Sports - Football - Premier League - Week 20
The 20th week of the Premier League action saw:
27 goals - most by Liverpool = 5
220 shots - most by Burnley = 17
87 on target - most by Liverpool = 10
100 corners - most by Leicester = 10
224 fouls - most by Watford = 17
32 bookings - most by West Ham = 4
2 red cards - Højbjerg for Southampton, Bailly for Man United
4 penalties - 2 scored (Salah and Firmino for Liverpool)
What a game! Having scored eleven goals in the last two games, and after watching Harry Kane give Tottenham the lead with a 25-yard screamer (22’), everyone must have had that “here-we-go-again” feeling, expecting another thrashing. But hell no, Wolves did not let that happen. After being totally dominated and outplayed in the first half, Nuno Espírito Santo turned the table on Spurs, bringing on Hélder Costa (59’) and João Moutinho (68’) after the break. Willy Boly equalised for the visitors with a powerful header (72’) and Raúl Jiménez poked the Wanderers ahead beating Hugo Lloris totally unmarked in the box (83’). Sub Costa put the icing on the Christmas cake with a nice run and clinical low finish to make it 1-3 at Wembley (87’). Mauricio Pochettino’s men did not record a single shot in the second half, after bashing in ten chances before the interval. The result sees the London side’s title hopes dented, falling back down to third, nine and two points behind Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. More to the top two’s wins below. Wolves meanwhile, are in dreamland, up to seventh.
What a team! League leaders Liverpool took Arsenal apart, thrashing them 5-1 at Anfield in the evening kick-off on Saturday. The Gunners started strong, taking an early lead thanks to Ainsley Maitland-Niles (11’), his first goal for the club. It was the first time Jürgen Klopp’s men had fallen behind in a Premier League game at Anfield in 2018. But the Reds hit back hard and quick, Roberto Firmino with two goals in two minutes, one easy tap-in (14'), the other a great individual run and finish (16'). Sadio Mané extended the home side’s lead off Andrew Robertson’s long cross (32’), before Mohamed Salah made it 4-1 from the spot in the final seconds of the first half (45’+2’). The great Egyptian handed the ball to the awesome Brazilian after Liverpool won a softer than soft penalty following Sead Kolašinac’s push on Dejan Lovren (65’). Firmino made no mistake, netted the penalty to bag himself his first career hat-trick and his side a very convincing 5-1 win. Records keep tumbling, oppositions crumbling, hoping and waiting for the Reds to slip up and fall at some point. But so far, so awesome, 20 games unbeaten, seven points clear at the top. But what a difference a month makes: LFC are 16 goals and nine points better off than the Citizens (since week 15 = the last five games). Next on the list is another big test: Manchester City at the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola’s men returned to winning ways against a clumsy ten-man Southampton with a 1-3 victory at St Mary’s. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg had equalised for hosts (37’) after David Silva’s early opener (10’). But then the Saints crumbled to bits with an own goal (Ward-Prowse 45’) and Sergio Agüero’s header (45’+3') putting the visitors in command before the interval. Højbjerg’s lunging tackle on Fernandinho added more misery on to the hosts, having only just returned from suspension, the goal scorer was sent packing, his side dropping to 17th, whilst the Sky Blues climbed back up to second, seven points behind the league leaders.
What a man! Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has conceded 15 goals in the Premier League in December, as many as he had in August, September, October and November of this season combined. It’s been a funny couple of weeks for the Toffees, from 2-6 home thrash against Tottenham (week 18), to 1-5 winners at Burnley (week 19), to this week’s frustrating 1-0 defeat at Brighton. Marco Silva and Christ Hughton will have contrasting New Year’s celebrations and resolutions, their sides in sour 10th and sweet 13th respectively.
Manchester United made it 12 goals and three wins in their first three games under caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Paul Pogba starring and dancing with his brace (5’, 33’) making it 4-1 against Bournemouth. The win takes the Red Devils just three points behind the Gunners in fifth. Much better and brighter times at Old Trafford, but surely, bigger tests are still ahead. More to the side and game below.
What a goal(keeper)! There were a couple of crucial late goals at the bottom of the table. Both Aleksandar Mitrović and Víctor Camarasa scored stoppage time winners for Fulham and Cardiff City against Huddersfield and Leicester respectively. It was the Bluebirds’ first away win of the season thanks to a curling stunner. The more shocking it was for the Foxes after their wins against Chelsea and City in their previous two matches, and watching James Maddison denied from the spot by star keeper and man of the match Neil Etheridge. The Cottagers were double-relieved after watching Aboubakar Kamara miss his spot kick, following feisty discussions with usual taker Mitroviç, just minutes before his team mate’s winner. David Wagner will be glad to see the back of 2018, his Tigers just recording five league wins, 24 defeats! They remain bottom after their seventh successive defeat, equalling their 1955 club record.
Another crucial win in the relegation zone was recorded by Burnley. Manager Sean Dyche made some crucial changes, keeper Tom Heaton starring in place of Joe Hart, and youngster Dwight McNeil starting and doubling the Clarets’ lead against West Ham (34’), after Chris Wood’s opener put the hosts in charge (15’). The win keeps Burnley in 18th, but puts them level on points with Southampton in 17th.
What the hell?! This was the ninth time this season that Crystal Palace have been drawing 0-0 at half-time and failed to win on each and every one of those occasions... And their late flourish was too little too late against Chelsea, not a single shot on target in the whole game is just not good enough. It ended up being an easy win for the Blues against the team that beat City not even a week ago (week 18), thanks to N'Golo Kanté's strike (51'), keeping them in fourth but increasing the gap to Arsenal in fifth to five points.
As mentioned above, the Red Devils are on a winning run, kicking and clicking much better since José Mourinwho’s departure. But they had the officials to thank in this win against Southampton as well, seeing a goal disallowed, high kick in the box overlooked, and their lines bent in build-up to one of their goals. (This Tweet got it bang on.) It’s still early days post-Miserinho. The spirit and force has returned, yes, indeed. The question is, however, how long will it last? And where the hell was it beforehand?! The same players that were so dire and depressing to watch a couple of weeks ago?! Now dancing and prancing and banging them in... Something is still very wrong there in my eyes...
My Predictions - Actual Results
Brighton 1:1 Everton - 1:0
Fulham 1:1 Huddersfield - 1:0
Leicester 2:0 Cardiff - 0:1
Tottenham 3:1 Wolves - 1:3
Watford 1:2 Newcastle - 1:1
Liverpool 3:1 Arsenal - 5:1
Crystal Palace 1:1 Chelsea - 0:1
Burnley 1:3 West Ham - 2:0
Southampton 0:3 Man City - 1:3
Man United 3:1 Bournemouth - 1:4