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Van Gaal is cool in the sun, Sunderland stage a comeback and City fail to give Pellegrini a final home win

Monday 9th May 2016
The title race might be over, but prior to the commencement of the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season, there was still much to play for. The fate of two of Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland still needs to be decided, whilst Champions League and Europa League places are still up for grabs.

Find out how the latest round of fixtures played out, as you catch up on your weekly dose of the key talking points below.

LVG's time in the sun?

Norwich 0 - 1 Manchester United

There was a lot riding on Saturday's lunchtime kick-off in East Anglia between hosts Norwich and the visiting Manchester United, yet you wouldn't think so by Louis van Gaal's choice of attire. The Red Devil's manager sported a casual pair of sunglasses for a game which both sides had to win in order to maintain their respective goals. For the home side, it was to build some momentum to stay in the division, whilst the visitors needed the win to usurp either Arsenal or their noisy neighbours in the elusive fourth spot.

Marcus Rashford, who has been in fine form recently, was left out of the squad due to an injury. Anthony Martial was then injured in the warm up, and thus the underperforming Memphis Depay was given a start alongside Wayne Rooney. For the hosts, both Steven Naismith and Patrick Bamford were left on the bench, with Alex Neil opting for Cameron Jerome to start up front. The tension in the stands reflected what was being displayed in a cage affair on the pitch. Both sides appeared to be setting up conservatively and pragmatically, despite the fact that a draw would not benefit either side. Norwich certainly had an abundance of enthusiasm, but they could not get a grip hold on the tie. United dominated the ball and the pace of the game in the opening exchanges, but could not create any chances, and the first-half petered out into a goalless stalemate.

The deadlock was finally broken in the second-half, when Wayne Rooney took advantage of sloppy defending from Sebastian Bassong to find Juan Mata, and the Spaniard duly finished past John Ruddy. Norwich's problem all campaign has not being able to find the back of the net, and they did not look like troubling David de Gea as the visitors saw out their one goal lead. They certainly have a fighting spirit, but a lack of cutting edge may prove their downfall this season. Neil understood the task his side are faced with, yet the Scotsman still believes there is cause for optimism, "The best teams get the goal when they are on top and ride the pressure. We made an error and it costs us. It is going to be tough, we are relying on other teams but we have got two more games." As for the visitors, Manchester United are still firmly in the race for the top four, and they are the team with the momentum going into the final week of the campaign. A tough trip awaits mid-week, as the final visiting team to the Boleyn Ground, and on this evidence, they will need to be more creative against West Ham to take anything back from London.

Fighting spirit still evident in County Durham

Sunderland 3 - 2 Chelsea

Sunderland have actually performed rather well this season - especially in the second part of the campaign - despite their lowly position. The Black Cats have fallen short in turning draws into wins throughout the campaign, which is surprising given the clinical nature of striker Jermain Defoe. Recently, however, they have started taking three points, both at home and also on the road. Against Chelsea, they were up against a side buoyed by an impressive comeback draw against title contenders Spurs last Monday. Eden Hazard particularly impressed when he came on in the second-half of that fixture. The Belgian was rewarded for that display by being given a starting berth in this fixture in support of Diego Costa. Thibaut Courtois also retained his place, despite intense speculation that he is set to leave the club this season after a row with the goalkeeping coach; rumours that manager Guus Hiddink has had to quell. Defoe started for the hosts, along with Fabio Borini up front. Sam Allardyce also opted for Lee Cattermole and the ever-impressive Jan Kirchoff in central midfield, with their job to not let Chelsea create in the final third.

Gary Cahill was unlucky not to be sent off within the first minute, after a rash challenge earned the England international a yellow card. Despite this, it was Chelsea who started the strongest and they took the advantage on 14 minutes, when Costa placed his shot past a watching Victor Mannone. In a game which the hosts needed to get something, they responded when former Bordeaux man Wahbi Khazri fired in a precise volley past Courtious to send the home support into uproar. Nemanja Matic - a player who epitomises the decline of Chelsea's fortunes this season - then got in behind the defence to rifle past Mannone and restore the visitors lead just before the break.

After the interval, Sunderland appeared a revitalised team despite the score line, and were threatening the Chelsea backline. Their persistence paid off when Borini struck midway through the second-half to level matters. Borini certainly has history with Chelsea, and that goal will have been even more the sweeter for the Italian. As well as being a Chelsea youth player, he also scored in the away victory at Stamford Bridge in 2014, which helped keep Sunderland up and was also Jose Mourinho's first ever home Premier League defeat. Just three minutes later, Defoe rifled in a Deandre Yeldin ball to put the hosts ahead. Sunderland were very much in the ascendancy from that point on, and they could have furthered their advantage had it not been for Courtois. With just five minutes left to play, Chelsea skipper John Terry picked up a yellow card for a late tackle on Defoe, before putting in a similar challenge on Khazri to receive his marching orders. Having already been sent off this season, Terry is now set to miss the final two games of the season, and possibly what would have been the final two games of his Chelsea career. The one-team man has yet to have received a new contract, and looks unlikely to do so now. This result has highlighted the vulnerability of his club Chelsea, given that they lost from a winning position. It also showed the strength of Sunderland, as they moved out of the relegation zone with a resolute display. They also have a game in hand of their nearest pace-setters, Newcastle, and a win from their last two games will guarantee the Black Cats survival.   

All square at the Etihad

Manchester City 2 - 2 Arsenal

As the campaign draws to a close, Manchester City have found themselves in a fight to finish in the top four of the Premier League. As for Arsenal, they are in a relatively similar position yet have a slight advantage over City. As such, it was a game which the home side had to win if they did not want to be usurped by local rivals Manchester United.

They started well enough and came flying out the blocks from the first whistle. Sergio Aguero found the back of the net after just eight minutes, after he rifled in a trademark low shot into the bottom corner. Minutes later, Olivier Giroud then scored his first Premier League goal since January to even matters up. There was little to separate the sides at half time, and that was reflected in the pitch. After the break, a superb solo effort and clinical finish from Kevin de Bruyne restored City's advantage in Manuel Pellegrini's last home game in charge. There was to be no fairytale ending for the Chilean, however as Giroud set up Alexis Sanchez, who converted  precisely from 15 yards out. The result means that's Champions League qualification is now out of City's hands, and if their local rivals win their next two games, they will be playing amongst Europe's elite next season. As for Arsenal, the Gunner's now need just a point at home to hapless Aston Villa to be able to play in Europe's top tournament. What a season, eh?!

Other results:

Aston Villa 0 - 0 Newcastle

Bournemouth 1 - 1 West Brom

Crystal Palace 2 - 1 Stoke

West Ham 1 - 4 Swansea

Leicester 3 - 1 Everton

Spurs 1 - 2 Southampton

Liverpool 2 - 0 Watford
Chris Baily

From Liverpool, I am also a life-long Reds supporter. I enjoy watching, writing and participating in football. As well as watching the Premier League, I also keep a keen eye on leagues across Europe, such as the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A.

Total articles: 20

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