by Evan Sobol
This week’s action featured a draw between two top clubs and the league’s leaders falling to a bottom-half team.
Chelsea has held a solid lead at the top of the table for several weeks. Following the Blues’ surprising 1-2 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday, the three teams behind them gained traction in the title race, with second-place Tottenham only seven points behind.
Palace is one of the hottest bottom-half teams in the league right now. The victory at Stamford Bridge was their fourth straight win. Chemistry between the midfielders and forwards led to two early goals.
Wilfried Zaha scored in the ninth minute with a strike in the bottom-left corner of the net when he was surrounded by four Chelsea defenders. It was Zaha’s sixth goal of the season, triple his total of last year.
Christian Benteke, who assisted on the first goal, scored the second goal for Palace two minutes later. The forward dribbled from midfield and put the ball past two defenders to meet Zaha, who was waiting in the box. Zaha then passed back to Benteke who lobbed a strike into the wide-open net.
It was the Belgium international’s 10th goal of the season, good enough for 13th in the league. Palace’s offense stayed dormant for the rest of the match, but good defense secured the lead until the end.
The home side got off to a hot start after an early goal in minute five. Eden Hazard was left isolated on the left edge of the box when he fired a pass into the center of the box that met midfielder, Cesc Fabregas.
The Spain international met the ball untouched and capitalized with the short-range goal. It was his fourth of the season. The Blues would have had a chance to tie in minute 15, if not for a blown officiating call.
Palace’s Andros Townsend stuck out his arm to deflect a shot by Chelsea’s Pedro. Officials did not call the handball leading to Chelsea’s lack of a penalty kick. Forward Diego Costa missed a header in minute 75. The Spain international is currently among the league leaders in goals, but has not scored since March 6.
The league-leaders still have solid command of the table. Seven points clear is a good lead, especially in April. If Diego Costa can get on another scoring streak and Hazard keeps providing good passes into the box, they can bounce back quickly. They will face a tough test on Wednesday when they face Manchester City, who currently sits fourth in the table.
Crystal Palace looks to continue their winning streak when they face 10th place Southampton on Wednesday. Their last two victories came with the help of luck; they won last week’s match against Watford, thanks to an own-goal, the lone goal of the match. Although they sit near the bottom of the table, they can continue to shake up the standings with upset victories.
Arsenal hosted Manchester City on Sunday, in a clash between two top-six teams. Both teams have faced tough form lately, with the Gunners losing two straight and City being held to draws. With the 2-2 draw, both clubs failed to move up in the table, leading to Liverpool taking a spot at third place.
City’s Leroy Sane scored the first goal of the match in minute five. The midfielder dribbled past Arsenal’s goalkeeper and fired a shot from the edge of the box into the net. It was his fourth league goal of the season, and his second in the last four matches.
Sergio Aguero scored his 14th goal of the season with a short-range goal into the left side of the net. The forward had another opportunity in minute 52 with a header, but missed wide-right of the net.
Both of Arsenal’s goals were equalizers. Theo Walcott’s goal came just before halftime in minute 40. The English forward met a ball that flew over his head in open space, and got past tough defense to score from short-range. The score brought his season total to nine goals.
Defender Shkodran Mustafi’s header off a corner kick into the right-side of the net in minute 53, secured the draw for the Gunners and was his second goal of the season.
Manchester City fell to fourth in the table, but sit just one point behind Liverpool and four behind second-place Tottenham. Sane has stepped up for City’s offense and continued to score in important situations. He has become a useful part of Pep’s midfield. City looks to get back to their winning against Chelsea on Wednesday.
The draw was a bright spot for Arsenal following their recent form. They have lost three of their last five and fell out of the top-four. They sit just two points behind Manchester United, who drew on Saturday. The Gunners can move up with a victory against West Ham on Wednesday, who have lost four straight.
Other notable matches for match week 31 include Manchester United vs. Everton and Liverpool vs. Bournemouth.