Premier Picks: Paolo's Cats bare their teeth

14 April 2013 09:00
Paolo Di Canio's first win as Sunderland boss, Alex McCarthy's goalkeeping heroics and in-form Arsenal feature in TEAMtalk's Premier Picks. TEAMtalk picks out some of the key points around the grounds from the 33rd round of fixtures in the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season. Arsenal 3 Norwich 1, by Chris Burton Arsene Wenger made a good point afterwards that the match officials are a team and the fact that referee Mike Jones turned to advice from his assistant in order to make the biggest call of the game maybe shouldn't be as controversial a talking point as it is being out to be. There is, however, no doubting that the match turned on the decision to award Arsenal a spot-kick five minutes from time. Up until that point, the Gunners had been frustratingly toothless in attack, with it looking increasingly likely that Michael Turner's header - which again exposed Arsenal's zonal marking system - would be enough to take all three points. In the end, three goals in a final flourish saw Wenger's men to a fourth straight win, with victory enough to lift them into third spot in the Premier League table. Much will be made of the penalty decision, and the role that played in proceedings, but Kei Kamara did tug at Olivier Giroud's shirt and the right call was probably made in the end - regardless of how it was reached. Whether the linesman was the best person to see the incident is doubtful, but Arsenal will have no complaints at how they got over the line and Norwich still have time in which to steer a course to safety - with their run-in among the more favourable of those battling to beat the drop. Reading 0 Liverpool 0, by Rachel Griffiths As far as selecting a man of the match goes, it did not come much easier than picking Reading's goalkeeper Alex McCarthy following his heroics in the goalless draw with Liverpool. In a game mostly dominated by the Reds, McCarthy was the Royals' saving grace, making an astonishing 12 saves as he deputised for injured number one Adam Federici. As Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers pointed out in his post-match comments, it was not only McCarthy's saves that caught the eye but his ability to keep hold of the ball, exemplified when he denied Luis Suarez late on with a wonderful catch. While Nigel Adkins' men appear already condemned to relegation, sitting rock bottom of the table, 23-year-old McCarthy's display on Saturday offered a glimmer of hope looking to the future. Liverpool will have left the Madejski Stadium feeling thoroughly frustrated after seeing chance after chance go begging, amassing a whopping 26 shots, 15 of which were on target. Front three Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Phillippe Coutinho all came close over the course of the match but none were able to apply the clinical finish needed in front of goal. Reds manager Rodgers divided opinion this week when he claimed failing to qualify for the UEFA Europa League could prove to be "a blessing" and while it remains to be seen if Liverpool will book a place on the continent, their cause was not helped by dropping another two points in a second straight stalemate. For Adkins it marked a first point as Reading manager and the boss has vowed to keep fighting until the very end - but with the Royals still rock bottom and seven points adrift of safety, it seems they now have an impossible task on their hands to avoid the drop. Everton 2 Queens Park Rangers 0, by Pete Hall Is that it now for QPR? Are they doomed? It seems so, with seven points separating them from safety with only five games to go. Harry Redknapp's side are more than likely going to have to win all their remaining games to survive, and even that might not be enough. The R's were arguably the better side on Saturday until Darron Gibson's strike was defected past Julio Cesar to give the home side the lead. They were never in it second half, and showed very little fight, which has been the story of their season. Poor discipline again let Redknapp down, giving away needless fouls and bookings, hindering any limp recovery they offered. David Moyes will be pleased with how his side emphatically got the job done in the second period. Marouane Fellaini won everything in the air - they look a different side with Steven Pienaar in it, as his link-up play with Leighton Baines is outstanding, and in Victor Anichebe they have a powerful striker who is very adept at leading the line. Moyes suggested afterwards that his side aren't out of the running for a top-four finish, but with their run in, it will be a tall order. Finishing above rivals Liverpool and qualification for next season's Europa League will represent another successful season for the Scot at the Toffees' helm. Will he sign a new deal though? Aston Villa 1 Fulham 1, by Raz Mirza Villa went into their clash against Fulham having recorded three wins in their last four games. Despite an encouraging opening hour, nerves got the better of the hosts and they were lucky to come away with a point in the end, even though their last top-flight home defeat by Fulham came in March 1966. Mark Schwarzer - at the age of forty - showed plenty of agility with a string of fine saves to keep his side in the game during the opening 45 minutes. The Cottagers' creative department were struggling to spark anything of note, although Dimitar Berbatov once again excelled in loungewear on a rainy afternoon in the Midlands. Although Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke worked their socks off, Villa missed the pace of Gabby Agbonlahor (thigh) although Charles N'Zogbia's goal was worth the entry fee alone. Paul Lambert's youngsters are three points clear of the relegation zone but they have played two games more than Wigan. Their home clash against Sunderland at the end of the month is looking more and more crucial to their hopes of survival. Martin Jol's men can now look forward to back-to-back London derbies at Craven Cottage against Chelsea and then Arsenal. Southampton 1 West Ham 1, by Matt Westby On paper this was a very good point for West Ham United against an in-form Southampton side, but the result failed to mask long-standing problems away from home. Sam Allardyce's side had enough good chances to win the game, but as has been the case all season, they were guilty of spurning those opportunities, with Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan being particularly culpable. As it was, the visitors had to rely on a double-deflected free-kick from Carroll and some superb defending at the other end to save a point they did not really deserve. Allardyce appears set to sign a new contract at Upton Park and no sooner has the ink dried on that deal, he needs to enter the transfer market for a potent striker. On this evidence, Southampton's problems are the opposite, with Rickie Lambert, Gaston Ramirez, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez combining well to form an exciting attacking quartet, but Jos Hooiveld and Maya Yoshida looking shaky at the back. Both players were guilty of mistakes that led to golden chances for Carroll and manager Mauricio Pochettino will know those have to be ironed out next season if they are to avoid another relegation fight. Newcastle 0 Sunderland 3, by Oliver Bell Paulo Di Canio couldn't have hoped for a better way to secure his first victory as a top-flight manager as his Sunderland side beat Newcastle by three goals at St James' Park. Newcastle's recent home form, coupled with the goals Papiss Cisse has scored in recent games, suggested they would go on to beat a struggling Sunderland outfit, with no win in their last nine Premier League games. But the visitors put the form book to one side and picked up a deserved three points to the delight of their controversial Italian coach. It wasn't always as comfortable as the scoreline indicates, with Newcastle enjoying plenty of possession and Simon Mignolet making a string of impressive saves, but the Black Cats made the most of their opportunities to score three excellent goals. Stephane Sessegnon was particularly impressive, causing constant problems in the final third and his great strike ensured Sunderland got the all-important first goal in a fiery Tyne-Wear derby. Stoke 0 Manchester United 2, by Raz Mirza Another torrid day for Stoke, six defeats in seven games now and they look to have an anchor tied to them at the moment as they drop down the league. The last month has seen Tony Pulis's men become firm relegation candidates and now it is a genuine worry around the Britannia - not that it wasn't already. Losing to Manchester United is never a real disgrace, but United were far from their best. Michael Carrick scored early on before Robin van Persie's penalty ended his goal drought and the way he celebrated with Fergie was a rare moment - but one United fans will savour ahead of their coronation as kings of English football once more.

Source: team_talk