Saturday, May 7, 2016

It Happened in England: Relegation race almost over thanks to shocking Sunderland win

Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United
Both the top four race and the relegation battle were at center stage in the early affair in Norwich. The chances were flowing for the Red Devils in the first half. The dictated play and took eight shots inn the opening frame, but only one was on target and it didn't go in the net. The long awaited goal came in the 72nd minute from Juan Mata. They ended up playing passively for the rest of huge hatch, feeling content with a 1-0 snoozer of a win against the likely relegation bound Norwich.

AFC Bournemouth 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
It was difficult to find much of a reason to care about this match with only one more week to play and both sides sitting in the middle of the table. Goals came from both sides' best players. First it was Soloman Rondon for West Brom and, when it seemed like the visitors would earn themselves a point on the road, Matt Ritchie bagged a late equalizer that gave Bournemouth a point. There was a penalty save in there as well that could have provided West Brom with a winner. 

Aston Villa 0-0 Newcastle
Newcastle need every point available to them if they want to pull off the difficult task of staying alive. Three points against Villa would be the expected result here. The game, however, could not have been less exciting. Newcastle, desperate for anything, managed all of nine shots against the worst team in the league. They only allowed a pair from an apathetic Villa, but the fact that a Rafa Benitez side couldn't find a goal against that sorry lot means they probably deserve to go down when all is said and done. 

Crystal Palace 2-1 Stoke City
This was another easy to ignore match with little, if any implication on the table. Charlie Adam scored for Stoke City in the 26th minute, but an unlikely double would deny them any final payout. Dwight Gayle, scoring his first two goals of the season gave Crystal Palace a win to finally stave off the lingering talk of relegation. He scored in the 47th and 68th minutes to give the home side three points. They are now eight points from the drop and will, for sure, remain in the top flight next season.

Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea
Sunderland faced a tricky challenge in their quest to remain in the top flight, but this match ended up summing Chelsea's season quite nicely while giving the Black Cats a huge leg up in the relegation battle. Diego Costa made it look like business as usual with a goal in the 14th minute. It started to look rocky for the Blues in the 41st thanks to Wahbi Khazri scoring for Sundeland. The ship was righted a little bit before halftime when Nemanja Matic returned the lead to Chelsea. The second half, or at least a three minute span of the second half, was when things went off the rails. Fabio Borini leveled in the 67th and Jermaine Defore put Sunderland ahead in the 70th. Chelsea never recovered, and even had John Terry sent off late, meaning his Chelsea career has come to a most unceremonious end. As for Sunderland, they are now a point clear of the drop zone with a game in hand. A home win against Everton on Wednesday will sew up the relegation race with Sunderland standing tall in the Premier League.

West Ham 1-4 Swansea City
West Ham would need to be perfect and get some slips from the other top four candidates to keep their slim hopes of high level European play next season. They were also playing at Upton Park for the second to last time. They can only hope that the final match at their long time home goes better than today did. Swansea were off and running right from the get go.  First, it was Wayne Routledge scoring in the 25th minute. Andre Ayew doubled the lead six mintues later. After the half the destruction continued. Ki Sung-Yeung added a third in the 51st minute. The only slip up on the day for Swansea was an own goal off Stephen Kingsley in the 68th minute but Bafetimbi Gomis made up for it with a fourth for them in stoppage time 

Leicester City 3-1 Everton
The party was on in Leicester as the Foxes had the title won and could use this match as their celebration in front of their rowdy crowd. Indeed, the match on the pitch was truly secondary to the celebration that took place afterward. Yes, Jamie Vardy scored within five minutes and he would back that up with a brace in the 65th. Andy King had the other in between Vardy's pair. Yeah, Kevin Mirallas scored near the death of the match to ruin the clean sheet, but I think Claudio Ranieri is going to give his players a pizza party anyway.

That's because what this day was the unfiltered joy of the Leicester crowd. It was about the "Wow, we actually did it" look on Wes Morgan's face when he received his winners medal and hoisted the trophy. It was about Claudio Ranieri in the verge of tears as he watched his troops celebrate the unlikeliest title in sports history. It was the culmination of a journey that began  back in August as nothing more than a quest for 40 points and ended in celebrating the club's first top flight title in their 132 year existence.

All of that made this 3-1 win by the first place team over some irrelevant mid-table side feel like nothing.

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