There’ve been twists and turns in the Premiership this season at either end of the table and Week 35 was no different. There was considerable entertainment and on-the-edge-of-the-seat football in the title race as well as in the race to finish above the bottom three.
Defending Premiership champions Manchester United are still top of the table but only just. For much of their trip to Blackburn Rovers on Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men appeared to throw their slender lead over title challengers Chelsea as they ploughed on to salvage a point as Blackburn went ahead in the 21th minute thanks to a Rocky Santa Cruz strike. Then in injury time in the fashion that the Red Devils have come to make their own over the years, they hit back scoring through Carlos Tevez. That was enough to secure a 1-1 draw and United stretch their lad over second place Chelsea to 3 points. Chelsea had defeated Everton 1-0 on Thursday.
Both third place Arsenal and fourth place Liverpool won their respective games against Reading and Fulham on Saturday. The Gunners cruised to a 2-0 win at the Emirates in the lunchtime kickoff on Saturday thanks to goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Gilberto Silva and remain 7 points off the pace. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez rested several of his first team regulars keeping an eye on midweek’s UEFA Champions League tie with Chelsea but the Reds still defeated Fulham 2-0, Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch scoring for the Merseysiders. Liverpool remain fourth, 3 points behind Arsenal.
For Reading though this was their third successive defeat in the Premiership and the third successive match that the Royals have failed to find the target. Steve Coppell’s side are now just 1 place and 1 point above the dreaded relegation zone. Fulham are second from bottom, 2 points off safety and the side immediately above the Londoner are Birmingham City. City were dumped 5-1 by city rivals Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday, John Carew and Ashley Young scoring a brace each. Alex McLeish’s side remain on 31 points and in 18th position in the standings. Already relegated Derby County meanwhile lost 2-1 away at West Ham United.
A few other clubs remain teetering on the gray area between relegation and safety. Bolton Wanderers’ deserved 1-0 win at the Riverside Stadium over Middlesbrough was the second win in a row for Gary Megson and extends the gap between them and Birmingham to 1 point. Middlesbrough, on the other hand, stay stuck on 36 points after 35 matches in 14th position. Level on points with Boro in 13th position are Wigan Athletic who held Tottenham Hotspur to a 1-1 draw at the JJB Stadium on Saturday.
Interestingly even Sunderland have 36 points and are 15th after going down 2-0 to Newcastle United at St. James’ Park in the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday. Michael Owen scored both goals for the Geordies as Kevin Keegan’s side strolled to their 4th win in 5 league matches eventually guaranteeing them of top flight football next season.
In the last, but not the least, Premiership match of the weekend, Manchester City comfortably beat Portsmouth 3-1 at the Cit of Manchester Stadium on Sunday in what was a highly entertaining match. City took the lead through Darius Vassell in the 11th minute, then doubled their lead through Martin Petrov two minutes later before Pompey pulled done back through Utaka. City did have the last laugh though as Benjani rounded off a well deserved 3-1 victory for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side. The Swede can now relax. The pressure on him was getting intense as City were slipping in the league standings but two successive Premiership wins have now accelerated Man City to 8th in the table.