liverpool

Quick Six: Liverpool thwarts Manchester City, Hillsborough remembered, and the rest of the headlines from the PL weekend

1 Comment

1. Kompany error moves Liverpool one step closer to history

Maybe it was the occasion that left Manchester City stalled in the blocks, but until the teams returned after halftime, Liverpool were the decidedly better side at Anfield. It was only after the wakeup happened that it felt almost inevitable, with the Citizens pulling back Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel’s goals by the 63rd minute. With David Silva picking up the slack from Yaya Touré’s departure, the Citizens looked set to embrace their talent’s promise.

It’s a subtle irony that one of the team’s most talented players, captain Vincent Kompany, undid that promise, but for well over a year now, the Belgian rearguard, whose authoritative steps into midfield leave him capable of dominating, has been an accident waiting to happen. In the 78th minute on Saturday, that accident came via a shanked clearance and some Philippe Coutinho opportunism, sending City to a 3-2 loss.

(MORE, Liverpool 3-2 Manchester City: Reds seal dramatic win to stay top)

It’s tempting to see Sunday’s match through that lens — the one forged by Kompany’s error — but that shortchanges Liverpool. The Reds put themselves in position to capitalize on the mistake, and while City’s reaction continues to feed the feeling that they are the more talented, more capable side, talent and capability came up short. Instead, it was Liverpool’s early poise and late execution that pushed its own talent seven points clear of City.

On a 10-match winning streak, the Reds are closing in on their first title in 24 years, a relevance not even Liverpool fans could have predicted eight months ago.

2. Title picture: A little clearer, but still unresolved

The anticipation we felt ahead of Sunday’s showdown usually gives way to clarity, but although Liverpool  have a more firm grasp on the title, the race is far from over, a status that serves as an anticlimax to Sunday’s dramatic result. Thanks in part of Chico Flores’s early red card at the Liberty Stadium, Chelsea was able to stay within two points of the top, a 1-0 win at Swansea City giving the Blues their 23rd win of the season.

(MORE, Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea: Ba breaks through vs 10-man Swans)

The results help bring April 27 into focus, with Chelsea’s visit to Anfield giving us our second Match of the Season this month. With a win, only games against Norwich City and Cardiff City will stand between the Blues and another title, provided they also defeat Sunderland on Saturday. Yet with that Liverpool showdown wedged between Champions League semifinal matches, timing works against Chelsea. Over the course of nine days, José Mourinho’s regulars will be forced to push through any end-of-season fatigue and challenge for both titles.

It’s a schedule that also puts stress on the Sunderland and Norwich matches, where Chelsea will have to rotate players in preparation for its more important games. While that makes it more likely the Blues will slip between now and season’s end, the team’s mid-week performance against Paris Saint-Germain serves as a warning. José Mourinho’s team can’t be counted out.

3. England COMMEMORATES 25th anniversary of Hillsborough

Between previous anniversaries, continuing controversies, and the increased talk of bringing standing areas back into English League soccer, the tragedy that befell 96 people in Sheffield hasn’t been far from our thoughts. Yet there was still an indelible poignance about how the league celebrated the disaster’s 25th anniversary, something that went beyond the moment of silence and the seven-minute delay to each match’s kickoff.

It was the unanimity. It was the solemnity. It was the reflection of a soccer generation that’s been brought up in the memory of Hillsborough, one that’s seen England’s football culture remake itself in the wake of the loss.

It was the accord amongst supporters around the country who acknowledged the families’ unimaginable loss. It was the lesson, that no one should have to hear why a loved one will never come home from a match.

Of course, the most poignant of the remembrances at Anfield, from the chilling moment of silence to the unforgettable rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. The video, above, captures the weekend’s spirit, one that saw a soccer nation come together to acknowledge the 96 it lost.

4. Win at Sunderland sees Everton claim fourth place

It was easy to forget, in the wake of last week’s win over Arsenal, that Everton had yet to actually claim fourth place, but with the Gunners creating more drama for themselves in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal, the Toffees were finally able to take hold of the Premier League’s last Champions League spot. With Wes Brown’s 75th minute own goal in Sunderland, Roberto Martínez’s team moved two points ahead of Arsenal, making up the game in hand that made last week’s result so important.

(MORE: Fabianski the hero, as Arsenal beat Wigan on penalties to reach FA Cup final)

(MORE, Sunderland 0-1 Everton: Are the Black Cats sunk? (video))

With a match against Manchester City still on the schedule, Everton’s two-point lead isn’t exactly safe, but it also may be too much to expect an Arsenal team that’s winless in four (in league) to win out. The Gunners’ run-in is easy, but they also have two matches on the road, where the team has a negative goal-difference this season. This isn’t a Premier League titan cleaning up against the league’s weaker sides. It’s a team lacking drive and identity being asked to summon a drive it lacks.

In theory, Everton can still draw a match and control its own destiny, provided Arsenal doesn’t make up the six-goal deficit it has in goal difference. More practically, the Toffees may have a little more breathing room. As Saturday’s match against Wigan shows, Arsenal is capable of playing down to its competition.

source: AP5. Are these the last days of Arsène Wenger?

Arsenal eventually came back to eliminate Wigan, but the game was far closer than most expected. The Latics went up through Jordi Gomez and eventually took the Gunners to penalty kicks, where two Lukasz Fabianski saves got Arsène Wenger’s side into the final. Against a team Arsenal’s talent should have easily managed, the Gunners produced another inexplicable result.

It’s starting to become easier to imagine Wenger moving on: even if Arsenal does finish fourth; even if the Gunners do win the FA Cup. While he is one of the most important people in the club’s history, he’s also somebody who, at this point in his career, seems incapable of getting his squad up for big games, be they against the Chelseas and Manchester Citys of the world or the Wigans and Birmingham Citys. Even when he comes close (against Bayern in Champions League), Arsenal’s left with little more than moral victories. When we see Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, we’re reminded: Wenger’s rivals wouldn’t settle for so little.

With Arsenal outside the top our, struggling with a paved road to the FA Cup, it’s easier to convince Stan Kroenke the Gunners need to move on. The unsigned contract extension, the one Ivan Gazidis said was a done deal, may yet disappear. Whether it’s through Wenger leaving or the club making the call, an Arsène-less Arsenal becomes easier to imagine with each passing result.

6. Relegation battle: Progress for Fulham, Cardiff City

Whereas last week’s win left Fulham treading water, there was no mistaking the progress in this weekend’s result. Faced with a must-win against visiting Norwich City, Felix Magath’s team delivered, its 1-0 victory pulling it within two points of the 17th place Canaries. A horrible goal difference means the Cottagers need three points to reach safety, but having won three of five, those results are no longer mere hopes. Where we’ve been waiting for months for a relegation battler to go on a run, Fulham has finally delivered.

(MORE, Fulham 1-0 Norwich City: Great escape is on for the Cottagers (video))

After Cardiff’s Saturday upset at Southampton, though, the Bluebirds aren’t far behind, their 29 points leaving them four points from safety. And with teams like Aston Villa and Swansea City (both losers this weekend) volunteering to join the relegation battle, the league’s bottom three have more targets than just Norwich and West Brom. Instead of needing one of two teams to stumble, Fulham and Cardiff have four candidates to potentially take their places.

(MORE, Southampton 0-1 Cardiff City: Cala’s the man as Bluebirds bag huge win)

With Fulham involved, the term “Great Escape” is being thrown around, but there’s nothing remarkable about it. Under Magath, the Cottagers now look like a decent team. The same can’t be said for Norwich, Swansea, or Aston Villa, right now.

Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Tottenham

Leave a comment

LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur drew 2-2 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday as their hopes of winning the Premier League title were ended.

Leicester City have won the 2015-16 Premier League title.

[ VIDEO: Leicester fans react to title ]

Spurs looked to be on the brink of their first league win at Chelsea since 1990 as they scored twice just before half time through Harry Kane and Son Heung-min and were cruising.

There were multiple flashpoints in a feisty London derby and Mauricio Pochettino‘s men couldn’t hold on with Gary Cahill pulling on back and Eden Hazard smashing in an unstoppable strike late on to send the home fans wild.

Here’s what we learned from a wild night at Stamford Bridge.


SPURS CAN’T KEEP TITLE HOPES ALIVE

Tottenham did not give up without a fight but they threw away a chance to keep the title fight going until the penultimate weekend of the season.

Pochettino’s side started slowly but after Son and Danny Rose went close, they grew in stature and then the goals arrived. In the 35th minute Kane was played in by a wonderfully simplistic pass from Erik Lamela and Kane showed supreme composure to round Asmir Begovic and tap home. One minute before half time it got better as Christian Eriksen teed up Son to smash home. 2-0. Spurs’ fans were in dreamland.

Even at the start of the second half they pushed hard with Kane getting free on the left and having his curled effort saved. He then flashed a cross across goal which evaded his teammates and Spurs were on top. Chelsea pulled a goal back through Gary Cahill just before the hour mark to liven up a spicy encounter further and then Chelsea pinned Spurs back for the remainder of the game. Willian‘s cross just evaded Diego Costa at the back post as Kyle Walker cleared and then Hazard delivered the killer blow.

Spurs have had a sensational season but they crumbled at Chelsea and have now not won at Stamford Bridge for 27 years. Losing the battle in this manner was the most upsetting for Spurs and their fans.

PASSION BOILS OVER; DEMBELE IN TROUBLE

Right on half time, with Spurs leading 2-0, Danny Rose clattered into Willian in front of the benches. All hell broke loose. Pochettino raced onto the pitch to try and break up the scuffle, players from both teams bundled in and the coaches got involved. It was utter pandemonium as the thrusting passion of a truly vitriolic London derby was in full flow. Amid all that madness a moment of sheer lunacy arose.

Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele had already been at it with John Obi Mikel earlier in the game and, of course, Costa had been going at it with Jan Vertonghen and just about anybody else who wanted a piece. So, Dembele and Costa came together, squared up among the crowd and then the Belgian gouged Costa’s left eyeball with his right finger. Just what was he thinking? Referee Mark Clattenberg missed it but one of his linesman was looking straight at the incident, I mean straight at it, and didn’t tell the referee to act. Dembele will likely be getting a call from the English Football Association this week and can expect a ban for the rest of the season. There is no place for this kind of  behavior. What to follow was almost worse.

There were so many contentious incidents during this game and Clattenberg tried to be lenient and let tackles go to start with, but in the end he dished out 12 yellow cards. Eric Dier flew into tackles against Hazard and Fabregas and how he stayed on the pitch we will never know. At the end of the game it all kicked off again. Coaches, players and officials were involved in a huge brawl at the headed down the tunnel. Severe FA punishment for both clubs, mostly Tottenham, will follow.

Spurs threw away their chance to win the title and they reacted in the worse possible way. It was shambolic the way they ended the game. If it passion, pride and commitement you’re after, look no further than this London derby. It was a belter but is likely to see repercussions, especially for Dembele and probably many others.

HAZARD WINS THE TITLE, AGAIN

Almost 12 months ago Eden Hazard to win Chelsea the Premier League title. On Monday he scored to win Leicester City the Premier League.

Hazard came on at half time with Chelsea 2-0 down and helped changed the game. His incisive running scared Spurs’ defense every time he got on the ball and his sublime curling finish in the 83rd minute made it 2-2 and hammered the final nail in the coffin of Spurs’ title hopes. He hasn’t had the best season, far from it, but he gave the Chelsea fans what they wanted on Monday. To  end Tottenham’s title hopes. See the video above to watch it play out. The home fans were desperate to beat or draw with Spurs and were cheering “Leicester, Champions!” in the final moments and one fan held up a sign for their former manager, and current Leicester boss, Claudio Ranieri: “Do it for Ranieri!”

They did. Fans in Leicester rejoiced as Hazard celebrated in front of Tottenham’s fans following his goal. Last week he spoke of how Chelsea did not want Tottenham to win the league and do whatever they could to stop it happening. Turns out he did it himself. Hazard won the PL for a team for the second-straight season.

WATCH: Leicester players, fans react to winning the Premier League title

LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 02:  Leicester City fans celebrate Chelsea's second goal as they watch the Barclays Premier League between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Yates's Bar on May 2, 2016 in Leicester, United Kingdom. If Spurs fail to win against Chelsea, Leicester City will become Premier League champions.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leicester City have won the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League.

With two matches to spare, the Foxes have clinched their first-ever top-flight title in the club’s 132-year history, finishing off the most improbable run in sports history.

While Leicester didn’t get to celebrate the title on the pitch, that didn’t stop the players and fans from celebrating around the city.

 

Leicester City crowned 2015-16 Premier League champions

1 Comment

Leicester City have won the 2015-16 Premier League title.

I’ll repeat it again: Leicester City have won the 2015-16 Premier League.

One of the greatest fairytales in sporting history is complete.

[ VIDEO: Leicester react to winning PL ]

With nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur drawing 2-2 at Chelsea on Monday, the Foxes become just the sixth team in history to win the Premier League as they won their first-ever top-flight title in their 132-year history.

They have an seven-point lead at the top of the table and Tottenham have just two games remaining, meaning Leicester cannot be caught and won the title while watching the game on TV from the comfort of their own home.

[ MORE: Full Leicester City archive

In a season which has defied belief, Leicester has shrugged off the challenge of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City to become the most unlikely champion in PL history and probably English soccer history.

Italian manager Claudio Ranieri has masterminded the success in his first season in charge at the King Power Stadium with the veteran boss moved to tears at the final whistle. He took over last summer after Leicester City survived relegation in the final weeks of last season under Nigel Pearson. They were only promoted back to the PL for the 2014-15 season and have kept a large number of the players who led them from the third tier in 2009.

[ MORE: The perfect storm which Leicester took advantage of

Now, they’ve gone from 5000-1 outsiders and among the favorites for relegation to PL champions. This is one of the most remarkable stories in sporting history. Period. Maybe even the most remarkable.

Their journey has inspired every other team around the globe and with Jamie Vardy‘s goals, Riyad Mahrez‘s magic, N'Golo Kante‘s running and a defiant defensive unit led by captain Wes Morgan, the Foxes have ridden an incredible wave of euphoria in recent months to get over the line.

[ MORE: Detailing the day Leicester (pretty much) won the PL ]

In truth, every single Leicester player must be lauded and they will go down in history, their names never forgotten in Leicester and further afield.

With streets set to be named after them, calls for Raineri to be knighted and a first-ever appearance in the UEFA Champions League coming up next season, the Foxes have become the biggest sporting story on the planet.

I’ll say it again one more time just in case you don’t believe me: Leicester City are the 2015-16 Premier League champions.

Never in my life did I think I’d be typing those words.

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Hazard’s late goal hands Leicester City the title

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02:   Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham Hotspur and Diego Costa of Chelsea battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2016 in London, England.jd  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment
  • Kane, Son score for Tottenham
  • Hazard equalizes in the 83rd minute
  • Leicester City are Premier League champions

Leicester City are officially your Barclays Premier League champions for the 2015-16 season.

In need of a win to keep their title hopes alive, Tottenham squandered a 2-0 halftime lead at Stamford Bridge, settling for a 2-2 draw with Chelsea to hand Leicester the trophy.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

After an even opening to the match, Tottenham scored two late goals before the break to take a commanding lead into the dressing room.

Harry Kane opened the scoring in the 35th minute, capping off a fluid run of play from the visitors. Erik Lamela collected from Christian Eriksen before slotting Kane in with a perfectly-timed through-ball. Kane’s first touch took him around the goalkeeper, leaving him an open net for his league-leading 25th goal of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Less than ten minutes later, Son Heung-min made it 2-0 Tottenham. A turnover from Branislav Ivanovic led to a quick break from Spurs, with Son finishing off just his third Premier League goal of the season.

The first half ended with a touchline melee that saw both benches clear as tempers boiled over. A challenge from Danny Rose on Willian led to a shoving match between the players, with Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino jumping onto the pitch to separate the two. Pochettino’s presence led to a huge gathering that took a few minutes for referee Mark Clattenburg to quiet down. In the midst of it all, video review showed Mousa Demebele appearing to scratch the face of Diego Costa, which could bring on further punishment from the FA.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Two goals down, Chelsea came out of the break on the front foot, and the Blues pulled a goal back in the 58th minute. Gary Cahill got free of his mark on a corner kick, finding enough room to take a touch and fire a left-footed volley past Hugo Lloris to cut Spurs’ lead to one.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Chelsea looked the better side throughout the second half, with Hiddink’s men determined to end Tottenham’s title hopes. Then, in the 83rd minute, Eden Hazard found an equalizer to give Chelsea a share of the points and Leicester the Premier League title. After scoring his first two league goals of the season last weekend, Hazard’s third was his prettiest, bending a beautiful shot into the top corner to the delight of Leicester fans everywhere.

Tempers flared before the final whistle, but when that whistle blew at Stamford Bridge, Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions.