Tuesday 03 June 2014
Liverpool surged to the top of the Barclays Premier League thanks to a 100% record, Arsene Wenger took charge of his 1,000th match as Arsenal manager and over 30,000 fans in South Africa experienced Barclays Premier League Live in Johannesburg.
March was an eventful month in the Barclays Premier League as Liverpool extended their remarkable winning sequence to eight with victories over Southampton, Manchester United, Cardiff City, Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur. The style of the Reds' performances were as impressive as their results, with 18 goals scored during the month, six from the Barclays Premier League's leading goalscorer Luis Suarez.
Indeed goals were a feature of the month with Matchweek 31 notable for 42 goals scored - the second-highest total for a matchweek in the Barclays Premier League since the division was reduced to 20 teams. It was also the first time in the history of the Barclays Premier League that three of the top four sides scored five or more goals in a day. Liverpool put six past Cardiff City, Manchester City struck five into Fulham's net and Chelsea pulled off the stand-out result of the weekend, marking Arsene Wenger's 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal by hammering the Gunners 6-0.
It was also a weekend of outstanding goals, with three candidates for goal of the season featuring on the Saturday, as Alexander Tettey smacked in a volley from more than 30 yards for Norwich City against Sunderland, Yaya Toure replicated his ability from free-kicks with a curling strike and Wayne Rooney sought to emulate the watching David Beckham with a goal from 55 yards, just inside the opposition's half, catching West Ham United goalkeeper Adrian off his line.
Everton enjoyed a memorable month, as they rattled off five consecutive victories to close to within four points of fourth-placed Arsenal, over whom they had a match in hand, while Stoke City allayed their relegation fears by rattling off 13 points from a possible 15, including a 1-0 success over the Gunners. The same could not be said for Fulham, whose five straight defeats left them propping up the table, a point behind Sunderland, who managed one point from 12, two behind Cardiff, who managed 10 goals and four points in March, and five from safety.
Manchester United's difficult campaign intensified as they were beaten 3-0 in the space of 10 days by both traditional rivals Liverpool and neighbours Manchester City, and lost Robin van Persie for six weeks to an injury sustained in their UEFA Champions League victory over Olympiacos. Like Chelsea, who beat Galatasaray, United did at least reach the Champions League quarter-finals, while Man City and Arsenal were eliminated in the last 16 by Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively.
Going into the final weekend of the month, the title race was intriguingly poised with Chelsea, having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa earlier in the month, now just a point clear of Liverpool and two of Manchester City, who had to travel to Arsenal - three points further back - to maintain their momentum after three straight wins.
And fans in South Africa had the opportunity to watch the drama unfold at Barclays Premier League Live in Johannesburg, a free-to-enter football festival at Zoo Lake Sports Club. At BPL Live over 30,000 visitors got to meet various legends of the English top-flight, take part in a myriad of interactive footballing activities hosted by clubs from the Barclays Premier League, see the Barclays Premier League trophy at first hand and view the key matches of this critical point in the season broadcast live on the largest jumbotron screen to be erected in the country.
Sporting the colours of their favourite teams from the English top flight, supporters looked on as Chelsea suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, Manchester United beat Aston Villa 4-1 and Arsenal slowed Man City's charge in a thrilling 1-1 draw at Emirates Stadium. Sunday offered no less excitement as Everton strengthened their top-four bid with a come-from-behind win over Fulham and Liverpool struck four unanswered goals past Tottenham Hotspur.
That last match was met with an extraordinary reaction from the Johannesburg crowd, who broke into a rousing rendition of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and received BPL Live legend Robbie Fowler like a king as Liverpool's emphatic triumph lifted them two points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Players: Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez (both Liverpool)
Manager: Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool)
"Although there is a solid foundation in place, the club still has tremendous untapped commercial potential. We will continue to nurture 'The Southampton Way' by reaching for consistent growth in all departments to ultimately build a culture that allows Southampton to remain healthy and sustainable in the future." - New Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger after his appointment.
"It is down to my love for people, for players and for the game, and my excitement for the next game. Maybe I run after an ideal of making the players perfect, of having the perfect game. I run after that happiness week after week – sometimes you touch it a little bit, but of course it goes and you fight to get it again." - Arsene Wenger on his love for the game ahead of his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal
"It's very easy for young people to get distracted by computer games and television but the importance of getting children to enjoy reading was the inspiration behind my own books. Whether you're reading with your kids or just enjoying a good book on your own it's a wonderful experience and one of life’s great pleasures." - Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard at the launch at Stamford Bridge of latest edition of Reading Stars.
"The dream is for our supporters, they want to win the title - but it is not in my thinking. My thinking it is to prepare the team and perform well and if we do that we can continue to win games and then we can see where that takes it." - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after his side's 4-0 win over Spurs sent them top.
"Events like this are important, especially for the younger generations. I've introduced so many people to the game because I love the history of the game so having this here in Johannesburg is a wonderful way to continue that process." - Manchester United fan John at BPL Live in Johannesburg.
"Being here in amongst it at BPL Live is brilliant. It's thrilling to see so many fans, not just from the club I support, but from all different clubs, coming together. It's so great to have this in South Africa, I'd always imagined this in England but to have this in South Africa is just amazing." - Liverpool fan Jordan at BPL Live in Johannesburg.
Barclays Premier League table on 31 March 2014.