April 28, 2014

A slip at the top for Liverpool, literally

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

A simple slip by ultimate leader Steven Gerrard may end up costing Liverpool its first title in the Premier League era.

That was all it took against a Chelsea side determined to park the bus and play super defensive, waiting for that one mistake to capitalize against the league leaders.

It came late in the first half, with Demba Ba stealing the misplayed ball from a falling Gerrard and slotting home a shot past charging keeper Simon Mignolet.

It was never going to be easy for Liverpool. Jose Mourinho sent out a side with many second-teamers and injury replacements with the goal being to “park two buses” in front of their net, as Reds manager Brendan Rodgers said.

Chelsea was hard to break down and when Liverpool could get a chance, the shot was usually from distance and/or right into the waiting arms of Mark Schwarzer.

And as the game went on, with Liverpool pressing and bringing on more offensive subs while Chelsea fortified its back line, the chances still couldn’t be made.

Heading into the game, you would’ve thought that the fact that Chelsea is in between the two legs of its Champions League semi with Atletico Madrid and has long list of injury porblems would’ve benefited the Reds. Instead, it just increased the likelihood that Chelsea would come out extremely defensive.

Now, with ManchesterCity capitalizing during its match with upstart CrystalPalace, the league is now in its hands.

Should both City and Liverpool win out, the Sky Blues would win on goal differential – like it did against Manchester United two years ago.

Liverpool fans are now in a very unenviable position: They’ll be cheering for Merseyside rivals Everton, as the Toffees host City next week.

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR LIVERPOOL

In what came as no surprise to anyone, Luis Suarez was named the PFA player of the year for this season.

That’s kind of what happens when you score 30 and also lead the league in assists while playing for a title contender.

Suarez was also on the team of the year with two other Reds: SAS strike partner Daniel Sturridge and captain Gerrard.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the team was the two Southampton inclusions to match the two City inclusions. The Saints have fallen off recently, yet Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw both made the team. City had oft-injured defender Vincent Kompany make it along with player-of-the-year nominee Yaya Toure.

Shaw has been good, but Pablo Zabaleta may have been the better choice, while Kompany may have missed too much time to be included.

GIGGS GETS IT DONE

It was a stellar managing debut for Ryan Giggs, piloting his Manchester United side to a win against overmatched Norwich City.

It was a predictable result, one that even the dismissed David Moyes could have accomplished.

There wasn’t much Giggs could do to screw this one up and his true managing mettle will only really be tested on the final day of the season, away at Southampton.

But even a great finish to the season won’t remove that interim tag from Giggs’ title as Louis van Gaal is very likely to join the club this summer – after his Dutch side are finished with that little thing known as the World Cup.

Where United goes from here is a larger question for when the season is over, but, for now at least, the Red Devils’ house seems to be in order.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

If you were looking for a goal of the year, you might not have to look any further than Jonjo Shelvey’s brilliant half volley from half field that curved in the top corner of Brad Guzan’s net. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait while you’re amazed … Speaking of brilliant finishes, two Everton defenders had some nice goals this week – too bad they were own-goals. Antolin Alcaraz’s diving header looked an especially inspired effort … Sunderland may be playing itself to safety after winning that relegation six-pointer against Cardiff. The Bluebirds That Wear Red are certainly doomed now … On the other end of that spectrum, Swansea’s season from hell seems to be over with the other Welsh side essentially securing safety with its win … What a beauty setup on Tottenham’s winner by Emmanuel Adebayor. When he’s on, he’s really on … If you needed more evidence that Fulham are destined for relegation, look no further than Saturday, when it blew a 2-0 lead with just 15 minutes left to play against Hull City. An especially gutting result for the Cottagers … Newcastle lost its sixth straight game, falling to Arsenal. The Magpies were so bad that they even made struggling Mesut Ozil look good. It’s beginning to look more and more like Alan Pardew will be sacked at season’s end – if he even makes it that far. Paging Moyes? Or will he be bound for Tottenham with van Gaal out of the picture for Spurs?

THE LAST WORD

Isn’t it a bit ridiculous that a player that has been part of a 32-million pound transfer and has played first-team football for six seasons was named the young player of the year?

Eden Hazard has been great, but at 23 isn’t exactly what you’d call a young footballer these days.

Southampton’s Shaw, at 18-years-old, should’ve been the choice.

This award should be more for an emerging player, or someone who has made a leap into the first team and is coming up, rather than just the best young player.

It’s time to change the criteria for voting on that award.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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