QPR gave Harry Redknapp a birthday to remember after beating his old club Southampton at St Mary’s to significantly boost their survival hopes. This was the first time the Redknapp had returned to the South Coast club since 2005 when they were relegated under his stewardship and the Saints fans treated him to a predictably hostile reception. However the 66-year-old would ultimately have the last laugh as Jay Bothroyd scored late on to secure a crucial victory and deal a major blow to the Saints’ hopes of staying in the Premier League. A rejigged attack made up of Bothroyd, Loic Remy and Junior Hoilett raised a few eyebrows before kick off, especially with Adel Taarabt dropped to the bench, but Redknapp’s decision was soon justified. Hoilett’s clever pass in the 14th minute caught the home defence napping allowing Remy to race onto the ball and finish confidently past Artur Boruc. Southampton had to wait until the stroke of half time before drawing level as Gaston Ramirez reacted first to clip a sublime finish over Julio Cesar after substitute Jay Rodriguez’s effort was parried by the Brazilian keeper. Chances came and went before Bothroyd struck the fatal blow 13 minutes from time after Park dispossessed Maya Yoshida and crossed for him to tap in from close range. Yoshida almost made amends but Robert Green, on for the injured Cesar, produced a remarkable save to deny Mauricio Pochettino a point and give Redknapp a rare chance to celebrate.
Game of the Weekend: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal
Tottenham moved seven points above Arsenal and back into third after goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon settled an entertaining North London derby at White Hart Lane. With the Gunners nearing another full blown crisis Spurs knew this was their chance to strike a fatal blow to the local adversaries and did just that in a pulsating encounter. After a relatively even first half that saw both teams go close to scoring it was bound to be man of the moment Bale that would break the deadlock and he did so in the 37th minute. Gylfi Sigurdsson was the architect, prodding a perfectly weighted pass through the visitors napping defence to meet the Welsh wingers timed run before he calmly toed the ball past Wojciech Szczesny. And the hosts barely gave their capital neighbours time to compose themselves before doubling their advantage two minutes later. It was a carbon copy of the first as Scott Parker threaded the ball through the heart of Arsenal’s back line to Aaron Lennon, who nipped around Szczesny and tucked the ball home without breaking stride. Half time gave Arsene Wenger’s beleaguered troops a chance to regroup and within six minutes of the restart they gave themselves a lifeline when Per Mertesacker’s header from Theo Walcott’s free kick clipped Bale’s shoulder and flew into the net. But it wasn’t enough for the away side as Andre Villas-Boas’ troops extended their unbeaten run to 16 games and put themselves in pole position for Champions League qualification with 10 games left to play.
Rounding up the rest…
Luis Suarez hammered scored a hat trick as Liverpool boosted their hopes of European qualification with a comprehensive win over Wigan. Barely two minutes were on the clock when Phillipe Countinho crossed for Stewart Downing to head home the opener from close range before the game turned into the Suarez show. The Uruguayan’s first of the evening came in the 18th minute and demonstrated just how lethal he is right now. Coutinho was the provider again, slipping the ball through for the Reds number seven who cooly finished past a grounded Ali Al-Habsi. Suarez made it 3-0 just before half time with a deflected free kick that found its way into the net via Shaun Maloney before completing his treble five minutes after the break with another lethal finish after being played in by Glen Johnson.
Everton comfortably beat Reading at Goodison Park to strengthen their push for Champions League qualification. Marouane Fellaini’s bullet header from Seamus Coleman’s inviting cross in the 42nd minute broke the deadlock and eased the tension that was building on Merseyside. And just before the hour Stephen Pienaar put the result beyond doubt with a fine finish from 20-yards before he set up Kevin Mirallas to make it 3-0 in the 66th minute with a delightful pass. Hal Robson-Kanu’s unmarked header late on proved to be a consolation for the Royal’s who remain second bottom.
Chelsea put a tumultuous week behind them with a narrow 1-0 victory over West Brom at Stamford Bridge. Barely four days after his now infamous rant directed at the Blues supporters Rafael Benitez found himself back in the dugout and will have afforded himself a wry smile as his side ground out a valuable victory to move back up to third. Demba Ba’s close range finish in the 28th minute proved to be decisive with the Senegalese turning the ball home after David Luiz headed across goal from Oscar’s arrowed cross.
Shinji Kagawa notched a hat trick as Manchester United romped to victory over Norwich and extended their lead at the top to 15 points. The home sided dominated the first 45 minutes and opened the scoring in stoppage time when Kagawa volleyed past Mark Bunn for his first of the afternoon. He had to wait until the 76th minute to grab his second, finishing neatly after being teed up by Wayne Rooney. And the Japanese international completed his first treble in English football with a dinked finish three minutes from time before Rooney added a fourth soon after with a stunning long range strike.
Sunderland came from two goals behind to earn a point against Fulham at the Stadium of Light. Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring on 16 minutes, nonchalantly rolling the ball past Simon Mignolet from the penalty spot after Craig Gardner felled Ashkan Dejagah. Sascha Riether doubled the visitors advantage in the 35th minute when Sascha Riether converted from close range after Mignolet spilled Dejagah’s shot following a swift Fulham counter attack. Gardner then atoned for his earlier error when he beat Mark Schwarzer from 12-yards. And the equaliser came with 20 minutes to spare as Stephane Sessegnon drove home Adam Johnson’s deflected cross from the edge of the area.
West Ham’s first away since November lifted them clear of the relegation zone after Jack Collison’s goal was enough to see off Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. Sam Allardyce’s side had lost their five games on the road but picked up a valuable three points in the Potteries thanks to Collison. The Wales midfielder pounced in first half stoppage time, fastening on to a pass from fellow substitute Ricardo Vaz Te and fired beyond Asmir Begovic to make it six defeats in their last eight for Stoke.
Luke Moore came off the bench to score a late winner for Swansea as they followed up their Capital One Cup triumph with a hard-earned victory over Newcastle. The Swans were second best for much of the game at the Liberty Stadium as the visitors squandered a number of gilt-edged opportunities. And it was left to Moore to deal the killer blow when he bundled home Wayne Routledge’s cross and take Michael Laudrup’s side to the 40-point survival threshold, while the Magpies are still looking nervously over their shoulders.
Aston Villa plunged closer to relegation after Carlos Tevez’s goal was enough for Manchester City to seize victory and close the gap at the top of the Premier League to 12-points. In a drab Monday night encounter the games defining moment when Ciaran Clark attempted to turn out of trouble in first half injury time saw him dispossessed by Edin Dzeko in his own penalty area. The Bosnian unselfishly squared for Tevez to round Brad Guzan and score what turned out to be the winning goal for City.