There’s never a dull moment in the English Premier League, and the latest round of fixtures certainly lived up to that billing. After another international break, fans of the beautiful game rejoiced as club football returned. So, let’s look back at the weekend’s matchups and discuss the winners and losers.
Chelsea (2), Newcastle United (0)
In Saturday’s early kickoff, the Magpies welcomed a Chelsea side on the up. Unbeaten since a penalty shootout loss to Tottenham in September, Frank Lampard’s team were looking for their fifth win in a row as they traveled to the North of England.
While the Blues had found a level of consistency, the same could not be said for their opponents. Languishing down in 13th coming in, Steve Bruce’s side hadn’t won back-to-back league games all season and unrest was starting to fester among the passionate fanbase.
This game did little to quell any heightened tensions. Goals from Ben Chilwell and Tammy Abraham on either side of halftime gave the visitors a comfortable three points. If not for Timo Werner, it could have been four or five. The result moved Chelsea into third while Newcastle dropped two places down to 15th.
League positions: Newcastle United, 15th (11 points); Chelsea, third (18 points)
Brighton defeats Ashton Villa, 2-1
Another game, another VAR controversy. Say what you will about it, it’s certainly providing drama, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Villa, who survived by the skin of their teeth last season, have made a strong start to this campaign and even occupied the top spot at one stage before back-to-back defeats shuffled them back down the order. Still, sitting sixth when they took on Brighton was not to be sniffed at.
On the face of it, the home side were strong favorites as they took on a team 10 places below them in the table. However, Graham Potter’s Brighton have been on the wrong end of some seriously bad luck and must have felt like they were due a slice of their own. They got it.
Danny Welbeck put the Seagulls ahead with his first goal for the club before Ezri Konsa Ngoyo levelled things up right after the break. Solly March’s stunning strike restored Brighton’s advantage and looked likely to settle things, but with a few minutes to go, the game’s big talking point arrived.
Trezeguet was brought down by March in the box, and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot without hesitation, giving Villa a golden opportunity to salvage a point. But as is custom now, VAR officials had a look and urged Oliver to reconsider via the touchline monitor. It was a tight call, but the man in the middle overruled his original decision to the dismay of the home players and many people tuning in.
League positions: Aston Villa, seventh (15 points); Brighton, 16th (nine points)
Tottenham (2), Manchester City (0)
This was billed as Jose Mourinho vs. Pep Guardiola just as much as it was Tottenham taking on City. Ultimately, it was the former in both scenarios that came out on top.
Looking at the stats, you would be forgiven for thinking this was defense against attack. But to assume that would do an injustice to the Tottenham players and coaching staff who got everything spot on.
With just five minutes on the clock, the ever-reliable Son Heung-Min opened the scoring after latching on to a brilliant pass from Tanguy Ndombele and sliding the ball through the legs of Ederson in the City goal.
When playing any Pep team, you’re unlikely to dominate possession, but Spurs were brilliant from start to finish without the ball and clinical when they did have it. City will argue that they were unlucky to have had Aymeric Laporte’s goal ruled out, and they may have a point, but there’s no denying Mourinho’s side were the worthy winners.
A counter-attack was finished off wonderfully by Giovani Lo Celso in the 65th minute to seal the three points and move Tottenham above Leicester City into first.
League positions: Tottenham, first (20 points); Manchester City, 13th (12 points)
Manchester United (1), West Brom (0)
This was far from a classic, as has come to be expected in recent times when United play. What else is expected when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team lines up? The awarding of a penalty.
The visit of West Brom was no different, although the circumstances surrounding their decisive 56th-minute spot-kick were. It was, in fact, West Brom who were given the chance to break the deadlock just after the break when Bruno Fernandes tripped Conor Gallagher inside the box. However, upon review, referee David Coote reversed his decision before awarding United a penalty less than 10 minutes later.
Fernandes, who has received plenty of attention for his proficiency from this dead-ball situation, had his initial effort saved by Sam Johnstone before a retake was granted when VAR ruled the goalkeeper had moved off his line too quickly. He made no mistake next time around with the win vaulting United into the top half and ensuring West Brom remain winless.
League positions: Manchester United, 10th (13 points); West Brom, 19th (three points)
Everton (3), Fulham (2)
It was a return to winning ways for Everton, who came into this one on the back of three successive Premier League defeats. They took on a Fulham side who were struggling near the foot of the table and in desperate need of a positive result.
Fulham got off to the worst possible start when Dominic Calvert-Lewin bundled the ball home in the first minute. They did hit back though, equalizing in the 15th minute after some nice build-up play was finished off by Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
Calvert-Lewin put the Toffees back in front just before the half-hour mark while Abdoulaye Doucoure’s first Everton goal put them ahead 3-1 at the break.
In the second period, a tough task was made that much more difficult when Ivan Cavaleiro missed from the penalty spot in the 67th minute. Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek gave the Cottagers a lifeline three minutes later, but they couldn’t force an equalizer and were condemned to their seventh defeat of the season.
League positions: Fulham, 18th (four points); Everton, sixth (16 points)
West Ham (1), Sheffield United (0)
Where has it all gone wrong for Chris Wilder and the Blades? After earning countless plaudits last season for their ninth-place finish, this campaign has been nothing short of a disaster so far. The visit of West Ham represented a good chance to arrest the slide, but it only deepened their woes.
On the balance of play, they probably deserved something from the game. Of course, when it’s not going your way, the Premier League is an unforgiving place. Ultimately, the game was settled in the 56th minute when Sebastian Haller thundered the ball home from the edge of the area.
Both teams hit the crossbar in the closing stages, but the Hammers held on for a win that moved them up to eighth and left United rooted to the bottom of the table.
League positions: Sheffield United, 20th (one point); West Ham, eighth (14 pts)
Leeds United (0), Arsenal (0)
This was the only goalless fixture of the weekend, but it wasn’t for lack of trying, particularly for the home side.
“An idiotic act, whatever the provocation” was Martin Tyler’s assessment of Nicolas Pepe’s headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski that resulted in a straight red card. And he was right. Not only was there very little provocation, but the 25-year-old trudged off the field leaving his teammates the task of keeping out one of the most fluent and energetic teams in the league.
However, try as they might, Marco Bielsa could only watch on as his side squandered chance after chance. There was, of course, an element of good fortune involved as Leeds hit the woodwork three times in the second half. However, there was also no small amount of doggedness to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal. While they lack the attacking flair of old, they have a solid base to build from.
But build quickly they must; they have now won just one of their last five and sit 12th in the league. It’s a similar story for Leeds, who have amassed just five points from their last six games after making a promising start.
League positions: Leeds United, 14th (11 points); Arsenal, 12th (13 points)
Liverpool (3), Leicester City (0)
For all the talk of Liverpool injuries in the build-up, this proved to be a one-sided affair as top-of-the-league Leicester took on the reigning Premier League champions.
Despite the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Mo Salah, Thiago Alcantara, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Joe Gomez, Jurgen Klopp showed he has more than enough depth to his squad to cope with what some have been calling a crisis.
A Jonny Evans own goal was unfortunate for the Foxes, but they almost struck back immediately when Harvey Barnes flashed an effort across the far past. They were made to pay when Diogo Jota doubled the Reds’ lead before halftime with his fourth straight goal at Anfield.
It was a mere formality from that point. Firmino struck the post twice in the second half before finally getting the goal his performance deserved and wrapping up the three points.
League positions: Liverpool, second (20 points); Leicester City, fourth (18 points)
Burnley (1), Crystal Palace (0)
It wasn’t pretty, but Sean Dyche and Burnley won’t care. The Clarets came into this clash sitting second from bottom on two points and were the only side yet to register a home goal in the 2020-21 campaign.
However, that all changed as momentum was on their side from the get-go. Moments before kickoff, Palace manager Roy Hodgson revealed his star man Wilfried Zaha had tested positive for COVID-19 and would therefore not take to the field. While no one would have wished this on him, Palace’s loss was Burnley’s gain.
Jay Rodriguez was preferred upfront ahead of the out-of-form Ashley Barnes and it was he who pounced on Cheikhou Kouyate’s defensive error to set up the decisive goal in the eighth minute. He teed up a grateful Chris Wood who made no mistake from six yards out.
League positions: Burnley, 17th (four points); Crystal Palace, 11th (13 points)
Wolves (1), Southampton (1)
Southampton traveled to Molineux as one of the surprise packages of this unusual season. They occupied a top-four place having won five of their last six but had their work cut out against the ever-reliable Wolves. They would have been behind if not for the efforts of their goalkeeper, Alex McCarthy. A superb double-save denied Nelson Semedo first before Leander Dendoncker from close-range on the follow-up.
The deadlock would eventually be broken, though, and for the first time in 14 years, it was Theo Walcott who got on the scoresheet for Southampton. Not since an FA Cup tie against Luton Town in 2006 had this occurred. The former Arsenal man then had a glorious chance to make it two not long after. Instead, he dragged his effort wide with just the keeper to beat.
Wolves would make them pay 10 minutes later. It looked for all the world that Raul Jimenez’s fizzing strike would find the net, but when it came crashing off the post, Pedro Neto reacted quickest to convert the rebound and take a share of the spoils.
League positions: Wolves, ninth (14 points); Southampton, fifth (17 points)
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