zondag 8 april 2012

Premier League Report

Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa
Late Suarez strike saves point for struggling Reds after Herd opener
The Uruguayan headed home towards the end for Kenny Dalglish's side after the Australian youngster's early strike, though the Reds will feel they could have had a penalty

Premier League - Liverpool v Sunderland, Luis Suarez

Luiz Suarez headed home late on as Liverpool avoided a fourth straight league defeat with a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.

Australian youngster Chris Herd had put Alex McLeish's side ahead after just ten minutes with a sweetly struck opener.

The hosts saw a couple of decent penalty appeals turned away but finally bagged an equalizer with less than ten minutes remaining through the Uruguayan, who pounced after substitute Daniel Agger had headed against the bar.

And after an immaculately observed minute’s silence ahead of the 23rd anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool had the first chance of the game as Downing skipped past Alan Hutton and flashed the ball across the six-yard box for Kuyt, whose close range effort was pushed out by Shay Given, though it may have crossed the line.

But the Reds were punished almost immediately after as Doni failed to clear a high ball from Stephen Warnock, which Herd expertly curled beyond the Brazilian from just inside the box after being teed up by Bannan.

Herd might have given away a penalty straight after the restart when Suarez’s knock on for Steven Gerrard appeared to strike the Australian’s arm, but the spot kick was not awarded by match official Michael Oliver.

James Collins headed a corner wide for Villa but Dalglish’s side began to control possession as the half wore on and Skrtel went close after 36 minutes, nodding past the post from a Gerrard set piece.

Liverpool had second appeals for a penalty turned away before the interval as Suarez twisted and turned in the box and went down under minimal contact from Alan Hutton.

The chance of the half fell to Dirk Kuyt however, who latched onto a drilled ball from Gerrard after a Suarez cross, but hammered the ball over the bar and high into the stands from point blank range with a practically open goal at his mercy.

Suarez had the final shot of the opening 45 minutes, shrugging off Stephen Ireland to side foot straight at Given, and the hosts went into the break a goal down.

Shortly after the break it was the Uruguayan who would go close again as he glanced a whipped Gerrard cross from deep at goal, but could only watch the ball bounce agonizingly off the inside of the post, before Given pushed it away from danger.

With over an hour to play, McLeish signaled his intent to hold onto the lead rather than enhance it, replacing Emile Heskey with Gary Gardner.

Dalglish responded, bringing on Carroll for Downing, while Jonjo Shelvey was replaced by Bellamy, who flashed a shot wide within seconds of coming on.

But it was Gardner who was presented with the opportunity to test Doni, but his shot was tame and straight at the stand-in goalkeeper from 20 yards.

Andreas Weimann was brought on for goal scorer Herd with the game approaching the closing stages, while Daniel Agger made his return from injury in place of Jose Enrique.

Suarez was never far from the action and was booked for simulation after going down easily for the second time following a half-challenge from Ireland.

With ten minutes left two of the Liverpool substitutes went close, as Bellamy rifled into the frame of the goal after a Collins clearance and Agger’s driven effort drifted wide.

But just a minute later the hosts finally equalized, when Gerrard’s cross was headed onto the bar by Agger, before Suarez stooped in to force home the rebound.

Gerrard tested Given once more late on, but Liverpool could not find a way through and had to settle for a point against a struggling Villa side.

Chelsea 2-1 Wigan
Dramatic late Mata winner keeps Blues in Champions League hunt after controversial Ivanovic opener
Spain international snatches all three points for the Blues after Mohamed Diame scored what the Latics thought was a stunning late equaliser

EPL,Branislav Ivanovic,Chelsea v Wigan Athletic

Juan Mata scored a priceless late winner as Chelsea saw off a brave Wigan side with a 2-1 win on Saturday afternoon.

Mohamed Diame scored a stunning equalizer from 20-yards after Branislav Ivanovic earlier headed in from a Raul Meireles cross just after the hour, but replays showed he was clearly offside as the ball was played in.

It is Chelsea’s second Premier League victory in a row after last week’s 4-2 triumph over Aston Villa and its fourth in succession over the Latics, moving it back above Newcastle into fifth place in the Premier League.

Roberto Di Matteo made wholesale changes from midweek as Gary Cahill replaced captain John Terry, who has cracked ribs. Didier Drogba started ahead of Fernando Torres, Ryan Betrand came in for the injured Ashley Cole, while Raul Meireles, Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda also started.

The Latics were unchanged from last week’s win over Stoke, meaning Franco Di Santo started against his former club, while Diame returned to the bench after sitting out the last two games with a groin injury.

It was a slow start at Stamford Bridge, but Chelsea was the first to press forward with David Luiz, who made one of his trademark driving runs forward and drew a foul off Di Santo, but the freekick came to nothing as Wigan was able to clear.

The Blues tried to impose themselves, moving the ball around well, and Ivanovic eventually won a freekick after Maynor Figueroa’s late challenge outside the right hand side of the area, but Drogba was unable to make a good connection with Juan Mata’s cross.

Bertrand showed some skill on the left early on, swinging over a superb cross which fell to Malouda, but his volley was poorly timed and it ended up rolling out for a throw-in.

Meireles then won a corner which Wigan managed to clear, but Chelsea retained the ball and it was eventually worked to Cahill, who unleashed a rasping 30-yard drive which was heading for the top corner until Al-Habsi parried over.

Wigan was well in the game halfway through the first half though. Moses had an impressive 45 minutes, and 23 minutes in he turned round Bertrand before hitting a low 25-yard strike, but it was easily dealt with by Cech.

Chelsea moved up the other end moments later as the game’s tempo increased, Drogba shrugging off a challenge before fizzing a low effort just wide of the post.

But Wigan continued to impress, with Moses showing good movement. He worked it wide to Maloney who ran into the box and won a corner off Cahill, which Gary Caldwell headed over.

The Blues then had an excellent chance to take the lead ten minutes before the break. Drogba slotted through Mata with a fine pass, who cut inside the defender but was denied by Al-Habsi, whose parry fell to Drogba, but his header was cleared off the line by Figueroa.

The Ivory Coast international then had another effort right on the stroke of halftime, heading Malouda’s cross back across goal, but Al-Habsi did well to tip it over as the Latics held Chelsea at the break.

Wigan came out strongly, and the first opening of the second half fell to Emerson Boyce, who flew in late to meet an excellent Jean Beausejour cross, but he was unable to direct the header and it flew well wide.

Di Matteo then threw on Torres just before the hour, with the Spain striker joining Drogba up front in a partnership which has proved unsuccessful so far.

Ivanovic then won a free-kick and Mata’s cross was cleared by the Latics defense, but the ball came out to Meireles who played a first-time ball back in, and Ivanovic was there to head home from what appeared to be a clear offside position, but the goal stood and Chelsea took the lead.

Wigan nearly equalized immediately as Moses tried to round Cech, and the keeper’s clearance fell to Di Santo who shot first time, but Ivanovic was there to clear off the line to protect the lead he just provided.

Mata then had a glorious chance to double Chelsea’s lead. Drogba headed on a long kick from Cech, but the Spaniard blasted high and wide from the edge of the box.

Wigan started to press in the final ten minutes and enjoyed a decent spell of possession. Diame received the ball 20 yards out, doing well do provide himself a small amount of space and unleashing a ferocious drive into the corner which Cech could only watch fly in.

Kalou then had a golden opportunity to win it for the Blues late on as he received the ball in acres of space in the area from a Torres cross, but he shanked a low effort harmlessly wide.

Mata then won the game for Chelsea in stoppage time, bundling the ball home when Torres volleyed low against the post.

Torres nearly made it 3-1 in a one-on-one, but Al-Habsi was able to match it as Chelsea saw out the final moments to earn the win.


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