In this week’s Premier League Review it’s a case of ‘as you are’ as both Leicester and Spurs pick up vital wins against Sunderland and Man Utd in the most exciting Premier League race in history.
It was a crucial game.
When these two squared off at the beginning of the season, Leicester City were 5,000-1 to win the Premier League. Even when they won 4-2, the odds didn’t change. And why should they? There was no way on earth that Leicester City could win the Premier League.
Leicester trotted out against a Sunderland side desperate for the points with an unchanged team for the fifth game on the bounce. Claudio Ranieri, once nicknamed the ‘Tinker Man’ because of his consistent tinkering with his Chelsea side, has fielded the same team for 15 of this season’s Premier League games.
Success is so often so simple.
Wes Morgan, the darling of their one-nil home win at Southampton last week, took up the temporary role as the villain when he headed wide from six yards when it was easier to score. Then we had three penalty shouts: two for Leicester and one for Sunderland – the referee decided to keep his whistle in his top pocket for all three.
And then in the 66th minute, it was another simple moment that led to the opening goal for Ranieri’s men. Danny Drinkwater finding some space in his own half to lob the ball over the top for the onrushing Jamie Vardy, and Leicester’s top marksman bore down on goal and curled his 21st goal of the season past Vito Mannone.
Was it going to be their fifth one-nil win on the spin?
When Sunderland’s Jack Rodwell found himself staring at a gaping net, six yards from goal, it seemed for all the world that Kasper Schmeichel would eventually concede. However, the former England darling blasted his chance over the bar along with the early promise he showed in his career.
With Sunderland wasting chances, it was left to Jamie Vardy to show them how it’s done. With the seconds ticking away, Vardy out-muscled the defender slipped the ball past Mannone and tapped it into the back of the net.
Leicester has now gone 8hrs 10 mins without conceding a goal. The victory secured their Champions League spot for the first time in the club’s history. They are only three more wins away from the most amazing of title victories.
Over to you, Spurs.
Spurs Hang to Those Coat Tails
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side started their match against Man Utd knowing that they were 10-points behind Leicester, and hadn’t won at home against United since May 2001. To put things into perspective, United have visited White Hart Lane 14 times during that timespan and Harry Kane was only seven the last time Spurs finished a match with three points.
Things are different these days. The tables have not just turned. They have been smashed to pieces. Spurs are the rampant all-attacking side that has fans drooling in the stands. The only drooling coming from United fans lips is after their team has put them to sleep with their mundane ‘philosophy’.
United stubbornly held out until the 70th minute, mainly in part down to a fantastic defensive performance from young Timothy Fosu-Mensah, and it was no coincidence that his substitution, through injury, kick-started United’s demise.
First, Delle Alli scored a tap in after a beauty of a cross from Christian Erikson; Toby Alderweireld made it two four minutes later after dispatching an Erik Lamela free kick into the back of the net, and it was Lamela himself rounding things off in the 76th minute after an exquisite slide rule cross by Danny Rose.
Leicester isn’t dropping points, but Spurs just don’t seem to want to go away.
Man City Inch Forward in Champions League Race
United’s capitulation at White Hart Lane gave Man City the opportunity to stretch their lead over their Manchester rivals to four points with victory over West Brom.
It’s unusual for Tony Pulis’s side to record a shot on target in 90-minutes, so you can imagine the silence that rained down the Etihad stands after Stephane Sessegnon beat Joe Hart at his near post with a fierce strike in the sixth minute.
Fortunately, for Man City, they had 84-minutes to sort things out and sort them out they did. Sergio Aguero scored his 18th Premier League goal of the season from the penalty spot in the 19th minute, and a Samir Nasri tap-in sealed the points in the 66th minute.
City’s day was made even better after West Ham were held to a 3-3 draw at home to Arsenal. Andy Carroll started a match for the first time in January and repaid his manager’s faith in him by scoring an outstanding hat-trick after going two goals down to Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. The time between his first and his last was only 7 min 14 secs apart. Laurent Koscielny salvaged a point for Arsene Wenger’s men with a 70th-minute equalizer.
Crystal Palace Crawl Out of the Relegation Battle
I think we can safely say that Crystal Palace is out of the relegation battle after winning their first game of 2016 in a vital home match against a revitalized Norwich side who had picked up seven points in their last three games.
Jason Puncheon scoring the only goal of the game in the 68th minute before crying by the corner flag. You can’t blame him. It was Palace’s first win in 15 Premier League games. Norwich has only kept one clean sheet in 17 away games this season and is right back in the thick of it after this result.
Fortunately, for Norwich, the three teams below them also remained in the quicksand. Sunderland lost to Leicester, and the only reason Aston Villa wasn’t relegated after their defeat to Bournemouth was because everyone around them failed to win including Newcastle, who were beaten 3-1 away at Southampton. Only a miracle is going to see Rafa Benitez pulled something out of that particular black and white hat.
Here are the rest of the results:
West Ham 3 v 3 Arsenal
Swansea 1 v 0 Chelsea
Crystal Palace 1 v 0 Norwich
Southampton 3 v 1 Newcastle
Watford 1 v 1 Everton
Aston Villa 1 v 2 Bournemouth
Man City 2 v 1 West Brom
Sunderland 0 v 2 Leicester
Spurs 3 v 0 Man Utd
Liverpool 4 v 1 Stoke
Premier League Title Winning Odds (Courtesy of Bodog)
Champions League Qualification Odds
Leicester already qualified
Man City -400
Man Utd +300
Premier League Relegation Odds (To Join Aston Villa)
Premier League Standings (After 33 Games)
1st. Leicester – 72 pts.
2nd. Spurs – 65 pts.
3rd. Arsenal – 59 pts.
4th. Man City – 57 pts.
5th. Man Utd – 53 pts.
6th. West Ham – 52 pts.
7th. Southampton – 50 pts.
8th. Liverpool – 48 pts.
9th. Stoke – 47 pts.
10th. Chelsea – 44 pts.
11th. Bournemouth – 41 pts.
12th. Swansea – 40 pts.
13th. West Brom – 38 pts.
14th. Everton – 39 pts.
15th. Watford – 38 pts.
16th. Crystal Palace – 37 pts.
17th. Norwich – 31 pts.
18th. Sunderland – 27 pts.
19th. Newcastle – 25 pts.
20th. Aston Villa – 16 pts.