Four more games took place in the Premier League on Sunday, starting with Chelsea’s home game against Burnley…
Sunday, January 31 – Lunchtime KO
Chelsea 2 Burnley 0
Thomas Tuchel was aiming to grab his first win as Chelsea boss after their goalless draw at home to Wolves in midweek, but it would be a tough challenge against a Burnley side who were aiming to make it three straight Premier League wins on the spin after they had defeated Liverpool at Anfield and then Villa at home in mid-week.
Burnley certainly started positively but as the half went on they retreated into a defensive shape and allowed Chelsea most of the ball, but it was largely a frustrating half for the Blues until five minutes before the break when Jorginho opened up the pitch to find Mason Mount who drove forward and then he played a ball out to Callum Hudson-Odoi who then played a reverse pass into the path of Cesar Azpilicueta who fired a brilliant effort across goal into the top corner. It was his first goal of the season and the first goal in the new Tuchal reign, could they now build on this?
Well, they had a host of chances to finish the game off in a second half they dominated, but with seven minutes to go, they sealed the deal when Christian Pulisic played a ball into the box where Marcus Alonso, who hadn’t played since September, controlled and then volleyed home superbly to cap a fine performance from The Blues and hand Tuchel his first win as Chelsea boss. For Burnley their winning run comes to an end, they certainly started well in the first ten minutes or so but thereafter were second best and fell to defeat here.
Onto the afternoon games now, which saw The Foxes hosting Leeds knowing a win would take them into the second spot, whilst over in East London fifth-placed Hammers took on fourth-placed Liverpool with the hosts on a six-game winning run and looking to get back into the top four…
Sunday, January 31 – Afternoon KO’s
Leicester City 1 Leeds United 3
West Ham United 1 Liverpool 3
The early afternoon kick-off saw high flying Leicester up against Leeds at The King Power, and Brendan Rodgers was looking for his Foxes side to push on and grab a win that would take them into second spot and go two points behind leaders Man City, but Leeds and Marcelo Bielsa were looking to take what would have been a surprising win at The King Power, although they certainly had the attacking threat to cause the hosts problems, it has been their open style of play that has caused them issues at times, and Leicester could certainly take advantage of that.
Twelve minutes in and Leicester had the lead, as Harvey Barnes drove at the Leeds defence, played it to James Maddison who returned it to the Leicester midfielder, and Barnes took a couple of touches and fired an effort into the bottom corner superbly, and The Foxes had the early advantage. Leeds though responded in terrific style, as Luke Ayling broke down the right, played a ball to Patrick Bamford who laid in Stuart Dallas to fire a lovely effort across goal and into the far corner, wow it had been a decent opening fifteen minutes at The King Power!
And although there were no more goals in the opening half, it wasn’t without entertainment, as Leicester saw a goal chalked off for offside, whilst Iilan Meslier had to make two smart stops, and down the other end Kasper Schmeichel had to pull off three decent stops to keep out Leeds, one an excellent save from a close-range header which although Leeds poked home the rebound, the flag went up and the goal was chalked off for offside, which was the correct decision.
The game was certainly living up to it’s billing so far, with both teams playing the right way in my opinion and entertaining us all thus far, it was a hard one to call as to which way it would go in the second period. The hosts certainly had the better of the opening twenty-five minutes of the second period, this after making a tweak to their shape/formation, but Leeds struck a big blow with twenty minutes to go as with their first real moment of note in the half saw a lovely ball from Raphinha to Bamford saw the Leeds forward produce a wonderful finish across goal into the top corner, and Leicester had twenty minutes to find something.
Leicester piled on the pressure to try and find a leveller, but with six minutes to go Leeds broke in devastating fashion as Bamford broke clean through from his own half and bared down on goal before unselfishly squaring for Jack Harrison to side foot home into the empty net, and seal back to back wins in the division and get their season back on track.
Frustrating for Leicester, they fail to grab the chance to go second and see their unbeaten run come to an end here. Onto the late afternoon kick-off and a biggie in the capital as fifth-placed West Ham took on fourth-placed Liverpool, the hosts are in terrific form right now and we’re looking for a fifth straight win to take them back into the top four at the expense of their opponents who had put in a very good showing in the North of the capital against Spurs as they got back to winning and goalscoring ways.
And with Leicester slipping up they knew a win would take them above The Foxes into third spot and only a point behind Man United in second too. The visitors dominated the ball in the opening forty-five minutes, but they didn’t really do much with it in the final third, whilst West Ham only showed flashes of attacking threat but spent a lot of the first half defending against the Liverpool possession of the ball, neither keeper had anything to do of note, so the game remained goalless at the break and was still in need of a spark of some kind.
Twelve minutes after the break came the breakthrough, as Mo Salah was allowed to cut inside onto his left foot and bend a wonderful effort into the far corner, and the visitors now had a lead they probably deserved. Salah had gone close prior to netting his goal but could West Ham respond, they had gone close through Michail Antonio just before Liverpool went in front, but they needed to come out more now if they wanted to get anything from this contest.
Midway through the second period though Liverpool broke in fantastic fashion, as a West Ham corner broke down and Xheridan Shaqiri played a wonderful ball across to Salah who took a lovely touch and then produced a wonderful finish past keeper Lukasz Fabianski, it was a breath-taking goal and Liverpool were heading for back-to-back away wins for the very first time this season. Curtis Jones had been heavily involved since coming on, so credit to Jurgen Klopp for making that change, it certainly provided the spark Liverpool needed to break down this Hammers defence.
And seven minutes from time the visitors added a third after lovely crisp passing ended with Roberto Firmino squaring for Gini Wijnaldum to tap home from close range. Liverpool would have been annoyed at not keeping a clean sheet no doubt when The Hammers pulled one back with four minutes to go when a corner found its way through to Craig Dawson who fired home from inside the box, but it was far too little too late for the hosts who would have been disappointed with this performance in what was a reality check for them against a top side in what was their first loss in 2021.
It’s been a very good week for Liverpool in the capital, six points, six goals and back on track, and with City coming to Anfield next Sunday, they could go above them if results go their way in midweek and they win that one…
The final game of the weekend came from the south coast and The Amex as Brighton welcomed Spurs to their home…
Sunday, January 31 – Evening KO
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
The Seagulls were looking to take advantage of West Brom and Fulham drawing yesterday to put more daylight between them and those below with victory over a Spurs side who were smarting from defeat at home to Liverpool in midweek and came into this game minus Harry Kane after the England striker injured both his ankles in that midweek defeat.
A Spurs win would take them into fifth and above their London rivals West Ham though, so this in itself would give them some impetus to try and get the job done here, and with the top four six points away at kick-off, they did not want to see that gap get any bigger. Brighton started the better and saw Pascal Gross strike the post in the third minute, but they did find the breakthrough after sixteen minutes when Gross was played in by Alexis Mac Allister, and the former cut back for Leandro Trossard to side foot home first time.
The Seagulls bossed the opening forty-five minutes but only had one goal to show for it, and they had still not won at home this season and had led on four occasions before going onto draw two and lose two, so could they put that right here, they certainly had a good chance if they continued to play this way. Spurs though had to get better in the second half though you thought? They had been awful so far and had not created anything of note, and if Brighton could find a second goal then you could not see them coming back from that.
Spurs made an attacking change by bringing on Carlos Vinicius for Davinson Sanchez, and he saw a far-post header saved by Robert Sanchez, but apart from that Spurs remained second best as The Seagulls searched for that crucial second, and they certainly had openings too. It took Spurs 75 minutes to finally show some urgency, and there best chance by a mile saw Vinicius force a terrific save from Sanchez, but Brighton should have wrapped it up with five minutes to go when they countered and saw a cut back to Aaron Connolly somehow blocked by Toby Alderweireld when it looked almost certain to be 2-0, but it wasn’t and the hosts had to see out the last few nervy moments and pray it did not come back to haunt them.
But see it out they did, and it was a superb three points for the hosts, their first win at home all season, and daylight between them and the bottom three now. They had been superb, whereas Spurs had failed to deliver, and suffer back-to-back defeats. Much to ponder for Jose Mourinho, his side were talked about as possible title challengers not that long ago, right now they sit six points off the top four and eleven points off leaders Man City after a run of two wins in nine Premier League matches.
Let’s see what that does to the table…
It’s been a good weekend for Man City, after United dropped points yesterday, Leicester also dropped points today meaning they remain three clear at the top, whilst Liverpool climbed above Leicester after there superb win at West Ham, who stay fifth despite this after Spurs awful showing at Brighton.
That win for The Seagulls sees them open a seven-point gap to the bottom three, who are now starting to get cut adrift. Leeds fantastic win at Leicester today means they are now just four points off the top six, with only four points separating sixth-placed Spurs and 12th placed Leeds, so quite tight in that area of the table.
The action keeps on coming with another full programme of fixtures this coming mid-week, let’s have a look ahead to those…
Tuesday, February 2
Sheffield United v West Bromwich Albion (6pm)
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Arsenal (6pm)
Manchester United v Southampton (8.15pm)
Newcastle United v Crystal Palace (8.15pm)
Wednesday, February 3
Burnley v Manchester City (6pm)
Fulham v Leicester City (6pm)
Leeds United v Everton (7.30pm)
Aston Villa v West Ham United (8.15pm)
Liverpool v Brighton & Hove Albion (8.15pm)
Thursday, February 4
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea (8pm)
The Blades host The Baggies Tuesday evening with it simply being a must-win for both, whilst United can go level on points with City for twenty-four hours at least if they can see of The Saints, and Newcastle will hope to build on their success at Everton by seeing off Palace at St James Park. City travel to Burnley looking to either increase the gap at the top or restore one, whilst The Foxes need to bounce back at Fulham after their disappointing loss to Leeds, and Liverpool will try and make it three straight wins with victory over Brighton.
Finally, on Thursday Thomas Tuchel experiences his first London Derby as Chelsea travel to take on a Spurs side who have just lost back-to-back, should be a tasty one as always at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the winners could end in fifth spot heading into the weekend. Lots more to look forward to!!!