It’s been a busy Easter weekend in the Premier League and, as the saying goes; a week is a long time in football.
It took Sunderland less than 24 hours to appoint controversial character Paolo di Canio who replaced Martin O’Neill as manager on Easter Sunday. It’s certainly strange timing to sack O’Neil with seven games of the 2012/13 campaign remaining, but Sunderland was sinking fast.
The appointment of di Canio has provided mixed reactions as, wherever he goes, he brings vulnerability and controversy. I for one cannot wait to see di Canio lead Sunderland out at the Stadium of Light. The press conferences for certain won’t be dull!
Since my last column, Reading brought in former Saints manager Nigel Adkins as they dismissed Brian McDermott. It’s looking as if this is an appointment with next season in mind and, if Reading were to go down, I believe that Adkins is the man that could bring them straight back up.
It will be interesting to see how both new managers fare in the remaining few games and I shall be watching intently.
Southampton 2 Chelsea 1
Mauricio Pochettino’s Saints shocked Rafa’s Blues at St Marys. It was a thrilling first half and Southampton thoroughly deserved their lead as Rodriquez (pictured) capped off a superbly worked move and curled in his effort on 23 minutes. That lead lasted all of ten minutes however, as John Terry peeled of his man and headed in to level the scoring.
Rickie Lambert then scored his 14th goal of the season to seal the three points for the home side. His free-kick bent up and over the wall superbly and fell to the bottom corner of the far post.
Chelsea didn’t look up for this and Benitez took a risk in naming a somewhat ‘weakened’ team so that he could field a fresh and changed side in their F.A. Cup quarter-final replay against Manchester United. That risk worked as the Blues won 1-0 and clinched a Wembley semi-final and will play Manchester City.
Southampton can take confidence from this game and it’s a fantastic three points, and a deserved victory, too. Credit to Southampton – they’ve been superb this season.
West Ham 3 West Bromwich Albion 1
I believe that the Hammers have clinched survival after this telling display against a well-organised West Brom. Sam Allardyce said after the game: “The points are more important than anything else but the performance along with the result and the fact that we won comfortably shows how good we have been at home all season.”
Andy Carroll was the star of the show, and he opened the scoring with only sixteen minutes played at Upton Park. He thumped in a header after making a mazy run and WBA didn’t know what had hit them! It’s what Carroll does best and, on his day, can be unstoppable when presented with those opportunities.
West Brom failed to make a lasting impression through-out the first-half and Gary O’Neil doubled their lead with a stunner on 28 minutes. He received the ball just outside the edge of the area after some good wing-play by Ricardo vaz Te. He curled the ball round and into the far corner to give the Hammers a comfortable cushion leading into the break.
It wasn’t until the 80th minute that West Ham sealed the three points as they took the foot of the gas so-to-speak. Nonetheless, it was well worth the wait. Carroll watched a James Collins free-kick fall perfectly over his shoulder before smashing in a right-footed volley into the far corner.
WBA did net a consolation goal though when Dorrans, a former West Ham target, converted a penalty.
The game ended in bizarre fashion as Mulumbu picked up the ball during play and drop-kicked it at Gary O’Neil after he thought that the midfielder clipped him. He’ll serve a three-match ban as a result, I believe.
Fulham 3 QPR 2
This was a pulsating game and an arguably bigger game for QPR. The visitors got off to the worst possible start as Christopher Samba gave away a cheap foul in the penalty area with six minutes on the clock, which Berbatov non-chalantly tucked away.
Fulham made Redknapp’s Rangers pay again as Samba again gave the ball away cheaply with Berbatov lurking. The Bulgarian tucked away nicely and Samba looked bewildered. Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Clint Hill turned into his own net on 42 minutes, and it looked as if it was game over already.
Adel Taarabt had other ideas however and netted a first-half consolation after he slipped the ball between the stretched legs of Hangeland on the stroke of half-time.
QPR looked rejuvenated after the break and quickly won a penalty, only for Remy’s effort to be saved well by Schwarzer.
QPR kept on pressing and came close when Townsend fired from distance, but Schwarzer was on-point and saved himself from embarrassment.
Fulham didn’t really have an answer to QPR’s much improved second-half performance and the home side rode their luck a little.
Martin Jol has got a really good side at Craven Cottage – they have potential and will be a force to be reckoned with next season, I feel.
Fulham were reduced to ten-men as Steve Sidwell followed through with around fifteen minutes remaining, although it was a little harsh.
I feel that QPR left themselves with a little too much to do, although Samba, Townsend and Zamora had great chances to clinch a point. It wasn’t to be, and QPR will be panicking now. No doubt about it.
My Team of the Week
Written by Adam May
Follow Adam on Twitter @Amay132
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