By Andrew Discenza
Has Peter Crouch wrapped up goal of the season already? The big striker scored an outrageously good effort that was well worthy of earning a point for Stoke against Manchester City. The ball never touched the ground as Crouch exchanged headers with Jermaine Pennant after a long goal kick, and when he got the ball back he set himself up with a cushioned touch 30 yards out, before unleashing a highly unexpected and totally unstoppable volley that swerved and dipped under the bar and into the very top corner with Joe Hart unable to get anywhere near it.
Fabrice Muamba will have been delighted to see Bolton move out of the relegation zone after a 2-1 win over Blackburn, courtesy of two David Wheater headers. The 25-year-old defender rose well twice within six minutes to power Wanderers to victory, but all hearts and minds were on the stricken midfielder still recovering in hospital.
Off the Line
Gary Cahill & Ashley Cole each produced vital blocks on the line to keep Chelsea on level terms with Tottenham. Petr Cech had saved from Rafael Van der Vaart, who seemed destined to score at the second time of asking but Cole made himself big with a courageous block. Toward the end, Emmanuel Adebayor rounded Cech and had the goal at his mercy, but Cahill recovered in time to slide and clear off the line.
Pable Zabaleta did brilliantly well with Ryan Shawcross’ seemingly goal-bound header, the Argentine somehow stretching to keep the ball out.
Stephen Warnock kept Robin Van Persie from adding to his tally this season with a spectacular improvised flick header to deny the Dutchman.
Referee Michael Oliver failed to give a stonewall penalty that could have earned Fulham a deserved draw with Manchester United. With time winding down, Michael Carrick barged clumsily into the back of Danny Murphy who had complete control of the ball, but the curse of Old Trafford was evidently in effect as Mr. Oliver declined to point to the spot.
Hatem Ben Arfa was the star of the show as Newcastle overran West Brom 3-1. He put in an incisive performance, constantly driving toward goal or splitting open the Baggies defense with forward passes. His two assists for Papiss Cisse came from very similar positions, as he showed a knack for getting to the byline and delivering a telling ball in, and both passes left the Senegalese with a simple finish. Ben Arfa took his own goal superbly, shifting onto his deadly left foot to send the ball unerringly into the corner.
Special Set Pieces
Mikel Arteta scored a stunning late free-kick to cap off Arsenal’s 3-0 rout of Aston Villa, the Gunners’ seventh league win in a row. Arteta lined up a free-kick 25-yards out and wowed the crowd with a line-drive bullet of a shot that simply flew into the far corner.
Leighton Baines has cemented his status as free-kick expert, as his goal helped Everton to victory over Swansea and made the full-back the club’s top scorer. Baines had won the free-kick himself and took it with aplomb, bending the ball precisely into the top corner.
Taye Taiwo’s goal was a mere consolation for QPR, but it was a finely executed free-kick, curled over the wall and into the corner despite the goalkeeper’s best efforts.
It’s clear that Djibril Cisse has a discipline problem after receiving his second red card in five matches for QPR. Fraizer Campbell had nipped in to win the ball from the Frenchman, who had a moment of madness as he lunged two-footed, studs-up into his opponent with no attempt to play the ball. A senseless challenge with no other outcome than a sending off.
Gary Caldwell sunk Liverpool with a goal symptomatic of the Reds’ fortunes and attitudes this season. James McCarthy’s shot took a lucky deflection that caught the home side’s back line sleeping, leaving Caldwell with a point-blank chance which he converted smartly.
Grant Holt’s brace was the difference as Norwich edged Wolves 2-1. Simeon Jackson played Holt in behind a woeful Wolves defense, and the striker cleverly lifted the ball over Wayne Hennessey to nod into the empty net. He would later be sent off, but not before smashing a penalty up the middle to grab the three points.
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Chelsea won the Europa League on Wednesday. The Blues defeated Benfica 2-1 on injury time goal from Ivanovic.
The Juventus jersey for the 2013/14 was released earlier this week. Be the first to wear the colors of the Old Lady.
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