By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Manchester City’s chances at defending the Premier League title took a devastating blow on Saturday as the club fell 2-0 to a determined Everton side.
The host Toffees rebounded from last weekend’s 3-0 FA Cup quarterfinal loss to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic with a hard-fought victory over second-place City. After Kevin Mirallas’s early goal was incorrectly ruled offside, Leon Osman put Everton out in front with a swerving long-range effort. The hosts controlled the rest of the first half but were unable to add to their slim lead.
The match swung in Manchester City’s favor just after the hour mark when Steven Pienaar was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. But Everton goalkeeper Jan Mucha, who continues to fill in for the injured Tim Howard, held off the surging City offense with eight crucial saves. The visitors thought they were going to be awarded a penalty kick towards the end of the 90 minutes, but referee Lee Probert thought that an earlier handball had occurred outside the box.
Everton sealed the win in stoppage time with a quick counter attack that was spearheaded by Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian midfielder drove down the middle of the field, absorbing defenders before playing the ball out wide to Nikica Jelavic. The forward’s shot was deflected past Joe Hart, putting a cap on Everton’s sixth win in its last eight matches against Man City.
The win propels Everton into sixth place and past rival Liverpool, who fell 3-1 to Southampton on Saturday. The Toffees are now two points back from Arsenal for the fifth-place Europa League spot. Manchester City, on the other hand, now finds itself 15 points back from league-leading Manchester United, who defeated lowly Reading 1-0 in Saturday’s late match.
Here are some more stories to wrap up Saturday’s Premier League action:
ARSENAL WINS COMFORTABLY AT SWANSEA
Although it took them 74 minutes to get on the scoreboard Saturday, the Gunners of Arsenal cruised past Swansea City 2-0 to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
The visitors created several chances on Michel Vorm’s goal in a scoreless first half, but they were denied by either the Dutch goalkeeper or the goal itself—Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the woodwork twice in the opening frame.
Swansea generated very little offense in the match as none of the club’s nine shots were put on Lukasz Fabianski’s goal. Key playmaker Michu, who scored both goals in the Swans’ 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium earlier this season, was held in check by the Arsenal defense on Saturday.
Arsenal finally broke through with 16 minutes left. Nacho Monreal registered his first goal as a Gunner after his shot took a deflection off Ashley Williams and past Vorm. Gervinho would later secure the three points for the club in stoppage time, scoring off of a great pass from Aaron Ramsey.
ASTON VILLA GETS MUCH-NEEDED WIN OVER QPR
Aston Villa moved six points clear of the dreaded drop zone on Saturday with a dramatic 3-2 win over last-place Queens Park Rangers.
The visiting Rangers were in complete control of the match’s first half, inching out in front off of a Jermaine Jenas goal in the 23rd minute. Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan kept QPR from extending the lead with some fine saves and a few deflections off of the woodwork. The Villans were able to snatch an equalizer against the run of play in first half stoppage time when Gabriel Agbonlahor latched onto a Matthew Lowton cross.
The goal sparked some more offense from Villa in the second half. Andreas Weimann slotted home his 11th goal of the campaign just before the hour mark to give Villa a 2-1 lead. After Lowton missed a chance to make it 3-1 for Villa, QPR’s Andros Townsend equalized with 17 minutes left.
Weimann turned from goal scoring to assist making with nine minutes left in the match, delivering a low cross to Christian Benteke. The Belgian would knock the cross in for his seventh goal in his last eight league matches, bringing his goal tally to 17 on the season.
QPR, who entered Saturday’s match on the heels of back-to-back league wins, now sits seven points back from the safety mark with only eight matches left in the campaign. The club will face four bottom-half sides in its next five league fixtures.
Everton 2, Manchester City 0
Aston Villa 3, QPR 2
Southampton 3, Liverpool 1
Stoke City 0, West Bromwich Albion 0
Arsenal 2, Swansea City 0
Manchester United 1, Reading 0
What do you think of these results? Where do you see Everton finishing at season’s end? Think Arsenal is going to finish in the top four? What do you make of QPR’s chances at avoiding relegation after Saturday’s loss?
Share your comments below.