Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 29

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 29

The 29th week of the Premier League saw:

235 shots - most by West Ham & Chelsea = 20 each
28 goals - most by Everton = 4
204 fouls - most by Stoke = 16
34 bookings - most by Stoke = 6
2 reds cards - Phil Bardsley for Stoke & Tom Huddlestone for Hull
3 penalties - 3 scored (Walters for Stoke, Alli for Tottenham & Milner for Liverpool)

What a game! The pulsating draw at the Etihad gets my vote, not just because I'm a Liverpool fan. I could hardly keep up with all the action reporting for ByTheMinute on the game, it could have been 5-5. Click here to read my full LFC ByTheMin match coverage. It was end-to-end stuff, with plenty of power and pace, controversial decisions, chances, sitters, misses, beauties, screamers, howlers, etc. Referee Michael Oliver didn't make many friends. Record-breaker James Milner's penalty was cancelled out by none other than Sergio Agüero. City boss Pep Guardiola was the happiest, Reds manager Jürgen Klopp less so. Click here to read my full LFC match report. The result keeps both teams in third and fourth place, giving Tottenham some breathing space in second and seeing United climbing closer up to fifth.

What a team & man! Leicester recorded their first away win since April, beating West Ham 2-3 at the Olympic Stadium. It was brilliant to hear the fans singing "we're winning away" chants and see Jamie Vardy on the scoreboard, only his second away goal of the season. Keeper Kasper Schmeichel had the game of his life with spectacular show-stopping saves. His dad must be very proud. It was a great game by an awesome team with a legendary keeper. Craig Shakespeare must be glad to have the real Tigers back, whilst everyone else is left scratching their heads wondering what he has done to them? Or what ex-boss Claudio Ranieri was doing wrong?!

What a man! Romelu Lukaku is another record-breaker after making all the wrong headlines for rejecting a new contract at Everton. The Belgian striker made up for it with a welcome hat-trick as the Toffees thrashed 4-0 Hull City at Goodison Park. The win keeps Ronald Koeman's side in seventh place, but creeping up level on points with Arsenal.

What a goal! There were so many shockers this week! From shocking defence at set pieces by Arsenal that cost them dearly at West Brom, to Swansea's Alfie Mawson's own goal that handed Bournemouth the lead in the crucial relegation battle. The top flop goes to the Boro keeper though, Victor Valdes with an absolute mock-up handing the ball over to Antonio Valencia who pressed and capitalised on the slip easily to make it 1-4 to United. It's a cruel cruel cruel world out there! 

What the hell?! ARGH! I was so annoyed by all the diving and whining! It totally spoilt the Stoke-Chelsea game! But Arsenal annoyed me even more! It was one of the worst performances I have seen by the Gunners. Manager Arsène Wenger indicated he knows his future, rumour has it he already has another one- or two-year deal... Really?!?!?! The Frenchman has most certainly lost the team by the looks, the fans may be split, but, really?!?!?! A new deal before the end to one of his worst seasons... Hm... Fff...

My Predictions - Actual Results
West Brom 1:1 Arsenal - 3:1
Crystal Palace 1:2 Watford - 1:0
Everton 2:1 Hull City - 4:0
Stoke City 1:1 Chelsea - 1:2
Sunderland 2:1 Burnley - 0:0
West Ham 2:2 Leicester - 2:3
Bournemouth 2:2 Swansea - 2:0
Middlesbrough 1:2 Man United - 1:3
Tottenham 3:1 Southampton - 2:1
Man City 3:2 Liverpool - 1:1 or click here for my LFC match report 

Click here for last week's Premier League Picks.

All pictures and stats taken from the BBC match reports

Monday, 20 March 2017

A Point & Goal Each In Etihad Thriller

Sports - Football - Premier League - MCFC 1:1 LFC

Manchester City and Liverpool fought out a pulsating draw at the Etihad, sharing a goal and point each in the race to stay in the top four for Champions League qualification.

It could have been 5-5 after end-to-end stuff, with plenty of talking points, errors, chances, misses, sitters, controversies, everything given by both sides and referee Michael Oliver not making many friends.

Click here to read my full ByTheMin live match coverage.

James Milner had given the visitors the lead from the spot not long after the interval after Roberto Firmino was brought down in the box by Gael Clichy with a high boot.

It was the Reds captain's 450th career league appearance, netting his seventh penalty in the Premier League this season, only Steven Gerrard has scored more for Liverpool in a Premier League season (= 10 in 2013/14).

But non-other than Sergio Agüero levelled the score, making no mistake of beating wrong-sided defender Ragnar Klavan to Kevin De Bruyne's nice cross in from the right, smashing in the equaliser with just over 20 minutes to go.

The Argentine striker has scored in each and every of his five Premier League home games for City against Liverpool.

The game finished just as frantic as it started, a mad first half full of chances missed.

Both keepers were kept busy and made some strong saves, Simon Mignolet denying Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho missing golden chances, whilst Willy Caballero kept out a surprisingly attacking Joel Matip, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana at the other end.

Somehow it stayed goalless at the break, it was definitely the keepers' half.

Both De Bruyne and Agüero put chances wide late on, whilst Lallana missed the biggest sitter right in front of goal with just ten minutes to go.

But it was not to be for either side, the draw keeping City in third and Liverpool in fourth, giving Spurs some breathing apace in second, whilst United climb to fifth. Chelsea stay pretty comfy at the top.

The game was not perfect but great entertainment with a lot of pace, power, energy and chances. And it is a fair result after all the ifs and buts.

Liverpool have now recorded more points in ten games against the top six (20) than in ten games against the bottom six (19).

It was just as entertaining to watch both coaches in their technical areas, loud, active, very involved to say the least.

Both managers showed contrasting post-match reactions though, Reds boss Jürgen Klopp more disappointed with the result whilst Sky Blues' Pep Guardiola called it "one of the happiest days of his career".

The German won the previous five meetings between the two, including a penalty shootout, more than any other manager against the Spaniard, so, maybe that explains the different takes on the match.

Neither will like the international break disrupting their plans, Liverpool hosting Everton next whilst City will travel to Arsenal on April the 1st.

Man City Goal: Agüero 69'.

Liverpool Goal: Milner pen 51'.

Man City Team: 13 Caballero; 25 Fernandinho, 24 Stones, 30 Otamendi, 22 Clichy (booked 50'), 42 Yaya Toure (booked 22') (3 Sagna 65'), 19 Sane (6 Fernando 83'), 17 De Bruyne, 21 Silva (booked 52'), 7 Sterling, 10 Agüero. 4-1-4-1
Subs not used: 1 Bravo, 9 Nolito, 11 Kolarov, 72 Iheanacho, 75 A. Garcia.

Liverpool Team: 22 Mignolet, 2 Clyne, 32 Matip (booked 43'), 17 Klavan, 7 Milner, 23 Can, 5 Wijnaldum, 20 Lallana, 19 Mané (booked 88'), 10 Coutinho (27 Origi 73'), 11 Firmino (booked 16') (21 Lucas 89').
Subs not used: 1 Karius, 18 Moreno, 66 Alexander-Arnold, 58 Woodburn, 6 Lovren.

HT & FT Match Stats: MCFC-LFC
Score: 0-0 & 1-1
Possession: 55%-45% & 60%-40%
Shots: 4-8 & 13-13
On target: 1-2 & 3-4
Corners: 5-5 & 9-8
Fouls: 8-3 & 14-7
Bookings: 1-2 & 3-3

Referee: Michael Oliver
Man of the match: David Silva
Ground: Etihad Stadium
Attendance: 54,449

Click here for my previous LFC match report.

All pictures, facts and stats taken from the BBC match report and SFR live coverage.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 28

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 28

The 28th week of the Premier League saw:

123 shots - most by Bournemouth = 22
14 goals - most by Bournemouth & Everton = 3 each
121 fouls - most by Bournemouth = 20
21 bookings - most by Bournemouth = 4
0 red cards
2 penalties - 0 scored (both missed by Bournemouth! See below for more details.)

What a game! Bournemouth went from flop to top, missing two penalties but still able to turn the game around and fight out a 3-2 win against West Ham in an action-packed encounter at Dean Court. The crucial three points moved the Cherries six points clear of the relegation zone after their first win of 2017, much to manager Eddie Howe's relief.

What a team! Man City dropped more points against Stoke in a frustrating goalless draw, the first time the Sky Blues failed to score at the Etihad Stadium under Pep Guardiola in all competitions (19 games). Meanwhile Everton recorded their fifth consecutive home win, a comfortable and confident 3-0 against West Brom, keeping them in the chase for a European space.

What a man! Like his team, Joshua King went from flop to top, missing a penalty but making up for it with a match-winning hat-trick to complete a thrilling comeback. The treble takes the Norwegian forward's total to seven goals in the last five top-flight games, becoming the first Bournemouth player to hit double figures in a top-flight campaign (11). Super sub Oumar Niasse scored two goals to secure a crucial win for Hull City in the relegation battle against fellow strugglers Swansea. The Tigers remain in the bottom three, one point from safety, three points behind the Swans in 16th.

What a goal! Man of the match and moment Romelu Lukaku produced a fine turn and pass to set up Morgan Schneiderlin for his first Premier League goal in 511 days to double the lead against West Brom before sealing the win for Everton heading in Ross Barkley's cross to make it 3-0 at Goodison Park. That takes the striker's league total to 19 goals so far this season, making him top scorer, level with Harry Kane.

What the hell?! Liverpool didn't create a single chance in the opening half an hour and it looked like yet another shocking defeat when Burnley took the lead early on at Anfield thanks to Ashley Barnes, who had a smashing game, in more than one way. Georginio Wijnaldum and Emre Can denied the Clarets the league double over the Reds, making it 2:1, the Merseysiders recording their first "ugly" win as boss Jürgen Klopp put it. Click here for my full LFC match report.

Click here for my full ByTheMin coverage of the game.

My Predictions - Actual Results
Man City 1:0 Stoke - 0:0
Bournemouth 1:2 West Ham - 3:2
Crystal Palace P:P Tottenham*
Everton 2:1 West Brom - 3:0
Hull City 1:0 Swansea - 2:1
Middlesbrough P:P Sunderland*
Arsenal P:P Leicester*
Southampton P:P Man United*
Liverpool 2:1 Burnley - 2:1 or click here for my LFC match report
Chelsea P:P Watford*
*P = postponed due to FA Cup ties

Click here for last week's Premier League Picks.

All pictures and stats taken from BBC match reports.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Liverpool Win "Ugly" Against Burnley

Sports - Football - Premier League - LFC 2:1 BFC

Liverpool came back from behind to record their third consecutive home win in the league beating Burnley 2-1 at Anfield.

Click here for my full ByTheMin coverage of the game.

The home side didn't create a single chance in the opening half an hour and it looked like yet another shocking defeat when Sean Dyche's men took the lead early on at Anfield thanks to Ashley Barnes, who had a smashing game, in more than one way.

The 27-year-old forward was always on the opponents' case, playing the good old physical game, pushing, pressing, creating, producing and could have scored more.

He gave the Clarets the lead just seven minutes in, connecting to the brilliant pass in from Matthew Lowton and netting it with his right foot sliding in.

It looked like the visitors were bossing it and could have taken a nice dominant and deserved lead into the break.

But Georginio Wijnaldum levelled the score in added time just before the interval, putting Divock Origi's cross from the left past Ben Mee who was on his knees from close range.

The second half grew more and more frustrating for the Reds, Anfield growing more and more tense.

But Emre Can denied the Clarets the league double over the Reds, making it 2-1 just past the hour-mark with a low right-footed shot off the post into the corner of the net, the Merseysiders recording their first "ugly" win as manager Jürgen Klopp put it.

The goal came out of nowhere, shortly after the German boss had made his first substitution, bringing on Academy youngster Ben Woodburn for Philippe Coutinho. Klopp was obviously not happy.

The more relieved the Kop could be about recording three points, especially after all the media focus on their lack of form against the lower sides.

It's Liverpool's 16th Premier League win of the season, equalling their tally of wins for the whole 2015-16 season.

The pressure stays on the Reds to remain in the top four with the teams around them having games in hand and their next match is the Super Sunday clash against Manchester City at the Etihad.

Liverpool Goals: Wijnaldum 45'+1, Can 61'.

Burnley Goal: Barnes 7'.

Liverpool Team: 22 Mignolet; 7 Milner (c), 17 Klavan, 32 Matip, 2 Clyne; 20 Lallana (booked 87'), 23 Can (booked 63'), 5 Wijnaldum; 10 Coutinho (58 Woodburn 60'), 27 Origi (21 Lucas 79'), 19 Mané. 4-3-3
Subs not used: 1 Karius, 12 Gomez, 18 Moreno, 59 Wilson, 66 Alex-Arnold.

Burnley Team: 1 Heaton (c); 23 Ward, 6 Mee (booked 37'), 5 Keane, 2 Lowton; 37 Arfield (32 Agya 90'), 13 Hendrick, 19 Barton, 21 Boyd (12 Brady 73'); 7 Gray (9 Vokes 80'), 10 Barnes. 4-4-2
Subs not used: 17 Robinson, 18 Westwood, 26 Tarkowski, 27 Darikwa.

HT & FT Stats: Liverpool-Burnley
Score: 1-1 & 2-1
Possession: 70%-30% & 65%-35%
Shots: 5-4 & 10-11
On target: 1-1 & 3-1
Corners: 7-1 & 11-1
Fouls: 4-9 & 12-16
Bookings: 0-1 & 2-2

Referee: Craig Pawson
Man of the match: Ashley Barnes
Ground: Anfield
Attendance: 53,145

Click here for my last LFC match.

Pictures and stats taken from the BBC match report and Sky Sports coverage.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Premier League Picks Of The Week 27

Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 27

The 27th week of the Premier League action saw:

255 shots - most by Swansea = 23
36 goals - most by Southampton = 4
223 fouls - most by Middlesbrough = 20
31 bookings - most by Bournemouth = 5
1 red card - Surman for Bournemouth
3 penalties - 2 scored (Gray for Burnley, King for Bournemouth)

What a game! This week Match Of The Day was action-packed! Every game had it in it, goals, tops, flops, controversies, and more goals. My vote goes to the relegation battle between Swansea and Burnley at the Liberty Stadium. It was a great comeback by the Welsh side after some horrendous refereeing gave the Clarets a step back into the game, Anthony Taylor awarding a spot kick Andre Gray netted to make it 1:1 after the ball had clearly come off the arm of his own team mate Sam Vokes. Sean Dyche was not happy with man of the match Fernando Llorente's late winner seeing a foul in the buildup, but did not say much about the penalty incident. Selective memory? Another entertaining encounter was the seven-goal thriller between Watford and Southampton, showing off the best and worst of football, the Saints ending up on top at Vicarage Road bouncing back from their EFL Cup final defeat against Manchester United.

What a team! Chelsea remain unstoppable ten points clear at the top after beating West Ham 1-2 at the London Stadium, continuing their march to the title. I would like to see the mileage manager Antonio Conte covers non-stop on the move, jump, gestures and go on the sideline. Mental. Meanwhile Big Sam is doing his thing, Crystal Palace creeping and crawling out of the relegation zone after recording their second consecutive win, leaving the Hawthorns worthy 0-2 winners.

What a man! All the usual suspects starred and scored again this week, Harry Kane and Dele Alli for Spurs, Romelu Lukaku for Everton, Sergio Agüero for Manchester City, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for Chelsea... But my hero vote of the week goes to a stopper, Artur Boruc. The Polish keeper kept 10-man Bournemouth in the game at Old Trafford and earned his side a point against Manchester United, saving his fourth out of last seven penalties. The Red Devils were lucky to still have eleven men on the pitch after Zlatan Ibrahimović had elbowed Tyrone Mings in clear frustration about the defender's boot catching his head earlier on. There was one red card, Andrew Surman, who pushed the famous Swedish striker to the ground. How the other two stayed on the pitch in perspective to this, is beyond me!

What a goal! Both Palace goals get my vote, as crucial as they were in the relegation battle, they were top quality to watch! Wilfried Zaha's cracking strike to open the score in the second half was only the second attempt on target in the match, his fifth of the season. Andros Townsend doubled the score six minutes from time, picking up the ball on the left side of his own box and just keeping on going and going and going, past centre back Gareth McAuley and striking the ball low past keeper Ben Foster. Wow.

What the hell?! Well, I will not start about the refereeing standards again, I think I've picked on them enough above, from missed to mixed, it was all just very messed up. Where is the video ref when you need him, ey, FA?!?!?! Apart from all that farce, one certain Frenchman looked very old and resigned at Anfield and I have one question to him: Monsieur Arsène Wenger, pourquoi, warum, why the hell did you leave Alexis Sánchez on the bench?!?!?! In the most crucial game in the battle for the top four against Liverpool (the title race being science fiction for both sides), you leave out your top scorer... ?!?!?!?! The Gunners' boss has well and truly and literally lost it!

My Predictions - Actual Results
Man United 4:1 Bournemouth - 1:1
Leicester 2:0 Hull City - 3:1
Stoke City 1:0 Middlesbrough - 2:0
Swansea 2:1 Burnley - 3:2
Watford 1:1 Southampton - 3:4
West Brom 2:1 Crystal Palace - 0:2
Liverpool 2:2 Arsenal - 3:1
Tottenham 2:0 Everton - 3:2
Sunderland 0:2 Man City - 0:2
West Ham 1:3 Chelsea - 1:2

Click here for last week's Premier League Picks.

All pictures and stats taken from BBC match reports and MOTD.