Happy new year to you all and Round 17 kicked off 2021 with another set of fixtures as the season fast approaches the halfway mark. It began on Friday with two games beginning at Goodison Park…
Everton 0 West Ham United 1
A rather poor game in the North West kicked off proceedings in the new year but it was The Hammers who managed to find an 86th-minute winner to take all the points in this encounter. Neither side had created much going forward and the game seemed to be headed for a goalless draw until Soucek diverted a shot in at the far post to seal the visitors a tremendous win and see them into the top ten as a result. Everton run of wins comes to an end and they are in sixth.
Manchester United 2 Aston Villa 1
As poor as the early evening game had been this one was a superb game of football, and it took a controversial moment to win the match for the hosts. United took the lead five minutes before half time when a lovely touch from Rashford released Wan-Bissaka down the right, and his cross found Martial who applied a lovely header to give the home side the half time lead. Villa though roared back to level after Grealish crossed into the box and the ball found its way to Traore who fired past De Gea, but moments after United were to grab the winning goal after Pogba had been adjudged to have been brought down inside the box.
VAR took several looks at it and had to decide whether Pogba had tripped himself, or whether the defender had caught his heal and that then led to him tripping himself up, and VAR decided on the latter, so a penalty was awarded, which Fernandes stepped up to dispatch and send United level on points with Liverpool at the top. Villa certainly felt hard down by as they had more than matched their opponents in this one, but they sit seventh in the standings after this defeat.
Four more games took place on Saturday, with the lunchtime showing coming from the Capital as Spurs hosted Leeds…
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Leeds United 0
The scoreline suggested this was a one-sided affair, but it most certainly was not that as Leeds had plenty of attacking threat as is the case with Bielsa’s team this campaign, but sadly they can be defensively found wanting at times, and in keeper Meslier they have a young decent keeper who can make costly errors too. Leeds started this game well and were on top but were behind just before the half-hour mark after a foul right on the cusp of the penalty area, this after Meslier had given the ball away following a clearance.
VAR looked to see if it was inside the box and although his foot that was tripped was just outside, the remainder of his body was inside the box, so a penalty was eventually awarded. Kane stepped up and dispatched the spot kick, and then just before half time Spurs clinically doubled their lead as the Kane and Son combination were at it again, with Kane supplying a wonderful ball into his partner who applied a terrific first-time finish into the net. It was Son’s 100th goal for Spurs.
And early in the second period Spurs all but sealed the deal when a corner was headed at goal by Alderweireld and although Meslier did his best to keep it out, he could not, and Spurs had a third. Spurs did end the game with ten men when Doherty picked up two silly bookings, much to the annoyance of his manager, but the win took the hosts back into the top four whilst for Leeds another attacking display but no cutting edge this time and a three-goal defeat which sees them 12th.
Crystal Palace 2 Sheffield United 0
Would the visitor’s luck finally change here? It certainly needed to if they were to mount some sort of miracle escape, however, three minutes in and it looked like it had not as Palace took the lead after Zaha got down the left and played a ball towards Benteke, who attempted to play a pass towards Schlupp but saw it deflected into his path fortuitously before Schlupp’s effort was deflected beyond Ramsdale into the net.
It kind of summed up The Blades season thus far. Schlupp had to come off injured towards the end of the first half and that saw Eze introduced, and he was to produce the only moment of magic in the entire game, as deep into added on time at the end of the first period he picked the ball up deep inside his own half, glided into the Blades half at pace, beat one man before curling beyond Ramsdale for a brilliant solo effort.
It was a killer for the visitors and one they did not manage to recover from, their best chances in the entire game came from Bogle late on in the first half, and another effort blocked by the Palace defence late in the second period, but the hosts always looked comfortable in truth and picked up their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season.
That Eze goal was special and well worth several looks, it certainly made the second half much comfier for the hosts, and they climb to 14th and are well clear of danger now. The same cannot be said for Sheffield United who has now become the first side since 1902 to be winless after seventeen games in the top-flight of English football and are now twelve points from safety and needing the miracles of all miracles to get out of this now.
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3
This game last season at The Amex produced an entertaining 2-2 draw, so could we get another decent game here? Well, it turned out to better than that and saw Brighton take a 12th minute lead when Trossard saw his cross turned home by Connelly who got just ahead of Patricio to send the ball into the net, but Wolves responded well and levelled seven minutes later when Semedo stood up a cross for Saiss to loop a header into the far corner.
And eleven minutes before the break they had turned it around to lead as a shot from Neto deflected off March and saw Sanchez save, but onto the boot of defender Burn and back into the net for a very unfortunate own goal. Burn was having a torrid time up against Traore, and he gave away a penalty just before the break after chopping down the Wolves attacker after he had breezed past him, and with Neves firing home the penalty, Wolves went into the break with a two-goal cushion and in control of this contest.
Albion though had the perfect start to the second half which was to set the tone for the remainder, as after Maupay was brought down inside the box by Moutinho, Maupay picked himself up to net the penalty, and then pushed the visitors back as they searched for a leveller. Webster sent a header against the bar as Wolves clung onto their lead, but they could do nothing when Dunk rose to head a corner against the head of Saiss and saw it fly past Patricio with twenty minutes remaining, and the question was could the Seagulls go on a win this?
Two minutes later Trossard thought he had when pouncing on a slip from Ait-Nouri and going through to finish past Patricio, but the referee had blown for an apparent push on the defender, which on replay’s did not look the case, so Wolves had certainly for away with one there. And Wolves so nearly won it with the final header of the game but saw that sail way over as the full-time whistle blew to end a wonderful entertaining contest, neither side really deserved to lose although Brighton will be happier with the point as Wolves rued throwing away a two-goal lead, they had at half time.
It meant Brighton now have a three-point cushion to the bottom three whilst Wolves are in 13th.
West Bromwich Albion 0 Arsenal 4
Arsenal was looking for three straight wins after a terrific festive period for Arteta’s side, whilst The Baggies were trying to put their nightmare thrashing at the hands of Leeds behind them and try and get back on track to mount an escape from the bottom three. Let’s just say it did not turn out well for the hosts at a snowy Hawthorns.
The Gunners began well, and it was no surprise when they did take the lead midway through the first half, what was a surprise was the goal scorer, and Tiernay collected a cross-field pass, beat Furlong twice before getting into the box and curling a lovely effort beyond Johnston, it was a super goal. Just before the half-hour mark though came a moment of wonderful play from the visitors, it was vintage Arsenal as Saka feed Lacazette who in turn played in Smith-Rowe, and he squared across goal for Saka who tapped home, Saka had been the visitors’ main threat attacking wise, so it was no surprise he was on the end of it.
West Brom just had no answer to the Arsenal attack, and the visitors were in total control at the break, Big Sam certainly had a lot to do and probably thought he may have bitten off more than he could chew here. It got no better for the hosts in the second period as they were all over the place as Arsenal netted a third on the hour mark, Saka’s cross was inexplicably volleyed against his own post by Ajayi before he then blocked a Smith-Rowe effort, before Lacazette finally fired home on the third attempt, and then four minutes later it was four as Lacazette fired a Tierney cross into the roof of the net.
Thankfully for West Brom they did not concede again, but this is looking desperate for them now, no goals and nine conceded int their last two, and now six points from safety, that draw at Anfield seems a distant memory. In contrast what a few days for Arsenal, nine points in three games and now up to 11th and just six points off a top-four place, how crazy is that??!! The Arteta out brigade have gone quiet, haven’t they…
Onto Sunday’s action which was supposed to begin at Turf Moor for Burnley v Fulham, but this match was postponed the day before after more positive Covid cases in the visitor’s camp, so it meant just two games on Sunday beginning at St James Park as Newcastle took on Leicester…
Newcastle United 1 Leicester City 2
The Foxes knew that if they avoided defeat here, they would go third in the table, and they started on the front foot and thought they had taken an early lead when Vardy rounded Darlow and finished superbly from an acute angle, but the forward was offside from Maddison’s through ball, so it did not count.
After this, though the remainder of the first period was poor with neither side showing much of an attacking threat, nine minutes after the break Leicester struck as after a good run from Barnes, he found Vardy who cut inside and laid a ball into the path of Maddison who thumped a brilliant effort beyond Darlow.
And with eighteen minutes left Leicester looked to have sealed the points when a wonderful pass from Albrighton into the path of Tielemans saw the latter’s first-time finish find the net. Newcastle though mounted a late surge and saw substitute Carroll make an instant impact by volleying home a loose ball with nine minutes left, and the game was very much on once again. It was not enough to rescue the hosts though and Leicester did pick up all three points which lift them to just a point off the leaders, whilst defeat for Newcastle leaves them in 15th.
Chelsea 1 Manchester City 3
Most of the talk coming into this one was about City’s Covid issues as several of their first-team squad had gone down with the virus, and the game had been in doubt a few days before. Edison, Torres and Jesus were some of the players who were sick, so City gave USA keeper Steffan his first PL start. Chelsea themselves were on a bad run of form and needed a result to kick start the new year, and they had Werner upfront along with Pulisic and Ziyech, who were starting together for the first time as Chelsea players, could they provide the spark for the hosts and take advantage of City’s tough week perhaps?
The opening ten or so minutes suggested City were taking time to get used to their new tactics perhaps, but after de Bruyne had sent a golden chance wide, they burst into life and on eighteen minutes took the lead when Gundogen swivelled on the edge of the box and fired past Mendy, and then two minutes later doubled their lead when de Bruyne passed a ball through the legs of Azpilicueta to Foden who sent a first-time finish into the bottom corner.
Chelsea was struggling to contain their opponents now and fell further behind when a Chelsea attack saw Kante’s ball headed out by de Bruyne and into the path of Sterling who broke clean through from his own half, and although he eventually struck an effort against the post, de Bruyne, who had started the breakaway, controlled and fired home, and City went into the break three goals to the good and in total control.
Chelsea looks all at sea and needed a miracle to avoid another defeat here. The second half was not much of a contest as both sides went through the motions a bit, and although the hosts did win the second period after Hudson-Odoi converted at the far post in stoppage time, the damage had been done in the first period.
City would have been disappointed to have conceded so late, but the win saw them climb into fifth and with at least one game in hand on teams above, are in a position to strike. For Lampard and Chelsea, this was another disappointing day, and they slip to eighth as a result, seven points off the leaders now. You can feel the knives are beginning to sharpen for Lampard, he must be under serious pressure now…
This is how the table looks after all those games…
Mad to think that 12th placed Leeds are just six points off a champion’s league spot, it’s so tight in the top half, with no less than seven teams just separated by three points. Not looking good for the bottom two right now though it must be said, West Brom’s only win came against, yes you guessed it, Sheffield United.
One more game to come in Round 17 and that is the Monday Night Football from the south coast as Southampton host leaders Liverpool at St Marys. A win for Klopp’s side would see them go three clear at the top, whilst a win for the hosts would see them leap up to three places to sixth and level with the top four, should be a decent game to end the latest round of the Premier League.