Cardiff City drew 1-1 with Stoke City in the Welsh capital on Saturday, as the Bluebirds missed a great opportunity to draw level on points with teams outside the drop zone.
Stoke went ahead on the stroke of half time as Birthday boy Marko Arnautovic scored a penalty after Kim was harshly adjudged to have brought down Cardiff old-boy Peter Odemwingie in the box.
Five minutes after the break Howard Webb then awarded Cardiff a PK, as Steven Nzonzi fouled Fraizer Campbell in the box and Peter Whittingham scored the penalty to make it 1-1. Late on Stoke had all the play and the Bluebirds had ‘keeper David Marshall and the woodwork to thank for grabbing a point.
With the draw Cardiff are now on 30 points, just two points behind 17th placed Norwich, while Stoke remain in 10th place on 44 points.
Early on Cardiff started brightly and Mutch was found in the box after a good run from Mats Moller Daehli, but Cardiff’s top scorer side-footed a weak effort straight into the hands of Asmir Begovic. In the 15th minute Stoke got going and a set piece from the right just evaded Peter Crouch at the back post, who argued he was being held by a Cardiff defender, as the Bluebirds defended stoutly to keep Stoke at bay.
Cardiff kept putting on the pressure as Mutch dragged an effort wide but Stoke came back into the match as former Cardiff striker Peter Odemwingie cut in from the right after a lung-bursting run and smashed a swerving effort in on goal that Marshall saved superbly to keep the game scoreless.
Just before half time Cardiff almost went in front as Whittingham curled a free kick up and over the wall from 30-yards out but Begovic tipped the effort wide of the post. Then, as first half stoppage time arrived, Stoke won a controversial penalty as former Cardiff striker Odemwingie went down easily in the box following a challenge from Kim. Referee Howard Webb took his time before pointing to the spot, as Arnautovic stepped up to score just his second goal in his last 23 appearances to put Stoke 1-0 up at the break.
Within five minutes of the restart Cardiff were level as Steven Nzonzi brought down Fraizer Campbell in the box. Referee Webb again took his time before making the decision, but pointed to the spot and Whittingham scored the PK to make it 1-1. That equalizer put Cardiff on the front foot as the home fans roared them on and in the 57th minute it looked like the Bluebirds had taken the lead. Begovic made a great stop from close range, then the ball hit the post and found its way back to Juan Cala who scored to send the home fans wild… but the goal was chalked off, correctly, as Cala was offside. Cardiff had Stoke rocking in South Wales.
The Potters then recovered and Stoke should have had a penalty midway through the second half as Cala wrestled Crouch to the ground off the ball during a set piece. The incident was waved away by the match officials, as a tense and fiery encounter unfolded with severla players shown yellow cards.
The away side did all the pressing in the second half as Odemwingie and Assaidi were both stopped by Marshall and Jonathan Walters smashed a late curling effort against the bar as the Bluebirds hung on for a point.
“We have to fight until the end of the season because everybody can beat everybody,” Wenger said. “Chelsea lost at Crystal Palace, that means all of us have to be careful and all of us have to be consistent.”
While City boss Pellegrini believes it’s still a four horse race for the glistening trophy which is likely to be awarded on May 11, the final day of the season.
“I think all four teams have the chance to win the title but all four teams will drop points between now and the end of the season,” Pellegrini said. “It is very difficult at the end of the season, because there are a lot of teams fighting relegation. Ask Chelsea , look at what happened to them away at Crystal Palace. I think we must continue to just think about the next game.”
With Arsenal and Man City’s bosses not sticking their necks out on the line about who’ll win the coveted title, it’s about time somebody did. Here it goes. I have managed to obtain information from Opta on a simulator they have run many, many times on how the final PL standings will look. Here are the results.
As you can see on the left, Manchester City are the champions elect, with a 62.87 percent chance of them winning their second PL crown in history, then come Liverpool with a 29.84 chance and then, surprisingly, Chelsea only have a 6.89 percent chance of lifting the PL title in 2013-14. Rounding out the top five Arsenal’s chances are almost officially over, with a percentage chance of 0.30 percent, while Everton are at 0.10 percent to win it all.
How have they worked this out I hear you cry? From the horses mouth, an Opta spokesman passed on their findings to me and explained how they’ve predicted the final PL standings.
“First, we looked at all of the games played this season and looked at the quality of chances each team is earning and conceding. These are their “attacking” and “defending” values. Next, we use these values to simulate the remaining games left in the season. We do this many, many times. So, when we say that Man City has a 62.87% chance of winning the PL, that also means that they won the PL in 62.87% of our simulations.”
You got it? So, this is pretty much gospel. The soccer gods no longer need to speak, Opta has worked it out for them. But, with unpredictable twists and turns from here on out still likely, there’s no point putting sky blue and white ribbons on the PL trophy, just yet.
On Saturday, we saw varying reasons as to why City and Arsenal have led the way for large periods of the season. City with their fine array of attacking talent, the Gunners with their staunch defensive nous and possession play chipping away at the opposition. City dominated the first half and tore Arsenal apart, while the Gunners dug deep to snatch a point late on. City are the favorites for a reason, they have two games in hand of leaders Liverpool and are four points behind. But they do have to visit Anfield, as do Chelsea. Those two matches are pivotal, and the percentages point to that. City are expected to win the title by two points over Liverpool, 84 points to 82, so it could all come down to that one game at Anfield on April 13.
As for the current fourth-placed team Arsenal, Wenger didn’t exactly rule the Gunners out of the race but he’s intelligent enough to do the math. Which is exactly what he and Pellegrini spoke about.
“Mathematically we are still in there, but it is not in our hands,” Wenger said. “We have to look above us and behind us. Because behind us they are coming too.”
Pellegrini knows his City team aren’t home and dry, as the placid Chilean was cool and calculated when assessing the run-in. “In football, if the mathematics allow you to win, then you have the chance to do it. I think in this moment, we will see what happens tomorrow with Liverpool [they beat Tottenham 4-0 to go top]. Arsenal are only five points behind the leader, it’s not too much.”
Well, you’ve seen the predictions for how this season will finish up, do you agree with the math handing Man City the title just ahead of Liverpool?
One team not in the title race, Manchester United, are looking to restore a little dignity to their title defense. Yes, they’ve miserably defended the PL crown they won last season but at least new manager David Moyes still has his dignity intact. That’s more than can be said for a vast portion of United’s fans.
The drone of a propeller plane hung in the air around Old Trafford just after kick off in Manchester United’s match against Aston Villa on Saturday. The message from an unnamed set of Man United fans (with conspiracy theorists having a field day as rumors of Man City fans being behind the stunt are rife) read “WRONG ONE – MOYES OUT” as the banner hanging from the end of the plane used in the fly-by was the polar opposite of the class, professionalism and prestige that oozes from the United organization. The fans let themselves down in this crass demonstration.
Moyes came out onto the field way before kick off against Villa and applauded the fans, after he’d earlier exclaimed that vast majority were still on his side. The warm reception he got back revealed that a small minority were behind the demonstration against his appointment, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor has displayed admirable dignity throughout the hounding of him for United’s dismal campaign. The banner came and went early in the game, and it was heart-warming to hear boo’s from fans against the feeble excuse of a demonstration which drowned out the sound of the engine high above the skies over OT. Soon though, they were replaced with groans of discontent, once again, as Aston Villa took an early lead. But, as has so often been the case this season, Wayne Rooney inspired a United fight-back as Moyes silenced the boo boys for at least one day, with a comfortable 4-1 win for the Red Devils.
(Scrolling through responses to the banner flown over Old Trafford, I found this gem. Well done, @TheChelsOrg, well done indeed)
Yes, United have been woeful in the fight to retain their PL crown, but how much of that is really Moyes’ fault? Time and time again we’ve spoke about the aging squad he inherited and all the other intangibles which conspired against him this season. However, you can only really point the finger of blame at him for his transfer policy thus far, as Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini have yet to hit top gear since their big money arrivals.
That will all take time, and given the fact that Moyes has acted in a respectful and dignified manner throughout it all, the wily Scot looks focused on the task at hand and has the bit between his teeth to turn things around. United’s fans need to stand by Moyes, their club needs them.
RELEGATION MADNESS; THIS IS ONLY THE START
Rage. Despair. Delight. Acceptance. Ecstasy.
Those were just some of the emotions fans of West Bromwich Albion and Cardiff City went through on Saturday… and that was just in the four minutes of stoppage time. Watch the incredible scenes unfold in the video above.
Pandemonium ensued at the Hawthorns, as West Brom raced into an early 2-0 lead but then threw it away with 15 minutes left as Cardiff launched a spirited comeback. But the real drama arrived in added time, when Thievy finished off a deflected cross in the 92nd minute to send the home fans into raptures, as head coach Pepe Mel celebrated like he’d won the PL title. Hold on though, this is the PL and this is the race against relegation.
With Ole Gunnar Solksjaer in charge, his side evoked the ‘baby faced assassins’ predatory late strikes from his playing days, as fellow Norwegian Mats Moller Daehli popped up with the last kick of the game to drive a dagger deep into the hearts of the Baggies, as Cardiff’s traveling fans lost the plot. Neither team wanted a draw in their predicament, but after a pulsating clash where both sides left everything out on the pitch, a draw was fair. Solksjaer and Mel embraced each other with a long hug and laughter, as the two are under intense pressure to keep their sides in the PL. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. It was a truly moving moment, in a wonderful absorbing game. The best news is, this is only the start. West Brom are one place above the bottom three and three points ahead of Cardiff in 18th, as the Baggies and Bluebirds are still embroiled in and agony and ecstasy of the relegation battle.
Elsewhere in the race against the drop Norwich are still in big trouble as they were hammered 3-0 by Swansea. The Welsh side eased own their relegation fears considerably with the win, as they sit seven points above the bottom three in 13th. As for Crystal Palace, we already mentioned their stunning win at home to Chelsea, as the Eagles are soaring clear of trouble with many calling for Tony Pulis to be rewarded with the Manager of the Year award. Remember how dead and buried they were back in November?
West Ham beat Sunderland 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Monday, as the Black Cats came up short in a must-win game. They are second from bottom on 25 points, with Cardiff just one point above them. The Mackems have four incredibly tough games up next, as they travel to Tottenham next week, then host Everton before traveling to Manchester City and Chelsea back-to-back. Gus Poyet’s men are teetering on the brink of the PL.
Speaking of that, Fulham, well, they are all but doomed to life in England’s second-tier next season after losing 3-1 to Everton on Sunday. Look at the predictions from Opta on the left, and you can see the Cottagers have a 96.41 percent chance of being relegated. Not great for Felix Magath’s side, but they do have Hull City, Norwich and Villa coming up in three of their next four games. Don’t rule out the great escape, just yet.
Below our Match of the Day pundits dissect the battle against the drop, as three teams will tumble into the Championship in less than six weeks time. The picture is starting to take shape, as some desperate battles await at the wrong end of the table.
Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.
Many would argue we’re witnessing the best season in Premier League history and after another spectacular Saturday played out, it’s hard to disagree.
Chelsea slipped up away at Crystal Palace to leave their title hopes in tatters, Manchester City and Arsenal tied in a pulsating clash, Manchester United saw off Aston Villa 4-1, while Cardiff City and West Bromwich Albion played out arguably the game of the season in a enthralling 3-3 draw.
Man City started superbly against Arsenal, and David Silva put the Citizens ahead after just 18 minutes as he reacted first to Edin Dzeko’s shot that crashed off the post. City were the better team for most of the first half, as the Gunners’ faint title hopes looked to be fading out with a whimper. However a totally different side appeared after the break, with Mathieu Flamini finishing superbly to level things up and then Lukas Podolski’s shot was well saved by Joe Hart as City held on. City are still title favorites, but Arsenal keep themselves in the hunt. Just.
Palace dealt Chelsea’s title hopes a massive blow as a John Terry own goal in the second half means Chelsea’s title hopes are over, in the words of their own manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea just couldn’t handled Palace’s physical approach, as the Eagles took the game to the Blues and gave their chances of Premier League survival a huge boost.
Aston Villa went 1-0 up through Ashley Westwood’s free kick, but that only acted to fire up United. You won’t like them when they’re angry. Wayne Rooney scored twice, plus goals from Juan Mata (his for in the PL for United) and Javier Hernandez sealed a comfortable win. Villa boss Paul Lambert didn’t think his side deserved a hiding, but United were clinical.
The Saints were sensational against the Magpies, and three England hopefuls kept their charge towards Brazil going. Jay Rodriguez scored twice, Rickie Lambert bagged another and Adam Lallana scored a screamer as Saints jumped into eighth ahead of Newcastle, who were truly shocking. Mauricio Pochettino’s men continue to impress.
Peter Odemwingie was the hero for the Potters, as Stoke sealed their third-straight win. A determined Hull kept plugging away, but the Tigers weren’t quite good enough and Stoke did a job on them. How high can Mark Hughes’ men finish now? They have already reached the magic 40 point marker.
Swansea had been threatening to give someone a hiding for a while, and that team was Norwich. Two Jonathan De Guzman goals set Swansea on their way and another from Wayne Routledge sealed the win to ease Swansea’s relegation worries. As for Norwich, they are embroiled in the battle to stay up. Big time.
This season we’ve been blessed with so many stunning games in the PL, but this could take the biscuit. West Brom raced into an early 2-0 lead with Morgan Almafitano and Graham Dorrans on the score sheet, but Cardiff’s Jordon Mutch scored before the half and then Steven Caulker leveled the scores in the 73rd minute. More drama arrived in stoppage time, as Thievy put West Brom ahead in the 92nd minute and the Baggies looked to have snatched a massive three points. But with the last kick of the game, Mats Moller Daehli popped up to send Cardiff’s fans wild and reignite their survival bid with a stunning late goal. You can’t write this stuff.
In this incredible season in the Premier League, drama, late goals, passion and despair are popping up in almost every game. But perhaps no game had all of the above, and then some, like the stoppage time drama which unfolded between teams desperate to avoid relegation. Trailing 2-0 after nine minutes, Cardiff fought back to tie things up with 15 minutes to play, but then the Baggies scored in the 92nd minute to go 3-2 up and Cardiff look dead and buried.
However Cardiff weren’t finished, as they summoned the spirit of their manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and scored a sensational equalizer with the last kick of the game to keep their survival hopes alive. Afterwards an emotional Solksjaer spoke to reporters, as the man known for his late heroics during his playing days at Manchester United saw his own side score a stunning late leveler.
“Finally my boys got the luck they deserved. To get a point was very important because to have picked them up after a defeat would have been difficult. If we had lost this game then West Brom are away from us and we would not have been able to claw them back. My players knew how important that point is. Now they can get more in the coming weeks.”
It was a pulsating clash, and a draw was probably the right result after a stunning back and forth battle which saw West Brom chuck away an early 2-0 advantage in a poor start for the Bluebirds. But with the relegation battle still nowhere closer to being sorted out, that 95th minute goal from Mats Moller Daehli could be crucial to keep Cardiff up. That goal also stopped West Brom from dragging themselves clear of the relegation zone, as they’re now just three points above Cardiff and sit one place above the bottom three in 17th. Following the last-gasp draw, Cardiff’s wild celebrations with their delirious fans showed exactly what the result meant.
They now have six games to stay up in their debut Premier League season. With five very winnable games coming up for the Bluebirds, they must fancy their chances of saving themselves from the dreaded drop.
Here are their remaining fixtures: Crystal Palace (H), Southampton (A), Stoke (H), Sunderland (A), Newcastle (A), Chelsea (H).
But Tan hitched up his trousers and stood tall against Mackay, ultimately firing him. Now Solskjaer is in charge of the relegation scrap, and he’s brought in a whole mess of talent, from Norway to Manchester United and now Spain.
Cala is a 6-foot-1 central defender who played 35 times for Sevilla, partaking in European football and loan spells to AEK Athens and Cartagena.
His signing makes it more than $8 million spent in January by Tan, as he’s greenlit the arrival of Magnus Wolff Eikrem from Herenveen, Mats Moller Daehli and Jo Inge Berget from Molde, Fabio da Silva and Wilfied Zaha from Manchester United as well as Kenwyne Jones from Stoke (Only Zaha was a loan deal).
It takes time for a team to gel, especially with so many additions, but it’s hard to imagine that Cardiff City won’t be buoyed by their new manager and the energy of plenty of players with something to prove.
Tan’s had plenty of wackiness to his game and his character is certainly in question, but in time at least part of it has come to look more quirky than crazy. His hinting that they’d look for players with eights in their birthdays was just an odd nod to their interest in Eikrem.
Would you bet Cardiff for a trip to the Championship, or is survival in the cards?