It was the F.A. Cup quarter-final stage last weekend, therefore the Barclays Premier League programme was rather more limited than usual. In fact, just four Premier League fixtures took place over the two days, however, they were significant matches, both for the teams involved and for the season as a whole. Here is a round-up of all the action.
We begin at Molineux, where a struggling Wolves side played host to Premier League leaders Manchester United. United, who’d been knocked out of the Europa League in fairly convincing fashion by Athletic Bilbao on Thursday, after having been outplayed in both legs, went down 1-2 to Wolves in the corresponding fixture last season.
There was to be no repeat of that feat this time around for the team from the Midlands, as their recent woeful run continued. Jonny Evans opened the scoring for Ferguson’s men on 21 minutes, finding himself free in the box from Michael Carrick’s cross, after Rooney’s corner, the Northern Irishman lashed in his first goal for the club from close range.
United were comfortable, and the front three of Rooney, Welbeck and particularly Chicharito, were causing Wolves problems. Wolves right back Ronald Zubar was booked for an ill-disciplined lunge on Rooney, and five minutes before half-time he was given his marching orders, this time for a much softer challenge, which Welbeck made the most of; in the current climate however, if you slide in and are even a fraction late, the yellow card comes out.
That was the cue for the floodgates to open, and it took just three minutes. Antonio Valencia, back to his very best in recent times, showed once again just how dangerous a player he is. Having received the ball from Rooney, after a Wolves corner, the Ecuadorian showed his electrifying pace to sprint clear down the right flank, cut into the penalty area, and then, with unerring confidence, drill a right footed finish across Hennessy and into the far corner. Just two minutes later, Welbeck made it three, after Rooney and Valencia combined well to set him up.
Javier Hernandez, lively as ever, was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the first-half for an off the ball assault by Stearman. Chicharito wasn’t to be denied though, and he added the cherries on top of United’s performance by scoring goals four and five of an impressive afternoon for the Red Devils. His first: a typical close range header on 56 minutes, following a well worked short corner routine; his second, five minutes later, a tidy finish, after more great work from Valencia to set him up. 0-5 United, who now look almost nailed on to win the title yet again, after going four points clear at the top. Wolves, I’m afraid, are going down!
Swansea City produced another magnificent away performance to defeat a Fulham side that have been red-hot at home this season. The Cottagers had won six of their previous eight home matches before the Swans came gliding up the Thames, but Brendan Rodgers’ side pay no heed to records and reputations, and they produced another typically excellent passing display in putting their hosts to the sword.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea’s Icelandic loan sensation bagged another away brace to match the one he got at Wigan a couple of weeks ago. The midfielder’s first was a close range diving header in the 36th minute, after Routledge had picked out Sinclair, and the former Chelsea man’s touch was aimed perfectly into his path. His second, half an hour later, again involved Routledge, who received the ball from Sigurdsson, before breaking down the right and providing a precise cutback for the midfielder to find the back of the net.
Joe Allen scored Swansea’s third thirteen minutes from time, curling home a low shot from the edge of the box, although Schwarzer didn’t cover himself in glory, allowing the ball to bounce over his hands on route to the corner. Another fine win for Swansea who move up to eighth, Fulham were unusually subdued.
In the weekend’s other two fixtures, Wigan could only manage a home draw with West Brom. despite being on top throughout and producing a number of clear cut chances, whilst Newcastle kept up their top six challenge with a 1-0 home win over a Norwich side who have just gone off the boil in recent weeks. James McArthur scored from close range for the Latics, only for former Wigan man, Paul Scharner, to equalise for Albion just eleven minutes later. January signing Papiss Cisse made it three goals since his arrival on Tyneside, with the only goal of the game at St. James’ Park (11).