Another Saturday and another four Premier League matchups to look back on, beginning with the lunchtime kick off at Turf Moor as Burnley welcomed Arsenal to the North West…
Burnley 1 Arsenal 1
This one ended up being a draw although The Gunners will wonder how they did not win this contest, but they only had themselves to blame for not doing this, as Burnley dug in and grabbed what could be a vital point come the end of the season. The hosts had been thrashed by Arsenal North London rivals Spurs last weekend, and it looked like it could be another difficult afternoon when The Gunners went in front after just six minutes as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut inside and fired a shot at the near post which although the keeper Nick Pope got a big hand too, could not keep it out, and it was a great start for the visitors.
Arsenal dominated the opening forty-five minutes and could easily have been three goals up, however, just before half time came a moment of madness from the visitors which handed the Clarets a leveller, as The Gunners tried to play out from the back and Bernd Leno passed to Granit Xhaka who for some reason tried to play a pass across his own penalty area to David Luiz on the left-wing, and in doing so fired it straight against Chris Wood and it hit the Burnley striker and went into the net, and an utterly bizarre way for Burnley to level, but their high press had got its rewards. It was an absolute howler from the visitors though and they were left bemused as they walked off the field at the break.
The opening twenty or so minutes of the second period were quite scrappy and you felt that either side could possibly win the contest if they got their noses in front, but the final twenty minutes proved rather entertaining it has to be said. Erik Peters came on for the hosts and was heavily involved with a lot of the main action that was to come, as after Wood had forced a brilliant save from Leno, Peters handled inside his own box when Arsenal went on the attack and it looked a clear penalty but VAR decided ‘close proximity’ meant no penalty was forthcoming, although it did seem rather blatant, and then the full-back forced Leno into a top save after he had fired at goal from miles out, and then after Nicolas Pepe had missed a sitter, he then had another chance which was going in until it hit Peters on the shoulder and onto the crossbar.
Now the referee deemed it deliberate handball and a red card for Peters and a penalty for the Gunners, but VAR rightly overturned this as it did hit Peters shoulder before going up and onto the crossbar, meaning the decision was overturned and the red card rescinded, it had certainly been an interesting passage of play, and Arsenal saw the woodwork deny them a stoppage time winner when Dani Ceballos saw his effort crash against the post, meaning they would have to settle for a disappointing point at the end of it all. Europe is still a possibility for the Gunners but it will be a tough ask now you would think, whilst for Burnley, they will be more than happy with this result as they gain another point towards safety and another season in the top-flight.
Over to Bramall Lane now and to see if The Blades could build on that superb win in midweek against Aston Villa, whilst The Saints were looking to end their poor winless run…
Sheffield United 0 Southampton 2
It looks as if the Blades time in the Premier League is rapidly coming to an end for now at least, they put in a decent shift again as they always do, but once again came up short against a Saints side who had not won in nine matches, so on the flip side, this was a huge result for Ralph Hasenhuttl and his men after what had been a terrible run. It didn’t look good early on for the visitors though when Danny Ings limped off and had to be replaced by Che Adams, but as it turned out that proved a good change despite losing Ings for a few games it seems. Southampton grabbed the lead just past the half-hour mark after Ethan Ampadu’s clumsy challenge on Nathan Tella resulted in a spot-kick for the Saints, and James Ward-Prowse stepped up to dispatch the penalty, and then early on in the second period Adams rifled a half-volley into the top corner from outside the box after Stuart Armstrong had chested the ball into his path, it was a superb strike and it gave the Saints some breathing room and allowed them to control the game quite comfortably.
Southampton could easily have added to their lead, Takumi Minamino should have added a third when he fired wide from Ryan Bertrand’s low cross, while Adams, Nathan Redmond and Stuart Armstrong all went close late on. The Blades best moment came when David McGoldrick got goal side of his marker but could only loft the ball into the hands of Fraser Forster late on in the first period, but it was another tough afternoon or the hosts who are surely heading for the Championship now, now twelve points from safety with just ten games to go. A great win for Southampton though and they now have a ten point cushion to the bottom three and will feel a whole lot better after this result.
The early evening kick off saw a West Midlands derby between Aston Villa and Wolves at Villa Park, Villa were trying to keep their European hopes going with a win, whilst Wolves were just looking to build on a decent run of form lately…
Aston Villa 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
If ever you had a game of two halves, this was it, but ultimately neither side could find the net and it meant a goalless draw which dented Villa’s hopes of European football for next season although in the grand scheme of things they are miles better off this term than they were last season. The hosts were the better side in the opening half and could easily have been two goals up inside fifteen minutes but Ollie Watkins wonderful long range effort in just the fourth minute thumped against the bar, and then ten minutes later Ezri Konsa fired against the post from close range as Villa spurned another decent chance.
Wolves, who had barely posed a threat going forward in the opening forty-five minutes, were a different side after the break as Villa, who were once again with Jack Grealish, faded, and how Wolves did not score in the second period is beyond me, as after Pedro Neto had run past Matt Targett as if he wasn’t there and forced a save from Emiliano Martinez, Wolves then saw a Neto ball into the back post somehow headed against the post by Conor Coady, the ball went across the goal right in front of Romain Saiss who somehow put the loose ball over the bar from a yard or two out on the stretch. And then Coady again had his head in his hands later on when Martinez somehow saved his point blank effort when it looked like the Wolves centre half was certain to score, it was an incredible save, and it meant Villa at least picked up a point and left the visitors scratching their heads a to how they had not won the game in the second period. A clean sheet for both though which is a positive for both to take from this game.
The final game of Saturday’s action came from The Amex as Brighton looked to try and put the last two painful defeats behind them by taking advantage of a Leicester side with several key personal…
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Leicester City 2
Oh, Brighton, what can you say, after the last two games were they dominated and had a billion chances to score, but had lost both, they let yet another lead slip in this one to lose late on again, this time at the hands of a Foxes side who were without seven senior players due to injury, so this was another tough one to take for The Seagulls. It looked so good for the hosts early on as well as Adam Lallana, who was the main attacking threat for the hosts, netted his first Albion goal in the tenth minute after he ran onto a loose ball and fired beyond Kasper Schmeichel, and the hosts dominated the opening half and Lallana almost had a second when he saw his glancing header thump off the far post as Leicester were all at sea at times during the first period and not at the races, although their one big moment of the first period almost yielded an underserved leveller Robert Sanchez saved superbly from Sidnei Tavares after Jamie Vardy had knocked the ball down into his path.
Leicester though improved massively after the break and looked much more of an attacking threat, and Brighton’s inability to hold onto a lead reared it’s ugly head once again as Kelechi Iheanacho, just like in midweek at Burnley, found a leveller for the visitors, when he ran onto a superb ball from Youri Tielemans and produce a neat finish beyond Sanchez just past the hour mark, and then Daniel Amartey managed to find a winner for Brenden Rodgers side with two minutes of the ninety remaining, as the defender stooped low to head into an empty net after Brighton keeper Sanchez failed to claim Marc Albrighton’s corner. It was a shame for Sanchez who had done well in the game up till then, but he flapped horribly at the cross and Brighton were punished fully for that. It was a huge win for a depleted Leicester side who despite that still have a side full of quality, and they showed great character to pick up yet more points from a losing position, they are second only to Man United in doing that this season and they climb into second as a result of this victory too.
For Brighton its yet another game they have seen a winning position fail to turn into three points, and this is a third straight loss for them now, despite them playing some very good football in those games, but pretty football doesn’t get you points sadly, and they are still just three points above the drop zone and could see Fulham catch them tomorrow if they win at Anfield, which isn’t out of the question currently, so worrying times indeed for Graham Potter and his side, they need a cutting edge that is for sure as if they had that, they would not be where they are now.
Let’s see what today’s games have done to the table…
Arsenal and Villa’s European chances took a hit today as they both failed to win, whilst Leicester’s win at Brighton sees them two clear of Man United in the race for the runners up spot and now seven clear of fifth placed Everton, so their top four chances certainly were given a boost today. Down at the bottom and Southampton’s first win since the start of January sees them with a bit more breathing space now, whilst it looks bleak for the Blades, Burnley’s point certainly helps them in their quest for survival, whilst it looks edgy for The Seagulls after their late loss to Leicester at The Amex.
Let’s look ahead to the remaining fixtures for the weekend…
Sunday, March 7
West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle United (12pm) (Baggies could reduce gap to Newcastle and safety to six with win, Toon know a win will take them six points above the drop zone)
Liverpool v Fulham (2pm) (Surely Liverpool cannot lose at home for the six successive match? Fulham could be out of the bottom three if Newcastle lose at West Brom and also be level on points with Brighton too if they win at Anfield, hosts need points just as much to keep themselves in top four hunt)
Manchester City v Manchester United (4.30pm) (A win for City could send them fifteen points clear, a United win would see them back above Leicester into second, but really even if the latter happens all it does is help United in their bid for runners up as the title is surely City’s now)
Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace (7.15pm) (Can Sours make it three wins in a row in the league? They welcome a Palace side who have picked up five points in their last three, a win for the hosts would take them just two points off the top four, Palace would all but secure Premier League football for next season if they win)
Monday, March 8
Chelsea v Everton (6pm) (Big game in the battle for the top four, with winners ending the weekend in that fourth spot)
West Ham United v Leeds United (8pm) (Hammers will look to continue their decent form and keep themselves right in the hunt for top four with a win, Leeds pushing for a top ten finish and will aid these ambitions if they net a result here)