By Leo Linden
1. Clarity for the top four
In the last few weeks, the Premier League table has been constantly changing, with teams flying both up and down, but for the first time all year, there is a clear top four. The weekend started disastrously for the teams still on the outside looking in when fifth-placed Liverpool were picked apart by third-placed Arsenal 4-1 at the Emirates. The woes continued later in the day when Southampton’s fading European dreams took another hit when they were defeated 1-0 by an Everton team that has been shaky all year. The final blow came when Spurs could only manage a point at Burnley on Sunday morning in a scoreless draw. Leaders Chelsea and third-placed Manchester United both secured three points while Manchester City, who currently sit in fourth, seven points above Liverpool and Tottenham, face a weak Crystal Palace side Monday. If City can manage any result, the gap will grow, and with just seven games left, it is going to be a very tough task for any team outside of the top four to get back in.
2. QPR explode for four
While the top of the table may be more clear, the bottom continues to get murkier. Every week, one team or another seems to get a major win to boost them up the table, and sometimes clear of the relegation zone. This week, that team was QPR, who blitzed West Brom en route to a 4-1 victory at the Hawthorns. QPR came with their shooting boots on and it showed. Just 15 minutes in, Eduardo Vargas received a long ball. The midfielder quickly brought the ball down and unleashed a beautiful strike from 25 yards out which dipped across Boaz Myhill and into the bottom corner. With the lead in hand and Rangers’ spirits high, the London side continued to press and blew the game open late in the first half. On 37 minutes, Charlie Austin got on the back end of a flicked-on corner kick and headed home inside the six yard box to double the lead. The game was put to bed in the 45th in beautiful fashion by Bobby Zamora as the striker chased a long through ball to the top corner of the box and chipped the bouncing ball with his inside foot on the first touch. Myhill could only watch helplessly as the ball floated over his head and nestled into the top corner of the net, putting the game out of reach before halftime. The second half included a goal for each side, as well as a West Brom red card for Youssouf Mulumbu, who threw a blatant elbow in a challenge, but the result was never in doubt. The win doesn’t jump QPR out of 19th place, but Rangers now are just three points away from safety and just four points shy of 15th place. They still have plenty of work to do in a league where wins are very hard to come by, but Rangers took the first step towards saving their season and are keeping the relegation race tight.
3. Charlie Adam scores a stunner
He might not be the most respected man in the league, but Charlie Adam displayed his brilliance Saturday against Chelsea. After watching his Stoke City side concede from the penalty spot on 38 minutes, Adam decided to take matters into his own hands. Just two minutes before halftime, the midfielder received a pass in the center of his own half, over 60 yards away from goal. He took a touch and a peak at Thibaut Courtois. What happened next is too glorious for words:
Despite the game resulting in a 2-1 loss, Adam’s goal will certainly be a candidate for goal of the year and be remembered for years to come. There have been a handful of famous long range goals in the Premier League – David Beckham’s comes to mind – but this was from even further than his, and against a world-class keeper. Tim Howard scored from his own penalty area, but that certainly wasn’t an intended shot, and a terrible error lead to the ball bouncing over the opposing keeper’s head and into the goal. What makes Adam’s goal go down in the memory banks is that it is just about the extent of feasible shooting range. There may be no other goal in the BPL from this type of distance for many years to come.