Thursday, 30 May 2013

Week 38: Premier League Action Summary

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 38 Action Summary:

And the 2012/13 season has come to an end. The last weekend saw 36 goals, 276 shots, 158 of which were on target, 186 fouls committed, 28 yellow cards and one sending off. Here are the summaries of all ten matches (in alphabetical order), each followed by a quick comparison to last season for each team, short verdict and prediction for next season:

Fernando TorresChelsea's player of the season Juan Mata got the game to a great start scoring the opener within seven minutes against Everton at Stamford Bridge after goalkeeper Tim Howard made a hash of of Demba Ba's attempt and gave the ball away to the Spanish midfielder to hand him his 12th league goal of the season, 18th in all competitions. The Toffees tried to end their season on a high to hand their Manchester-United-bound manager David Moyes a fine farewell and equalised thanks to Steven Naismith scoring his first goal since November. Darron Gibson hit the post and keeper Petr Cech before Fernando Torres scored the winner off free sub Moses with loads of space to play in, the Spaniard's 22nd of the season, first since December. Sub Nikica Jelavic missed three golden chances, Cech making a superb punch-save for the Londoners to hang on to the three points.
- Chelsea: 6th on 64 points to 3rd on 75 points = 3 places and 9 points better off.
- Everton: 7th on 56 points to 6th on 63 points = 1 place and 7 points better off.
=> Verdict: Both clubs will be happy with their finish, Chelsea winning the Europa League and qualifying for next season's Champions League and Everton finishing above their Red rivals again and qualifying for next season's Europa League. But with new managers on their way to both clubs, plenty of changes will be expected.
=> Prediction: Managerial change is nothing new for Chelsea, so I expect to see them in the top four again next season, especially if it will be the Special One returning to Stamford Bridge. For the other side, I think Moyes' exit will hit the blue side of the Mersey hard which may cost them a couple of places.

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho's header was scrambled off/over the line but nothing was given before the Brazilian's superb strike from outside the box gave the home side the lead against QPR at Anfield. The relegated Rangers hardly threatened throughout the match. Veteran defender Jamie Carragher was denied an absolute screamer, producing a right-foot hammer-shot from distance for the ball to come off the bar. It would have been his first goal in six years and the perfect way to sign off his last game for the Reds and retire from football. Jose Enrique smacked a save out of Rob Green before Loic Remy saw a rare chance for Rangers go wide. It ended a comfortable win for Brendan Rodgers' men, after seeing 20 shots on target, the score could and should have been so much higher, a familiar trend for the Reds thus season.
- Liverpool: 8th on 52 points to 7th on 61 points = 1 place and 9 points better off.
- QPR: 17th on 37 points to 20th on 25 points = 3 places and 12 points worse off.
=> Verdict: Harry Redknapp did not hold back criticising his side's lack of quality and commitment, forecasting hard work and lots of changes ahead to produce improvement rather than just expecting it. Short: A season to forget for QPR. Rodgers meanwhile was praising his side's strong finish to the season which he will hope to take forward to the new season, pointing out reinforcements due over the summer, especially with Carragher's retirement and Suarez's suspension and possible exit in mind, i.e. the Reds are good work in progress.
=> Prediction: If Redknapp sticks to his job and word, with QPR's financial backup, I am sure they'll be able to make a swift return to the top league. Liverpool meanwhile will have to sort out their back and front line and find strong replacements for Carra and Suarez, if they want to avoid any more trouble and take advantage of any slips and falls by their rivals and sneak a couple of places further up the table.

Grant Holt scores Norwich's second The post-Mancini era continued for Manchester City in clumsy fashion against Norwich. Anthony Pilkington took advantage of City's slippery defence and broke the deadlock after a quiet opening 25 minutes leaving Joe Hart totally disgusted. But the home side levelled within three minutes, Jack Rodwell equalising after a fine one-two passing game, breaking through the Norwich defence and sticking the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. The Canaries took the lead again thanks to Robert Snodgrass who produced the perfect delivery from the right for Grant Holt to net his third in as many games. Rodwell then finished off a Yaya-Toure counter to equalise seconds later once again beating Steven Whittaker in speed and slick. Six minutes later Jonathan Howson then ran through City and slid the ball into the corner of the net. Chris Hughton's men hung on to their lead and capped their fine season off with a nice, impressive win.
- Man City: 1st on 89 points to 2nd on 78 points = 1 place and 11 points worse off.
- Norwich: 12th on 47 points to 11th on 44 points = 1 place better but 3 points worse off.
=> Verdict: City caretaker manager Brian Kidd summarised it as an emotional week for the club after losing their title to their bitter rivals and the FA Cup to relegated Wigan, I would summarise it as an absolute joke! Sacking the manager who won them the title and was on the fourth highest winning percentage in the Premier League just leaves you wondering, who and what the hell are they looking for?! Ok, they were in somewhat of a slump this season compared to last, but still ended second and have the potential/players/money to make a comeback and fight back hard against United. No one is perfect, no matter how much you pay! The Canaries meanwhile, much in contrast, are flying high and happy.
=> Prediction: Like Chelsea, money has the last say at City, so I expect them in the top four again, no matter who takes over the coaching part, as long as whoever-it-is gets a chance to put something together before the sack hammer bashes it apart again (Manuel Pellegrini rumoured favourite/done deal)! Norwich should build on their side's stability and aim for the top half of the table next season. 

Laurent Koscielny scoresLaurent Koscielny's right-footed shot from very close range to the top centre of the goal following a set piece handed Arsenal a win at Newcastle to guarantee the Gunners Champions League football next season, just like he did on the final day of last season against West Brom. The French defender latched on to Lukas Podolski's header following Theo Walcott's free-kick to score his most important Arsenal goal as they beat bitter rivals Tottenham to fourth spot in the Premier League and the final place in Europe's elite competition. It was the first time since September 2004 the Gunners have won five successive Premier League away games and completed a perfect turnaround for Arsene Wenger's men after completing eight wins in the last ten games and trailed Spurs by seven points in March. Despite another home defeat, the Magpies finished 16th having secured their Premier League safety against QPR last weekend, and their season finished on a relative high note as the supporters saluted 38-year-old goalkeeper Steve Harper, who played his last game for the club after a 20-year career on Tyneside.
- Newcastle: 5th on 65 points to 16th on 41 points = 11 places and 24 points worse off.
- Arsenal: 3rd on 70 points to 4th on 73 points = 1 place worse but 3 points better off.
=> Verdict: Magpies manager Alan Pardew blamed the Europa League participation and the fixture congestion and stress factor it caused for the free fall of his side, hoping it can only improve next season. Wenger's Gunners meanwhile were more than relieved after ending up in the top four and completing their 18th season in a row ahead of their bitter rivals Spurs.
=> Prediction: Newcastle can only improve as they will be able to focus on just the league next season, so I expect to see them back in the top half of the table. Like the Tyneside club, Arsenal need to back up their young side with more experienced players too if they want to avoid the slumps and chokes of this season and keep themselves in the top four.

Michael Owen comes on for Jon WaltersSouthampton's Rickie Lambert was denied a goal against Stoke City when he was clearly offside before netting a rebound and his 15th Premier League goal of the season to snatch a point for the Saints. The game burst into life in the second half, Peter Crouch opening the scoring with a superb header, his third goal in 2013. Steven Davis and Lambert were both denied by an alert Asmir Begovic, but a simple tap-in levelled the score in the end and the match finished 1-1, Stoke's 15th draw of the season and the Saints' 14th. It was Michael Owen's final appearance before retirement what turned out to be Tony Pulis' last game for the Potters too.
Mark Hughes- Southampton: 2nd on 88 points (from 46 matches, promoted from Championship) to 14th on 41 points = Technically 8 places better but 47 points worse off.
- Stoke City: 14th on 45 points to 13th on 42 points = 1 place better but 3 points worse off.
=> Verdict: After the shocking sacking of Nigel Adkins, Saints fans were not happy and pressure was on his replacement Mauricio Pochettino. After reaching their aim of safety and overcoming their differences, the Argentine coach can be relieved, but pressure will be on Pochettino to move Southampton forward and upwards next season. At Stoke it is all change as well with Pulis' departure after his seven years at the realm. The Welshman had obviously reached his limits with the club and with Mark Hughes confirmed as his replacement, the fans are left sour.
=> Prediction: Both clubs have made bad headlines behind the scenes this season and both don't enjoy the best relationships between board and coaching staff. Unless they can iron tout heir differences and build their sides up rather than shaking them apart, I can see both sides struggling for safety next season.

Swansea's Michu is denied by Mark Schwarzer After five straight defeats, Martin Jol's Fulham finished the season on a high beating Swansea 3-0. After the home side went close thanks to Pablo Hernandez sending the ball just wide of Mark Schwarzer, Fulham came back with the perfect response with Emmanuel Frimpong netting a log through-ball with his left foot to make it 0-1. The Cottagers were rallying after the early pressure and Michel Vorm pushed one golden chance onto the bar but the Swans weren't letting off and pressed on in the second half. Schwarzer was at his best with some instinctive saves before Dimitar Berbatov made a fine run clear on goal and doubled the score for the visitors. Alexander Kacaniklic was kept out well by Vorm before Urby Emanuelson netted the rebound to make it 0-3 and a happy end to the season for Fulham. After all the chances and pressure the Swans enjoyed, the game ended just like their season has, on a disappointingly low slump winning only two out of the eleven games since their League Cup final win against Bradford, gaining only nine points out of a possible 33.
- Swansea: 11th on 47 points to 9th on 46 points = 2 places better but 1 point worse off.
- Fulham: 9th on 52 points to 12th on 43 points = 3 places and 9 points worse off.
=> Verdict: As Michael Laudrup put it, it was a disappointing end to his first season at the Swans but put into perspective, it is their best ever finish and I am sure the Dane will be able to build on that. Jol conceded disappointment too in where Fulham finished and admitted they require plenty of changes to meet his ambitions of reaching the top six/seven/eight.
=> Prediction: If both managers' wishes are met and required changes and reinforcements are made, I am sure to see both sides in the top half of the table next season.

Tottenham's Gareth BaleTottenham reached their club record Premier League points tally after their 1-0 win against Sunderland. Wycombe was denied from close range by Hugo Lloris, so too Graham in the second half. Tottenham missed chance after chance too, Aaron Lennon hitting the post after a scramble before Gareth Bale was denied by Simon Mignolet. After David Vaughan was sent off for the Black Cats following his second caution of the game, none other than the star man Bale won the game for Spurs with a world-class left-foot strike. The game, goal and win was ultimately meaningless though as bitter rivals Arsenal clinched the fourth spot and with it Champions League qualification.
- Tottenham: 4th on 69 points to 5th on 72 points = 1 place worse but 3 points better off.
- Sunderland: 13th on 45 points to 17th on 39 points = 4 places and 6 points worse off.
=> Verdict: Even though Spurs did not end up beating their London rivals for the last Champions League spot, I think Andre Villas-Boas can still be more than satisfied with his side's overall display after reaching their record Premier League points tally, thanks to Bale especially. The Portuguese is right to point out his side can still attract big players, because they will definitely need to if their star man decides to leave (as a Real rumour has it). Paulo Di Canio's antiques and outbursts since replacing Martin O'Neill maybe worked to keep Sunderland save, but whether the explosive Italian can make much out of the side and last long next season is a whole different ball game!
=> Prediction: If Bale decides to leave I feel Spurs will struggle to be anywhere near the top or even qualify for any European competition. If their star man stays, and AVB builds more around him, they will be in it with more than a shout. Sunderland will still be struggling as I cannot see them coming out of the Di Canio show without any bumps or bruises.

Sir Alex Ferguson's last game as Manchester United manager was an unforgettable record 10-goal draw at West Brom. The Red Devils took the lead thanks to Shinji Kagawa's header down and in. Jonas Olsson doubled the score deflecting the ball into the back of his own net before Alexander Buttner made it 0-3 with a fine diagonal shot into the right corner of the goal, the game looking over and out and too comfortable for the champions. But the home side hit back, James Morrison sending the ball through the defence and under United keeper Anders Lindegaard before substitute Romelu Lukaku beat the keeper and squeezed the ball in just about into the right corner of the net to make it 2-3. But United weren't finished, Antonio Valencia handed the ball to Robin van Persie from the right for the Dutchman to net his 30th in a United shirt before Javier Hernandez netted the visitors fifth to make it 2-5. But the Baggies hit back again with three goals in 5:14 minutes. United's defence was nowhere, Youssouf Mulumbu netting one between Lukaku's double which levelled the score 5-5 and completed the Belgian striker's hat-trick thanks to some leaky and clumsy but very entertaining football.
- West Brom: 10th on 47 points to 8th on 49 points = 2 places and 2 points better off.
- Man United: 2nd on 89 points to 1st on 89 points = 1 place better off and equal on points.
=> Verdict: Strictly statistically speaking, United are worse off compared to last season (same on points but -13 on goal difference) and would have lost out to City if they would have reached the same peak as last season. But as their blue rivals slumped, they ended up on top and master mind Fergie can end his reign on a high, after having broken more records than one can think of. The Red Devils looked confident and in control of the game more than ever and only time will tell how the big change at the top will affect the side's records. Steve Clarke meanwhile, after his first season at West Brom, can be more than happy about his side's display and finish and will hope to continue the run and build on it into the next season.
=> Prediction: After reaching their peak with Fergie, it can only go down after his retirement - or that is what their rivals hope! Moyes has a challenge ahead, but could not ask for a more complete side to start the task. It depends whether the oppositions can raise their arms and start a challenge to make the next season more exciting and knock the Red Devils off their thrown. West Brom and Clarke look like a perfect match and I feel their prospects for next season look bright and a European door may open if they can find a good attacking partnership up front and replacement for Lukaku as he returns to Chelsea.

Kevin Nolan scores his third goalWest Ham produced a six-goal thriller with plenty of action for their home fans in their 4-2 win against relegated Reading. Alex McCarthy's clearance off Andy Carroll handed an easy chance and goal for Kevin Nolan to open the scoring for the hosts before Carroll set up Ricardo Vaz Te for a fine diagonal shot to double the score. Garath McCleary fired one goal back for the visitors in off Noble followed by the equaliser smacked in by sub Adam Le Fondre. But the Hammers were rampant and Nolan on fire, the striker controlled and netted a high cross before heading in and completing his hat-trick and the Hammers' win.
- West Ham: 3rd on 86 points (from 46 matches promoted from the Championship) to 10th on 46 points = Technically 13 places better but 40 points worse off.
- Reading: 1st on 89 points (from 46 matches promoted from the Championship) to 19th on 28 points = Technically 2 places better but 61 points worse off.
=> Verdict: The Hammers' first season back in the top league could not have ended better. Even the doubters must admit, Sam Allardyce has done a fine job taking the side up into the top half of the Premier League and can only hope he can keep hold of Carroll and build on the sweet finish. Reading meanwhile got a short and bitter-sweet taste of the Premier League and after sacking their saviour and promoter Brian McDermott, the pressure will be on Nigel Adkins to take the side back up.
=> Prediction: I know many Hammer fans won't like what they are about to read, but I feel Allardyce and West Ham are a fine match and will be able to build on their first season's success. I would not be surprised if we find them in the top half of the table again next season. Reading on the other hand, I think will struggle to find it back to direct rebound promotion.

Emmerson Boyce Joe BennettRelegated Wigan drew 2-2 with Aston Villa with some typically scrappy but entertaining football by the FA Cup winners. Darren Bent opened the score for the visitors from the edge of the box before Emmerson Boyce equalised with a powerful header. The home side took the lead when Ben Watson cleared the ball to Nathan Baker who diverted the ball into the back of his own net. Boyce missed plenty of chances, one coming off the crossbar. Ron Vlaar levelled the score in spectacular fashion bouncing the ball over the keeper. James McArthur hit the crossbar late on in the match, the game ending all-level, both teams showing why they struggled this season with some entertaining football but defensive shambles.
Roberto Martinez- Wigan: 15th on 43 points to 18th on 36 points = 3 places and 7 points worse off.
- Aston Villa: 16th on 38 points to 15th on 41 points = 1 place and 3 points better off.
=> Verdict: After eight years in the Premier League, I do feel sorry for Wigan! The Latics were always a good team to watch, always up for a challenge and good at surprises. But maybe it has just been one season too many. After four years at the club, Roberto Martinez has handed in his resignation after being in talks with Everton to replace Moyes and you cannot blame him. It has also been a hard season for Paul Lambert at Villa, but he said he has loved it and is optimistic for the future and the stats speak for themselves on that point.
=> Prediction: Even without Martinez, I hope and feel Wigan will be able to bounce back into the Premier League sooner rather than later. Aston Villa themselves have been walking on a tight rope ever since O'Neill's departure and have to be careful they give Lambert enough time to rebuild the side before they make the mistake of sacking him and shaking the rope which could lead to the drop.

My Predictions => Actual Results:
Chelsea 1-1 Everton => 2-1
Liverpool 3-2 QPR => 1-0
Man City 1-2 Norwich => 2-3
Newcastle 2-1 Arsenal => 0-1
Southampton 2-1 Stoke City => 1-1
Swansea 2-1 Fulham => 0-3
Tottenham 2-1 Sunderland => 1-0
West Brom 2-1 Man United => 5-5
West Ham 2-1 Reading => 4-2
Wigan 2-1 Aston Villa => 2-2 

My soccer predictor has mucked that week up, not saving all my predictions and setting them to my auto-result = 2-1.

If you want some more facts and stats on last season, read Martin Tylers picks of statistical highlights of each month of the 2012-13 season or Phil McNulty's summary of each team's season, how their managers' have fared and what their prospects are like for next season.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Week 37: Premier League Action Summary

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 37 Action Summary

This week saw ten games, 28 goals, 247 shots, 163 on target, 113 corners, 166 fouls, 26 bookings and 4 red cards. Three clubs said farewell to their managers, one less friendly, emotional and memorable than the other two. Here are the summaries of all the games:

Fergie's (and Scholes') Farewell at Old Trafford

It was an emotional afternoon at Old Trafford on Sunday, which saw Sir Alex Ferguson's last home game and championship presentation and celebration. Manchester United dominated the first half, Javier Hernandez hitting the crossbar before netting a free kick. Swansea started the second half bright and when United were just unable to clear the ball, in, out, left, right, before Miguel Michu banged it in for Michael Laudrup's Swans followed by Wayne Routledge who rolled another chance to double the score wide. David De Gea was kept busy but Rio Ferdinand had the last say for the Red Devils crashing in a Nemanja Vidic deflection off a corner. The defender's first goal in over five years handed Fergie his 2764th goal and 895th win, see more Fergie Stats* below. 
Paul Scholes*1499: Games at Manchester United, with 895 wins, 337 draws and 267 defeats, a win rate  of 59.71%.
*4124: Goals under Fergie, 2764 scored,1360 conceded,+1404 goal difference.
*723: Games at "The Theatre Of Dreams".
*38: Trophies won at Old Trafford, including 13 Premier League and two UEFA Champions League titles.
*26: Years since United had won the title before Ferguson's triumph in 1993.
*26: Years and 190 days, Fergie's time as manager, the longest serving in english football.
*Paul Scholes retires having played 717 games, 498 Premier League games and scored 107 goals.

Moyes' (and Neville) Farewell at Goodison Park

Everton manager David MoyesEverton performed beautiful, wonderful buildup play between Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar before Kevin Mirallas netted the opener against West Ham at Goodison Park. It was slick, a delight to watch and a perfect send-off for manager David Moyes. Both keeper produced some great saves, Jussi Jaaskelainen off Victor Anichebe and Tim Howard off Kevin Nolan. Mirallas saw his shot cheekily pop in off James Collins to double the score for the Toffees. Leon Osman's shot was stunningly saved  by Jaaskelainen before Pienaar's shot went narrowly wide, a double-stunner! Andy Carroll headed a golden chance off the post late on for the Hammers, but it was not meant to be their afternoon. It belonged to Moyes, the third longest serving manager in Everton history and in english football*. The Scotsman's only regret with the blue Merseyside club: no silverware! And to add to the day of farewells, Phil Neville also confirmed his departure at the end of the season.
*517: Games at Everton, 218 wins, 139 draws, 160 defeats, a win rate of 42.17%

Lampard Legend Complete

Frank Lampard celebratesChristian Benteke went from hero to zero in a crazy afternoon for Aston Villa, being sent off after opening the score with a nice individual run and effort against Chelsea at Villa Park in the Saturday lunch-time kick-off. Frank Lampard equalised minutes later for the Blues with a nice left-foot curl and then scored the winner and broke the club all-time record with his 204th goal. It was a historical moment, after it looked like the visitors were denied a goal when Gary Cahill's ball looked to have crossed the line but nothing was given. Paul Lambert had to wait till Wigan's downfall against Arsenal on Tuesday for his side's Premier league safety to be confirmed, see the match summary below for details. In the meantime, interim-boss Rafael Benitez has taken Roman Abramovich's side to Europa League Final victory over Benfica in Amsterdam on Wednesday with Champions League qualification already in the bag for next season too. The Spaniard was without Eden Hazard and John Terry who both went off injured late on in this game in the Midlands, the latter having rode his luck not seeing a red for his tackle on Yacouba Sylla.

Wigan Gunned Down

In a cracking, competitive encounter at the Emirates on Tuesday evening, Arsenal's Lukas Podolski headed in the opener against Wigan Athletic, totally unmarked, early on in the first half. But the Latics fought hard and Shaun Maloney levelled the score with a superb free kick just outside box, beating Wojciech Szczesny, smacking the ball into the right corner of the net just before half time. But it all crumbled to bits for Roberto Martinez's side in the second half. Santi Cazorla's cross from the right, found Theo Walcott in the centre of the box who tangled between keeper Joel Robles and two/three defenders to find the back of the net and give the lead back to the Gunners. Poldi made it three out of nowhere, one-on-one with the keeper, easy tap in. And Aaron Ramsey heaped more misery on the visitors shortly afterwards with a fine run from the left and a nice right-foot curl in to make it 4-1 and end Wigan's reign in the Premier League - the first time the FA Cup winners are relegated!
Arsene Wenger and Rafael BenitezArsene Wenger's side meanwhile have the challenge of Champions League qualification in their own hands now approaching the last match of the season. The Gunners are back in fourth, ahead of fierce rivals Tottenham and a win at Newcastle on the final day of the season will guarantee them Champions League football. They have also closed the gap on third-placed Chelsea to two points and left the chance that a certain set of results* on Sunday would see them end the season level on points, goal difference and goals scored which under Premier League rules would see a play-off between the two sides at a neutral venue to determine who will qualify directly for the Champions League.
*(0-0 draw for Chelsea and 2-1 win for Arsenal, or 1-1 and 3-2, 2-2 and 4-3, etc.)

Managerless City Beat Reading

Manchester City's Sergio AgueroThe sacking of Roberto Mancini seemed to have a stimulating effect on Manchester City at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday. The visitors were spurned on from kick-off keeping relegated side Reading keeper Alex McCarthy busy pulling save after safe out of him. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring end of the first half with a low effort into the corner of the net. The Royals did have a couple of chances, with Adrian Mariappa's header cleared off the line by Carlos Tevez, while Joe Hart saved well from Jem Karacan. Substitute Edin Dzeko sealed the win just before the end, netting David Silva's cross from close range. It was City's first league win at Reading since 1999, when both sides were in the third tier.

Adebayor Party Spoiler

Emmanuel AdebayorOn their 150th anniversary, ten-man Stoke were made to pay by Tottenham in a cruel 2-1 home defeat. An early opener fell to the hosts when Charlie Adams' free kick was headed in by an unmarked Steven Nzonzi, Spurs nowhere to be seen. It was a tense opening for Andre Villas-Boas' side, the more so after Clint Dempsey's goal was correctly disallowed offside. After a long cross to Aaron Lennon was cut out by Marc Wilson it fall back to Dempsey who bounced it in from far with Asmir Begovic out of his goal to complete an odd equaliser. The Bosnian keeper did create a couple of strong saves against Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson. 70 seconds into the second half, pressure was up on Stoke as things went from bad to worse for Tony Pulis' men when Adam was sent off with his second yellow card. Tottenham missed chance after chance, Dempsey's attempt went high off a Bale corner before the PFA and Young Player of the Year put a shot wide himself! Robert Huth put a golden chance header off a free kick high for the Potters before Emmanual Adebayor put in a Dempsey cross in the dying minutes to make it 1-2 and grab a crucial goal and win for his side in the chase for Champions League qualification. The end and result was harsh on 10-man Stoke, who fought hard till the end, eventually falling and handing Tottenham a nervous win.

Sturridge Hat-Trick Sinks Fulham

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge scores against FulhamLife has not been too hard for Liverpool without Luis Suarez (or Steven Gerrard) as they recorded another comfortable win at Fulham. Philippe Coutinho saw his power shot beaten away by keeper Mark Schwarzer before Dimitar Berbatov headed in Sascha Riether's cross to give the hosts the lead at Craven Cottage. The striker was totally unguarded, the header made to measure, handing him his 14th of the season and first since April Fools Day. Just a couple of minutes later, Daniel Sturridge smashed in the leveller after a fine clearance, a blast in off his weaker side to make it 1-1. Berbatov's and Bryan Ruiz's appeals for hand ball against Lucas Leiva were dismissed by the officials, a lucky escape for the Liverpool forward, as replays showed his arm did hit his outstretched arm. And after the Cottagers' appeals were ignored again, this time against Sebastian Coates, Sturridge netted his second off Coutinho's slipped strike. Fulham were understandably steaming! It was end-to-end-stuff from then onwards when Schwarzer denied Sturridge after the striker robbed Brede Hangeland and Berbatov tested Pepe Reina to his bottom left. Aaron Hughes' header off a corner was also kept out brilliantly by the Spaniard. The game stretched when Fabio Borini saw his shot come off the post and then denied by Schwarzer, the Reds could have been five or six goals up! Finally, five minutes from time, Sturridge lifted the ball over Schwarzer, a delicious goal off a superb Coutinho cross, to wrap up the youngster's first ever hat-trick and Liverpool's three points.
Norwich Thrash to Safety

Robert SnodgrassNorwich secure their place in the Premier League with an emphatic 4-0 victors against West Brom, and if it wasn't for their keeper Ben Foster, it could have been 10-0! The England keeper produced save after save, starting off against Anthony Pilkington. The pressure was on the visitors from kick-off, conceding three corners early on in the match before Robert Snodgrass took advantage and controlled Foster's block in to the back of the net to make it 1-0 and send huge relief around Carrow Road. Wes Hoolahan's shot from far was tipped over by Foster whilst John Ruddy in contrast was left with nothing to do at the other end. The second goal was a goalkeeper's nightmare, Foster coming out the box, messing up the clearance completely for Grant Holt to walk the ball over the line and double the score. Ruddy's first use of gloves was against James Morrison, nothing all too worrying as Norfolk was partying. The third goal came from a Hoolahan free kick off Gareth McAuley into the back of his own net, the second goal in just over two minutes. Pilkington pulled yet another save out of Foster, a fantastic save tipping the ball around and away. After some lovely linkup play in the dying minutes of play, Jonathan Howson sent an outstanding curl from the edge of the box into the right corner of the net to seal the fourth goal and win for the Canaries.

Redknapp Rant

Hatem Ben ArfaHarry Redknapp stamped on his team's lack of quality, saying they wouldn't even end up top half of the Championship playing like this after seeing his QPR beaten at home by Newcastle. The visitors' Mathieu Debuchy kicked things off conceding a penalty with a tug and brush on Junior Hoilett, QPR's Loic Remy sending keeper Rob Elliott the wrong way and netting the penalty to make it 1-0. Defender Jose Bosingwa pulled Hatem Ben Arfa's shirt and got punished with the second spot kick of the afternoon, Ben Arfa rattling the penalty in off the crossbar to level the score. Papiss Cisse saw his header home disallowed for offside. Bobby Zamora saw his return-shot decently saved by Elliott after the keeper had already denied Hoilett seconds earlier. The visitors were then gifted the lead by Rob Green and Bosingwa with some calamitous defending, short passes messed up, Yoan Gouffran tucking the present away gratefully, 1-2. Magpies keeper Elliot was sent off with ten minutes to go, a second yellow for handling the ball outside the area. Their longest serving player Steve Harper replaced him, coming on for Ben Arfa, and held on to his side's lead. All the late Rangers chances and onslaught were all for nothing in the end, summing their season up.

Sunderland Survive Late Saints Ambush

Danny Graham and Steven DavisSunderland survived after Southampton were unable to complete the perfect turnaround, the Sunday tie ending 1-1 at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats will have had all eyes on Wigan's clash with Arsenal on Tuesday and ended up celebrating the result as it handed Paulo Di Canio's men the guarantee of another season in the Premier League. Against the Saints, the deadlock was broken halfway through the second half by Phil Bardsley with a smasher from the right corner of the box, a touch of Jos Hooiveld taking the ball past Artur Boruc. Eight minutes later Simon Mignolet saved Jason Puncheon's header for the substitute to leg in the rebound off the floor to level the score. Rickie Lambert missed a couple of chances to grab a win for the Saints, him and Jay Rodriguez both were denied by Mignolet to earn his side a point which ended up sealing them a spot in the top league next season and avoiding any last week drama or heartache.

My Predictions => Actual Results:
Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea => 1-2
Stoke City 2-1 Tottenham => 1-2
Everton 2-1 West Ham => 2-0
Fulham 2-1 Liverpool => 1-3
Norwich 2-1 West Brom => 4-0
QPR 2-1 Newcastle => 1-2
Sunderland 2-1 Southampton => 1-1
Man United 2-1 Swansea => 2-1
Arsenal 2-1 Wigan => 4-1
Reading 2-1 Man City => 0-2

In case you wondered, because I forgot to predict this week, the auto-predictor set all of my predictions to 2-1. No comment...