|Rodriguez hosts himself into the air after scoring a goal that helps hoist Liverpool up the league table [GALLO/GETTY]
A crisp finish from young Welshman Aaron Ramsey helped give Arsenal a 1-0 win over English Premier League leaders Manchester United at the Emirates on Sunday.
While the win will be a consolation for Arsenal who have suffered a miserable run of form, the result is more important to Chelsea who can draw level with Manchester United if they win next weekend’s match at Old Trafford. To add to the tension both teams have an identical goal difference.
But back to Arsenal!
Arsenal’s impressive performance keeps the North London outfit third in the league with 67 points but, with manager Arsene Wenger conceding their title challenge was over last week, the victory had more relevance in keeping alive their hopes of securing a place in next season’s Champions League.
The only goal of the match came when Robin van Persie weaved a run through the United defence to cut the ball back to Ramsey. The twenty-year-old found the corner of Edwin van der Sar’s net after 56 minutes with his first Premier League goal of the season.
Two poor refereeing decisions during the match appeared to cancel each other out with both teams having legitimate penalty appeals rejected.
Arsenal were denied a penalty when United defender Nemanja Vidic flicked the ball out of the penalty area using his hand. In the second half United believed they should have had a penalty when Michael Owen looked to be tripped by Gael Clichy.
Over recent weeks the Premier League has seen a number of controversial decisions being made by officials and today’s clash again emphasised how incorrect rulings are having a greater effect on the game.
On Saturday Frank Lampard’s goal highlighted the need for goal line technology after his strike led Chelsea to a 2-1 victory over Tottenham despite the fact video replays showed the ball did not cross the line.
Chance for Chelsea
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who warned that the title race wasn’t over this week, admitted his team’s position is now under real threat.
“It gives Chelsea a major chance now.”
“But in terms of ability, a game at Old Trafford, the supporters will be ready for it and so will our players.”
Manchester United looked tired against a lively Arsenal attack and Ferguson acknowledged his team struggled to keep up.
“I didn’t think we started playing until we lost a goal to be honest,” Ferguson told United’s MUTV channel.
“It was a very low-key performance up until then.”
After finding himself under increasing scrutiny for his team’s inability to win a title, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger appeared more cheerful and positive after the game.
“If you look at the age of the team today it’s an encouragement for the club, it’s very young.”
“I feel we want to add what is needed and I’m very cautious in what I say. It’s important that we keep faith in what we do, you can see that the players grow when they get the chance.”
However, Wenger accepted his squad had struggled to deal with the disappointments as their bid for a quadruple imploded in a matter of days.
“Yes, they still lack a bit of maturity under pressure.”
Kenny still smiling
Liverpool continued their great run under Kenny Dalglish with a convincing 3-0 win against Newcastle United on Sunday.
The Reds moved above Tottenham and into fifth place after goals from Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Luiz Suarez lifted them into the Europa League qualifying zone. Liverpool have only lost one game in their last seven Premier League matches under caretaker-manager Dalglish.
Saturday April 30
Blackburn 1-0 Bolton
Sunday May 1
Birmingham 1-1 Wolves
“We’ll just keep going and see what we get,” said Dalglish.
“It’s great reward that we’ve got to where we are.'”
At the bottom of the league, Wolves could only manage a 1-1 draw with Birmingham at St Andrews.
Despite Birmingham going down to ten men before the break, Wolves failed to secure the points that would have lifted Mick McCarthy’s team out of the relegation zone. The draw leaves Wolves second from bottom on 34 points.
Champions League bound
In an end-to-end thriller at Eastlands Manchester City clung on to a 2-1 victory over bottom of the table West Ham.
Manchester City scored two early goals but let West Ham back into the game when Demba Ba pulled one back just before half time. West Ham’s failure to claim a point makes relegation look very likely for the London side. The Hammers are now two points adrift at the bottom.
After Tottenham’s defeat to Chelsea on Saturday, Manchester City look set to claim the fourth Champions League spot, cementing a great end to the season for Roberto Mancini and his team.