Week 12 of the Premier League concluded on Sunday with five matches, starting with bottom side Sheffield United’s trip to the south coast to take on Southampton…
Southampton 3 Sheffield United 0
The Blades most recent top-flight victory at Southampton came at The Dell almost 28 years ago, whilst The Saints had won both meetings last season and could record three consecutive wins in this fixture for the first time in seventy years.
The hosts were in good form too, having only lost once in their last nine fixtures, whilst in contrast, the visitors had made the second ever worst start in English top-flight history, winless in fourteen league matches dating back to July, losing thirteen of those games too. Although eight of their ten defeats this term had only been by a single goal, so they had been in most of those games thus far.
True to form though the opening half-hour saw the Saints dominate proceedings and the visitors rarely made an impression in the hosts half, and in the 34th minute, Southampton did break the door down and take the lead in this contest, as James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick was headed up into the air by a defender.
Verstegaard then nodded back tamely and Che Adams was most alert to swivel and finish past Ramsdale, it had been coming and it was a goal Saints dominance deserved, but it was a shocker of a goal for the visitors to concede.
It had been utter dominance in the opening forty-five minutes for the home side, against a broken Blades whose spirit looked at an all-time low, could they somehow find something from deep within and fight back in the second half?
The Blades did start the half well, probably with the voice of manager Chris Wilder still ringing in their ears, and it looked a lot more promising initially, but that was to change just past the hour mark when The Saints doubled their lead, as Stuart Armstrong saw his low shot take a big deflection of Phil Jagielka and wrong foot Ramsdale before finding the net, and you felt that may well be game over.
It was definitely all over with seven minutes to go as Southampton added a third after Nathan Redmond, who had only been on the pitch a few minutes, produced a neat finish inside the far post after collecting a wayward free-kick from Ward-Prowse and exchanging passes with Oriol Romeu, and The Saints moved up to third after a totally dominant performance at St Mary’s.
The Blades remain winless and rock bottom, this was a desperate performance, and they must be wondering where their next point is coming from, it looks bleak right now for them.
Over to South London now for a derby between Palace and Spurs, with the visitors knowing a win would see them end the weekend where they started, on top spot…
Crystal Palace 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Palace managed to end a nine-match losing streak against today’s opponents with a 1-1 draw in July, and Jeffrey Schlupp’s leveller in that game was the Eagles only goal against Spurs in thirteen hours, and Palace’s solitary victory in the past fourteen Premier League games against Spurs was a 2-1 home win five years ago.
Palace had only won two of their past nine home fixtures in the Premier League whilst Spurs came into this one unbeaten in ten games, winning seven of those, so the stats and form certainly favoured the visitors that was for sure. But football is not won on stats is it, and this was a London derby with the hosts backed by 2,000 of their fans, so who knew what that might do?
The best chance in the opening twenty minutes fell to the visitors and saw hosts keeper Vicente Guaita pull of a brilliant save to deny Tanguy Ndombele’s low powerful strike, but midway through the first period Spurs did grab the opening goal after Son Heung-min laid a ball off to Harry Kane who smashed home from thirty-five yards out!!!
It caught Palace keeper Guaita by surprise and although the effort did swerve a bit, he probably should have saved it, but the league leaders were in front in this London derby.
Palace ended the half well though and almost levelled when Eberechi Eze cut inside and curled an effort off the outside of the post, and it meant Spurs did hold a one-goal lead at the break.
The opening twenty minutes of the second period were not great, but would there be any comeback from the hosts, or would Spurs seal it with a second?
Well, with nine minutes remaining Palace grabbed what was a deserved leveller, as an Eze in swinging free-kick was parried into the path of Jeffrey Schlupp who could not miss from four yards out, and it set up a grandstand finish at Selhurst Park. It was nice to see the Palace players celebrate in front of their ecstatic fans, an image we have missed eh.
Could anyone find a winner? Well, Kane so nearly won it for Spurs three minutes from time, this after Ben Davies cross had hit the bar, the loose ball fall to Serge Aurier whose powerful cross to Kane saw him head what looked destined to be his second of the game, but Guaita somehow kept it out to deny the visitors a second.
And deep into added on time Guaita produced another incredible stop to deny Spurs again, this time clawing away an Eric Dier thunderbolt of a free-kick which was destined for the top corner, and it meant the game ended all square in this derby.
Across the capital now to the West, and Craven Cottage, as Fulham took on last season’s champions Liverpool with the visitors now knowing victory would see them end the weekend two points clear at the top after that draw at Selhurst Park…
Fulham 1 Liverpool 1
The Reds had won six consecutive Premier League games against Fulham, netting eighteen goals in the process, and the Cottagers last win in this fixture came in the 2011/12 season when they did the double over their opponents.
And none of Fulham’s fourteen Premier League encounters against Liverpool had finished level, with the visitors leading the head-to-head record nine to five.
The hosts had lost four of their opening five games at home in a season for the first time in their history but came into this one knowing if they could end that run, they could put some daylight between themselves and Burnley for the time being.
However, the visitors were winless in their past four Premier League away contests, and their only away win this season came at Chelsea in September, so away from Anfield at least this season they had struggled, so could Fulham take advantage of this?
The hosts did start well and forced Alisson into a couple of early saves, and then VAR checked to see if Fulham should have a penalty after Fabinho caught Ivan Cavaleiro, but after the referee went over to check the screen, no penalty was given. Plenty of debate whether it should have been given, would it prove crucial?
After Alisson had to tip another hosts effort around the post, Fulham grabbed a deserved lead just past the midway point in the first half when the visitors made a mess of a clearance and Ademola Lookman found Bobby Decordova-Reid who rifled a shot beyond Alisson into the far corner. Shock result incoming perhaps?
Liverpool upped the tempo second period and saw a Jordan Henderson effort well saved by Alphonse Areola, but Fulham was so far standing up defensively and giving it all for the cause as a big result got closer and closer.
But, with twelve minutes to go disaster, as a free-kick struck Aboubaker Kamara’s arm in the Fulham wall and a penalty was given to the visitors, and Mo Salah duly stepped upconvert the spot-kick, and Fulham’s resolve had been broken, could the Reds now go on and win it?
They put plenty of pressure on the hosts in the latter minutes of the contest, but Fulham hung on for what could be a big point come to the end of the season, whilst Liverpool misses the chance to go top although they did avoid defeat and it is another point on the board. Still only one win away from home though, crazy…
Into the evening games now, and Burnley’s trip to The Emirates to take on a faltering Arsenal whilst Leicester hosted Brighton at The King Power…
Arsenal 0 Burnley 1
The Gunners had won their previous nine encounters against Burnley in all competitions, whilst the Clarets were winless in their past fifteen matches against the hosts stretching all the way back to 1974, although this was not a normal season for Arsenal, who came into this off the back of three straight losses at home in what was their worst start to a top-flight season since 1981.
They had lost six of their last nine league games and had incredibly gone 656 minutes without scoring from open play in the league, which for a club like Arsenal is unbelievable.
The Clarets though had their own struggles, they had only won one of their past eleven league games, and had only netted five goals this term, the joint lowest in the division prior to the weekend, and had not netted for three games.
So, surely Arsenal would win this one and get their season up and running? Well, they had a huge let-off early on when Chris Wood missed an absolute sitter for the visitors, glancing wide from close range, and then The Gunners saw Rob Holding flick a header over the visitors’ bar.
Quick reactions from Nick Pope then denied an Alexander Lacazette’s effort for the hosts, but there had not been much quality in the opening half, and not many chances either, and at the break, the game had 0-0 written all over it.
The Gunners did come out for the second half with a bit more fire in their belly and created a few openings, but then a coming together between Granit Xhaka and Dwight McNeil, and after the Arsenal player had been booked, VAR looked to see if Xhaka should receive a heftier punishment.
And sure enough, after the referee had looked at the pitchside monitor, Xhaka was shown a red card after his reaction, grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat, was deemed a sending-off offence and the hosts were down to ten men just before the hour mark. It was silly from the Arsenal man after his side had started the second period so well.
Could Burnley take advantage? Well, with seventeen minutes remaining The Clarets netted what could be a huge goal and it was only an own goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he headed in a corner from the visitors, could Arsenal possibly recover from this huge blow? It was certainly not the way Auba wanted to end his goal-scoring drought that is for sure!!!
The frank answer was no, and Burnley picked up a huge huge win and are now out of the relegation zone as a result, whilst for Arsenal where do they go from here? This season is turning into an absolute nightmare for them.
Leicester City 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 0
The Foxes were unbeaten in all six of their games in the Premier League against Brighton and had kept a clean sheet in four of those, with Brighton’s sole victory in their past eight games against them in April 2014, and that was after The Foxes had sealed promotion from the championship to the top league.
The Foxes home form, which was normally very good, has not been so good of late though, losing four of their past six, but they knew a win here could see them really cement a top-four position for now, although Brighton had claimed fourteen points from their past eight away league games, as many as in their previous twenty attempts.
The Albion though had only won two of their eleven league games so far, which was their joint-lowest total at this stage of any top-flight campaign they had competed in, but a victory here would keep them at arm’s length from the bottom three, so could they pull it off?
Kasper Schemeichel denied Danny Welbeck early on after he had been slipped through by Alireza Jahanbakhsh, but it had been a good opening to the game with both sides having chances, and then The Foxes opened the scoring as after they had struck the woodwork through Jamie Vardy, their next attack saw James Maddison steer a shot into the net with around twenty-five minutes on the clock.
The Foxes were upping the tempo now and saw Matt Ryan produce a decent save from Ayoze Perez to deny them a quickfire second, but the hosts were not to be denied a second late on in the first period when Vardy converted after a sweeping move forward. VAR did check for offside but ruled that Vardy was on, and Leicester could celebrate a two-goal cushion.
And they had enough time to add a third before the break when another brilliant move ended with a great finish from Maddison, his second of the game, and the visitors had a huge mountain to climb in the second period. Leicester was putting on a show so far and it looked as if the contest might already be over.
The second half saw a very professional performance by the hosts as they saw out this one with very little trouble, and are now just one point of the leaders, whilst for Brighton the damage was done in the first period as they could not handle the hosts in the opening half.
Let’s have a look at the table after Week 12…
Southampton ends the weekend in fourth after a dominant win over bottom side Sheffield United who are still winless and only has a point, whilst Spurs and Liverpool both dropped points today but still stay first and second. Leicester is now just one point behind the leaders now after they brushed aside Brighton who are now just two points above the drop zone, and Burnley is now out of the bottom three after a big win at Arsenal for whom their awful season continues.
The Gunners are now just FIVE points above the drop zone, who would have predicted that at the start of the season???
The Premier League continues in midweek as Week 13 takes place, here are those fixtures…
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea (6pm)
Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion (8pm)
Arsenal v Southampton (6pm)
Leeds United v Newcastle United (6pm)
Leicester City v Everton (6pm)
Fulham v Brighton & Hove Albion (8pm)
Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur (8pm)
West Ham United v Crystal Palace (8pm)
Aston Villa v Burnley (6pm)
Sheffield United v Manchester United (8pm)
No doubt about the game of the week, the top two clash at Anfield on Wednesday evening, that should be quite something that under the lights there. Stay tuned to see how that one pans out along with the other nine fixtures as the season fast approaches the one-third mark.