Liverpool 1-3 Crystal Palace
Saturday was meant to be a dream Anfield sendoff for Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, but Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace had other ideas. This game marked the last time that the 34-year-old midfielder would ever step foot on the famous Anfield pitch as a Liverpool player, ending a 17-year stay at the club. Reminiscent of Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium, the Reds faithful were hoping to witness one last moment of brilliance from their captain before he set sail for the sunny shores of Los Angeles in the summer.
After a guard of honor welcomed Gerrard to the pitch, it took only 20 minutes for his side to grab the lead and set in motion what looked liked a winning sendoff. It was fellow Englishman Adam Lallana that took advantage of a defensive slip-up from Crystal Palace to put Liverpool ahead with a powerful strike past Julian Speroni. 20 minutes later, however, Palace equalized. For the second straight week, it was a Jason Puncheon free kick that put Palace on the board when his powerful effort beat Simon Mignolet from just outside the penalty area to put the sides level going into halftime.
On the hour mark, it was a former Mancheter United man that scored the eventual winner for Palace. After brilliant play from Yannick Bolasie on the right wing to cross the ball, Wilfried Zaha had an easy tap-in from inside the six-yard box and Gerrard’s winning departure started to lose traction. All of the scoring chances seemed to fall to Palace in the final stage of the match, and Bolasie was unlucky not find the back of the net when his powerful effort rocketed off the crossbar just ten minutes after Zaha’s goal. The final dagger came in the 90th minute, however, when Lucas chopped down Zaha to give the visitors a penalty. Despite an initial save by Mignolet on Glenn Murray’s spot kick, the Palace forward made no mistake in slotting in his rebound to end the game 3-1. The loss ended the slim chances of Liverpool qualifying for the Champions League and saw Gerrard leave Anfield on a losing note.
QPR 2-1 Newcastle United
On the bottom half of the table, two sides that could be seeing each other in the English Championship faced off at Loftus Road. Before the match, QPR had already been mathematically relegated from the top flight while Newcastle United sat just two points above the drop zone. Despite the guarantee of relegation, the hosts played with passion and gave their fans a winning sendoff from the Premier League, while John Carver’s Newcastle failed to secure a place outside of the bottom three.
Going into the match, the visitors had failed to win a match in their previous 10 matches, but just 23 minutes in Emmanuel Riviere put them one goal to the good. The Frenchman found himself alone in the box and put a cheeky looped effort over a helpless Robert Green in net. If Newcastle were able to hold this slim one-goal lead, they would have secured a position in the Premier League for the 2015-16 season and taken some of the heat off of Carver for the closing match. But it was not to be as QPR compounded the Magpies misery in the second half.
Less than ten minutes into the second 45 minutes, Matt Phillips got his head on the end of a Charlie Austin cross to equalize for the hosts as Newcastle started to show the form that was responsible for their ten-match winless streak. The winning goal finally came in the 60th minute courtesy of a Leroy Fer screamer. The Dutch midfielder received the ball 30-yards from goal and smashed his effort into the top corner leaving Tim Krul helpless in net. The 2-1 defeat for Newcastle means that they are still just two points out of the bottom three and require a victory or a Hull City loss next week to guarantee safety for next season.
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday was the only top four matchup of the weekend. A win for the Gunners would secure a top-three finish while also guaranteeing that United would finish fourth in the league with a Champions League qualification game coming in August. The last time these teams met at the Theater of Dreams, it was former United player Danny Welbeck that secured victory for the visitors knocking the Red Devils out of the FA Cup. Going into the match, the hosts had just ended a three-game losing skid with an unconvincing win over Crystal Palace the previous weekend while the Gunners hadn’t tasted defeat since February.
Despite the difference in form, it was United that looked the dominant side during the first 45 minutes of play. Ashley Young continued his brilliant form this season and provided the vital assist for the match’s opening goal. The winger created space on the left side and picked out a free Ander Herrera who smartly side-footed his volley past David Ospina to give United an early lead in the 30th minute. The Red Devils were unable to further capitalize on their dominant first half and went into the changing rooms up just one goal.
The poor form of United started to creep into the match during the second half as Arsene Wenger’s men began to push further up the field and create the better of the chances. Again, it was the play of David De Gea in net that kept United in the match as he denied Olivier Giroud from close range in the 63rd minute. Fear fell over United fans later in the half as their star keeper was forced off the pitch with a hamstring injury in possibly his final match at Old Trafford as rumored interest from Real Madrid intensifies with each day. This gave former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes his debut with United but the Spanish keeper was unable to secure victory for his new side. A deflected Theo Walcott cross left Valdes completely helpless as a Tyler Blackett own goal equalized for the visitors. The 1-1 draw nearly guarantees United will finish fourth in the league barring an Arsenal collapse in their final two matches of the season.