Saturday, February 27, 2016

It Happened in England: Leicester stretches their lead

West Ham 1-0 Sunderland
West Ham still has slim hopes of finding the top four at the end of the season and sleep inducing Sunderland coming to town should give them a slight glimmer of hope in that quest. Michail Antonio's 30th minute bumbler inside the far post was the only goal, but the Hammers really should have been able to put more in. They hit two very violent crossbars throughout the match that could have boosted the final scoreline. The will take a 1-0 win though. That lifts them into fifth place and four points back of fourth with the Manchester United-Arsenal match still to come tomorrow.

Leicester City 0-0 Norwich City
Of the remaining contenders for the title, Leicester have the easiest road through and they already have the lead in the table. Relegation paced Norwich came to the King Power Stadium posing little threat to the leaders. The biggest adjustment the Foxes would have to make would be getting used to being the team in possession. After their recent run of matches against quality, possession dominating opponents, it was strange to see them being on the ball so much. They were unable to find a first half goal with their possession numbers and almost conceded when Cameron Jerome missed a sitting header from inside the six yard box.

Leicester's ability to unlock the second worst defense in the Premier League continued into the second half. Although Norwich wasn't exactly threatening either, the heavy favorites really looked out of sync in the attack. As their levels of desperation increased towards the end of the match, their sloppiness was only amplified. It wasn't until an 89th minute break that saw a vintage Leicester goal. A counter attack spearheaded by none other than Riyad Mahrez down the right flank picked out Victor Ulloa for a tap in winner.

The Foxes are five points clear with Arsenal and Tottenham playing tomorrow to try and keep pace.

Southampton 1-2 Chelsea
There's talk over whether or not Chelsea are punting the league since they are safe from relegation and not exactly contending for Europe. They were doing quite well until the 44th minute when Shane Long latched onto a goal kick and burst through Chelsea's sloppy center backs for the opening goal. CHelsea would eventually get their equalizer with only a quarter of an hour remaining. Cesc Fabregas curled in a shot from the edge of the penalty area that looked to catch Fraser Forster off guard. It really was a harmless shot that he probably should have saved with ease. An 89th minute corner provided Branislav Ivanovic's head with Chelsea's winner.

Stoke City 2-1 Aston Villa
Mid-table Stoke and bottom feeders Aston Villa don't exactly set us up for an exciting Saturday afternoon. After a goalless first half, Villa delivered Stoke a gift of an opening goal. A late challenge in the penalty area set up Mauro Arnautovic's 52nd minute spot kick to make it 1-0 to the home team. The second came just four minutes later, and it was Arnautovic again with a determined second effort header right on the goal line. Villa would manage to make a game of this one. LEandro Bacuna rolled one in in the 79th minute to give Villa a chance at a point.

Watford 0-0 AFC Bournemouth
A battle of newly promoted sides with little hope for anything more than Premier League safety produced nothing in the end. There weren't even that many chances. Watford only had one shot on target out of 14 which Bournemouth only found three. Heurelho Gomes made a couple of saves, but saying that one of these sides should have found a goal would be quite the generous statement.

West Bromwich Albion 3-2 Crystal Palace
This can't exactly be the match that NBC wanted for it's Saturday afternoon headliner. Two clubs with nothing special to play for and it can't even be at the bonkers atmosphere of Crystal Palace? Anyways, at least there were early goals. Craig Gardner got West Brom up in the 12th minute by banging home a rebound. He turned provider fior the second goal. The other Craig in West Brom's lineup, Craig Dawson, provided the header on the tail end of Gardner's cross in the 19th minute. They were able to really run away with it in the 31st minute with a gorgeous Saido Berahino goal.

Palace climbed back into the match in the second half. Connor Wickham got it started right after the restart with the first in teh 48th minute. Then a screamer off a free kick came in the 80th. Palace kept throwing pressure at the West Brom goal over the closing ten minutes, but it wasn't enough to earn the difficult comeback.

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