It was another huge weekend in the English Premier League – and not just on the field. Tottenham talisman Gareth Bale was named both Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year at the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) awards, becoming just the third player in history to win both awards in the same season after Andy Gary (1976-77) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2006-07). It wasn’t all good news for Bale though with Spurs held to a 2-2 draw by relegation-threatened Wigan and losing crucial points in their quest for a top four finish.
Arsenal held a guard of honor at Emirates Stadium to welcome Manchester United, the newly crowned EPL champions, but it was a former Gunner in Robin van Persie that stole the headlines as he converted a penalty late in the first half to cancel out Theo Walcott’s second-minute opener.
Further down the ladder, Reading and Queens Park Rangers played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw that saw both clubs officially condemned to being relegated. They will spend next season in the Championship with one more club to join them in the coming weeks. Wigan, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Sunderland will be fighting for their lives to avoid relegation as the season draws to a close.
Just a few short weeks ago, Newcastle looked odds on to be safe by now, but their 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool has nerves frayed at Tyneside. Reds striker Luis Suárez was hit hard by a 10-match ban for biting the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanović last week but his teammates proved Liverpool are not a one man band with their big win at St James Park. Both Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson grabbed a double, with Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini also putting the ball in the back of the net. Young Brazilian magician Philippe Coutinho produced another man of the match performance which will have Reds fans believing they can become a genuine force once again in 2013/14.
Further afield, the balance of power in Europe was shaken up mid-week with Germany’s Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund stunning Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid in their Champions League semi-final first legs. Bayern thrashed four-time champions Barca 4-0 while Dortmund accounted for Real 4-1 to just about guarantee an all-German final … although it would be foolish to completely count out the might of the Spaniards with both back on home soil for this week’s return encounters.