In each season of Game Of Thrones, the penultimate episode always seems rife with drama and game-changing plot developments. The Premier League tends to work the same way, and the next-to-last matchweek of 2014-15 was no exception. The field of relegation candidates narrowed, the Top 4 is all but settled, and Liverpool fans said goodbye to their hero. If you missed anything over the weekend, we’ll get you caught up.
(The Premier League isn’t done yet for the matchweek. Chelsea travel to West Brom today, while Arsenal take on relegation-threatened Sunderland on Wednesday. West Brom-Chelsea kicks off today at 3pm EST, while Arsenal-Sunderland kick off at 2:45 EST on Wednesday. Both games are on NBCSN.)
Saturday was a big day in the relegation fight. Two of the five teams in danger of dropping out of the Premier League secured safety— Leicester completed their Great Escape with a goalless draw at Sunderland, while Aston Villa reached safety by virtue of other results later in the day despite a massive loss at Southampton. That leaves Hull, Newcastle, and Sunderland to fight it out on the last day of the season next Sunday. While Hull’s position is more precarious—they have to beat Manchester United and hope other results go their way—any of those three seem plausible candidates for going down.
Mane scored three goals in two minutes and 56 seconds, breaking the previous record set by Robbie Fowler for Liverpool in 1994. The incredible sequence set the tone for the rest of the game, as Southampton rolled over Aston Villa 6-1. (As mentioned previously, Villa secured safety despite the loss.) The performance showed why Southampton was such a fun team to watch this season, even if their league finish won’t necessarily reflect that.
In a way, the result was almost beside the point. Saturday was Steven Gerrard’s last game at Anfield, an occasion bigger for Liverpool fans than the game itself. Still, most were hoping for three points against Crystal Palace, and after half an hour it looked as if they might get them thanks to a superb strike from Adam Lallana. But the Reds went on to ship three goals, including the above from Wilfried Zaha with his first touch after checking into the game. Not the ideal bookend for Gerrard’s illustrious Liverpool career, but professional soccer only has so much room for sentimentality.
This was a game United should have won. Arsenal took too long finding their way into the game—the Gunners didn’t register a single shot in the first half, something they haven’t done in 11 years—while United were relentless in the forward part of the pitch. An excellent finish from Ander Herrera in the 30th minute seemed to put the Red Devils on course to grab all three points. But in the dying stages, Tyler Blackett deflected a shot from Theo Walcott into his own net. Now, with Arsenal two points ahead of them and a game in hand, United may just be resigned to fourth place and the Champions League qualifier round.
The goal came in injury time with Manchester City looking set to maintain their single goal advantage, so all it did was put any remaining doubts to rest. Nevertheless, super sub Wilfried Bony finished in the 92nd minute in City’s 2-4 victory over Swansea, which was followed the now de rigeur “muted celebration.” With the win, Manchester City secured a Top 3 finish, which is a major achievement even if it seems like a step back based on last season’s title win.