Trouble continues at the Britannia, as Manchester United’s visit to Stoke pushed the Potters nearer to the drop zone. Meanwhile, newly appointed Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio recorded his first win on derby day.
Paolo Di Canio’s first Tyne-Wear derby* at St.James’ Park was a crucial one for the Italian, as only goal difference separated Sunderland from the drop zone. Sunderland’s high pressure proved to be vital as Stephane Sessegnon grabbed the opener for the Mackems, with Tim Krul’s injury making things worse for Newcastle as Adam Johnson and David Vaughan raised the tally to 3, to end a 9 match winless streak. The Britannia was home to the Stoke City vs Manchester United encounter, as the hosts were searching for their second home win in this calendar year. Michael Carrick’s recent wonderful performances continued as he became the 18th player to score for United in this campaign, and Robin Van Persie’s drought came to an end after 2 months as he clinched his 20th goal of the season. United need only 7 points now to mathematically clinch the title.
Norwich had to travel to the Emirates to face an inform Arsenal, who dropped only 3 points out of the last 21. Michael Turner’s header came as an upset for the home crowd, as Norwich took the lead. However, the last 10 minutes were all about the Gunners, as Mikel Arteta grabbed his 6th goal from the spot after a controversial penalty was awarded by the linesman. Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott were added to the scoresheet, as Arsenal take the capital’s bragging rights, securing third place in the table with less than seven matches to go. Everton hosted 19th place QPR whose relegation is imminent, unless the Hoops can rewrite history. The Toffees welcomed back Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini, but the only goal at half time came from a Darron Gibson deflected shot. Victor Anichebe’s decent display paid off, as his goal sealed the victory for the men in Blue. Everton’s 4th win in the last 5 games meant that David Moyes’ squad can still battle for a Champions League spot, with only 4 points between them and 3rd place Arsenal.
Aston Villa welcomed 10th place Fulham at Villa Park, where Fulham have never won for 14 years. Mark Schwarzer’s hopes of an 8th clean sheet ended when Charles N’Zogbia bent one into the far corner, but Villa’s battle with relegation will continue, as Fulham came back from this trip with a point after a Fabian Delph own goal. Southampton were on the verge of making it 4 consecutive wins when they hosted Sam Allardyce’s West Ham at St.Mary’s, but Jussi Jääskeläinen’s admirable performance in goal didn’t stop the Saints from scoring as they took the lead through Gaston Ramirez. The Hammers came back through an Andy Carroll free-kick, to keep both sides in mid-table. Reading entertained Liverpool at the Madejski, with Alex McCarthy’s sublime performance in goal holding Suarez and co to a goalless draw, but Nigel Adkins’ side is still at the bottom with 24 points.
Tyne-Wear derby: Newcastle Vs Sunderland
Tyne-Tees derby: Newcastle Vs Middlesbrough
Tees-Wear derby: Middlesbrough Vs Sunderland
All eyes were on the Semis at Wembley, when Manchester City faced Chelsea. City took the initiative when Samir Nasri put the ball past Petr Cech, and Aguero’s header meant that 7 times winners Chelsea were out of the competition, despite Ba scoring a consolation goal for the Blues. City will face Wigan in the final, who saw off a not-up-to-level Millwall side. Shaun Maloney opened the scoring in the first half, then a Callum McManaman goal eventually gave Wigan a place in next year’s Europa League, as they’re going to be the winner or the runners up to a team who already has a European place in the league.
Player to watch:
Gareth Bale‘s absence affected Tottenham heavily after a 2-2 draw against Everton and a Europa League exit. However, if the Welshman can recover before the huge encounter against City next Sunday, it could be a massive boost for Spurs to get back to the top four.
AC Milan drew for the first time at the San Siro this season when they hosted second place Napoli, after having hoped for a win to close the gap on Napoli. Flamini found the net at the half hour mark, but Goran Pandev scored the equalizer just 3 minutes later after a beautiful pass from Marek Hamsik. Mathieu Flamini turned from a hero to villain when he received a straight red card after a reckless tackle on Zuniga. Milan remain the only team unbeaten in Serie A in 2013. It was an average match at best when Chievo hosted Catania. Catania’s hopes of playing in Europe suffered a blow with a goalless draw, staying 4 points away from a European spot, while Chievo remain 8 points comfortably above the relegation zone.
A confident first half performance was enough to secure a win for Juventus when they visited Lazio in the Olimpico. A brace from Arturo Vidal gave the visitors another big step towards the title with 6 matches remaining, with Lazio trying to find a consolation goal in the second half but to no avail. Lazio still haven’t beaten Juventus since December 2003, while Juventus won the last 4 games versus Lazio at the Olimpico, conceding no goals in the process. Di Natale missed Udinese’s trip to Parma in Tardini but that didn’t stop the visitors from grabbing all 3 points. Luis Muriel scored his 2nd brace in Serie A and his 8th goal, his best goal tally in a single season. Parma and Udinese remain in the 8th and 11th positions respectively.
It seemed an easy win for Siena when they visited the struggling Pescara, leading two goals to nil at half time. The hosts managed a swift come back, however, scoring 2 goals in 6 minutes, but Emeghara left late for the visitors, scoring the winning goal with 4 minutes on the clock. Pescara who haven’t recorded a single win in all the matches that they’ve been trailing in this season, remain at the bottom of the table, scoring 3 own goals. Siena who scored 13 headed goals this season take a step closer away from the relegation zone. Both teams had to settle for a draw at the Derby Della Lanterna when Genoa hosted Sampdoria. Sampdoria opened the scoring after 28 minutes, but their Andrea Costa was dismissed after a second booking, just for Genoa to score the equalizer just 2 minutes later. Sampdoria rise to the 13th place while Genoa remain in the relegation zone with 6 matches to go.
Fiorentina took another crucial step to third place and a Champions League spot when they visited Atalanta. Fiorentina took all 3 points thanks to another penalty and a goal from the substitute Marcelo Larrondo, with Atalanta’s captain Germain Denis receiving Atalanta’s 13th red card this season in the dying minutes. Fiorentina are just 4 points away from 3rd place while Atalanta fall to the 14th position. Inter Milan will have to settle for Europa League next season unless a miracle happens, after suffering a second consecutive defeat at the Stadio Is Arenas in Cagliari. Inter were without most of their strikers (Cassano, Milito and Palacio), and were suffering as a result, finding it extremely difficult to score. On the other hand, Mauricio Ricardo Pinilla scored a brace for Cagliari in the 2nd half to win it for his team. Cagliari move to the top half of the table while Inter remain in 7th position.
It was another draw at the Stadio Renzo Barbera when Palermo hosted Bologna. Josip Ilicic opened the scoring just 5 minutes after the start thanks to a one-two with Miccoli, who assisted Palermo’s last 4 out of 6 goals. Bologna found the equalizer 12 minutes later, after an easy finish by Manolo Gabbiadini. Palermo return to the relegation zone while Bologna stay in the 12th position. Roma clinched a not-so-easy win when they visited Torino. Osvaldo scored the opener with a great header which was his 12th goal this season, his best tally in a single Serie A season. Torino equalized 9 minutes later through Rolando Bianchi, but Erik Lamela found the net for the visitors at the hour mark, scoring the winner. Roma had to survive the last 10 minutes after Federico Balzaretti was dismissed after a second booking. Roma climb to the 5th place and to Europe while Torino remain in the 15th place.
Player To Watch:
Marek Hamsik (Napoli): The 25 year old Slovakian midfielder delivered 14 assists in Serie A this term, the joint-most across the top-5 European leagues along with Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta. His assists will surely have a vital role in Napoli’s hunt for 2nd place, and a direct Champions League spot.
Real Betis fought back from three goals down to earn a deserved draw as Pepe Mel’s men played out a 3-3 thriller with Sevilla in the Andalusian derby. A brace from Ivan Rakitic and a goal from Alvaro Negredo gave Sevilla a 3 goals advance at the half hour mark,but Darlon Pabon’s goal just before halftime gave Betis a glimmer of hope. Betis converted a penalty at the beginning of the second half, and a memorable comeback was complete in injury time when substitute Nosa Igiebor headed in to the top corner, sending the home fans into raptures. Another 3-3 draw was due at Cornella El-Prat where Espanyol hosted Valencia, and apart from a penalty appeal for the hosts, the first half largely went by without incident, until Mubarak Wakaso broke the deadlock. The second half was a totally different tale however, with Sergio Canales scoring the equalizer in the 53rd minute, keeping the game level until Joan Verdu smashed into the top corner, restoring Espanyol’s lead only eight minutes from time. Jonas hit back quickly with a snap finish into the bottom corner, and even with Roberto Soldado thinking he had stole the win for the visitors with his goal in the 91st minute, there was actually enough time for yet another equalizer for Espanol through Sergio Garcia in the 93rd minute.
Deportivo‘s attempts to escape from the brink of relegation continued this week when they impressively came out 4-0 winners over Levante. 3 goals in the 1st half from Juan Valeron, Pizzi and Nelson Oliveira, and a goal from Bruno Gama in the second half, gifted the hosts their remarkable 4th consecutive win maintaining their excellent performance recently. Fernando Vazquez’s outfit now find themselves provisionally outside the bottom three for the first time since November. Malaga bounced back from their dramatic Champions League exit on Tuesday with a narrow late 1-0 victory over Osasuna at La Rosaleda. Four minutes into injury time, Baptista popped up to finish from close range and steal all three points for Malaga.
Barcelona sauntered to a comfortable 3-0 win over a Zaragoza side, who seemed to feel comfartable enough staying in the relegation zone. Gerard Pique, David Villa, Pedro and Lionel Messi were all rested for the fixture, but that did not stop the Blaugrana from completely outclassing their opponents. Thiago Alcantara opened the scoring after 20 minutes, with Cristian Tello netting a goal in either half to leave his team needing just three wins to wrest the Primera Division title from Real Madrid. Mallorca hosted Celta this week in a crucial match for the relegation fight at Iberostar stadium, succeeding in grabbing the 3 points thanks to a very late goal for Giovanni Dos Santos.
Real Madrid succeeded in getting out of the San Mames with a 3-0 win against Athletic Bilbao, but the scoreline did little to tell the actual story of the game, particularly the first half, as Los Merengues were put under considerable pressure at times by the intense attacking style Marcelo Bielsa’s team are famed for. Cristiano Ronaldo reached a half-century of goals for the season, needing only two minutes to break the deadlock in stunning fashion, before heading home another on 68 minutes to provide some much-needed breathing room for his team. Higuain arrowed home a third goal shortly after his arrival as a substitute. to put any lingering hopes of a Bilbao comeback to rest, and restore Madrid’s three-point cushion over the third-placed neighbours. Atletico Madrid did manage to secure an easy 5-0 win over Granada at the Vicente Calderon. Goals through Diego Costa, Raul Garcia, Filipe Luis and a brace from the team’s leading scorer Falcao allowed Atletico to keep the 3 points difference between them and Real Madrid, in the fight for second place.
Real Sociedad further solidified their claim for the fourth Champions League spot in La Liga, with a comfortable 2-0 win against Rayo Vallecano, thanks to Imanol Agirretxe who scored twice. Valladolid staged a second half comeback to earn their first home victory since January with a 2-1 win over Getafe. Paco Alcacer scored the opening goal for the middle-place scheduled visitors in the 1st half, before Oscar Gonzalez and Javi Guerra made the comeback for the hosts in the 2nd one.
Player to watch:
Barcelona’s young winger Cristian Tello continued his impressive recent form by scoring two excellent goals that will put pressure on Tito Vilanova to find a space for him in the first XI. He definitely deserves to be the player to watch for Barcelona’s next game.