Premier League Review – Matchday 16
Monday 28th December, 2020
Crystal Palace 1 Leicester 1
Both teams made changes, the most notable of which was Jamie Vardy starting on the bench for Leicester. Andros Townsend was included in the Palace team.
One of the Palace changes was to have Tomkins at the back. When he fouled Thomas after 17 minutes referee Graham Scott pointed to the spot. Iheanacho took the kick and tried a pause in his run-up. Guaita made a good save to his left, although the kick was not too strong.
Leicester right back Justin gave Perez a nice ball inside the right of the Palace area. Perez's shot was heavily deflected and looped up before rebounding off the right upper corner of Guaita's goal. Praet's follow-up was skied. Townsend had Palace's best chance to date after Schlupp crossed from the left and Townsend turned his shot the wrong side of the post.
Zaha was in a good shooting position just outside the area early in the second half but hit his shot well over the target.
Tielemans came on for Choudhury after 56 minutes. Zaha gave the home side a 58th minute lead with a great right foot finish from a narrow angle beyond the back post after Townsend crossed from the right. Zaha had passed out to Townsend in the first place, taking a tumble, then recovering to reach his scoring position. Schmeichel was beaten on his very narrow side.
Jamie Vardy replaced Praet after 65 minutes. Demarai Gray, rumoured to soon be leaving the "Foxes" came on for Iheanacho after 71 minutes. Harvey Barnes scored a fine 83rd minute equaliser with a well-placed shot inside Guaita’s left post after a Leicester throw-in from the right. The ball reached Barnes with a couple of touches, but he crafted the tight space to shoot and score, despite three close defenders.
Leicester desperately went for a winner with Perez having a great chance with the last kick of added time. He skied his shot and Brendan Rodgers had to settle for a point.
Chelsea 1 Aston Villa 1
Frank Lampard rang the changes after his team's Boxing Day defeat, and they were not all purely for the purpose of rotation either. Villa made just the one enforced change - Ezri Konsa for the suspended Tyrone Mings.
Chelsea had a bright start with Rudiger's reaction effort going straight to Martinez, but at the other end Grealish forced a diving save by Mendy to his left after 6 minutes. Grealish had already been on the floor two or three times.
Pulisic had a great chance after 11 minutes, picking up a stray infield pass before reaching the area and hitting his shot wide of the post, when he really should have scored.
Villa were regularly making inroads in the Chelsea half, particularly through Grealish and after 29 minutes his cross was not convincingly dealt with by Mendy and Matty Cash, following up, fired over. Pulisic put a chance over at the other end after a Giroud effort had come off the Villa defence to his feet. Giroud did score with a cleverly placed header from Chilwell's cross in the 34th minute.
El Ghazi scored 50th minute equaliser at the back post after the ball was crossed from the right by Cash. Chelsea were aggrieved over an incident involving Grealish and Christensen much earlier in the build-up, but referee Stuart Attwell had waved "play-on".
John McGinn hit a thunderous left foot shot from 25 yards which had Mendy rooted to the spot and the crossbar in danger of cracking. 19-year-old Jacob Ramsey replaced El Ghazi and immediately hit a right foot shot from the edge of the area which passed only just outside Mendy's left post.
The draw was not the result either team wanted, but it was a good result for the teams around them, including Spurs.
Everton v Manchester City (Postponed)
This game was postponed at short notice due to a number of positive Coronavirus tests in the City camp. City had previously lost Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus to the virus. They are now apparently back in training and will be able to fulfil ther next fixture against Chelsea.
Tuesday 29th December, 2020
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Arsenal 1
I’m sorry Spurs fans, but I did say that Arsenal would soon climb up the table and with this second successive win they are nearly half-way up the table. Brighton had won only one home league game in the calendar year and that had been against Arsenal in June. Aubameyang returned to the gooners’ side in place of Lacazette.
Brighton had some good early pressure, but no end product. Leno did have to make a good low save in the first half from Jahanbakhsh. Early in the second half Sanchez saved well (if somewhat involuntarily) with his knee from Aubameyang’s close-range effort after a good run and a cross by Saka. That was Arsenal’s first shot on target after 49 minutes. Martinelli hit a shot over from inside the Brighton area.
Leno made his second save of the game, at the foot of his left-hand post when Davy Propper hit a low right-footed shot from 15 yards. Lacazette replaced Martinelli in the 66th minute and within 29 seconds scored the winning goal. It was made for him by Saka, now operating on the right. Saka made a fine run leaving Burn in his trail and passed inside to Lacazette who had been offered too much room inside the area by the Brighton back line who retreated towards goal. Lacazette picked his spot inside Sanchez’s left post.
Brighton fell to fourth from bottom.
Burnley 1 Sheffield United 0
Before this game both teams had scored just 8 goals apiece. Burnley had done better with their goals and this game was never likely to feature many, if any goals. It was settled by Ben Mee’s 32nd minute effort. Chris Wilder was only able to name 7 of the permitted 9 subs due to Covid issues which are becoming more and more prevalent in football, as it is around the country.
Ramsdale made a good save from Barnes and looked more resplendent in his yellow kit than his outfield colleagues in their pink shirts. Sheffield United had a corner after 28 minutes and when Brewster headed it down, Brownhill cleared off the line. Ramsdale made a great one-handed save from a Chris Wood close-range header from a cross from the left by Robbie Brady. Brady took the corner too, from the right, and Ben Mee headed into the net.
Brewster’s low shot from the edge of the area was comfortable for Nick Pope, who was equal to McGoldrick’s shot five minutes into the second half, saving with a strong right hand. Sheffield United’s unwanted poorest start to the season goes on, but it was not for want of trying as shown by a good shot by Egan from 22 yards which passed just over the bar.
American investment group ALK Capital has completed its takeover of Burnley, buying an 84% stake in the Premier League club.
ALK managing director Alan Pace has replaced Mike Garlick as chairman.
Southampton 0 West Ham United 0
Danny Ings was back for the “Saints” and Mikhail Antonio came off the bench in the second half for the “Hammers” but neither could break the deadlock. Southampton manager Ralf Hasenhuttl was at home isolating. Assistant Richard Kitzbichler looked after affairs in the technical area.
Ings thought he had scored after 6 minutes, but Che Adams, who made the final pass from his right, had been offside. It was a long time before Southampton’s next decent chance and that came when Walker-Peters fed the ball outside to Walcott whose low cross was nearly converted at the near post by Ings, but Fabianski saved. Ings would have been “found offside” by any VAR review anyway.
Walcott had a decent shot from nearly 30 yards in the second half, but Fabianski held that safely. The best save McCarthy had to make was late in the game when Benrahma hit a shot from close range towards the keeper’s left side of the goal.
West Bromwich Albion 0 Leeds United 5
Sam Allardyce’s team fell big style to “Bielsa-Ball” in this game, all kicked off courtesy of a bizarre own goal. There have been 21 goals in Leeds’ last four games and Leeds have scored 12 of those, with five goals in the first and last of those four games. There is certainly no shortage of entertainment with this team.
Leeds’ one-goal start came in the 9th minute. Ironically, it looked as if the “Baggies” would clear a Leeds threat, but Diangana passed back from just inside the Wolves half before Sawyers hit a 25-yard back pass that beat Johnstone, who had strayed well to the left of his goal. Leeds’ second goal was one of their own making after 31 minutes. Rodrigo sent a ball into the box aiming for Bamford. The ball came out to the feet of Alioski who scored from 17 yards with a great shot inside Johnstone’s left post. Goal number three came in the 38th minute at the end of a great move. Alioski passed inside to Harrison who headed for the area and after a one-two with Bamford slammed the ball home to the right of the keeper.
Leeds scored a fourth goal five minutes before half-time. It came at the end of a fine passing move from their own half ending with Rodrigo’s deflected shot from 20 yards. Johnstone had been wrong-footed for that goal due to O’Shea’s deflection, but he made a good save from Raphinha before the break.
West Brom only lost the second half 1-0. They nearly had a goal after 65 minutes when Meslier made a stupid pass to Diangana in the middle of his area but redeemed himself with a save. More flowing football from Leeds led to Raphinha scoring their fifth goal in the 72nd minute with a fine left-foot shot from the edge of the area. The goal-scoring might have been over, but the Leeds exhibition continued, and Spurs will have to be at their best when the two sides meet on Saturday lunch-time.
Manchester United 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made six changes to the team which started at Leicester. Nuno made changes too, giving a first Premier League start to Ki-Jana Hoever, who played at right wing-back. Ait-Nouri was on the other side of the three-man central defence. 20-year-old Vitinha also made a first Premier League start, playing behind Traore and Neto.
That combination was involved in a concerted move forward ending with a strong run by Traore who chose Neto as the recipient of a short pass. Neto got a shot on target, but it was easy for De Gea. Vitinha hit a decent 20-yard shot after 10 minutes which was slightly harder for De Gea, but still saved. Next up was Ruben Neves, whose powerful shot was saved by the United keeper to his left.
After 22 minutes Saiss met a Wolves free kick with a looping header that landed on the frame of De Gea's goal. Wolves were well drilled and when defending had a back line of five players, but with plenty of pace in the side they were always able to break out in numbers and with speed.
Rui Patricio made a great reaction save from Bruno Fernandes at the back post after a good cross from the right by Mason Greenwood. Cavani tried to follow up, but he was closed down by the Wolves keeper. Wolves had a free kick after 38 minutes taken by Neto, who hit the ball powerfully. Saiss, who had scored the equaliser against Spurs on Sunday, met the ball with a well-directed flicked shot which De Gea did well to save in a left-of-centre position.
Telles was replaced by Luke Shaw after the break. Vitinha was replaced by Podence after 54 minutes. Martial took over from Greenwood after 64 minutes. Neither goalkeeper had been tested so far in the second half, in what was an intriguing tactical battle. Wolves when going forward passed accurately with power, but like United could not find the end product.
Fabio Silva replaced Neto with a quarter of the game remaining. Cavani had the ball in the net after 69 minutes from a corner which had touched a couple of Wolves players on its way to Cavani's feet, but he had been offside when the first ball forward had been played. Saiss had a header well saved by De Gea but the Wolves player had also been offside.
Fernandes passed from the left to Pogba who was just outside the box towards the right of the area. Rui Patricio had to dive to his left to save a good shot by Pogba. Rashford had been well blocked at one end, but had been offside anyway, before Ait-Nouri got away from Wan-Bissaka and tested De Gea with a good low shot from an angle on the left.
Fernandes had a powerful shot well blocked by Coady after receiving a pass from Shaw. Wolves had been defending so well but were pierced in the third minute of added time when Rashford's left foot shot was deflected into the net (by Saiss) with Rui Patricio wrong-footed in the centre of his goal. United moved up to second place in the table.
Wednesday 30th December, 2020
Spurs v Fulham (Postponed)
Rumours arose the night before this game that there were Covid-19 issues in the Fulham camp, and on the afternoon of 30th December the postponement was confirmed. The club were apparently upset that the decision was not announced until less than four hours before kick-off.
Newcastle 0 Liverpool 0
Steve Bruce went with a familiar 5-4-1 formation. Callum Wilson was back in the side. Jurgen Klopp played Nat Phillips at the back for the injured Matip, and James Milner was a familiar face in midfield. Thiago Alcantara was on the bench, having been absent since mid-October.
Newcastle had the early attacks with Alisson cautiously pushing one cross over before Callum Wilson hit a shot just wide across his goal following a free kick. Fabinho had a block to make from Wilson after 12 minutes as he got into the area on the left.
One of Darlow's easier saves to make was from a speculative 25 yarder by Milner. Another comfortable save came from Alexander-Arnold who had started a good move for Liverpool with a long cross-field pass before receiving inside the right of the area at the end of a sequence of passes.
Salah had been just onside and put a shot just wide with Darlow closing him down effectively. In first half added time Darlow dived to his right and beat Firmino’s header away to his right after Mane had crossed from the left.
Mane headed just wide from a corner in the second half and after a good run and pass by Firmino after 66 minutes, Salah put another chance wide. Darlow failed to reach another Liverpool corner but Firmino headed just wide at the back post. Thiago Alcantara came on after 73 minutes, replacing Milner.
Alisson was required to make a good save, diving to his left when Ciaran Clark headed down Ritchie's free kick. Darlow saved an Alexander-Arnold shot at his near post after 81 minutes with Mane just unable to take advantage of the loose ball, as Schar cleared just in time. Darlow saved well again after a corner, this time getting down to his left to stop a Firmino header.
At this stage last year Liverpool were 8 points clear of Leicester. They were undefeated with one game drawn. Now they are three points clear and have a moderate away record with two games won, five drawn, and that 7-2 aberration at Villa Park.
Monday 28th December, 2020
C. Palace 1-1 Leicester
Chelsea 1-1 A. Villa
Everton P Man City
Tuesday 29th December, 2020
Brighton 0-1 Arsenal
Burnley 1-0 Sheff Utd
S'hampton 0-0 West Ham
West Brom 0-5 Leeds
Man Utd 1-0 Wolves
Wednesday 30th December, 2020
Spurs P Fulham
Newcastle 0-0 Liverpool
Premier League Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Liverpool 16 9 6 1 37-20 17 33
2. Man Utd 15 9 3 3 31-23 8 30
3. Leicester 16 9 2 5 29-20 9 29
4. Everton 15 9 2 4 26-19 7 29
5. A. Villa 14 8 2 4 28-14 14 26
6. Chelsea 16 7 5 4 31-18 13 26
7. Spurs 15 7 5 3 26-15 11 26
8. Man City 14 7 5 2 21-12 9 26
9. S'hampton 16 7 5 4 25-19 6 26
10. West Ham 16 6 5 5 23-21 2 23
11. Leeds 16 7 2 7 30-30 0 23
12. Wolves 16 6 3 7 15-21 -6 21
13. Arsenal 16 6 2 8 16-19 -3 20
14. Newcastle 15 5 4 6 17-24 -7 19
15. C. Palace 16 5 4 7 20-29 -9 19
16. Burnley 15 4 4 7 9-20 -11 16
17. Brighton 16 2 7 7 18-25 -7 13
18. Fulham 15 2 5 8 13-23 -10 11
19. West Brom 16 1 5 10 11-35 -24 8
20. Sheff Utd 16 0 2 14 8-27 -19 2