As the football season draws to a close, there is still much at stake. A shock defeat for Juventus ensured that none of the big five leagues are mathematically concluded yet but it is the Premier League where the race looks to be going right down to the wire.
Manchester City played first on Sunday, temporarily losing their game in hand, and knew that only a win against Crystal Palace would move them top.
The Eagles caused City problems in the reverse fixture, when an Andros Townsend wonder goal helped Hodgson’s men to a shock win. However, City were their usual professional selves this time around and were ahead inside fifteen minutes, Raheem Sterling atoning for an earlier miss with a lovely finish from a tight angle.
He added a second midway through the second half and the only shock was how long it took, with Palace seemingly content to sit back and absorb pressure. A Luka Milivojevic free-kick gave them an unexpected ray of hope with ten minutes to play but Gabriel Jesus extinguished this with a late third.
Attentions turned to Anfield. A point would have left them trailing on goal difference, having played a game more. Nerves were growing with the scores still tied at the break. The players knew what was at stake, however, and produced the goods in the second half: they came out very strongly and, within ten minutes, were ahead by two. Jordan Henderson has been revitalised by a move further forward and provided the crucial assist for Mane’s opener. He could be pivotal in the more advanced role during the rest of the run-in.
Salah then put the game beyond his former team with quite possibly his best ever goal in a red shirt. He picked up the ball miles from goal, lashed it ferociously towards the top corner and found it unerringly. He, like his captain, could make the difference in the race for the title, when at his brilliant best he cannot be stopped.
I just said to Mo Salah Well done on scoring such a good goal. He said Thanks James. I said no problem Mo.
— Boring James Milner (@BoringMilner) 14 April 2019
Manchester City must now play Manchester United and Spurs in the space of a week, just days after playing the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final. If any team can come out of such a fixture list unscathed it is Guardiola’s men but optimism has engulfed Anfield, as Liverpool know they have heaped the pressure on their rivals.
Borussia Dortmund were dealt a crushing blow in their own title charge last week when Bayern Munich handed them an astonishing 6-0 drubbing. The Bavarians moved into poll position for their seventh successive Bundesliga title with the victory, leaving Dortmund requiring a slip up to stand a chance. Lucien Favre ensured that his team did their job, bouncing back from the loss with a 2-1 victory over Mainz courtesy of a Sancho brace, but the Bayern juggernaut did not stutter.
They went to Dusseldorf, a team who had shocked them at the Allianz earlier in the campaign, and dispatched them with ease as Coman, Gnabry and Goretzka all scored en route to a 4-1 victory. Their one-point lead duly remains intact and, on form book alone, it is hard to see anything other than Bayern success, although a tricky finish against RB Leipzig and Eintracht Frankfurt may give Dortmund hope that there can be another twist in this race.
The safe bet of the weekend looked to be Juventus confirming their title against SPAL. The Old Lady needed a point against the minnows to mathematically seal yet another Serie A but were unable to secure it despite going ahead through the exciting Moise Kean. Max Allegri fielded a hugely weakened team, with more than half an eye clearly on the quarter-final second leg against Ajax, but on paper Kean and Dybala leading the line looked to be more than enough firepower.
FULL TIME: SPAL 2, Juventus 1
Good on SPAL. They deserve this win. Juve will have to wait until next weekend to clinch the Scudetto. All eyes to Tuesday night against Ajax.
— BWRAO (@JuventusNation) 13 April 2019
However, it didn’t prove to be the case. A positive SPAL produced 16 shots and, despite only managing three on target, managed to find the net twice. In reality the implications are non-existent , they are safe in mid-table and Juventus will still win the league but it did delay the inevitable.
Second-placed Napoli helped to prolong their wait with a 3-1 triumph over Chievo. Kalidou Koulibaly, who many believed to have won Napoli the title last season when he netted against Juventus in the 90th minute, scored his first goals of this campaign to set the Neapolitans on their way.
Juventus will surely seal the deal next week but, for Napoli, the debut season under Carlo Ancelotti has shown real promise. They will hope to push Juventus properly next time out.
There have been some famous kissing related incidents in football down the years, with Scholes/Neville and Gerrard/camera two particularly iconic pairings, and two more were added to the list this weekend.
Ashley Barnes was first up as he kissed Cardiff’s Joe Bennett on the nose. As Barnes leaned his head in, it looked as though he might headbutt his opponent but opted for the non-violent route. It still earned him a yellow card however and this was one of the few things that Burnley did get penalised for on a frustrating afternoon for Cardiff, who now have to beat Brighton midweek to stand a realistic chance of survival.
The second incident occurred in the Championship, when Leeds’ Ezgjan Alioski was left outraged after teammate Pontus Jansson kissed him in celebration following an important 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. A bizarre clip shows him offering no initial reaction, before suddenly becoming consumed with rage and aiming a punch at the back of his captain.
Watched that Alioski kiss video at least 20 times and it still creases me ?
— Tanya Sullivan (@TanyaSullivan90) 14 April 2019
Leeds will be hoping any disharmony can quickly be patched up as they aim to protect the three point cushion they have built up in the automatic promotion places, although presumably Bielsa won’t be telling them to kiss and make up…