This was a weekend, which was about recovering ground while the leaders were away, with Man United set to take on neighbours Man City at the New Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Arsenal yet again failed at precisely that, and are left six points adrift of the table-toppers, after a pulsating draw against Liverpool at the Emirates. Chelsea did well to bounce back from their midweek European disappointment with an assured performance against Roy Hodgson’s West Brom. Wigan were the winners at the wrong end of the table as they registered a crucial away win at Bloomfield Road to compound Blackpool’s problems. In other games, West Ham lost to Aston Villa at home to remain embroiled in the relegation quagmire, while Everton and Birmingham defeated Blackburn and Sunderland respectively by a two goals to nil scoreline.
Match of the Weekend
Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
Seldom is a game which ends in a 1-1 scoreline gets a mention in this category; however, such was the dramatic end to this match and the character shown by Liverpool that this game has forced its way ahead of the other contenders. The first half was dominated by Arsenal, who in their trademark style enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. A fabulous Koscielny header from an Arsenal corner, which rebounded off the post, was the closest the Gunners came to scoring in the first half. An early injury to Aurelio forced Kenny to bring on 17-year old Jack Robinson to play at left-back and counter the threat posed by Walcott and Eboue. Liverpool already had John Flalagan at right-back and Jay Spearing playing in the middle of the park, and the addition of Jack was expected to make the going a bit easier for Arsenal.
The second half began in disastrous circumstances for Liverpool as first Carroll and then Captain Carragher collapsed on the pitch. While Carroll was able to shake off his injury, Carragher had to be stretchered off after colliding with Flalagan. Amidst all this, Liverpool continued to persevere, and such was the performance of the two young full-backs that the threat from the flanks was completely neutralised, and Arsenal looked to attack from the centre.
After a solid performance for over 90 minutes, Spearing conceded a penalty deep into injury-time, and after van Persie converted from the spot, it looked as if Liverpool’s efforts would count for nothing. However, it was not to be, as the referee awarded a controversial penalty to Liverpool in the 100th minute of the game, and Kuyt smashed the ball home, amidst widespread protests. It was truly one of the most dramatic games of this campaign.
Star of the Weekend
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
The Chelsea talisman returned to the starting line-up, after Ancelotti had received a lot of flak, from fans and media alike, for ignoring the Ivorian and starting with the misfiring Fernando Torres in the Champions League quarter-final loss at Old Trafford. Whether it was eagerness to show his worth or release his pent up anger, the 33-year old Chelsea forward went on to deliver a man of the match performance and powered the Blues to a comforting away win again in-form West Brom. He scored Chelsea’s equalizer and then played a defining role in the other two goals as well. After a sub-standard season, partially due to illness, it’s intriguing to see that it took a certain signing to finally get the centre-forward firing on all cylinders.
Goal of the Weekend
Peter Odemwingie v Chelsea FC
West Bromwich Albion’s first goal against Chelsea came from a sublime finish from in-form striker Odemwingie, who chipped the ball past an onrushing Cech to give an early lead to his team.
Embarrassment of the Weekend
Simon Mignolet v Birmingham
In the 41st minute of the game, a long clearance by Foster fell to Jerome, who released Larsson through on goal. The Sunderland goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, signalled to Bardsley to refrain from clearing the ball as he would claim the ball but failed to reach the ball ahead of Larsson and embarrassingly played a crucial role in Birmingham’s first goal at St. Andrews.
A dishonourable mention in this category goes to Nickey Shorey, who rather than clearing the ball, presented a perfectly measured pull back for Didier Drogba to score Chelsea’s first goal.
Controversy of the Weekend
In the last few seconds of the game at the Emirates Stadium, the referee first came into spotlight for awarding a free-kick rather than a penalty to Liverpool for a foul committed excruciatingly close to the line. Then after the resulting free-kick from Suarez was blocked, Eboue single-handedly ensured that the match would end in a draw, which was a fair result considering the performances of both the teams. However, to be fair to the player, the penalty was indeed a soft one, as Lucas went down too easily.
Sigh, not again.
It was pandemonium on the touch line, as Wenger was expectedly frustrated and had a few words to say to Kenny Dalglish and to the officials. Kenny was not amused and said something, which the FA does not like.
Team of the Weekend
Ben Foster (Birmingham City), John Flanagan (Liverpool), Roger Johnson (Birmingham City), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Jack Robinson (Liverpool), Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Leon Osman (Everton), Charles N’Zogbia (Wigan Athletic), Didier Drogba (Chelsea), Hugo Rodallega (Wigan).
Race for the Golden Boot
Dimitar Berbatov – 21
Carlos Tevez – 19
Darren Bent – 14
Andy Carroll -13
Robin van Persie -13
Birmingham 2-0 Sunderland
Everton 2-0 Blackburn Rovers
Blackpool 1-3 Wigan Athletic
West Bromwich Albion 1-3 Chelsea
West Ham United 1-2 Aston Villa
Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool
FA Cup Semi-finals: Manchester City and Stoke City reach the final
Man City prevailed over bitter rivals Man City to reach the final of the FA Cup, on the back of a match-winning performance from Yaya Toure, who scored the only goal of the match in the second half, after a mistake from Michael Carrick. City, despite all their riches, are still looking for their first silverware in 37 years, and were the desperate of the two sides at Wembley on Saturday. This desperation eventually saw them through to the final. After the full-time whistle, problem-child Mario Balotelli mischievously winked at Rio Ferdinand and was the centre of the resulting scuffle. The way City players and fans celebrated once Mario’s antics were over demonstrated what the victory over United, and more importantly an appearance in the final, means to them.
Standing in their way is Stoke City, a team that shockingly demolished Owen Coyle’s Bolton Wanderers 5-0 in the other semi-final on Sunday to reach their first-ever FA Cup final.
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