First weekend in February and another round of Premier League fixtures, Saturday brought us five more games from around the country, starting with the lunchtime kick off at Villa Park as Villa welcomed Arsenal to the Midlands…
Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0
Both sides came into this one off the back of disappointing defeats, Villa were beaten at home by an in-form Jesse Lingard powered West Ham side, whilst Arsenal suffered their first loss in eight games at Molineux against an out of form Wolves side, and ended that game with nine men too, so they were looking for better luck here. Less than two minutes in and Villa had the lead, as a mix up in the Gunners defence allowed Bertrand Traore to run onto the ball and cross for Ollie Watkins who saw his effort deflect off Rob Holding and past Matt Ryan in the Arsenal goal, not a good start for the visitors that was for sure, in fact it wasn’t a great first half for the Gunners if truth be told.
They improved after the break though but found the Villa back line, led by Tyrone Mings, a tough nut to crack, and although Villa had chances to seal the deal, they held on to record a very good win and bounce back from there midweek defeat. For Mikel Arteta, who was upset with the referee after the game as he felt some decisions had not gone their way, and Arsenal though it’s back-to-back defeats and rightly or wrongly the pressure will begin to mount on him and them once again no doubt.
Two more games took place in the afternoon slot, Brighton travelled to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, whilst Newcastle hosted a Southampton side still smarting from that defeat at Old Trafford…
Burnley 1 Brighton 1
Burnley’s form has stuttered in the last week or so, although back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and then Man City was probably expected, and they welcome a Brighton side to their North West home who have netted back-to-back wins against Spurs and Liverpool, although remember Burnley also won at Anfield prior to that. It was The Seagulls who grabbed the lead eight minutes before half time as Lewis Dunk rose unchallenged to head home a corner, but eight minutes after the break Burnley levelled when Johann Gudmundsson drove home after Robert Sanchez had kept out an Ashley Barnes effort. With no further goals it meant both sides had to settle for a point in this one, and it’s a point which takes both sides a bit further away from the bottom three.
Newcastle United 3 Southampton 2
The Magpies suffered a disappointing loss to Palace in midweek, failing to build on that excellent win at Everton last weekend, but they are playing much better football over the last two and a half games, so this is an improvement. They were up against a Southampton side who are really struggling at the moment, and that 9-0 reverse in midweek probably still haunts them, it had been a depleted squad although Jan Bednarek will be available after his red card was overturned, so a bit of positive news, even if it is small.
On the quarter hour mark The Saints were breached as Allan Saint-Maximin, making his first start for some time, burst in down the left and squared a ball to Joe Willock, who was making his debut for Newcastle, side foot a first time effort into the net, and twenty-five minutes in Newcastle had a second when Saint-Maximin laid a ball back to Miguel Almiron and he sent an effort at goal and Bednarek saw it come off him and end up in his own net for his second own goal in as many games, nothing was going right for the Saints it seemed, whilst for Newcastle they were in dreamland. However, just before the half hour mark Southampton were back in this game as another debutant, Takumi Minamino, received a pass Ryan Bertrand before charging past Isaac Hayden and ramming a brilliant effort beyond Karl Darlow into the roof of the net, and the hosts were then dealt a blow when Callum Wilson hobbled off injured and joined Javier Manquillo as a first half injury, not what the hosts needed.
But The Saints shot themselves in the foot deep into added on time at the end of the first half when a poor pass from keeper Alex McCarthy to Bertrand saw Almiron nip in to take it off the defender and run through and slot beyond a red faced McCarthy and into the net and give Newcastle a two goal cushion at the break. Southampton needed an early goal back in the second half and they got in after James Ward-Prowse curled home a wonderful free-kick, and it was very much game on, and then moments later the hosts were down to ten men after Jeff Hendrick needlessly pulled back Minimino and was given a second yellow, and the game had changed in a moment. It meant Newcastle had to revert to a more defensive shape, which meant Southampton were applying all the pressure, and then Fabian Schar was stretchered off with a knee injury after a coming together, meaning the hosts would have to play the final fifteen minutes or so with nine men. The hosts dug in and soaked up an immense amount of pressure from the Saints, and they saw the game out to record a heroic win and grabbed a superb three points. A fabulous game of football played in terrible conditions, will be no consolation for Southampton who end a rather poor week with another defeat.
Onto the evening games now, beginning at Craven Cottage as Fulham took on West Ham in a London derby, and then the day would end at Old Trafford, scene of that record equalling score line in midweek, and Man United welcomed Everton to Manchester this time round…
Fulham 0 West Ham United 0
The Cottagers are desperate for the points now after hitting a rather baron run of form lately, and the gap to safety is increasing by the week, but they would have their work cut out against a West Ham side who are flying right now, and with the addition of Lingard look even better than they did before, but it’s a London Derby, so form goes out of the window right? Fulham certainly started brightly, but once West Ham settled, they had the best two chances of the half with an Aaron Cresswell ball just invading the sliding Jarrod Bowen, and then a Tomas Soucek header going over the bar, although Fulham did end the first half stronger and saw a Ademola Lookman effort struck just wide, but it was a half which yielded very little in the way of shots on target, with Fulham registering the only one late on in the half with an Ivan Cavaleiro header.
A rather scrappy London derby thus far then, would it improve after the break? Fulham began the second half the brighter, just like the first, but saw a brilliant chance squandered by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, before Vladimir Coufal then thumped a header against the Cottagers bar down the other end, meaning the game remained finely poised and goalless going into the final quarter. Fulham missed further chances through Bobby Decordova-Reid and Cavaleiro, before Scott Park brought on Aleksandar Mitrovic and new loan signing Josh Maja to try and find a goal they so desperately needed, a point was not enough quite frankly, so had to gamble. The gamble didn’t pay off, but sadly this wasn’t to be the main talking of the contest, as VAR and Lee Mason decided to draw Mike Dean’s attention to a clash between Soucek and Mitrovic as they waited for a West Ham free kick to come into the box. Soucek tried to pull his arm up and out of the way and caught Mitrovic in the face with his elbow, total accident, and no malice, but after Mason asked Dean to go over and look at it on the monitor, they decided to show Soucek a straight red, absolutely farcical, and a worry that they can decide it was a red. Anyway, it ended goalless and both sides picked up a point, West Ham would certainly have been happier with it whereas Fulham need more than single points, and they have an eight-point gap to safety now. But that red card, my word…
Manchester United 3 Everton 3
United would have been full of confidence after that extraordinary result in midweek, but they welcomed a tricky Everton outfit to Old Trafford who had bounced back from their disappointing loss against Newcastle last weekend to record victory at Leeds in midweek in what at times was a backs to the wall effort from Carlo Ancelotti’s side, so they knew how to dig in, so they may have needed those skills in this one too. This of course was the 63rd anniversary of the Munich air disaster which decimated the United squad amongst others, so this is a poignant day for the club so they most certainly would have wanted to win here on this day no doubt, so could they defeat Everton here and do it for those who lost their lives in that awful day in 1958?
Just past the midway point of the first half, United led, as a wonderful ball in from Marcus Rashford to the far post gave Edinson Cavani the simplest of headers to convert, although the Reds did lose Paul Pogba to a thigh injury in the first period, meaning Fred had to come on to take his place. The hosts were to end the first half in spectacular fashion though after Bruno Fernandes curled a wonderful effort over Robin Olsen and into the far corner of the net from outside the box, it was an exquisite piece of skill from the Portuguese star, and United had a two-goal cushion going into the half time break. Everton though got themselves right back into the game three minutes after the break when Dom Calvert-Lewin got in behind Harry Maguire and his ball across was parried out by David De Gea and Abdoulaye Doucoure was on hand to turn the loose ball home, De Gea should have done better but Everton now had hope.
And moments later Everton was on level terms just like that as Doucoure played a ball into James Rodriguez who took a touch and slammed a wonderful finish past De Gea, and this game had changed in an instant!!! United regrouped though and thought they had netted a winner with twenty minutes to go when a free kick swung in by Luke Shaw saw Scott McTominay flick a header towards goal and Olsen slipped and saw the ball go beyond him and into the net, but five minutes into stoppage time Lucas Digne swung a ball into the hosts box and United could not deal with it and the ball broke to Calvert-Lewin who beat De Gea to the lose ball to slot underneath him and earn The Toffees an unlikely point, what a way to finish Saturday’s action in the Premier League!!!!
Let’s see how today’s action effects the table…
Everton’s last gasp leveller means United do not go level on points with City at the top, meaning a two-point lead for the current league leaders, and the point for Everton takes them into sixth. Villa are up to eighth following their victory over Arsenal, whilst Newcastle heroic efforts today see them ten points clear of the drop zone now. And with Burnley and Brighton drawing and Fulham failing to beat West Ham, the gap to the bottom three is now eight points, and with the bottom two further back, it’s looking like they are going to all need to win most of their remaining games to have any chance of survival.
These are the remaining games coming this weekend…
Sunday, February 7
Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion (12pm)
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leicester City (2pm)
Liverpool v Manchester City (4.30pm)
Sheffield United v Chelsea (7.15pm)
Monday, February 8
Leeds United v Crystal Palace (8pm)
Spurs can climb back into the top seven with victory over a West Brom side who need three points, whilst there is a Midlands derby at Molineux with Leicester looking for the points to go level with second-placed Man United. And then at Anfield comes the biggie, as Liverpool simply have a must-win game at home to Man City, City could go five clear at the top if they win and pretty much rule Liverpool out of the race in doing so, whilst the final game of Sunday sees Thomas Tuchel take his unbeaten record as manager of Chelsea to bottom side Sheffield United looking for a third straight win to take The Blues into fifth spot.
And on Monday night the round ends with Leeds looking to get into the top ten with victory over a Palace side who can also do the same with a win. Stay tuned as they say…