Matchweek 21 Premier League Recap

Ben Fitzpatrick, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

Just one day removed from all 20 teams playing it out in a full midweek card, we are back to action with an exciting weekend card. Plenty of exciting fixtures and moments were inevitable and we were treated to many interesting moments that will undoubtedly have wider ramifications for the season as we head towards the penultimate moments. All games will be listed and recapped in chronological order from date and kick off time for simplicity and holistic purposes so let’s dive right in!

Everton 0-2 Newcastle

We began the weekend’s fixtures at Goodison Park where it seems Steve Bruce may have found his hidden formula as Newcastle secured their first win in 2021. A game that was lively and where both teams certainly had chances ended with the visitors bagging a crucial three points in their bid to stay in the Premier League.

While both teams had chances in the first half, neither team could find that killer touch to take an early lead. For Everton, both Richarlison and James Rodriguez had the best chances with them both being on target but neither being much trouble for Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow. The best chance of the half fell to Newcastle when a corner swung in was met by striker Callum Wilson’s bullet header, saved by the fingertips of Jordan Pickford.

Wilson would have more chances in the second half and, in the 73rd minute, he was rewarded for his efforts. Another corner swung in by Jonjo Shelvey was glanced into the far corner by a Wilson header and the Magpies had the lead that they had been working so well for. Newcastle sealed the game in stoppage time after a ball whipped across by left back Jamal Lewis to an open Callum Wilson who slotted it home after a touch and bagged himself a brace and his team the win.

The win keeps both teams where they are in the table but, for Newcastle, the three points will feel even sweeter. They host Crystal Palace on Tuesday night while Everton travel to Leeds on Wednesday.

Crystal Palace 1-0 Wolverhampton

Crystal Palace rebounded from their loss to West Ham in midweek with a spirited victory over fellow midtable strugglers Wolverhampton. Palace, whose team had 6 changes from the side that lost last Tuesday, had a good challenge with the quality of Wolves and the wet conditions but did enough to take the win.

The home team had the better chances of the first half. Midweek substitute goalscorer Michy Batshuayi, who had earned a start for this fixture for a benched Christian Benteke, saw his effort sail over the bar after a previous shot deflection from a Wolves defender. Nathaniel Clyne suffered a similar fate, with his effort going over the bar and Hodgson hoping that those chances would not come back to haunt the team like they did against West Ham.

Fortunately, a goal did come for Palace through the highly touted winger Eberechi Eze. A pass inside from Andre Ayew was controlled with a single touch to take it away from the covering defender and fired it past Rui Patricio. Wolverhampton had chances to equalize but Willian Jose, who was making his first start for his new club after joining from Real Sociedad, had both his chances saved by Vicente Guaita.

This loss means that Wolves have dropped to 14th and are on an eight game winless run. With their next challenge being the high flying Arsenal, the threat of relegation for a former Europa League finals team is now starting to become an ever present worry.

Manchester City 1-0 Sheffield United

After Wednesday night’s heroics at Old Trafford, Sheffield United would’ve gone back to Manchester with a renewed sense of hope and optimism that they could give Pep Guardiola’s side a similar scare. While the visitors made a good account for themselves, it was Manchester City who won at the Etihad and strengthened their hold at the top of the Premier League.

City took an early lead through Gabriel Jesus who, with that goal, snapped a long run of nine matches without a goal. Ferran Torres, who played extremely well and honest through the challenges that the Sheffield defence were trying to apply, battled trough the box and played the ball across to Jesus. The Brazilian striker managed to pick the ball out of his feet and put it in the back of the net. There weren’t many chances past that in the first half with City controlling the game and possession. The best coming to Bernardo Silva whose header went straight into the arms of a grateful Aaron Ramsdale.

The second half saw more chances from both sides with Aaron Ramsdale being called into action multiple times to deny Oleksander Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus a brace. Sheffield United certainly didn’t lay down and accept the result, though. The visitors came close to equalizing late though John Fleck but his shot went narrowly wide.

City, then, go three points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand while Sheffield stays bottom and, seemingly, destined for relegation. If they do go down, though, I have a funny feeling it won’t be long until we see them return.

West Brom 2-2 Fulham

A lively affair at the Hawthorns saw the points shared between West Brom and Fulham with Fulham staying ahead of the home side in their fight for survival. The game, that both managers recognised the importance of pre-game, delivered on expectations from both the teams being eager to come out on top over the other in a big 6 pointer against their relegation rivals.

It was the visitors who went ahead first thanks to a first time strike from Bobby De Cordova-Ried. The right midfielder was slipped in from the right hand side from an incisive pass from a returning Aleksandar Mitrovic to put Fulham ahead. De Cordova-Ried almost had a second within ten minutes but his effort cannoned off the far post.

The second half came alive with West Brom equalizing through a Kyle Bartley volley just two minutes after the half time restart, the first home goal under Sam Allardyce. The home side then found themselves ahead before 70 minutes when Matheus Pereira scored from a cross delivered by substitute Mbaye Digne. It wouldn’t be enough to hold on to, however, with Harrison Reed’s cross was converted at the far post by Ivan Cavaleiro.

As mentioned earlier, this means Fulham stay ahead of West Brom by two points in the league. West Brom have a second chance at a relegation 6 pointer when they travel to bottom of the league Sheffield United and may jump Fulham if results go their way.

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United

Arsenal’s fine form continues as they extend their unbeaten Premier League run to seven games after a goalless draw to Manchester United. The visitors were the talked about commodity after their midweek shock at Old Trafford but were eager to get back to winning ways.

The game, for being a nil nil draw, was extremely open and chances were aplenty. Early on, Manchester United were the ones who looked more likely to breakthrough. Fred had a great effort saved by the fingertips of Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno before the 20 minute mark and Bruno Fernandes saw a curled effort skim narrowly wide of the target. For Arsenal, Alexandre Lacazette had an opportunity after a ball from Gabriel Martinelli but his shot was straight at David De Gea. 

Arsenal responded well in the second half and had efforts denied by De Gea in the opening stages of the second half. A ball swung in by Hector Bellerin set up Willian for a chance but the winger couldn’t get the ball from out of his feet. Lacazette’s free kick effort then came off the crossbar which was pounced upon by young Emile Smith-Rowe but De Gea was equal to it. Edinson Cavani will feel hard done by in his third start for the club having opportunities blocked and a spectacular volley attempt go wide in the dying embers of the match.

United, who now have a club record 18 away league unbeaten streak, stay second ahead of hosting Southampton while Arsenal go ninth with a visit to Wolverhampton coming up midweek.

Southampton 0-1 Aston Villa

Aston Villa have moved up to eighth after taking all three points at St Mary’s in the final game on Saturday. It comes as a snap to Villa’s three game away run without a win and in an interesting position for the rest of the season with a game in hand still to play.

The game’s only goal came courtesy of veteran England midfielder Ross Barkley. Matt Targett played a cross to Villa top scorer Ollie Watkins who fired at goal but had his effort saved minutes prior. Barkley then stretched to meet a cross from captain Jack Grealish to give himself his third goal of the season and Aston Villa a lead going into half time.

Southampton didn’t make the lead easy to hold onto for the visitors, though, and special plaudits have to go to Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez for pulling off some fantastic saves. Danny Ings did have the ball in the back of the net for what Southampton thought was their late equalizer but, upon VAR review, Ings was ruled offside in the buildup of the play by an armpit after Bertrand’s shot was saved.

Villa host West Ham on Wednesday as they look to climb closer to a possible European football push while Southampton stay in 11th after falling to their third straight defeat.

Chelsea 2-0 Burnley

Following from his frustrating debut as manager in midweek, Thomas Tuchel has his first win as Chelsea manager in a convincing display at Stamford Bridge. Burnley, who were in good spirits following victories against Liverpool and Aston Villa were held without a shot on target throughout the whole game.

The home side, which saw four changes from Tuchel’s debut, took the lead five minutes before half time through captain Cesar Azpilicueta. Callum Hudson-Odoi, who received the ball from Antonio Rüdiger, carried the ball forward and slid the ball back to his captain who finished well past Pope on the angle. It was the captain’s first goal of the season and a worthy reward for the hard work the home side were putting in.

Chelsea weren’t just satisfied with one, though, and continued to push into the second half. Hudson-Odoi came close to a goal of his own but hit the post then tried to turn assister again for substitute Christian Pulisic who dragged his shot wide. The game would be sealed by another defender, this time substitute Marcus Alonso who volleyed Pulisic’s pass past Nick Pope to give the Blues their first home win in four.

The win takes Chelsea 7th in the league and level with their Thursday night opponents Tottenham while Burnely hold in 15th with a home appointment with current league leaders Manchester City on the midweek horizon.

Leicester 1-3 Leeds

Leeds striker Patrick Bamford took centre stage in Sunday’s second game as the Yorkshire side stormed into the King Power Stadium and took a commanding three points away from home. Leicester, who could’ve moved into second with a win, will rue missed chances in their fourth home defeat this season.

It was, in fact, the home side that struck first. Winger Ashley Barnes saw the ball goalward after a slick 1-2 move with James Maddison and drilled a shot low and left past Illan Meslier. It didn’t take long for the White Rose to draw level through Stuart Dallas who was played in by Bamford after a Luke Ayling interception. Leeds was hit with injury just after 20 minutes as Rodrigo had to be substituted off for Mateuz Kilch following a groin problem.

This didn’t dishearten Leeds who went on and pushed for the win. Patrick Bamford made it 2-1 to Leeds with 20 minutes to go after a slick, one time ball from Raphina which Bamford dispatched with confidence into the top corner. The game was sealed in the 84th through a Leeds counterattack from a Leicester free kick. Bamford carried the ball from his own area and played across to a wide-open Jack Harrison for an empty net tap in.

The win keeps Leeds in the bottom half of the table but not by much. With a mouth-watering clash with Everton on the cards in midweek, Leeds fans have new belief that they will, indeed, be marching on together.

West Ham 1-3 Liverpool

West Ham’s impressive winning run came to a crashing halt as they fell to reigning champions Liverpool. The Hammers, who were without new loan signing Jesse Lingard due to time constraints, named a strong side but never looked threatening on the attack as Liverpool cruised past them in the second half.

The first half was devoid of chances as the home side defended resolutely against a dangerous attack even without Sadio Mane. Each side had one real clear opportunity to go ahead with Michail Antonio having a header saved by Alisson and Mohammed Salah having his shot saved by Lukasz Fabianski. Neither team had the opportunities nor attacked with any true conviction.

That all changed in the second half when Salah got his shooting boots on and put two away within ten minutes of each other. A beautiful left foot curler was the first in the 57th minute and a 68th counterattack goal gave Salah his double. Liverpool had three and the game with five minutes to go thanks to a right footed Georginio Wijnaldum shot. Craig Dawson headed home a consolation goal for the Hammers but it was too little, too late to salvage anything from the game.

West Ham now hold in fifth while Liverpool closes the gap to Manchester City to four points with a game in hand.

Brighton 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Another matchweek, another shock result to end the proceedings. This time, Brighton are the providers of the upset beating Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham by a goal to nil at the Amex Staudium. The home side, who are fighting against relegation, who begin a tough round of fixtures with this match, pick up a vital three points in their bid for survival.

Brighton played well throughout the match and we almost ahead early through Pascal Groß. His shot in the third minute clipped the left-hand post of Hugo Lloris’ goal. Lloris would be picking the ball out of his net in the first half, though, thanks to a composed finish by Leandro Trossard. Groß, who was lively before, played a great cutback to the Belgian forward who slotted his shot home.

With the formidability of Tottenham’s attack, Brighton knew they had to play like one goal wasn’t going to be enough. Ben White had his shot saved by Lloris to stop the lead from extending then, at the other end, Robert Sanchez had a turn to pull off a stunning save to prevent substitute Carlos Vinicius. Toby Alderwiereld even got in on the shot stopping fun to prevent Aaron Connolly from sealing the game for certain for Brighton.

The win makes Brighton two wins from three and seven points clear from relegation zone Fulham. Both teams will face top half opponents in midweek with Brighton travelling to Liverpool and Tottenham hosting Chelsea.

Ben Fitzpatrick

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