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April 19, 2010

Suddenly everything’s to play for again

Well, who would have believed it?    Just one week after both the English and Spanish top divisions looked more or less safely won, everything is up in the air again.

Manchester United, for the third time this season, defeated their City rivals thanks to an injury time goal – just as the body language of even some of their own players was full of despair.    Never write off Paul Scholes, though, and the little midfielder celebrated the signing of a new contract by heading an unbelievable winner in the 93rd minute.       This might all have been irrelevant, though, if Chelsea had managed to win their own local derby at White Hart Lane against Tottenham.    Few pundits really thought that Spurs could play with the intensity they displayed against Arsenal in midweek but Harry Redknapp’s side certainly did, almost overwhelming Chelsea early on.    First half goals from Defoe (penalty) and the amazing Gareth Bale were the least Spurs deserved.   By the time Lampard pulled a goal back in injury time, Chelsea’s problems had been compounded by the reckless sending off of skipper John Terry.    With just one point between the sides again, the title race is clearly far from over.

Arsenal, however, can now finally feel that their part in the challenge is complete.    Seemingly coasting at 2 – 0 away at Wigan thanks to goals from Walcott and Silvestre, the Gunners completely imploded in the final 10 minutes when strikes from Watson, Bramble (thanks to an horrendous goalkeeping error) and N’Zogbia meant that Wigan almost certainly secured their Premier League place for next season as well as finishing Arsenal’s title chances.

The race for the fourth Champions’ League place looks to be between Manchester City and Spurs, although Aston Villa still kept their faint hopes alive with a 2-1 success at Portsmouth.   After the relegated side had taken an early lead through Michael Brown’s first goal for the club, Villa replied with strikes from Carew and Delfouneso – his first ever Premier League goal.

Blackburn suffered a rare home defeat to in-form Everton, even though they scored two spectacular long range efforts from Nzonzi and Roberts.   Everton replied through Arteta (penalty), Yakubu (just 22 seconds after coming on as substitute) and Tim Cahill (with his first non-headed goal of the season).

Bolton edged further away from the drop zone with a 2-1 victory at Stoke, thanks to two late Taylor efforts, and Sunderland defeated struggling Burnley by the same score, with yet another goal from Darren Bent.    The games between Birmingham and Hull and Fulham and Wolves were goalless, although the point gained by Hull might just prove to be invaluable if they can find a victory from somewhere before the end of the season.

With just three games left for most teams, then, the table has Chelsea with 77 points from 35 games, Manchester United with 76 (35), Arsenal 71 (35), Spurs 64 (34), Manchester City 62 (34), Aston Villa 58 (34) and Liverpool 56 (34).    At the wrong end of the table, Portsmouth have 15 points from 35 games, Burnley 27 (35), Hull 28 (34) and West Ham 31 (34).

La Liga

The situation in La Liga is just as tense – just one week after Barcelona looked to have wrapped things up.   Their goalless draw away at neighbours Espanyol, in which full back Dani Alves was sent off, enabled Real Madrid to cut the gap between the sides to one point again.    Madrid were faced with one of their toughest final challenges against third placed Valencia and, although both Mata and Silva hit the woodwork for the visitors, Pellegrini’s side were generally in control of the game and won thanks to goals from the almost inevitable Higuaín and Ronaldo.

Sevilla, who have still to host Barcelona, regained fourth spot with a 3-0 defeat of Sporting; the goals coming from Kanouté, Luis Fabiano and the promising young Juan Cala.    Villarreal’s push for a European place continued thanks to a 2-1 success against Atlético but perhaps the best of the remaining results was Tenerife’s 3-2 win over Getafe, with local lad Nino scoring a possibly invaluable hat-trick.    Xerez and Racing shared 4 goals and the matches between Málaga and Valladolid, Deportivo and Almería and Athletic and Zaragoza were all goalless.

The top of La Liga, therefore, after week 33, has Barcelona with 84 points, Real Madrid with 83, Valencia 59, Sevilla 54, Mallorca (who play on Monday) 52 and Villarreal and Athletic with 49.    At the bottom of the table, where everything has looked inevitable for several months, suddenly Tenerife can see the chance of pulling off the Great Escape.    Xerez have 27 points, Valladolid 29, Tenerife 32, Málaga 33 and Zaragoza 34.    We can see that, with five weekends left, there are some vital and fascinating matches still left before this intriguing season is finally over.

Posted by admin @ 11:20 am
Category: Premier League

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