Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Premier League: Tyne-Wear is level, Manchester goes red at Etihad

Newcastle 1-1 Sunderland
Technically this is the lesser of today's derbies, but that doesn't make the stakes any smaller. With relegation at stake, the most under appreciated rivalry in the Premier League was just as, if not more, important than the more glorious match that went down later. It was also Rafa Benitez's first taste of this Tyne-Wear Derby. The first half was defined by poor finishing from both ends. Misses were the rule of the day until the 44th minute when Jermaine Defoe beat the slow Newcastle defense to a rebound in the penalty area. He subsequently smashed home to give Sunderland the lead at the halftime whistle. It wasn't looking good for the home team throughout the second ha;f. They had plenty more misses to speak of until the 83rd minute when Aleksander Mitrovic headed home a high floating cross from Giorginio Wijnaldum to tie the score. That would sum up the scoring as Newcastle's late goal earns Rafa Benitez his first point in charge of his new club. Both sides remain in the bottom three as a result of this one. Sunderland is a pair of points back of Norwich for the first safe spot in the league. Newcastle is three behind. Both sides have a game in hand over Norwich.

Southampton 3-2 Liverpool
Significantly less was on the line with this match, but Liverpool and Southampton are level for eighth place with 44 points. This one was all Liverpool early on. Philippe Coutinho scored in the 17th minute to start things off and Daniel Sturridge doubled the lead five minutes later. Liverpool was able to enjoy the first half, but the second was nothing short of disaster. Southampton began their fight back until after the hour mark. Sadio Mane, who had to win a red card appeal in order to be on the field for this game, finished a transition attack by blasting one inside the near post in the 64th minute. Saints would level in the 83rd with a Graziano Pelle laser past a diving Simon Mignolet. They would take the lead all of three minutes later when Mane bagged his brace  by taking advantage of Liverpool playing sloppy in their own end. They would hold that lead for good to gain a hard earned three points after being two goals down. Southampton is now only three points back of West Ham for fifth in the league.

Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United
Manchester City is in danger of dropping out of the top four if they don't turn things around. Manchester United could overtake them, and a win here could get the ball rolling on them backing into the Champions league at the end of the season. City would need to contain their cross town rivals without their leader and best defender, Vincent Kompany, who is dealing with a recurring calf injury. Flat footed defending led to United getting on the board first. Marcus Rashford cut trough the stagnant backline after receiving a through pass before slipping a shot past Joe Hart in the 16th minute. The hometown kid had scored against the club's biggest rival, something that will further accelerate his rise through the hearts of United's supporters. They also should have had a penalty in the second of two minutes of stoppage time when Rashford was shoved down in the area, but Michael Oliver didn't make the call, perhaps thinking there was some simulation on Rashford's part. The Red Devils would have to settle for a 1-0 halftime lead.

Manchester City began to show a little more urgency in the second half. Their attacks became more potent as time drew on. Right around the hour mark was when they really started to turn up the head. Sergio Aguero had a couple of wonderful chances that resulted in one header off the post and another that drifted across the face of goal. This sense of urgency and series of close calls was not enough for City. Manchester United held on to win a massive three points at Etihad Stadium. They also climb level on points with West Ham for fifth place and only a single point behind their blue rivals for the fourth and final Champions League place.

Tottenham 3-0 AFC Bournemouth
Tottenham needed to keep pace with victorious Leicester to stay within spitting distance of the title and hold off Arsenal, who also won yesterday, to stay in front of their hated North London rivals. They got off to just the start they were looking for when Harry Kane scored inside the very first minute. It would take another quarter of an hour for Kane to get his second of the game. The Tottenham boy reached his foot to a pass and poked it off the far post and in. Spurs didn't let off the gas in the second half. In the 52nd minute Christian Eriksen pounced on a rebound to tap home Tottenham's third and final goal of the match.  They could simply coast to victory after that to get back within five points of first place Leicester.

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