By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
This weekend was one to enjoy for anyone celebrating St Patrick’s Day, Manchester United fans, fans of second choice goalkeepers and fans of reckless tackles and handballs. Just another weekend in the Premier League then.
Manchester City’s title chances were dealt a killer blow by Everton at Goodison Park. Kevin Mirallas had a fine close-range strike ruled out for offside before Leon Osman gave the Toffees the lead in the 32nd minute with a swerving shot from 30 yards.
Steven Pienaar’s birthday was on Sunday, but referee Lee Probert gave him a card of the red variety a day early after the South African received a second booking.
With Tim Howard injured, Jan Mucha was excellent between the sticks for the home side, thwarting several shots from the visitors as the ten man Toffees held on.
City should have had a late penalty when Marouane Fellaini blocked a shot from Carlos Tevez with his hand just inside the box but Lee Probert only awarded a free-kick which ultimately came to nothing.
Substitute Nikica Jelavic ended his goal drought in style in the final minutes of the game, ending an Everton counter-attack by curling the ball past Joe Hart from distance as City chased an equaliser.
Southampton and Liverpool have different aims for the end of the season, the Saints hoping to stay up and the Reds desiring a Champions League spot. The strugglers struck first as Morgan Schneiderlin gave them a 6th minute lead from close-range after Jay Rodriguez knocked a cross down into his path.
Rickie Lambert’s deflected free-kick on 33 minutes doubled the Saints’ advantage but Liverpool responded through Philippe Coutinho’s neat finish just before the break.
Jay Rodriguez sealed the home side’s victory in the 80th minute, striding through the Liverpool defence and beating Brad Jones at his second attempt.
Aston Villa and QPR are both battling for Premier League survival and faced each other at Villa Park. The visitors dominated the first half, taking the lead through Jermain Jenas in the 23rd minute. Brad Guzan was at his best to thwart Christopher Samba twice and Jose Bosingwa hit the post with a free-kick but seconds later Gabriel Agbonlahor headed in an unlikely equaliser on the stroke of half time.
It was the proverbial game of two halves as Villa improved after the break, taking the lead through Andreas Weimann’s powerful shot from just inside the box after 59 minutes.
Andros Townsend equalised from the edge of the box in the 73rd minute, but Villa got the three points thanks to a Christian Benteke strike in the 81st minute, the big striker left totally unmarked in the box. Not wise.
Second half goals from unlikely sources gave Arsenal a win away to Swansea. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had hit the bar twice in a first half but the main action was consigned to late in the game.
The Gunners took the lead in the 74th minute through full-back Nacho Monreal. After great build up play from Santi Cazorla, the ball fell to the former Malaga star in the box and he drilled in his first Arsenal goal.
With Swansea caught up the park in search of an equaliser, substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho combined to break forward, with the Ivorian winger netting Arsenal’s stoppage time second.
Stoke and West Brom played out a dismal goalless draw. Romelu Lukaku had the best of the Baggies’ chances, heading over the bar in the second half.
Stoke lacked any sort of attacking impetus but could have seized three points in stoppage time, however substitute Kenwyne Jones didn’t make the most of the late chance.
After sacking Brian McDermott, Reading had the daunting task of a visit to Manchester United. Wayne Rooney gave United the lead after 21 minutes, collecting the ball from Rio Ferdinand’s striding run forward and hitting a shot that deflected in off Alex Pearce.
It wasn’t a comfortable victory for the home side though, as the Royals threatened throughout. United saw out the game, and surely the title is theirs…
On Sunday, strugglers Sunderland and Norwich met at the Stadium of Light as both looked to win a game for a change. Wes Hoolahan gave the visitors the lead on 26 minutes, heading in from virtually on the goal-line from a corner.
After half an hour, the Canaries were reduced to 10 men. Mark Bunn came charging out of his box as the ball threatened to drop to Danny Graham, and the Norwich keeper handled outside his area forcing Chris Foy to flash the red card.
Less than ten minutes later, Sebastian Bassong was penalised for another handball. Craig Gardner netted from the spot.
The second half was hardly inspiring, but Norwich coped admirably with a man disadvantage and kept the Black Cats at bay to share the points.
Frank Lampard scored his 200th Chelsea goal as they beat West Ham at Stamford Bridge. Demba Ba wasted an early chance, but Lampard soon gave his side the lead, nodding a beautiful clipped ball in from Eden Hazard past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Hazard dazzled throughout, and scored a sensational second in the 50th minute. The maverick Belgian shimmied and shook past several defenders, played a one-two with Juan Mata and then fired past Jaaskelainen to seal a comfortable Chelsea victory.
Fulham scored for the first time at White Hart Lane since 2007 as they beat Spurs. The home side looked tired after their Europa League exertions against Inter Milan and it was one of their old boys, Dimitar Berbatov, who gave the visitors the lead after 52 minutes. The Bulgarian didn’t celebrate after guiding in a low ball in from Sascha Riether from close range.
Mark Schwarzer twice denied Jermain Defoe as Spurs struggled to make a breakthrough and Fulham held on for all three points.
The most tempestuous game of the weekend was at the DW Stadium as Wigan welcomed Newcastle. The home side didn’t really make their visitors all that welcome, Jean Beausejour opening the scoring on 18 minutes before Calum McManaman was lucky to stay on the pitch after flying into a reckless challenge which saw Massadio Haidara stretchered off.
The first half ended with Newcastle assistant manager John Carver being sent to the stand after trying to confront McManaman as it threatened to get uglier than usual in Wigan.
The Magpies had something to smile about in the second half as they equalised after 72 minutes, Davide Santon arriving in the right place to shoot into the far corner of the net.
The smiles didn’t last long, as Arouna Kone netted a controversial final minute winner for the Latics. There was a scramble from a corner and Kone netted from close range, despite Maynor Figueroa being guilty of a handball in the build-up. Alan Pardew was not a happy man.