Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool
You couldn’t pick two worse games for Liverpool to lose back-to-back. Fans were looking for a light at the end of the tunnel after they saw their aging icon Steven Gerrard get sent off within one minute of coming on against Manchester United in a heart breaking 2-1 loss, but Saturday would provide no such comfort. In a game that was basically a must-win matchup for the Reds to stay in the Champions League discussion, the world came crashing down around the team from Merseyside.
It was almost a dream start, however, as Raheem Sterling’s lunging foot fell came inches short of finding the end of a Lazar Marković cross in the 19th minute to put the visitors ahead. The first half hour of the match saw both sides fail to establish dominance, and both goalies went untested. Finally, 20-year-old Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin weaved his way into the penalty area and hit a calculated curling effort past Simon Mignolet in the 37th minute to put the hosts ahead. But the bleeding was only just beginning, less than three minutes later Mesüt Ozil doubled the Gunners’ lead with a highlight reel free kick from over 20-yards-out.
Just as Liverpool fans were beginning to accept their two-goal deficit to go into the half, Alexis Sanchez scored the best goal of the match with a dipping from just outside the 18-yard-box. The first half ended with Liverpool behind 3-0. A consolation goal came for the visitors in the 76th minute from the penalty spot, but a late Olivier Giroud goal restored the three-goal deficit. Emre Can also continued the Reds streak of ending the match with 10-men as a reckless challenge in the 84th minute saw him get a second yellow. The result pushed Arsenal up to second in the table and saw the gap between Liverpool and the Champions League stretch to seven points.
Chelsea 2-1 Stoke City
Can we just give Chelsea the trophy now, or do we actually have to wait until May? The mighty Blues were holding onto a commanding seven point lead going into this round of fixtures, and had a game in hand to add to any competitor’s misery. The stage seemed to be set for the league leaders to temporarily extend their lead to ten points as they played host to Stoke City, who sat in 10th place, Saturday afternoon. Jose Mourinho’s men immediately asserted their dominance on the match as Asmir Begović had to sprawl to deny Loic Remy’s goal bound effort in just the third minute. The Chelsea control continued and a well-worked series of passes found Oscar open in the middle of the box, but the Brazilian pushed his effort just wide.
In the 38th minute, a rash sliding challenge from Phillipp Wollscheid on Cesc Fábregas on the end line gave Chelsea a chance to finally push ahead from the spot. Eden Hazard calmly stepped up and passed his shot into the middle of the net as Begović helplessly dove to his left. Stoke would’ve considered themselves lucky to go into the dressing rooms only trailing by one, but Charlie Adam had different plans. With possibly the goal of the season, the former Liverpool player caught Thibault Courtois off his line and hammered a drive from his own half over the Belgian keeper and equalized for the Potters going into the half.
Begović was a busy man once again in the final 45 minutes, and was forced into a fingertip save from Eden Hazard just two minutes into the half. The Bosnian goalkeeper’s otherwise amazing performance was all forgotten in the 62nd minute when his poor distribution immediately put Chelsea on the attack. There is a reason the Blues are on top of the table as they clinically found Remy in the middle of the box to put Chelsea up for good. The 2-1 victory maintained the London-side’s dominant lead in the table, and now it’s just a race for second place.
Crystal Palace 2-1 Manchester City
The only thing I like more than a United win is a City loss. At the beginning of March, Manchester City sat in second place and was only five points behind Chelsea in a tight title race. However, losses to Burnley and Liverpool have cost the Citizens their already slim title chances. Victories for Arsenal and Manchester United over the weekend had Manuel Pelligrini’s side forced all the way down to their lowest position of the campaign, fourth, before there vital match against Crystal Palace who sat in 12th.
City’s nightmare March almost got an early start in April as former United-winger Wilfried Zaha smashed his first minute chance over the bar from six yards out. The Sky Blues almost silenced the Selhurt Park faithful ten minutes later as Julian Speroni misjudged a long ball that eventually found David Silva at the top of the box. Speroni made up for the error, however, as his reflex denied the Spanish midfielder the opening goal. The push from the visitors continued as star man Sergio Agüero struck his effort against the woodwork in the 19th minute. First blood came to the hosts after Joe Hart did well to redirect Scott Dann’s close-range effort, but the ensuing rebound fell to Glenn Murray just a yard from the net. The forward made no mistake and buried his effort to give the hosts the lead.
Crystal Palace added onto City’s first half woes just two minutes into the second half when James Puncheon curled his free kick up and over the wall to put the hosts up 2-0. The two-goal deficit lit a fire under the visitors as they upped the pressure for the remainder of the match. A three-minute span in the 70th minute saw City denied a handball appeal in the box, and then James McArthur nearly redirect a cross into his own net only to fly inches high of the crossbar. City finally got on the board in the 77th minute when Yaya Toure hammered his effort into the side netting. The goal was too little too late and Palace held on for a 2-1 victory. This defeat may have been Pellegrini’s last chance to save his career at the Etihad, and City fans will be looking for a momentum shifting win next weekend at United. City now sit fourth in the table and nine points behind league leaders Chelsea.