Saturday, March 5, 2016

It Happened in England: North London even as Leicester stretches lead

Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal
It was one of the most important North London Derbies we have ever seen. Arsenal were in need of a win to keep their fading hopes of a title alive. Tottenham was hoping to gain ground on Leicester with a win over their biggest rivals. All the ingredients were present for a North London Derby that would be remembered for a long, long time. And boot did we get quite the entry into the annals of this storied rivalry.

The first half was a frantic affair with Spurs getting the better chances. David Ospina was forced to make some great saves in relief of Petr Cech in goal. But it was Arsenal getting themselves on the board despite the pressure in the 39th minute. Aaron Ramsey scored over a flick that was either a brilliant shot or misplaced cross that ended up past Hugo Lloris to make it one-nil to the Arsenal at halftime.

The second half began the Arsenaling. Francis Coquelin saw himself sent off for a silly second yellow card in the 55th minute. Ospina  made a brilliant save a couple minutes later that goal line technology proved to be just millimeters from crossing the line. Then came the actually equalizer in the 60th minute. A timely boot from Toby Alderweireld on a corner made it 1-1 against an overrun Arsenal defense. Then disaster struck two minutes after when Harry Kane did all he ever does, score against Arsenal. 

The Arsenaling would take a break later in the half. After a forward thinking substitution saw Olivier Giroud come on for Mohammed Elneny, the Gunner attack would find a spark. Alexis Sanchez would get ten man Arsenal back on terms. That salvaged a draw for the Gunners, which doesn't help their title chances at all, but they will take it today considering the circumstances. Leicester's result at Watford means Spurs are five points back of the top spot while Arsenal are a distant eight back in third.

Manchester City 4-0 Aston Villa
This didn't look like much of a challenge for City on paper. Aston Villa at home sounds like a day off for pretty much anyone in the Premier League. Despite Manchester City lighting the opposition goal up with shots, none were able to go in. Villa hung by a thread at halftime and only City's weak finishing was to blame. The second half first saw City earn their reward. Yaya Toure got it started in the 48th by beating a frazzled Villa defense in the penalty area. Sergio Aguero doubled the lead a pair of minutes later. The floodgates remained open for an Aguero brace at the hour mark. Villa's defending remained pathetic enough to allow Raheem Sterling to score a fourth for City in the 66th.

Newcastle 1-3 AFC Bournemouth
Points are crucial for Newcastle. While Bournemouth is likely safely staying up in the Premier League the jury is still out for the home side in this one. Things didn't look good for the Magpies early on. Newcastle defense Steven Taylor hit the slightest of touches to a Bournemouth low cross ave sent the effort right into his own goal in the 28th minute. Bournemouth managed to score for themselves in the second half. In the 70th minute Joshua King got free in the penalty area before blasting the ball into the roof of the net. Down a pair of goals, Newcastle finally decided to get going. Ayoze Perez cut into the Cherries' lead in the 80th minute. Bournemouth didn't allow their opponents back into the game. Charlie Daniels's stoppage tone goal finished this one off keeping Newcastle firmly in relegation land.

Swansea City 1-0 Norwich City
Here's two clubs that find themselves in the thick of the rejection fight. Swansea had plenty of momentum coming off they're midweek triumph over Arsenal, which would the time to manifest itself in this one. In true notion take fashion, neither team scored in the first half while combining for only five total shots with one on target. Gylfi Sigurdsson first got Swansea ahead in the 61st minute with a simple low shot from the edge of the penalty area. The lone loyal leads to Swansea gaining more of a buffer from relegation. They're now nine points clear of the drop. Norwich is still down there, though. 

Chelsea 1-1 Stoke City
This might be the most intriguing match of the 10am slate of matches. Even though neither team are truly competing for anything, we get a good chance to see what both sides are made of during their recent runs of strong form. It was Chelsea getting on the board first shortly before halftime. Bertrand Traore's 39th minute curler made it through a few defenders before tucking itself inside the far post. It took a while, but Some did tie it up. Mame Diouf grabbed a rebound that was mismanaged by Thibaut Courtois and banged it home.

Southampton 1-1 Sunderland
Sunderland face a difficult challenge in their quest to stay in the top tier with a trip to the south coast. In the first half, Southampton had the better chances. Of their six shots, three required the attention of Vito Mannone in the a Black Cats goal. But it was Jermaine Defoe playing savior for Sunderland in the 85th minute. Quick passing in the penalty area was the key to get Defoe in an easy position too score the would be winner. Virgil Van Dijk slipped a shot into the top corner in the third minute of stoppage time to rob Sunderland of all three points. Sunderland is a single point above the drop zone thanks to at least warning one here.

Everton 2-2 West Ham
These are also two of the more interesting mid take sides. West Ham continues to look like a capable side after a win over Spurs in midweek. Everton has been up and down over their season. In a back ave forth match, it was Everton paving the first blow. Romelu Lukaku got outside the defense and banged home a low shot off the far post in the 13th minute. Their good fortune was only temporary. Kevin Mirallas committed an unnecessary late challenge from behind in the 33rd minute to earn himself a service yellow card and force Everton to play a man down for the better part of an hour. The Hammers would fail to do anything about this manpower advantage in the first half.

In the second half, West Ham would come to rue their earlier missed opportunities. Aaron Lennon would double the Everton lead in the 56th minute thanks to nice give and go with Lukaku. West Ham would eventually get something moving. A 78th minute Marc Noble cross found the head of Michail Antonio for their first goal of the day. Diafra Sakho's head provided the equalizer three minutes later. The winner came just into stoppage time from Dimitri Payet thanks to scrambled Everton defenders.

Watford 0-1 Leicester City
Leicester had seen the North London Derby end all square, thus giving them a chance to open up a five point lead at the top. Watford started this one off by allowing the Foxes to play their game. Watford controlled the ball. Leicester took it from them before launching a counter attack. It was a formula for disaster, to be honest. With that said, Watford defended the counter attack quite well for much of the game. It wasn't until Riyad Mahrez's 56th minute blast into the top corner that the Hornets conceded. Watford would not be able to get that goal back as it finished 1-0. It wasn't exciting, but Leicester did stretch that lead out to five points with nine matches left to play.

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