EPL Wrap-up: Villa Relegated, Aguero Dominates Chelsea

Manchester United 1-0 Aston Villa

As disappointing as Manchester United’s season has been, it’s nothing compared to what Aston Villa fans have had to put up with. The Villans have been firmly at the bottom of the table for most of the season, and their players don’t look like even want to be on the pitch. Going into Saturday’s trip to Old Trafford, Eric Black’s squad sat nine points behind Newcastle United, and a loss had the potential to mathematically relegate them with four games left to play.

The Red Devils, who had Wayne Rooney back in the starting lineup for the first time since February, dominated the early stages of the match. United looked comfortable in possession, and looked the more likely team to open up the scoring. Despite their bright play, Louis Van Gaal’s side couldn’t manage to get a shot on target.

Just after the half hour mark, the Red Devils finally found the back of the net. A beautiful long through ball from Rooney found Antonio Valencia on the right wing. The Ecuadorian played a low cross into Marcus Rashford in the penalty area and the 18-year-old just squeaked his shot past Brad Guzan. This was Rashford’s seventh goal for United in just 12 appearances and was good enough to send the Red Devils into the half with a one-goal lead.

Just like in the first half, the Red Devils began to dominate proceedings in the second and it looked like just a matter of time before another goal was added to their lead. Juan Mata drilled a tight angled shot at Guzan in the 63rd minute, but other than that United once again struggled to test the American keeper.

In the final ten minutes, Aston Villa finally came to life. Daley Blind had to deliver a goal saving tackle in the 83rd minute to deny Rudy Gestede a wide open goal. On the ensuing corner Gestede had another chance to find the back of the net, but this time his shot rang off the woodwork. David De Gea faced his toughest of the match moments later when a Cieran Clark header forced him into a diving save.

Memphis Depay came within inches of putting the dagger in Aston Villa’s season in stoppage time, but Guzan got just enough on the Dutchman’s shot to steer it onto the post. Luckily for United fans, the Red Devils were able to hold on for an unconvincing victory. For Villa’s fans, the inevitable finally came to fruition as their team was relegated to the Championship for the first time since 1987.

Chelsea 0-3 Manchester City

Sergio Aguero scores hat trick on Chelsea

Image: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Wow I really misjudged this one. I thought that Chelsea had enough talent to really test Manchester City, but apparently Guus Hiddink’s men were not up for the task. City went into the match just a point above United for the fourth spot in the table, but a win would give them a comfortable hold on the position and temporarily move them ahead of Arsenal into third. After rooting for Chelsea for just one match, I now have a small sense of the disappointment their fans have felt this year.

The onslaught almost started after just two minutes. Former Chelsea midfielder Kevin De Bruyne did well to slot a pass back to Sergio Agüero in the penalty area, but the Argentine’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Gary Cahill. The excitement would continue three minutes later when Diego Costa found himself one-on-one against Joe Hart. Hart managed to do enough to stop Costa from shooting, but the striker was able it lay if off for Pedro on the top of the box. Pedro ripped a shot on target and luckily for City fans Nicolás Otamendi was there to clear it off the line.

In the 19th minute, one of Chelsea’s youngsters, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, expertly slid past Otamendi before having his low drive palmed away by Hart. Four minutes later, De Bruyne again found himself in the danger zone, but Thibault Courtois did well to stop his one-on-one opportunity. How long before either side found the back of the net?

The wait finally ended in the 33rd minute after City sprung a lethal counter attack from Chelsea’s corner kick. De Bruyne raced past the Blues backline and then found Agüero waiting at the top of the box. Agüero’s strike took a slight deflection off of Gary Cahill before nestling into the side netting. 1-0 City.

A bright start for Chelsea to the second half was undone by another Agüero goal in the 54th minute. De Bruyne and Samir Nasri orchestrated the counter attack, and the Frenchman delivered the final ball to his Argentine teammate. Agüero made no mistakes as he curled the ball past Courtois to double City’s lead.

The big moment of drama came in the 74th minute. With Fernandinho through on goal, Courtois came sliding out for the ball. The Belgian keeper got none of the ball and completely took out the midfielder. He was promptly given a straight red card, and City were awarded a penalty. Agüero stepped up for the spot kick and sent Asmir Begovic the wrong way to secure all three points for City and a hat trick.

Agüero’s big day could prove vital for City as they now sit level on points with Arsenal, but a better goal differential gives them possession of third place in the table. The Sky Blues face a busy end to the campaign with a visit from Arsenal on the penultimate match of the season and a difficult Champions League tie with Real Madrid also crowding the calendar. For Chelsea, the hope has to be that Antonio Conte can come in next year and bring them back to title-winning form.

Leicester City 2-2 West Ham United

At the start of the season, few would’ve thought that a late fixture between West Ham and Leicester City would have any implications, other than a relegation fight for the Foxes. But as we come to the final stretch of the campaign, Leicester look destined for the title and West Ham are fighting for a place in European competition. When these two clubs met at Upton Park back in August, Leicester walked away with a 2-1 victory. Could they pull off the double against the mighty Hammers?

In the first minute of the match, West Ham came within inches of taking the lead. Dimitri Payet’s free kick found the head of Cheikhou Kouyaté, but the midfielder’s header would bounce off of both posts before Kasper Schmeichel was able to claim it. Was this destined to be Leicester’s day?

In the 18th minute, who else but Jamie Vardy would open the scoring. The English striker was played in by N’Golo Kanté before hammering home past Adrián. This would be Vardy’s 22nd goal of the season, and would just be the start of a very dramatic day for the 29-year-old. Vardy’s strike was the final action of a lackluster first half, and Leicester went into the intermission with a slim one-goal lead.

The two sides exchanged chances to start the second half with Robert Huth and Andy Carroll both unable to find the target with their headers. In the 54th minute, Shinji Okazaki’s pass rolled past an open West Ham goal and Vardy was just a fraction of a second too late to tap it home for a second goal. A minute later, Vardy looked to be through on goal again before falling to the ground against Angelo Ogbonna. Jon Moss ruled that Vardy had taken a dive and promptly awarded him his second yellow card of the match to force Leicester down to ten men with more than 30 minutes left to play.

Vardy’s sending off opened the door for West Ham to push for an equalizer, but Slaven Bilic’s side just couldn’t take advantage of their numerical superiority. It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that they had their first big chance of the half. Jon Moss was forced into another big call as he awarded West Ham a penalty after Wes Morgan brought down Winston Reid during a corner kick. Andy Carroll stepped up and sent Schmeichel the wrong way to make it 1-1, and they still had six minutes left to find another.

Three minutes later, Aaron Cresswell got the ball on the edge of the penalty area and hit a beautiful volley into the far side netting. The defender’s goal looked like it was good enough to send Leicester to its first defeat since February. It just wasn’t meant to be for the Hammers as Leicester won a penalty in the final seconds of stoppage time. Andy Carroll brought down Jefferey Schlupp and Leonardo Ulloa hammered home from the spot.

The late spot kick was a saving grace for Leicester as they fought back for a 2-2 draw. Now, the Foxes sit eight points ahead of Tottenham, but Spurs still have a game in hand. West Ham, on the other hand, continue to lose ground on Manchester United and now find themselves three points behind the Red Devils for fifth place.

 

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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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