by Evan Sobol
This week’s action featured all top-five teams earning a victory and top club Chelsea extending their lead to seven points.
Although Manchester United has not lost a match since Oct., goals have been hard to come by. Prior to Sunday’s match, the Red Devils have only scored 43 goals, well behind the other top clubs. United’s offense woke up this week with a 3-0 victory at last-place Sunderland.
United’s first goal came in minute 30, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Sweden international met a pass by Ander Herrera, and scored from just outside the box with a shot that curled into the right side of the net. It was his 17th goal of the season, good enough for fourth in the league, tied against Chelsea’s Diego Costa. Manchester got off to a hot start after halftime, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring his fourth goal of the season in minute 46. The former Dortmund star took a left-footed shot that went past Sunderland’s goalkeeper into the right side of the net. Forward Marcus Rashford secured the victory for United with his goal in minute 89. Ibrahimovic provided the assist on the short-range goal. It was Rashford’s fourth goal of the season in his 12th substitute appearance.
Sunderland’s performance was overshadowed by Sebastian Larsson’s red card in minute 43. The midfielder was booked following an aggressive slide on United’s Herrera. This left Sunderland down a man for the rest of the match. Their offense produced just nine total shots, and held just 29 precent of possession. Forward Victor Anichebe had a goal opportunity in minute 40, with a shot to the left side of the net that was saved by United’s David De Gea.
With the win, Manchester United moves up to fifth in the table. It was the club’s first victory since March, 19. If the offense continues to produce like they did on Sunday, they can continue their push for a spot in the top-four. Paul Pogba’s play has been disappointing recently with his last Premier League goal being in December. His hefty cost has resulted in him still finding spots in the starting lineup. If Pogba steps up, the offense will improve. The Red Devils’ next match will be a tough test as they host league-leaders Chelsea on Easter Sunday. United’s last loss was a 4-0 defeat at Chelsea. The Blues have won two straight.
Sunderland continued their disappointing season with the defeat. They currently sit at last place in the table and face relegation to the English Football League next season. They barely escaped relegation last season with a 17th place finish. Being relegated gives the club an opportunity to rebuild and grow their young players. Their next match is against West Ham United.
Liverpool bounced back from their draw against Bournemouth on Wednesday with a 1-2 victory at Stoke City. The win keeps them ahead of Manchester City, who is just two points behind in fourth place.
Two late goals secured the comeback victory for the Reds. Midfielder Philippe Coutinho scored in minute 70 with a shot from the center of the box into the left side of the net. It was the Brazil international’s ninth goal of the season. Forward Roberto Firmino scored just two minutes later with a stunning goal. He met a pass by Georginio Wijnaldum that went over Stoke’s defense. Firmino then scored with a curling goal from just outside the box, being his tenth goal of the season.
Stoke scored first with a goal by Jonathan Waters in minute 44. The Ireland international met a pass by Xherdan Shaqiri in the center of the box and scored with a header. It was Waters’ fourth goal of the season. Stoke had an opportunity to tie the match in minute 74 with a close-range attempt on goal by forward Saido Berahino. Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saved the shot.
Liverpool’s successful season continues. Their balanced, unselfish attack puts them among the best. They sit behind second-place Tottenham by five points, and first-place Chelsea by 12. A top-two finish is not out of reach, but it will be hard to catch up. Tottenham have won six straight. The Reds’ next match is against West Bromwich Albion, who currently sits at ninth in the table.
The loss was Stoke’s fourth straight and sets them back to 13th in the table. Their last victory came on March, 4. against relegation-facing Middlesbrough. Their next match is against Hull City who is just outside of the relegation zone at 17.
Other notable matches next week include Southampton- Manchester City and Tottenham- Bournemouth.