6 Things We Learned from Premier League Week 34: Reds Beat Their City Hoodoo
After what has been yet another incident-packed weekend of Premier League football full of captivating drama at both ends of the table, a five-goal title thriller on Merseyside, incredible comebacks and red cards and own goals, we have chosen six talking points to discuss from the past two days of top-flight action.
Points, Not Performances, Mean Prizes
When you are fighting for Premier League survival, then performances really do come second to results, as was very much the case on Saturday afternoon as Fulham overcame fellow strugglers Norwich City at Craven Cottage, despite largely being outplayed by the visitors.
In the end, though, it was the West Londoners who grabbed the spoils in this relegation six-pointer to move to within just two points of the Canaries after a second straight top-flight victory.
However, the Cottagers owed their morale-boosting win to man-of-the-match David Stockdale after their recently installed new No. 1 produced a number of breathtaking saves to preserve the home side’s clean sheet, including one in particular in the first half to prevent Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel from scoring his first league goal in over 20 hours of football.
Fulham boss Felix Magath: "Norwich was the better team and we were lucky that we had a very good goalkeeper who saved us from defeat.”— Premier League (@premierleague) April 12, 2014
If You're Good Enough, You're Old Enough
Young Everton defender John Stones further cemented his already growing reputation after yet another eye-catching display at the back for the Toffees at Sunderland on Saturday.
Everton coach Roberto Martinez was forced to throw the hugely promising England Under-21 international in at the deep end following the hamstring injury picked up by skipper Phil Jagielka back in January; however, Stones has since grabbed his first-team opportunity with both hands.
In particular, the 19-year-old was in the right place at the right time to enact a vital goal-line clearance in the first half at the Stadium of Light to keep the scoreline goalless, before then making a desperate late challenge to protect the Merseysiders’ slender 1-0 lead.
And as a result, Stones and his fellow defenders left Wearside with a third clean sheet in four games as the visitors moved into the top four of the table on the back of a seventh top-flight win in a row, while Everton have also now racked up their highest-ever points haul in Premier League history.
No Place Like Home for Pulis’ Soaring Eagles
Crystal Palace are a reminder to all sides wanting to beat the odds and remain in the Premier League that when it comes to the ideal guide to survival, making your home ground a fortress while shoring up your back four should be the No. 1 priorities.
As since taking charge of the seemingly Championship-bound Eagles last November, manager Tony Pulis has managed to oversee six wins and a draw in nine top-flight encounters at Selhurst Park to completely banish any fears of relegation Palace may have had.
And not only that but also, incredibly, the Southeast London outfit now have a better defensive record than Liverpool!
Crystal Palace have taken 19 points from their 10 home games under Tony Pulis (W6, D1, L3) http://t.co/FbdFmZDWTG— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 12, 2014
It’s Deja Vu All over Again at the Hawthorns
West Bromwich Albion would be safe now but for conceding injury-time equalisers to draw 3-3 in each of their last two Premier League matches at the Hawthorns.
Last month it was fellow strugglers Cardiff City who broke the Baggies’ hearts by scoring a last-minute leveller, while on Saturday afternoon it was the turn of UEFA Champions League-chasing Tottenham Hotspur to do the same on the home side.
Add on those four squandered points and the table would now be looking a whole lot rosier for Pepe Mel and Co.
Reds Finally Learn How to Get the Better of City at Just the Right Time
So Liverpool do know how to beat Manchester City in the Premier League after all, as Brendan Rodgers’ easy-on-the-eye outfit finally managed to overcome the Citizens for the first time in three years after a massive 3-2 victory at Anfield on Sunday lunchtime, their 10th in a row.
The Reds boss rightly pointed out in the build-up to the match that his side had been more than a little unfortunate not to get the better of City in each of their previous three meetings in the league, but that was all forgotten as the Merseysiders blew Manuel Pellegrini’s title favourites apart in the opening half-hour.
The visitors went into this contest as the only team in the Premier League not to have conceded a goal in the opening 15 minutes of a game; however, the irrepressible Raheem Sterling ended that record after just six minutes.
Martin Skrtel then became the highest-scoring defender in the top flight this season after powering home his seventh goal of the campaign only 20 minutes later, as the home side also went past the 100-goal mark in the process.
And while Pellegrini’s men responded magnificently in the opening quarter of the second half to draw level, in the end Liverpool earned the slice of luck that came their way via Vincent Kompany’s scuffed clearance in the lead-up to Philippe Coutinho’s winning strike after so many close shaves against these opponents in the recent past.
Count Chelsea Out at Your Peril
Chelsea may have slipped under the title radar of late, and with good reason too after back-to-back away defeats without scoring; however, you can bet your bottom dollar that coach Jose Mourinho will have told his players to keep believing after their vital 1-0 win at 10-man Swansea City on Sunday afternoon.
The Blues, who also kept their first clean sheet on the road since their 1-0 victory at Manchester City back in February, moved to within just two points of the leaders, Liverpool, with four games still to play, one of which is at Anfield in a fortnight, thanks to Demba Ba’s 68th-minute strike at the Liberty Stadium.
Chelsea at 9/2 is a big big price for them to win the league.— Geoff Shreeves (@GeoffShreeves) April 13, 2014
And while Mourinho’s side do have two energy-sapping UEFA Champions League semi-final ties to play against Atletico Madrid later this month, the wily Portuguese will surely be plotting to finish the season with four straight league wins that would possibly see the West Londoners crowned as unlikely champions.