Week 29 of the Premier League sees Leicester extend their lead at the top to five points after Spurs and Arsenal reach a stalemate in a game billed as the most important North London Derby ever.
Claudio Ranieri told pundits on Sky TV that he wanted to run ‘very, very fast’ to the Premier League title after his side moved five points clear of Spurs with victory over Watford at Vicarage Road.Only West Ham and Liverpool are experiencing a better run of form; Spurs and Arsenal are floundering, Man City are out of the picture, and the next five games against Newcastle (h), Crystal Palace (a), Southampton (h), and Sunderland (a) look like a cake walk when you consider the riches that await a club who started the season expecting to be battling relegation.
The match winner was the man likely to pick up the Premier League Player of the Year award. Riyad Mahrez smashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner in the 56th minute to bag his 16th goal of the season – he also has 11 assists.
When you consider Watford have been relegated the past three seasons they have endured in the top flight, their current pitch of 13th means they are not a team to toy with. However, a run where they have failed to find the net in five out of the last six games, gave Leicester confidence they could hold onto a victory, and hold on they did.
Leicester had the advantage of playing Watford knowing that their title rivals Spurs and Arsenal both dropped two points when they squared off in a game billed as the most important North London derby in history in the weekend’s Saturday midday fixture.
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsay gave Arsenal a 39th minute lead with an ingenious back heel before they were given an almighty headache courtesy of Francis Coquelin. The French midfielder was given his marching orders for two bookable offences, the second of which was pure madness when he sent Harry Kane sprawling by the touchline with the action going nowhere.
Spurs swarmed forward to take full advantage of Coquelin’s dismissal and were 2-1 up after two incredible minutes with a third of the second half still to play. The first was converted by Toby Alderweireld after the ball dropped kindly to him in the six-yard box after a corner. The second demonstrated why Harry Kane is slowly being talked about as world class.
With the ball seemingly heading out of play for an Arsenal goal kick by the corner flag, Delle Alli got there ahead of Per Mertesacker to backheel the ball to Kane. The England star moved menacingly to the edge of the box, picked his head up to take a picture of the Arsenal goal, and hammered a shot into the back of the net. It was a finish worthy of goal of the season.
With the goal advantage, the player advantage and knowledge that Arsenal had only won once in nine games at White Hart Lane, Spurs were heading for the top of the table. Unfortunately, Alexis Sanchez had other plans. The Chilean scoring his first goal since October to grab a point for Arsenal. Of the two teams, you have to think Spurs will be the happiest. Arsenal is now eight points behind Leicester with nine games to play. It’s quickly developing into a two-horse race.
Champions League Anyone?
West Ham looks as likely as anyone to nick a place in the Champions League after coming from two goals down to beat Everton at Goodison Park. The Hammers are now unbeaten in four, have won their last three, and are the in-form team in the Premier League.
Romelu Lukaku handed a lesson to West Ham youngster Reece Oxford when he turned him in the box to open the scoring in the 13th minute. It was Lukaku’s 18th goal of the season. Everton suffered a blow when Kevin Mirallas was sent off for two bookable offences, the first of which he received for diving. However, Everton looked like they had locked up all three points when Aaron Lennon combined beautifully with Lukaku to score his second goal in a week.
Lennon had scored in 32 Premier League games without ever being on the losing side. That record looked odds on to roll into the number 33 when Everton was handed a penalty to put them three goals to the good. Lukaku was the man. He stepped up and made a hash of it. Adrian saving with ease.
There were only 12-minutes on the clock when the West Ham revival kicked in. Predictably, Michail Antonio started the madness when his 78th-minute header thundered past Joel Robles. It was Antonio’s seventh goal of the season. Diafra Sakho headed home the equaliser three minutes later, and the clubs top scorer Dimitri Payet popped up in the box to grab a precious winner as the clock struck the 90th minute.
West Ham was able to move into fifth spot, one point behind Man City, after Man Utd failed to make it three wins on the spin away at West Brom. The Baggies are one of the flattest sides in the Premier League, but they have managed to put together a string of performances that has seen them pick up seven out of nine points before the United game.
The game seemed all over for United as early as the 25th minute -Juan Mata sent off for two silly fouls. It looked as if the game would peter out into a bore draw as both sides seemed devoid of any enterprise. Eventually, West Brom took the three points after Salomon Rondon scored in the 66th minute. Not even that goal could stop United from passing sideways and backwards. It was the first time West Brom had beaten United at home in 32 years. But then again, there has been a lot of records like that broken since Six Alex Ferguson left the sinking ship.
Down at the Bottom
Switching to the bottom end of the table and it’s safe to say the relegation battle includes Sunderland, Newcastle and Norwich. Man City handed Aston Villa their weekly whipping, and although the math says otherwise, Remi Garde’s boys are down.
On the present form, you have to say that Newcastle and Norwich will join them. Sunderland is dropping points they shouldn’t be dropping, but their performances are so much better than the other two. Also, they have a seasoned manager never relegated in Sam Allardyce. The other two look like rabbits caught in the headlights.
Sunderland so nearly came away from St Mary’s with all three points after Jermaine Defoe came off the bench to score in the 85th minute. Super sub-Defoe has now scored 23 times from the bench, more than any other player in Premier League history.
Unfortunately, Sunderland can’t keep a clean sheet. They have conceded in their past 15 matches, and sure enough, Virgil van Dijk scored with the last kick of the game to leave Allardyce and his men gutted at the final whistle.
The Black Cats will have to wait a fortnight before they are in action again, and what action that will be. Sunderland travels to St James Park to play a Newcastle side in dire straits.
“If we play like that, we will go down.” Said Newcastle boss Steve McClaren after Bournemouth nailed them to the stake.
Eddie Howe was beaming from ear to ear after his side totally dominated a Newcastle team who look like beaten men. They have only won once in their last six games. A Steven Taylor own goal, a 70th-minute hammer from Josh King, and a 92nd-minute sealer from Charlie Daniels draining the blood from McClaren’s face as he once again faced the post-match cameras with not much of anything to say.
Norwich is in free fall. Their one-nil defeat away to Swansea was their seventh in eight games. Swansea is now eight points clear of the drop zone, and you don’t see them getting sucked back down there. Norwich is doomed.
Here are the rest of the results:
Premier League Odds
Leicester’s victory at Watford moves them to 5/4 to win their first Premier League title. Spurs are 3/1, and Arsenal 5/1.
At the other end of the table, you can pick up a 1000/1 for Aston Villa to beat the drop. Norwich is 1/3, Newcastle 1/2, and Sunderland 4.7.
Week 29 Results
Spurs 2 v 2 Arsenal
Southampton 1 v 1 Sunderland
Chelsea 1 v 1 Stoke
Swansea 1 v 0 Norwich
Man City 4 v 0 Aston Villa
Newcastle 1 v 3 Bournemouth
Everton 2 v 3 West Ham
Watford 0 v 1 Leicester
Crystal Palace 1 v 2 Liverpool
West Brom 1 v 0 Man Utd
Premier League Standings (After 29 Games)
1st. Leicester – 60 pts.
2nd. Spurs – 55 pts.
3rd. Arsenal – 52 pts.
4th. Man City – 50 pts.
5th. West Ham – 49 pts.
6th. Man Utd – 47 pts.
7th. Liverpool – 44 pts.
8th. Stoke – 43 pts.
9th. Southampton – 41 pts.
10th. Chelsea – 40 pts.
11th. West Brom – 39 pts.
12th. Everton – 38 pts.
13th. Watford – 37 pts.
14th. Bournemouth – 35 pts.
15th. Crystal Palace – 33 pts.
16th. Swansea – 33 pts.
17th. Sunderland – 25 pts.
18th. Norwich – 24 pts.
19th. Newcastle – 24 pts.
20th. Aston Villa – 16 pts.