet to deny Hull the lead. Liverpool contributed to their own downfall after failing to effectively clear a corner allowing Hull midfielder Ahmed El Mohamady the opportunity to cross in for Michael Dawson to head home. Liverpool came close to an equaliser, but Jordan Henderson couldn’t beat Hull keeper Harper. The Reds couldn’t produce anything in the second-half as they went on to lose their third match in five games, with one draw. Hull continue to climb the table, and are now four points clear of the relegation zone.

Best Player:

Michael Dawson (Hull) – was a strong presence in the back as he led his team to victory, score the winner, and prevent Liverpool from scoring. He did well to remain onside for his goal, and finished clinically for his first Hull City goal.

Simon Mignolet (Liverpool) – looked like he was going to save Liverpool’s blushes again, especially after his double-save, but his team let him down. The keeper had a nervous start to the season, but looks full of confidence and back at his best.

Leicester City 1-3 Chelsea

Chelsea are within touching distance of the Premier League trophy, needing only a win on Sunday to clinch the title. Leicester showed great fight, and determination, to take a half-time lead as they strove to seal their fifth consecutive win. Leicester started well, and were direct as they searched for the opening goal. They came close to taking the lead five minutes before half-time, but Petr Cech, who started ahead of the injured Thibaut Courtois, made a brilliant save low to his right to keep the ball out. Chelsea couldn’t clear the danger, and after a couple blocks and half-clearances, the follow-up from Leicester was cleared. The Foxes did eventually take the lead in first-half stoppage time when Jamie Vardy set-up Marc Albrighton to score and send the home fans in eruptions.

There was a different vibe about Chelsea at the start of the second-half, and they took the lead almost immediately after the restart when Didier Drogba got on the end of a Branislav Ivanovic cut-back. Drogba could have put Chelsea in the lead a minute later, but he couldn’t keep his shot down, blazing over the net instead. Chelsea began to get into their stride, but still had to work hard to contain Leicester’s threat. The Blues took the lead through Captain John Terry after the defender flicked home a Gary Cahill rebound. Ramires sealed the points four minutes later after smashing in to chants of “Boring, boring Chelsea” from The Blues fans, in response to rival Arsenal fans. Leicester remain one point above the relegation zone in 17th place having played one more match than Sunderland who are below them in the table.

Best Player:

Marc Albrighton (Leicester) – did exceptionally well to keep up with his side’s counter-attack, and positioned himself well to receive the ball from Vardy. His goal seemed to come at the perfect time, but unfortunately for him, it seemed to motivate Chelsea for the comeback.

John Terry (Chelsea) – became the Premier League joint highest goalscoring defender with 48 goals. The Captain will know that there is still work to do in order for Chelsea to seal the title, and will no doubt rally his team towards the finish line.

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