English Premier League: A Weekend of Farewells in the Penultimate Round of Premier League Action

Future Manchester United manager David Moyes (Flickr Commons)

Future Manchester United manager David Moyes (Flickr Commons)

In Sir Alex Ferguson’s final home game of his career, Manchester United produced a performance typical of their iconic manager as Rio Ferdinand’s late strike sealed a 2-1 victory over a spirited Swansea City side. The defender volleyed home in the 87th minute for his first club goal in over five years, after Michu‘s clinical finish had cancelled out Javier Hernandez’s first-half opener. A respectful guard of honor greeted Ferguson before the game, before he finished the day in style by lifting the Premier League trophy for the 13th and final time. It was a fitting tribute to one of the greatest managerial minds that the game has ever seen.

But Ferguson’s farewell wasn’t the only one of the day. His replacement, David Moyes, was also at the centre of an emotional goodbye as he sat in the Goodison Park home dugout for the very last time. His Everton side defeated Wet Ham United 2-0, thanks to Kevin Mirallas’ brace – the first of which capped off an excellent passing move. If Moyes can have his future Manchester United teams produce such impressive attacking play, then the Old Trafford faithful need not worry about life after Ferguson.

Meanwhile, a number of teams nearer the other end of the table strengthened their positions in the battle to avoid the drop this term. Norwich secured their safety with a comprehensive 4-0 win over West Brom at Carrow Road. Robert Snodgrass, Grant Holt, a Gareth MacAuley own goal and Jonny Howson sealed the victory, moving the Canaries onto 41 points, six clear of 18th placed Wigan. Newcastle also picked up three points that make relegation impossible. They overcome bottom-placed QPR with goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoann Gouffran after Loic Remy had given the home side an 8th minute lead.

Their northeast rivals Sunderland though will still be looking nervously over their shoulder. They could only draw 1-1 with Southampton at the Stadium of Light, meaning they sit just four points clear of Wigan who have two games left to play. Phil Bardsley gave the Black Cats the lead but substitute Jason Puncheon came off the bench to equalize  meaning that the Saints are now all-but guaranteed to stay up. They now move ahead of Fulham on goal difference, who lost 3-1 to Liverpool in their fifth successive defeat. Daniel Sturridge was the Reds hero as he helped himself to a hat-trick after Dimitar Berbatov had put Fulham ahead just after half an hour.

Though the relegation picture is becoming less and less crowded, the battle for Champions League football remains as competitive as ever. Chelsea won 2-1 at Aston Villa on Saturday with Frank Lampard scoring twice to become the Blues’ all-time leading goalscorer, helping the club move three-points clear in third place. Their nearest rivals Tottenham then replicated the scoreline on Sunday at Stoke. Steven N’Zonzi put the hosts ahead early on, but goals from Clint Dempsey and Emmanuel Adebayor turned the tie on its head to steer Spurs home. They now occupy fourth-place and are two points clear of Arsenal; however the Gunners can regain their spot with victory over Wigan on Tuesday night. Any two of these three London sides could still secure Champions League qualification, with this race set to go right down to the final day of the season.

Victory for Arsenal on Tuesday would of course relegate Wigan as well, thus one can expect a dramatic encounter at the Emirates Stadium. Reading also host Manchester City on the same night, before the following weekend will see a full card of fixtures for this season’s final round of games. Though the Champions have been decided, there is still plenty to be settled, so make sure you tune in for all the Premier League updates as we enter week 38 of the Barclays Premier League.

Posted in: Analysis, Post-Match

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