The one takeaway from Matchday 32 was that there are no guaranteed results in the Premier League, as league-leading Chelsea fell short against a Crystal Palace team desperately fighting to avoid relegation. That result opened the door for both Manchester City and Liverpool to take control of the title race.
Here are the results from Saturday’s action:
|Manchester United||4-1||Aston Villa|
|West Bromwich Albion||3-3||Cardiff City|
|Swansea City||3-0||Norwich City|
|Stoke City||1-0||Hull City|
Here’s how the table stands followed by a recap of the most important and exciting games of the day:
|11||West Ham United||31||9||7||15||-7||34|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||31||5||14||12||-21||29|
Red Devils Hammer Aston Villa, 4-1
The atmosphere was grim in Old Trafford after Manchester United’s mid-week defeat at the hands of rival Manchester City, but the Red Devils came out and helped manager David Moyes’ standing with the United faithful.
It was a rocky start as Ashley Westwood opened the scoring for Villa with a beautiful free-kick that whizzed past keeper David de Gea.
United pulled together in the face of adversity, however, and their attacking talent won out in the end. Wayne Rooney was the beneficiary of two beautiful through balls from Shinji Kagawa as he finished with a double and gave United the lead.
His first goal came in the 20th minute, as Kagawa found him wide open in the box with a lofted cross. With nobody around him, Rooney had no problems heading the ball into the back of the net.
With the game level, United had a renewed energy, and they started to control possession and then the game.
Just before half-time, Kagawa slotted in a gorgeous through ball and found Juan Mata in the box. Leandro Bacuna brought Mata down, preventing the goal but earning a yellow card and giving United a penalty in the process.
Rooney stepped up to the spot and crushed the kick, putting Manchester up, 2-1, giving Moyes a sense of relief heading into the break.
That relief would have evaporated rather quickly in the second half, however, as Christian Benteke came dangerously close to scoring on two occasions in the opening minutes of the half.
With those opportunities squandered, Juan Mata scored on a broken play to extend United’s lead, and then Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) added one in stoppage time for good measure.
The win means that Manchester has some momentum heading into their Champions League fixture against Bayern Munich, and it gives them a slim hope at the Europa League next year.
John Terry’s Own Goal Helps Crystal Palace Stun Chelsea
After hammering Arsenal, 6-0, last week, this week’s match against Crystal Palace was barely a blip on Chelsea’s radar. Maybe it should have been, as the Blues came away with no points and hurt their title chances.
Dominic Fifield of The Guardian gives us an idea of just how shocking the result was:
This was a result to confound logic even in a gloriously unpredictable top flight. Palace had secured a solitary point from 14 games against the Premier League's top nine before this match, their winless streak stretching back to the start of February with goals having long since dried up.
They had not managed one from open play since that last success though, befitting a contest that deviated from the prescribed script, Chelsea scored one for them here.
John Terry's own goal early in the second half had Mourinho writing off his team's chances of regaining the title. He scribbled one word down on a piece of paper, preferring not to damn his own out loud, when asked what his team needs if they are to improve. 'Balls,' read the note. That summed it up.
Crystal Palace played well in the first half but couldn’t capitalize on any of their chances. At half-time, you had the feeling that Palace had missed their chance to surprise the table-toppers and that Chelsea would come out firing in the second 45 minutes.
The Blues certainly had their chances, but John Terry was the only one to find the back of the net—except it was the wrong one.
Eden Hazard almost equalized immediately, but Palace keeper Julian Speroni kept that attempt out of his goal. Speroni was the man of the match for the hosts, as he made a number of impressive saves and kept his team in front.
With the win, Crystal Palace helped their case to avoid relegation and now sit five points clear of 18th-place Cardiff City.
But the result has significant ramifications at the top of the table. Chelsea remain at the top of the table thanks to Manchester City’s draw, but their loss gives Liverpool the chance to take the lead with a win on Sunday and allows City to draw even closer.
Arsenal and Man City Split the Points at Emirates
With the chance to jump to the top of the table, Manchester City came out energized and took an early lead in the 18th minute off David Silva’s strike. Arsenal looked flat to start the match—as they have done repeatedly against the league’s best teams. As a result, City dominated the first half but couldn't add to their tally.
The Gunners showed tremendous resolve in the second half to fight back from the early deficit and keep their slim title hopes alive, thanks to Mathieu Flamini’s goal in the 53rd minute.
Manchester City sit in third place, but they still have two games in hand on the league leaders and trail by only two points, so it wasn't all doom and gloom for manager Manuel Pellegrini.
With plenty of madness unfolding at the top of the table, Arsenal has to keep battling as Arsene Wenger said after the match:
Wenger: “We have to fight until the end of the season, because everybody can beat everybody." #AFCvMCFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 29, 2014
For Arsenal, the result could have been better as a win was necessary to truly get back in the title conversation. The Gunners are still in the mix, but need a fair bit of help from their competitors to capture the trophy.