Winners and Losers from Midweek Premier League Action
It has been yet another thrilling midweek of Premier League action full of wonder goals, red cards, shock results, eye-catching debuts and an inordinate number of talking points, too, from all the 10 top-flight fixtures.
And so, these are the winners and losers from those barnstorming encounters for you to pick over...
Captain Fantastic Paints the Town Red
Liverpool’s evergreen and inspirational skipper truly led from the front in Tuesday night’s 222nd Merseyside derby at Anfield, with the 33-year-old popping up to open the scoring with a near-post header as the Reds thrashed their city rivals 4-0 to record their biggest win over Everton since 1982.
And it was the all-action midfielder who was the undoubted star of the show, as Steven Gerrard netted both his sixth goal of the season and his ninth overall against the Toffees to keep the home side in that crucial fourth and final UEFA Champions League berth.
Plenty to Smile About at the Theatre of Dreams for Moyes’ Men
There is no denying the fact that Manchester United’s 2-0 win over struggling Cardiff City was a hugely important three points for under-pressure boss David Moyes, who may now be able to afford himself a smile as the champions became the first team in Premier League history to rack up 1,000 points at home.
As well as the victory, though, which kept the Red Devils six points behind archrivals Liverpool in the race for the fourth and final qualifying berth for next season’s UEFA Champions League, the Scot was also able to welcome back both frontmen Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney after recent injury layoffs.
And to cap the night off, club-record £37.1 million signing Juan Mata made a hugely encouraging debut at Old Trafford, with the Spain international completing more passes, 52, on the night than any of his team-mates in a display that will have left the home faithful desperate to see more of the playmaker.
Flamini Sees Red on the South Coast
Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini’s 80th-minute sending-off against Southampton was incredibly the 74th red card that the north London club have received in the Premier League era, the third-highest total of any team.
And the Frenchman’s dismissal just capped off what was a bad night all round for the Gunners, who lost the lead in the second half on their way to dropping two crucial points in the title race, while manager Arsene Wenger, per The Independent, also confirmed after the 2-2 draw that key midfielder Aaron Ramsey had suffered an injury setback in training that would now keep the Welshman out of action for a while longer.
Magpies Miss Their Magnificent Frenchman
Playing their first match since losing influential French midfielder Yohan Cabaye to Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United failed to overcome a struggling Norwich City side at Carrow Road, while the visitors also saw in-form striker Loic Remy sent off late on after an off-the-ball incident with Bradley Johnson.
And the real worry now for Alan Pardew and his men is how the team will fare in the second half of the campaign without the services of Cabaye, with the north-east giants having previously won just four of the 19 matches they have played without the playmaker in the starting lineup.
No Place Like Home at Last for the Swans
Struggling Swansea City had to wait over an hour to make the breakthrough against relegation-threatened Fulham at the Liberty stadium on Tuesday night, but the Swans won’t be complaining after a massive 2-0 win saw the home side jump up to a respectable 11th place in the table now.
In fact, it was a highly satisfactory night for everyone associated with the South Wales outfit, who not only ended a terrible recent run by recording their first league win in nine matches, but also managed both an all-too-rare clean sheet and home win in the process.
Pulis Keeps Performing Miracles
When Tony Pulis replaced Ian Holloway in the Selhurst Park dugout on Nov. 23, Crystal Palace were joint bottom of the Premier League and three points from safety.
However, after Tuesday evening’s 1-0 home win over Hull City, the south-east London side are now up to 14th place in the Premier League, four points from the relegation zone with the Welshman having accrued an impressive 1.38 points per game since taking charge of the club.
And not only that, but the Eagles have also managed to keep seven clean sheets in their last 13 matches, during which time they have conceded just the 10 goals, with Pulis’ arrival having now given the club genuine hope of survival.
Black Cats Are Winging It Under Johnson
Sunderland wide man Adam Johnson was the hero as Gus Poyet’s men moved out of the relegation zone for the first time since August with a 1-0 win against Stoke City at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday night.
The England winger has appeared a man revitalised since the Uruguayan replaced Paolo Di Canio in the north east, and his calm early finish was enough to see off a Potters side reduced to 10 men following the sending-off of Steven N'Zonzi just after the break.
Dynamic Delph to the Fore Again
Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph went from villain to hero in the space of no time in what turned out to be a seven-goal thriller in the West Midlands derby at Villa Park.
The one-time England Under-21 international’s own goal had handed West Bromwich Albion a 2-0 lead after just nine minutes on Wednesday evening.
However, it was the in-form 24-year-old’s fierce strike that put the home side in front for the first time in the match after 37 minutes, with Villa going on to take the derby spoils thanks to a memorable 4-3 win.
Spanish Shot Stopper Thwarts the Blues
West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce handed Spanish keeper Adrian a rare start in goal in place of more experienced No. 1 Jussi Jaaskelainen at Stamford Bridge, and he was rewarded with a man-of-the-match performance by the custodian.
Chelsea may have had 39 efforts during Wednesday night’s London derby; however, it was the Hammers who became the first side since last January to prevent the Blues from finding the back of the net at home as they joined Arsenal by recording a league-high 10th clean sheet of the season.
And in the process, the west London club missed out on the chance to go above archrivals Arsenal in the Premier League table.
50 Not out for Kun
Red-hot Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero scored the opening goal in the visitors’ comprehensive 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Wednesday evening, the 50th top-flight strike that the little Argentinian has registered since joining the club three years ago.
The 25-year-old was the fifth-fastest to the landmark, reaching it in 81 games, although the night ended sourly for both Kun and City when the player limped off at half-time with a hamstring injury.
However, not even that news could truly dampen the mood for Manuel Pellegrini and Co., with the north-west outfit now top of the Premier League going into Monday’s title showdown with third-placed Chelsea at Eastlands.
And with 68 goals to their name in the league so far this season, already two more than in the whole of the previous campaign, at an astonishing rate of 2.96 per game, who would bet against the marauding Mancunians getting the better of the west Londoners, even without an injured Aguero.