Premier League Roundup: Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom

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Well, well. That was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?

A pulsating Premier League Saturday saw eight terrific matches play out across England and Wales, as goals rained in during the stormy winter weather.

It was moving day in the PL, as Chelsea went top of the standings thanks to Eden Hazard’s masterclass, Liverpool demolished Arsenal 5-1, Man City slipped up an Norwich, and there were big wins for West Ham, Swansea and Crystal Palace at the bottom.

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In case you missed any of it, (I know, you only have one pair of eyes, right?) don’t worry. This tidy little roundup delivers all the recaps, video highlights and analysis from a scintillating Saturday in the worlds most exciting league.

So, let’s get to it!

Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham United

Villa have been woeful at home all season, and that trend continued as West Ham strolled into Villa Park and bagged a vital three points. The Hammers are now unbeaten in three as two Kevin Nolan goals, two minutes apart and two minutes into the second half, saw off a timid effort from the home side. The Villans are only three points off the drop zone.

Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United

Eden Hazard emerged as the hero at Stamford Bridge, as two superb finishes before the break were capped off by a cool penalty kick for his hat trick, as he sent his side top of the PL standings. Newcastle never really threatened and Chelsea just had too much for them to handle, in a magnificent display from the tricky Belgian winger. Jose Mourinho played it cool once again, but this Chelsea team has the stench of potential champions.

Crystal Palace 3-1 West Bromwich Albion

Palace now have five home wins from seven under Tony Pulis, and it’s wins over relegation foes like this that will keep Palace up. Two early goals from debutant Thomas Ince and Joe Ledely saw the Eagles soar into the lead, but Thievy Bifouma pulled a goal back for West Brom just after the break. However Marouane Chamakh won a penalty, then scored it, as Palace move up to 13th.

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

Simply stunning from Liverpool, as the Reds were 4-0 up after 19 minutes at Anfield on Saturday. Arsenal didn’t know what hit them, as two Martin Skrtel goals in the opening nine minutes were added to by strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. After the break Sterling grabbed another to make it 5-0, and Mikel Arteta’s penalty was no more than a consolation. Are Liverpool title contenders?

Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City

The Citizens dropped yet more points, as they slipped up away from home at Carrow Road. Norwich defended superbly for the entire 90 minutes, as City failed to score for the second successive game this week. Manuel Pellegrini’s men ran out of ideas and in truth the Canaries had a few chances to snatch all three points themselves. Still in the title race, but wobbling a little.

Southampton 2-2 Stoke City

A Topsy-turvy game in the win and rain at St. Mary’s as Southampton twice took the lead in the first half, but Stoke twice hit back. Rickie Lambert smashed in a great free kick to make it 1-0 to Saints, then Peter Odemwingie slotted home to make it 1-1. Then Steven Davis saw his cross somehow trickle into the bottom corner to put Saints ahead, but right on half time Peter Crouch bundled home from close range to make it 2-2. That’s how it stayed, despite Saints dominating the second half, as the points were shared at a soggy St. Mary’s Stadium.

Sunderland 0-2 Hull City

Another torrid day for the Black Cats, who had another red card scupper a game for them. Wes Brown was shown a straight-red early on for his third dismissal of the season. Hull City’s new signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both scored in each half to seal a big three points for the Tigers, as Sunderland continue to battle away at the bottom.

Swansea City 3-0 Cardiff City

After a week of turmoil in Swansea that saw manager Michael Laudrup sacked, the Swans turned in a terrific performance under rookie manager Garry Monk. The first half was goalless but after the break Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony all scored to clinch bragging rights in the South Wales derby.

No China for Costa: It’ll be Chelsea or Atletico Madrid

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Blues striker Diego Costa offered some insight into his future following Chelsea’s FA Cup Final loss to Arsenal on Saturday.

The combustible striker was subject to a head-turning bid from the Chinese Super League this winter, but is only looking at two European locations for his future.

Those are his current club, Chelsea, as well as former home at Atletico Madrid.

[ JPW: Poignant FA Cup Final reflects English mood ]

The 28-year-old Costa has kept his scoring pace level since arriving in the Premier League. He scored 64 goals in 134 matches for Atleti, and has notched 58 goals for Chelsea in 120 appearances.

Costa reportedly said, “No, no, no” when asked about China, as well as the following:

More Messi wizardry leads Barca to Copa del Rey title (video)

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Sometimes, a match recap needs just a couple keywords instead of paragraphs.

For example: Messi, Barcelona, Cup Final, the best.

The greatest player on Earth was at it again on Saturday, scoring a deft goal before assisting a Paco Alcacer offering as Barcelona won another Copa del Rey with a 3-1 win over Alaves on Saturday.

[ MORE: Pulisic, BVB win German Cup ]

It’s a third-straight Copa del Rey for the Blaugranas, their 29th crown in the tournament’s history. Barca has also lost 10 Copa finals, the last in 2014 against Real Madrid.

Here’s the goal:

And the pass:

Sounders tip Timbers 1-0 in sloppy Cascadia Cup affair (video)

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Cristian Roldan scored the lone goal of an arguably unofficiated match between Portland and Seattle on Saturday, as the Sounders picked up a much-needed win that was anything but pretty at Century Link Field in Washington.

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei scooped up his 50th clean sheet as an MLS backstop, and is the 11th player to reach that milestone.

[ MORE: Pulisic, BVB win German Cup ]

Referee Mark Geiger was equally offensive to both sides, denying Portland of a penalty kick via handball and allowing the Timbers’ Vytas Andriuškevičius to thoroughly inspect Jordan Morris’ arms during a second half breakaway.

Roldan turned a corner kick off a Portland defender and home for three points that leave the Sounders, Timbers, and Whitecaps all on three points after two matches played in the 2017 Cascadia Cup.

Poignant FA Cup final reflects current mood in UK

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LONDON — Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 to win the 2016-17 FA Cup on Saturday at Wembley Stadium, but this was about much more than a game of soccer.

“They just keep coming, no matter what, don’t they?” said a fellow journalist I bumped into surveying the scene outside Wembley before kick off as a wave of red and blue supporters inched towards the home of soccer while under armed police guard.

They certainly did.

The FA Cup final on Saturday, a 90,000 sellout, provided most of the UK with a slight distraction from a nightmare week where the worst terrorist attack since the 7/7 bombings in 2005 dominated the hearts and minds of a nation.

After watching on in horror as 22 people were killed and 116 injured by a suicide bomber outside Manchester Arena late Monday, the attention of everyone in the UK has been focused on the atrocity in Manchester.

That horrendous attack led to the UK being placed into the highest terror threat level of “critical” for just the third time since it was introduced in 2006 and things like soccer games, rivalries and trophies seemed somewhat meaningless as the threat of an “imminent attack” dominated the news.

It didn’t matter that this was a final being played between two Premier League teams from London. Everyone had Manchester on their minds.

A few hours before the game British Prime Minister Theresa May downgraded the terror threat level to “severe” rather than critical, but that didn’t stop armed policeman in abundance at Wembley as armored police cars replaced some of the burger vans which usually littered the roads near Wembley Way.

Arsenal fan Andy Calcutt stood on an elevated walkway outside Wembley having a cigarette as he pushed his sunglasses further up his nose.

The skyline of London was visible in the distance on a glorious early summer day and the message was clear: terrorists will never win.

“It is the British spirit to soldier on and go through it. It is fantastic today,” Calcutt said. “Nobody that I know has any issues about turning up to a big event. There is obviously more of a security presence, which gives you a bit of reassurance, but it’s not an issue for anyone here. We keep on going through our day to day. That’s how we get on.”

As the glorious sunshine beat down on Wembley two hours before kick off, there was a lingering sense of remembrance but celebration was in the air too.

On Friday the most senior counter-terrorism officer in the UK, Mark Rowley, urged citizens to “go out as you planned and enjoy yourselves” around the bank holiday weekend.

After the week the UK has had, it is easy to understand why that was the message following security measures being reviewed for over 1,300 events as the Aviva Premiership rugby final took place at Twickenham, the Manchester Great Run was scheduled and there were many huge events up and down the nation.

The FA Cup final was by far the biggest as the eyes of the world fixed itself on Wembley.

Chelsea fan Marcus Mays stood with his partner looking out on Wembley Way as the fans flooded in before the cup final.

“I was born in Manchester and I have a lot of friends from up that way and I think everyone was behind Manchester United for their Europa League win in midweek. It was lovely to see,” Mays said. “We have got to get on with our lives and I think everyone appreciates that. I can’t imagine anybody swerving a cup final because of the terrorist attack. Everyone has to crack on with their lives.”

That sentiment was echoed time and time again by everyone in and around Wembley. There was plenty more waiting in lines before you got into the stadium but nobody complained, nobody moaned. They queued and got on with it with a smile on their face.

As I walked out of Wembley Park underground station before the game, a guy in an Arsenal shirt went up to a policeman and shook his hand and thanked him, then walked off.

It has been that kind of week, to appreciate those around you and what you have.

At times like these you call your family and friends more often, you kiss your wife, husband or kids more. You reach out to strangers and offer a smile while sat on the subway train, or a polite nod, when previously the stresses of the modern world appeared to be too much to offer such niceties.

Even in a major cup final between bitter rivals there was respect.

Sure, there was chanting back and forth between Chelsea and Arsenal fans beforehand, laughter and jokes as groups of friends met up in among policeman armed with semi-automatic rifles, but just before kick off it became apparent how reflective the mood was.

There was an immaculately observed minute’s silence to remember the victims as both teams stood united around the center-circle, linked to their teammates. 90,000 fans stood in silence as some began to chant “Manchester!” but quickly stopped.

Fans held up signs reading “I love MCR!” and on the large TV screens at either end of Wembley messages simply read “We Stand Together” as the vast three-tier venue stood perfectly still.

Following a week like this it easy to brush off the insignificance of sport. So often fans, and even players and managers, watch or get involved in the action to try and forget everything else in life for a few hours a week.

Speaking after the game, Antonio Conte reinforced that message, one he had shared before the game.

“It was an important game but don’t forget the tragedy in Manchester,” Conte said in the aftermath of defeat.

He was right. This was no place to forget.

Chelsea and Arsenal’s fans held banners up saluting Manchester and the victims of the attacks and before the game both clubs canceled plans for a trophy parade in London on Sunday, out of respect for Manchester and also to not put a further burden on the already-stretched police force as they continue their huge investigations.

Everyone in the stadium and everyone at home hoped they’d never have to live through seeing scenes like this again. Children and their families killed as they left a music concert.

At times like these sport can provide a distraction and helps some to heal, but there’s so many more important things going on in the UK, and across the globe, right now.

The overall message portrayed at Wembley on Saturday was a poignant one: this was no time to hide.

Now, even in one of the darkest moments for the UK in recent history, was the time to face the world and stand tall.

“It’s just another day. You can’t live in fear, can you?” Arsenal fan Ryan Kilburn said. “There’s no point in hiding.”