Three things we have learned from the Premier League : Week 32
As the end of the campaign draws closer, the margins of winning, drawing or losing has never been greater. Here, we look at the key talking points from this fixtures at the weekend.
Five-goal relegation thriller
Norwich 3 - Newcastle 2
The Saturday 3pm kick-off between Norwich and Newcastle was billed as a relegation six-pointer, and the atmosphere prior to kick-off was certainly a tense one. The hosts set up in a defensive fashion, indicating that they would be satisfied with a point against Rafael Benitez's Newcastle. The first half appeared to be ending in an even, goalless stalemate before a leaping Timm Klose header gave Norwich a lead just before the whistle. Having taken four points from their previous two games, the Canaries came into this game with momentum and this goal further highlighted their attacking ability.
Newcastle had a few half chances in the second half, but it was not until the introduction of Aleksandar Mitrovic just after the hour mark which galvanised the visitors. It was the Serbian striker that headed in not long after his introduction, and the momentum appeared to have swung again. However, in this end-to-end match, it was not long before Norwich equalised. Dieumerci Mbokani found some space and struck a superb effort which beat stand in Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow. In the other end, John Ruddy made a string of top class saves from Andros Townsend to prevent further Newcastle goals. He couldn't, however, stop Benitez's team from scoring an equaliser, with Mitrovic equalising from the penalty spot after Norwich skipper Gary O'Neill was judged to have handled the ball. There was tension throughout the whole game, with supporters of both sides realising that the result was on a knife edge. It proved to be in the third minute of injury time that we could safely say it was the last goal of the match, with Martin Olsson drilling the ball past Darlow to see the hosts go six points clear of their beleaguered, north-east opponents.
Spoils shared at Anfield
Liverpool 1 - Spurs 1
The visitors, Spurs, went into this fixture with momentum behind them after the impressive performances of their England players in the international break. The likes of Harry Kane, Deli Alli, Danny Rose and Eric Dier all put in impressive displays against Germany and Holland. Liverpool were still without Roberto Firminio for this fixture, but were buoyed by the impressive international form of fellow Brazilian Philippe Coutinho as well as Adam Lallana. Both sides fielded attacking line-ups, with a point not enough in the latter stages of the campaign.
There appeared to be not too much to call between the two sides prior to kick-off, and it proved to be that way throughout the first-half.. It was the hosts that started the brightest here, with Liverpool pressing down their opposition and attacking in the manner that Spurs usually do in the opening exchanges. Daniel Sturridge and Lallana had several opportunities saved by Hugo Lloris, with the Frenchman showing in part why Spurs have the divisions best defensive unit. The hosts grew into the game as the half went on, and went near to goal themselves on occasion, with Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren looking a transformed player.
It was Coutinho who opened the scoring in the second half, after exchanging passes with Daniel Sturridge, before the Englishman intricately set the Brazilian up to finish. The visitors, realising the context this result could have on their season, started to dominate proceeding from there on in and were richly rewarded when Christian Eriksen chased the ball from nothing. The Dane just about kept the ball in play, before laying the ball into Harry Kane, who turned before drilling the ball past Simon Mignolet. Spurs had several further opportunities to snatch all three points in the games latter stages, but they were not clinical enough. Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino certainly saw this as being two points surrendered, rather than one gained, "We dropped two points but with six games, we need to believe and fight...We feel disappointed but we still need belief and to be ready for the next game."
Foxes pulling away from the chasing pack
Leicester 1 - Southampton 0
After Spurs' draw at Anfield, Leicester knew that a win against Southampton would open up a seven point gap at the top of the table. In the Saints, they were arguably facing one of the divisions best teams on current form after a three-match winning streak. It was the Saints, who started with three at the back, and full-backs Matt Targett and Ryan Bertrand pushing forward. Victor Wanyama and N'Golo Kante were the industrious midfield workhorses for both of their respective sides, and the duo were instrumental breaking up play and then setting up their team mates. Sadie Mane appeared almost certain to score after he rounded Leicester Kasper Schmeichel, but his shot was well saved by full-back Danny Simpson.
The deadlock was finally broken when Leicester captain Wes Morgan headed in a Robert Fuchs cross. Leicester carried on creating chances, and were only denied by some excellent saves from Fraser Forster. The England keeper also produced a specular save to deny an almost certain own goal from Saints centre back Jose Fonte. The visits introduced Dusan Tadic and Charlie Austin in the second half in a bid to score an equaliser. The tension of the home supporters with just a one goal margin was evident, and the hosts were fortunate not to concede a late goal after a flurry of Southampton set pieces. Leicester did manage to hold out for their fourth straight 1-0 win, in which they moved seven points clear at the top of the table. Without tempting fate, they surely can't lose their grip on the title now, given that they need just four wins from their last six games.
Aston Villa 0 - Chelsea 4
Sunderland 0 - West Brom 0
West Ham 2 - Crystal Palace 2
Arsenal 4 - Watford 0
Bournemouth 0 - Manchester City 0
Stoke 2 - Swansea 2
Manchester United 1 - Everton 0