The Premier League title race promises to come down to the wire, after Chelsea’s loss to Aston Villa on Matchday 30 made it a free-for-all among the top four teams. The weekend’s action brought plenty of highlights, goals and even a few red cards, and this is what the EPL landscape looks like after the dust settled.
|12||West Ham United||29||8||7||14||-6||31|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||29||5||13||11||-10||28|
|Hull City||0-2||Manchester City|
|Swansea City||1-2||West Bromwich Albion|
|Stoke City||3-1||West Ham United|
|Aston Villa||1-0||Manchester City|
Chelsea Come Up Empty in Villa Park
The most important result of the week from a title race standpoint was Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Aston Villa—which extended Jose Mourinho’s dry spell at Villa Park.
The Blues dominated possession but were unable to create many real scoring chances out of it. Paul Wilson of The Guardian revealed how the home side was able to stifle the Chelsea attack:
Villa spent the first 10 minutes bemused by the movement and interchangability of Chelsea's three-quarter line of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard as the visitors opened the game with businesslike intent, moving the ball around smartly and purposefully and always appearing to have a spare man making himself available.
It was impressive to watch, yet Chelsea's approach work did not lead to any openings in front of goal, just speculative long shots from Willian and Oscar. Most of the actual attacking threat was being channelled through the industrious Hazard, and once Villa worked that out they settled down and began to put together some moves of their own.
Chelsea’s frustration was on full display, as they had two men sent off, and Mourinho himself was banished to the stands for his protests and objections.
Playing at a numbers disadvantage for the last 20 minutes, the Blues defense succumbed to the Villa pressure to give up the only goal of match. It came in the 82nd minute when Fabian Delph got a fortunate touch on a low ball across the box to flick it into the back of the net.
Mourinho’s comments earlier in the week, via the BBC, when he labeled Manchester City as the “favorites” to win the league crown seemed like more of his famous mind games, but those words ring true after the loss.
Liverpool Outclass Manchester United To Help Title Aspirations
Manchester City were always in the hunt thanks to their games in hand, but Liverpool and Arsenal needed Chelsea to lose to boost their chances of hoisting the EPL trophy at the end of the year. Well, that Chelsea loss happened on Saturday, and Liverpool made sure to capitalize on it by beating United in Old Trafford.
It wasn’t the prettiest match you’ll ever see, as most of the goal scoring came from the penalty spot. The Reds drew three penalties, and skipper Steven Gerrard converted two of them just before and after half-time to put Liverpool in the driver’s seat.
With the two goals, Gerrard cemented his status as a thorn in the side of the Red Devils:
Steven Gerrard has now scored more PL goals at Old Trafford than any other visiting player in the competition's history.— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) March 16, 2014
The win lofted Liverpool into second place (although third-place Man City have two games in hand) and put them squarely in the championship race.
For United, the loss dampens their hopes of playing in Europe next year and is yet another chapter in an enormously disappointing season.
Tomas Rosicky Pushes Gunners to Win in North London Derby
In a physical and hard-fought game, all it took was one moment of brilliance from Tomas Rosicky in the second minute to decide the outcome. Both sides had their fair share of possession and promising build-up play, but Rosicky was the only one to display the touch and skill to put one of those chances in the back of the net.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a couple of tremendous opportunities that were squandered that would have increased Arsenal’s lead, but Arsene Wenger’s side managed to hang on for the critical win.
The loss for Tottenham means they have to start worrying about who is behind them, Everton, instead of focusing on trying to crack the top four—a goal that is out of their hands now.
With the victory, the Gunners are now in third place with a fixture against league-leading Chelsea looming on the horizon for next week.
Looking at Chelsea's remaining schedule, next week will be a make-or-break match for Arsenal's title hopes, as it looks like a fairly easy end to the year for the Blues.