A month ago, it appeared that Manchester United could not be overtaken in the club’s bid to win another English Premier League soccer championship. But with elite teams now playing in so many competitions, virtually evey team hits a wall at some point, and recently the Mancs hit theirs. Thus, a lead over Liverpool that at the beginning of March was 7 points, with a game in hand, had been reduced coming into this weekend to a lead of 1 point, with a game still in hand.
On Saturday, red-hot Liverpool went to West London to play Fulham. The Cottagers are ninth in the EPL, but their home record was comparable to that of a top four team.
Liverpool came out blazing and could have been won the match in the first half, but for a series of shots that came back off the woodwork. As it was, the half-time score was 0-0. It seemed inevitable that the Shite would put the match away in the second half, but Fulham proved increasingly difficult to break down, and at the 90 minute mark the score was still 0-0. But in “stoppage time” (time added on for injuries and player substitutions), Liverpool’s super-sub, the Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun, scored the game winner.
This meant that Liverpool was top-of-the-table, pending Man U’s Sunday match at home against Aston Villa, the fifth place team. Villa’s form has been horrible lately, but Man U would be playing without their two star center backs (Vidic and Ferdinand) and without Wayne Rooney.
Today, Villa dominated the first half against a confused United defense and were unlucky to be tied 1-1. When the Villains scored mid-way through the second half, it looked like Man U was headed to its third straight Premier League defeat, something that hasn’t happened in nearly a decade.
But Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second goal of the day in the 80th minute. And in stoppage time, Federico Macheda scored an incredible winner, shooting off of a sharp turn and producing a goal Johan Cryuff would have been proud of. Macheda had come on as a substitute. He is only 17, and this was his first game in the Man U senior squad.
The outcome was pleasing for Everton, and not just because it sets Liverpool back. As a result of our 4-0 victory over Wigan (unfashionable, but sitting in eighth place), we are only a point behind Aston Villa for fifth place. Unfortunately, fourth place, and a spot in next year’s Champions League, looks beyond our reach. A revived Arsenal side is seven points ahead of us with only seven matches to play.
But the positives vastly outweight the negatives. For we will be in Europe next year, and we still have the FA Cup to play for. Our semi-final match with Manchester United is in two weeks.