Week 18 of the Premier League saw routine wins for the top sides whilst the relegation candidates failed to alleviate their miseries, as Sunderland, Swansea and Hull City all suffered crushing defeats. Whereas the on-field results may not catch the eye, the boardroom drama of some Premier League clubs certainly made the headlines.
Crystal Palace, a club which has endured a horrid year, finally decided to officially announce football’s worst kept secret, as they gave Alan Pardew his marching orders. The London-based club were quick to choose Pardew’s successor and within hours unveiled Sam Allardayce as their new manager.
Another club which needed a breath of fresh air was Swansea City. They delivered Bob Bradley his P45 after he oversaw his struggling Swans get battered at home by fellow strugglers, West Ham. It seems that even though Bob Bradley knew what he was getting into, he had absolutely no idea on how he was supposed to get out of it, with his head intact! Well, at least he’ll always have Swansea City 5-4 Crystal Palace!
Sean Dyche’s Burnley bagged a hard-fought three points against Middlesbrough. An even first half, wherein both shot-stoppers had little cause for concern was followed by a scrappy second half in which a goal seemed unthinkable.
Christian Stuani went close with a couple of headers before Burnley’s highly rated forward Andre Gray managed to direct his first time volley goalwards which somehow crept past Victor Valdes, who seemed indomitable on the day.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United made it five wins on the trot as they swept aside former boss, David Moyes’ struggling Sunderland. A solitary goal from Blind gave them a slender lead going into the break and a goal-crazy 10 minute period saw them race into a 3 goal lead and also saw Sunderland grab a world-class consolation goal as Borini controlled the ball on his chest and caught it sweetly to give David De Gea no chance from 25 yards out.
Beleaguered Champions Leicester City suffered another blow as Ronald Koeman’s Everton, perhaps cruelly, snatched away the three points. Amartey and Demarai Gray tested Robles in the first half before a long ball caught Leicester’s slow defence off-guard as Mirallas did well to control it and stroke it past the keeper.
Leonardo Ulloa had a great chance to equalise at the other end but his header was straight at Stekelenburg who accepted the gift graciously. A hasty clearance by the Everton defence found its way to Romelu Lukaku, who wrestled past Wes Morgan, pulled off a step-over to out-fox Huth and slid it past Schmeichel.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went back to winning ways after a 1-0 win over West Brom. The Gunners were the better side in the first half, with West Brom’s only considerable chance coming from Rondon’s header which was expertly palmed away by Petr Cech. Arsenal piled on the pressure with Sanchez and Iwobi drawing excellent saves from Foster, who looked like a man possessed.
However West Brom’s resistance was finally ended by Olivier Giroud who planted his header past Foster from 6 yards out. It would have been a welcome win for Wenger, after suffering back to back losses against Everton and Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City beat Hull City 3-0, a scoreline which is a shade too harsh on the hosts. Even though City kept Hull penned back into their half, they created precious little in front of the goal, with most of their shots coming from distance. Kevin De Bruyne hit the upright with a fierce strike from just inside the box and on the other end, Curtis Davies managed to bundle the ball just past Bravo’s net.
The telling moment arrived Sterling shifted through the gears and rushed into Hull’s box and was brought down by a late challenge; penalty given. Toure made no mistake from the spot. This opened the floodgates for City who doubled their lead as Iheanacho converted from close range and added a third when Sterling fizzed in a low ball which was turned in, inadvertently, by Davies.
League leaders Chelsea continued their incredible winning streak as they breezed past Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. Conte decided to deploy Eden Hazard as a false-nine and his gamble paid off brilliantly as the Belgian put in a glorious shift in his new position.
A rejuvenated Pedro gave Chelsea the lead after he somehow managed to clear the ball from his feet and hook it into the back of the net. Eden Hazard won a penalty, after bamboozling the Bournmouth defence and duly converted it. Pedro’s deflected strike sealed the three points for the Blues.
Jurgen Klopp’s Red Men kept up the pressure on league leaders Chelsea as they dismantled Stoke City at Anfield. The Potters, to their credit, did take the lead when Jonathan Walters smartly headed home a cross. Their joy was short-lived however, as Adam Lallana squeezed the ball into the goal from a tight angle.
They took the lead when Firmino showed great wit to turn and shoot the ball past the keeper. Imbula turned a cross into his own net after a swift Liverpool attack and Sturridge completed the demolition by pouncing on a defensive error by the Potters to find the back of the net.
On Wednesday, Spurs traveled to St Mary’s where Pochettino’s side rallied back to overcome a one goal deficit and beat the Saints 4-1. Virgil Van Dijk scored in 69 seconds to hand the Saints the lead but Delle Ali rose highest to head home after Sissoko’s deflected cross left the Southampton defense rooted to the ground. Harry Kane met the ball from a corner to make it 2-1. Son neatly finished soon after Eriksen found him with a delightful ball. Alli who had started the comeback rounded off things by curling the ball past Forster.
Next round fixtures provide a tantalizing match between Liverpool and Manchester City. Can’t wait!