Goals fly in, records tumble as Premier League delivers a feast
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 00:00
REUTERS: The Premier League lived up to its reputation as the most entertaining and exciting league in the world on Saturday as the goals flowed, records were broken and a major controversy added extra spice to the heady mix.
From the early afternoon kick-off at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea crushed Arsenal by a record 6-0 to the evening game across London at Upton Park where champions Manchester United beat West Ham 2-0, millions of viewers in over 200 territories around the world certainly got their money’s worth.
The Premier League’s latest TV broadcasting rights deal for 2013-16 is worth in excess of 5.0 billion pounds with a global TV reach unparalleled by any other league.
Recent British Government figures show that tourists coming to England who watch Premier League games spend in excess of 800 million pounds a year on tickets, merchandising, transportation and all the other sundries in getting to and from a match.
And those who were at Stamford Bridge, Upton Park, Cardiff City Stadium or the Etihad in Manchester on Saturday would not have been disappointed.
The 32 goals scored on the day was the highest total on one day since 35 were scored on 29 December 2012 and with Chelsea and Liverpool hitting six and Manchester City scoring five, it was the first time since May 1998 that three teams had scored five or more goals on the same afternoon.
The drama started early at Stamford Bridge where Arsene Wenger began the day by celebrating his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal but ended it admitting he took full responsibility for “the nightmare” of the defeat that followed.
While Wenger entered the record books for his longevity, Chelsea rewrote their own by scoring their biggest ever win over their London rivals and their biggest league win under Manager Jose Mourinho whose unbeaten home league record in his two spells as Chelsea manager now stretches to 76 games.
It was the first time Arsenal had conceded six goals in a top flight match in London since they lost 6-0 to West Ham in 1960, and the first time in the Premier League era they have had a player sent off for mistaken identity.
The day’s major controversy began when Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dived to punch a shot from Edin Hazard clear and conceded a penalty but referee Andre Marriner sent off his team-mate Kieran Gibbs for the offence instead.
Fans around the world saw a TV camera close-up of Oxlade-Chamberlain telling Marriner that he was the player who committed the offence.
The incident highlighted one of the great ironies of the global game as referees and their assistants are not allowed to consult TV replays in cases of uncertainty.
So while millions around the world knew exactly what had happened, the referee had to live with his mistake.
While not exactly apologising, he “expressed his disappointment” to Arsenal later, but even if he had sent off the right man, on Saturday’s evidence Chelsea still would have crushed Arsenal whose title challenge now looks over.
Manchester City’s and Liverpool’s though are both alive after City beat bottom-club Fulham 5-0 with a Yaya Toure hat-trick, which included two penalties, and Liverpool won 6-3 at Cardiff.
The league’s top scorer Luis Suarez took his tally for the season to 28 goals by scoring his third hat-trick of the campaign in a pulsating match which Cardiff led twice.
Those results left Chelsea four points ahead of Liverpool at the top and six clear of City, though City have three matches in hand. Arsenal trail Chelsea by seven points, although they do have a match in hand.
Manchester United’s hopes of retaining their title have ended but although they are in seventh place, 18 points behind the leaders, David Moyes’ men are showing definite signs of improvement and made their mark on Saturday’s action in a very special way.
Wayne Rooney scored both of their goals in their 2-0 win at West Ham, and the first, a contender for Goal of the Season, evoked memories of David Beckham’s famous strike from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996.
Rooney was just inside the West Ham half, more than 50 metres from the West Ham goal, when he smashed an audacious shot high into the air which flew over marooned goalkeeper Adrian, bounced once and ended in the back of the net.
In another perfect TV moment, the camera closed in on his old team mate Beckham watching in the director’s box with a smile beamed all over his face.
Rooney’s though, was not the only truly spectacular goal of the day as Norwich City’s Ghanaian-born Norway international midfielder Alexander Tettey delivered another never-to-be-forgotten moment in their 2-0 win over Sunderland.
Tettey, 27, who had not scored for Norwich in the league in any of his previous 42 appearances, blasted home an unstoppable volley from 25 metres out to seal a precious victory.
And anyone who can’t get enough of the Premier League won’t have to wait long for their next instalment with the Manchester United-Manchester City derby on Tuesday the pick of five catch-up games being played in the coming week.