Premier League: Week 26 WrapFebruary 23, 2015
The English Premier League’s game week 26 was a Syrian battlefield of sorts. From Nemanja Matic to Joey Barton, it was not short of drama. There were unlikely victories, losses and draws, and that’s how really, everyone would want it. Here’s how it went down.
It all started on Saturday afternoon, with 3 o’clock kick-offs for 12 teams. The most eventful of these was the Chelsea vs. Burnley game. The league leaders, playing at home against a relegation-threatened team, probably went into the game thinking they were playing against minnows but there was a huge surprise in store for them. After Branislav Ivanovic’s goal, you would have thought Chelsea would go on to win but as fate would have it, Ben Mee equalized later on. The game was marred with controversy, and as Jose Mourinho would have it, there were key minutes that determined the outcome of the game – minutes 30, 33, 43 and 69.
Minute 30 featured an Ashley Barnes foul on Ivanovic, which he should have been awarded a yellow for. 33 had a penalty appeal turned down after Martin Kightly handled a shot from Ivanovic. 43 had another penalty denied after Diego Costa was brought down. In the 69th minute, Barnes pulled a nasty challenge on Matic, who then came baying for his blood and threw him to the ground. It could have been worse, but Matic’s team mates were quick to restrain him. At this juncture, Martin Atkinson (the ref) sent Matic off but really, Barnes should have been sent off too. Were it another referee, Barnes would either have been red carded instantly or got one yellow for his challenge on Ivanovic and another for the Matic challenge. Either way, this would have ended up in a red. That was the type of tackle that ends careers, and it warranted that kind of reaction from Matic.
Other afternoon kick-offs saw Arsenal beat a Crystal Palace side that staged a major fight back in the dying minutes of the game 2-1. Swansea were able to beat a rudderless Manchester United side that had 18 shots but only three on target 2-1. Louis Van Gaal the philosopher was so good he let Marouane Fellaini play the role of number 10 while Mata was on the bench. Aristotle stuff I must say.
Queen’s Park Rangers were no match for Hull City, who beat them 2-1 in a game that saw the one and only Joey Barton sent off in the 33rd minute for punching Tom Huddlestone’s nether region. What’s worse is he did right in front of referee Antony Taylor, who had stopped play after Darnell Furlong had fouled Nikica Jelavic.
Sunderland drew with West Brom and Stoke City ensured that Aston Villa’s poor run of form continued by beating them 2-1. Manchester City, buoyed by Yaya Toure’s return from the African Nations Cup beat Newcastle 5-0. Now that’s the stuff of champions. Harry Kane extended his streak to 11 goals in 11 games by scoring a penalty he had initially missed vs. West Ham in the last minute, with the game ending in a 2-2 draw.
Sunday’s games saw Everton facing lowly Leicester City and Liverpool playing Southampton. The Everton game ended in a 2-2 draw, which had more brawn than brain used. The hottest ticket of the day was the Liverpool vs. Southampton game, two teams likely to finish at top four and qualify for the Champions League. The game did not disappoint, with Phillipe Coutinho scoring a goal of the season contender in the third minute. Clearly, this was not Southampton’s day – confusion in their box saw Raheem Sterling score the second and seal the deal.
The weekend’s games saw some teams benefit more than others. The greatest beneficiary was Arsenal, who moved up to third on the log. Chelsea’s outcome also boosted Manchester City’s title-winning hopes, after the gap narrowed to 5 points. Bottom table teams like Hull City and Burnley were also major beneficiaries. Chelsea might be another Arsenal in the making after all – staying top of the table for 6 months and not winning the league. This was probably the most interesting gameweek this year.