Prem Picks: Reds shine without Suarez

Sunday 28th April 2013 23:40

Robin van Persie: Scored on return to Arsenal

Robin van Persie: Scored on return to Arsenal

TEAMtalk looks at the talking points from the weekend's Premier League action which saw Reading and QPR relegated, and Liverpool win big.

Arsenal 1 Man United 1

Jack Woodfield

Manchester United were closing in on Chelsea's all-time Premier League points tally coming into Sunday's game, but they were denied by an exceptional Arsenal side who arguably deserved all three points.

Having taken the lead on two minutes courtesy of Theo Walcott, an act of madness from Bacary Sagna undid all of Arsenal's good work in the first half, with Robin van Persie converting a penalty having been fouled by his former team-mate.

The second half proved far more even, with Phil Jones and Laurent Koscielny immense for their respective sides as both sets of the defences emerged largely dominant over the attacking forces on the pitch.

United will not be too aggrieved at losing the chance to break the points record, but Arsenal will be boosted massively by this performance, despite the result, which should provide some momentum as they vie with Tottenham for a place in the Premier League's top four.

Reading 0 QPR 0

Oliver Bell

Reading and QPR showed why their immediate future lies in the Championship as they played out a bore draw to confirm relegation for both clubs. Although there was little chance of either staying up with a victory, neither showed the passion or ability to deserve to extend their slim hopes.

Esteban Granero went closest for the visitors, with his curling free-kick clipping the bar, while Sean Morrison was denied a late winner by a good save from Robert Green, who tipped over the bar. It was an otherwise toothless affair, with Adel Taarabt guilty of missing a number of good opportunities for the away side.

The focus will now be on their life in the Championship. Tony Fernandes and Harry Redknapp have plenty to think about with several players on high wages with long contracts, while their hopes of keeping Loic Remy seem slight. Reading will feel optimistic of their chances of an immediate return, having recruited a proven lower league manager and spent economically since their promotion.

Chelsea 2 Swansea City 0

Steve Pass

Chelsea staked their claim for a UEFA Champions League place with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Swansea City.

Frank Lampard proved the inspiration for the Blues when he came on for the injured Ramires in the 24th minute at Stamford Bridge.

His introduction immediately lifted the crowd and the veteran went on to provide the goal assist for Oscar's opener before himself scoring from the spot in first-half injury time to notch his 201st goal for the club - one short of Bobby Tambling's Chelsea record.

While some of the Chelsea faithful will question why the England international was not on the pitch from the start, the victory sees Rafael Bentiez's side move up to third in the table.

Now four games unbeaten, the Blues seem to be hitting form at the right time ahead of a week where they take on Basel for a place in the Europa League final followed by a trip to champions Manchester United.

For Swansea, the defeat worryingly extended their winless run to six games, with just one victory now since their historic Capital One Cup win back in February.

But on the plus side, defender Neil Taylor made his long-awaited return to first-team action following the horrific ankle injury which had sidelined him since September.

Man City 2 West Ham 1

Jack Woodfield

One has to wonder how much different the Premier League title race could have been if Manchester City played each game as they did on Saturday against West Ham.

The scoreline may have read 2-1, but City were exceptional going forward, scoring two sensational goals, one a team effort finished by Sergio Aguero and the other a sensational strike from Yaya Toure.

With second place now City's aim for the season, it was refreshing to see their stars put in a solid shift all over the park, with captain Vincent Kompany immense as he recaptured some of his form from last season.

West Ham were far from overwhelmed, and deserved a goal for their efforts. Their attention will already be on rebuilding for next season and, with some quality signings, Europe could be the target for next year's campaign.

For City, this was a performance that will have Wigan worried ahead of the FA Cup final and it would take a brave man to bet against Roberto Mancini's team on May 11.

Everton 1 Fulham 0

Rachel Griffiths

Everton boss David Moyes lamented his side's failure to turn dominance into goals after their 1-0 win over Fulham and there was certainly the feeling they could have won by a greater margin at Goodison Park.

But while the end product may not have been forthcoming, the Toffees showed some wonderful moments of build-up play, with goalscorer Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines linking up brilliantly once again on the left, while Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas were also involved in much of their attacking movement.

The sole goal of the encounter was a result of some of that easy-on-the-eye build-up as Mirallas and Leon Osman combined to slip the ball neatly to Seamus Coleman, whose cut-back allowed Pienaar to apply a composed finish.

Everton's hopes of securing a UEFA Champions League spot may be slim, but they were boosted by Saturday's three points and Tottenham dropping two points at Wigan, with a fourth-placed finish still achievable.

The most Fulham have to play for this season is a top-10 finish and the Cottagers didn't look up for the clash at Goodison, contributing a lacklustre display in the opening half. They picked up after the break but the match ultimately ended as it had started - with Everton in control.

One highlight of a forgettable afternoon for Fulham, however, was the performance of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who pulled off some fine saves to prevent the visitors conceding more on Merseyside, most notably when he denied substitute Ross Barkley with a quick-thinking block late on.

Southampton 0 West Brom 3

Pete Hall

What a turn up for the books. The Baggies travelled to the south coast with only three wins in 2013, and faced a Saints side who were unbeaten in their previous six outings.

However, the formidable sight of Romelu Lukaku was the difference between the sides, as Mauricio Pochettino's men just could not cope with the giant Belgian's pace and power.

It was all too easy for the visitors, who broke down the Southampton rearguard on a regular basis. They played some of their best football of the season, with the front three all getting on the scoresheet, as well as getting involved in link-up play.

Ill-discipline was the problem for the young Saints, who needlessly had two men sent off when they should have been trying to mount a comeback.

They will learn however and should be pleased with their season, and must quickly put this lacklustre display to the back of their minds, whilst the Baggies will be starting to think of ways they can scrape together enough to keep hold of that 19-year-old powerhouse upfront.

Stoke 1 Norwich 0

Adam Bate

Just as concern was growing in the Potteries, Tony Pulis has picked up the points to all but ensure another season of Premier League football for Stoke City.

As ever, this wasn't the prettiest of performances but there can be no denying that Stoke were the better team against Norwich on Saturday.

In a stop-start contest, Norwich appeared to play into Stoke's hands by lofting a series of crosses into the box - not a sensible policy when Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross are the centre-backs and Asmir Begovic is in goal.

At the other end, for all their direct play, it was Stoke that showed the greater variety of attacking threat with goalscorer Charlie Adam the key to their success.

"He's the one who has got a bit of guile about him," said Paul Merson on Soccer Saturday. He wasn't wrong - and with Adam back on form, Stoke fans can be optimistic about the future once again.

Wigan 2 Tottenham 2

Mark Buckingham

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was left aggrieved by the decision to award Tottenham a late free-kick from which Emmerson Boyce's own goal arrived and it was a fair gripe considering Kyle Walker clearly fouled Jean Beausejour before falling to the ground himself.

How much of an impact those two dropped points will have on Wigan's Premier League status will be discovered over the next few weeks, but Martinez's side continue to show enough to suggest they can catch one of their relegation rivals.

Callum McManaman continues to improve with each appearance and scored a stunning goal to put Wigan in front after half-time, but losing Maynor Figueroa to injury at a time when Antolin Alcaraz is also sidelined could damage Wigan's survival prospects.

Martinez also has to decide whether to stick with goalkeeper Joel, who was staggeringly careless in gifting Spurs the opening goal and he then almost presented the visitors with a late winner when he chose to parry Gareth Bale's free-kick straight to Tom Huddlestone.

Spurs' UEFA Champions League hopes suffered a dent with the draw, but the meeting with Chelsea next month is going to be the decisive game in the battle for a top-four finish.

Bale was monitored closely by the Wigan defence and rarely found space in which to roam, while Jermain Defoe didn't look as sharp from the start as he had when coming off the bench against Manchester City last weekend.

The severity of the injury to Mousa Dembele could hinder Spurs on the run-in as there was a surprising lack of creativity about their play at the DW Stadium.

Newcastle 0 Liverpool 6

Peter Fraser

This is now a true test of Alan Pardew's managerial ability. Everything went right for the Newcastle boss last season but he has had the opposite luck in this campaign. He blamed injuries in his pre-match programme notes but is running out of excuses. His team lacked organisation and, more worryingly, spirit. Pardew is quickly losing the backing of Newcastle's fans and the club are in serious relegation danger. Some of Pardew's January signings are also seemingly unaware of the gravity of their situation, particularly Massadio Haidara and Mathieu Debuchy, who was sent off.

All the build-up to the game focused on the absence of Luis Suarez from the Liverpool line-up as the striker began his 10-match suspension. But a 6-0 scoreline suggests he was not missed too much. After a superb season from a goalscoring perspective, Suarez had been looking tired over Liverpool's last few games. The refreshed attacking partnership between Man of the Match Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge therefore provides plenty of encouragement. Coutinho was superb in the hole behind Sturridge. Although, he was offered the freedom of St James' Park by a wretched Newcastle defence and whether the Brazilian can stand up to the rigours of the approaching Merseyside derby remains to be seen.



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