Heroes and Villains: Villa cup heroics and Blues close to title
It was another superb weekend of footballing action, with both the FA Cup and Premier League producing plenty of fantastic talking points.
Tim Sherwood’s stunning revival of Aston Villa continued as he led the Villans into a Wembley final showdown with Arsenal, while Chelsea edged closer towards a top-flight title triumph with a victory over Manchester United.
Following all of the cup and domestic league drama, Coral writers look at the best and worst showings from an enthralling weekend.
Former Spurs boss Sherwood has brought a new sense of belief to Villa Park and instilled a great determination in his players, having helped the West Midlands outfit towards Premier League safety while, also guided them to an incredible FA Cup final meeting with holders Arsenal.
The Villans, 9/4 with Coral for a cup coup, reached their first cup final for 15 years courtesy of a narrow 2-1 triumph over Liverpool, having fought back from a goal down, with in-form forward Christian Benteke equalising before midfield maestro Fabian Delph secured progression, finishing off a great team move.
In what was a typically tactical and defensive display from Jose Mourinho’s battling Blues, the Red Devils completely dominated proceedings but were unable to force a way through a stubborn Chelsea side, with PFA Player of the Year candidate Eden Hazard sealing three points with his first-half strike.
Mourinho is now only two victories away from clinching the club’s first top-flight crown since 2010 in the second season of his return to Stamford Bridge, after toppling Louis van Gaal’s frustrated top-four hopefuls with a grinded out 1-0 triumph.
Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City have left it late to begin a domestic rejuvenation, as they aim to avoid Premier League relegation. A hard-fought 2-0 win over Swansea City made sure of a third consecutive win, the first time the Foxes have achieved this feat this season.
The formerly faltering Foxes are now only in the drop zone on goal difference, and moved off the bottom of the table for the first time since November last year, with Leonardo Ulloa and Andy King firing Person’s men to a crucial three points. Leicester are now available at 2/1 to face relegation this season, following an up-rise in form and fortunes.
Manchester City tightened their grip on a top four position in the league table with a 2-0 win over West Ham United, though the game was overshadowed by Senegalese international Kouyate’s dangerous elbow on Spanish playmaker David Silva.
The Hammers midfielder appeared to intentionally lash out at the Spaniard during play, with the former Valencia star eventually being hauled off on a stretcher and required oxygen from the medical team.
Despite the aggressive nature of the incident, Kouyate was only shown a yellow card, with the champions going on to secure a 2-0 win through a strike from Sergio Aguero and James Collins own goal.
As United stumbled towards a 1-0 defeat in London, Chelsea thought they had conceded a late penalty when Gary Cahill appeared to have brought down Ander Herrera in the danger area.
However, on closer inspection and, after an outburst from angry Chelsea defenders, the Spaniard was booked for simulation, a decision which was justified.
Burnley are involved in a ruthless relegation scrap, and were succumb to further domestic misery on the blue half of Merseyside, with Everton overcoming the Clarets with a 1-0 win.
Kevin Mirallas scored the winner, but the visitors had to put in a tough performance for an entire second-half, with Ashley Barnes seeing red for a second cautioning in the first period.
Barnes went in recklessly on James McCarthy, before taking out Seamus Coleman, two challenges which ultimately cost his side the game at Goodison Park.