Matchday 35 of the Premier League has brought us 23 goals already, with the high-octane Manchester City attack sure to add to that tally against West Brom on Monday. With tight races nearing a close at all levels of the EPL table, every goal carries enormous weight. So who were the men that stepped up when their clubs needed them the most?
|1||Mile Jedinak||Crystal Palace|
Every goal is important, but three men notched a brace which makes them the stars of the weekend.
Wilfried Bony, Swansea City
As Swansea City were dropping closer and closer to the relegation zone, Wilfried Bony displayed his penchant for drama by scoring two extra-time goals to secure a road win against Newcastle United and, more importantly, a critical three points.
The first goal came at the end of the first half when he got his head on the end of a Swansea corner. Bony came flying in, met the ball perfectly and slotted it past the Magpies keeper to tie the game headed into the break.
In a back-and-forth battle, Bony almost gave the Swans a winner in the 82nd minute on a breakaway attempt, but he was thwarted by Newcastle keeper Tim Krul. Bony got redemption just 10 minutes later, however, as he sent Krul the wrong way on a stoppage-time penalty which gave the Swans the victory.
Bony has been an enormous presence for Swansea, and his manager, Garry Monk, gave glowing reviews after the match (via BBC Sport):
He's been brilliant for us and he can only get better. Obviously with Michu having an indifferent season with niggly injuries, Bony has stepped up to the plate and you can't complain at someone who gets 20-plus goals in a season in his first season here.
It's not just that, he's a massive character in our changing room. He works so hard every day, he pushes everyone else. If he doesn't score, he's a strength, he's a presence up front and he can be a handful without scoring goals.
In fact, Bony has been so good for the Swans that it’s unlikely he is still with the team next season, as someone will definitely be willing to shell out more than £20 million for the forward. According to Bill Mills of the Mirror, Everton have eyes for the Ivorian striker as a replacement for Romelu Lukaku. There are sure to be even more suitors after the season ends and after the World Cup.
Raheem Sterling, Liverpool
At 19 years old, Raheem Sterling has been exhibiting a skill and maturity well beyond his years this season. Sunday’s match against Norwich City was a perfect example.
With the chance to secure a five-point lead at the top of the table and capitalize on Chelsea’s shocking loss to Sunderland, Sterling was the best player on the pitch.
He opened the scoring with a superb strike in the fourth minute which screamed past Norwich keeper John Ruddy—he never had a chance. Then he found Luis Suarez open in the box with a gorgeous low cross to extend the Reds’ lead to two.
Finally, when Norwich were starting to climb their way back into the game, Sterling put the final nail in their coffin with a solo run that started in his own half and ended in the back of the net.
Three vital goals with Sterling’s fingerprints (or more accurately, footprints) all over them. It’s no surprise that his boss is raving about him. Here’s what Brendan Rodgers had to say about the teenager after the win, via David Kent of the Daily Mail:
He is the best young player in European football at the moment. At 19 years of age you don't see anyone better. His intelligence with the ball, his movement and he's scoring goals. His first goal was a wonderful strike. He's just shifted it, got his shot off; to beat a goalkeeper of John Ruddy's quality shows you the quality of the strike.
His pass for Luis' goal was like a top midfield player, so there's an assist, and his position for the counter attack when he broke away and obviously gets a bit of luck on the deflection but his overall performance he's shown so much maturity.
Sterling was the best player on the pitch at Carrow Road. In fact, he was the best player on any pitch this weekend.
Lukas Podolski, Arsenal
The Gunners have fallen out of title contention, but they still have a battle on their hands for the fourth and final Champions League spot with Everton right on their tails. Fortunately for manager Arsene Wenger, his side cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win over Hull City thanks to a brace by German striker Lukas Podolski.
Both goals were examples of why Podolski is such an effective striker, as they displayed his clinical finishing and knack for being in the right place at the right time.
The first goal came at the end of the first half as he timed a run into the box perfectly to volley a nasty strike into the bottom corner.
For his encore, Podolski capitalized on a rebound after a brilliant save by Norwich keeper Steve Harper, and the German put the game away in the 54th minute to continue his recent run of Premier League success:
5 - Lukas Podolski has now scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances. Update.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 20, 2014
Podolski is heating up in the buildup to the FIFA World Cup, but Arsenal fans are hoping his form continues to help them win out and secure their place in the Champions League next season.