Matchday 22 of the English Premier League showed once again that it is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Every time you think there is going to be an obvious win, the underdog comes through with a great performance.
The top of the league table has been incredibly close all year, which means that even a draw could end up being devastating towards a club's chances of contending for a title. Saturday's results saw a few instances of this as the favored side could not come away with wins.
Here is an updated look at the EPL table with a breakdown of the more surprising scores during the day.
|15||West Bromwich Albion||21||4||9||8||-5||21|
|18||West Ham United||22||4||6||12||-11||18|
|Jan. 18||Crystal Palace||1-0||Stoke City|
|Jan. 18||Manchester City||4-2||Cardiff City|
|Jan. 18||Norwich City||1-0||Hull City|
|Jan. 18||West Ham United||1-3||Newcastle United|
|Jan. 18||Liverpool||2-2||Aston Villa|
Sunderland 2, Southampton 2
Southampton got off to a great start to the year as it seemed like they would contend for a top-four spot all season. However, they now only have two wins in the past 11 league matches after letting another one get away from them.
The road team got off to a 2-0 start after 31 minutes on a goal by Dejan Lovren. This did not last long as Sunderland were able to come right back with a score by Fabio Borini.
This 2-1 score stood for much of the match, but Sunderland eventually earned the equaliser on a great shot from Adam Johnson. The hero explained his side's excitement after the match:
Sunderland goalscorer Adam Johnson: "We’re happy with the point, but it feels like a win coming from 2-0 down" #SUNSOU— Premier League (@premierleague) January 18, 2014
Johnson has been on an impressive stretch as of late while carrying Sunderland, as noted by this stat from Opta Joe:
6 - Adam Johnson has either scored (four) or assisted (two) Sunderland's last six league goals. Pivotal.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 18, 2014
All of a sudden, Southampton are struggling to remain on the top half of the table while Sunderland keeps trying to get out of the relegation zone.
Crystal Palace 1, Stoke City 0
No team had a bigger rise in the early stages of the weekend than Crystal Palace, who entered Matchday 22 in last place. After an impressive home win over Stoke City, they now sit in 16th in the league table.
This match was one of redemption for Jason Puncheon, who had one of the worst misses on a penalty shot you will ever see last week against Tottenham. As ESPN FC notes, he made up for it on Saturday:
From ZERO to HERO! Puncheon makes up for his penalty miss last week to slot home a shot after a good effort in the box and put CP up 1-0.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 18, 2014
The midfielder's score in the 51st minute ended up being the only goal of the match as Stoke City had troubles in the final third all day.
Stoke held possession for 57 percent of the contest and took 17 shots, but only two went on net and none crossed the line as Crystal Palace earned another clean sheet.
If the recent improvements on the defensive end remain, the former Championship team could be in the Premier League to stay at the end of the year.
Norwich City 1, Hull City 0
Hull City appeared to be in good shape entering the day on the top half of the league table. However, there is now only five points separating them from the three clubs at the bottom of the standings.
Neither side was able to get much going offensively in this match that remained scoreless until the very end. Norwich City had their chances, but they were unable to break through until the 87th minute when Ryan Bennett got the game winner on a header.
Norwich City have not had much luck recently as this is the first league win since Nov. 9 against West Ham United. However, this was a big chance to please the fans with a necessary three points.
As manager Chris Hughton points out, they deserved the win:
Chris Hughton talking to the press: "We deserved the three points in the end because the lads just kept going." pic.twitter.com/ZOdDusinQd— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) January 18, 2014
On the other hand, Hull City will need to rebound next week against Crystal Palace.
Liverpool 2, Aston Villa 2
Although Liverpool avoided a big embarrassment of losing at home to Aston Villa, they still should not be too happy with a draw.
Early goals by Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke gave the road squad an early 2-0 lead, putting the pressure on the Reds for a comeback. Fortunately, Daniel Sturridge found a way to cut the lead in half with a goal right before halftime.
Fox Soccer Trax points out why this was a bittersweet result for the hosts:
FT Liverpool 2 Aston Villa 2. Liverpool come back from 0-2 down to get a point, but lose two to the leaders today.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) January 18, 2014
Interestingly, Suarez also ended an impressive streak with a scoreless day, according to Paul Carr of ESPN:
Luis Suárez's streak of scoring in 7 straight home PL games ends, one shy of Fernando Torres' Liverpool record.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) January 18, 2014
Matches like this need to be wins for Liverpool if they want a spot in Champions League next season. Unfortunately, the draw could end up forcing the club out of the top four by the end of the week.
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