Weekend Premier League recap

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

A busy sporting weekend was carried through by nine Premier League fixtures from up and down the country. While each game has its implications and importance to fans, there was one game happening at Anfield that everyone had their eyes on as two Premier League giants clashed in a fixture that could certainly be pointed to as a turning point come the end of the season.

Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal

We start the round up at Villa Park where Aston Villa have managed to do the double over visitors Arsenal for the first time since the 1992/93 season. The loss for the Gunners is their third successive game without a win and puts Arteta’s side firmly back at square one in terms of their previous resurgence.

Aston Villa were ahead after just 74 seconds after Ollie Watkins scored from a deflected cutback from Bertrand Traore. It is the 10th goal of the season for the English striker and his second from as many games. Arsenal didn’t have many chances in the first half thanks to a combination of strong defending from Villa and some poor finishing. Their best chance came from Granit Xhaka’s free kick which forced a brilliant save from Emiliano Martinez.

The game opened up in the second half with both teams having more chances to either extend or squash the lead over the other. Ollie Watkins had multiple efforts early on but both were stopped by a debuting Mat Ryan, who was playing in absence of a suspended Bernd Leno. The Australian had a busy debut making another good save with just over ten minutes remaining to keep out Jack Grealish. Arsenal substitute Martin Odegaard had Arsenal’s best chance of the second half but, with his shot sailing over the bar, so too did Arsenal’s way back into the game.

With the win, Aston Villa move above Tottenham Hotspur into eighth place with 35 points. Arsenal stay tenth on 31 points and will host Leeds on Valentine’s Day.

Burnley 1-1 Brighton

Brighton, despite drawing with fellow relegation strugglers Burnley, are now five games unbeaten with yesterday’s result. The visitors soaked the pressure from the home side well as they picked up another vital point in their fight for safety.

Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez was undoubtedly the hero for Brighton during the match, keeping out many of Burnely’s shots on goal. Dwight McNeil’s free kick effort was denied first by the Spaniard who then stopped James Tarkowski’s shot from the left side of the six yard box. Lewis Dunk was the one to put the visitors ahead on 36 minutes with a header into the bottom left corner of Nick Pope’s net after the ball was swung in by Pascal Groß.

Burnley were perseverant throughout the match, though, and their repeated pushes were rewarded with a leveller in the 53rd minute. Erik Pieters shot forcing a save out of Sanchez but the ball fell to Johann Gudmundsson who made no mistake for his first goal of the season. Burnley maintained their pressure for the rest of the game with Robert Sanchez called into action with 20 minutes to go to keep out Matej Vydra. Brighton held on and held on well to secure their point.

Brighton move onto 25 points and sit in 15th position ahead of a home tie with Aston Villa next weekend. Burnley hover above the drop zone in 17th with an 8 point gap between them and Fulham. Burnley travel to Crystal Palace next week.

Newcastle 3-2 Southampton

In an action packed game at St. James’ Park, it was the hosts the came away with the three points as Newcastle held on for the victory. A match that had it all, goals, red cards and an injury, nine man Newcastle battled hard until the final whistle to aid their survival campaign.

It was a day for debutants as both Joe Wilock for Newcastle and the newly loaned Takumi Minamino bagged themselves goals in their first games. Wilock scored the first game of the game just after the quarter hour mark from squared ball from Allan Saint-Maximin. Newcastle doubled their lead before the half hour mark thanks to Miguel Almiron’s low strike that was deflected on the way through. Minamino’s goal would be the first for Southampton, with his high angled strike coming just four minutes after Almiron’s. Almiron would restore the two goal cushion in stoppage time after taking advantage from a loose pass from Alex McCarthy.

Southampton had the upper hand during the second half with James Ward-Prowse scoring a gorgeous free kick just three minutes into the half. Things got even better for the visitors when, just two minutes after Ward-Prowse’s goal, Jeff Hendrick was sent off for Newcastle for a second bookable offence. Try as they might, Southampton just couldn’t find their equaliser even with Fabian Schar being taken off due to injury and Newcastle having used all three substitutes prior.

The hard fought win keeps Newcastle in 16th and four places and points behind Southampton. Newcastle visit Stamford Bridge next Monday while Southampton host Wolverhampton.

Fulham 0-0 West Ham

Both teams will walk away from Craven Cottage frustrated following a scoreless draw, the ninth of the season for Fulham. Fulham had the overall beat of the game while West Ham arguably had the better and more clear-cut chances.

West Ham settled into the game the fastest and had a fantastic opportunity to go ahead before 15 minutes. Aaron Cresswell fired in a cross that Jarrod Bowen threw himself at to no avail before a fantastic opportunity for Tomas Soucek to head home a ball from Jesse Lingard but he got over the top of the ball with his header. Fulham had chances in the first half with the best going to Ademola Lookman whose shot veered just wide from just outside the box.

The home team came out and played stronger during the second half, though, but just seemed to lack the finishing touch they have missed all season. Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both had great chances to put Fulham ahead, but both missed the target. Vladimir Coufal almost had the Hammers ahead in the middle stages of the half but his header cannoned off the crossbar and over.

The most talked about incident, however, was the decision of Mike Dean to send Tomas Soucek off for violent conduct after consulting VAR for almost five minutes. The midfielder saw red for moving his arm out of the way and colliding with the head of Aleksandr Mitrovic who went down. Play was stopped and, after a lengthy view at the VAR monitor, Dean produced red and put the Hammers down to ten men.

The draw keeps Fulham in the relegation zone ahead of a trip to Everton next week. For West Ham, it’s a fifth away league match unbeaten and a chance to break into the top four squandered. They next host the in form but bottom of the league Sheffield United.

Manchester United 3-3 Everton

Sparks flew and goals were aplenty in the final match of the day with Manchester United and Everton ending up with a point each following an entertaining match at Old Trafford. United, who would’ve gone level with their cross-town rivals with a win, were strong throughout but could not hold on against Ancelloti’s side.

Manchester took the lead first thanks to Edinson Cavani’s header who has made his starting place in the side a locked in certainty. Marcus Rashford swung a cross into the Uruguayan forward and past backup goalkeeper Robin Olsen. United had two before the break thanks to a brilliant shot from Bruno Fernandes that curled into the net from outside the area, leaving it all to do from Everton.

Everton were up to the challenge and had the match equalised within ten minutes. Abdoulaye Doucouré had the Toffees first after David De Gea parried a shot directly into the Frenchman’s path then James Rodriguez drew the visitors level with a drilled shot in the 52nd minute. Scott McTominay put the home side ahead again through a header, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin managed to poke home a final equalizer and denied Manchester United the chance to go level with City on points in the league.

Everton’s rescued point extends their away league unbeaten run to seven and has them sat in sixth. United stay second behind Manchester City who still have their two games in hand to play.

Tottenham 2-0 West Brom

The first match of Sunday’s card saw a Tottenham Hotspur side claim their first win in four matches thanks to a returning Harry Kane. Kane, who has been out since their clash with Liverpool with a double ankle injury, was instrumental in the victory which adds more worries for West Brom as they ride through an extremely difficult patch of games.

Tottenham had many chances to take an early lead with many falling at the feet of the returning striker. This included two chances within five minutes of each other with the first coming close but just missing the top left corner and the latter being dragged right. West Brom had an opportunity to take a shock lead before half time through Senegalese striker Mbaye Diagne whose header was saved brilliantly by Hugo Lloris in the bottom left corner.

It took just ten minutes after the restart for Spurs to have the lead they will feel they earned and for Kane to have the goal he will feel he earned. Converting from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s pass, he becomes Tottenham’s joint-second highest all-time goalscorer with a massive 208 goals in all competitions. The home side had their second four minutes later when goalscorer Kane began a counter-attack, using Lucas Moura to continue the move and finishing with Son Heung-min’s thirteenth goal of the season.

The win keeps Tottenham in eighth, but they will certainly be in good spirits with a trip to the Etihad Stadium and league leaders Manchester City scheduled for Saturday. West Brom’s fourth loss in five games puts them second from bottom and they host Manchester United on Sunday.

Wolverhampton 0-0 Leicester

In a battle of the Midlands, both teams walked away with both a point and a clean sheet in a match that had a combined tally of shots on target of just four. Leicester, who had an opportunity to go level on points with Manchester United in second, had the more clear-cut chances throughout but just couldn’t capitalize.

Wolves were the team who started brightest and had the chances early. Ruben Neves fired his shot over the bar just after ten minutes before Adama Traore, who utilized his unique combination of pace and strength for the whole 90 minutes, saw his shot deflected by James Justin. Leicester were the better side come the end of the half but couldn’t find the net after a clean team move resulted in James Maddison’s shot get blocked twice by Jonny.

By the time the second half came around, both teams certainly felt there was something for the taking out of this encounter and it was the substitutes that had the greatest chances to earn victory for their team. Fabio Silva had a great opportunity from close range to put the home side in front but Kasper Schmeichel was equal to it. A returning Jamie Vardy then made his first appearance since injury and put a header wide of the mark in stoppage time.

Leicester remains in third by two points while Wolves stay in 14th following the point.

Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City

The big match of the weekend took place at Anfield and saw visitors Manchester City strengthen their hold on the top spot in the Premier League and extend their lead to 5 points. The win is also a top flight record equaling 14th win in all competitions for a team that is flying high and, possibly, to a Premier League title this season.

In an open contest, there were plenty of goalscoring opportunities created. With this, Manchester City were the ones who were handed the best opportunity to go ahead first. Raheem Stirling drew a foul from Fabinho to which referee Michael Oliver responded by pointing to the spot. Ilkay Gundogan fired his penalty over the bar, though, and the home side breathed a sigh of relief.

That relief wouldn’t last very long for Liverpool, though, as Gundogan would make amends for his miss by hitting home a ball that was parried from a Phil Foden shot. Liverpool would then take a turn to visit the penalty spot with Mohamed Salah wining and converting the penalty after being fouled by Ruben Dias. City then dialed up the pressure and blew three past Liverpool in ten minutes to bag the three points. Gundogan had his second of the evening after a defensive mix up and Sterling made it three thanks, in part, to a mistake from Liverpool keeper Alisson. Phil Foden’s strike made it four and three points for City.

The away win, as mentioned, puts the league leaders five points clear at the top of the league and gives Pep Guardiola his first win as a manager at Anfield. Liverpool will attempt to regroup when they visit another top 4 opponent in Leicester next weekend.

Sheffield United 1-2 Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel is enjoying life in the Premier League as Chelsea are still unbeaten under the new manager. The visitors, who conceded their first goal under Tuchel’s reign, played well throughout and continued their impressive run.

Sheffield United were the ones to give the visitors an early scare when Oliver Burke hit his shot into the side netting after being played in by Oliver McBurnie in the first minute. Chelsea established their dominance through the half, though, after Ben Chilwell played a weighted ball to Timo Werner whose cutback found Mason Mount for the opening goal.

The home side did draw level in the second half thanks to an own goal from Antonio Rudiger who poked the ball past his own keeper in the 54th minute. It took Chelsea just four minutes to regain and maintain their lead after Timo Werner drew a foul from Sheffield goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. The decision was confirmed by VAR and Jorginho was clinical from the spot to score what would be the winning goal for the London side.

Chelsea’s win moves them up to fifth and one point off the top four. Sheffield United remain bottom of the league and travel to West Ham next Monday.

Ben Fitzpatrick

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