This EPL season has been one of the most exciting in recent memory due to the amount of parity currently in the league. Perennial powers such as Manchester United and Manchester City are struggling, while a number of surprising squads are making noise.
Much of that came to a head on Saturday thanks to a number of huge matchups that shook up the EPL table. Essentially every match on the schedule meant something whether it involved teams at the top of the standings or at the bottom. Because of that, it was a hugely entertaining day for soccer fans everywhere.
Along with the updated league table, here is a full breakdown of the Saturday clashes that carried the biggest impact.
Everton vs. Liverpool
The Merseyside Derby is always a highly anticipated match for English soccer fans, but rarely does the game deliver as much as it did on Saturday. Liverpool entered the match needing a win in order to keep pace with Arsenal, while Everton could have moved into a second-place tie with the Reds with a win of their own. Neither team came away victorious as it ended in a 3-3 draw, but both sides proved that they are forces to be reckoned with moving forward.
Everton struck first with a Kevin Mirallas goal in the eighth minute, but Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez made it 2-1 Liverpool at the break. Romelu Lukaku answered with two goals in the second half, and Everton seemed poised to score a major win, but Daniel Sturridge converted a late header to earn a draw. Liverpool's equalizer wasn't without controversy, though, according to Everton's official Twitter account.
Roberto Martinez may have a point, but Everton's defense needed to mark much better on that play. Liverpool earned the draw, and nobody involved in that match should be disappointed by their effort. The draw allowed Liverpool to remain in second, and Everton moved into a fifth-place tie. The Toffees have fewer losses than any team in the EPL with one, but there is no doubt that a victory on Saturday would have been great for their collective psyche.
Arsenal vs. Southampton
Southampton had a golden opportunity to show the world just how good they are when they faced Arsenal on Saturday. The Saints didn't exactly embarrass themselves, but they proved that they still have a lot of work to do before they reach the Gunners' level. Arsenal picked up a 2-0 win by virtue of two Olivier Giroud goals, and they managed to extend their lead in the EPL standings due to the fact that Liverpool was only able to draw Everton.
Southampton actually won the possession battle as they held the ball 51 percent of the time, and they also got off two more shots toward the net than Arsenal. Anyone who watched the match knows that the Gunners got the better of the play, though. With that said, Southampton's success shouldn't be discounted. As pointed out by Matt Scott of talkSPORT, the Saints were on an incredible run prior to Saturday's match.
The Saints have some underrated talent, but Arsenal is world class with the likes of Giroud, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and a host of others. Had Southampton managed a win or draw, the table would have been extremely interesting. As it stands, Arsenal leads Liverpool by four points, which is far from a comfortable margin.
Stoke City vs. Sunderland
Nobody is going to confuse Stoke City with an EPL contender. The Potters entered Saturday in desperate need of a win. Stoke was right on the cut line in terms of relegation, but a 2-0 triumph over Sunderland helped immensely. Stoke are now three points clear of West Ham and Fulham, who are tied for 17th place. Stoke needed to get out of the precarious position, and they did, for now.
As big as the win was for Stoke, the loss was equally bad from Sunderland's perspective. The Black Cats have struggled mightily this season, and that continued on Saturday. The loss wasn't entirely their fault, however. After Stoke took a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute, Sunderland defender Wes Brown was red-carded for what looked like a clean tackle. This sparked outrage from many, including Mark Buckingham of Sky Sports.
This essentially robbed Sunderland of any opportunity to make a comeback. To their credit, they weren't badly outplayed by Stoke, but playing a man short is usually too much to overcome. Sunderland now find themselves in a last-place tie with Crystal Palace after the Eagles won on Saturday, and they have their work cut out for them if they intend to play in the EPL next season.
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