It was a busy day in England as – unusually – all seven Saturday fixtures kicked off at the same time.
Fulham 0 Arsenal 1: With fellow top-four wannabes Chelsea and Tottenham not in action until tomorrow, Arsenal moved into third place but were largely unimpressive against opponents reduced to ten men in the twelfth minute when Steve Sidwell was red-carded for a foul on Mikel Arteta. Per Mertesacker’s first-half header was the difference but Olivier Giroud was dismissed late on.
Norwich 2 Reading 1: Visiting goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was terrific against Liverpool last week but less good today as Norwich scored twice in 90 seconds to take a giant stride towards survival and all but seal Reading’s relegation. Ryan Bennett and Elliott Bennett scored early in the second half, with Garath McCleary replying for Reading in the final twenty minutes.
QPR 0 Stoke 2: Only mathematical pedants wouldn’t stick a fork in Harry Redknapp’s team now. They’re ten points from safety with four games left and will be down if Aston Villa win on Monday. QPR old boy Peter Crouch gave the out-of-form visitors a 42nd-minute lead and Jon Walters added a penalty kick in the second half. It was a huge win for Stoke and under-pressure manager Tony Pulis, lifting them to six points clear of the drop zone.
Sunderland 1 Everton 0: A week after a stunning 3-0 win over rivals Newcastle, Paolo Di Canio’s first home game as Sunderland manager brought another vital victory (pictured). It was a scrappy match settled by a fine dribble and low shot from Stephane Sessegnon, capitalizing on a rare misplaced pass from Leighton Baines. Defeat leaves a huge dent in Everton’s prospects of a top-four finish.
Swansea 0 Southampton 0: Two clubs effectively playing out the season in cosy mid-table security shared the points at the Liberty Stadium. The visitors defended well and sit twelfth, eight points clear of the bottom three. Swansea were indebted to goalkeeper Michel Vorm for a couple of good saves. They’re ninth in the standings.
West Brom 1 Newcastle 1: With Stoke, Norwich and Sunderland winning, Alan Pardew’s team slipped to a stressful 16th despite what in other circumstances might have seemed a solid draw at The Hawthorns. Yoan Gouffran’s early header gave Newcastle the lead and they had chances to add to it before Billy Jones responded for the home side in the 64th minute.
West Ham 2 Wigan 0: The London club can start planning for next season with confidence: this win lifted them to tenth place, eleven points above today’s opponents. Wigan remain three points adrift of safety in the relegation zone, though they have a game in hand on rivals. A cross-shot from Matt Jarvis midway through the first period and a late Kevin Nolan volley made Wigan pay for missed opportunities.
Come for the goal, stay for the “Gol” call.
Or should we say the “Gol. Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Goool-Gol” call.
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USMNT defender Omar Gonzalez has opened his account for Pachuca with this 88th minute header, and it’s worth it if just for the auditory performance.
Gonzalez also pulls out the high-capacity weapon celebration, though he’s apparently opted to do the version closer to the “Scarface” finale (Spoiler alert).
In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.
Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.
[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]
Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 [ ARCHIVE ]
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)
Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)
Score one for the Midlands.
In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.
[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]
It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.
Premier League Players of the Week
Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth
Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City
Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton
Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United
Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton
Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United
Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United
Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford
Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City
Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton
Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa
Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.
[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]
The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.
At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.
A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”
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Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.