Thursday, April 30, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Rapids Earn Draw in New York

New York Red Bulls 0-1 Colorado Rapids
Colorado may be the worst in the West, but they tend to show up at random times and cause headaches for top teams. Red Bulls got a case of that Wednesday night as Colorado snuck up on them to earn a point. A free kick set up a Gabriel Torres header for Colorado's goal in the 25th minute on some putrid defending. Torres was completely unmarked and there was nary a soul between him and the keeper, allowing him the easy header.

It had already been all Red Bulls all the time, but it only got worse after the goal. It didn't take long for the tying goal to come. Bradley Wright-Phillips confidently put a penalty home in the bottom left corner.

Red Bulls then threatened but never scored. They launched 20 shots in total with ten getting on target. Sacha Kljestan hit the corner of the woodwork in the 64th minute. As an aside, it annoyed me every time the Red Bull announcers pronounced Kljestan as "Kles-tan" when every other soccer broadcaster out there says it "Kly-shten". You're a professional broadcaster, learn how to say a player's name correctly.

Minutes after Kljestan's (Kly-shten's) chance, Wright-Phillips was inches away from tapping in his second of the night.

Red Bulls will feel they should have won this one, but will be forced to take the draw. They're still undefeated, but they missed a golden chance to pull ahead of New England and DC at the top of the East.

Colorado will take the point, but they are still dead last in the West.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Let's talk about that Seattle-Portland match

Alright, so, as promised, here is what went through my head last night during that disappointing Timbers loss to that team up north.

Things started off smoothly, at least as afar as the back four were concerned. Nat Borchers was just kind of doing his thing, saving the day when Seattle looked like scoring. Liam Ridgewell followed suit. Alvas Powell was sort of caffeinated at right back, sniffing out crosses and trying to turn them into counterattacks.

What kind of sucked, and I mean this for both teams, is that the midfield play was weak. One side would charge forward, get a chance, try and keep possession, but falter when the midfield tried to do its job. It was the same script for the entire first 45 minutes. Portland gets a near chance that was bumbled by a poor ball in from midfield, Seattle takes over and can't get anything forward to Dempsey, Martins, or Neagle.

The Seattle goal was not even a very good play. The original ball in was aimed at Clint Dempsey, but it was too high. Andy Rose just happened to be there, unmarked (why?!), to take a rather ugly shot that bounced weirdly and caught Adam Kwarasey off guard. Several bobbles from Portland's keeper gave Dempsey the time to come and poach the goal.

After the goal, Caleb Porter opted to pull Maxi Urruti, who was having himself a pretty strong game, for Fanendo Adi, who had an awful game last week against NYC. Urruti was the one bright spot on the attack for Portland. He was the one player who felt like making things happen in the final third, he just needed some help that never came.

To be fair, Adi almost scored on his first touch, but his header went way wide after a beautiful run from Alvas Powell. He had a chance again that saw his well placed floating header get past Stefan Frei and onto the crossbar.

I am okay with Adi coming in. When his head is properly aligned he is a quality striker. I just disagree with who came off. Adi and Urruti have worked well together earlier in the season and that sort of up front chemistry was what Portland was missing here. The match against FC Dallas was easily the best match Portland has played so far, and Adi and Urruti started as a strike pair. Urruti scored the game winner and Adi got an assist later on.

Portland didn't just need a fresh striker, they needed a second one out there. I'd have pulled either Diego Chara or Jack Jewsbury, both of whom were having rather unremarkable days in central midfield. Doing so would have given the guys charging forward, like Powell and (not nearly often enough) Darlington Nagbe, an extra option up front and an extra man for Seattle's defense to think about.

One thing is for sure though, once Will Johnson and Diego Valeri (who was on the bench last night) are fully healthy, this team might actually do some damage. The weak spot for them in just about all their matches has been a disconnect between the strong back line of Borchers and Ridgewell, and the creative flair in attack that is Adi, Urruti, and Nagbe. Johnson, especially, will be able to fill this gap in a way that Jewsbery simply cannot do.

Valeri adds another guy who can actually finish a shot, among other things. Clearly Portland needs guys who can actually find the net. Last night's 11 shots with only two reaching the target is not a good recipe for victory. Him stepping into the number ten role pushes Nagbe wide to the right where he can better take advantage of his speed and dribbling abilities.

Valeri being there will hopefully take away the feeling that Nagbe and Ishmael Yartey have to go at it alone. Too many times (with Yartey especially) I was yelling at one of those guys to pass the ball away instead of continue their suicide run through the heart of Seattle's defense.

Here's how I see them lining up more often than not:

Johnson steps in as the transition box-to-box midfielder while Chara stays behind in the holding role. Valeri acts as the catalyst through the middle with attacks coming from Nagbe and Ishmael Yartey on the flanks. What works well here is that Yartey, Valeri, and Nagbe all can overlap positions quite seamlessly. In general, being wide gives Nagbe more space to run with the ball, while still allowing him to go down the middle if the chance presents itself.

At times when a second strike option is needed, Chara sits with Urruti stepping in up front.

Adi works as your primary guy with Urruti in support. Valeri still spearheads the attack, albeit from further back, and Nagbe and Yartey still provide driving runs up the flanks. Johnson will take a more defensive role here.

Either one of these set ups flows a little smoother than having Nagbe try and barnstorm through the middle, not looking for any options wide and hoping his long blast goes in or Adi can clean up the mess. He and Yartey can still do their little cuts to the middle, they just have an extra option with the highly skilled Diego Valeri to help them out.

I just hope the reinforcements arrive in time to salvage a playoff run. All you need to do is show up to the dance in order to make a run at the trophy. And with this team hopefully coming, and staying, together later in the season, they have a chance to get there. Thankfully, all the draws they have been accumulating mean they are only a point out at the moment.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It Happened in America: MLS Matchweek 9

Plenty of goals and a huge rivalry derby to keep you entertained domestically this weekend. I guess that's what Detroit City failed to score against Sparty on Saturday, all the goals were in Houston, Columbus, and Boston.

Chicago Fire 1-0 New York City
David Accam scored in the 20th minute in a game that was thouroughly dominated by the Fire. New York did have Mix Diskerud back, but they were still without their leader, David Villa. Chicago, meanwhile, has won three straight since opening the season with three defeats.

Colorado Rapids 1-1 FC Dallas
Colorado looked stronger early on, but Dallas took the lead when Fabian Castillo had a brilliant run down the flank to set up Mauro Diaz for the first goal of the game. The game was flipped on it's head when Blas Perez was shown straight red for an unnecessary shove inside his own box in the 59th minute. Rapids dominated from that point and the get the tying goal from Nick LaBrocca 20 minutes after the Perez send off.

Columbus Crew 4-1 Philadelphia Union
The Crew get their second straight three goal win as John McCarthy fails to make a save for Philadelphia. It was Kei Kamara , Ethan Finlay, and Justin Meram in the first half. Then Finaly again in the second. Columbus now has outscored Philly and Orlands 7-1 in their last two matches. Philadelphia's defensive struggles continue. They have scored ten times. which is second most in the East, but have conceded an MLS worst 17. Hence why they still only have one win in nine tries.

New England Revolution 4-0 Real Salt Lake
After losing their first two matches by a combined 5-0, the Revs are undefeated in six matches since, outscoring opponents 10-1. Four different goal scorers this time around as Chris Tierney, Juan Agudelo, Charlie Davies, and Scott Caldwell all tallied. You can''t blame RSL keeper Nick Rimando wither, as he was peppered with 13 shots on target.

Houston Dynamo 4-4 Sporting Kansas City
SKC seem to have this thing for getting late goals to earn points. This time it was Benny Feilhaber with a blast from well outside the area in the fifth minute of stoppage time. The goal capped off a comeback that saw KC down 3-1 a minute after halftime. After Krisztian Nemeth scored two minutes in, Giles Barnes scored twice with a Will Bruin goal in between to thrust the orange ahead. Dominic Dwyer got it within a goal in the 74th, then Felihaber nailed a PK in the 80th. Jermaine Taylor was red carded for a handball in the box that clearly kept the ball from going in. Houston took the lead again in the 83rd with a Raul Rodriguez headed off a free kick, but Feilhaber's laser ruined that.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 DC United
Vancouver finally slow down at the hands of DC United. Pedro Morales did score early for the Caps, making it seem like their familiar story after two minutes. Bobby Boswell nullified that early goal with one in the ninth. Things didn't go well for Vancouver when Matias Laba was given two yellows within ten minutes of each other and was sent off. The ten man Vancouver squad conceded the winner in the 64th when Chris Rolfe blasted one past David Ousted.

New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy
Bradford Jamieson showed some fancy footwork to weave through the Red Bull defense to score for LA in the ninth minute. New York spent the rest of the first half on the front foot, but some timely defense and nice saves from Jamie Penedo kept them off the board. New York was finally rewarded for their attacking efforts in the 58th minute when Felipe finished off a deflected shot from Bradley Wright-Phillips. They kept the pressure going, even forcing some dirty play by LA in the last ten minutes, but there was nothing on the end of it and the honors were shared.

Orlando City 0-2 Toronto FC
Jozy Altidore is certainly happy to be back in a league that suits his skills more. He completed a nearly fifty yard run through traffic to score the first for Toronto five minutes past halftime, and he put the finishing touches on it in the 83rd with some obscure dance moves at the end of a long ball. Orlando had the possession advantage, but really let themselves go at the back when Altidore started running.

Seattle Sounders 0-0 Portland Timbers
The latest edition of the Seattle-Portland Derby was spent mostly watching two teams trying to connect their defense with the forwards. Neither team seemed to be able to figure out what this whole central midfield thing was all about. The chances were few and far between for both sides and the lone goal came on sort of an awkward play. Clint Dempsey will get credit for the tap in, but it was Andy Rose doing the dirty work to get on the end of the free kick and almost score himself. I'll have a more in depth look at this one tomorrow. And by "in depth look" I really mean angry Timbers fan rant.

It Happened in England: Chelsea all but ends title race

More poor officiating in England... just what they need. This time it was Michael Oliver screwing up penalties in a huge game. Joy. Also, the title race, if you want to call it a race, is pretty much over.

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea
It was another highly hyped Chelsea match that failed to live up to its hype as the Blues defended their way to another scoreless draw against a top four opponent.

The race for the top of the Premier League has more or less been over for quite a while, as Chelsea had already built an insurmountable lead. They had one last real test about them this afternoon, and they passed it.

The Blues had very little interest in winning this match. They came out with a plan to defend, defend, defend, and only press forward when they saw a clear chance. That is exactly what they did, and they did it well. Arsenal was mostly useless in the final third with Chelsea's constant defending. The Gunners only managed to get one of their 12 attempts on target.

Referee Michael Oliver managed to spew his influence on the match in more ways than any of us would like. First off, he failed to call a penalty against David Ospina after he plowed into Oscar in the box. The hit clearly concussed the Chelsea attacker, yet he stayed in the game until halftime when he was subbed out and taken to the hospital for a head injury.

Not long after, he booked Cesc Fabregas for diving in the Arsenal box, but there was clear contact on the play. While I think a penalty would have been a hard decision against Arsenal, I don't think a yellow card for flopping was exactly justified either. Chelsea have now been warned for simulation five times this season, more than any other side. That makes me think this call was based partly on that reputation.

Oliver missed another penalty in the fist half, this time against Chelsea. Gary Cahill slid to block a shot from Santi Cazorla and the ball clearly struck his outstretched arm. Oliver was right on top of things and incorrectly waved the play on.

I understand refereeing is tough work, but getting three calls wrong in one game is outrageous. Premier League officiating is not having a strong year, and this just adds to the pile of criticism coming in from all over the world.

This wasn't a case of not enough eyes on the field, either. All three incidents happened right in front of Michael Oliver and should have been called. Nothing short on an impractical instant replay system could help here. The only viable, albeit vague, solution is that the referees need to be better. The calls are right in front of their noses, they just aren't making them correctly.

Any who, the title race is pretty darn closed up now. Chelsea are ten points clear with five matches to play. Five points are all they need from those final five to claim the championship. Arsenal are currently level on points with Manchester City for second. They are the only side who can catch Chelsea in the event of a miracle.

Everton 3-0 Manchester United
James McCarthy started it within five minutes. John Stones headed home the second just after a half hour, and Kevin Mirallas finished the job towards the end of the second half. Would have been nice if Manchester United got off the bus to play this one, but they mentally stayed in bed.

The blowout win lifts Everton into tenth place and United falls to fourth. They still have a firm grip on their Champions League place, however. They are seven points above Liverpool for the fourth and final spot.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

It Happened in England: Saturday in the Premier League

Tough struggles for both avoiding relegation and winning a spot in the Champions League took center stage in England this fine Saturday. Here are the match reports.

Southampton 2-2 Tottenham
This was a pretty good match featuring two sides looking to sneak into the Champions League. Spurs gave up two bad goals that resulted from awful defensive zone turnovers. First it was Graziano Pelle taking advantage of a comedy of Spurs errors to put Southampton up in the 29th. Then, after a controversial equalizer that may have gone of Erik Lamela's arm, Pelle took advantage of another poor clearance to put the Saints up 2-1 in the 65th. Nacer Chadli got Spurs back on the level again five minutes later with a well placed finish in the lower corner. Things started to get pretty physical in the final 20 minutes. There were only four cards issued, but the ref was letting plenty of physical play go. The shared points mean neither side really get any closer to Europe.

Crystal Palace 0-2 Hull City
Hull takes a big step towards avoiding relegation with a nice win on the road against scrappy Crystal Palace. Dame N'Doye scored twice in the second half to deliver the three points to the Tigers. The loss still means Palace stays mired in mid table mediocrity, which is actually quite an accomplishment for them.

West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool really screwed the pooch in this one. They came into a very winnable road game with a chance to put some pressure on Manchester City for the final spot in the top four and really looked lazy out there. They certainly didn't look like a team chasing the Champions League, that's for sure. Credit to West Brom for frustrating Liverpool to the point of a goalless draw, though.

Stoke City 1-1 Sunderland
The point does Sunderland no good as wins from Hull and Leicester mean they fall into the bottom three. Conner Wickham scored for Sunderland within the first 60 seconds, Charlie Adam scored the equalizer in impressive fashion, a nice upper 90 blast. Stoke had all the possession, and all the shots, but failed to find more than one and are stuck with the lone point.

Newcastle 2-3 Swansea
Plenty of goals to speak of as a Newcastle comeback fell a bit short at home. They did get the jump on the Swans when  Siem De Jong scored in the 20th minute. Swansea would then begin an onslaught that saw Newcastle down 3-1 with around 20 minutes to play. Nelson Oliveira scored in first half stoppage time, Gylfi Sigurdsson scored four minutes into the second half, and Jack Cork bagged the eventual winner in the 71st. Ayoze Perez pulled one back in the final five minutes., but there was nothing more to speak of for Newcastle. Newcastle still hasn't won since February (and everyone thought it was Alan Pardew's fault...) and is crashing towards relegation. 

QPR 0-0 West Ham
QPR had the best chance to win this 0-0 affair. Charlie Austin had a penalty saved in the 23rd minute after James Collins handled the ball in the box. They may look back on this one and weep as they stay in relegation land. Three points wouldn't have gotten them out of the whole, but would have made the battle a little easier.

Burnley 0-1 Leicester City
If Burnely are relegated, they will circle this game as one of the main reasons why. Between the missed penalty, Mike Duff's own goal minutes later, and the number of wonderful saves from Kasper Schmeichel, Burnley had plenty of chances to come pout of this with all three points. Instead, they drop to last place in the League while Leicester climbs about the drop zone, one point above Sunderland.

Manchester City 3-2 Aston Villa
What a game. Brad Guzan got Villa off to a bad start when he delivered a clearance right to the Premier League's leading goal scorer, Sergio Aguero, who put it into the empty net like it was nothing. Aleksandar Kolarov had a rare goal off a free kick in the 66th minute off a free kick to add to the lead. Tom Cleverly, another rare goal scorer, gave Villa hope a couple minutes later with a shot from outside the box after a free kick. Carlos Sanchez blasted home the equalizer off a corner with all of five minutes remaining. This would have made a fantastic finish on its own, but the match wasn't done. Fernadinho got his boot on the end of a corner and blasted it past Guzan to give City the 3-2 win in the 89th minute.

City further solidify their top four position, they are temporarily in second, while Aston Villa are only two points above relegation.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It Happened in America: MLS Matchweek 8

Games with lots of goals, games with few goals. Games with early goals, games with late goals. And a game with a three hour thunderstorm delay. Lots of excitement in MLS this weekend. Here's the report on what went down.

New York Red Bulls 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes
It was Red Bull domination through and through as they blasted 21 shots  wile controlling the entire match. Sasha Kljestan and Mike Grella scored twice in six minutes midway through the first half to make it mean something. The emphatic win puts undefeated New York atop the East with 11 points and a match or two in hand on everyone within striking distance. The minor slip up for the Quakes has them in fifth.

DC United 1-1 Houston Dynamo
United once again fails to hold on to a lead at home as they squander an early lead and end up with only a point. Chris Rolfe bolted home a free kick from just outside the box to give DC the lead in the 36th. They would hold the lead on through halftime. Houston should have equalized just before the hour mark when Giles Barnes received a perfect centering pass and drilled his sot off the post. Ricardo Clark would tie the score in the 65th when he knocked home a rebound off a Brad Davis shot. The sides traded chances for the remainder of the match, but none bore fruit so the points were shared.

Columbus Crew 3-0 Orlando City
This on was all Crew all the time as Kaka and company never really got off the ground. Things got chippy after Fedrico Higuain scored the Crew's first goal. Upset with an uncalled foul, Orlando's Rafael Ramos went in with cleats up high on Waylon Francis and was justly shown straight red. Columbus used the man advantage to score twice more before the 60th minute to rout Orlando out of Ohio.

FC Dallas 3-2 Toronto FC
Toronto didn't exactly get off the bus on time in this one as Fabian Castillo scored 29 seconds into the match. Castillo scored again in the tenth minute and Blas Perez scored in the 27th. Before Toronto even realized there was a match going on they were down 3-0. The storms came in the 43rd minute and the match was delayed for more than three hours before it was continued, Sebastian Giovinco scored twice in the last ten minutes to make the match look a lot closer than it was. Dallas had been winless in three matches before this one, so a good win for them.

Colorado Rapids 1-3 Seattle Sounders
Another quick goal here as Lamar Neagle curled in a nice shot from the corner of the box to put the Sounders up five minutes in. Gabriel Torres would tie it in the 22nd for Colorado, but Neagle was at it again for Seattle five minutes later. Colorado pressured well and launched 27 shots at Stefan Frei, but it wasn't enough. Obafemi Martins put it out of reach in the 73rd and Seattle took home the points.

LA Galaxy 2-1 Sporting Kansas City
Baggio Husidic scored off a rebound in the tenth minute for LA. Kansas City struck right back with Krisztian Nemeth finishing off a great combination of passes in the 22nd. It was a nice back and forth game for most of the rest of the way. Omar Gonzalez scored the winner seconds before the death of the four minutes of stoppage time by latching onto the end of a corner and slotting it inside the post.

Real Salt Lake 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
First place Vancouver stays hot as Darren Mattocks broke a scoreless tie in the 80th minute of a fairly uneventful match. Mattocks's goal was the lone shot Vancouver put on goal, so I guess they just bored Nick Rimando to death, or something, before they decided to put one in. 

Philadelphia Union 1-2 New England Revolution
New England had more shots in the first half, but Union probably had the better chances. And they were rewarded for their efforts with a gorgeous free kick goal from Cristan Maidana right before halftime. New England was able to put together some better attacks after the break and a perfect cross from London Woodberry to Charlie Davies in the 64th minute tied the match at one. It was New England's first goal against an Eastern opponent in four tries, and only their fifth overall goal. They didn't have to wait long for the second as they went up 2-1 in the 76th when Teal Bunbury drilled home a point blank shot. Philly almost equalized with several consecutive chances minutes after the go ahead goal, but it wasn't enough to secure any points.

New York City 0-1 Portland Timbers
The first half was all NYC and it's a wonder they failed to score in it. Adam Kwarasey was forced to make tough saves and Nat Borchers was blocking shots while Portland's attacks were very few and far between. A rare occurrence gave Portland a chance right after halftime when Josh Saunders handled a back pass to give the Timbers an indirect free kick. They failed to score off the attempt, but it did lead to a corner. The teams then proceeded to boot the ball around the clogged Yankee Stadium pitch for 45 minutes. Portland had some chances, but not were finished until Dairon Asprilla finally converted with the help of a nice deflection in the 79th minute. New York tried to come back, but without David Villa they really had nobody to truly spearhead any attack.

It Happened in England: Weekend Premier League and FA Cup Semi-finals

Crystal Palace 0-2 West Bromwich Albion.
Crystal Palace was forced to play from behind early when James Morrison knocked home a corner in the second minute. Palace did have control of the match, but their attack didn't produce any results. Craig Gardner buried another corner in the 53rd to put it out of reach. The win puts West Brom a fairly comfortable eight points above the drop zone.

Leicester City 2-0 Swansea City
Leonardo Ulloa scored in the 15th minute and Andy King sealed the deal in the penultimate minute of the second half to give Leicester all three points. The Foxes increase their chances of Premier League survival, but they still have work to do, however, as they are behind Hull on goal difference for the final spot to stay up.

Stoke City 2-1 Southampton
Just when you think the Saints are going to make another run at the top four, they slip up against Stoke. Things were looking good early for Southampton as Morgan Schneiderlin scored in the 22nd minute. The lead would only last until just after halftime when Mame Diouf equalized for the home side. Charlie Adam would get the late winner in the 84th. Southampton are now five points and two spots behind fourth place Manchester City for the final spot in the Champions League.

Everton 1-0 Burnley
Ross Barkley had a penalty saved but Burnley still couldn't hold off Everton. Kevin Mirallas put them in front shortly after the penalty save and that was all they needed. Burnley's chance at a comeback would be over when Ashley Barnes was showed a second yellow just before halftime. The defeat means Burnley sit in the Premier League's basement with 26 points, but they are still only two points from safety.

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
Eden Hazard scored in the 38th minute and Chelsea held off Manchester United to bring them closer to the title. United's defeat certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. They had 70% of the ball and launched 15 shots towards Thibaut Courtois, but only two made it on target. Chelsea are now two wins from securing their first title in five years. A win at Arsenal next week and again at Leicester a few days later can seal the deal.

Manchester City 2-0 West Ham United
Things never looked good for the Hammers in this one as City gets back on track to try and hold on to a Champions League position. James Collins put one into his own goal in the 18th and Sergio Aguero doubled the lead in the 36th. That was all City needed to keep their spot in the table.

Newcastle 1-3 Tottenham
It was the usual suspects for Spurs as they draw level with Liverpool for fifth place and keep their extremely slim top four hopes alive. Nacer Chadli scored in the 30th to give Tottenham a lead would last through halftime. Jack Collback leveled right after the break, but Christen Eriksen scored with one of his patented free kicks just seven minutes after the equalizer. Harry Kane finished the job in stoppage time with his 20th goal of the season, keeping him tied with Sergia Aguero as the Premier League's leading scorers.

Reading 1-2 Arsenal (FA Cup Semi-final)
Alexis Sanchez scored twice, including once in extra time, to send the Gunners to their second consecutive FA Cup final. Their lower league opposition gave them a strong fight in their first semi-final appearance since the 1920s, but extra time was as far as they would go.

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool (FA Cup Semi-final)
Steven Gerrard's quest for one last trophy at Liverpool will come up short as Aston Villa comes from behind to take down the Reds. Phillippe Coutinho got Liverpool on the board first in the 30tth minute, but six minutes later, Christian Benteke equalized for Villa. Fabian Delph scored in the 56th to put Villa in front and that was all she wrote. 

Aston Villa and Arsenal square off at Wembley for the FA Cup on  May 30.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: New York City 1-1 Philadelphia Union

I just cannot get behind soccer at Yankee Stadium. The pitch is just too damn thin that it clogs up jsut about everything that makes the game beautiful., There isn't room for tiki-taka passing plays. Defenses are too compact for stellar runs on the goal. There isn't nearly enough wide space for a high cross and a header. The sooner NYCFC can get a soccer specific stadium and move out of that glorified ping pong table they set up in Yankee Stadium the better.

As for the match that was played on that surface tonight, it was a pretty even game. NYC was missing Mix Diskerud, who had just played for the USMNT last night in Texas, and David Villa was subbed off at halftime.

The first half was goalless, due in large part to Medhy Ballouchy missing a golden opportunity set up by a sexy back heel from David Villa. Ballouchy made up for that misfortune in the 57th when he netted a perfect shot into the top corner of John McCarthy's goal.

Union would equalize in the 86th when C.J. Sapong took advatage of some sloppy NYC defending. Kwame Watson-Siriobe wandered out of position to try and beat Maurice Edu to a long ball and failed. Edu knocked the ball down to a waiting Sapong who flicked it into the goal to tie the game.

Neither team really had the upper hand at any point, so the 1-1 draw is appropriate.

The draw keeps the two side level on points with six. New York City goes ahead of Union into sixth in the East, however, with their even goal differential to Philadelphia's -3.

It Happened in Europe: Champions League Quarterfinals First Leg

Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid
Real has now been unable to beat their crosstown rivals in eight tries since winning hte Champions League final against them last May. This time, however, they at least showed some promise. They forced Jan Oblak to make eight saves, some of them quite impressive, in order to keep the clean sheet. This was much needed for Real as there were a lot of questions after they almost blew their lead at home in the round of 16. The tie will have to be decided next week at Real's home field, but Atletico carries a slight advantage into the second leg, having noit conceded an away goal.

Juventus 1-0 AS Monaco
Controversey surrounds this one as Juventus escapes the home leg with a one goal advantage. Arturo Vidal scored the lone goal of the match on a penalty that may or may not have actually been a penalty. Alvaro Morata was trying to chase down a long pass on his way into the penalty area when he was essentially tackled by Ricardo Carvalho. It was a foul and deserved yellow card for the Monaco defender, but was Morata in the penalty area? Further review suggests that it was damn close. Close enough that it would have angered whoever the call went against. Even if instant replay were an option here, I am not sure the call would have been overturned. Regardless, Vidal nailed the PK and the Italians hold a 1-0 lead heading into the second leg in Monaco next week.

Porto 3-1 Bayern Minuch
Bayern was mising the likes of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, but it was still kind of a setback for Bayern as I thought they would roll through this fixture. Things are far from impossible, however, as they don't lose at home very often. They put themselves in this position by being quite sloppy in their own end. It all started quickly with Manuel Neuer bringing down Jackson Martinez when he was through to the goal in the second minute. The Munich keeper escaped with only a yellow, but straight red for denying a clear chance on goal  was a real possibility. Ricardo Quaresma put the ensuing PK in with ease. Just seven minutes after that, it was Quaresma again with the dispossess of Dante in the Munich half where he easily waltzed in for the goal. Thiago Alcantara would score for Bayern before hlaftime and Jackson Martinez would finish the 3-1 score for Porto in the 65th.

Paris Saint-Germain 1-3 Barcelona
While a Bayern Munich comeback is  areal possibility, PSG dug themselves a hole so deep, I doubt anyone could escape. I was expecting PSG to put up a little more of a fight, even without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Barcelona is just playing to dang well right now. Neymar started the party for the Spanish leaders with a great run behind the French defense and an perfect feed from Messi for an easy goal. Then it was Luiz Suarez scoring twice in 12 minutes to but Barca up 3-0. The only consolation for PSG was the Jeremy Mathieu own goal in 82nd minute. PSG faces an impossible task now of coming back from two goals down with three away goals against them at Camp Nou. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Night Football Review: Liverpool makes its case for the top four

Liverpool 1-0 Newcastle

As always for this time of year, Liverpool delivered a touching tribute to the 96 victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. The Reds' faithful singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" is always bone chilling, but it goes to another level for this tribute every year.

As for the match. Liverpool were in control right from the start, Raheem Sterling put them in front nice and early with a seeing eye lob through a few Newcastle defenders in the 9th minute. He was set up with a great cross-pitch feed from Jordan Henderson. Sterling had a pristine chance at a second in the 22nd when Alberto Moreno fed him across the open goal, but the pass was a yard or two in front of the waiting Liverpool attacker.

Newcastle's early attacks were rare and over with quickly, but they picked up the intensity after the opening half hour. They could have earned themselves a penalty, however, in the 37th minute after Ayoze Perez was brought down in the box with no whistle. They also nearly equalized when Perez flicked a perfect header towards the top corner that Simon Mignolet barely got a finger to.

Thinks picked up a bit for Newcastle in the second half, but it was still Liverpool with the better chances. Raheem Sterling will wonder how he didn't have a hat trick in this game. On the stroke of 56 minutes, he was alone against Tim Krul on the edge of the six yard box and rolled his shot a yard wide. Jordan Allen made sure that miss didn't come back to haunt the home side by scoring in the 70th minute with a most determined effort.

Newcastle pretty much gave up at that point. Moussa Sissoko managed two yellow cards in five minutes to get himself sent off, and the result was set.

The win puts Liverpool within striking distance of a severely slumping Manchester City. What seemed like a crystal clear top four picture is now being clouded up once again as Liverpool surges towards the Citizens. Liverpool is four back and, other than Chelsea on the road, as a pretty easy final six matches. City's remaining six aren't much more difficult, but the way they have been playing lately suggests they might just complete this epic collapse from glory.

It will be interesting to watch things for the last month of the season. Can Liverpool turn things around and back into the Champions League? Or will City recover and hang on to their spot in Europe? We also can't forget Southampton, who are only five points back of the blue side of Manchester, and the two face off on the season's final day.

My prediction? Liverpool storms ahead, City finishes its demise, and the Reds have a spot in Europe next season.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It Happened in America: Sunday's MLS Scores

Laziness, stupidity, and heroic goaltending told the MLS story this Sunday evening. Here's a deeper look.

Portland Timbers 0-2 Orlando City
It was a great performance for Orlando to earn their second MLS win, but the real story will be how Portland left a lot to be desired throughout Providence Park. Cyle Larin put Orlando ahead a half hour in with an easy header off a nice delivery from Kevin Molino. After that goal, Portland controlled the ball and Orlando really allowed them to. Despite the high amounts of possession, Portland's attack was often thwarted by stout Orlando defending.

The chances got a little better after the break, but still nothing that would turn heads. It wasn't until the very end that Donovan Rickets really had to do anything. What really put the game away was the flat out stupidity of the Portland Timbers. First, it was Adam Kwarasey charging out of his goal for a ball that was not all that threatening, and tripping Carlos Rivas in the box to concede a penalty. Then, after Kaka's penalty was saved, the ref called the play back for encroachment against Diego Chara. There was no excuse for his premature charge. Kaka scored on the retake with ease.

After that, the match might as well have ended. At least Portland played like it was already over. The match itself was very chippy. Lots of fouls went uncalled, and some of the ones that did could have been ignored based on what was being let go. There were five yellows between the two sides, which was probably for the best since the match looked to be spiraling towards anarchy in the second half.

Seattle Sounders 0-1 LA Galaxy
Alan Gordon lost his rave green defender on a free kick in the 23rd minute to head home the lone goal. Galaxy never really let up from there, but they were glad to have Jamie Penedo between the sticks when they did. The Galaxy keeper made saves on Obafemi Martins, Andy Rose, Aaron Krovar, and any other Sounder daring enough to test him. It was really him alone that kept this game at 1-0.

It Happened in England: Sunday's Premier League Action

A feisty club in a relegation battle taking on the likely champions and one of the greatest rivalries in the game made this quite the Sunday in the Premier League. Here's how those matches went down.

QPR 0-1 Chelsea
Cesc Fabregas rescued a subpar Chelsea in the 88th minute. The masked Spaniard threaded a low shot through many QPR legs to give Chelsea all three points. QPR actually held their own against the likely champions for the duration. They did well to make the most of their chances, they launched 14 shots, but none quite had the finishing touch. Chelsea certainly didn't have their A-game this afternoon, but it was enough to extend their lead to seven points and a match in hand over Arsenal.

Manchester United 4-1 Manchester City
United stays red hot City's struggles continue as United gets a rather decisive win on Manchester Derby Day.

The Citizens did have the upper hand early on, however. Sergio Aguero got them started early after United's defense decided to take a nap eight minutes in. Jesus Navas delivered a perfect low pass across the face of goal that left a wide open Aguero with an easy tap in. United responded just six minutes later. Ashley Young put it in while spinning and falling down off to the left of goal. It was a pretty finish, but he just as well could have flubbed it entirely. Marouane Fellaini then put United ahead by afro-ing home a gorgeous Ashley Young cross to cap off a bonkers opening half hour.

The second half was less lively, but United managed to turn a simple lead into a blowout. Juan Mata extended the United lead by getting around the City back line to slot a shot past Joe Hart. The slaughter continued when City got horribly confused marking a free kick, allowing Chris Smalling a free header on a helpless Joe Hart. Aguero scored a second in the 89th minute, but it was far too little, far too late.

Manchester city still holds on to their top four spot by five points over Liverpool. they better get their act together or they just might be sitting out the Champions League next season.

It Happened in America: Friday and Saturday's MLS

Late winners, blowouts, comeback draws, MLS has had it all this weekend. Here is how the matches played out.

FC Dallas 0-4 Colorado Rapids
This certainly makes me wonder how good Dallas really is. I thought last week's hiccup against Portland might have been an anomaly, but losing big to a team like the Rapids on your home turf is worrying. Colorado hadn't scored in over 600 minutes and they decided to uncork for four against one of the league's best on the road. Strange things happen like this I suppose. It took only two minutes for Dominique Badji to bag the first. Dillon Powers added the second a couple minutes before halftime. Gabriel Torres and Dillon Serna added their goals in the second half to polish off the rout.

New England Revolution 0-0 Columbus Crew
Jermaine Jones was back from a sports hernia for New England, but even with him in the engine room they were unable to do much with Columbus. Columbus ruled the possession for pretty much the entire game, but were fairly inept with it. They failed to register a shot on goal. Jones and Juan Agudelo were rendered non-factors by the Crew midfield and defense, as they only registered five shots total, three on goal.

Philadelphia Union 2-1 New York City
Philly wins their first of the season on the back of a stoppage time winner from Vincent Nogueira. This despite the fact that it was really NYC's game to lose after David Villa leveled the score ten minutes after halftime. Saying New York squandered their possession advantage is an understatement. Their 63% possession only gave them seven shots. Zach Pfeffer scored the first for Union.

DC United 2-2 New York Red Bulls
Perry Kitchen scored in the 26th and 67th to put DC up 2-0, but their defense betrayed them into dropping points. Damien Perrinelle headed home the first of the comeback on a corner just a minute after Kitchen's second. Lloyd Sam finished the job by banging home a rebound from a free kick that Bill Hamid couldn't quite handle. A disappointing draw for United, but they still lead the East, with Red Bulls hot on their tail.

Houston Dynamo 3-0 Montreal Impact
The stat sheet and scoreline don't exactly match up for this one. Montreal had 68% of the ball, but only put five shots on goal. Houston was much more efficient with their limited time on the attack, four shots on goal, three went in. First it was Giles Barnes heading home a free kick, then it was Ricardo Clark with a cheeky chip in transition, and Rob Lovejoy finished the job with his first MLS goal after stealing a goal kick and booting it into the top corner from range.

Sporting Kansas City 0-0 Real Salt Lake
Neither team seemed like they wanted to play. Both sat back and waited for the other to make some kind of move, but it never came. The one shot on target came from Jalil Anibaba in the sixth minute. After that it was all misses and blocks. And nothing close to a goal.

San Jose Earthquakes 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
A late, and deserved, winner, for San Jose. It came in the form of Sanna Nyasi banging home a shot after two blocked shots and subsequent rebounds. It was the Quakes' match though and through, and more goals probably should have came for them. Vancouver's six game unbeaten run is now over, but they still sit a top the West with 13 points, three ahead of the shaky FC Dallas.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

It Happened in England: Saturday's Premier League

Swansea City 1-1 Everton
Aaron Lennon scored for the second time since joining Everton from Spurs in the January window, but it was foiled when Seamus Coleman handled the ball in the box. Jonjo Shelvey converted the ensuing penalty after a significant protest from Tim Howard and the rest of the Everton squad. They didn't really have much of a case as Coleman clearly swiped at the ball with his hand. The single point ties Swansea City for their highest ever point total in the Premier League with 47 points. Everton climbs to 38 points and remains well above the drop.

Southampton 2-0 Hull City
James Ward Krause scored his first ever Premier League goal after Alex Bruce committed a horrible penalty just before the hour mark. Normally, there's some kind of protest after the ref points to the spot, but this one was quite obvious. Bruce was pursuing Graziano Pelle on a long ball in and gave the Saints forward a good swift kick in the thigh. Not a good moment for the manager's son, I'd say. Hull did almost pull back a couple minutes later when James Chester's header was cleared off the line by Ryan Bertrand. Pelle confirmed the points for Southamption by scoring in the 81st amid Hull's inability to get out of their own half, even while trailing. The win puts Southampton into sixth place, which would qualify them for the Europa League.

Sunderland 1-4 Crystal Palace
It was quite the opening to the second half for the Eagles as they score three times within ten minutes of the restart. First, it was Glen Murray. then Yannick Bolasie score twice in as many minutes.  It took less than another ten minutes for Bolasie to finish his hat trick. Connor Wickham added the consolation goal for the Black Cats right at the death of the match.

Tottenham 0-1 Aston Villa
Villa keeps getting results against surprising opponents ever since Tim Sherwood took over. Christian Benteke put Villa in front in the 35 minute and then they just held on. Spurs held the possession, but rarely threatened. In fact, they are probably lucky the score wasn't worse. Villa's counterattacks were more potent than the Tottenham offense. The disappointing spring for Spurs continues, as they are now knocked out of even a Europe League spot.

West Bromwich Albion 2-3 Leicester City
It was Darren Fletcher starting the party early for WBA, he scored in the 8th with the aid of goal line technology. David Nugent levelled for Leicester in the 20th, but the lead lasted all of six minutes. Craig Gardner capped off the manic first half hour by putting WBA up 2-1 after 26 minutes. Leicester controlled possession and it paid off with an equalizer from Robert Huth just ten minutes from the final whistle. The Foxes wouldn't be done, however. Jamie Vardy completed the Leicester comeback in stoppage time with a nice finish with his left foot after a great solo run down field. Even with the win, Leicester are still in the basement, but they at least have a prayer of staying up in the Premier League.

West Ham 1-0 Stoke City
Aaron Creswell got the Hammers into the action with a perfectly bent free kick less than 7 minutes from kickoff. That lead would hold despite Stoke controlling 65% of possession. I suppose getting only 1 of 16 shot attempts on the target would be to blame for that. However, the final act of the game also saw Hull's second shot on goal courtesy of Marko Arnautovic, and this one went in to secure the shared points.

Burnley 0-0 Arsenal
The was a tried and true Arsenal style match. They got an early goal from Aaron Ramsey after a mad scramble in Burnley's box that probably should have gone in three separate times. Then they sat back, controlled possession, and didn't allow Burnleyto do anything whatsoever. Arsenal got the one goal they needed and then barely looked like scoring. They had 68% of possession, but only put 5 of 17 shots on target. It's three points for the Gunners, but they would have liked it to be a little more emphatic, I imagine.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Midweek MLS Madness: Honors Even In Vancouver

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 Columbus Crew
Vancouver will walk away from this one wondering how they only ended up with one point. Yes, they were down on two separate occasions, but the last 20 minutes of the match was all theirs, and they really should have buried a winner somewhere in there.

Both teams brought their attacking games tonight as a total of 37 shots were fired on both ends. The first to go in came for Columbus from Kei Kamara. Kamara pounced on a loose ball at the tail end of a quick counterattack from the Crew.

Octavio Rivero then did the only thing he knows how to do a few minutes after the opener, which is score goals for Vancouver. Rivero received a well placed throw in and used some fancy footwork to slot a shot inside the near post to tie the score. He now has four goals in five games to start the season.

The second half did not start well for the Caps. Keeper David Ousted took a goal kick rather quickly and, in his haste, gave it right to Crew's Justin Marem. Marem waltzed into the box and slid an easy pass across goal where Kamara was waiting to tap in his second of the night.

Vancouver's second equalizer came after a quick transition attack that was finished by Darren Mattocks. Mattocks's sliding shot came after a long ball that found Kekuta Manneh near the end line. Manneh did well to pick out the on rushing Mattocks for the goal.

It was after the score was tied 2-2 that Vancouver will really wonder how they never found goal number three. Seconds after scoring, Mattocks smashed a shot against the corner of the woodwork. He had Steve Clark beat and just couldn't get his aim quite right. Mattocks had another chance a few minutes later when he was one on one with Clark, who just managed to get a toe on the shot. Vancouver had 11 corners in total, many of them coming in the closing minutes when Columbus was merely trying to survive.

There was a scary moment towards the end of the match. Vancouver defender Kendall Watson fell awkwardly on his neck after winning a header. After squirming on the pitch for a couple minutes, he got up and was actually able to finish the match.

It was Vancouver's first draw of the season. They remain on top of the West with 13 points in six matches. It was also the first shared result for the Crew, who sit seventh in the East with four points.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Night Football Recap: Palace Scraps Points Away from Man City

Today is a baseball holiday, but Palace and Man City was on in the background. Here's how it went down.

Crystal Palace 2-1 Manchester City
Everybody's favorite (well, my favorite at least) scrappy little club with bonkers support is at it again. Them and their thieving points from teams fighting for the title.

Glen Murray competed a nice string of almost offside passes in the 32nd to put Palace in front despite being outpossessed 70-30 at the time. They carried that lead on into halftime, too. Things went from worse to worse for City after the break. Just two minutes in, Jason Puncheon punched in a free kick from about ten yards outside the penalty area to make it 2-0 to the underdogs. Yaya Toure bent one in from outside the box in the 78th to make the ending interesting. but it wasn't enough, despite City's 74-26 advantage in possession.

The result was not without it's controversy, however. There were many claims for handball after a shot was blocked in the box by Palace's defenders. They claims were valid, as it appeared the ball struck an outstretched arm.

Regardless the Eagles unexpectedly took all three points.

Palace essentially employed the now tried and true strategy for defeating Manchester City. City's emphasis on attack often leaves them open at the back and vulnerable to counterattacks. Both of Palace's goals came from counters. First, Murray's tap in was the end result of some slick passing in transition through City's ragged defense. The second came when Murray drew a foul while trying to run over City's back line. Both were symptoms of City perhaps overemphasizing their attack.

The result means City falls to fourth in the table, still with a firm grip on a Champions League spot, but nowhere near their repeat title aspirations. Arsenal holds on to second position, while Manchester United sits in third.

As far as Palace is concerned, they will make more progress towards their highest ever Premier League finish. This season was already their first back to back stay in the top flight, now they will surly hang around for a third season.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

It Happened in England: Sunday's Premier League Results

Two matches graced England this Easter morning. Here's what went down.

Burnley 0-0 Tottenham
Burnley continue to scrap out results at home against stronger opposition. Despite being out-posessed 60/40, Burnley managed more shots and better quality chances than their North London adversaries. The draw keeps Burnley only barely in the drop zone, while Spurs jump Southampton into seventh, which would qualify for the Europa League, but Spurs certainly had higher ambitions for this season.

Sunderland 1-0 Newcastle
Sunderland owned the first half of the Tyne-Wear Derby, but couldn't earn anything to show for it. Half an hour in they controlled nearly three quarters of the possession and had five corners, but never once made Tim Krul work to keep the goal empty. Jermaine Defoe, fresh from Toronto FC, gave the Black Cats their reward a minute after halftime with a screaming volley from well outside the penalty area. It probably would have been goal of the week if it weren't for Charlie Adam yesterday. Sunderland's derby win keeps them for points above the drop zone.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It Also Happened in America: NASL Match Week 1

So I learned today that ESPN3 streams NASL matches. So, why not watch and blog them?

The 11 team North American Soccer League is considered the second tier league here in the good ol' US of A. It began play in 2011 and has some strong support in many of it's markets. It was the home of the Montreal Impact before their admission to MLS in 2012 and it is also where Minnesota United, who are moving into MLS as their 24th team in 2018, plies their trade, Here's how the season opened up.

Carolina Railhawks 3-1 Ottawa Fury
It was a great first half for Carolina, as they got a goal nice and early from Tiyi Shipalane in the 11th. The goal looked like it was just a cross from outside the box that went a little awry and into the top corner. Ottaw had a chance to equalize in the 28th when they were given a penalty, but the attempt was saved by Carolina keeper Hunter Gilstrap. If that didn't hurt the Fury's spirits enough, they gave away a penalty of their own a minute later that was converted by Nacho Novo. Ottawa pulled one back in the 86th when Brandon Poltronieri beat Golstrap to a free header, but they gave it right back near the buzzer with a well placed shot on a breakaway by Simone Bracalello.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 0-1 New York Cosmos
It was Leonardo Fernandes giving the Cosmos the advantage jsut before the hour mark. Lauderdale then really needed a sense of urgency to get back into it, but couldn't really develop anything going forward. Even in desperation time, Cosmos kept their final third relatively unscathed.

Atlanta Silverbacks 1-1 Indy Eleven
Shanka Bandura put Atlanta on the board right after halftime and then Atlanta seemed to defend their way to the 1-0 victory. They never really pressed high, but, to their credit, Indy didn't exactly threaten to score until the death of the match. Then, it was disaster for the Silverbacks as a clear penalty was called on a late sliding tackle in the box. Don Smart tucked home the penalty with ease to make sure the honors were even.

Jacksonville Armada 3-1 FC Edmonton
Edmonton must have been enjoying the break from the bleak, cold, spring of north Alberta during their trip to Florida. One minute hadn't been played before Jacksonville scored their first goal in club history. They dropped two more just before the halftime whistle to take a 3-0 lead into the interval. Edmonton's Ritchie Jones scored in the 52nd, but that was all Edmonton had going for them. This match was played in front of an NASL record 16,164 fans at EverBank Stadium, home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

San Antonio Scorpions 1-3 Tampa Bay Rowdies
Scorpions got off to a great start when Stefan Antonijevic got the scoring started in the 10th minute. Darwin Espinal doubled the lead right before the halftime whistle. Corey Hertzog put the match out of reach in the 61st with a well placed effort from range. Things got a little chippy a few minutes later as there was some jawing after a foul against Tampa Bay. No reds were shown at the time (that came later when San Antonio's Julio James was shown two yellows in the last ten minutes), but there were a few yellows issued. All in all, a total of ten yellow cards and the red were shown between the two sides. Ten man San Antonio did get one just into stoppage time, Omar Cummings buried a rebound for the consolation goal.

It Happened in England: Saturday's Premier League Action

Highlight reel goals and a clearer top four picture were the tale of the tape this Saturday in the Premier League. Here's how they all turned out.

Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool
A sloppy first half hour quickly gave way to three beautiful goals from Arsenal. First, it was Hector Bellerin breaking the seal on Simon Mignolet's goal with a curler from just inside the box. Mesut Ozil scored on a perfect free kick just a few minutes later. Alexis Sanchez capped off the carnage with what could have been a goal of the week candidate just seconds before halftime. Liverpool did threaten a bit in the second half and they got one back on a fairly obvious penalty by Bellerin. Jordan Henderson buried the ensuing penalty kick. Any hope Liverpool had of a comeback was thwarted when Emre Can was sent off for a second yellow in the 84th minute. If that wasn't enough, Olivier Giroud buried another stunner from range right at the end of the 90 to finish the 4-1 scoreline.

Manchester United 3-1 Aston Villa
Ander Herrera scored twice, including the stoppage time clincher, but it will be Wayne Rooney's brilliant footwork on the half volley to put Man U. up 2-0 that stole the show. Christian Benteke would get Villa on the board just after that, but Herrera made sure it wasn't enough. The win, coupled with Liverpool's destruction in North London, pretty much solidifies United's return to the Champions League.

Swansea City 3-1 Hull City
Bafetimbi Gomis and Ki Sung-Yeung gave Swansea a 2-0 halftime lead before Paul McShane got Hull back in it just after the break. Gomis secured the points with his second, this time in stoppage time at the end of the game. Swansea are can't climb higher than eighth, but they will take wins against lower table opposition any day. Hull sits only three points above the drop.

West Bromwich Albion 1-4 QPR
QPR takes a very big, and very loud, step away from the basement. This one was 3-0 to QPR before West Brom even knew what hit them. Eduardo Vargas, Charlie Austin, and Bobby Zamora all scored in the first half for Rangers. Victor Anichebe got one for Albion in the middle of the second half just to make it look like they got off the bus this afternoon. Ticking time bomb Joey Barton scored in stoppage time, just to make the blowout worse. The loss doesn't really hurt West Brom at all and QPR still have an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League. They sit on 25 points, still a point inside the bottom three.

Everton 1-0 Southampton
Phil Jagielka tapped in a corner in the 16th minute and that was all Everton needed to pretty much end any talk of relegation. Southampton did scratch and claw, forcing Tim Howard to make some nice saves, but it wasn't enough to get them any points, Southampton's top four hopes are now just a distant memory.

Leicester City 2-1 West Ham
A pretty even, back and forth game that saw Andy King bury the winner in the 86th minute to keep the Foxes' slim hopes of survival alive. Esteban Cambiasso got it started for Leicester in the 12th. Cheikhou Kouyate leveled for the Hammers just after the half hour mark. The loss does nothing for West Ham, as have been resigned to a mid-table finish for a while. Leicester are still at the bottom of the pile despite the win.

Chelsea 2-1 Stoke City
Chelsea's title case gets even stronger and Stoke's mid-table position remains unchanged. Chelsea dominated first half possession and shots but it still took 38 minutes, and a desperate and unnecessary penalty by Phillip Wollcheid, to put them ahead at home. The lead didn't last long as Charlie Adam turned a few heads a minute and a half before halftime with what some may consider the goal of the year. Adam received the ball and started trotting down field when he noticed Thibaut Courtois out of position. So he launched shot from the wrong side of center that sailed over the goalkeeper's head and into the goal. Asmir Begovic, despite having a great game otherwise, would ruin Adam's goal by committing a major goalkeeping error, allowing Loic Remy to tap into an open goal for the win. Diego Costa made his return from a hamstring injury in the second half, but couldn't finish as he was subbed off just ten minutes into his day.