EPL Wrap-up: Leicester Lift Trophy After Routing Everton

Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea

The most disappointing season of recent memory for Chelsea fans is finally coming to a close. In reality, the Blues have nothing left to fight for with European qualification out of reach, and any chance at silverware long gone. Even with the apparent lack of motivation, Chelsea were coming off of a thrilling 2-2 draw against Tottenham that sealed the title for Leicester City and it looked as if they would finish this season in style. Sunderland didn’t get that message apparently. The Black Cats were fighting to stay in the Premier League, and a win would see them move a point clear of the relegation zone with a game-in-hand. Could Sam Allardyce pull off another escape act?

Chelsea looked like a team that was challenging for silverware in the opening stages of the match, and it wouldn’t be long before they found the opener. Four minutes after Willian’s shot, Diego Costa beat Mannone at the near post. A bit of interplay between the Spanish striker and Gary Cahill opened up a yard of space at a tight angle, and Costa did just well enough to sneak it past Sunderland’s keeper to give his side an early lead.

While it would’ve been easy for Sunderland to lose their spirit after conceding early, the Black Cats started to push back for an equalizer. In the 26th minute, US international DeAndre Yedlin got on the end of a cross at the far post, but couldn’t find a way past Thibault Courtois. Five minutes before the end of the half, Sunderland finally found the back of the net. A failure to clear from Chelsea saw the ball bouncing around the edge of the penalty area and Wahbi Khazri was there to hammer home an absolute beauty. Sunderland 1-1 Chelsea.

Khazri’s wondergoal looked like it was going to send the sides into the break deadlocked at 1-1. Nemanja Matic decided to change that. In the final seconds of injury time, the Serbian midfielder found himself one-on-one with Mannone after a headed pass from César Azpilicueta. Matic took a touch and then slotted home through the keeper’s legs to give Chelsea a narrow lead going into the second half.

Diego Costa should have doubled the lead on the hour mark, but Mannone came out strong and denied the Spanish striker with an important block. Costa’s mistake would come back to bite Chelsea just six minutes later thanks to one of their former strikers. Patrick Van Aanholt did well to pick out Fabio Borini on the top of the penalty area from the left wing, and the Italian got just enough on his shot to overpower Courtois. The Belgian keeper got a touch on the shot, but it just wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the net, and now Sunderland found themselves on level terms.

It would take just three more minutes for Sunderland to take the lead. With Chelsea looking out of sorts in defense, the Black Cats pounced with Jermaine Defoe delivering the final touch. DeAndre Yedlin’s cross found its way through the penalty area and Defoe was at the end of it to deliver a cannon of a volley past Courtois. Sunderland now sat with an unexpected lead and had 20 minutes to defend it.

Defoe’s goal would prove to be the difference as Sunderland held on for all three points. The defeat would go from bad to worse for Chelsea as a late foul earned John Terry a second yellow card and a sending off. For the winners, Big Sam and his club now sit one point out of the relegation zone with a game-in-hand on their nearest competitors Norwich City.

Leicester City 3-1 Everton

Leicester

Image: Tom Jenkins for the Observer

Where were you when Leicester City won the title? I was studying for exams so it wasn’t all that exciting for me. After Eden Hazard’s wonder strike to steal two points away from Tottenham last weekend, the Foxes were officially crowned champions of England to finish one of the most most illogical fairytales in sports history. On Saturday, Claudio Ranieri’s side would play host to Everton, but after the match, regardless of the result, they would finally lift the trophy in front of their home fans. Would the wait for celebrations take any of their focus away from the match?

To answer that; no, it would not. After walking out to a guard of honor from Everton, it would take just five minutes for Leicester to grab the lead and who else would would you expect to score? Fresh off of his suspension, Jamie Vardy got on the end of Andy King’s cross for an easy tap-in past Joel Robles. 1-0 Leicester.

Leicester’s historic day would continue to get better as they doubled their lead in the 32nd minute. A great bit of skill from Riyad Mahrez on the right wing forced Leighton Baines into a tackle which would end up finding King in the middle of the box. King hit a first time shot past Robles and gave the Foxes a deserved two-goal lead. King has been with Leicester his entire career and has helped them win a League One, Championship and now a Premier League title so the goal would’ve meant a lot to the 27-year-old.

It seemed like it just wasn’t Everton’s day as they struggled to surpass the champions. In the 64th minute, Matthew Pennington took out Vardy in the area and gave Leicester the chance to put the nail in the coffin from the spot. Vardy took the chance and hammered home to Robles’ right. 3-0 Leicester.

Five minutes later, Leicester would again have the chance to add to their lead from the spot after a rash challenge from Darren Gibson on Jeffrey Schlupp. This time, Vardy couldn’t find the back of the net. The English striker hit a venomous strike, but it just kept rising as it sailed towards the crowd and over the net.

A late bit of skill from Kevin Mirallas gave Everton a goal in the 88th minute, but it was just a consolation goal at that point. When the final whistle blew, Leicester were the victors by a score of 3-1 and could now lift their well-deserved trophy. The scenes at the King Power Stadium were magical, and it’s unlikely that we will ever see such an unlikely winner of the league ever again.

Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal

With the title now out of reach, the only thing left to fight for at the top of the table are the Champions League places. Sunday, the third place and fourth place teams in the table locked horns in a potentially pivotal match. Arsenal went into the match with a three-point lead on Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini, in what was his last home game as manager of City, was in need of a good result after Manchester United won at Norwich on Saturday. United’s result meant that anything but a win against Arsenal would take European qualifications out of City’s hands with the Red Devils having a game-in-hand on their bitter rivals. In this clash of giants, who would come out on top?

Following the apparent trend of the weekend, Sergio Agüero gave City the lead in the 8th minute. The Argentine striker easily slid past his defender before hitting a precision strike into the bottom corner. Agüero’s goal meant that the striker had now scored in each of his last six Premier League games, and it was good enough to give City a one-goal lead.

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Arsenal clawed their way right back into the match. In the ninth minute, Gaël Clichy came within inches of scoring a disastrous own goal from Olivier Giroud’s cross, but the ball rolled just wide of the post. From the ensuing corner, Giroud was there to head home and now Arsenal found themselves on level terms.

After Giroud’s goal, City began to dominate proceedings in the match. Agüero was the focal point of the hosts’ attack with his skill on the ball causing Arsenal’s defense all kinds of problems. For the remainder of the half, Arsenal looked incapable of generating any attacking pressure as City continued to press for a second goal. They would have to wait for the second half as Arsenal did just enough to go into the intermission tied 1-1.

It would take just six minutes into the second half for City to grab their deserved second goal. This time, it was Kevin De Bruyne who found the back of the net. The Belgian’s run from the middle of the pitch came under little pressure from Arsenal’s defenders and he punished them dearly. A low shot managed to sneak by Petr Cech at the near post and now Arsenal found themselves with a one-goal deficit.

Theo Walcott had a great chance to equalize in the 67th minute, but his touch took him too close to Joe Hart and the English keeper was able to do just enough to force Walcott into shooting it wide. Luckily for Walcott and the rest of Arsenal, Alexis Sánchez would find the back of the net less than a minute later. An excellent layoff from Giroud put the ball on a tee for Sánchez right on the edge of the area, and the Chilean made no mistake as he hammered home past Hart. How important could that goal end up being in the race for the top four?

The 2-2 draw means that City now sit just two points ahead of United and must hope that their rivals drop points in their next two fixtures if they hope to make into the top four. Perhaps even more disappointing for City was the fact that a large portion of the fans left the match before Manuel Pellegrini’s goodbye speech, leaving the manager who won them a Premier League title, two League Cups and earned them a spot in their first ever Champions League semi-final to speak to a nearly empty stadium. Pellegrini would later say that if City failed to qualify for Europe next season it was the next manager’s problem, not his.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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