Premier League Wrap-Up (Matchweek 31)

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Matchweek 31 delivered on the excitement it promised as Spurs moved into 3rd place with a win over Swansea (and Chelsea’s loss), Arsenal once again proved its desire for Champions League football and Wigan secured a vital three points that (for now) moves the Latics out of the relegation zone.

SUNDERLAND 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (Stadium of Light)

An enemic offensive display from Sunderland dropped them to within one point of the relegation zone as Manchester United triumphed 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. The goal came via a Titus Bramble own goal from a Robin van Persie strike in the 27th minute and was all Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad would need to preserve its 15 point advantage over 2nd placed Manchester City. 

ARSENAL 4 READING 1 (Emirates Stadium)

Gervinho (11′), Santi Cazorla (48′), Olivier Giroud (67′) and Mikel Arteta (77′) were all on target as the Gunners showed real quality to defeat a desperate Reading side 4-1. The Royals cut Arsenal’s lead to 3-1 through Hal Robson-Kanu’s 68th minute header but it wasn’t enough to spur a comeback in Nigel Adkins’ first match as manager.

MANCHESTER CITY 4 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 (Etihad Stadium)

After a sound 2-0 defeat at the hands of Everton, Roberto Mancini’s men found their feet on Saturday with a clinical display against Newcastle. City received goals from Carlos Tevez (41′) David Silva (45′), Vincent Kompany (’56) while a 69th minute own goal by James Perch sealed the Magpies fate. With the win City holds a five point cushion over 3rd place Spurs while the loss drops Newcastle to 15th in the table, merely three points above the drop.

SOUTHAMPTON 2 CHELSEA 1 (St. Mary’s Stadium)

Another huge scalping for Mauricio Pochettino as goals by Jay Rodriguez (23′) and Rickie Lambert (35′) buried Chelsea 2-1. Since the Argentinian manager’s arrival on the south coast in late January he’s secured victories over Manchester City, Liverpool and now Chelsea, confirming that Southampton is a squad to be reckoned with.

SWANSEA CITY 1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Liberty Stadium)

Spurs held on for victory at the Liberty Stadium with Jan Vertonghen (7′) and Gareth Bale (21′) each producing stunning first-half goals before a Michu header in the 71st minute cut the lead in half. It was a massive three points for Tottenham, who leapfroged Chelsea into 3rd place after the Blues were outclassed by Southampton.

WEST HAM UNITED 3 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1 (Upton Park)

West Brom’s hopes for an end-of-the-season push to qualify for the Europa League were dashed at Upton Park as a confident West Ham side destroyed the Baggies 3-0. A thunderous header from Andy Carroll opened the scoring in the 16th minute and four minutes later Gary O’Neill doubled the lead with a sweet curler from the top of the box.  Carroll found his brace in the 80th minute and West Brom got one back through a Graham Dorrans’ penalty but it was all West Ham as Sam Allardyce earned a much needed three points.

WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 NORWICH CITY 0 (DW Stadium)

Arouna Kone was the hero for Wigan as his 81st minute strike from the edge of the penalty area being the difference at the DW Stadium. For now the win raises the Latics out of the relegation zone, heaping pressure on Aston Villa to get a result in tomorrow’s clash with Liverpool.

EVERTON 1 STOKE CITY 0 (Goodison Park)

Everton kept its European hopes alive with a 1-0 victory over Stoke City at Goodison Park. The difference came in the 28th minute when Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard punched Marc Wilson’s cross into the path of Kevin Mirallas, who collected the ball and exploded into a pitch-long counter-attack before slotting the ball past Asmir Begovic. The fantastic individual effort was the crown jewel of an otherwise drab contest and was enough to secure the Toffees stayed in 6th place, two points behind 5th place Arsenal and four points behind 4th place Chelsea.

ASTON VILLA 1 LIVERPOOL 2 (Villa Park)

Thirty minutes in and a Christian Benteke goal gave Aston Villa hope of distancing themselves from the relegation zone but it was all-for-naught as Liverpool scored twice in the 2nd half to stay within three points of 6th place Everton. Jordan Henderson leveled in the 47th minute courtesy of Philippe Coutinho’s brilliant through-ball and thirteen minutes later Steven Gerrard converted a Luis Suarez penalty to secure the Reds’ victory.

Pochettino’s Spurs put on show for Maradona, Kobe

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Post writers, us included, were drawn to Liverpool’s continued defensive woes following Tottenham Hotspur’s 4-1 demolition of the Reds at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

With Jurgen Klopp‘s personality and post-match quotes regarding uncapitalized goat Dejan Lovren, that’s understandable, but it would be a big mistake to not celebrate the class of Spurs on Sunday.

[ MORE: Match recap | Klopp, Matip reaction ]

Harry Kane is world class, scoring twice and providing a clever assist on another goal as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men showed the well-oiled nature of their machine.

And he was glowing on a match day that saw Kobe Bryant and one of Pochettino’s Argentine heroes, Diego Maradona, at Wembley:

“I spoke to Diego Maradona before the game, it was very emotional. He brings very good energy. He is the best player ever in football history.”

That the win is coming after a draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu is even more notable, considering the manners of each match. Hugo Lloris joined Kane as a star of the show of a more defensive-minded away midweek, but was merely a component as Spurs went for the jugular against the dicey defense of Liverpool.

Margins are small in the Premier League, but you could easily make an argument that Spurs are unlucky to sit five points behind Manchester City. Their star goalkeeper Hugo Lloris made gaffes in their lone league loss, to Chelsea, and a failure to finish myriad chances allowed Chris Wood‘s late goal to stand as an equalizer against Burnley.

“It is the third season that we are trying to catch someone. Manchester City are doing very well, they have an amazing squad and one of the best managers in the world. We see what happens, we believe, we will try to catch them. We are focused every day.

There’s another rough stretch ahead for Pochettino’s men, who don’t face City until Dec. 16. Presumably it’ll be second choice at West Ham in the League Cup this week before a trip to Old Trafford, and Spurs have the luxury of making that tough visit without fearing Paul Pogba on the other side of the pitch.

Then, it’s Real Madrid at home in the Champions League, a visit from Palace, and the international break. The North London Derby follows away, and Spurs will hope to have the UCL group sewn up before a trip to BVB days later.

The remaining schedule, save a trip to currently tricky Watford, would set them up to move within touching distance of City following the Dec. 16 match at the Etihad. The interim sees Man City facing Arsenal and Manchester United, so it wouldn’t be absurd to think Spurs could make up ground should City stumble (as unlikely as that looks right now).

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Klopp, Matip react to another rough Liverpool defensive showing

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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Joel Matip is shouldering the blame for Liverpool’s defensive collapse against Tottenham Hotspur, while the Reds’ manager is placing it on at least partially on Matip’s partner for the first half hour.

“Most teams at home with the stand in their back are always stronger,” Matip said after the 4-1 loss at Wembley Stadium.

[ RECAP: Spurs 4-1 Liverpool ]

“I am a defender and I should take care of this. We don’t think about the title race at the moment, we only try to get back in a good mood for next week.”

As for Klopp, he’s angry as expected following the shipping of four goals to Spurs. That verb works doubly here, as giveaways and mistakes were common place amongst the Reds’ backs and midfield.

Dejan Lovren had a rough day, subbing out after 31 minutes. The injured center back played a big part in Spurs first two goals, including leaping for and missing a Hugo Lloris long ball. From the BBC:

“If I am involved in this situation on the pitch, then Harry cannot get the ball.”

“We have to realize that we are responsible for this and nobody else. Of course we can fix it and we have to fix it as well.”

Klopp also detailed what went wrong with each of the four goals, then proffering that “the game was finished then.” Right.

There’s a lot to love about Klopp, who can be a tactical wizard. But he’s also struggled to convince players of their roles, and has shipped some very decent center back depth out-of-town. The latter is the reason Klopp used a less than fit Lovren on Sunday, and it burned them against a well-oiled Spurs side.

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Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Liverpool: Spurs superb at Wembley

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  • Spurs up 2-0 after 12 minutes
  • Salah pulls one back
  • Lovren struggles, subbed after 31
  • Kane with four brace of season

Tottenham Hotspur ran all over visiting Liverpool on Sunday, riding another star turn from Harry Kane to a 4-1 win at Wembley Stadium.

The win boosts Spurs level with second place Manchester United on points, and slips Liverpool ninth behind Burnley on goal differential. The Reds are three points back of the Top Four.

Kane scored twice, and assisted Heung-Min Son‘s goal. Dele Alli added the fourth in the second half, while Mohamed Salah continued his sparkling season with a goal for Liverpool.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

It was 1-0 early, as Kane cut into the center of the attacking third and took advantage of a Dejan Lovren error (prepare for a lot more of that term, sans first name) to hit a left-footed shot into the goal.

It was 2-0 when Lovren leapt to meet a Hugo Lloris clearance and… totally missed it. This Lovren error sprung Kane, who was patient with his dribble and snapped a pass to Son to make it 2-0.

Salah made it 2-1 when Jordan Henderson spied his back post run and his a diagonal ball. Salah put it by an unusually out-of-sorts Hugo Lloris.

Son had a good chance to restore the two-goal lead when he raced past Lovren, but Mignolet blocked his shot and collected a rebound off Lovren’s body.

Lovren left the match in the 32nd minute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That barely stemmed the flow, as Dele was alone to collect and deposit Joel Matip’s attempted clearance of a Christian Eriksen stoppage time free kick.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Perhaps a riot act was read, because Liverpool came hot out of the second half gates. Spurs dealt with havoc in the first 120 seconds.

Kane made it 4-1 in the 56th minute, off a free kick. Mignolet collided with Matip while trying to collect an Eriksen free kick, then Roberto Firmino blocked a Jan Vertonghen shot off the line before Kane lashed in the third crack.

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Barcelona chief backs Catalan leaders in clash with Spain

Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images for FC Barcelona
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu says Barcelona backs the leaders of Catalonia in response to the Spanish government’s decision to take over the regional government.

Bartomeu said on Saturday “the fact that people have been imprisoned for their political ideas is unacceptable in the 21st century. No one can question Barcelona’s commitment to Catalan society and its democratic institutions.”

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

To block the Catalan independence push, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy wants the Senate to give him direct power to dissolve the regional Catalan government and call an early election.

Bartomeu says Barcelona sides with those who defend the Catalan people’s right to vote in a referendum for independence. He also says the club aims to remain in the Spanish league.

Barcelona leads La Liga, defeating Malaga late Saturday.