English Premier League: Week 33 round-up

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Another nine games took place in the English Premier League this past weekend. Arsenal welcomed Liverpool to Emirates for round-two of their triple header, while fellow title-chasers Chelsea traveled to Manchester to take on Manchester City. In battle at the bottom of the table, Wigan and Birmingham faced off at the JJB, Newcastle welcomed Reading, and Sunderland visited Craven Cottage to play Fulham. In other matches Aston Villa took on Bolton, and Blackburn played host to Tottenham.


Saturday, April 5th

In a repeat of Wednesday's Champions League match, the score stayed the same with a one-all draw. In this game however it was Liverpool who drew first blood through Peter Crouch in the 42nd minute. Crouch collected a long ball, turned inside William Gallas, and fired his drive into the bottom corner of the net. Arsenal had a chance to level soon after the break, but Kolo Toure directed his free header just wide. The home side equalized just minutes later however off a free kick by Cesc Fabregas. His deep curling delivery was headed on by Nicklas Bendtner into the Liverpool goal. The draw leaves Arsenal in trouble for the title, as they are now five points behind leaders Manchester United with United in action on Sunday.

Aston Villa thrashed relegation threatened Bolton at Villa Park. Gareth Barry opened the scoring in the 9th minute when Ashley Young cut into the box and crossed to Barry, who headed home a powerful drive. Bolton came close to an equalizer when Davies hit the crossbar, but it was Villa who would score next. Young found Barry on the overlap and his first time cross was deflected past Ali Al Habsi by Gabby Agbonlahor for Villas second. Barry then scored his second of the game after a block shot by Young fell to him, and his shot deflected off Joey O'Brien and deflect into the net. Marlon Harewood then wrapped up the scoring with a glancing header of a Gareth Barry free kick.

Rovers and Spurs played to a stalemate at Ewood Park. Dimitar Berbatov scored the opener for Tottenham in the 6th minute when he bundled over the line a cross by Jermaine Jenas. Spurs pressed hard for a second but weren't able to find one, and Blackburn took full advantage through Morten Gamst Pedersen. David Bently broke down the right, passed a defender, and sped to the by-line where he crossed into an open Pederson to finish cleanly. Bently almost took the lead with a curling long-ranged free kick, but Radek Cerny saved well. Both sides pressed, but neither were able to create any clear cut chances and the game ended in a draw.

Sunderland edged another three points closer to safety on Saturday with a 3-1 victory at Craven Cottage. Fulham were desperate for points and with the loss, look the best bet to be the next team relegated. It took until the dying moments of the first half for the first goal to come. Fulham failed to clear the ball and Daryl Murphy's cross was headed home by Danny Collins. After the break, Craig Gordon was forced into two fine saves off McBride and teamate Murphy to keep the Sunderland's lead. Kenwyne Jones then headed a ball over the Fulham defence were Michael Chopra ran onto it and one-time volleyed it over Kasey Kellar to double the visitors lead. Fulham pulled one back through David Healy with his long ranged effort in the 74th minute, but hopes of a comeback were dashed only minutes later when Jones received a pass at the back post and smashed the ball home.

Chelsea remained in the title hunt with an away victory at the City of Manchester Stadium. Richard Dunne scored an own goal in the 6th minute off a cross by Nicolas Anelka. The home side pressed for an equalizer, with efforts from Johnson, Petrov, and Mwaruwari all being unable to rattle Carlo Cudicini. Ashley Cole then had to clear a deflected effort by Johnson off the line to keep Chelsea in the lead. Soloman Kalou then double Chelsea's advantage after picking up a through ball by Michael Essien, rounding Joe Hart, and slipped the ball into the gaping net. Anelka nearly scored a third off a cross by Frank Lampard, but his header came back off the bar. The win keeps Chelsea in the title hunt while city are still chasing a spot in the UEFA Cup for next season, currently in 9th place.

Newcastle United recorded their third consecutive win with a convincing 3-0 drubbing of Reading at St. James' Park. Reading opened the game strongly with pressure in the Newcastle half, but the visitors couldn't produce any real goal scoring opportunities. Obafemi Martins then opened the scoring for the home side as he controlled a ball off his chest, rounded a defender, and slotted the ball past Marcus Hahnemann. Michael Owen had a chance to double the home sides lead minutes before the half, but his shot flew just over the net. He soon made up for the miss however, as Owen met a pass by Beye and lifted the ball over Hahnemann for Newcastle's second. Mark Viduka capped off the scoring for the home side in the 58th minute after he played a 1-2 with Beye, received the ball back just outside the 6 yard box, and finished into the left side of the net. The win puts Newcastle comfortably in 12th spot, while Reading will be looking over their shoulders down in 16th.

Wigan pulled seven points clear of the relegation zone Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Birmingham, thanks to a brace by Ryan Taylor. In the 15th minute Antonio Valencia picked out Taylor at the far post and he hit the ball first time past Maik Taylor for the opener. Things only got worse for Birmingham and in the 37th minute their captain Damien Johnson was sent off for a reckless challenge on Kevin Kilbane. Kilbane dusted himself off and hit the post with his next attempt, before Birmingham nearly equalized on a cheeky attempt by Mauro Zarate. After the break, a scrambled ball in front of the visitors net eventually fell to Ryan Taylor and he poked the ball into the net for his and Wigans second. Wigan continued to outplay their competition, and eased to victory, leaving Birmingham only one spot out of the relegation zone.

Sunday, April 6th

Everton eased to an unconvincing 1-0 victory over Derby County on Sunday, with Leon Osman scoring the only goal. It was the last place team in the league who came out strong in the match with Mile Sterjovski taking an early attempt on goal, only to be swatted away by Tim Howard. Hossam Ghaly was the inspirational player for Derby, wasting several chances which could have been goal scoring opportunities, but it was Everton's Yakubu who wasted the first half's best chance. The ball was crossed within the six yard box to the Nigerian, but from four yards out all he could manage to do was send the ball over the crossbar. Everton started the second half better, and took the lead in the 56th minute. Nelson Fernandes put in an exacting long pass to Osman on the edge of the box, and after taking a touch he lashed the ball past Roy Carroll. Emanuel Villa had a chance to equalize for the Rams when a through ball by Andy Todd found him, but all Villa could manage was a weak shot that Howard saved with his foot. Derby kept up the pressure nearing the end of the match with a slew of corners, but they couldn't manage to score. The win puts Everton only three points back of Liverpool for fourth place, while Derby are on course to set the record for least points in a Premier League season.

A brace by Afonso Alves earned Middlesbrough a draw with league leaders Manchester United, and put a dent in the Red Devils title charge. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for the visitors in the 10th minute when he fired home a cross by Michael Carrick from close range. Alves scored his first Middlesbrough goal ten minutes before halftime when he latched onto O'Neil's flicked on long ball, and the Brazilian lifted it over Van Der Sar and into the net. Middlesbrough then took the lead in front of their biggest home crowd this season when Alves again found himself behind the United defense, and finished cleanly with his right boot. United appeared shell-shocked after the goal, and Alves nearly scored a hat-trick, only to see his header come off the knee of Rio Ferdinand. Wayne Rooney was getting frustrated for the visitors, but he finally broke through with a goal in the 74th. Substitute Park Ji-Sung beat out a defender and crossed the ball into Rooney, and after a deflection off a defender, the game was tied at two a piece. Both teams pushed for the winner, with Rooney missing a close ranged effort, and Van Der Sar making two fine saves, but neither could find the net. The draw puts Manchester three points ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table, while Middlesbrough look to be safe of the drop zone in 14th spot.