The best of the English Premier League’s Week 25 action was saved for last, as Manchester City and Chelsea do battle on Monday. The rest of the league, however, got their results by Sunday, and there were some surprising ones, to say the least.
With 14 matches left, it’s getting to the point where slip-ups are a death sentence. There is still time for teams to make major moves up the table, but they can’t afford to drop games they shouldn’t lose.
Someone should tell that to some of the teams in contention for spots in Europe. Manchester United, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Liverpool all dropped points, and this week’s results may come back to haunt them.
It wasn't all bad, however, as some teams took care of business. Arsenal took control of first place—at least for the night—thanks to a brace from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Here’s a look at how the league table stands (with only Man City and Chelsea left to play):
And here’s a quick look at the results of the weekend, followed by a recap of the most memorable results:
|Stoke City||2-1||Manchester United|
|Hull City||1-1||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Cardiff City||2-1||Norwich City|
|West Ham United||2-0||Swansea City|
|West Bromwich Albion||1-1||Liverpool|
Manchester United Continue to Struggle, Fall to Stoke City
Yes, you read that correctly. Then again, the Red Devils’ 2-1 defeat to Stoke may not be that surprising if you’ve watched United flail about all season long.
It seems that the operators of Stoke City’s official Twitter account were surprised with the result:
Famous victory, read the scoreline... Stoke City 2-1 Manchester United #SCFC— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) February 1, 2014
United were largely in control throughout the match but couldn’t capitalize on their bevy of scoring chances. With the scores level, a Charlie Adam free-kick took a wicked deflection off Michael Carrick, and David de Gea could only watch as the ball sailed into the back of his net.
Robin van Persie scored an equalizer to open the second half, but Adam wasn’t done with his scoring for the Potters. His brilliant strike from outside the box gave Stoke City the lead for good and their first win over Manchester United since 1984.
The score added to David Moyes’ list of record-breaking results as manager of the Red Devils—unfortunately, none of them are positive achievements:
I thought the performance was good, we were just really unlucky. We created numerous opportunities, we must have got to the byline eight or nine times, and then we lost to a massive deflection and a world-class strike from nowhere. It was our own fault we didn't take our chances, we contributed to our own downfall there, but I felt there was not an awful lot we didn't do well.
Moyes had better figure it out, or United will fall out of contention for even the Europa League—and he may not live to fight another day as Manchester’s manager with such a disappointing season.
Kolo Toure’s Blunder Costs Liverpool While Everton Make Up Ground
After thrashing their Merseyside rivals to the tune of a 4-0 win earlier in the week, Liverpool had the chance to gain some separation from Everton in the league table with a win this weekend—especially with the way things looked in Goodison Park at half-time.
Everton left the first 45 minutes of their Saturday matchup against Aston Villa trailing 1-0 thanks to a Leandro Bacuna strike—despite dominating possession in the first half.
It looked like Everton would suffer another disappointing defeat, but manager Roberto Martinez hit all the right buttons as substitute Steven Naismith scored to cap off a beautiful attack and level the playing field in the 74th minute.
The Toffees weren’t done, either, with Kevin Mirallas beating Villa keeper Brad Guzan from 25 yards out to give them three points for their day’s work.
Given the recent string of poor form, the win was vital for Everton, and their manager shared that notion:
MARTINEZ: "It was a great fightback and, for me, the most satisfying victory of the season." #EFCAVFC— Everton (@Everton) February 1, 2014
On flip side of Merseyside, Liverpool would go four points clear of Everton with a win over lowly West Bromwich Albion—who entered the game sitting in 17th place.
Daniel Sturridge’s goal in the 24th minute gave Liverpool an early lead, and the Reds almost added to their lead when Luis Suarez broke through for a one-on-one opportunity against West Brom keeper Ben Foster.
Foster made a tremendous save, however, and one goal wasn’t enough for Liverpool to walk away with victory.
A terrible decision by Kolo Toure to pass the ball across his own box ended painfully, as it set up Baggies striker Victor Anichebe for the equalizer.
FT: Kolo Toure has a day to forget, allowing West Brom to come back for 1-1 draw against Liverpool. pic.twitter.com/gywgC65WLk— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) February 2, 2014
One poor play cost the Reds two points, and it could end up costing them much more than that now that Everton are hot on their tails for that last UEFA Champions League spot.
Sunderland Win the ‘War in the North’ Over Archrival Magpies
There are few Premier League rivalries as contemptuous as Newcastle-Sunderland, so you can bet that the Toon Army is furious with the humiliating 3-0 home defeat at the hands of the Black Cats.
Newcastle fans are right to be upset, but their frustrations may be best directed at the management that let Yohan Cabaye walk out the door with no replacement in sight.
Magpies manager Alan Pardew lamented the loss of arguably his best player to Ben Burrows of the Mirror:
We have lost a good player and have another who scores goals sitting out. We have to find another way to play, maybe a with a back-to-basics element to make sure the second half of the season mirrors the success of the first half. A lot of the play went through Yohan, so maybe we have to change our style. Sunderland were more controlled, had a better shape and they are things we can put right.
Life without their best playmaker up front looks grim, as the Sunderland attack looked like a world-class front compared to Newcastle’s attempts to keep their head above water.
Goals by Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson and Jack Colback gave Sunderland an easy win, while Newcastle's hopes of Europa League play took a significant hit.