Although many of the Premier League’s big guns were idle on Saturday, each of the 14 clubs in action had positions to play for when the day’s action kicked off.
Arsenal, for example, made the short trip to Craven Cottage in search of three points to bolster their Champions League aspirations, while Everton traveled northeast to the Stadium of Light in a last-ditch attempt to get into the division’s top four.
At the other end of the table, Norwich hosted Reading in a match with all sorts of relegation implications, while second-from-bottom Queens Park Rangers welcomed Stoke, who in recent weeks had found themselves dragged into an uncomfortable battle for survival as well.
There were also matches at the Boleyn Ground, Liberty Stadium and The Hawthornes. Although goals were few and far between on this day, only two of the seven matches ended in draws, and only one by a 0-0 scoreline.
Let’s take a brief tour of the day’s football.
Note: All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com
If Reading had any realistic chance of Premier League survival, they needed to win this match, while Norwich knew three points would go a long way to ensuring top-flight football for another season.
Ryan Bennett opened the scoring six minutes after the restart after latching onto an Alex McCarthy rebound following Grant Holt’s shot. Less than a minute later, Elliot Bennett finished emphatically for the hosts to double their advantage.
Reading made things close with 18 minutes to play when Garath McCleary’s curler beat Mark Bunn, but the Royals were unable to build on the goal and come out of the weekend where they started it—dead last in the Premier League.
Shots: Norwich 20-15 Reading
Passing: Norwich 71%-74% Reading
Possession: Norwich 45%-55% Reading
Buoyed by Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United, West Ham knew three points would take them as high as ninth in the table. Wigan, in serious relegation trouble, were looking to make up ground on Aston Villa and Newcastle.
Matt Jarvis put the hosts in front after 21 minutes with an outstanding effort from left of goal, and Kevin Nolan added a measure of insurance with an 81st-minute volley from a lovely Andy Carroll flick.
Only nine minutes earlier, Wigan had managed their best chance of the game when James McArthur was robbed by Hammers goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Shots: West Ham 20-19 Wigan
Passing: West Ham 77%-83% Wigan
Possession: West Ham 37%-63% Wigan
Newcastle led after just eight minutes at The Hawthornes, but West Brom, who struggled to settle, managed to equalize shortly after the hour mark.
Yoan Gouffran scored his second goal in 11 matches since joining Newcastle from Bordeaux when he headed Papiss Cisse’s flicked pass into goal after just eight minutes. But West Brom restored level terms in the 64th when Billy Jones, having accepted Romelu Lukaku’s pass, cut inside and beat Robert Elliot with a delicate finish.
The Baggies are now eighth in the Premier League and five points back of seventh-place Liverpool, while Newcastle are 16th and just six points above the drop.
Shots: West Brom 11-10 Newcastle
Passing: West Brom 76%-71% Newcastle
Possession: West Brom 57%-43% Newcastle
The day’s only scoreless draw was played out at Liberty Stadium, where two sides comfortably mid-table combined for just seven shots on target in a mostly dour affair.
Southampton, however, nearly won the match in the 89th minute when Emmanuel Mayuka forced a good stop out of Michel Vorm. Swansea came close in the 78th when Jonathan De Guzman looked to have a clear chance, only to be denied by the on-rushing Artur Boruc.
The most entertaining part of this match was when referee Mark Halsey fell flat on his bottom, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
Shots: Swansea 14-9 Southampton
Passing: Swansea 80%-73% Southampton
Possession: Swansea 55%-45% Southampton
Paolo Di Canio earned his second win as Sunderland manager on Saturday, while Everton failed to find the back of the net for the second match in a row and now look destined for Europa League football next season.
Stephane Sessegnon scored the only goal of the encounter, and it came in first-half stoppage time when, following a Leighton Baines giveaway, he squeezed a shot from well out through the grasp of goalkeeper Tim Howard, who might have done better on the play.
With the win, Sunderland are 14th in the table heading into Sunday—six points clear of Wigan and the drop.
Shots: Sunderland 8-11 Everton
Passing: Sunderland 66%-78% Everton
Possession: Sunderland 36%-64% Everton
Another flat display from QPR has Harry Redknapp’s side destined for the drop, while Stoke, with the vital three points, now have a six-point cushion between themselves and Wigan.
Peter Crouch got things going for the guests just shy of the interval when he latched onto Cameron Jerome’s cross and beat Robert Green easily. Jon Walters put the finishing touches on a win that was far too comfortable for the Potters when he converted from the spot after Peter Crouch had won a soft penalty.
QPR haven’t won since March 9 and are now 10 points clear of safety, while Stoke, who ended a seven-match winless skid, look assured of Premier League football for another season.
Shots: QPR 23-13 Stoke
Passing: QPR 72%-66% Stoke
Possession: QPR 49%-51% Stoke
Arsenal made harder work of this London derby than they might have, given that Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell was ejected after just 12 minutes for a studs-up challenge on Mikel Arteta.
But despite the numerical advantage, the Gunners struggled to create chances and often looked vulnerable on the break, although Per Mertesacker gave them a bit of comfort two minutes from halftime when he headed the ball past Mark Schwarzer following a free-kick.
Just to make things interesting, Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud was given his marching orders in the 90th minute for a challenge on Stanislav Manolev, but by then, Arsenal were home and dry and two points clear of Chelsea in the race for Champions League football.
Shots: Fulham 7-11 Arsenal
Passing: Fulham 76%-90% Arsenal
Possession: Fulham 29%-71% Arsenal