Weekend Premier League recap

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

The Premier League title could be virtually wrapped up by the end of this weekend’s fixtures as first played second in a crucial six pointer for the league leaders. That six pointer just so happened to be the Manchester derby. Places up and down the table were still up for grabs with teams fighting for points to break into the top four and out of the bottom three, respectively. While the title race may be run, there are still other questions that may go down to the wire.

Burnley 1-1 Arsenal

Burnley fought hard and well to secure a draw against mid table Arsenal. The draw is their fifth in a row, but the home side racked up more meaningful chances than the Gunners and gave a good account of themselves yet again and are putting themselves in good stead for survival.

Arsenal had the lead six minutes into the match with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cutting into the area and firing past Nick Pope at his near post for his first Premier League goal since his hat trick against Leeds on Valentine’s Day. Auba had a chance to double the Gunners’ lead but, like Bukayo Saka, he poked his effort wide. Burnley struck back and made them pay when Chris Wood’s placement blocked a pass from Granit Xhaka in his own area and rebounded in for the equalizer.

The second half didn’t roar into life until there was just under 25 minutes left. Burnley’s Erik Pieters had a volleyed wonderstrike from 30 yards out tipped over by Bernd Leno who then later denied Wood a brace by reflex saving with his legs. There would be more drama involving Pieters when he was shown a red card by Andre Marriner for a handball that blocked an on target shot by Nicolas Pepe on the goal line. The decision was checked by VAR, who correctly spotted it was blocked with his shoulder and the decision was overturned. Arsenal continued to push but could not muster the final bit of magic needed and full time was blown.

The draw keeps both sides where they are sat in the league, for now, with the draw coming more helpful for Burnley than it is for Arsenal. Burnley will look to try and take an upset three points when they travel to Everton next week while Arsenal host Tottenham in a London derby.

Sheffield United 0-2 Southampton

Southampton have put themselves back in the winner’s column as they defeated Sheffield United away from home on Saturday afternoon. It is the first Premier League win in ten outings for the visitors and is a huge blow to Sheffield, who now have a steeper uphill climb to possible safety.

It wasn’t the easiest start for Southampton, as Danny Ings was forced off with a muscle injury before 15 minutes that looks to have him side-lined for some weeks. The visitors’ heads didn’t drop at all, though, and they would have their first goal just after the half hour mark. Nathan Tella led a Southampton counterattack and was fouled by Ethan Ampadu to send James Ward-Prowse to the spot. Ward-Prowse made no mistake and gave them the lead.

Sheffield United struggled throughout the contest and the struggle only became more difficult when Ings’ replacement Che Adams double Southampton’s lead. Adams fired a sizzling half-volley from 18 yards past Aaron Ramsdale for his fourth against his former club and the second goal for his current one in the game. Liverpool loanee Takumi Minamino almost gave Southampton a third but his shot went wide in what was, overall, a strong performance by the visitors.

Southampton have a quick turnaround for their next match as they play their game in hand against the league leaders, Manchester City, on Wednesday night. Sheffield United will take the tough trip to Leicester next Sunday.

Aston Villa 0-0 Wolverhampton

No goals but plenty of entertainment came from Villa Park as Aston Villa and Wolverhampton played out a goalless draw on Saturday evening. In a match with just under 20 shots in total, it was the visitors who came closest to snatching the three points but neither team could manage to break the deadlock and had to settle for a point each.

Both goalkeepers had their work cut out for them in this one, but so did the crossbars, with Aston Villa rattling the top woodwork twice in 20 minutes. Ollie Watkins’ long range effort slammed against the bar before Ezri Konsa tried to fire home on the stretch but found nothing but the top bar. Wolves struggled to find many concrete chances in the first half with their best coming from Romain Saïss’ header which missed to the left-hand side following a set piece.

The second half saw the visitors come to life more and Emiliano Martinez called into action to keep the game level. Pedro Neto surged forward on a drive from inside his own half a hit a stinging shot that was saved by the Argentinian in net. The best chance for them came after Conor Coady’s header skimmed off the post to Saïss who managed to fire over an empty net from directly in front and Martinez trapped in no man’s land. Villa almost made them pay in stoppage time, but Rui Patricio stopped Ollie Watkins’ effort and the rebound was swept wide by Ezri Konsa.

Aston Villa have the opening game of next weekend’s fixtures when they travel to Newcastle on Friday night. Wolverhampton will host Liverpool in the closing match of next week where they will be hoping to capitalise on the visitors’ rocky form.

Brighton 1-2 Leicester

Leicester came back from behind to take three points from the Amex Stadium as they continue to fight for a top four finish and a return to the Champions League. The visitors showed true pedigree to come back and control the game and extend their unbeaten league away run to double digit figures.

Brighton were lively despite the lack of possession throughout and did, indeed, have the lead after just ten minutes. Neal Maupay played a through ball into ex-Liverpool man Adam Lallana who slotted a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel for his first goal in a Brighton shirt. Lallana almost had a second, but his header only found the post. Debutant Sidnei Tavares almost had a debut to remember but his long-range effort was saved by Robert Sanchez.

Kelechi Iheanacho was proving to be a handful for the Brighton defence in the second half and, after hitting the side netting early, had Leicester back on level terms with a controlled, chipped finish off a deadeye Youri Tielemans pass just after the hour mark. Some poor goalkeeping decisions at set pieces cost Brighton a point when Sanchez swung and missed at an incoming Marc Albrighton corner to allow Daniel Amartey to nod home for what would be the game winner.

It is now three straight defeats for Brighton who are hanging precariously over the relegation zone. They travel to Southampton on Sunday while Leicester will look to cement their top four position when they host Sheffield United.

West Brom 0-0 Newcastle

West Brom have just fallen short of closing the gap to safety on their opponents, Newcastle, as both sides fought to a goalless draw in their Sunday afternoon clash. In a massive six point affair for West Brom, the Baggies just couldn’t get their shots on target and have squandered a massive opportunity to strengthen their case for safety.

The visitors were the ones who started the match best, with West Brom slowly growing into the contest. Emil Krafth tested Sam Johnstone early before Mbaye Diagne saw two first half chances die off for West Brom. His first was a shot that flew over the bar following a long throw in by Darnell Furlong. The second would be the closest Diagne would come to scoring with his header glancing on target but being strongly pushed away by Martin Dubravka.

Diagne would have another headed opportunity in the second half but that went wide. This came after Matt Phillips had worked himself into a shooting position which only sailed over the crossbar. West Brom have keeper Sam Johnstone to thank for the point as he managed to keep out both Joe Willock and Joelinton’s dangerous chances and ensure the score stayed level. Neither team will be, necessarily, overjoyed with the point but they will certainly take one point rather than none.

West Brom are now eight points from Premier League safety and have it all to do to ensure they stay up this season. Their next challenge will be at Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon. Newcastle, meanwhile, move above Brighton and host Aston Villa on Friday night.

Liverpool 0-1 Fulham

Liverpool’s home woes have continued as they suffered a shock defeat to relegation battlers Fulham. The home side looked complacent in the first half, with Fulham creating the chances and being rewarded for their perseverance and resolute defending away from home to score their first away win in the league since Valentine’s Day.

It was all Fulham in the opening 45, with the visitors ensuring it wasn’t going to be a simple day for the Liverpool backline. Josh Maja went close to opening the scoring twice for Fulham, seeing his first shot go wide and his second denied by Alisson from point-blank range. Ademola Lookman also had a close-range opportunity but Neco Williams deflected the effort over. The first half performance was capped off for the visitors with Mario Lemina drilling a low shot past Alisson and surging Fulham into a deserved lead.

Liverpool woke up in the second half and began to rack up some good chances. A returning Diogo Jota was brilliantly denied a spectacular volleyed shot by an equally brilliant stop from Alphonse Areola. Substitute Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri continued the onslaught but couldn’t get their shots on target and Fulham saw themselves home and dry with their eighth away league match unbeaten.

It is now six league games without a point at home for Liverpool which drops them down to eighth ahead of a Monday night visit to Wolverhapton. Fulham play at home next against the league leaders, Manchester City, who will be keen to cause another upset.

Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United

Speaking of upsets, Manchester United have stunned the Premier League leaders and snapped their 15 league match winning run in the Manchester derby. In a match that could’ve all but secured the title for City, United stepped up to the challenge and ensured that the League title race isn’t quite over yet.

Two minutes was all the time that passed before we had the first goal in the derby contest. Anthony Martial was fouled by Gabriel Jesus prompting referee Anthony Taylor to send United to the spot. Up stepped Bruno Fernandes who slotted home with no mistake and the Red Devils were in the lead. City came close to equalizing in the first half, with Dean Henderson being called into action to deny both Oleksandr Zinchenko and a fierce Kevin De Bruyne free kick.

City continued to press in the second half with Rodrigo’s strike clipping the bar three minutes into the half. Two minutes after it, though, Manchester United would double their lead. Luke Shaw exchanged a passing move with Marcus Rashford before firing a low left footed shot in the bottom corner and past a helpless Ederson. Marcus Rashford would later leave the game, though, due to an ankle injury that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes is ‘not too bad.’ City tried to get back into the game but, with both Phil Foden and Raheem Stirling missing late on, Manchester was painted red.

The win elevates United to second on the table and they will host their FA Cup Round Five opponents West Ham, who will be eager for revenge. For City, the lead at the top is shaved to 11 points. They have a quick turnaround for their next game when the host Southampton on Wednesday night.

Tottenham 4-1 Crystal Palace

It was a commanding performance at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium as the hosts hit four past a visiting Crystal Palace. Spurs, who did go into half time level and having conceded, flexed their offensive muscle with Gareth Bale and captain Harry Kane playing major roles in their third successive league win.

Bale opened up the scoring, netting his second goal in as many home matches. Harry Kane swung in a cross towards the far post which was met by the Welshman and hit past Vicente Guaita for the lead in the 25th minute. Palace would answer back before the first half was over with Luka Milivojevic’s cross being met by the head of Chrsitian Benteke to draw the game level during stoppage time.

Tottenham proceed to, then, open up the floodgates in the second half, taking just four minutes to regain the lead. Sergio Reguilon put a cross into the box which was headed back across goal by Kane and put in by Bale for the lead and his brace. Kane would bag himself a brace, as well, with his first being a stunning first-time strike from 20 yards into the far corner and the second being a textbook close-range conversion after linking with Son Heung-min.

Tottenham move up to within two points of the top four with the win ahead of a big London derby with Arsenal on Sunday afternoon. Crystal Palace will host relegation battlers West Brom on Saturday in a match that is shaping up to be quite entertaining. 

Chelsea 2-0 Everton

Chelsea have moved into the top four with a record breaking fifth home clean sheet in Thomas Tuchel’s fifth home game as manager. The win for the London club also continues the unbeaten run they have enjoyed since Tuchel’s first match on the job which doesn’t show any sign of stopping any time soon.

In a similar story to every Chelsea game as of late, the home side dominated the possession count throughout. They missed a couple of chances early on but had their deserved lead after the half hour mark. Marcus Alonso’s low cross found Kai Havertz, whose flicked shot cannoned off of defender Ben Godfrey and into his own net. Alonso came close to a goal of his own four minutes before half time when his pacey run on goal resulted in a shot that was palmed away well by Jordan Pickford.

The game opened up during the second half with Everton starting to try and play their way into the game. Any good work was, however, scuppered in the 65th minute when Pickford brought Kai Havertz down and forced referee David Coote no option but to point to the spot. Jorginho stepped up and sent the possible England number one for the Euros the wrong way and secure the win for Chelsea.

Chelsea’s win takes them four points clear of their Merseyside opponents and makes them serious contenders for finishing in the top four; a race that is becoming tighter and tighter with each passing week. Chelsea next travel to Leeds while Everton host Burnley.

West Ham 2-0 Leeds

West Ham have done the double over Leeds this season in a win that wasn’t the most convincing offensively for the Hammers. Once they had the lead, though, in typical David Moyes fashion, West Ham stayed disciplined in their defending and climb their way back up into the European place conversation.

Leeds fans will feel hard done by when Tyler Roberts had the ball in the back of West Ham’s net, only for it to be ruled out by the assistant referee and VAR together for Helder Costa being offside by a kneecap. The opening storm had been ridden by the hosts and they would eventually be threatening at the other end with a penalty given away by Luke Ayling. Jesse Lingard’s resulting penalty was parried by Illan Meslier but made no mistake from the follow up to put West Ham in the lead. Craig Dawson gave them their second after a bullet header from an in-swinging Aaron Cresswell corner.

Things were almost even worse for the Yorkshire side when Craig Dawson and Aaron Cresswell combined at a corner yet again, but the centre back’s stooping header could only find the far post. Leeds stepped their tempo up in the second half, with Raphina firing a spectacular overhead kick that, with help of an Issa Diop deflection, required the absolute best of Lukasz Fabianski to keep out. It was a tough day at the office for frontman Patrick Bamford who just couldn’t find the back of the net despite his best efforts. Full time sounded and Moyes had his third consecutive home win and a fourth win in six league games.

Both teams face top four opposition next week with both games promising a lot of entertainment. West Ham will have the challenging trip to Old Trafford on Sunday while Leeds host Chelsea on Saturday in a matchup that promises to be quite the attacking display.

Ben Fitzpatrick

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