Premier Picks: Hot Spurs, Harry's heroes

Rafa's reception, terrific Tottenham, classy Kagawa and Harry's heroes feature in TEAMtalk's weekend review of Premier League talking points.

Last Updated: 03/03/13 at 21:29 Post Comment

Shinji Kagawa: Hat-trick hero for United

Shinji Kagawa: Hat-trick hero for United

TEAMtalk picks out some of the key points around the grounds from the 28th round of fixtures in the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season.

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1, by Jack Woodfield

Claiming victory in the North London derby will be immensely satisfying for everyone concerned with Tottenham, but it is their 12-game unbeaten Premier League run that will be exciting fans in equal measure on Sunday evening.

Goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon were enough to secure a 2-1 triumph over their arch-rivals, and by moving into third place once again, second place is certainly a target for Spurs in the final weeks of the season.

Arsenal's defensive frailties were all too obvious as they conceded twice in three minutes, with progression seemingly impossible unless the Gunners can re-establish themselves as a defensive force.

The top four is beginning to edge away from Arsenal, and in Giroud, they simply do not have a man capable of providing the goals that Robin van Persie was heavily relied on last season.

For Tottenham, brighter things surely lie ahead, and with their Europa League hopes still riding high, this could yet end up being one of Spurs' greatest seasons in recent memory.

Chelsea 1 West Brom 0, by Peter O'Rourke

All the focus before the game was on Rafa Benitez to see what reception he would get from the Chelsea fans, but the fall-out from his rant in midweek appeared to have no effect on the players.

The expected fierce backlash against Benitez did not really materialise with a somewhat subdued atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge, but it remains to be seen if this win over West Brom will be enough to appease Roman Abramovich.

Benitez claimed in the build-up to the game that he had still had the support of the majority of his players and they responded with a deserved three points to boost their top four aspirations

The scoreline may only have been 1-0, but Chelsea should have won far by a bigger margin after dominating the game from the first whistle.

Oscar was the star of the show for Chelsea and he was denied on four separate occasions by Ben Foster with Demba Ba finally finding a way past the West Brom keeper.

Foster, who announced earlier this week he was making himself available again for England duty, could only have enhanced his chances with another impressive showing in front of the onlooking Roy Hodgson.

For West Brom they struggled to make any impact in the game to take advantage of any fragility inside the Chelsea camp.

It was not until the closing stages that West Brom actually got men forward into the box with Shane Long finding himself isolated up front on his own.

Everton 3 Reading 1, by Matt Westby

Despite a sound 3-1 defeat, Reading have to be applauded for the way in which they never gave up fighting or let their heads drop.

They also maintained an attacking threat throughout, even when 3-0 down, and those qualities could well be the difference between survival and relegation come the end of the season.

They do, however, have fundamental issues that must be addressed if they are to have any chance of staying in the Premier League. Susceptibility to high balls into the box - they couldn't handle Marouane Fellaini - was one issue, but even more worrying will be their lack of penetration up front.

Reading had plenty of chances at Goodison Park, but they all came from crosses or shots from outside the box. Seldom did they play through Everton's back line.

The same can't be said for the hosts, who looked to be getting back to their fluent best at times - particularly via the excellent Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas.

The wide men scythed through Reading on several occasions and David Moyes will need to keep those two players fit and in form if he wants to see his side qualify for Europe next season.

Manchester United 4 Norwich 0, by Rachel Griffiths

Up until first-half stoppage time at Old Trafford, there was the sense Norwich could frustrate Manchester United to a draw, or even snatch a surprise win. But like they have so many times with teams in the past, Sir Alex Ferguson's men were able to wear down their visitors, starting with Shinji Kagawa's strike in the added minutes of the first half.

That goal turned out to be the first of a hat-trick for the Japan international, who contributed an industrious display crowned by three fine finishes. Ferguson said in his post-match comments that he expects the forward to get even better, which fires a foreboding message to United's rivals.

Behind two of Kagawa's goals was some creative magic from Wayne Rooney, who also added 25-yard screamer in the dying minutes. The pair may have struggled to click in the first half, with several passes going astray, but they came together nicely in the second. Rooney did particularly well to control a long ball and unselfishly pick out Kagawa with a square pass for United's second as the latter rolled home. The pass that started the move came from Michael Carrick, who may not take the headlines but put in a commendable display at the heart of the side.

Ferguson will be relieved that his players came through the encounter unscathed, with the second leg of the glamour UEFA Champions League tie against Real Madrid looming on Tuesday. There were some close calls, with a nail-biting moment coming in the build-up to Kagawa's opener when Robin van Persie stretched out a leg to knock the ball on and appeared to do some damage. United supporters will have breathed a sigh of relief to see their top goalscorer run out for the second half.

On the Norwich side of things, the visitors rarely troubled goalkeeper David De Gea but put in a commendable defensive display in the opening half to keep the hosts at bay, with Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass dropping back to do their bit.

United hinted at the threat they posed with their opener but it was with Kagawa's second that things started to unravel and there was no way back for the Canaries.

Southampton 1 QPR 2, by Tim Oscroft

If Harry Redknapp has begun another escape act by winning at Southampton, of all places, the irony may be lost on Saints fans at the end of the season.

Relegation in 2005 is a rare blip on the Redknapp CV, and after his return to Portsmouth he masterminded a successful bid for survival at Fratton Park, but this performance bodes well for QPR.

On the back foot for much of the game, a wily, experienced Rangers side took their chances when they came and showed that Redknapp's team selection, which left playmaker Adel Taarabt kicking his heels on the bench, was a good call.

Southampton looked a different side that had looked so good in beating Manchester City at home three weeks ago.

Defeat at Newcastle saw Mauricio Pochettino ring the changes, but for all their pressure Southampton did not cause QPR enough problems in front of goal.

Despite their nice approach play, Saints did not grab their chances and were outmuscled by QPR when push came to shove.

Stoke 0 West Ham 1, by Steve Pass

West Ham showed all their battling qualities as they halted a run of five successive away league defeats with a crucial victory over Stoke.

Jack Collison climbed off the bench to claim the vital winner, after being picked out by fellow substitute Ricardo Vaz Te.

Both changes were enforced early on following concussion to Matt Taylor and injury to Joe Cole and the pair did their manager proud. Indeed Allardyce will have been delighted with the effort and application shown by his whole team as the Hammers inflicted just a second league defeat on Stoke at the Britannia this term.

West Ham are now on 33 points as they bid to stay up - the same as Stoke, who boss Tony Pulis admits his side have gone 'a little bit flat' at present.

The Potters have taken just four points from their eight league games since the turn of the year, failing to find the net in five of these.

While a lack of goals has been a problem, so has a failure to keep a clean sheet, with the Potters now failing to keep the opposition out in ten league attempts since keeping nine clean sheets in their opening 18 league games.

Pulis will also be desperate for a change of luck to spark a revivial, having seen his side hit the crossbar via Charlie Adam and then have a legitimate penalty claim turned down late on.

Sunderland 2 Fulham 2, by Graeme Bailey

The real highlight of the Sunderland v Fulham match was for the first time in a long time that I can remember, I witnessed two top-flight teams playing 4-4-2, and because of that we were served up some excellent wing-play.

Indeed the two wide-men for each respective team were very much the stand-out performers for their side and had the biggest bearing on the game.

For Fulham, Damien Duff looked his usual composed self who had an effective game on right or left, but the main punch came from the hugely impressive Iranian that was Ashkan Dejagah - he was superb from the off. Full of pace and drive, he was direct and caused huge problems - and had a hand in both goals which saw Fulham go 2-0 up.

But Sunderland too had their own weapons and it was their wingers who were their stand-out performers. Adam Johnson on the left was looking back to his international best, taking on the full-back when given the chance and actually having an end product.

However, the Black Cats star and Man of the Match, just edging out Dejagah was Stephane Sessegnon - often played in the 'hole' or even up-front, he looked so at home on the right - cutting inside and having licence to wreak havoc. His equaliser with 20-minutes left was sublime and a fitting end to an excellent contest. Both managers will take heart from the use of 4-4-2 that showed off their attacking flair out-wide - but the system also highlighted the frailties off their team's respective defences.

Swansea 1 Newcastle 0, by Tom McDermott

Swansea City rounded off a memorable week with a scrappy win against Newcastle.

In truth, it was a game Newcastle could and should have won. In the second half Newcastle created three good chances but neither Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran or Papiss Cisse were able to finish.

In the end Alan Pardew's side couldn't find a breakthrough and only have themselves to blame for not being out of sight by the time Luke Moore bundled in a late winner.

The visitors, who are currently six points above the relegation zone, will take heart from the chances they created even if it didn't secure them at the very least the point they deserved.

It is clear though that Pardew's men will gain enough points between now and the end of the season to comfortably survive.

For Swansea and Michael Laudrup it was a case of ticking this fixture off after the main event at Wembley last weekend.

It would be a shame if the Swansea players allowed the remainder of the season to fizzle out from here on in but you get the impression that with Laudrup in charge a place further up the table beckons.

Wigan 0 Liverpool 4, by Pete Hall

It was all too easy for Liverpool at the DW Stadium, and as soon as they went in front, the result was never in doubt.

After another resounding victory, the Reds have scored 30 goals in their last 11 Premier League games, and have a real clinical look about them.

Luis Suarez is becoming a favourite for the Player of the Season award, netting his 21st goal of the campaign to complete his hat-trick, and looks like a different player thanks largely to recent squad additions.

Daniel Sturridge has taken much of the plaudits, but Philippe Coutinho excelled at the DW Stadium, collecting two assists.

Wigan on the other hand were woeful. They were arguing amongst themselves, couldn't string more than a few passes together and were all over the place at the back.

The Latics must put this display to the back of their minds if they are to remain in the Premier League for another season.

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M

ark clattenburg is one of those referees that tends to get stick from both sides cos he likes to let the game flow and is quite lenient, and people only remember the fouls against their own team that go unpunished whilst not noticing the ones they've gotten away with. To pick up 4 yellow cards with clattenburg in charge speaks volumes about your approach to the game mr pellegrini.

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Pellegrini: Ref cost us game

V

astly under-rated goal keeper. Barcelona could have gone out and bought a keeper at any point they liked, but they stuck with him for a reason.

HarryBoulton
Victor Valdes The Perfect Option For Liverpool

A

s things stand he's joined the team at the top of Serie A :)

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Milan: Van Ginkel deal tough

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