April 18, 2014 Leave a comment
Even though there were only three fixtures played in the Premiership in midweek, the results still managed to cause a significant shift in the balance of power in the race for both the title and the final Champions League place. On Tuesday night, Arsenal lifted themselves back into fourth by coming from behind to beat West Ham 3-1 at the Emirates, with two goals from Lukas Podolski and a well-taken finish from Olivier Giroud canceling out Matt Jarvis’ 40th minute opener for the visitors. Things got better for the Gunners the next night, when Crystal Palace surprised Everton – who were on a run of seven consecutive league victories – and defeated them 3-2 at Goodison Park, leaving the Toffees a point behind Arsenal, with just four matches remaining. The opening goal for Palace was scored by Jason Puncheon – his fourth goal in the last three matches – and the fact that, despite his excellent form and productivity, he does not even seem to be in England reckoning is bizarre, especially considering Andros Townsend, who has not played particularly well since October, could still end up on the plane to Brazil. Perhaps Roy Hodson is mindful of the fact that in six of the last ten tournaments they have qualified for, England have been knocked out on penalties and cannot get this miss by Puncheon out of his head from earlier in the season. Regardless of that failure from 12 yards, Jason Puncheon is Crystal Palace’s top scorer in the league season and many of his goals have been crucial in ensuring that the south London club will almost certainly avoid relegation from the Premiership for the first time in five attempts. As for Everton, they now need to win all of their remaining matches – two of which are against the Manchester teams – and hope that Arsenal slip up during their much easier run-in, otherwise the Gunners will qualify for the Champions League for the 17th consecutive year.
The other game in midweek was Sunderland’s visit to Manchester City, who were hoping to brush off their defeat at Liverpool last Sunday that meant they no longer had their title fate in their own hands. Things started well for Manuel Pelligrini’s side, as they scored within the first two minutes through Fernandinho, but any expected thrashing never came and the Black Cats – who are rooted to the bottom of the table and look likely to be playing Championship football next season – had several chances to equalize during the first half. At the other end, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo – who have scored 52 goals between them this campaign, but neither has found the net since the end of January at Tottenham – were far from their best and Sunderland fully deserved to draw level when they did finally break through, thanks to Connor Wickham in the 73rd minute. Ten minutes later, things got worse for City as Wickham provided the finish to a quick counter-attack and it looked as though City would be beaten at home for just the second time in the Premiership this season. However, two minutes from time a shot from Samir Nasri squirmed through Vito Mannone’s grasp and the goalkeeper was slow in reacting as the ball slowly rolled over the line and, moments later, the French midfielder had a great chance to win the match for Pellgirini’s men, but he put the ball over from 12 yards out. The draw means that not only are Manchester City now reliant on Liverpool dropping three points, they also need Chelsea to fail to win at least one of their final four matches if they are to have any chance of winning back the title they won so dramatically in 2012. Read more of this post