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Now this looks like the Fulham team that went to the Europa League final. It's been a tough year so far for the Cottagers, but with a full lineup at his disposal, Mark Hughes was able to put out a team to do exactly what he wanted, and they performed brilliantly, defeating Bolton Wanderers 3-0. The scoreline isn't unfairly flattering to the hosts, as they were fantastic tonight at Craven Cottage.
Clint Dempsey scored the only goal of the first half, hitting a great scissor volley into the back of the net in the 15th minute. He would add another goal just three minutes into the second half, scoring on a close range finish, following a brilliant flick towards the goal by Eidur Gudjohnsen. Brede Hangeland would finish the game off, hitting a brilliant header into the back of the net in the 65th minute, connecting well with a great free kick from Danny Murphy.
It's been a fairly even first half between Fulham and Bolton, with the home side having the slightly better of the play, but Bolton started to look like the better team at the end of the half. The real separation between the two teams was the quality of Clint Dempsey, who hit a fantastic side-volley goal in the 15th minute, assisted by Chris Baird and following a corner kick. While Bolton have been solid, they've had no chances of that quality so far.
Bolton are not completely out of Europe and Fulham are not completely clear of relegation, so this isn't necessarily a battle of two teams who will end in mid-table mediocrity. A draw or a Fulham win would probably resign both teams to that fate, but a comeback win by Bolton could suddenly make things very interesting for both teams down the stretch. If Fulham hold on to this result, they will sit on 42 points and likely be clear of the drop for good.
Is El Clasico not really your thing? More of an English Premier League guy than a La Liga guy? Well, good for you! There's an alternative to the UEFA Champions League today, and while I'll personally be watching that game as well as this one, Fulham vs. Bolton Wanderers should be a decent contest.
Both teams have had some disappointments lately, but neither Bolton or Fulham appears to be in danger of getting relegated, though Fulham are not totally out of the woods in that respect. Both teams find a very good balance between attacking play, organization, and physical play. They're both very much the epitome of the new style of English football, and for that reason alone, their games against each other are worth watching.
Johan Elmander returns to being a striker for Bolton tonight, while Eidur Gudjohnsen will play up top alone for Fulham with five midfielders behind him who all have at least some kind of attacking ability.
Fulham lineup (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Salcedo, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird; Sidwell, Murphy, Dembele, Davies, Dempsey; Gudjohnsen
Bolton lineup (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Robinson, Knight, Cahill, Steinsson; Taylor, Cohen, Muamba, Lee; Elmander, Davies
Stoke City have defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers by a score of 3-0 to go to 42 points and almost certainly secure Premier League safety, but it was not without a price. Left winger Matthew Etherington picked up an injury in the 30th minute and was stretchered off the pitch. Further information on his injury is not yet available, but based on the player's emotional reaction, it seems unlikely that Etherington will be fit again anytime soon.
It was the typical performance that Stoke usually turns in against bottom half teams at home, in which they concede possession but are the better team throughout the match. Wolves held the ball for two-thirds of the match, but ultimately did nothing with it as they were completely outplayed and Mick McCarthy was completely outcoached by Tony Pulis.
Kenwyne Jones scored the first goal in the 16th minute, heading in a Jermaine Pennant cross from close range, and Ryan Shawcross added another in first half stoppage time, tapping in a goal at the far post with his foot following a corner kick. Jermaine Pennant completely put the game to bed in the 51st minute, volleying a cross from Dean Whitehead into the ground, causing it to loop up and over Wayne Hennessey into the back of the net. From that point on, Stoke simply sat back and defended, and Wolves did little to break them down.
With this loss, Wolves sit on 33 points with four games remaining. They're second from bottom, but just one point from safety in one of the best relegation races in recent memory.
Stoke City appear to be well on their way to securing Premier League safety, as they lead Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at halftime. If this result holds, Stoke will go to 42 points on the year, which will almost certainly be good enough to secure Premier League football for another season. However, the result could be bittersweet, as it appears that they may have lost one of their best players for the FA Cup Final.
Kenwyne Jones opened the scoring 16 minutes into the game, assisted by Jermaine Pennant. The two players played a quick combination on the edge of the penalty area before Pennant ran with the ball towards the right corner of the box. He did well to swing a ball in despite having two defenders in front of him, and his ball into the center of the box fell perfectly for Jones. The big striker was not well marked, and he headed the ball into the back of the net to give Stoke the lead.
After a half hour, Matthew Etherington went down with an injury for Stoke. There's no word yet on the specifics or the severity of the injury, but Etherington left on a stretcher and looked visibly upset. Based on his reaction, it would be surprising if his injury was not one that kept him out long term.
Stoke would add to their lead in first half stoppage time, with Ryan Shawcross tapping in a goal with his foot at the far post following a corner kick. Stoke are cruising, and Wolves have a long way to go to not only stay in this game, but stay in the Premier League.
Stoke City are into the FA Cup Final, but that doesn't mean that Tony Pulis and his team are taking the league lightly. They're sitting on 39 points, close to the 40 point number that is usually required to stay in the Premier League, but they're just five points above the drop zone. As a result, Stoke can't afford to look ahead of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wolves currently sit at the edge of the drop zone, and even a draw could do a lot to help them achieve safety in a year where the relegation race is so tight. They've been in the drop zone for most of the season, and a win could finally bring them out. Here are your lineups for today's game.
Stoke City lineup (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Etherington, Whelan, Delap, Pennant; Jones, Walters
Wolves lineup (4-5-1): Hennessey; Ward, Stearman, Berra, Craddock; Jarvis, Henry, Mancienne, O'Hara, Kightly; Fletcher
Manchester City earned a vital three points in their bid to maintain their position in the Champions League slots by eking out a narrow 1-0 win against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Although it looked as though they were going to go back to Manchester frustrated after wasting several promising early chances and letting the hosts back into the match, City struck through the unlikely figure of Edin Dzeko fifteen minutes from time and rode out a rather inept Blackburn storm to secure an important win.
For Blackburn's part they'll be frustrated at both the way the goal was given away (Phil Jones' "clearance" was actually a pass straight to a wide open Dzeko at the far post) and their inability to give City much of a scare with the time they had left. Joe Hart was forced into a decent save from a Martin Olsson effort during injury time, but not much else happened at a time where Steve Kean's men should have been pumping the ball into the box and putting pressure on an uncharacteristically shaky-looking defence.
The big story will be Dzeko snapping his goal drought and scoring in the Premier League for the first time, but for both sides this result has real meaning. Roberto Mancini's side are now four points clear of Tottenham Hotspur in fourth, meaning that they can afford a draw when they entertain Spurs at the Eastlands in two weeks, while Blackburn are now just one point clear of 18th place Wigan Athletic in the fight to avoid relegation. It's going to be an interesting next few weeks at both ends of the table.
Goal droughts are falling like flies this weeks. After a spell of intense pressure from Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City have got their opener from the improbable figure of Edin Dzeko. It's the £27M striker's first goal in the Premier League, coming in the same weekend as Fernando Torres' first strike for Chelsea. That's a) going to give journalist something to write about and b) going to rob fans around the world of amusing punchlines, which is a bit of a shame.
Anyway, it was all too easy - David Silva burst into the area, aimed a low shot-cum-cross in the vague direction of Paul Robinson's goal, and saw Phil Jones attempt a hilariously inept clearance which basically involved guiding the ball straight to a totally unmarked Dzeko at the far post. The Bosnian controlled and hammered home with Robinson totally stranded. That's Manchester City 1-0 ahead with about fifteen minutes left for Blackburn to try to scrape a point. It'll be interesting to see how Dzeko responds to breaking his league goal duck, too.
For the first ten minutes of the match it looked as though there was zero way Manchester City would go twenty minutes without scoring, let alone a whole half. David Silva hit the post with a beautiful volley in the opening seconds of the match, and Paul Robinson had to be on high alert for shots flying in from more or less everywhere. Joe Hart, meanwhile, had absolutely nothing to do - I don't think the ball actually entered his half until minute eight or so.
But City's dominance didn't stand up and Blackburn have grown into the game (although they're certainly not on the front foot). Chris Samba had a header go just wide of Hart's goal and Jason Robert probably should have earned a penalty when he was fouled by Vincent Kompany in the penalty area. Right now Blackburn are exploiting long balls into the box, set pieces, and the space left behind when City left back Aleksandar Kolarov goes onto the attack. While you'd hardly put any money on the hosts to win this game, they're not doing too badly just yet.
We're in for either a cracker or a snooze-fest at Ewood Park, and it probably depends on which Manchester City team turns up. Will we get the strong, purposeful side that beat Manchester United at Wembley, or are we going to get 3-0 loss to Liverpool edition? If it's the former, Steve Kean's Blackburn Rovers might be looking at a battering, but if City can't play it doesn't look as though Blackburn will either. The match has very real rammifications for the Champions League chase and the relegation fight - both teams need a win here. I wouldn't put much money on Blackburn, though.
Stop me if you've already heard this one a few times. Arsenal were the better team at the Reebok Stadium today, but ultimately, a lack of fight and focus has caused them to lose to an inferior team this afternoon. Oh, you've heard that one before? I thought so.
Bolton pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday at home, completely putting to bed Arsenal's already thin title hopes. Well...I guess Man United could lose to both Arsenal and Chelsea, then drop points in one of their other games. But, if you believe that's going to happen, please go see a doctor.
The hosts went up 1-0 to start the match, thanks to a Daniel Sturridge finish after a set piece. It looked like they had a chance to double their lead just as the second half started when Sturridge drew a penalty on a foul by Johan Djourou, but Kevin Davies missed badly.
Arsenal then quickly answered, with Robin van Persie finishing off a great passing move. Van Persie fed Fabregas in the box, who returned the ball to his teammate. The Dutchman finished, and just like that, the match was tied.
Bolton would find a late goal, though, in dramatic fashion. In the 90th minute, a set piece was once again the undoing of Arsenal, just like it was in the first half, as well as countless other times this season. Tamir Cohen rose up and hit a great header into the back of the net on a corner kick, giving Bolton the win and crushing a very visibly dejected Arsene Wenger. Cohen removed his jersey to reveal a t-shirt with a picture of his father, who recently passed away in an automobile accident. An extremely emotional Cohen was greeted by all of his teammates, who joined in the celebration.
Even the most frustrated Arsenal fans will have to agree that it was an incredible end to a very good game.
When it isn't your year, it just isn't your year. Arsenal, as usual, have more possession and more shots than their opponent. To the surprise of basically no one who has watched Arsenal throughout the season, that is not currently translating into a win. Daniel Sturridge, the rapidly improving youngster who was cup tied for the FA Cup semi-final, is the man who scored the goal, giving the 21-year-old 11 goals on the season in all competitions for Chelsea and Bolton.
The goal came in the 38th minute, and once again, set piece defending has been Arsenal's undoing. A poorly marked Gary Cahill got his head to a corner kick, directing it towards goal. Samir Nasri cleared the ball off the line, but he did so poorly, and Sturridge was there to pounce and put the ball into the back of the net.
At this point, results don't matter a whole lot for Arsenal. They're pretty much locked into a top three place, meaning they will automatically secure a spot in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, and they also have almost no shot at the title. Still, if they're unable to turn this result around, it's probably going to sting.
Sunderland, coming off a run which has seen them gain one point out of a possibly twenty-seven, didn't look like they were great bets to stop the rot against Wigan Athletic, especially after losing both Phil Bardsley and Danney Welbeck to injuries in the first twenty-five minutes at the Stadium of Light. The hosts were stodgy, the visitors weren't much better, and a draw seemed more or less inevitable at halftime. Then Wigan scored and things got a little bit crazy.
Black Cats striker Asamoah Gyan instantly cancelled out Mohamed Diame's excellent long-range effort before he too was forced off the pitch due to picking up a hamstring problem. What happens when you take the last striker out of a team that can't score? Apparently, you get three goals in twenty minutes. Sunderland were suddenly rampant, with Jordan Henderson notching twice and Stephane Sessegnon scoring from the penalty spot to secure the win, and Franco di Santo's late striker was just a consolation goal for Wigan, who find themselves back in the relegation places following the loss. It seems like Steve Bruce has finally had enough miserable luck, though - it's nice to see Sunderland finally have a good game, even if it's too little too late in terms of coming anywhere near competiting for Europe.
Liverpool finally broke their seven-game winless streak against Birmingham City with a huge win at Anfield. 5-0 was the final score, but the game was over after half an hour, with Maxi Rodriguez opening the scoring in the seventh minute and Dirk Kuyt firing in a second a quarter of an hour later. Birmingham never looked threatening and a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool were always threatening to get more goals,
They got them in the second half, with Maxi completing his hattrack, and even Joe Cole got in on the action as the game came to a close, the ex-Chelsea man somehow sneaking the ball past substitute goalkeeper Colin Doyle (Ben Foster was forced to depart in the first half after a collision with teammate Stephen Carr) at his near post. It was an emphatic performance from Liverpool, who've taken seven points from the last nine possible and are hot on Tottenham Hotspur's tails for fifth place in the league.Meanwhile Birmingham have been outscored 8-1 in their past two matches and are only four points clear of the relegation zone. Dangerous times for McLeish and company.
Blackpool did themselves no favours in a 1-1 draw against Newcastle United at Bloomfield Road that still sees them in huge danger of being relegated from the Premier League. Despite a number of chances from the home side, Newcastle took the lead after an elemental error from midfielderr Charlie Adam gifted Newcastle the ball, and it was soon shuttled to striker Peter Lovenkrands. He made no mistake in slotting past Matthew Gilks to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
But Blackpool, as ever, would come storming back. equalising - just about - through DJ Campbell, who put the lightest of touches on a corner to guide the ball over the line before Newcastle left back Jose Enrique could hack clear. From then on, Blackpool had the lions share of the chances but couldn't crack the Magpies' defence. Adam hit the post in probably the best moment of the second half, but when the dust settled Ian Holloway's men had only managed to earn a point, good enough to see them to 17th place but not enough for anything approaching safety.
Aston Villa's miniature winning streak was brought to an end by Tony Pulis' Stoke City in a match that probably sees both sides satisfied. Villa's relegation fears have long-since been assuaged, and Stoke will be more than happy to finally get any points at all on the road, and the result leaves the teams in 11th and 14th place respectively. Although the first half was all Stoke, capped by Kenwyne Jones' bullet header from a trademark Rory Delap throw, the hosts, led by Gary McAllister in Gerard Houllier's absence, we able to level before the break.
The goalscorer, of course, was Darren Bent, who leapt to power a brilliant header beyond Thomas Sorenson from the edge of the penalty area in the 43rd minute. The rest of the match was mostly Villa on the attack, although they couldn't find the goal that would get them the three points needed to jump back into the top half of the table. Still, I don't think you'll see Villa fans complaining about 41 points from 34 games after the very real threat of relegation looming over their heads for most of the season.
A bizarre game in London, with Chelsea ultimately turning out 3-0 winners after goals from Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, and yes, the man of the hour: Fernando Torres. Although that scoreline sounds comfortable enough, in truth the Blues weren't assured for their three points against West Ham United until the 83rd minute when substitute Torres was released in the box, spun, and sent a shot arcing into Rob Green's net.
Before Torres killed the game off, we were treated to an odd affair - rain was hammering down all match and by halftime the pitch was something approaching waterlogged. Chelsea had the better of the early exchanges, but West Ham got back into it and threatened before Lampard scored at the brink of half time. The second half was a story of wasted chances at both ends, with the weather and luck effecting both teams. Realistically, the score should have been something more like 7-2 (it ended 3-0), but Chelsea got what they wanted and West Ham can't feel hard done by after shambolic defending all match.They remain rooted to the bottom of the table, while Chelsea pad their goal differential over third place Arsenal.
Chelsea started the game magnificently but failed to get a goal during their 20 minutes of pure dominance, Florent Malouda in particular wasting some glorious chances to take the lead early. Having failed to punish their opponents in the early stages of what appears to be an apocalyptic rainstorm (lighting had knocked out some of the floodlights and advertising hoardings around Stamford Bridge), the Blues started to let West Ham United back into the match and the Hammers almost took the lead in turn off a fast break from a Chelsea corner. Petr Cech had to do very well to keep out a diving header from American midfielder Jonathan Spector to keep the match level.
Ironically, Chelsea then proceeded to score during West Ham's most promising spell of the match. David Luiz won the ball on the right, and it eventually found Didier Drogba, who in turn released Ashley Cole storming up the left wing. The full back's cross was hammered home by Frank Lampard making a run in from deep. It wasn't the prettiest half from the Chelsea, and their manager is furious that they didn't score earlier on, but they're still 1-0 up at halftime.
For Chelsea, the only way to keep any hopes of defending their title alive is to win at home against West Ham United. For West Ham, who find themselves suddenly at the bottom of the table once more, they can escape the relegation zone, at least for now, with a shock win at Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately for the Hammers, Chelsea are on a role and fielding a full-strength side, whereas Avram Grant is forced to do without Scott Parker or Matthew Upson. It's not looking good for the visitors.
It's a disappointing result for Tottenham Hotspur as they were held at home by an industrious West Bromwich Albion side when earned a late point thanks to a remarkable goal from Simon Cox. The draw probably ends Tottenham's hopes of claiming fourth place this year - they're now a point behind Manchester City having played a game more, so their fate is now firmly in the hands of others.
The game itself was interesting. West Brom have been one of the Premier League's form teams recently, and they played well before taking an early lead through Peter Odemwingie. On the same play, Spurs left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto managed to injure himself, making life even more difficult for the hosts, but they managed to get back into the game thanks to a low shot from Roman Pavlyuchenko and might have considered themselves unlucky to to be leading by halftime.
Things continued in that vein after the interval before Jermain Defoe made it 2-1 Tottenham after dancing his way into space and unleashing a rocket past Scott Carson, but they couldn't make the lead stand up thanks to Simon Cox, who added a moment of pure class to the whole affair by guiding a brilliant curling effort past the fingertips of Heurelhio Gomes and into the back of the net. 2-2 would be the final score. Spurs stay fifth, while West Brom reach that magical forty point mark. It looks like they're safe this year.
Seriously, Spurs? Ok then. After going ahead via a lovely little goal from England striker Jermain Defoe (his 100th in all competitions for the team, incidentally), Tottenham Hotspur contrive to concede to West Bromwich Albion to make it 2-2 at White Hart Lane. It hadn't exactly been coming, but the Baggies had been offering more than a token resistance to their hosts victory, and it wasn't too long after the goal that they had a penalty declined for a Michael Dawson handball and then saw Chris Brunt slam a shot just wide.
Tottenham failed to heed the warnings - although to be fair they were busy trying to get the next goal themselves - and Simon Cox stepped in to remind them that they should be paying him more attention, cutting inside to send in a peach of a right foot curler past a helpless Heurelhio Gomes and into the top corner. That's a marvelous strike, but Spurs have all of five minutes to get their Champions League ambitions back on track now.
Now there's a vital goal for Tottenham Hotspur's season, and it's Jermain Defoe who's notched it. Defoe hadn't scored at White Hart Lane for more than a year, so you could have forgiven the crowd for being less-than excited when he picked up the ball thirty yards out in a central position. But the England striker surged forwards, cut back onto his left foot, and as the West Bromwich Albion defenders retreated he simply blasted the ball past Scott Carson and into the back of the net. Very neat finish there.
To be honest, not too much has been happening this half - a few set pieces and scuffles in the penalty area, but that's the first real shot of any note. How vital could that be, though? As it stands, Tottenham now go ahead of Manchester City into fourth place, although Roberto Mancini's side would have a game in hand. Should Spurs drop points here, however, the Champions League dream for next year could easily be over.
It's Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 West Bromwich Albion at halftime after four minutes of first-half stoppages. Tottenham have had the better of the match so far, but they've only managed to cancel out Peter Odemwingie's early smash and grab raid rather than overturn it entirely, and they've also seen left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto go off injured (on the same play that Odemwingie scored on, actually). At least they do have that Roman Pavlyuchenko equaliser.
Following that Assou-Ekotto injury, incidentally, Gareth Bale moved to left back and Sando was deployed in the centre, and although Spurs are ostensibly playing a 4-4-2 it's acting more like a 4-4-2 diamond with Bale as a wingback. It's hard to say just how effective it is right now - they're having real trouble pushing up the right flank in particular with no natural width - but it is a pretty interesting response to losing one's starting left back from Harry Redknapp.
Back on level terms at White Hart Lane and it's not much more than Tottenham deserve. It's a pretty easy goal too as Roman Pavlyuchenko makes some space for himself at the top of the box, spies and opening, and shoots low past Scott Carson at the West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper's left-hand post. I think he probably could have done a little better with that, but it was a very well-placed (if not particularly well-struck) shot from the Russian, and the Baggies couldn't possibly have hoped to keep Spurs out for very long anyway.
Back to square one then. Both teams are doing a good job committing players forward so far in this half, so it's difficult to see the match ending at 1-1, but it's hard to say just who will come out ahead - Tottenham need this more, but West Brom are fairly well organised at the back and will be able to hit their hosts on the break more and more than longer it stays level. As I type that, Pavlyuchenko misses the target completely after Carson could only parry a shot into his path fifteen yards out. Should have been 2-1 Spurs there.
2011 has not been the best of years for Sunderland fans. No, their team aren't losing (yet) today against Wigan Athletic, but they have been hit by yet another bad-looking injury in the early going at the Stadium of Light, adding to Steve Bruce's mounting concerns. This time it's left-back Phil Bardsley in trouble, having clashed with not a Wigan player but his own man in Nedum Onuoha. Yikes.
The medical staff rushed out to treat the stricken defender, but it takes a full seven minutes to get him onto a stretcher and off the pitch. Antoine Ferdinand has to take his place as again Bruce finds himself burning one of his substitutes early. It's still 0-0 in Sunderland, but to the fans it sure won't feel like it after seeing one of their most reliable players hurt that badly. Bardsley joins the likes of John Mensah, Craig Gordon, and Kieran Richardson on the sidelines. With Sunderland's injury luck, is it any surprise that they're mired in an awful slump lately?
Update: And now Danny Welbeck is off hurt. This is getting farcical.
First blood to West Bromwich Albion then. It's a very easy goal too. Jerome Thomas finds Peter Odemwingie with a long crossfield pass into the penalty area, and the Nigerian forward goes shoulder to shoulder with Benoit Assou-Ekotto before sending him tumbling to the ground, cutting back inside onto his left boot and shooting before Michael Dawson could make a vital sliding challenge. The ball glided past Heurelhio Homes and went in off the Brazilian's far post to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at White Hart Lane.
The news gets worse for Tottenham, too - Assou-Ekotto was injured in that challenge and he has to depart the match (although fortunately he managed to walk off the pitch). It looked like he caught himself in the pitch during that joust with Odemwingie and he went down in a bit of a heap and stayed there for a while. Sandro comes in to replace the left back, but that's the last thing Harry Redknapp needs right now. An early goal and an injury? Yuck.
Tottenham Hotspur are coming off an impressive mid-week draw against Arsenal and are looking to continue their momentum by at least temporarily overhauling potential Champions League rivals Manchester City in fourth place against West Bromwich Albion today. The Baggies, meanwhile, lost a long unbeaten run last weekend at Stamford Bridge, and will be doing their utmost to grab at least a point today - that magical 40 mark is in sight for Roy Hodgson and company.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Heurelhio Gomes, Younes Kaboul, William Gallas, Michael Dawson, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Rafael van der Vaart, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe.
It doesn't matter how he scores them, Javier Hernandez scores goals in buckets. It seems like he puts a good deal of them off of his backside or his face, but being in the right place at the right time is a skill, and it's one that's hard to teach. Thanks to Chicharito, United have taken all three points out of a match that looked like a draw for the longest time, winning 1-0 thanks to his late headed goal.
Antonio Valencia set him up, and unfortunately for Sylvain Distin, who was having a very good game before the goal, his giveaway to Valencia allowed the goal to happen. The Ecuadorian winger beat the defense to put in a cross in the 83rd minute and drifted a cross to the far post, which was met by the head of Chicharito. He tapped it in for his 12th Premier League goal of the season, and United took the win.
With their win, United are now nine points clear of both Chelsea and Arsenal for the title. Both have a game in hand and both still have United to play, but the gap seems like too much to overcome for either Arsenal or Chelsea at this point.
Manchester United have occasionally looked very dangerous in the first half of their match against Everton, but they're currently lacking a goal, as something isn't quite clicking despite their dominance over their opponents. They've been slightly unlucky on a couple occasions, with Nani hitting a shot off of Javier Hernandez when he should have hit the target in the 37th minute, and Hernandez himself having a good shot stopped by Tim Howard on the 24th minute.
Everton have been content to defend in the first half, and they're not closing down United high up the pitch. Jermaine Beckford hasn't been allowed to have much of an impact on the match, and Everton could do with making some changes. It's possible that David Moyes just wanted to stay in the match in the first half, then make adjustments to play a more attacking style, but it's also possible that he's just playing for 0-0. He does have Tim Cahill on his bench, and he has the capacity to change the game considerably.
Never one to keep things consistent and predictable, Alex Ferguson has made some modifications to his team from last week. The thing that stands out the most in his team is the lack of a true defensive midfield player, as Darron Gibson and Anderson start in the center. Once again, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez start up top, while Dimitar Berbatov doesn't make the bench.
For Everton, today marks the return of Tim Cahill, though not to the starting lineup. The Australian star hasn't played for a month, and it goes without saying that his presence will seriously aid the Toffees in their push towards a European place.
Here are the full lineups:
Manchester United Lineup (4-4-2): Van Der Sar; Fabio, Evans, Ferdinand, O'Shea; Nani, Anderson, Gibson, Valencia; Rooney, Hernandez
Everton lineup (4-5-1): Howard; Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Hibbert; Bilyaletdinov, Rodwell, Neville, Coleman, Osman; Beckford
The game can be seen in the United States on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
It's that time again. Another weekend of Premier League football is upon us - we're getting Manchester United and second place Chelsea on Saturday, Arsenal on Sunday, and Manchester City bringing up the rear on Monday. Alas, we are not going to be getting FWA Player of the Year Scott Parker, which does make the whole weekend rather duller - the midfielder is out again with an Achilles problem (no, it's not because he's busy dragging Hector's body around the walls of Troy. Although he could if he wanted to).
Time: 12:45 PM GMT (7:45 AM EST)
I have to admit that the creative spark behind my previews are gone this week. Scott Parker - my muse, my life! - is injured, and I am unable to be funny. Woe is me. If I were to be funny, I'm sure there's a joke about Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes both being Scottish (the knaves!) somewhere in this game.
Pick: 3-0 United.
Time: 3:00PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier is in the hospital with
heart complaints a broken heart over not getting to see Scott Parker (FWA Player of the Year!) live at Villa Park last weekend. I know it hurts, Gerard. Get well soon.
Pick: 2-1 Stoke.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
I have come up with a foolproof model for Blackpool games at Bloomfield Road. Blackpool with score a random number of goals between one and four, and their opponents will also score a random number of goals between one and four. Science!
Pick: 3-2 Blackpool.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
So far this season Liverpool have beaten Chelsea home and away, secured two draws against Arsenal, and ran Manchester United extremely close at Old Trafford before beating them at Anfield. Clearly they should bring in Scott Parker as a motivational speaker against less important teams.
Pick: 3-1 Liverpool.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Are Sunderland finally going to get over the Darren Bent is gone so now we can't score thing? Of course not.But beating Wigan doesn't mean anything anymore. Just ask Tottenham. Or Blackpool. Or... whoops.
Pick: 1-1 Draw.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Although Spurs fans complained about not having a match last weekend at least they managed to get their European hangover out of the way with the break. I notice that Scott Parker's West Ham never have a European hangover. I WONDER WHY.
Pick: 2-0 Tottenham.
Time: 3:00 PM GMT (10:00 AM EST)
Pick: 2-1 Fulham.
Time: 5:30 PM GMT (12:30 PM EST)
When Scott Parker was born, Thetis dangled him in the River
of Death Thames in order to make his body impervious to damage. Unfortunately, she had to hold him by something and so she chose to dip him by his heel, which was shot with an arrow or something the other day. Anyway, he's not playing. Sads.
Pick: 2-0 Chelsea.
Time: 4:00 PM GMT (11:00 AM EST)
Pick: 1-1 Draw.
Time: 8:00 PM GMT (3:00 PM EST)
Pick: 2-0 City.
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