The relegation battle at the bottom was fierce again on Week 36 of the Barclays Premier League. All the teams played for their lives, knowing that a single unearned point could see them go down to the Championship. Newcastle’s game against Crystal Palace was certainly the easiest when compared to the games of Sunderland and Norwich (especially Norwich). However, the Magpies have had difficulties this season earning points from relatively ‘easy’ games. This was no different, as late heroics from the third choice goalkeeper Karl Darlow in saving the penalty kick from Yohan Cabaye earned them the full 3 points.
Andros Townsend scored the lone goal for the Toons. And it was a brilliantly taken one, too. And that’s a bit of an understatement.
Elsewhere, the favorites to stay up in the Premier League, Sunderland, went to the Britannia hoping to add the Potters in the list of opponents that they’ve overcome recently.
However, they were lucky to salvage a point from this tie, as Marko Arnautovic’s goal gave Stoke a lead early in the second half, but wasn’t doubled by their record signing Giannelli Imbula. It was wonderful movement from Stoke to create the golden opportunity for the French international, but it was a terrible finish that lacked the composure and eventually, gave Sunderland the opportunity to get something from this game late on.
And so they did. Jermain Defoe was fouled in the box very late on into stoppage time; and he didn’t make any mistake from the spot, giving Sunderland what could yet turn out to be a crucial away point.
This makes it 4 games that the Black Cats have remained unbeaten away from home, and a record they will hope to continue on the last day of the season, when they visit Watford for what is set to be a cracking game.
And in the late game on Saturday, Norwich played Arsenal at the Emirates, in what turned out to be an exhibition from the fans against Arsène Wenger. The Gunners struggled to get their game going, perhaps down to the other distractions, and passed sideways and backwards around the penalty area for much of the first half.
Whatever Arsène said in the locker room at half-time, his team played with much more purpose and intensity in the 2nd half. His substitution to replace Alex Iwobi with Danny Welbeck was ill-received from the fans, as they thought Giroud, who’d had a poor game, should be making way for the former Manchester United forward.
However, Wenger soon made his case in point, as Welbeck scored the game-winner mere minutes after he’d come on, a half-volley from a ball nodded down by Giroud in a dangerous area.
Norwich and Alex Neil had left it a bit too late for them to try and rescue something from this game, but the opportunities they did get were missing the final decisive touch that leads to a goal. It looks as if the Canaries have lost their belief of staying up, and could go down once more, following the route set by them two seasons ago.
Sunderland and Norwich both have a game in hand on Newcastle, and they had better make use of it if they want to escape the drop. Things are intensifying at the bottom, and with 2 weeks to go, relegation is still a guessing game.