Last weekend’s F.A. Cup quarter-finals meant that only four Barclays Premier League matches took place over the two days. The remaining fixtures were played out in mid-week, barring Bolton Wanderers’ game with Aston Villa, which was postponed due to the Fabrice Muamba incident. I am pleased to say that Muamba has regained consciousness and appears to be making a recovery, however he remains in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital. Here is a brief summary of all the action from the other matches.
The match of the week was undoubtedly Wednesday night’s encounter between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad. City, unbeaten at home in all competitions this season, and with a 100% record in the Premier League at Eastlands, were desperate to keep that run going in order to close the gap on their biggest rivals, Manchester United, to just one point at the top of the table. Chelsea, arriving in Manchester on the back of four successive victories in all competitions under Caretaker Manager, Roberto di Mattteo, were equally keen to take all three points, in their bid to ensure Champions’ League football next season by securing a top four finish.
It was Manchester City who had the last laugh, although they had to come from behind to secure it. A cagey first half in which the hosts had the upper hand, produced few clear cut chances for either team. Samir Nasri came closest to opening the scoring for the home team in the eighth minute, but his finish came back off the bar, with Cech beaten. Aguero also had a chance, but he shot wide, and Balotelli, having one of his off days, fared little better when his chance came; he was replaced at half-time.
Against the run of play, Chelsea took the lead after sixty minutes. A slice of good fortune saw Gary Cahill’s effort take a massive deflection off Yaya Toure and find the back of the net, leaving the stranded Cech no chance.
Mancini introduced, prodigal son, Carlos Tevez shortly after going behind, in a bold attacking switch, which saw Nigel de Jong come off. City levelled the game up twelve minutes from time, Michael Essien, on as a substitute, inexplicably handling Zabaleta’s effort in the box to concede a penalty, with which Aguero made no mistake.
Five minutes from time came Tevez’s moment. The “outcast” striker received the ball on the edge of the box, turned, and released a perfectly timed, perfectly weighted ball through to Samir Nasri. The Frenchman took it in his stride, and as Cech came rushing off his line, produced a delicately lifted finish, over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. 2-1 to Manchester City, they keep the pressure on United, Chelsea’s winning run comes to an end, but they’re still in with a big chance of getting fourth place.
Tottenham Hotspur’s season continues to falter, as they needed an injury time header from Rafael van der Vaart to prevent them from suffering a fourth league defeat in a row. Spurs had the majority of the possession, but failed to convert it into meaningful chances, Luka Modric with their best chance of the match in the first half.
Stoke took the lead fifteen minutes from time, needless to say, it came from a set-piece, Cameron Jerome on hand to prod home the loose ball after Robert Huth’s header. With the Potters looking to have the three points in the bag, Gareth Bale’s cross deep into stoppage time, of which there were seven minutes, picked out van der Vaart, and his header beat Begovic, and rescued a point for the home side. 1-1 the final score, but with Arsenal winning at Everton, Tottenham slip to fourth place.
Liverpool threw away a 0-2 lead in a spectacular collapse against Q.P.R. at Loftus Road on Wednesday evening. After a first half in which the away side had been utterly dominant, without finding the back of the net, Sebastien Coates, on as an early substitute for the injured Martin Kelly, put the Reds ahead ten minutes after half-time. The Uruguayan defender with a magnificently acrobatic bicycle kick, which flew over Paddy Kenny before the Rangers keeper had seen it, a real contender for goal of the season.
When Dirk Kuyt followed up to bundle home after Luis Suarez’s 72nd minute effort had come back off the post, Liverpool looked to be cruising to a comfortable away victory. It wasn’t to be however, as three goals in fifteen minutes completed an unimaginable comeback for Mark Hughes’ team and condemned Liverpool to another defeat, in what has been a disappointing Premier League campaign for the Anfield Club. Shaun Derry (77) scored with a header from a corner, before Cisse headed the second against his former club (86), after Jordan Henderson had lost Taiwo for the cross, and Jamie Mackie completed the scoring in injury time, beating Reina after some awful defending by Enrique. More misery for Liverpool, Rangers now with a slight chance of staying up.
In the other two games that took place, Blackburn Rovers defeated Sunderland 2-0 on Tuesday evening, whilst Arsenal defeated Everton 0-1 on Wednesday. Thomas Vermaelen’s eighth minute goal was enough to move the Gunners up to third place, confirming their remarkable recovery after a difficult opening to the season. Goals from Junior Hoillet (58) and Yakubu (86) moved Steve Kean’s Blackburn six points clear of the drop-zone, which gives tham a great chance of pulling off the unthinkable by staying up this season with just eight games to play.