By Ross CraeFollow @JfGpodcasts
It’s all happening in the Premier League this week. Big names retiring, managers possibly being sacked, trophy presentations, relegation battles, top four tussles, record breakers, dodgy keepers and all sorts of fun and games.
Due to the FA Cup final, there was only one Premier League match on Saturday. Aston Villa hosted Chelsea as both teams looked for wins that could see them seal their fate for next season. It was an emotional occasion, and applause for retiring captain Stiliyan Petrov rang out around the ground.
Villa took the lead after 14 minutes with Christian Benteke powering forward and finishing past Petr Cech, making it look easy in the process. Benteke was lucky not to be sent off in the first half after connecting with Cesar Azpilicueta on two separate occasions with his elbow. Ramires was not so lucky however, seeing a second yellow at the end of a first half where he had resembled a rampaging bull in some of his attempts to win back the ball.
Benteke eventually received his second yellow just before the hour mark for a foul on John Terry, and this proved to be the game’s turning point. In the 61st minute, Frank Lampard fired in his 202nd goal for Chelsea from the edge of the box. The Blues could have had a second soon after, a goal line scramble looked to have resulted in both a handball from a Villa player and the ball crossing the line, but it would have been impossible for the officials to be 100% sure that either incident did in fact happen.
Chelsea did get their winning goal in the 88th minute, and it was Lampard who provided it. He became the European champions’ all-time top goalscorer, finishing off a slick passing move with a tap-in.
Chelsea’s win will be soured slightly by losing both Terry and Eden Hazard to injuries, but can look forward to Wednesday’s Europa League final and the likely prospect of Champions League football next season.
On Sunday, as everyone woke up to discover that Manchester City losing to Wigan in the cup final wasn’t actually a dream / nightmare (delete as appropriate) there was a full fixture list to fulfil.
Spurs went to the Britannia to face Stoke. Stephen N’Zonzi gave the hosts an early lead, heading in a clever free-kick from Charlie Adam in the third minute. Clint Dempsey had a cute back-heeled effort ruled out for offside before netting an equally sweet finish to level the scoring in the 20th minute. Asmir Begovic came out to deal with a ball but Marc Wilson swept it away and it fell to Dempsey who hit a first time shot from long range and it sailed into an empty net.
Tetchiness engulfed the rest of the half as tempers started to fray. It carried over into the second half and Adam saw a second yellow card straight after the break for a stupid tackle. Stoke held on well with ten men as they took a battering (role reversal?), and the visitors finally took the lead in the 83rd minute. Dempsey received a fortunate deflection in the box and played the ball across goal to Emmanuel Adebayor who couldn’t miss from close range.
David Moyes bid farewell to Goodison Park in his last home game before leaving Everton. The Toffees took the lead in the 6th minute against opponents West Ham, Kevin Mirrallas finishing from the edge of the box after a well worked team move.
The Belgian doubled his tally on 60 minutes, his shot taking a deflection off James Collins and looping over Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Jaaskelainen produced a great save to stop Leon Osman bagging a third for the Toffees as Everton sizzled. The Hammers only had two real chances, Kevin Nolan denied by Tim Howard in the first half and Andy Carroll failing to connect properly with a late header. A fitting end to Moyes’ tenure.
Fulham welcomed Liverpool to Craven Cottage with both sides not having much to play for. Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring on 33 minutes, heading in Sascha Riether’s perfect cross from an unmarked position in front of goal.
Just three minutes later, Daniel Sturridge equalised. Andre Wisdom’s long clearance fell to the striker who set himself in the box and fired past Mark Schwarzer.
Sturridge had a second on 62 minutes, collecting a deflected shot from Coutinho and slotting under Schwarzer. He completed his hat-trick, collecting a long pass with the edge of the boot from Coutinho and chipping it over the advancing Schwarzer in the 85th minute.
Norwich put aside their worries and dispatched West Brom in a comfortable 4-0 victory. Robert Snodgrass opened the scoring on 25 minutes, with Baggies keeper Ben Foster failing to smother Wes Hoolahan’s effort fully and the ball falling to the feet of the Scotland midfielder.
Grant Holt doubled their lead on 62 minutes after Foster charged out and miskicked the ball, allowing the Canaries striker to walk the ball into an empty net. Three minutes later a Garath McAuley own goal made it three, and Johnny Howson’s superb curling strike in the 90th minute topped off a fine afternoon for Chris Hughton’s side.
QPR are already going down but they could have given Newcastle more survival worries with a win at Loftus Road. Loic Remy gave the Rs the lead with an 11th minute penalty after Mathieu Debuchy brought down Junior Hoillet.
Hatem Ben Arfa equalised from the spot in the 18th minute having had his shirt pulled in the box by Jose Bosingwa. Shortly afterwards Papiss Cisse had the ball in the back of the net but it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Yoan Gouffran gave the Magpies the lead in the 35th minute after shambolic defending from QPR (yet again). Bosingwa played a poor ball back to Robert Green, and the keeper’s clearance fell to Gouffran who could roll the ball into an empty net from the edge of the box.
Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot was yellow carded for kicking the ball away at a stop in play and soon saw a second for handling outside the box, setting up a nervy finale, but the Magpies secured their survival with three points.
Survival scrappers Sunderland took on Southampton at the Stadium of Light. The points were shared thanks to two goals in the second half.
Phil Bardsley opened the scoring on 68 minutes, firing a rocket from the far corner of the box that took a deflection off Jos Hooiveld and evaded Artur Boruc.
Substitute Jason Puncheon equalised on 76 minutes, his header saved by Simon Mignolet but his follow up effort while he was still on the ground beating the Black Cats keeper.
Of course the most anticipated game of the weekend was Sir Alex Ferguson’s final home game as Manchester United manager. The Red Devils welcomed Swansea and hoped to give their legendary manager a fitting send-off. Javier Hernandez opened the scoring after 39 minutes, a free-kick wasn’t cleared and the little Mexican striker finished expertly.
As if to spoil the party Michu equalised in the 49th minute, arriving into the box to produce a fine finish from a corner.
After Paul Scholes had departed the pitch to a standing ovation as he too retires, another member of the old guard, Rio Ferdinand, scored his first goal in five years to give Sir Alex a final three points at Old Trafford. It was a typical late goal in the 87th minute, which seemed fitting.