Luis Suarez may lead the Premier League goalscoring charts this term, but it was a young English striker who stole the headlines on Sunday.
Connor Wickham's goal count this season may pale into insignificance in the face of Suarez's 30 strikes, but the former Ipswich man's contribution may prove to be just as important as the Uruguayan's come May.
|Premier League Top Scorers: Week 37|
|3.||Yaya Toure||Manchester City||19|
|4.||Wayne Rooney||Manchester United||17|
|5.||Sergio Aguero||Manchester City||16|
|6.||Wilfried Bony||Swansea City||15|
Wickham plundered another two today as Sunderland climbed out of the relegation zone with a 4-0 victory over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Cardiff City side. That's seven points from the last nine for the Black Cats, a feat all the more impressive when it is considered that four of those points came against Chelsea and Manchester City.
And the driving force behind Sunderland's survival fight has been the formerly-maligned Wickham. Those five goals in his last three matches may come to mean just as much to Wearside as Suarez's 30 do on the Mersey.
The Daily Telegraph's Luke Edwards recently considered just how Gus Poyet has brought the best out of an £8 million man that Paolo di Canio and Steve Bruce simply could not.
Paolo Di Canio, the former Sunderland manager, described him as a “playboy model” who needed a “slap in the face” to get the best out of him, but perhaps all Connor Wickham really needed was a decent run in the side.
Wickham is proving himself to be a man for the big occasion, seemingly taking Sunderland's struggle by the scruff of the neck. Against Cardiff, the Black Cats' fellow strugglers, it was Wickham's head that provided those valuable three points. The 6'3" man opened the scoring with a nodded effort and continued to make his presence felt as he won the penalty that Fabio Borini dispatched to send Sunderland clear.
Emanuele Giaccherini slotted home a third before Wickham headed home his second to complete the rout.
He may have come to the party mighty late, but Wickham will be worthy of consideration for a World Cup place if Roy Hodgson takes players to Brazil based purely upon their form.
A man who knows a thing or two about goalscoring, Michael Owen was certainly ebullient about Wickham's form on Twitter.
Suarez has notched 30 strikes in the league this season, but he could not find a way past Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side today. Nevertheless, the Uruguayan remains ten goals clear of his teammate, Daniel Sturridge, on 30 goals.
Brendan Rodgers accused Mourinho of negative tactics, as reported by Liam Twomey of Goal.com.
We just couldn't find the breakthrough - there were probably two buses parked today, never mind one
But those tactics were perfectly adequate to subdue Suarez, who has otherwise been unstoppable this term.
Yaya Toure is another player who has enjoyed a storming campaign. The Ivorian was never known for his goalscoring exploits during his spell at Barcelona, but the Etihad seems to have brought out the best in Toure.
And he was on strike again today, notching his 19th of the season. Toure had missed the West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland encounters through injury, but he returned with a bang, storming into the Crystal Palace penalty area before curling a left footed shot past Julian Speroni.
Over in the red half of Manchester, Wayne Rooney has gone some way to reaffirming his status as England's top striker with a brace of goals against Norwich City. Rooney notched a penalty and a curling effort either side of half-time as Ryan Giggs enjoyed an imperious victory in his first game in charge at Old Trafford.
Not to miss out on the party, Juan Mata grabbed two goals of his own in a 4-0 victory.
Rooney moves to 17 goals, but still remains three adrift of his probable World Cup strike partner, Daniel Sturridge. But with Manchester United still to face Sunderland, Hull City and Southampton, Rooney remains an outside shot to reel in the rejuvenated Liverpool frontman.
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