Matchweek 30 of the Premier League produced a number of notable individual performances – Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph, Manchester City’s David Silva, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez – but one man stood tall among the masses, Steven Gerrard.
The 33-year-old midfielder has shown no signs of slowing down this season, scoring 10 goals and providing 9 assists in 25 matches for Liverpool. His play is even more impressive when considering where Liverpool sits in the table – 2nd, four points shy of leaders Chelsea with a game in hand – and that manager Brendan Rodgers has his skipper playing in a deeper role this season.
Heading into Sunday’s clash with rivals Manchester United, the storyline leading every major publication concerned the role reversal between the two squads and how this time around it was the Red Devils who looked to play the role of spoiler. Having displayed a decent improvement in form of late gave United a boost, as did the home field advantage of playing at Old Trafford.
So it was up to Gerrard to ensure his side came out firing and stayed focused throughout the 90 minutes. Mission accomplished. Within 34 minutes of play Rafael’s handball gave Liverpool the opportunity to snag an early lead. It was a chance that Gerrard made sure to take.
Cooly dispatching his pen into the top corner, Gerrard secured the Reds an early lead that they proved hell-bent on not relinquishing. Twelve minutes later Gerrard was asked to execute from the spot once again and he duly complied, kissing the camera in celebration and conjuring up memories of Liverpool’s dominant 4-1 victory over United in March 2009.
While his third pen found the post, Gerrard ensured his squad the three points by putting in a shift on the defensive side of the field, making four tackles, three interceptions and nabbing in a match-high 12 possessions gained.
That’s the kind of effort that earns you the nickname, ‘Captain Fantastic’, and the accolade of Premier League Player of the Week.
Liverpool welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Jurgen Klopp‘s men aiming to boost their top four hopes.
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With Arsenal and Manchester City playing in the FA Cup semifinal this game represents a good opportunity for Liverpool to extend their lead in the race for a top four finish but they have lost each of their last two home games against Palace in the PL. The Eagles need another big win after relegation rivals Hull and Swansea both won on Saturday.
In team news Liverpool look to be starting Wijnaldum out wide, while Palace have to reshuffled their defense with Mamadou Sakho unable to play against his parent club.
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Firmino, Origi. Subs: Karius, Gomez, Grujic, Moreno, Brewster, Woodburn, Alexander-Arnold
Crystal Palace: Hennessey; Ward, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp; Cabaye, Milivojevic; Townsend, Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke. Subs: Speroni, Van Aanholt, Delaney, Flamini, McArthur, Sako, Campbell
- United unbeaten in 23 PL games
- Red Devils one point off top four
- Martial, Rooney on target in first half
- Burnley five points off bottom three
An injury-hit Manchester United beat Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor on Sunday to keep their hopes of a top four finish well and truly alive.
First half goals from the excellent Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney did the damage as Jose Mourinho’s men go into Thursday’s Manchester derby against City just one point and one place behind their crosstown rivals.
With the win United move on to 63 points, while Burnley remain on 36 and are just five points above the relegation zone after another inept display in attack.
[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]
Early on United missed a massive chance as Anthony Martial’s surge into the box found Ander Herrera and he fed the ball to Rooney but he couldn’t trouble Tom Heaton from close range.
Marouane Fellaini then had a free header from a corner but nodded it down straight at Heaton who again saved from close range.
[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]
Rooney then sent a cross inches over the bar as United hit Burnley on the counter and that was to become a theme of the game. On the next counter Martial broke, played a one-two with Herrera and the Frenchman finished superbly to make it 1-0.
Before half time Ben Mee went close to getting on the end of Robbie Brady‘s free kick but then Rooney made it 2-0 as good build up play from Paul Pogba set in Martial and his shot deflected off Heaton and straight to Rooney who nudged the ball over the line.
Andre Gray then had a shot deflected wide as Burnley always looked dangerous from set pieces but United were clinical.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
In the second half United stayed solid and Pogba had a rasping drive pushed away by Heaton.
The home side failed to create any real clear cut chances with Michael Keane heading across goal but nobody was attacking the second ball.
[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]
Late on Marcus Rashford, on as a sub, raced clear and forced Heaton into a fine stop at his near post as United ran out comfortable winners but Pogba limping off in the 90th minute will leave Mourinho concerned about even more injuries to his squad.
Keita Balde Diao had himself a day on Sunday.
[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]
Within five minutes he scored three times to put Lazio 5-0 up against Palermo in Serie A after Ciro Immobile had scored twice in two minutes to put them 2-0 up after just nine minutes at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Eagles scored with all five of their opening shots against Palermo to lead 5-0 after just 26 minutes.
Watch the video of Keita’s remarkable hat trick below as the Senegalese forward, like his team, is on fire.
Keita makes it 3-0 in 21st minute…
Keita makes it 4-0 in 24th minute…
Keita makes it 5-0 in 26th minute…
Arsenal and Manchester City clash in an FA Cup semifinal on Sunday at Wembley which promises to be a case of all-out attack.
[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]
Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola met earlier this month with their teams drawing 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium in an end-to-end encounter.
The winner of this semifinal will play Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 27 at Wembley after Antonio Conte‘s side beat Tottenham 4-2 on Saturday.
In team news Arsenal stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation they used at Middlesbrough with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil off Olivier Giroud.
City line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sergio Aguero up top and Leroy Sane, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne off him.
Click on the link above to follow live coverage of what promises to be an entertaining semifinal, while here at Pro Soccer Talk we will have plenty more reaction and analysis after the game too.