Brian McDermott’s side’s third victory of the Premier League campaign would have been reason enough to make the winners list but the fact they fought back from 2-0 down with 20 minutes left to win and keep alive their faint hopes of survival makes Reading one of the feel good stories of the weekend. 7 points from a possible 12 has moved Reading within touching distance of Aston Villa and Wigan. Upcoming home games against Chelsea and especially Sunderland offer McDermott’s revitalised side the opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation zone. Reading have scored more goals in the final 15 minutes of games than any other Premier league club this term and they’ll need to continue that trend if they are to stay up.
Despite the fact West Brom’s forward ended up on the losing side this past weekend his two goals and additional efforts that came back off both post and crossbar made Romelu Lukaku at times, unplayable. The Belgian striker cost Chelsea £18 million and is continuing his rapid development into a top class striker since moving to the Hawthorns on-loan at the beginning of the season. Lukaku’s 7-goal return is still one short of West Brom’s top scorer Shane Long but the Belgian’s superior strength and ability to link midfield with attack makes him an invaluable member of Steve Clarke’s starting XI. It won’t be long before Romelu Lukaku is knocking in the goals at Stamford Bridge.
A determined defensive display earned QPR a deserved point at home to Spurs yet the harsh reality is that the Loftus Road outfit remain rooted to the bottom of the table and need a miracle to avoid relegation. To his credit, Harry Redknapp has instilled some much needed defensive solidity with the shock 1-0 win at Chelsea followed by a goalless stalemate against Spurs. It is as much as Redknapp could have hoped for against Andre Villas-Boas' high-flying side but Spurs’ previous manager is only too aware that upcoming fixtures against West Ham and Norwich are now must-win games. Dropping down to the Championship could become a reality if Rangers fail to pick up at least 4 points from those fixtures but at least with Redknapp on board Rangers will go down fighting.
Sunderland took advantage of West Ham’s woeful away record (just two wins this season) to record their first victory in three attempts. Martin O’Neill cut a relieved figure in his post match interviews and why not having moved six points clear of the drop zone following a dreadful start to the season. It is not so long ago O’Neill had to deal with calls for his resignation following a woeful run of form but recent victories over Southampton, Manchester City and now West Ham suggests the Wearsiders are on the up. The form of midfielder Sebastian Larsson has been instrumental to Sunderland’s rise up the table but the entire squad buying into O’Neill’s philosophy is the reason the Black Cats look certain to stay up this season.
Newcastle United’s captain produced a man of the match display to help his side earn a valuable draw away to Norwich in what was the Magpies’ first clean sheet away from home this season. Coloccini made it clear to his manager Alan Pardew that he wishes to return to his native Argentina with his reportedly ill wife but with Newcastle’s form nose-diving the St. James’ Park club can ill afford to lose one of their most important defenders. Saturday’s display at Carrow Road underlines this fact.
The Wigan Athletic defender’s amazing goal-line clearance earned his side a point at Craven Cottage and a place amongst this week’s winners list. The Honduran international somehow arched his body to head away Bryan Ruiz’s fierce goal-bound shot with the score tied at 1-1. Take a bow son.
Robin Van Persie
The first ‘Super Sunday’ of the New Year saw Manchester United reemphasise their Premier League title credentials with a crucial victory over age-old rivals Liverpool. Robin van Persie converted his first chance of the encounter and went on to underline his importance to his new club with another all-round excellent display. The Dutch international’s latest strike made it 65 goals in 77 league fixtures and his tenth goal in as many games. Crucially for Alex Ferguson, Van Persie’s marvellous individual campaign is overshadowing Wayne Rooney’s loss of form and the former Arsenal striker will prove the difference between the two Manchester clubs at the end of the season.
There are bad days at the office and then there are the kind of horrific afternoons endured by Stoke City' striker Jonathan Walters which make you wish the likeable striker had stayed in bed. First, the Republic of Ireland international executed a perfect diving header to open the scoring for the visiting Chelsea. Then, a second headed own goal hit the net before Walters was presented with a late opportunity of redemption from the penalty spot only for the Stoke forward to blaze his effort wildly over the crossbar. To his credit, Walters never shirked his responsibilities and kept looking for the ball throughout a difficult 90 minutes earning plaudits for his manager Tony Pulis. The undeniable fact remains that Walters’ efforts ensured Stoke lost a proud home record intact since last February.
Whether it was a sending off or not is up for debate but there can be no denying Laurent Koscielny’s decision to wrap his arms around Edin Dzeko and in plain sight of referee Mike Dean cost Arsenal dearly at the Emirates on Sunday. The fact the two players tangled on the edge of the six-yard box may have swayed Dean’s eventual decision but Manchester City took full advantage of their extra man to inflict a fifth league defeat of the season on the Gunners and leave Arsene Wenger six points adrift of fourth place.
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