Weekend Premier League recap

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

The sun shone down this week on another run of weekend Premier League action. With some teams set to play make-up games in the midweek and others having played in European cup competitions the midweek just gone, squad rotation may very well be the watch word of the day. Nonetheless, there’s plenty to talk about so let’s dive in.

Manchester City 2-1 West Ham

We get underway at the Etihad Stadium where a much changed Manchester City side notched their 14th straight league win against a very game West Ham United. The visitors, despite trailing in possession, didn’t make the game a cakewalk for the league leaders and solidified their positions in the minds of many fans as a legitimate European place contender.

City had control of the game early-on but were yet to test backup goalkeeper Darren Randolph in the opening stages. The first shot on target City had was converted, though, on the half hour mark when a beautiful ball was delivered by Kevin De Bruyne and met by a Ruben Dias header to put the hosts in front. The Hammers would go into the first half level when Michail Antonio pounced on a blocked shot from Jesse Lingard with two minutes to go in the first half.

The lead was restored for Manchester City through another centre back, this time John Stones. The defender got his shot off in time and past Randolph after some great individual skill by Riyad Mahrez. West Ham didn’t feel completely out of it and had a fantastic chance in stoppage time to take a point from City. A cross swung in for the Hammers was headed by Issa Diop but his header went wide of both the net and the incoming Tomas Soucek.

Manchester City maintain their firm grip on top spot and stand tall over their Manchester rivals ahead of a make-up game with Wolverhampton on Tuesday. West Ham’s four game unbeaten run comes to an end but the team wont feel disheartened when they host Leeds next weekend.

West Brom 1-0 Brighton

West Brom have snapped their eight game winless run with a win at The Hawthorns over Brighton. Brighton will feel extremely hard done by in terms of the result, though, as the visitors missed two penalties and had a goal they will certainly feel should’ve counted overturned by VAR.

Kyle Bartley was the one who gave the home side the lead on 11 minutes after heading in Conor Gallagher’s corner rewarding the early pressure. Brighton had their first penalty, though, just seven minutes later when VAR confirmed a handball in the box by Okay Yokuslu. Pascal Groß stepped up but clattered the bar with his shot. Lewis Dunk then had the ball in the back of the net with a free kick on the half hour mark but the goal was overturned by VAR. Lee Mason, the on field referee, blew his whistle a second time to signal the free kick being taken too quickly meaning the ball wasn’t in play. VAR official Simon Hooper confirmed this and the equalizer was chalked off.

Brighton pressed the initiative in the second half with both Aaron Connolly and Joel Veltman coming just short of the mark. It was a bad day for the substitutes as well when Danny Welbeck was called on to take the second Brighton penalty of the match. Groß was fouled by Conor Townsend in the box to send the visitors to the spot for the second time. Welbeck stepped up but suffered a similar fate with his shot hitting the post.

A frustrating day for Brighton who move to four games without a win. They will have a tough task next Saturday when they host Leicester. West Brom play in midweek against Everton at home as they hope to begin a push for safety.

Leeds 0-1 Aston Villa

It was also a rough day on the pitch for Leeds United as they fell at home to Aston Villa. The visitors, who went ahead early, maintained their slender lead thanks in part to some quality goalkeeping yet again from Emiliano Martinez. The home side will rue wasted chances, having the most in the match but not being able to get them on target.

It took Villa just five minutes to score what would be the only goal of the game. Ollie Watkins mishit his shot, but Anwar El Ghazi was alert to the opportunity and slotted a shot under Illan Meslier from close range to put the visitors in front. Both sides had chances in the first with both goalkeepers being called into action. Tyler Roberts almost had Leeds level, forcing a magnificent save from Martniez while El Ghazi drew a double save out of Meslier to keep the deficit at just one.

Chances came thick and fast through the second half as well with Aston Villa desperate to kill the game and Leeds trying to push to salvage it. Tyrone Mings had an opportunity for Villa to put them two goals up in the 67th but his header deflected off Liam Cooper and carried narrowly over. For Leeds, it was Raphinha who came close to equalizing in the dying embers, but his header flashed just past the post of Martinez’s net.

It is a first win in three outings for the visiting team who have a quick turnaround for their next match. They will stay in the north and take on Sheffield United on Wednesday. Leeds, meanwhile, have an opportunity to reflect on the loss before their trip to West Ham next weekend.

Newcastle 1-1 Wolverhampton

In Saturday night’s match, the points were shared between Newcastle and Wolverhampton in a relatively even and open contest. In a match with a combined 33 shots, both teams fought hard for the three points for their respective campaigns but had to settle with the spoils being shared.

Newcastle had the best of chances during the first half but just couldn’t take the early lead. Miguel Almiron saw his curling effort hit the post, much to the relief of Rui Patricio in the Wolves goal. Allan Saint-Maximim thought he had the games opener, but his goal was cancelled out by the assistant referee’s flag. It was good early signs for the Newcastle attack early, though.

The second half brought the goals, and it was Newcastle who took the initiative and the lead. Ryan Fraser’s cross was delivered in towards Jamal Lascelles whose powerful header fired past Rui Patricio to put them in front. A headed goal would be the response from Wolves in the 73rd with Ruben Neves heading home off Pedro Neto’s cross. Both teams could’ve won it late with Joelinton’s shot cleared off the line by Romain Saiss while, for the visitors, Fabio Silva’s header was tipped on to the crossbar by Martin Dubravka.

The result marks the fifth time that the two teams have met and drawn 1-1 but the dropped points will mean more to Newcastle who continue to hover over the relegation zone. Newcastle travel to West Brom next weekend while Wolverhampton travel to Manchester City on Tuesday.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Fulham

Sunday’s opening game told a familiar story for visitors Fulham as they failed to move within one point of safety after drawing with Crystal Palace. In a match where Fulham had over five times the amount of chances Palace had, a combination of poor finishing and top-notch goalkeeping kept them scoreless for the first time since their draw with West Ham.

Palace started the brightest and were almost ahead through an own goal. Andros Townsend played a cross into the Fulham area which was deflected on target by Fulham defender and captain Joachim Andersen. Alphonse Areola reacted quickly to keep the ball out and the game level. Andersen was lively in the first half as well, having two chances that went wide of the target, both of which being supplied in some fashion by Ademola Lookman. The defender’s first chance was headed wide from a corner and the second went over the crossbar after a good combination move with Lookman.

Fulham seemed to come out and play the second half with a greater sense of rejuvenation, determined to pick up the three points. Many of their efforts fell short, though, with the London side having just four shots on target for the whole game. Their best chance to take the win came from Josh Maja whose close range header with twenty minutes to go was kept out brilliantly by Vicente Guaita to ensure the points were shared.

The draw keeps Fulham in the relegation zone for now but, unlike Newcastle who sit above them, Fulham have their game that they will play against Tottenham on Thursday night. Crystal Palace also play a game in midweek as they host Manchester United.

Leicester 1-3 Arsenal

Arsenal have moved back up into the top ten after coming back from a goal down to beat third place Leicester. The Foxes went ahead early, but a perseverant Arsenal side put three goals past the hosts to climb back up into the top half of the Premier League table.

The game had its first goal on the six minute mark when Youri Tielemans’ right footed shot blasted into Bernd Leno’s far corner. Leicester managed to hold the lead until a well worked free kick from Willian in the 39th minute set up David Luiz to head home an equalizer for the Gunners. The visitors would have the lead before half time when Alexandre Lacazette was sent to the penalty spot for a handball offence by Wilfred Ndidi.

Things would go from bad to worse for Leicester in the opening stages of the second half when they lost Harvey Barnes to a leg injury. They would also later loose Jonny Evans after he went into a challenge and came out the worse for it. Arsenal’s winning goal, though, would come in the 52ndwhen Willian’s surge into the box left keeper Kasper Schmeichel in no mans land and Nicolas Pepe with an empty net to tap into.

The loss is a missed opportunity for Leicester to climb to second in the league table. They will have another chance, however, when they visit Burnley on Wednesday. Arsenal’s next opponent is, coincidentally, also Burnley who they visit on Saturday.

Tottenham 4-0 Burnley

Tottenham have bounced back from their loss at West Ham by putting four past visitors Burnley. The hosts followed from the positive performance they put in during the last twenty minutes at London Stadium with Gareth Bale starting and starring for the Spurs.

Gareth Bale didn’t waste any time in proving why he deserved the start this week scoring after just 68 seconds. Son Heung-min played a direct cross to the Welsh international who steered it home from close range. Bale would be the supplier shortly after, with his exquisite long ball pass finding Harry Kane who slotted home with his right boot into the top left corner. The game was virtually sealed fifteen minutes later when Sergio Reguilon’s cross was delivered to a waiting Lucas Moura who scored his second goal in two games.

Tottenham continued to press the advantage in the second half which would result in a fourth goal for the home side. Gareth Bale was on the receiving end again, this time curling in a shot after an assist from Son. Spurs could’ve had plenty more but Nick Pope’s smart saves kept out both Kane from bagging a brace and Son having a goal to pair with his assist in what was a good day at the office for Jose Mourinho.

The win moves Tottenham up into eight place and past Aston Villa on goal difference. They will travel to Fulham in midweek as they continue their bid to finish in a European qualification place. Burnley’s first loss in five games keeps them 15th ahead of their midweek tie with Leicester.

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester United

Both Chelsea and Manchester United extended their unbeaten run in bittersweet fashion when they clashed on Sunday afternoon. The dropped points prevents Chelsea from leapfrogging West Ham into the top four while Manchester United see the gap growing larger and larger between themselves and crosstown rivals Manchester City in first.

In typical Thomas Tuchel fashion, Chelsea were in control of the majority of possession in the match. While they also enjoyed the most chances, the London side just couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net. Olivier Giroud snatched at his first half opportunity while David De Gea was called into action to deny Hakim Ziyech and keep the Red Devils in with a chance.

Manchester United had chances to take the three points back up north with them with Brazilian midfielder Fred coming closest. In the 68th minute, the midfielder fired in a shot from long range but just curled inches wide of Edouard Mendy’s post. Scott McTominay tried to lead a final minute breakaway in stoppage time but, with no one up the pitch to support him, the attack and the match had full time whistled onto it.

The consolation for both sides is that their unbeaten runs are extended. Man United continue their club record 20 league game unbeaten streak but are now 12 points off top spot. They travel to Crystal Palace on Wednesday while Chelsea go to Anfield to face Liverpool on Thursday.

Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool

Liverpool’s four game losing streak has come to an end after beating Sheffield United away from home. The reigning champions racked up double the shots of the home side and cruised to a win that takes them within two point of the top four.

Sheffield United’s goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was the star of the show for the Blades early, racking up five saves in just the first half. This included two in two minutes to keep out Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum. The home side couldn’t capitalise on the resolute goalkeeping performance, though, with both of David McGoldrick’s attempts getting blocked.

The visitors would have their breakthrough within three minutes of the restart after Curtis Jones latched onto the end of a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross for his second Premier League goal which was confirmed by VAR. Roberto Firmino would have the second for Liverpool after a skilful solo run resulted in a shot that took a deflection off of Kean Bryan and past Ramsdale for the own goal.

Liverpool next play a crucial six-pointer in their bid for a top four finish when take on Chelsea at Anfield on Thursday. Sheffield United also play at home when they host Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Everton 1-0 Southampton

Another top four contender, Everton, gained themselves three big points for their campaign on Monday night as they dealt Southampton their ninth straight game without a win in the Premier League. The win was the first of 2021 for the Toffees and puts them level on points with their Merseyside rivals, Liverpool.

The only goal of the match would come within the first ten minutes through Richarlison, continuing his fine personal goalscoring form. The Brazillian collected a through ball played by Gylfi Sigurdsson and took the ball round Fraser Forster in goal to give the home side the early lead. Michael Keane thought he gave his side some breathing room with his goal in the 25th minute but was ruled out by VAR.

Southampton tried to fight their way back into the match during the second half but struggled to provide any real attacking threat, with the Angels only registering one shot on target during the whole match. That chance came in the 90th minute when Jannik Vestergard fired with his left boot but was met with a good strong save by Jordan Pickford to secure the win for Everton.

Everton’s next contest is a trip to West Brom on Thursday, with the Toffees still holding a game in hand over the teams above them. Southampton will look to snap their winless run on Saturday against Sheffield United when they visit them on Saturday.

Ben Fitzpatrick

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