Perhaps the best part about the Premier League table remaining so close at every level is the increased amount of importance on virtually every game. Even at this stage in the campaign, there are very few matches that won't have some type of notable impact on the standings.
In turn, scoring a goal could have a profound effect on where a club finishes when the dust settles after the 38th match. So while a goal counts the same on the stat line whether it comes in August or April, its value is often vastly different based on the timing.
Teams with the players who accept the pressure and rise to occasion are the ones that win titles, earn Champions League berths and avoid relegation. So let's check out the results and goalscorers for Matchday 33, followed by a recap of the top performances. Updates will be made through Monday.
Matchday 33 Results
|Date||Home Club||Road Club||Final Score|
Matchday 33 Goal Scorers
|2||Juan Mata||Manchester United|
|2||Jason Puncheon||Crystal Palace|
|1||Yaya Toure||Manchester City|
|1||Samir Nasri||Manchester City|
|1||Edin Dzeko||Manchester City|
|1||Stevan Jovetic||Manchester City|
|1||Grant Holt||Aston Villa|
|1||Joe Ledley||Crystal Palace|
|1||Javier Hernandez||Manchester United|
|1||Adnan Januzaj||Manchester United|
|1||Morgan Amalfitano||West Brom|
|1||Guy Demel||West Ham|
Recap of Top Performances
Manchester United needed somebody to lead the attacking charge with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie out of the lineup, and Juan Mata rose to the occasion. The talented attacking midfielder netted a brace as United cruised past a fading Newcastle squad.
Mata moved into his more accustomed No. 10 role behind Javier Hernandez. He proceeded to put together one of his best all-around performances of the season and definitely his most complete showing with United, adding an assist to his two goals.
It was exactly the type of match the Red Devils expected to see a lot of when they acquired the Spanish international from Chelsea in January. The effort was more than enough to earn him the Man of the Match distinction from WhoScored:
Although it's been a frustrating season for United, they have shown signs of life lately, and their chances of finishing the season on a high note greatly improve if Mata showcases that type of form. He's a game-changing player when at his best.
Who was the top attacking performer on Saturday?
The other player to find the net twice on Saturday was Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon, who's played well in 2014 and was finally rewarded for his efforts. It came at a perfect time for the Eagles, as they finally earned some breathing room above the relegation zone.
His first goal came just after the half-hour mark to give Palace an instant boost of confidence after some moments where they were on their heels. The second was a brilliant finish in the 88th minute to ensure they would be getting all three points.
While most of the focus is on the impact the win has on the club's ability to remain in the Premier League, Eurosport notes that Puncheon may be forcing his way into the England national team conversation due to his strong play:
If Roy Hodgson wants to look at men in form for his World Cup squad, it would not be a bad idea to study Puncheon's capabilities. Carries pace and a menace from various points on the park as Cardiff will testify. An attacking midfielder, who looked more like a forward.
The battles for those roster spots is intense, which means Puncheon would need to shine over the first month of the campaign to emerge as a legitimate option. But performances like the one Saturday certainly showcase what he's capable of.
There were no other doubles or better during Saturday's action, so the spotlight instead falls on George Boyd of Hull and Morgan Amalfitano of West Brom. Both players were responsible for the only goals in 1-0 victories for their respective clubs.
In Boyd's case, it should ensure the Tigers remain in the Premier League for another season. Amalfitano and Co. aren't as safe, but the win was a major step in the right direction.
Sunday featured the biggest match of the week. But hopes of a thriller in the race for fourth place were dismissed early when Everton dismantled Arsenal at Goodison Park. A Mikel Arteta own goal an hour in put the Toffees ahead 3-0 and they wouldn't look back.
Later in the day, Liverpool faced a tricky road test against West Ham but managed to win its ninth straight Premier League match thanks to a brace from Steven Gerrard, who scored on penalties in the first and second half to elevate the Reds to the top of the league table.