With Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur idle this weekend due to the Blues' FA Cup commitments, Arsenal went into Saturday’s match at home to Norwich knowing three points would vault them from sixth place into third—ahead of both their London rivals and main opponents for a Champions League spot.
Elsewhere in the day’s Premier League action, Reading and Queens Park Rangers had difficult assignments against Merseyside clubs Liverpool and Everton, respectively, as they continued their efforts to get out of the relegation zone, and Aston Villa looked to distance themselves from the drop zone as they welcomed Fulham.
Finally, a place in the top half beckoned for the winner of Southampton and West Ham, who met in a mid-table battle on the south coast.
And while it took 40 minutes for the first goal of the afternoon to arrive, all five grounds saw goals after the restart—not to mention drama and close finishes that kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
Both sides came into Saturday’s match at St. Mary’s on 37 points—just two points back of Fulham and 10th place in the Premier League.
Gaston Ramirez, with only a single goal in his last 10 appearances, opened the scoring for the hosts just shy of the hour-mark. After having his initial volley from a botched James Collins clearance blocked by a defender, he took control of the ball once again and outwaited West Ham goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen before converting his fifth goal of the season.
West Ham didn’t have long to wait before finding their equalizer, however, and it was Andy Carroll who got it after his free-kick took the slightest deflection off Steven Davis en route to the back of the net.
Shots: Southampton 19-8 West Ham
Passing percentage: Southampton 80-69 West Ham
Possession percentage: Southampton 62-38 West Ham
With three wins out of four coming into this weekend’s round of matches, Aston Villa had managed to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone and were looking to add to that gap when they welcomed Fulham to Villa Park on Saturday.
The Cottagers, meanwhile, arrived in the West Midlands having lost just one of their previous six.
Like four of the day’s other contests, the two sides went into the break deadlocked at nil-nil, although it took Charles N’Zogbia just 10 minutes after the restart to get Villa on the scoresheet, his curling effort from the right of goal finding the back of the net behind Mark Schwarzer.
After another 10 minutes, the Cottagers were level, and Fabian Delph was wearing the goat horns. Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz had played a searching ball into the attacking goalmouth, but Delph’s header went exactly where he hadn’t intended and wound up in his own goal behind ‘keeper Brad Guzan.
Shots: Aston Villa 18-10 Fulham
Passing percentage: Aston Villa 81-83 Fulham
Possession percentage: Aston Villa 49-51 Fulham
Everton kept their Champions League hopes alive on Saturday and scored the afternoon’s only first-half goal, while QPR, who have now taken just one point of the last 12 available, received another nail in their relegation coffin.
Darron Gibson scored the first goal of the day in the 40th minute, with his low, hard shot taking a wild deflection off QPR captain Clint Hill and leaving goalkeeper Julio Cesar with no chance.
Victor Anichebe doubled the Toffees advantage in the 56th minute after finding a loose ball only a couple yards from goal and slamming it home for his sixth of the season.
Shots: Everton 13-10 QPR
Passing percentage: Everton 75-77 QPR
Possession percentage: Everton 60-40 QPR
Reading earned a valuable point at home to Liverpool on Saturday, and while they remain bottom of the table, they’re now seven points back of 17th-place Sunderland and 10 adrift of both Aston Villa and Stoke. They’ll still require a miracle to stay in the Premier League—that, or the sort of guts they displayed in their 0-0 draw with the Reds.
On the front-foot from the very beginning, Luis Suarez had a good chance to put Liverpool ahead in the 14th minute when he deftly chipped goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, only for his effort to be headed off the line by Chris Gunter.
Seven minutes later, it was McCarthy who played the hero—his double-save on Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho preserving his clean sheet. Then, on the brink of half-time, he denied Sturridge again after Jordan Henderson had headed Steven Gerrard’s corner into his teammate’s path.
Reading had one or two chances themselves, the best of which came shortly after the hour mark when Noel Hunt was robbed by Liverpool ‘keeper Pepe Reina after being put through splendidly by Pavel Pogrebnyak.
Shots: Reading 9-28 Liverpool
Passing percentage: Reading 65-78 Liverpool
Possession percentage: Reading 40-60 Liverpool
Arsenal scored a treble in the final seven minutes to overturn a 1-0 deficit at home to Norwich and rise into the Premier League’s top three with eight matches remaining.
Michael Turner had put the Canaries in front after 57 minutes when he met Robert Snodgrass’ free-kick with an accurate header that evaded goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. And while Norwich managed to hold the lead for nearly half an hour, they finally conceded an equalizer in the 83rd minute when Mikel Arteta converted from the spot after Mark Bunn had been penalized for a pull on Olivier Giroud.
With the fire back in their bellies, Arsenal went hard after the three points from there, and they had the lead just three minutes later when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent a lovely ball across the goalmouth for Giroud to tap in.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Lukas Podolski sealed the win with a low, hard shot past Bunn, following an excellent Theo Walcott pass.
Shots: Arsenal 14-5 Norwich
Passing percentage: Arsenal 85-69 Norwich
Possession percentage: Arsenal 68-32 Norwich