Home > Football > Barclays Premier League Weekend Round-Up

Barclays Premier League Weekend Round-Up

Coming hard on the heels of an absorbing weekend in the Barclays Premier League last week, this weekend has been another fascinating round of matches and has seen yet more twists and turns in the title race, the pursuit of fourth place and the relegation battle.

The Title Race

Last weekend, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were best friends after United beat Tottenham’s rivals for fourth place, Manchester City, and then Harry Redknapp’s men returned the favour later the same day by beating Chelsea 2-1 at White Hart Lane. This weekend however, the two faced off in Saturday’s lunchtime kick off in a game which both sides needed to win. The big news before kick off came from the Manchester United camp as it was announced that they would be without their talisman and top scorer Wayne Rooney. The pressure was on former Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov to fill the Englishman’s boots.

The fact that the stakes were high was very evident in an extremely cagey first half which BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty described as ‘a carefully assembled monument to tedium.’ Tottenham offered next to nothing in an attacking sense except for a long range effort from Roman Pavlyuchenko which went straight at Edwin van der Sar and United were little better. The home side did however, exert some pressure around 30 minutes in as Dimitar Berbatov was denied from seven yards out by a terrific Ledley King tackle and Luis Antonio Valencia struck a low shot in to the arms of Gomes after good work by Rafael. After 45 minutes of nothing football the half-time whistle went and although Sir Alex Ferguson could be happy with how his side kept the ball, he would surely have to demand more urgency from his side.

As the second half kicked off, Patrice Evra appeared to be struggling physically. He eventually crouched down on the pitch and vomited but Evra is made of stern stuff and has been a constant for United in what has been a long season. He was not about to give up. His determination paid dividends in the 58th minute when he won his side a penalty. Berbatov raced up the left hand side and flicked a clever pass in to the path of the Frenchman who took a touch before being flattened by Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s rash challenge. Ryan Giggs stepped up in front of the Stretford End and coolly despatched the penalty past Gomes who guessed correctly but could not reach Giggs’s inch perfect strike.

The tension around Old Trafford was released but was back just 12 minutes later. Gareth Bale won a corner on the Spurs left. He ran over to take it himself and picked out Ledley King who evaded Michael Carrick’s poor attempts to defend the corner to head in to the bottom right-hand corner. Rafael was responsible for guarding that post but left his station and must take some of the blame and Edwin van der Sar made sure he knew it.

The title chasers needed to kick on and went in search of a winner. Ferguson replaced Rafael with Federico Macheda in an attacking move and it paid off in dramatic fashion. With just 9 minutes remaining, Nani surged up the right wing leaving Bale in his wake, found Macheda and continued his run in to the box. Macheda played a clever angled pass to the Portuguese winger who produced a sublime finish, chipping nonchalantly over Gomes’s head.

Nani has been an increasingly influential figure for Manchester United this season (This image is the property of SkySports.com

Nani had played an increasingly influential role in the game and it was he who won a penalty four minutes from time as he got in front of Wilson Palacios who could only bring him down from behind. Ryan Giggs again stepped up and slotted the penalty past an outstretched Gomes and in to the bottom corner. The game was now over and United had taken 3 points against the league’s in form team to go top of the table. The pressure was now on Chelsea.

Chelsea welcomed Stoke City to Stamford Bridge in the knowledge that anything less than a win would hand the initiative in the title race to Manchester United and they welcomed back Ashley Cole after a prolonged absence through injury.

In truth, there was only ever one team in the match, with Stoke offering precious little and the only surprise was that it took the Blues until the 24th minute to break the deadlock. Ashley Cole had gone close to scoring his 4th of the season a few minutes earlier but had been denied by Thomas Sorensen. There was however, little the Dane could do when Salomon Kalou stooped to head in Drogba’s cross to put the home team 1-0 up. Seven minutes later, Kalou scored his and Chelsea’s second. Frank Lampard’s shot was saved but the Ivorian followed up to score. Stoke were unhappy with his challenge as Thomas Sorensen was injured as Kalou slid in but referee Steve Bennett did not signal a foul and the goal stood. Chelsea rubber stamped the win on the stroke of half-time when Bennett awarded a controversial penalty. There was no doubt that Robert Huth tangled with Kalou but the foul appeared to occur outside the box. Kalou stayed on his feet and then went down in the box. Frank Lampard was not concerned with the details and stepped up to fire the penalty past substitute goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Chelsea seemed to take the foot off the pedal at the beginning of the second half but opened up with 20 minutes to go. Kalou scored his first Premier League hat-trick, firing high in to the net after Begovic saved his first effort before Florent Malouda produced the miss of the season, and quite possibly the century, when he failed to convert a Nicolas Anelka cross from a yard out.

Hat-Trick hero Salomon Kalou is congratulated by Michael Ballack (This image is the property of SkySports.com)

They did get a fifth nine minutes from time when substitute Sam Hutchinson produced a superb cross to pick out Frank Lampard who impudently flicked the ball in to the net with the outside of his right foot. Daniel Sturridge added a sixth 5 minutes later before Florent Malouda’s close range effort completed the rout.

With the victory at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have regained top spot and sent out the message that they will not surrender their advantage easily. United may now need their arch rivals on Merseyside to help them win the league. Whether such a favour is forthcoming, we will see.

The race for fourth

Fourth place has become so important as it gives the team who finishes there the opportunity to qualify for the lucrative Champions League. This season has seen the most intriguing battle ever for this spot with four teams all in with a chance of securing the much coveted spot.

Going in to this weekend, Spurs were in the driving seat. They were sitting pretty in fourth on 64 points, two ahead of Manchester City. Tottenham’s defeat to City’s cross town rivals earlier in the day meant that a win against Arsenal at the Emirates would hand the initiative back to City. You would not have thought so as they played out a bore draw with Wenger’s men in which the major talking point was Emmanuel Adebayor’s questionable hair-do. City have reduced the gap to Spurs to one point but will be disappointed with their performance. The match against Tottenham at the City of Manchester stadium on May 5th could well decide who finishes fourth.

One team that has other ideas is Aston Villa. They took on Birmingham in the Second City derby in a Sunday lunchtime kick off. For large periods of the game, Villa were outplayed by Alex McLeish’s side and owe a huge debt of gratitude to Brad Friedel for keeping them in the game. The American stopper produced a string of saves to deny Birmingham before referee Martin Atkinson awarded Martin O’Neill’s side a penalty seven minutes from time. Gabriel Agbonlahor raced away in typical fashion and entered the penalty area before Roger Johnson appeared to time his tackle to perfection and put the ball out for a corner. Atkinson was not up with play, probably because of Agbonlahor’s searing pace, so one has to wonder what kind of view he had of the incident. He felt confident enough though to award the penalty which James Milner blasted in to the roof of the net. It was enough to net Villa the three points and put them right back in the race for Champions League football.

Despite his ‘guarantee’ earlier in the season, Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool remain outsiders in the race for fourth. They had what looked liked an easy game on paper away at Burnley, who would be relegated if they lost, but without star player Fernando Torres, the Reds struggled to get going in a dour first period. They got a lucky break seven minutes in to the second half when Steven Gerrard’s long range effort took a wicked deflection which wrong footed Brian Jensen in the Burnley goal. If his first was lucky, Gerrard’s second was brilliant as he curled a right-footed scorcher in to Jensen’s top corner to double Liverpool’s lead. Maxi Rodriguez added a third fifteen minutes from time and Ryan Babel put the icing on the cake in stoppage time. The three points won at Turf Moor mean that Liverpool are now just one point behind Manchester City and two behind Aston Villa and Tottenham. With Chelsea to come next at Anfield, they are far from guaranteed six points from their remaining two games but with Manchester City having to play Aston Villa and Tottenham, they may just fancy their chances in creeping in the back door.

Relegation Battle

This weekend has turned out to be the defining weekend at the bottom of the table. Portsmouth are of course already relegated and West Ham picked up a valuable three points at home to Wigan thanks to Scott Parker’s rocket. This combined with Hull’s own defeat at home to Sunderland, has effectively relegated Iain Dowie’s men. Pedants may argue that they do not yet have an R next to their name but they now need to win their remaining games, hope that West Ham lose theirs and that there is a 24 goal swing in their favour. They can plan for the Championship.

Burnley needed to avoid defeat against Liverpool but were hammered 4-0 and so now join Portsmouth as a relegated side. It will be interesting to see if they stick with Brian Laws next season.

For full Barclays Premier League Table visit:

http://www.premierleague.com/page/LeagueTables/0,,12306,00.html

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Categories: Football
  1. April 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I think a few eyebrows were raised when Laws was appointed Burnley manager a matter of weeks after being sacked by Sheffield Wednesday and I must admit, mine were. It has simply not worked out for them but then hindsight is 20:20.

    I think Rafa still harbours slim hopes of 4th so I don’t see Liverpool rolling over to spite United and the players are making all the right noises too. However, I, like you, think Chelsea will be too strong for a Liverpool side that has struggled without Torres. I don’t think Manchester United will have any problems beating either Sunderland or Stoke but I don’t think it will matter in the end

  2. Superiorraw
    April 27, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I thought the Brian Laws appointment by Burnley was really bad to be honest. If circumstances surrounding his new job were that he just helped Sheffield Wednesday gain promotion to the Premier League.. or at this stage even the Championship, it would be just about bareable. However one has to frown when you look at his poor record. What ever gave them the idea things would change?
    He’s well out of his depth in the championship, so he’s pretty much sunk in the Premier League. I think they’ll go about 11-12 games and then sack him next year.

    It will be interesting to see what Rafa does regarding the game against Chelsea, it’s not a match they can afford to prioritise in losing to spite us a shot at the Premier League, as quite rightly pointed out they have their own agenda to see to.

    I think regardless of all that, Chelsea will be too strong for them. I hope they do slip up, but United still have to do the business in their games as well.

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