For weeks, the conversation around the Premier League has focused on the mounting pressure due to the close races from top to bottom in the table. It's now reached a fever pitch heading into the final few matches,and the clubs who rise to the occasion will be rewarded.
Everton had a chance to keep pressure on Arsenal in the Champions League chase. Instead, a pair of own goals doomed the Toffees. Then there's the case of West Brom, which put together a strong defensive performance to earn three key points for some breathing room in the relegation battle.
And those are just a couple of key results from Saturday. There's plenty of action left to come as Week 36 rolls on. Let's check out the matchday's results and goal scorers, which will be updated through the completion of play on Monday, as well as a closer look at some top performers.
Matchday 36 Results
|Date||Home Club||Road Club||Final Score|
|April 26||Swansea||Aston Villa||4-1|
|April 26||West Brom||West Ham||1-0|
|April 26||Manchester United||Norwich||4-0|
|April 27||Crystal Palace||Manchester City||0-2|
Matchday 36 Goal Scorers
|2||Wayne Rooney||Manchester United|
|2||Juan Mata||Manchester United|
|1||Gabriel Agbonlahor||Aston Villa|
|1||Saido Berahino||West Brom|
|1||Edin Dzeko||Manchester City|
|1||Yaya Toure||Manchester City|
Recap of Top Performances
Wilfried Bony scored his second straight double to help Swansea move eight points clear of the relegation zone, which should ensure their safety. The Ivory Coast international certainly picked an opportune time to showcase his best form of the campaign.
He netted the Swans' only two goals last week in a 2-1 win over Newcastle. It's amazing what a performance like that can do for a player's confidence, as Bony was right back on the attack early against Aston Villa, scoring just 10 minutes in to give his side the lead.
The Lions tied the game courtesy of Gabriel Agbonlahor before Swansea rattled off three straight goals to secure all three points. Bony put a cap on the victory with his second goal of the match, this time from the penalty spot, in stoppage time.
Stats Football noted that the brace allowed Bony to tie Liverpool teammates Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge for the most Premier League goals since the calendar turned to 2014:
Another player to find the net twice on Saturday was Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United superstar helped interim manager and longtime teammate Ryan Giggs get his stint leading United following the departure of David Moyes off to a memorable start.
Playing against Norwich, which are in serious relegation danger with Chelsea and Arsenal still on the schedule, helped United's cause for sure. Even so, the overall level of play was still much higher than what the club's supporters had witnessed recently.
Rooney led the charge with a double that ended a three-match goalless drought. He converted a penalty opportunity shortly before halftime to relieve a lot of the tension and then scored again quickly out of the break to send United on their way to a 4-0 win.
Not only did it allow Giggs to enter the managerial pages of United's history books on a positive note, but Paul Carr of ESPN points out it moves Rooney up the scoring charts as well:
With 2 goals today, Wayne Rooney has 158 league goals for Man United, tying Joe Spence for 5th in team history.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) April 26, 2014
While Juan Mata also scored twice for United, they both came after the Red Devils had the match firmly in hand. So let's instead shift the top performance spotlight to Saido Berahino, who scored what could turn out to be a very important goal for West Brom.
Who was Saturday's top attacking performer?
The Baggies were dangerously close to the relegation zone with an away contest against Arsenal looming next weekend. So they really needed a win here to put a little space between them and the bottom three. Berahino ensured they got it.
He found the net in the 11th minute, and West Brom put the defensive clamps down from there to keep West Ham off the scoreboard despite a clear edge in the possession battle. It allowed Berahino to assume the role of hero.
The Baggies provided remarks from manager Pepe Mel, who said he had a feeling Berahino would answer the bell, and he certainly did:
Mel: It was very important that Saido played well and scored. I thought it would be a good game for him and it paid off— WBAFCofficial (@WBAFCofficial) April 26, 2014
Sunderland climbed out of the relegation zone with a 4-0 win over Cardiff on Sunday. The Bluebirds dropped to last in the table and are two points off the Black Cats.
Connor Wickham bookended the scoring. His first goal in the 26th minute gave Sunderland a 1-0 lead. Sixty minutes later, he finished off his brace, giving his club what would be four-goal victory.
If you want to pin Sunderland's recent resurgence on one player, look at the 21-year-old. His five goals in the month of April are tops in the Premier League, per OptaJoe:
5 - Connor Wickham has now scored more Premier League goals this month than any other player. Rebirth.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 27, 2014
Once seen as a lock to go down, the Black Cats are now firmly in control of their own destiny.
The same can no longer be said of Liverpool, who fell 2-0 to Chelsea. According to WhoScored.com, the Reds 73 percent of possession and attempted 26 shots, only eight of which were on target. Mimicking Real Madrid's 1-0 Champions League win over Bayern Munich in midweek, the Blues were happy to cede possession to their opponents and deploy a rear guard.
Demba Ba put Chelsea up right before halftime, after a bad touch and slip from Steven Gerrard allowed the striker an open run at the goal.
As Liverpool were chasing the match in second-half injury time, they allowed Fernando Torres and Willian to have yet another free run at goal, and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was powerless to prevent the Brazilian from tapping in the ball in to secure the three points.
SB Nation's Kevin McCauley summed it up perfectly:
You'll never walk alone…unless you're Simon Mignolet, then you're on your own, buddy.— Kevin McCauley (@kevinmccauley) April 27, 2014
Although Chelsea are still in the title race, it looks like the league crown will still end up in either Liverpool or Manchester.
Manchester City are now only three points back of the league leaders with a game in hand after Sunday's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Some might have wondered if City might play a little tense knowing how much was on the line in this match.
Edin Dzeko put those doubts to bed with a goal in the fourth minute. From there on out, Manchester City were firmly in control, and Yaya Toure's goal in the 43rd minute was all the insurance they needed.
If City win their remaining three matches, they'll almost certainly be champions.
Finally on Monday, Arsenal brushed aside Newcastle, 3-0. Mesut Ozil was in fine form, tallying a goal and an assist in a game the Gunners completely controlled from the opening kick.
The win means that Arsenal are one win away from guaranteeing a fourth-place finish and entry into the Champions League again next year, as the Gunners moved four points clear of Everton.