English Premier League: Week 32 round-up

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The 32nd round of the English Premiership took place this past weekend with both the battles for the league title and the battle against relegation still raging on. The fate of one team has been sealed for the rest of the season as Derby County has been mathematically guaranteed relegation, setting a new league record for earliest relegation. At the top of the table, nothing changed this week as Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool all won.

Full Results

Saturday, March 29

The bottom two teams in the league squared off at Pride Park early on Saturday with relegation for both teams looming. Derby's position in last has been a foregone conclusion for some time, however Fulham had a chance to jump into a tie for 18th spot with Birmingham City. Derby County struck first on 10 minutes when a shot by former Fulham player Dean Leacock bounced off the knee of Rams striker Emanuel Villa and past Fulham keeper Kasey Keller. Fulham knotted the score at one a piece in the 24th minute when a cross by Simon Davies was met by the head of Diomansy Kamara. The teams went into the break tied, but it was Fulham who took the lead in the second half when a shot by Hameur Bouazza deflected off Dean Leacock and into the Derby goal. Villa would score again however, 2 minutes later, with a header off Mile Sterjovski's cross.

Blackburn traveled to play Reading in another match this Saturday. Rovers are in position to get into the UEFA Cup next season, sitting at 7th in the league. The game was a battle of the keepers in the end, as Reading's Marcus Hahnemann and Blackburn's Brad Friedel faced off in the opposing nets. Reading's Marek Matejovsky was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 72nd minute, but Blackburn were unable to take advantage as The Royals grabbed another crucial point in their battle against relegation.

Freddie Ljungberg gave West Ham an early advantage in this match, but Roy Keane's Sunderland fought back to earn a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light. Kenwyne Jones' calm finishing in the 29th minute tied the game for the Black Cats, and a last minute volley from Andy Reid completed the comeback. The win is Sunderlands second consecutive, and gives them a fighting chance to stay in the league, now sitting in 14th spot on 33 points. West Ham is looking at a mid-table finish, currently at 10th place, a substantial improvement after their near relegation last season.

Birmingham City looked to put clear daylight between themselves and Bolton at the bottom of the table as they welcomed Manchester City to St. Andrews. City's form had been dropping in recent weeks, and Birmingham took full advantage as striker Mauro Zarate scored off a through-ball from Frank Queudrue, and then made it two soon after the break on a cross from Gary McSheffrey. Minutes later Queudrue brought down Manchester striker Benjani in the 18 yard box, and was subsequently sent off. Elano dispatched the penalty with ease to pull one back for the away side. In the 77th minute Sun Jihai brought down Gary McSheffrey in a shoulder challenge within the penalty area, and Scotsman stepped up to restore Birmingham's two goal advantage.

Relegation battled Wigan travelled to Portsmouth to take on Pompey at Fratton Park. January signing Jermain Defoe proved the difference in the match with two goals to win the match for the UEFA Cup hopefuls. A blocked shot from John Utaka bounced into the path of Defoe who finished from a sharp angle to give the home side the lead in the 32nd minute. In stoppage time Defoe grabbed his brace when he beat the offside trap and chipped the ball from Niko Kranjcar into the back of Wigan's goal.

Arsenal looked to put pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United early on Saturday as they traveled to the Reebok Stadium to take on Bolton. Bolton were in desperate need of a win and took an early lead through Matthew Taylor, as he headed home a cross from Steinsson on the right. Arsenal then suffered another setback when Abou Diaby was sent off for a two footed challenge. Bolton took adventage before the end of the half as Taylor netted his second of the match on a deflected shot. Arsenal came back strongly after the break, with goals from Gallas and van Persie drawing the game level. The decisive moment came in the 90th minute when a shot by van Persie deflect off a defender and into the Bolton goal. The own goal was credited to Jlloyd Samuel.

Martin O'Neil's Aston Villa traveled to take on the Red Devils at Old Trafford. In form winger Cristiano Ronaldo put United in front in the 17th minute when a Ryan Gigg's corner ended up at his feet, and with a flick the ball went between a defenders legs and past keeper Scott Carson. Later in the half a cross by Ronaldo made its way to Carlos Tevez on the left side who dove to head the ball in for United's second. Ronaldo was again invloved in the 3rd and 4th goals as Wayne Rooney latched onto through-balls from the Portuguese and earned himself a brace.

Sunday, March 30th

An early goal from Ricardo Carvalho was all it took for Chelsea to defeat Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were looking to keep pressure on league leaders Manchester United while 'Boro were aiming to edge closer to the relative protection of 40 points. The Portuguese headed home the only goal in the 6th minute, his first goal of the season. Middlesbrough put pressure on the hosts in the second half, but only managed to hit the woodwork on three occasions.

Two teams in close standing faced off at White Hart Lane on Sunday, with Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United coming out on top. Summer signing Darren Bent gave Spurs the lead in the 26th minute when he headed home a cross from Steed Malbranque. Newcastle were even on the stroke of half time through Nicky Butt. Tottenham defender Gareth Southgate made a defensive error and Butt took full advantage, slipping the ball past Paul Robinson. Geremi then put the visitors in front with a well taken free kick past Tottenham's defensive wall. Newcastle increased their lead in the 65th minute through Michael Owen, and Obafemi Martins finished the scoring in the 83rd minute.

Liverpool won the latest edition of the Liverpool derby on a goal through Spanish Striker Fernando Torres. More than just pride was at stake this game as Liverpool lead Everton by two points for the final Champions League spot. Liverpool played strongly in the first half and Torres put the Reds ahead in the 7th minute with a right footed shot past Tim Howard. Steven Gerrard cracked a shot off the post later in the half, but Liverpool couldn't manage a second breakthrough. The win puts Liverpool in poll position to retain their Champion League position for next season, however David Moyes' side still has a chance with six games remaining.