It’s been another week of relentless action in the world of sport, and with the end of the football season fast approaching, this weekend served up both joy and heartbreak as cold, hard maths came into play.
Hot and Cold chews over another breathtaking sporting week…
VAR still has its doubters, but all football fans would be hard-pressed to still argue against the introduction of goal-line technology in the Premier League, which helpfully cuts through all the noise and clears up any doubt. There may have only been millimetres in it, but Sergio Agüero’s match-winning strike rightly stood, saving everyone countless hours of irate football phone-ins in the process.
Now a word for City’s goalscorer himself, who joined an exclusive club of two this weekend. The Argentinian forward now sits alongside Thierry Henry as the only man in Premier League history to score 20+ goals in five straight Premier League seasons. You wouldn’t bet against him making it six on the bounce either as he continues to find new ways to pounce in the penalty box.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing Norwich, like their most famous export Alan Partridge, bouncing back, but this particular promotion back to the Premier League feels far more noteworthy than their previous successes. The Canaries could easily have cut Daniel Farke loose after a disappointing first season at the helm and a stuttering start to this campaign, but a rapid march towards promotion from the autumn onwards demonstrates how patience really can be rewarded in the cut-throat world of football… and all done without parachute payments this time, too.
If Norwich’s rise is impressive, Chris Wilder’s own ascent into the big time is even more impressive. The no-nonsense Sheffield Utd boss effectively ‘completed’ the Football League this weekend by adding a Championship promotion to his League Two and League One titles, a haul racked up in the space of five years. A passionate Blades fan who lives and breathes the club, expect togetherness both and on and off the pitch to help Sheffield Utd hold firm even when tougher tests await next season.
The maverick Leeds boss did his best to make up for Spygate as his act of fair play in allowing Aston Villa to score after his side’s controversial opener officially cost the promotion chasers any chance of a top-two finish. Will that be enough to win neutrals back onside as his spirited Leeds outfit regroup for a play-off push?
Simply the best. The Kenyan endurance man ran the second fastest marathon time in history to secure a fourth London Marathon with a 2:02:38 clocking. That was 59 seconds shy of his world record, but even when easing off slightly he still remains head and shoulders above the rest of the chasing pack.
The almighty Altior continues to be a class act after cruising to victory at Sandown this weekend. It’s now 19 from 19 for Nicky Henderson’s star turn who set a world record for consecutive jump wins in the process. Could the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day be the next big target in Altior’s sights?
How the pendulum can swing from one fortnight to the next. Little under two weeks ago, Emery looked firmly on track to secure plenty of credit in the bank with a likely fourth place finish and a clinical victory away at Napoli hinting at real progress from the Gunners in this campaign. Recent heavy defeats away to Wolves and Leicester City have once again exposed Arsenal’s defensive fragility, and the former Sevilla man will need to arrest the slide quickly to avoid his debut season becoming a damp squib.
The Premier League’s ultimate scrapper may be hanging up his gloves at the end of the season after his Cardiff City side put in a surprisingly limp performance away at Fulham to leave themselves on the brink of relegation. The Bluebirds are now drinking in last-chance saloon but still have a fighting chance given nearest rivals Brighton face Arsenal and Man City in their final two games.
In a tightly-contested title race, slipping up at home against your fiercest rivals really isn’t ideal with less than four games to go. Thankfully for Dortmund, the 4-2 home defeat to struggling Schalke was minimised by Bayern only stumbling to a draw against relegation-threatened Nürnberg. The title race remains alive for now for Lucien Favre’s swashbuckling side.
The Pilgrims will be praying for a miracle on the final day of the League One season after a 5-1 defeat away to Accrington left them marooned in the relegation zone with one game to go. The West Country side has now played their final joker, sacking manager Derek Adams in the hope a one fixture ‘caretaker manager bounce’ pays dividends.
Sir Mo Farah
It’s not been the best week of headlines for Farah, who would have been hoping to draw a line under a strange few days by putting on a show as the home favourite at the London Marathon. Sir Mo’s marathon effort failed to pay off as he only finished in fifth place, three minutes behind winner Kipchoge.
The Snooker Marks
A disappointing week if your name is Mark and you’re playing at the Crucible, as three-time champions Mark Williams and Mark Selby both made surprise early exits at the World Championship, while Mark Allen and Mark Davis were also knocked out during the first week. That leaves the field open for a new winner to lift the trophy, with Judd Trump looking a strong contender to claim his maiden world title.
After a season that started with so much promise, it already looks as if Ferrari has too much to do to claim a first Constructors’ Championship since 2008 with fierce rivals Mercedes streaking ahead after the first few races of the 2019 season. Unsurprisingly that’s left main man Sebastian Vettel cutting a frustrated figure, with the German already labelling Mercedes’ march towards the front of the grid ‘boring’.
All images from PA Images
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