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Week 13 saw Manchester City maintain their five point advantage at the top of the English Premier League after they were held to a 1-1 tie, as were their closest challengers Manchester United. Tottenham took the opportunity to close the gap on the Manchester duo with a 3-1 victory at the Hawthorns over West Brom. Blackburn replaced Wigan at the foot of the overall standings with the former losing at Stoke and the latter clinching an away win against Sunderland.
The weekend's action was overshadowed by the death of Welsh national manager Gary Speed at the age of 42. Speed was a championship winner at Leeds United in 1992 and became a Premier League stalwart. The Welsh international, who played for his country 85 times and was captain for over six years, racked up 535 Premier League appearances for Leeds, his boyhood club Everton, Newcastle and Bolton, before finishing his playing days at Sheffield United. While still on the playing roster, Speed became Sheffield United's manager before being asked to take over international duties in 2010. Under Speed's guidance, Wales rose from 117th in FIFA's world rankings up 72 places to 45th in October 2011.
The Premier League Pickem game has been updated through week 13. The members' predictions average score for the week was slightly down on last week's mark. The members' efforts in week 13 were down on the previous three weeks. The average score per pick was just 1.94 points, the fourth-lowest mark of the season so far. Chelsea's victory over Wolves and Tottenham's win at West Brom were the only games this week that averaged more than 2 points per pick. Four out of the ten matches failed to gain a 1 point average and Fulham's visit to Arsenal became the first fixture this season where not one member managed to predict the correct outcome, in this case a tie.
Here we review Week 13 of the English Premier League.
Blackburn Rovers at Stoke City
Stoke took the lead when a Jermaine Pennant freekick was met by a Rory Delap header in the 28th minute. The score remained 1-0 until half-time but the hosts doubled their advantage just before the hour mark, Gary Whelan's deflected strike finding the back of the net. The game was out of sight when Stoke made it three through Peter Crouch's angled strike with around 20 minutes to go. Blackburn did manage to score a consolation goal, however. Rúben Rochina found the back of the net with a fine drilled effort. It was too little too late though, as defeat sent Rovers to the foot of the table, two points behind the pack. Victory for Stoke ended a four game losing streak and lifted them up to 12th place.
70.2% of members went for the home win while 10.8% backed an away victory and 18.9% decided on a tie. The games average was only 1.70 points but that was enough for third highest score of the week.
Everton at Bolton Wanderers
This encounter's direction was perhaps decided in the early exchanges at the Reebok Stadium. In the 19th minute, Bolton's David Wheater was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. Wanderers battled on with 10 men but Everton's player advantage eventually told. The visitors took a 1-0 lead early in the second half, Marouane Fellaini poking home from close range. Everton continued to pen Bolton in their own half and eventually the lead was doubled. Substitute Apostolos Vellios secured the points just three minutes after coming on, smashing into the net. The three points helped Everton up to ninth in the standings while Bolton remains stuck in the bottom three.
Despite being the home team, Bolton only received 8.1% of the picks compared to Everton's 40.5% and the tie received 51.3%. The game accrued a 1.12 points average, which was the fifth best mark of week 13.
Wolverhampton Wanderers at Chelsea
Chelsea captain John Terry showed his team the way early on by giving them the lead after just seven minutes. The home side continued to control proceedings and their advantage increased just before the half an hour mark, Daniel Sturridge finishing off the attack from very close range. Wolves would probably have taken a 2-0 deficit at half-time but Chelsea had other ideas. Moments before the interval, Juan Mata, who had orchestrated the previous two goals, got on the scoresheet himself to make it 3-0. Chelsea looked like they would increase their lead in the second half but no further goals were scored. The triumph consolidated Chelsea's fifth position while Wolves sit fourth from bottom.
Chelsea were the hot favorites in this matchup, gaining 91.8% of the members' picks while the tie received the rest. The 2.40 points average made it week 13's best yielding game.
Newcastle United at Manchester United
There was end-to-end action from the first whistle in this clash with both teams looking for an early advantage. The sides had to settle for a 0-0 scoreline going into half-time, but this quickly changed in the second period. The home team won a freekick just outside the box and, despite the initial effort being cleared, Javier Hernández scored from a lucky ricochet. Newcastle found luck of their own though, when the referee pointed for a corner kick but his assistant declared Rio Ferdinand had brought down Hatem Ben Arfa. Demba Ba converted the penalty kick. Manchester United pressed for a winner but found keeper Tim Krul and Newcastle's defense in top form. Both sides remain in the top four.
89.1% of members had faith in Manchester United, 5.4% went for Newcastle and the same number picked the tie. The game's 0.55 points average turned out to be the week's third lowest number.
Queens Park Rangers at Norwich City
The visitors had an attack in the opening minute but soon after Norwich were on the offensive. This early possession and pressure paid off for Norwich in the 14th minute when Russell Martin struck following a corner kick. QPR eventually settled but struggled to find any openings. However, they got back on level terms with just under an hour gone. Jamie Mackie let fly from outside the area and his effort struck the left upright and invited Luke Young to make it 1-1. Once again though, Grant Holt came off the Norwich bench to make a difference. Three minutes after coming on, Holt forced the ball home and, despite some late QPR pressure, Norwich took the spoils. Norwich leapfrogged QPR into 10th place.
Norwich got the backing of 40.1% of members while QPR saw 10.8% of the support and the tie was chosen by 48.6%. The 1.45 points average for this matchup was fourth best this week.
Wigan Athletic at Sunderland
Sunderland got off to a flyer by taking the lead at home within the opening eight minutes. Nicklas Bendtner hit a tame shot at Wigan's Ali Al-Habsi but the ball spilled out of the keeper's grasp. Keiran Richardson's rebound was saved but Sebastian Larsson was on hand to tuck away the opener. The hosts looked for a second but, moments before the break, Wigan were awarded a penalty and Jordi Gómez calmly slotted home the ball. After Richardson missed a chance with 10 minutes left, it seemed the points would be shared. However, deep into injury time, Franco Di Santo pounced to steal the victory for the visitors, lifting Wigan off the foot of the table. Sunderland are three places above in 16th.
Sunderland gained just over three quarters of the picks in this game, Wigan received just 8.1% and the tie got 16.2%. With only three people choosing Wigan, the game gave up just 0.42 points on average.
Tottenham Hotspur at West Bromwich Albion
West Brom continued a trend of scoring early in games by taking the lead after just ten minutes. Youssouf Mulumbu headed in the opener but 15 minutes later, Spurs were awarded a penalty. Emmanuel Adebayor saw his effort saved but the rebound fell at his feet and he made it 1-1. Tottenham created numerous chances but they were kept out until the 81st minute when Jermaine Defoe finished off a solo run with a strike from outside the area. Spurs secured the points when Adebayor scored three minutes into stoppage time, his second brace in just six days. The win sees Tottenham close to within two points of Manchester United with a game in hand, West Brom have dropped to 14th.
The home side received no picks whatsoever while 89.1% backed Tottenham and the remainder went for the tie. 2.22 was enough to see the game be week 13's second best mark.
Fulham at Arsenal
Arsenal had the ball in the back of the net after four minutes but Andrey Arshavin's effort was ruled out for offside. Aaron Ramsey had the hosts' two best opportunities of the first half, but on both occasions he was denied by Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Arsenal's supremacy couldn't stop Fulham taking a second half lead, though. A superb ball from Danny Murphy found John Arne Riise and an intervening Thomas Vermaelen unluckily saw his attempted clearance end up in his own net. It was one-way traffic after that as Arsenal searched for an equalizer and Vermaelen made amends by salvaging a point with a header in the last 10 minutes. Arsenal stayed in seventh but Fulham rose to 15th.
97.2% of members backed Arsenal while one member put their faith in Fulham. However, the game ended in a tie which made it the first game result this season to stump all members. The game's 0.40 average was the week's lowest.
Aston Villa at Swansea City
This encounter in Wales became a somber affair after the news of Welsh manager Gary Speed's death. Players in the game included former teammates and a number of Welsh squad members. A pre-match minute's silence turned into applause and the chant "There's only one Gary Speed" broke out. Many players were visibly emotional but the game went ahead. Very few clearcut chances were created by either side. Swansea's Leroy Lita, who came on as a second half substitute, perhaps had the game's two best opportunities, but he was ultimately kept out by Speed's friend, Villa goalkeeper Shay Given. The one point apiece kept Aston Villa and Swansea in eighth and 13th places respectively.
Predictions were quite evenly spread with 34.2% going for Swansea, 26.3% picking Aston Villa, 39.4% went for the tie and the average goals predicted for both teams was 1.11. The game finished with a 1.03 points average.
Manchester City at Liverpool
Manchester City tried to dictate the game from the start but Liverpool's high-tempo pressing meant very few openings were produced. City only managed two shots wide of the target in the first half an hour but they broke the deadlock soon thereafter. David Silva's corner was met by Vincent Kompany who made a near-post run to glance it in. The hosts had failed to take any shots at that point but they were soon on level terms. Charlie Adam's shot looked wide but Joleon Lescott diverted it into City's net. Liverpool suddenly came to life but, despite being reduced to 10 men after Mario Balotelli was sent off, City held on for a point to remain five points clear at the top. Liverpool are still 6th.
Manchester City were still heavily favored despite being on the road, 81.5% choosing them with Liverpool gaining just 5.2% and the tie 13.1%. The 0.75 average meant the game was the fourth this week to score below 1.
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