BPL Recap, Highlights: Sunderland play spoiler again, Liverpool nears title, more

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

BY MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

If you haven’t been following, there’s a new team in the Barclays Premier League. I think they’re called Sunderland … you know, the team who has been giving other clubs a tough time.

Obviously, they are not a new club, but they are playing with renewed hope and looking like a much better side than the one sitting at the bottom of the Premier League. After drawing Manchester City 2-2, the Black Cats sucker-punched Chelsea’s title hopes at Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 win.

Chelsea had not lost at home in 78 league games under Jose Mourinho, but that streak comrd to an end.

Chelsea took the lead early and looked set for a potential easy day. Samuel Eto’o volleyed home from a Willian corner after just 12 minutes.

Sunderland were back in the game in quick fashion. Marcos Alonso‘s strike from distance was only parried by Mark Schwarzer, who was deputizing for a sick Petr CechConnor Wickham was able to pounce for the equalizer.

Chelsea throughly dominated the match, with 62% of the possession and hitting the target 15 times from 31 shots. However, they couldn’t find the advantage where it counts the most — the score sheet.

Sunderland found a late goal on a penalty. Jozy Altidore came on in the 66th minute and contributed greatly to the cause. It was Cesar Azpilicueta‘s challenge on the American striker that was called for the foul, although it appeared to have been the wrong call.

Fabio Borini stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, shooting straight down the middle and beating Schwarzer, who dove to his right.

Much like Man City after their draw to Sunderland last week, Chelsea’s title hopes look to be fading away. Five points adrift from the top spot, Chelsea must win against Liverpool next week as well as winning the rest of their games, while Liverpool will need to slip up somewhere other than the game against the Blues.

Sunderland are now three points out of a relegation place. With a game in hand and much improved performances, there is still a chance they avoid the dreaded relegation.

Other Premier League Results

1. Liverpool In The Driver Seat– Liverpool know if they continue to win, they will be crowned champions. With other title challengers slipping up, Liverpool were hoping to avoid the same against strugglers Norwich. In typical Reds fashion this season, they simply just scored more than they let up in a 3-2 affair at Carrow Road.

Raheem Sterling gave Liverpool a lead after just four minutes with a fine strike from distance. Sterling then became the provider seven minutes later, teeing Luis Suarez up for a tap in after his cross from the left.

Norwich started to fight back in the second half. Bradley Johnson challenged a looping cross from Robert Snodgrass as Simon Mignolet rushed out to punch. The ball fell to Gary Hooper, who slotted the ball to the open net in the 54th minute.

However, the comeback was short-lived with Sterling adding a second just after the hour mark. Again, it was a goal of pure class. He picked off an errant Norwich pass in his own half and took off sprinting down the left side. He side-stepped Michael Turner easily and then his shot took a fortunate deflection off of Johnson to return the lead to a two-goal advantage.

Norwich added one more goal in the 77th, but it was only a consolation. Snodgrass got up well to nod home Martin Olsson‘s cross.

Liverpool now have a five point gap at the top and look set to lift the Premier League trophy, barring any huge slip-ups. Norwich look like relegation fodder, sitting three points in safety, with other struggling teams starting to find some semblance of form.

2. Arsenal Keep Control Of Fourth– Arsenal are getting stronger and it was on full display this weekend against Hull in a FA Cup final preview.

Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil both made crucial impacts in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Hull.

Ramsey got Arsenal off the mark in his first league start in 2014 and then Lukas Podolski tallied two times for the second game in a row.

The goals Arsenal scored were of high order. Going away from the goal on the right, Ozil turned and picked out Santi Cazorla at the top of the box with a neat pass. Cazorla then slotted the ball into Ramsey’s path. The Welshman took a touch and shot to the far post, beating Steve Harper in the 31st minute.

Hull nearly equalized, but Liam Rosenior‘s strike from distance was denied by the woodwork.

Hull felt Nickica Jelavic was fouled just near the Arsenal box, but no call came. The Gunners broke quickly and Olivier Giroud crossed the ball in from the right. Ramsey chested it down as Podolski was arriving and the German smashed it home right before the halftime whistle.

The third came shortly after the break in the 54th minute. Cazorla cut the ball back towards the top of the box where Ramsey made a late run and fired on goal. Harper got a foot to it to keep it out, but the ball fell to Podolski for his second of the match.

Arsenal looked far superior to Hull. The teams will face each other again in May for the FA Cup final. The Gunners keep the final Champions League spot with a chasing Everton a pint away.

3. Everton Still In Striking Distance For Fourth– David Moyes returned to Goodison Park for the first time and didn’t find it very friendly. His Manchester United side was well-beaten by Everton.

Everton took the lead in the 28th minute. Romelu Lukaku cut in from the right, in a not too dissimilar fashion from the way he scored against Arsenal, and fired towards goal. Phil Jones was already on the ground and flung himself in the direction of the shot as he blocked the shot with his arm.

Leighton Baines stepped up to take the penalty. He fired straight down the middle as David De Gea dove to his right. The ball just misses coming back out for a save off of the Spanish keeper’s feet.

Everton added a second in the 43rd minute. The Toffees countered swiftly and the result was Kevin Miralla firing to the far post with a tight angle after a well-weighted through ball from Seamus Coleman.

With the loss, United are mathematically ruled out of a Champions League berth. It will be the first time they’ve finished outside the Top Four since the 1990-91 season.

Everton remain one point off of Arsenal and still firmly in the hunt for a fourth place finish.

4. Swansea Closes In On Safety– With the season drawing to a close, Swansea had yet to book their place in the league next season. Behind a Wilfried Bony brace, the Swans may have done just that. They bested struggling Newcastle 2-1.

Shola Aemobi showed good strength and balance working his way through two Swansea defenders to fire home in the 22nd minute of play. However, Bony would get two goals, separated by 45 minutes. The Swans striker got his first in first half stoppage time. He attacked Ben Davies‘ corner kick and headed past Tim Krul. Marvin Emnes was hacked down in the box by Cheik Tiote as the game appeared to be set for a draw. Bony sent the spot kick to the top corner as Krul dove the wrong way.

Newscastle has now lost their last four and lucky to not be closer to the relegation scrap heap. Swansea pushed nearer to safety, now six points above the drop zone.

5. Fulham’s Good Spell Halted, Remain In Relegation Mire– Fulham had won two in a row to edge closer to climbing out of the relegation zone. That bid was halted for at least another week as Tottenham swept the Premier League strugglers aside.

Spurs had a lead after 35 minutes, when Paulinho tapped in off a Christian Eriksen free-kick. Fulham did show spirit and leveled the match two minutes later. Tottenham defender played an inadvertent one-two with Steve Sidwell, who chipped Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham would tack on two goals after the break. Aaron Lennon sent in a cross from the right and picked out Harry Kane, who glanced the ball into the net in the 48th minute. Eriksen provided another fine free-kick and Younes Kaboul kneed the ball into the net in the 62nd.

Fulham had a great chance to come back into the match. Sidwell stepped up to take the penalty, but it was parried away by Lloris.

The Cottagers still have a chance to move out of the drop zone with a win next week, while Tottenham are pretty certain for sixth.

6. Cardiff Secure Point In Survival Bid– Cardiff are another club that needed a win for safety, but had to settle for a draw, featuring two penalties.

Stoke City took the lead through the penalty spot. Marko Arnautovic fired to the middle on the spot kick in first half stoppage time after Kim Bo-Kyung took down Peter Odemwingie. Just after halftime, Cardiff had their own penalty. Steven Nzonzi tripped up Frazier CampbellPeter Whittinham took the ensuing penalty and converted down the middle as well.

Cardiff thought they had the lead, but Juan Cala‘s header was rightfully ruled offside.

Stoke are comfortable in mid-table, while Cardiff will be sweating to the wire, a win away from possibly moving out of the drop zone.

7. Crystal Palace Cement Top Division Place– Crystal Palace continue to grind out results under Tony Pulis. After shocking Everton during mid-week, Palace grabbed another three points on the back of a penalty kick goal from Mile Jedinak against West Ham.

Cameron Jerome was fouled just inside the box by Pablo Armero. Jedinak fired into the top left corner from the spot.

Palace are now in 11th in the table, while the Hammers are one place behind in 12th.

8. Aston Villa, Southampton Ends Goalless– Aston Villa had lost four in a row in the league as they spiraled towards the relegation zone. With the draw they grabbed a vital point to help aid in their survival.

Both teams struggled to create many chances all game, but the best may have come in the 32nd minute. Steven Davis forced Brad Guzan into a good save. Adam Lallana had a chance in the 55th minute, but couldn’t manage a touch on the ball.

The draw leaves Villa in 15th place, five points from the drop as Southampton remain in eighth.

9. Man City, West Brom Monday Kick-0ff– Stay tuned after the match on Monday for a game recap in an all-important fixture for both teams at different ends of the table.

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