The top four clubs in the Premier League table didn't play on Saturday, but 14 of the other 16 sides were in action. It's a group that included several squads that still have their sights set on pushing into a Champions League position before season's end.
Manchester United, Tottenham and Everton are among the clubs on the outside looking in at the top four. Of that trio, there was one win, one draw and one loss Saturday, which featured several exciting matches that went right down to the wire.
Without further ado, let's check out how the table shakes out following the seven fixtures to open up Matchday 24, along with a list of the results. That's followed by a recap of how everything played out to open up the February slate.
Here are the results from Saturday's matches:
|Date||Home Club||Road Club||Result|
|Feb. 1||West Ham||Swansea||2-0|
|Feb. 1||Everton||Aston Villa||2-1|
|Feb. 1||Stoke||Manchester United||2-1|
Everton were the day's biggest winners, at least from the Champions League race perspective. After getting steamrolled by rival Liverpool earlier in the week, the Toffees looked destined for another frustrating defeat for the first 70 minutes against Aston Villa.
Then they finally came alive. Steven Naismith scored to equalize in the 74th minute. It set the stage for Kevin Mirallas to emerge as the hero 10 minutes later, as he delivered a perfect free kick to rescue three key points for Everton.
Toffees manager Roberto Martinez called the win, which moved the side back into fifth place, the most satisfying of the campaign to date:
MARTINEZ: "It was a great fightback and, for me, the most satisfying victory of the season." #EFCAVFC— Everton (@Everton) February 1, 2014
Not as fortunate were Manchester United. Hopes were high for David Moyes' group with Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney linking back up on the attack, but it wasn't enough to score a road win against Stoke, which put together a strong defensive performance.
Unfortunately for the Red Devils, it seems like every time they are ready to kick things into another gear they suffer a setback. A pair of goals from Charlie Adam made sure that was the case once again to push Stoke toward the middle of the table while United remain in seventh.
Another club that fell short of its desired goal Saturday was Tottenham. Spurs needed a second-half tally from Paulinho just to get a draw with Hull, who grabbed the lead after just 12 minutes courtesy of Shane Long.
The victory helped Hull keep their head above the relegation zone. Tottenham dropped to sixth, but they are still within striking distance of the top four.
One of the day's top individual performances came from West Ham's Kevin Nolan. He found the net twice in the first half to lead the Hammers past Swansea. It's clear the veteran midfielder has developed some nice chemistry with Andy Carroll, as OptaJoe points out:
6 - Six of Andy Carroll's last 11 Premier League assists have been for Kevin Nolan goals. Chums.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 1, 2014
Which club was Saturday's biggest disappointment?
Elsewhere, Sunderland's run of strong form continued with a 3-0 road romp over Newcastle. The Magpies had a chance to push toward a European spot, but instead it was the Black Cats who made progress in their effort to avoid relegation.
Norwich went into halftime with a 1-0 lead over Cardiff, but the Bluebirds fought back with two quick strikes early in the second half to grab the lead and never relinquished it. They are still in 19th place, but they're just three points behind 12th.
Wrapping things up, Fulham's downward spiral continued in a listless 3-0 loss to Southampton. The match was actually scoreless until shortly after the hour mark, when the Saints exploded for three quick goals and the Cottagers had no answer.