Premier League Review
Game of the Weekend: Aston Villa 3-2 QPR
Aston Villa moved a massive step closer to Premier League safety after coming from behind to beat QPR at Villa Park. The result lifts Paul Lambert’s men six points above the relegation zone and leaves Rangers rooted to the bottom as their mini-revival came to an abrupt end. For a while it looked like Harry Redknapp would be celebrating a third straight win, especially after ex-Villa loanee Jermaine Jenas opened the scoring after 23 minutes. Joe Bennett, who had earlier replaced Nathan Baker, saw his sloppy pass seized upon by the midfielder, who in turn picked out Bobby Zamora. His strike was palmed away by Brad Guzan only for Jenas to score from the rebound. Jose Boswinga then hit the post with a free kick and from the resulting counter attack Villa equaliser as Gabriel Agbonlahor nodded Matthew Lowton’s cross in at the far post on the stroke of half time. The hosts took the ascendancy after the break and took the lead just before the hour when Andreas Weinmann latched onto Bennett’s defence splitting pass and beat Julio Cesar with a precision finish at the near post. But with a newfound resilience underpinning QPR’s recent good results they forced an equaliser with 17 minutes to go as Andros Townsend’s weak shot found its way into the net via the leg of Ron Vlaar. However there was one final twist in the tale and it came in the form of Christian Benteke. The Belgian has been a shining light for Villa this term and illustrated his value with the winning goal nine minutes from time. Some non-existent marking in the visiting defence gave Benteke all the time and space he needed to cooly slot home his 13th goal of the season and secure another priceless three points for Lambert and his players.
Result of the Weekend: Everton 2-0 Manchester City
Everton bounced back from last weeks humiliating FA Cup exit with a victory over Manchester City that all but ends their feint Premier League title hopes. The Toffees’ display was in stark contrast to the one that saw them thumped by Wigan at Goodison Park the previous Sunday as David Moyes celebrated 11-years in charge with a resounding win. City struggled to get going in the game and carved out few clear cut opportunities as Roberto Mancini looked dolefully on from the touchline as he watched his side blow their chance of catching Manchester United at the top. Miraculously they managed to keep the score level for almost half an hour with the home side denied an opener when Kevin Mirallas was wrongly adjudged to be offside. But when the goal did come it was worth waiting for. Seamus Coleman made progress up the right and teed up Leon Osman to hammer an unstoppable left foot shot from 25-yards that arced away from Joe Hart and into the top corner. A double save from Jan Mucha preserved Everton’s lead in the second half with the stand in keeper denying Carlos Tevez and James Milner in the space of a few seconds. And, despite Steven Piennar’s red card for a studs-up tackle on Javi Garcia just before the hour, victory was assured in injury time as Nikicia Jelavic came off the bench to curl home a wonderful second.
Rounding up the rest…
Mauricio Pochettino earned only his second win as Southampton manager as they convincingly ended Liverpool’s four game unbeaten run at St Mary’s. Just six minutes were on the clock when Jay Rodriguez set up Morgan Schneiderlin to sweep a shot past Brad Jones in the visiting goal. Rickie Lambert doubled the Saints’ lead just after the half hour with a deflected free kick before Phillipe Coutinho, a January target for Pochettini, halved the deficit, pouncing from close range on the stroke of half time to turn in Daniel Sturridge’s blocked shot. And after a nervy second half the home side secured the points when Rodriguez waltzed through the Liverpool defence and finished confidently and move Southampton seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Manchester United edged closer to lifting the Premier League title after Wayne Rooney’s goal proved enough to see off managerless Reading at Old Trafford. The pre-match narrative was dominated by the Royals’ shock decision to sack manager Brian McDermott earlier in the week leaving caretaker Eamonn Dolan with the unenviable task of leading them into battle at the home of the Champions elect. However their spirited display bore all the hallmarks of the ‘all for one, one for all’ philosophy engrained into the club during McDermott’s reign. Sadly that wasn’t enough to see off an unconvincing United who now look odds on to lift a 20th top-flight title after Wayne Rooney saw his 21st minute strike deflect off Alex Pearce and loop over Stuart Taylor.
Dimitar Berbatov came back to haunt former club Tottenham by scoring the winning goal for Fulham at White Hart Lane on Sunday. The Bulgarian had returned to North London three times during his spell at Manchester United and had never returned home on the winning side. But it was fourth time the charm as his tap in from Sascha Riether’s cross in the 52nd minute proved enough to inflict a third straight defeat on Spurs, who lost to Liverpool last week and Inter Milan in the Europa League on Thursday.
Frank Lampard scored his 200th Chelsea goal as they moved up to third in the table with an easy win over West Ham at Stamford Bridge. It was a landmark moment for the Blues midfielder who is now just two short Bobby Tambling’s club record of 202 and was fitting that it came against the club where his career began. Lampard reached his double ton in the 19th minute, heading home Eden Hazard’s clipped cross. The Belgian made sure of the points just after the break after cutting in from the right and firing past Jussi Jaaskelainen at the near post.
Arsenal boosted their hopes of Champions League qualification with a surprise win at Swansea. After exiting the tournament despite beating Bayern Munich in midweek Arsene Wenger emphasised the importance of achieving victory on the trip to South Wales. And they had to remain patient for 74 goalless minutes before Nacho Monreal fired through a crowd to notch his first goal for the Gunners. Gervinho wrapped up the victory after fastening on to a pass from fellow substitute and firing past Michael Vorm to inflict a second successive defeat on the Swans.
Arouna Kone’s last minute goal earned Wigan a crucial win against Newcastle in a game that was marred by a horror tackle from Callum McManaman. The winger, making his Premier League bow for the Latics, somehow avoided a red card from referee Mark Halsey for a knee high lunge on Massadio Haidara that saw the Magpies defender stretchered off in the first half. Just minutes earlier McManaman escaped Haidara’s attention down the right for Jean Beausejour to fire home from six-yards after Davide Santon failed to clear. The visitors improved after the break and levelled proceedings with 18 minutes to go. Papiss Cisse’s instinctive volleyed pass released Santon down the right and he atoned for his earlier error with a calm finish to score his first goal for the club. But with injury time looming the home side snatched a controversial late winner when Maynor Figueroa appeared to help James McCarthy’s corner on with his hand and Kone stabbed home following a bout of pinball in the Newcastle six-yard box.