zaterdag 10 maart 2012

Premier League - March 10th

Sunderland 1-0 Liverpool
Second-half Bendtner strike consigns Dalglish's men to third straight league defeat
The on-loan Arsenal striker converted from close range in the second half to seal the points for the Black Cats, as the Reds lose further ground on the European qualification spots

EPL - Sunderland vs Liverpool, Phil Bardsley & Charlie Adam

Nicklas Bendtner's second half goal consigned Liverpool to a third straight Premier League defeat as Sunderland emerged victorious in a poor game at the Stadium of Light

Both sides struggled to produce clear-cut chances in a scrappy first half that barely improved after the break, despite Bendtner's winning goal.

Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll were introduced late in the game by Kenny Dalglish but Liverpool continued to struggle for ideas and could not find an equaliser.

The result lifts Sunderland, at least temporarily, with West Brom and Norwich City playing on Sunday, up to eighth place while Liverpool lose further ground on the European qualification spots and remain seventh.

With Lee Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon suspended following last weekend's fiery derby against Newcastle United, Jack Colback partnered Craig Gardner in midfield for Sunderland. Wayne Bridge made his first start since signing on loan in the absence of Kieran Richardson.

Sebastian Coates started alongside Martin Skrtel in the Liverpool defence, with Jamie Carragher on the bench. Gerrard and Stewart Downing were also rested so Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy joined the starting XI. 

Otherwise, the first 45 minutes left much to be desired. Liverpool began the match with a five-man midfield but failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority in the centre of the park, hitting hopeful long balls that were ineffective in the absence of Carroll and they also had a strong wind to contend with.

Martin O'Neill fielded Bendtner and Fraizer Campbell in attack for the first time but did not see too much early promise from the duo. The Denmark international peeled away from the opposition defenders with some success, occasionally finding space in and around the penalty area, but was not helped by the lack of creativity around him.

Bendtner did latch on to a long ball that beat Coates midway through the first half, but his low cross was deflected clear.

Pepe Reina will remember the Stadium of Light for the infamous beach ball incident and he was unfortunate once again here to concede the first goal of the match. Sunderland were the quicker side out of the blocks in the second half and were rewarded after 55 minutes.

Campbell received a pass on the edge of the box and turned to cut across Skrtel before firing a low shot against the post. The 24-year-old's effort proceeded to bounce off of Reina's back, back on to the post and out to the arriving Bendtner, who converted from close range beyond the stranded goalkeeper.

Suarez combined well with Jordan Henderson only to shoot wide shortly after the opening goal but otherwise the Reds' response was minimal. Gerrard and Carroll were introduced – somewhat belatedly, it might be argued – with 20 minutes to go as Kenny Dalglish sought to rescue a share of the points.

The early signs were encouraging, with Carroll nodding a pass into the path of Gerrard, whose shot from distance was held by Mignolet. That positivity quickly petered out, though, with Sunderland finding more and more space in the opposition half as Liverpool looked to push men forwards.

O'Neill's team lost Bendtner to injury late on in the game but survived a late chance for Kuyt to secure three points that take them within two points of their opponents, although Liverpool retain a game in hand.

Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City 
Drogba pounces to give Di Matteo a second straight win against 10-man Potters
The Ivorian's 100th goal for the club secured vital three points whilst Tony Pulis' men will no doubt rue the brainless behaviour of striker Ricardo Fuller, who was sent off

EPL - Chelsea vs Stoke City, Roberto Di Matteo

Didier Drogba's second-half strike helped Roberto Di Matteo to his second win as Chelsea manager as his team defeated 10-man Stoke 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The Potters came into the game having failed to win a league game against the Blues home or away since 1975 and matters were not helped by Ricardo Fuller's sending off for a crass stamp on Branislav Ivanovic in the first half.

Chances were hard to come by, but Chelsea's patience was rewarded in the second half as Drogba latched onto a Juan Mata through-ball to net his 100th Chelsea goal. 

The hosts began encouragingly, pressing Stoke deep and forcing an early mix-up between Ryan Shawcross and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic that saw the centre-half's header land on the roof of his own net.

On the fourth minute Chelsea forged their first clear chance. An out-swinging Lampard corner was met by the unmarked Ivanovic and although the Serbian right-back connected well, it was a poor header, sailing just over the crossbar when it looked easier to score. 

But as the hosts verged on opening the scoring, John Walters carved a chance of his own. The striker chased a long ball, the Irish forward got away with tripping Terry as the two came together on the halfway line, before shooting twice, failing to score on both occasions.

Walters' strike partner Fuller fared even worse as he received his marching orders after just 25 minutes. He chased a long pass and as Ivanovic slid to hook the ball to safety, the Jamaican reacted impetuously by deliberately stamping down on the Chelsea defender, prompting Andre Marriner to show him the red card. 

Chelsea continued to search for the opener and Ivanovic, who was afforded far too much space, played a one-two with Lampard on the edge of the box leading to a looped header that was claimed by Begovic on his goal-line. 

As half-time approached, Di Matteo made his first substitution, introducing the mercurial Mata for Raul Meireles. 

But it was Ivanovic, who pounced on a loose clearance in the visitors' box and smashed a half volley against the crossbar as Di Matteo's team closed the half on a high.

The hosts continued to lack creativity in the final third and the only chances of the first 15 minutes of the second-half came from long-range efforts from Lampard, Luiz and Terry. The home support seemed notably more patient and were almost treated to a splendid Drogba goal as Begovic flew to his left and tipped the shot over the bar. 

But it wasn't long until Drogba did find the net. Mata found room on the edge of the box and slipped the ball into Drogba whose first touch drew Begovic from goal. His second allowed him to round the Bosnian leaving an open goal for the 34-year-old to break the deadlock and bring relief to Stamford Bridge. 

Lampard came close to doubling the lead minutes later but his fierce shot from 25 yards was smuggled away by the busy Begovic. 

As the game neared its conclusion, Mata almost left the supporters with a final reason to cheer. His curling left-footed free-kick beat Begovic but rebounded back off the upright – the third time in the game the hosts had hit the woodwork. 

Following today's game, Chelsea are fifth in the standings with 49 points, while Stoke sit 10th with 36.


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