Aston Villa defeat overshadowed by protests against Randy Lerner.
Norwich edge a six-point encounter with Newcastle.
Leicester Extend their lead at the top of the Premier League
Aston Villa 0-4 Chelsea
Chelsea dismantled a poor Aston Villa side with ease at Villa Park. With the departure of Remi Garde in midweek this performance suggested the fight is over, the white flags have been raised.
Guus Hiddink’s unbeaten league run continued as goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Alexandre Pato and a brace from Pedro separated the sides. Loftus Cheek’s deflected opener was his first Premier League goal and well deserved. From the first minute the midfielder showed pace, strength and desire, most notably beating Joleon Lescott to the ball before holding the defender off to win a corner. The FA Youth Cup winner bent another effort past the far post. The youngster’s progression under Hiddink has been dramatic and seeing Jake Clarke-Salter also debut as a substitute for Pedro shows Chelsea have the quality in their academy, it’s about time they started using it.
Pato repaid the favour of a Premier League debut by winning and converting a penalty after being wrestled to the ground by Aly Cissokho. The Brazilian’s impact didn’t finish there as Pato was involved in a neat passing move, finished by Pedro, in which the striker split the defence with a Cesc Fabregas-esque defence splitting pass.
Pedro’s brace put the game out of reach for Villa and the disappointment written across his face when substituted showed he wanted to complete the hat trick. The Spaniard finished off a passing move before chipping Pato’s rebound across goal to complete his brace. The winger has had a mixed time at Chelsea, the manager that brought him to the club departed and the new manager has shown faith. His Blues career flat lined in the middle of the season but as the team improve, so does Pedro.
A hostile environment greeted both sets of players as more protests were held against owner Randy Lerner. A 74th minute protest filled Villa Park as banners saying ‘proud history, what future?’ were held aloft among banners in reference to their creation in 1874 and their inevitable relegation to the Championship with the club up for sale since 2014.
When your own fans are against you, playing for the shirt becomes that much harder. Leandro Bacuna felt the wrath of Villa fans after making comments about wanting to play in the Champions League. Fans met his substitution onto the field with chants of ‘Champions League, you’re having a laugh.’ Every time Bacuna touched the ball it was met with jeers.
Jordan Ayew showed great desire up front to create and finish chances for his side but not many others played with the same spirit as the Ghanaian. Carlos Sanchez in particular looked lazy in the centre of the park, dangling a leg to make a challenge, a sign of his lack of commitment to the cause was apparent. Frustration got the better of Alan Hutton, two needless yellow cards, the second a harsh decision as the defender slid into Loftus-Cheek challenging for the ball.
One player who will be detrimental to their Championship promotion push will be Jack Grealish. The winger made an instant impact, driving a cross across the face of goal but no one could find that finishing touch needed. His footballing ability was never in doubt, his off field issues were what was holding him back, along with Gabriel Agbonlahor who did not feature because of an incident while on holiday in Dubai that featured in the press in mid-week.
Aston Villa could face relegation as early as next weekend while Chelsea have an outside chance of gaining European qualification. The Blues are 10 points behind fourth placed Manchester City and seven behind fifth placed West Ham with seven games remaining.
The dream is starting to look like a reality for Leicester City. The Foxes took full advantage of Tottenham’s draw against Liverpool on Saturday to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points.
Wes Morgan’s header separated the sides in a fairly even contest that had a little bit of controversy to boot. After a fairly strong start from the home side, Southampton began pressing the Leicester defence. Sadio Mane found himself through on goal but his effort was blocked by the arm of Danny Simpson, but replays showed that the contact was accidental. It was only minutes later that Morgan turned in Christian Fuchs’ cross, however it appeared he might have shoved the defender.
The Foxes continued their trend of grinding out 1-0 victories with a solid defensive display in the second half, and they wrapped up the victory to extend their lead at the top. It’s an incredible to see that this time last year Leicester were seven points from safety. Now they are seven points clear at the top of the Premier League and four wins away from winning it. Their amazing season continues.
Even though there are still six games for Norwich to play Martin Olsson’s last minute winner was definitely worth six points. Although the Canaries will have to settle for three points, a last minute winner against a relegation rival could be the difference between Premier League survival and the Championship.
For Rafael Benitez’s side there are still seven games to play and still enough games to maintain their Premier League status. However, Carrow Road must have been a fixture highlighted for three points. The Magpies ever led in this game, having to come from behind twice only for Olsson to snatch victory in the dying moments. Third choice goalkeeper Karl Darlow couldn’t prevent his side from tasting a second defeat in two with the ex-Nottingham Forest man between the posts.
Timm Klose’s header sent Norwich in front at the break but Aleksandar Mitrovic cancelled this out with a header of his own. The Canaries took the lead again through Dieumerci Mbokani only for the Serb to draw Newcastle level once again from the spot. This show of fight from both sides showed how much the three points meant in this game alone. After Mbokani’s Brussels scare to come into the side ad leave everything on the pitch and contribute a goal is phenomenal.
Newcastle have a game in hand on Norwich which will take them within three points of the Carrow Road outfit. The Canaries are four points clear of the relegation zone but Sunderland also have a game in hand and can narrow the deficit to one point with victory.
Manchester United 1-0 Everton
On the day Manchester United renamed the South Stand after Sir Bobby Charlton, once a Busby Babe, a new breed of young talents combined to gift the home side victory. Everton slipped to a third straight league defeat but the Red Devils were never comfortable.
With Champions League a priority, an undeserved 1-0 victory is a big three points if the reward is hosting the heavyweights of Europe next season. Another goalless first half for United made for grim viewing as Gerard Deulofeu caused havoc for Marcos Rojo down Everton’s right wing.
There have been two groups of young players to break into the senior team as a collective: The Busby Babes and the Class of ’92, are we witnessing a third? Marcus Rashford’s rise continued as he played Tim Fosu-Mensah whose cross was met by Anthony Martial to slot home the only goal of the game. Along with Rashford and Fosu-Mensah, the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have made an impact on games, changing the games in United’s favour, shown again today.
Everton’s slippery slope down the table continues as a squad with quality in abundance fail to fulfil their potential. John Stones is a key example of that as he and Seamus Coleman had a lapse in concentration that allowed Martial the space to break the deadlock. Phil Jagielka led by example as he twice nearly put the Toffees ahead, heading against the bar before later being denied by a reaction save from David De Gea.
To keep attracting the talent they have, European football is usually a good lure alongside the Premier League. Guaranteed Europa League football is 15 points away for 12th placed Everton while the team who fill that position are Manchester United. The home side are a point away from their Manchester rivals in fourth place and filling the final Champions League place.
Of the other fixtures:
Arsenal 4-0 Watford
Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham
Leicester City 1-0 Southampton
Bournemouth 0-4 Manchester City
Stoke City 2-2 Swansea City
Sunderland 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United 2-2 Crystal Palace
West Ham United kick off next week’s action as they host Arsenal at 12:45 BST on Saturday 9th April
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