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Friday 21 December 2012

2012 Barclays Premier League review: March

In the third of our 2012 Days of Christmas review, the game unites over the fate of two players

  • Fans at the Reebok Stadium united in tribute to Fabrice Muamba

  • Aston Villa supporters were joined by the game to express support for Stiliyan Petrov

  • Peter Crouch celebrates his spectacular equaliser for Stoke against Manchester City

  • Shola Ameobi's late leveller denied Sunderland a Tyne-Wear derby win

  • Liverpool's Steven Gerrard celebrates his hat-trick in the Merseyside derby

  • Swansea City continued their impressive Premier League debut season by beating Man City

MARCH 2012

The Premier League was rocked by the cardiac arrest of Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba during an FA Cup match against Tottenham Hotspur and the diagnosis of leukaemia for Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov. The two incidents triggered an incredible show of support and unity from everyone connected with the Premier League and the global game.

On the pitch, the entertainment was as compelling as ever. A resurgent Wigan Athletic who had started the month bottom of the table ended it strongly with wins against Liverpool and Stoke City. Liverpool were also beaten 3-2 by Queens Park Rangers despite a stunning overhead kick from their centre back Sebastian Coates, to move to within touching distance of safety.

Coates's strike contested with a superb volley by Peter Crouch, who helped Stoke City to earn a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.  Robert Mancini's men dropped to second in the Premier League by the end of March, with a defeat by impressive Premier League debutants Swansea City and a thrilling 3-3 draw against Sunderland among the results that allowed reigning champions Manchester United to gain a two-point lead with a game in hand as the title race approached its penultimate month.

Despite losing 2-1 to QPR at the end of the month, Arsenal occupied third position ahead of North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, whose Champions League ambitions were dented with a 3-1 home loss at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United side.

There was no shortage of drama as two of the fiercest derby rivalries came head-to-head in March 2012. Newcastle United had vastly experienced striker Shola Ameobi to thank as his injury-time goal salvaged a point for the hosts against Sunderland, who had enjoyed a successful start under the stewardship of new manager Martin O'Neill. Liverpool came out on top of the Merseyside derby, as Steven Gerrard scored a hat-trick to seal a 3-0 win over Everton at Anfield.

Key quotes

"The players responded well. Stan was in to see us before the game and everybody gave him a hug and we said to the players it would be nice to win it for Stan and they gave everything they had.

"[After applause during the 19th minute in Petrov’s honour] It was quite an emotional moment and a great show of strength and support from the Villa fans. - Aston Villa manager Alex McCleish just 24 hours after club captain Stiliyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia.

"You've got to understand that football itself is very emotional and passionate and everything else. We know that we have the best game in the world. But when something like that happens to somebody you hold dear then football pales in to insignificance. And our thoughts and our prayers are with Fabrice, and the players have felt that. When they came in to that dressing room, they were out on their feet both physically and mentally." - Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle after his side battled to a 2-1 victory in their first match since Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest.

!I'm very proud, it’s a great day for Swansea City as a club and for the people. This was a massive game for us here and I thought the best team won. Over the course of the game we were outstanding." - Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers after his side's 1-0 victory against Manchester City.

Barclays Premier League Awards

Player of the Month: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea City).

Manager of the Month: Owen Coyle (Bolton Wanderers).

How they stood

Table on 1 Mar 2012  In full here                Table on 31 Mar 2012 In full here

    P GD Pts     P GD Pts
1 Man City 26 48 63   Man Utd 30 47 73
2 Man Utd 26 37 61   Man City 31 50 71
3 Tottenham 26 21 53   Arsenal 31 21 58
4 Arsenal 26 16 46   Tottenham 30 18 55
5 Chelsea 26 16 46   Chelsea 31 17 53
16 Wolves 26 -21 22   Bolton 30 -24 29
17 QPR 26 -18 21   Blackburn 30 -19 28
18 Blackburn 26 -22 21   QPR 31 -19 28
19 Bolton 26 -25 20   Wigan 31 -26 28
20 Wigan 26 -27 20   Wolves 31 -35 22


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Key Points

  • In March, Premier League in shock after Fabrice Muamba suffers cardiac arrest on the pitch while Stiliyan Petrov is diagnosed with leukaemia
  • Wigan pulled themselves off the bottom of the table with successive victories
  • Manchester City surrendered initiative in the title race to neighbours United