By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from Premier League and FA Cup Semi Finals
- Full results
Chelsea and Arsenal booked their place in the FA Cup final whilst Swansea and Hull took a step closer towards staying in the Premier League. Here are five things from the weekend’s domestic action.
Chelsea gained a psychological advantage in the title race
It was a cracking FA Cup semi final on Saturday and will go down as one of the games of the season, but it was Chelsea that booked their place in the final with a 4-2 victory over title rivals Tottenham.
Willian’s free kick gave the Blues the lead early to set the stage for the rest of the match. Harry Kane’s improvised header levelled for Spurs after 18 minutes, but Willian added a second before half time from the penalty spot after Victor Moses was brought down by Heung-Min Son. Spurs would not be deterred however, and it was Dele Alli who got them level after Cristian Eriksen’s exquisite pass.
Antonio Conte made a controversial decision to not start Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, but after the equaliser it did not take long for them to enter the field of play. The Belgian made an immediate impact by putting Chelsea 3-2 ahead with 15 minutes left. Just moments later, Nemanja Matic scored the goal of the match with a bullet that hit the woodwork on its way in. Spurs could not muster enough to get back into the game with Kane coming closest with a free kick that almost slipped under Thibaut Courtois and over the line.
It was a fantastic match full of quality and entertainment, but as can often be the case the more clinical team won. Despite Spurs having the more possession and territory, Chelsea did more with the ball when they had it and were able to take their chances.
Not only is the domestic double still on for the Blues, this win could also serve as a big mental win in the race for the Premier League title. Tottenham have been excellent recently and have closed the gap to four points whilst Chelsea’s form dipped. This result could change the momentum as the league leaders will be full of confidence after beating their nearest rivals. Spurs on the other hand might start to doubt themselves after falling short.
There will be no trophy for Pep Guardiola in his debut season
The second semi final had a lot to live up to after the thrilling game the day before. It was a big game for both Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola, who both needed the win for different reasons. For Wenger, it was a chance to add some light on what has been a dark season for the Gunners, whilst Guardiola was searching for his first trophy in English football.
The first half was goal-less but was no less dramatic. Manchester City and Arsenal though they should have had penalties for fouls on Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez. Then the Citizens were controversially denied a goal when Leroy Sane’s looping cross was judged to have gone out of play. Replays showed that it did not, but it was a difficult decision for the officials to make. The goals would come in the second half, starting with Aguero’s fine finish past Petr Cech on the counter attack. Nacho Monreal’s converted an excellent Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain cross.
Both sides came close to finding a winner during normal time, but it was not to be as the game seemed destined to go into extra time. It was the Gunners who struck first ten minutes in as Danny Welbeck’s scuffed effort fell to Sanchez who fired Arsenal into the lead from close range. The Gunners held out for the remainder of extra time to set up a London derby at Wembley in five weeks time.
Despite some flashes of brilliance throughout the season and the pedigree of their manager, Guardiola will go without a trophy for the first time in his managerial career in his debut season as Man City boss. The Spaniard had big success with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but the fact is City do not have the quality of those two sides. It is a process for Guardiola to get the side how he wants it, playing his style and winning trophies. As for Wenger, the Frenchman has the chance to maybe leave the club on a high by winning the FA Cup or securing his future at the club. Either way, it was a big win for Arsenal in what has so far been a difficult season.
Hull and Swansea scored huge wins
Whilst many eyes will have been on the FA Cup semi finals, it was still a huge weekend in the Premier League, particularly at the bottom of the table.
Swansea and Hull look set to have a shootout for survival until the end of the season, meaning every game and every point is vital. Bournemouth may have saved themselves and sent Middlesbrough down in the process with a 4-0 win, making Swansea’s and Hull’s home games even more important.
Things looked promising for Swansea early on as Fernando Llorente gave the Welsh side the lead after 10 minutes. Just moments later, Hull went down to ten men when Oumar Niasse was controversially shown a straight red for a challenge on M’Baye Niang. Despite going down to ten men, the Tigers remained gutsy and got their reward when Lazar Markovic opened the scoring just after the hour mark. Swansea were the next to strike after 70 minutes through Tom Carroll’s deflected effort, but just a minute later Sam Clucas put Hull 2-0 as the two sides continued to mirror each other.
It was a crucial three points for both sides as neither can afford any slip ups in the coming weeks. Hull continued their excellent home form under Marco Silva whilst Swansea are back to winning ways under Paul Clement. The Tigers remain two ahead of the Swansea in the table with just four games remaining. Who will stay in the top flight?
Manchester United have boosted their top four hopes ahead of the Manchester derby
With their neighbours busy with their FA Cup semi final against Arsenal, Manchester United had the chance to close the gap to Manchester City to just a single point ahead of their derby encounter on Thursday.
The Red Devils made the difficult away trip to one of the Premier League’s best home sides in Burnley hoping to avoid a potential banana skin. The returning Wayne Rooney would have a big impact on the final result. The Englishman started the counter attack that gave United the lead through Anthony Martial. Rooney would add a second before half time as the game slipped away from the home side. United remained strong enough to see out the three points and go within a point of their neighbours ahead of the Manchester derby. The winner of that match will take a huge step towards Champions League qualification.
Liverpool on the other-hand faltered in their challenge to qualify for the Champions League. The Reds took the lead against Crystal Palace through Phillipe Coutinho’s free kick, but they went on to be haunted by a former striker. Christian Benteke levelled for the Eagles before half time before netting a winner 16 minutes from time. It was a big result for Crystal Palace who move to 12th in the Premier League. Liverpool are no susceptible to being passed by the Manchester clubs who have two games in hand.
Everton will likely miss out on European football for next season
With Arsenal and Manchester City in FA Cup action, Everton also had a chance to continue their outside push for a European qualification spot.
However, in a disappointing affair at the Olympic Stadium, the Toffees were held to a 0-0 draw against West Ham. It took an hour for the first shot to be made on goal as both sides cancelled each other out.It was a disappointing result for Everton who continue to struggle away from home. They had a chance to move up to fifth temporarily with a win, but they were well held by West Ham. The Hammers are now only two points away from reaching the 40 point mark that usually secures Premier League safety.
Full Premier League results
Bournemouth 4-0 Middlesbrough
Hull 2-0 Watford
Swansea 2-0 Stoke
West Ham 0-0 Everton
Burnley 0-2 Man United
Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace
FA Cup Semi Finals
Chelsea 4-2 Tottenham
Arsenal 2-1 Man City AET
The Premier League returns on Tuesday 25th of April.
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