Another weekend and another round of Premier League fixtures, Villa Vs Everton was postponed due to the outbreak of Covid in the Villa camp but there were still nine games that took place, let’s see how those went…
Saturday January 16
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 West Bromwich Albion 3
Leeds United 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
West Ham United 1 Burnley 0
Fulham 0 Chelsea 1
Leicester City 2 Southampton 0
The weekend began with the Black County derby at Molineux as two out of form sides did battle, so this was the perfect game for either side to get their season back up and running, especially for Big Sam and his Baggies who desperately needed the points.
After eight minutes a contentious VAR call gave West Brom the chance to grab an early lead when Willy Boly came in late on Callum Robinson and a penalty was given, but it looked close to being outside the box, but Matheus Pereira slotted home and the visitors had the ideal start. Seven minutes before the breakthrough Wolves levelled and it was a Pedro Neto free-kick that was cleared but only as far as Romain Saiss, he put the ball back into the mixer and it fell to Boly who backheeled to Fabio Silva who held off a defender and slotted into the far corner, and then two minutes before half time Wolves had turned it around after a corner in from the right sees Jake Livermore fail to catch it at the near post and after the ball had fumbled around in the middle Boly was on hand to fire home.
Seven minutes after the break though West Brom levelled in what was becoming a classic derby, as a long throw is flicked on by Kyle Bartley and Semi Ajayi leapt highest to loop a header into the far corner, and then The Baggies were awarded another penalty three minutes later when Robinson was adjudged to have been fouled by Conor Cody, and Pereira converted his second spot-kick of the afternoon and the visitors had the lead once again!!!
Could West Brom hold on? Well, they withstood a lot of Wolves pressure thereafter, but they did hold on to record a huge huge win against their rivals, and it was big celebrations from the Baggies at full time. A first win for Big Sam then, could this be the catalyst to a survival charge?
A gloomy looking Nuno Espirito Santo at the end though, his Wolves side are now winless in six, and this defeat would have hurt too. Over to Elland Road now and Leeds knew a win would take them into the top half, whilst Brighton knew a win would take them further away from the drop zone for now, and with all three bottom sides picking up points recently, they knew they had to do the same to keep them all at arm’s length.
The hosts also needed a response after that awful loss at Crawley in the Cup, but they were up against a Brighton side who had pushed Man City all the way in midweek.
Brighton were the ones to get the early breakthrough, as after 16 minutes they put together a lovely one-touch passing move to slice through the Leeds defence, and it ended with Alexis Mac Allister squaring across goal for Neal Maupay to tap home, it was a wonderfully worked goal from the visitors, and a good spell followed for the Seagulls in which they saw a Leandro Trossard cross deflected onto the bar, but Leeds looked miles off the pace in the opening half and Marcelo Bielsa would not have been happy with what he had seen thus far.
Leeds certainly upped the tempo in the second period, but they did not really test Robert Sanchez in the visitor’s goal and Albion held on for a massive three points. This saw them pull themselves further away from the drop zone and above Burnley in the table after they lost at The London Stadium against West Ham.
The Hammers knew a win would see them into the top eight for now with a victory against a Burnley side who are a tough nut to crack, as leaders Man United found out in midweek, and a win for the visitors would have seen them pull further away from the danger zone, as like Brighton they did not want to be pulled closer to the bottom three if those clubs started to pick up more points.
It was the Hammers who struck first though after nine minutes after terrible defending from the visitors which saw James Tarkowski miss a simple header from a cross and allow Michail Antonio to stab home from close range, and they could have easily led by more at the break had Angelo Ogbonna’s header not come back off the post. The Hammers continued to have the better of the game but could not find a second goal that would have probably put this contest to bed, and nearly paid the price when Dwight McNeil grazed the bar for the visitors, but despite some nervy moments, West Ham did grab all three points in this one.
The results meant Fulham could not pull themselves out of the bottom three even if they did win against Chelsea in the early evening contest at Craven Cottage, but they have games in hand remember so three points would still put them in a very strong position to get out of those relegation spots, and put more daylight between themselves and West Brom, who won at Wolves earlier remember, to close the gap to just a point behind The Cottagers. Fulham has been very solid lately so Chelsea knew this would be another tough game, and they themselves needed a win to take some pressure off themselves and Frank Lampard after a sticky patch of form lately, although last weekend’s 4-0-win over Morecambe in the FA Cup would have given them a bit of confidence you would have thought.
They certainly had the better chances in the first half-hour, Mason Mount crashed an effort back off the crossbar, whilst Hakim Ziyech and Antonio Rudiger forced decent stops from keeper Alphonse Areola, but Fulham looked dangerous when they went forward too and their best chance in the first half saw Ivan Cavaleiro somehow miss from twelve yards or so after a swift move. Just before half time though Fulham was down to ten after Antonee Robinson was given a straight red after a poor challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta, and The Cottagers would now have to play the entire second half a man light.
Chelsea not surprisingly had most of the ball and did a lot of the pressing second half, although Fulham did have a couple of moments in attack, you could sense Chelsea’s frustrations growing, that was until twelve minutes from time when a cross from Ben Chilwell saw Areola claw it away from goal but straight into the path of Mount who drove the ball into the net and see a relieved Lampard punch the air on the side-line, it was a very important goal for him and his side.
Chelsea had chances to kill the game, but fair play to Fulham who battled gamely and made it uncomfortable for their opponents, but the visitors did enough to pick up the points and grab a much-needed victory as they cling onto the coattails of the top four. The Cottagers remain in the bottom three, four points from safety. The final game of Saturday saw fourth-placed Leicester take on eighth-placed Southampton, with the Foxes knowing a win would see them climb into the second spot for the time being, whereas a win for The Saints would see them go level on points with their opponents and into fifth, with a three-goal win seeing them replace Leicester in the top four.
A stodgy opening fifteen minutes followed, both sides started to threaten to be a more attacking threat, but in truth both sides were cancelling each other out, that was until eight minutes before the break when Leicester edged ahead after Youri Tielemans played a lovely ball around the corner to James Maddison who rolled Jack Stephens and then from a horrible angle leathered the ball into the roof of the net for a fine strike.
Could The Saints respond? Well, The Foxes had a perfect record this season after taking the lead, so it would be tough, they had more efforts on target than the hosts so far, but could they conjure up another chance? Well, they saw Stuart Armstrong crash a shot against the bar before Shane Long was bundled over going for the rebound for what Southampton thought was a penalty, but Long was offside so no penalty was forthcoming before Leicester then had chances to seal it.
Deep into stoppage time though Leicester did seal the deal and take all three points when they caught their opponents on the break and Harvey Barnes had half the pitch to run into and kept his cool before finishing into the far corner, and The Foxes were above Liverpool into second spot and just a point behind leaders Man United ahead of the mammoth clash at Anfield on Sunday. Leicester must be considered genuine title challengers don’t you think?
Onto Sunday’s action now and with the Villa v Everton game being postponed it left three games, including a certain match up from Anfield, anyway let us see what happened…
Sunday January 17
Sheffield United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Liverpool 0 Manchester United 0
Manchester City 4 Crystal Palace 0
Super Sunday began ay Bramall Lane as The Blades looked to build on that first win in the league in midweek, but they were up against a Spurs side who would have been smarting from their dropped points in midweek against Fulham, but after yesterday’s results which saw West Brom and Brighton win, The Blades knew they had to keep on winning now to have any chance of survival, they sat eleven points from safety at kick-off.
Spurs themselves knew if they could pick up a win, they would go level with third-placed Liverpool ahead of the Reds big game at Anfield, and back into that coveted top four, and they started very well and took the lead after five minutes after a lovely corner in by Son Heung-min was headed home by Serge Aurier, not the start the hosts were looking for, it was such a poor goal to concede.
Spurs could have had more in that early spell, Son clipped an effort against the post, but five minutes before the break The Blades led to their own downfall again as after they lost possession in their own half, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg played a ball forward to Harry Kane who ran towards the box and curled a lovely effort past Aaron Ramsdale. The Blades had caused the Spurs defence some problems when they had advanced into the visitors final third, but two lapses in concentration had cost them, and Spurs would have been very happy with their first-half showing, and Chris Wilder had one hell of a team talk to give at the break.
The hosts certainly upped the tempo at the start of the second period, and just before the hour brought themselves right back into the contest when a wonderful ball in from John Fleck saw Dave McGoldrick head home, and suddenly the hosts believed they could pull off a comeback, but, just two minutes later Spurs restored their two-goal lead and how, as after United lost the ball inside their own half again, a lofted pass into the path of Tanguy N’dombele saw him lob a sensational finish over Ramsdale and into the far corner, it was a wonderful goal, and a big one for Spurs too.
Wilder could not believe it on the sideline, his side had just got back into the contest but then gave the ball away once again and had been punished to the max. A fourth goal would have taken Spurs above Liverpool into third on goal difference, but they had to settle for three, but they would not have been too concerned about that as they picked up a very good three points and went back into the top four.
Not good for the Blades, back down to earth with a bump, and they remain eleven points from safety as the halfway stage of the season approaches.
Right, it was then time for the big one, first against third at Anfield as Liverpool hosted rivals Man United with the winners knowing they would end the weekend on top. A win for Liverpool would see them go top on goal difference, however, a win for the Red Devils would send them four clear at the top, and six ahead of champions Liverpool, so there was a lot at stake here.
The visitors were certainly in better form, winning their last three, whereas the hosts had not won in three, and with a makeshift centre half pairing of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho, was it advantage United? Liverpool could look to their superb home record, they had not lost at home for almost four years, but United would have loved to have been the side to end that run. Liverpool had the better of the opening half-hour without really testing David De Gea in goal, whilst United barely troubled the makeshift Liverpool backline, although later in the half the visitors began to come into the contest and gave the hosts more to think about at the back, and probably had the better of the final fifteen minutes of the first period.
It hadn’t been the game we had wished for thus far; would it improve in the second period? Initially, the opening few minutes of the half saw more tempo from both sides, but it soon reverted to the hosts having more possession although the visitors still looked very dangerous on the counter, and although Liverpool had had the best two chances of the second period, United almost netted with fifteen to go when Bruno Fernandes forced Alisson into a decent stop, the first decent save by any keeper in the contest.
Thiago then saw De Gea make a flying save from his long-range effort down the other end. Pogba then forced a brilliant save from Alisson as the final fifteen minutes of this half were seeing United looking a lot more threatening, just like the opening half, but this titanic battle really failed to deliver in its pre-match hype and the game ended goalless.
The point was much better for United as they remain top of the tree, two points clear of Leicester in second, whilst for Liverpool, that’s four league games without a win now, and three straight games without scoring, who would have thought it. They remain third and could drop to fourth if Man City could get the better of Crystal Palace at The Etihad the day’s final game.
Onto that final game now and City came into this one in good form, unbeaten in fourteen in all competitions and looking like they were now getting into their stride after a slow start, whilst Palace had only one win in seven coming into this one and that was against the bottom side, so this looked a rather daunting prospect for The Eagles who were without Wilfrid Zaha. City to cruise to a comfortable win then and take second spot?
Well, Palace had got a very well-earned point at Arsenal last time out, but City are a different proposition although they were pushed all the way by Brighton last time out, so this could be a tough one for the hosts. And The Eagles recent record at The Etihad wasn’t bad either, four points from their last two visits there. City, as expected, dominated possession in the opening quarter of the game, and then in the 27th minute broke through after a glorious ball in by Kevin de Bruyne found John Stones who headed home his first goal for City in the Premier League, and only his second ever, so a good moment for him and a good moment for City who had managed to find a way past this resolute Palace defence.
For all of City’s possession though, they only held a one-goal cushion, and Palace knew just one moment could see them back on terms, although to do that they needed to ball, which they saw very little of in the opening forty-five minutes. Eleven minutes into the second period City increased their lead though, as Ilkay Gundogan won the ball about twenty yards from goal and curled a wonderful effort into the top corner, and you felt that could well be the game and a long way back for Palace.
City continued to be dominant, and they made it three midway through the second period when after a de Bruyne corner had been headed at goal by Ruben Dias, Vicente Guaita saved, but the loose ball was rammed home by Stones for his second goal of the evening, what a night it was for him!!! And with two minutes of the ninety left City capped a fine performance when Raheem Sterling struck a wonderful free-kick into the top corner and pick up three points in what was a very dominant win. City now climb into second spot and are two points behind their city rivals with a game in hand, whilst for Palace this was a tough evening, and they stay in 13th spot.
The final game of the weekend saw Arsenal meet Newcastle at The Emirates, the two sides had met nine days ago in the FA Cup and the Gunners had won that won 2-0 after extra time. Would we get the same outcome this evening…
Monday January 18
Arsenal 3 Newcastle United 0
The hosts came into this one unbeaten in four league games although their last game saw them held 0-0 at home by Palace, which was a disappointment for them, however, the visitors were not in good shape and had come into this one having lost at bottom side Sheffield United in midweek to make it no wins in eight in all competitions.
A win for Arsenal would take them into the top ten whilst The Magpies needed the points to put more daylight between themselves and the bottom three, the gap was seven points at kick-off and with the teams down the bottom starting to show some form, they knew they needed to start picking up points soon. Steve Bruce rang the changes, eight of them, following that defeat against The Blades, which was a poor performance it had to be said, so would the changes make a difference?
Well, they managed to hold Arsenal to zero in the first half although they again didn’t really create that much despite having four attacking players on the pitch and Arsenal certainly had had the better openings, the best one seeing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang someone strike the post on the quarter-hour mark with the goal gaping, and were dominating possession, but it wasn’t a pretty watch that was for sure. Would the hosts manage to find a breakthrough in the second period?
Four minutes into the second half Arsenal caught the visitors on the counter, as a nice ball played out to Aubameyang on the right by Thomas Partey saw the Arsenal striker run at goal and fire a lovely shot beyond Karl Darlow and The Gunners had the lead early in the second period, and now Newcastle had to try and find a way back into the contest and find a goal, not something they have found easy lately.
Arsenal was playing some good stuff though, and they doubled their lead on the hour mark as lovely play from Emile Smith-Rowe on the left saw him square across to Bukayo Saka who side-footed a lovely first-time finish beyond Darlow and the Gunners looked well on their way to the three points. Newcastle looked done and Arsenal was enjoyable themselves now, and with just under fifteen minutes left Saka played in Cedric Soares who ran along the byline, just kept the ball in to cut back for Aubameyang who converted first time for The Gunners third, and the hosts cruised to the points and climbed into tenth place.
More woe for Newcastle though, no win in nine and only two points from twenty-seven, and no goals from open play in over thirteen hours too, and with a tough run of fixtures to come Toon fans will be worried.
Let’s see what the latest round of games has done to the table…
It’s a Manchester one-two at the top with United leading City by two points, although the Etihad side has a game in hand, and the top six are only separated by five points. Sheffield United are eleven points from safety after they lost to Spurs whilst West Brom are five points from safety after a terrific win over Wolves. Was also a good weekend for Brighton as they won and Burnley/Fulham both lost, meaning they now have a five-point cushion to the bottom three now.
Five-midweek fixtures to come, was supposed to be six but Leeds v Southampton was postponed as The Saints play their rearranged FA Cup Third Round tie against Shrewsbury instead this week, so that will be rearranged in due course, here are those Premier League matchups over Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday…
Tuesday January 19
West Ham United v West Bromwich Albion (6pm)
Leicester City v Chelsea (8.15pm)
Wednesday January 20
Manchester City v Aston Villa (6pm)
Fulham v Manchester United (8.15pm)
Thursday January 21
Liverpool v Burnley (8pm)
Top four all in action, Leicester could go top for at least twenty-four hours if they beat Chelsea at the King Power, whilst Burnley, Fulham and West Brom all have tough games as they look to better each other’s results in the battle down at the bottom. The games come thick and fast, don’t they…