The F.A. Cup, once again, took priority last weekend as the Barclays Premier League took a back seat for a few days. All the Premier League clubs were involved in cup clashes with the exception of Wigan and Wolves, who’d been knocked out of the competition in round three. Little time to rest then for the vast majority of players before the Premier League’s next round of matches kicked off on Tuesday evening.
We begin by taking a look at Tuesday’s matches, and first off, a trip to Merseyside for the blue half of Manchester. David Moyes’ Everton have had the better of things at Goodison Park against Manchester City in recent years, and were looking to continue that trend. Manchester City, welcoming back Vincent Kompany, were desperately seeking three points in order to stay clear of Manchester United at the top of the table. That wasn’t to be, however, as City turned in another mediocre performance on their travels, struggling to get their game going and producing very few clear-cut chances.
Everton, for their part, played well, defending stoutly for long periods when necessary, with Stracqualursi working tirelessly on his own up front and, on occasions, linking well with Fellaini and Cahill. As the match progressed, it became clear that one goal would probably win it, and, it was Everton, more precisely, Darren Gibson, who got it. Just on the hour mark, Drenthe and Baines combined to set up the Everton new boy, who finished confidently via a slight deflection. City only really got going in the last 20 minutes, but it was too little too late, and Nasri’s first half pile-driver, which crashed off the underside of the bar, was the closest they came to registering. A great, and much needed, home win for the Toffees, only their fourth this season; another slip up in the title race for Mancini’s City.
Manchester United drew level on points with the Citizen’s after recording a fairly routine 2-0 victory over Stoke at Old Trafford. Despite a stuttering performance from United, goals either side of half time, from Javier Hernandez (pen) and Dimitar Berbatov, were enough to see off a Stoke City side that had come for a point. Just goal difference separates the top two now, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not Mancini and his team can hold their nerve with the course and distance specialists breathing down their necks in the run in.
Tottenham moved to within five points of the top two, racking up another home win against the Premier League’s bottom club, Wigan. Spurs ran out 3-1 winners, Gareth Bale opened the scoring in the 29th minute with a volley from a great ball by Luka Modric. Modric added a second from 20 yards just five minutes later, before Bale got his second of the night just after the hour mark. Wigan got one back with ten minutes remaining through James McCarthy, and might have set up a tense finish had Conor Sammon not missed a sitter late on, however, he failed to make any contact with Staam’s cross. Wigan stay bottom, four points from safety.
Liverpool gained ground on Chelsea in the race for fourth place, defeating Wolves comfortably, 0-3 at Molineux. The Reds bossed the first half, but it remained goal-less until the 51st minute, when Charlie Adam bent a glorious cross to the back post for Andy Carroll to finish with a controlled half volley. Craig Bellamy added a second ten minutes later, his measured effort squirming past Hennessey, before Dirk Kuyt wrapped things up for the visitors with his second goal in two games on 78 minutes. Liverpool up to fifth, Wolves stay second bottom.
The reason Liverpool were able to close on Chelsea, is that Swansea City held the Londoners to a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans took the lead on 39 minutes, Scott Sinclair scoring against his former club. Chelsea, who had Ashley Cole sent off for two bookings, were poor on the night and seemed to be heading for defeat when, in the 90th minute, they were handed a “get out of jail free” card. Jose Bosingwa’s speculative shot was going wide before it hit Swans defender Neil Taylor, the ricochet altered the path of the shot and deceived Michel Vorm, leaving him powerless to prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net.
So, to Wednesday night’s games; Martin O’Neill continues to perform miracles in the North East, as his Sunderland team brushed aside, in form, Norwich with the greatest of ease at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats took the lead on 21 minutes with a majestic touch and finish from Fraizer Campbell, the youngster, who’s just returned from a lengthy injury lay-off, made it two in two since his come-back, with a perfect piece of chest control on the edge of the area followed up with a jaw-dropping volley into the top corner of Ruddy’s goal.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0, Sessegneon began and ended a flowing Sunderland move by heading in Campbell’s pinpoint right-wing cross. The points were wrapped up ten minutes into the second-half, Daniel Ayala putting through his own net from close range after excellent work by Phil Bardsley. Norwich started well enough and had chances to go ahead through Holt and Morison early on, unfortunately from their point of view, they couldn’t make them count, once Sunderland hit the front, they never looked back. 19 points from a possible 27 for Sunderland since O’Neill took charge, at this rate, they’ll be looking at a top six finish.
Newcastle kept the pressure up on Steve Kean and Blackburn Rovers with a 0-2 victory at Ewood Park. Alan Pardew’s side took the lead through a Scott Dann own goal, the centre back deflecting Ryan Taylor’s shot past Paul Robinson. Rovers had chances, especially when they got a penalty for a foul on, new signing, Anthony Modeste, however, David Dunn’s spot-kick was poor, lacking in conviction, and it was easily saved by Krul.
Newcastle went on to win the game, sealing victory with an injury time breakaway goal from Gabriel Obertan. Newcastle move up to fifth, one point above Liverpool; Blackburn stay third from bottom, now two points of Bolton, and safety. Arsenal slipped up in their quest for fourth place, drawing 0-0 with Bolton at the Reebook, both teams had chances to take the points, but neither side could find the target. Arsenal slip to seventh.
Djibril Cisse scored eleven minutes into his debut for Q.P.R as they raced into a 0-2 lead at Villa Park. Cisse finished well from the right hand corner of the box, before Stephen Warnock’s terrible own goal doubled Rangers’ advantage. Villa nicked a goal back just before half-time, Darren Bent scoring from close range, and in the second-half they upped the tempo and dominated the visitors.
They finally got the equaliser their play deserved in the 79th minute, Charles N’Zogbia dispatching Stilian Petrov’s deep cross with a perfectly executed volley, leaving Kenny no chance. Finally, West Bromwich Albion came from behind to secure a point at Craven Cottage. Somen Tchoyi with the all-important equaliser on 82 minutes for Albion, after Clint Dempsey’s smart reverse finish on 69 minutes, had given the hosts the lead.