Premier League Review – Matchday 17
Friday 1st January, 2021
Everton 0 West Ham United 1
Carlo Ancelotti was able to include Richarlison in his side after his concussion issue. Captain Seamus Coleman returned whilst Michael Keane was left on the bench. Holgate and Mina were Everton's centre-backs. There was still no starting place for Antonio, but he was again on the bench for the "Hammers”. West Ham's goalkeeper Fabianski was injured during the warm-up and was replaced by Darren Randolph, making his first Premier League start of the season.
Craig Dawson, who was making only his second (successive) Premier League appearance for West Ham, went down after 15 minutes, with no contact from another player and needed treatment before continuing.
The first real threat on goal came from Cresswell after 29 minutes when from the left of the area he fired wide across the goal in front of the Gladys Street Stand. The game had been very short of such action. Randolph's first save came after 44 minutes following an Everton corner. The shot was by Bernard and the keeper saved, diving to his right. That was the first shot of the game on target.
The second half was in the same vein. Early excitement was offered when Declan Rice hit a cross past the goalmouth through the danger zone. Antonio replaced Haller after 58 minutes. Pickford soon had a save to make from Cresswell's free kick swung in from the right of the area. Pickford flapped the ball away from danger with little trouble.
Ancelotti put on Gomes and James Rodriguez for Sigurdsson and Bernard. Pickford saved an Antonio shot with his left hand. The intensity levels rose (briefly) as both sides sought a winner.
The breakthrough came for West Ham in the 86th minute. Substitute Yarmolenko lifted a short ball inside the area for Soucek, whose shot was saved but parried by Pickford. The ball ran to Cresswell who fired hard and low into the area from the left. The ball took a deflection off Yerry Mina and fell nicely for Soucek who scored from the right of the goal.
In added time Antonio collected a long ball and ran into the area where he stumbled under Mina's close attention.
Manchester United 2 Aston Villa 1
One of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's changes was enforced with Edinson Cavani serving the first of a three-match suspension imposed by the FA following a widely-reported social media comment. Tyrone Mings returned to the Villa side following his one-match suspension.
Former United manager Tommy Docherty was remembered before the game.
United put Villa under pressure only a minute after the kick-off with Martinez getting his body behind a Fernandes shot from a very sharp angle. The Villa defence managed to survive the attempts to take advantage of the loose ball. United remained on top and after 10 minutes Martinez saved well from Martial's shot at the expense of a corner.
Villa had a nice move on the right flank with Grealish feeding the overlapping Cash whose cross ultimately reached McGinn, who hit a good low shot well saved by De Gea to his right. Fred hit a powerful rising shot just over the Villa bar after 15 minutes.
Bruno Fernandes received a ball from Shaw inside the area on the left and hit a decent right foot shot wide of the far post. (36 mins) Bertrand Traore won and wasted a free kick at one end before Wan-Bissaka advanced down the right flank and when he crossed Martial stooped and directed a nice header into the Villa net in the 40th minute.
In the second half Grealish lifted a cross from the left of the area and Watkins headed goalward with De Gea making a very good save palming the ball over his bar. (51 mins) It was end to end football and Villa were giving a good account of themselves. After a touch by Watkins El Ghazi flashed a shot just over the bar. Watkins met Grealish's short cross from the right edge of the area but headed wide across the far post.
Villa scored a deserved equaliser in the 58th minute when Wan-Bissaka lost his concentration and position and Villa fed a quick free kick to the unmarked Grealish down the left flank. He crossed and Traore had time to pick his spot beating De Gea with a left foot shot. Almost immediately Pogba went down in the box under Douglas Luiz's challenge. Michael Oliver blew for a penalty. VAR took a good look, but the penalty decision stood. Fernandes didn't skip this time and scored just inside Martinez's right post. (61 mins)
De Gea saved low to his left near his right post from El Ghazi after 71 minutes. Pogba put a good chance wide after Shaw cut back from the bye-line. After a corner from the left Fernandes hit a great shot from 20 yards out which was saved athletically by Martinez after 76 minutes. Rashford threatened from a similar position but his effort passed just over the bar with Martinez stretching.
Mings headed wide from a Villa free kick taken on the right after 82 minutes. Keinan Davis replaced El Ghazi and he too headed wide from a cross by Cash. Villa put United under pressure in added time and De Gea had to dive to his right on the stretch to save from Matty Cash. Bailly had to block Davis inside his area in the final minute of what had been an exciting and entertaining game.
United celebrated their win with gusto and joined Liverpool on 33 points, securing second place.
Saturday 2nd January, 2021
Spurs v Leeds United
Harry Kane and Heung-min Son tied for the Spurs Odyssey man of the match vote, with an honourable mention for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
Tottenham have won four of their last five Premier League home games (lost one), with this their biggest victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium since July (3-0 v Leicester).
Leeds failed to score in an away Premier League game for the first time this season, leaving Aston Villa and Manchester United as the only sides to have scored in 100% of their games on the road.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane has scored against all 30 opponents he has faced in the Premier League, the best 100% record in the competition among players to have faced more than one side.
Son Heung-min's first-half strike was his 100th goal in all competitions for Tottenham (253rd appearance), the 18th player to reach the milestone for the club.
Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have combined for 13 Premier League goals this season - no pair have ever combined for more in a single campaign in the competition. Kane has assisted Son nine times - a joint-record for one player assisting another within a Premier League season.
Courtesy of his penalty goal, Harry Kane became the first player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in the top five European leagues this season.
Matt Doherty was sent off for Spurs in their first game of 2021 - the Lilywhites did not receive a single Premier League red card in 2020.
Crystal Palace 2 Sheffield United 0
Sheffield United's dismal season rolls on. One of the goals which beat them today could be a goal of the season contender.
Palace were ahead inside 4 minutes, scoring from a very good move. After a good long ball by Townsend, Zaha cut the ball back from the left for Benteke, who tapped the ball into the path of the advancing Jeffrey Schlupp, who scored across Ramsdale's left hand with a deflected shot.
Eze replaced the injured Schlupp after 40 minutes and scored a quite sensational goal just beyond the scheduled 5 minutes of added time. Eze picked up the ball deep in his own half (not as deep as Son's December 2019 goal against Burnley), and was allowed to advance up the field with hardly a challenge. He scored from the edge of the area with a shot which was well placed rather than hit with power. Ramsdale was again beaten inside his left post.
Chris Wilder has been short of players for various reasons and ten minutes from the end gave a debut to "The Blades" youngest ever player - 16-year-old Antwoine Hackford. In added time Hackford came as close to scoring as had any of his team-mates, but Guaita saved.
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo went for a back four today, with Semedo on the right and Ait-Nouri on the left. Wolves wore their heavily Portuguese influenced away kit.
Brighton took a thirteenth minute lead when Trossard crossed from the right after nearly losing his footing. Aaron Connolly sneaked in to beat Rui Patricio to the ball and scored at the near post. This was Connolly's first home goal since 5th October 2019 when Brighton beat Spurs 3-0.
The scores were level six minutes later. After a corner from the left, Semedo collected and carried the ball to the bye-line right of the goal. He lifted a cross to Saiss, who scored to the left of the goalkeeper, putting strength into the header which was not so evident in Semedo's cross. Saiss had scored Wolves' equaliser against Spurs last Sunday.
Connolly nearly scored again after 24 minutes when Webster crossed from the right. Connolly hit a spectacular overhead kick with power, but Rui Patricio saved.
Wolves had a second goal in the 34th minute. Pedro Neto came inside from the right and hit a shot which took a deflection. Sanchez did well to save but could only parry the ball to the feet of the unfortunate Dan Burn. The ball rebounded off the defender into the Brighton net.
Dan Burn's nightmare was made worse when he brought down Traore who had powered his way into the right side of the Brighton area along the bye-line. Referee Andy Madley pointed to the spot and Ruben Neves scored in the 44th minute. Connolly walked off injured in first half added time.
Within 15 seconds of the restart Joao Moutinho tripped Maupay as he entered the Wolves area and it was Maupay who scored convincingly from the spot, something he has not always managed.
Brighton had caused a degree of panic in the Wolves area on a couple of occasions without reward. Adam Lallana replaced the unfortunate Burn after 68 minutes. Burn had been booked for an earlier foul on Traore. The "Seagulls" levelled the scores after 69 minutes when skipper Lewis Dunk rose to meet a corner. His header was deflected into the net off Saiss.
Wolves had a chance to snatch the win in the dying seconds when Traore crossed but substitute Otasowie headed over with the goal at his mercy. The draw was deserved by Brighton who had after all come back from two goals down.
West Bromwich Albion 0 Arsenal 4
The Hawthorns is the highest football league ground in England geographically speaking which is one reason why snow fell during this game. Sadly, the club which plays at the ground remains one of the worst in the Premier League and today they shipped four more goals which makes you wonder about the benefit of Sam Allardyce's appointment.
Also, sadly for Spurs fans, today's defeat came against Mikel Arteta's rejuvenated Arsenal, who are rapidly climbing up the table, as I predicted a couple of games ago.
Arsenal nearly scored after 15 minutes. Ceballos sent a long ball down the right which was taken on by Saka whose cross to the back post just defeated Aubameyang's effort to score. Five minutes referee Martin Atkinson allowed a couple of tough challenges by West Brom deep in their own half before they moved forward, and Matt Phillips tested Leno with a shot.
Tierney gave Arsenal a 23rd minute lead with a superb goal. He nutmegged Furlong on the left wing, before cutting back inside the same player scoring with a right-footed shot beyond Sam Johnstone. Five minutes later Saka scored from close range after a fast passing move down the right channel and a final short cross by Smith-Rowe. Arteta's faith in youth seems to be paying dividends here.
Johnstone flapped a deflected Lacazette shot over the bar after similar Arsenal play on the left side. The West Brom keeper saved again from Lacazette as the snow fell more persistently and started to settle.
Pereira hit the post early in the second half and Robinson thought he had scored when following up, but Pereira had been offside in the first place. Lacazette went close after another good ball by Ceballos, but he too had been offside. The Arsenal striker did score on the hour when Saka crossed hard from the right of the area; Ajayi hit his own post with an attempted clearance; another shot was blocked before Lacazette did hit the target. Lacazette's second goal came four minutes later when he converted Tierney's short cross from the left from close range.
Aubameyang was denied by Johnstone ten minutes from the end.
Sunday 3rd January, 2021
Burnley v Fulham (Postponed)
The postponement of this game was announced on Saturday. Fulham still have sufficient Covid-19 issues to cause a necessary re-arrangement which the Premier League said will be “as soon as possible”. According to press reports, Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic led to a breach of Covid rules by hosting an unlawful party gathering over the holiday period. As has been well-reported, Mitrovic was not the only offender of this nature.
Newcastle United 1 Leicester City 2
Steve Bruce chose both Sean and Matty Longstaff to start a game together for the first time since last year. Bruce was missing Hayden (suspended) and Shelvey who he said was "not quite ready". Leicester looked more like their first choice team having rested players in their last game.
Leicester had the better of the early play and Vardy was involved in a couple of attacks; one where he chose to pass back and not to shoot; the other when he put the ball in the net from a narrow angle. On both occasions, he was offside. The flag does not go up until the completion of many attacks these days. This policy causes confusion, frustration, and has the potential to lead to unnecessary injuries.
Joelinton had a header on target after 18 minutes following a ball into the centre of the area by Fernandez. Schmeichel held comfortably. Maddison went down injured after 25 minutes but carried on after what appeared to be treatment to his knee.
All the interesting action came in the second half. Vardy did get an early shot on goal and he was onside but fired wide from an angle on the left. Leicester took the lead in the 55th minute. Johnny Evans hit a good pass down the middle for Barnes who raced forward then passed to Vardy on the left of the area. Vardy did have a shooting position but passed back to Maddison who scored with a powerful right foot shot from the edge of the area.
Steve Bruce put on Jonjo Shelvey for Joelinton. It was 2-0 in the 72nd minute. Albrighton passed inside from the right and Tielemans hit an excellent right-footed shot from just inside the area, beating Darlow to his left. Vardy subsequently hit the crossbar, but again he had been offside.
Andy Carroll's last goal for Newcastle was on Boxing Day 2010 in a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester City. Steve Bruce put him on for Yedlin, and Carroll worked the oracle with a fine left-footed shot following a free kick and a partly cleared ball. (81 mins)
Leicester moved up to third place with this seventh away win of the season.
Chelsea 1 Manchester City 3
Ziyech returned for Chelsea and played in a front three with Werner and Pulisic, which left Abraham and Giroud on the bench. City have six players who have tested positive for Coronavirus including goalkeeper Ederson, whose place was taken by Zack Steffen, making his Premier League debut. The City bench included 35-year-old goalkeeper Scott Carson, once of Derby County, along with newcomers such as 18-year-old Taylor Harwood-Bellis and 17-year-old Luke Mbete. Benjamin Mendy was on the bench despite his reported contravention of COVID-19 rules over the festive period. 17-year-old Liam Delap was also on the bench as well as Sergio Aguero, who hasn't started a game since late October.
Former Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty was remembered before the game.
The inexperienced Steffen picked up a back pass on the edge of the area after 4 minutes which gave Chelsea a free kick, (inexplicably taken outside the area) touched by Mount to Ziyech, whose shot was blocked by the City wall. De Bruyne had a great opportunity after 15 minutes when receiving Cancelo's pass in a scoring position but put his shot just wide of Edouard Mendy's right post.
City did have the lead in the 18th minute when after the ball was crossed by Zinchenko from the left. Foden got a touch to send the ball across the edge of the area to Gundogan who turned and scored with his right foot. Three minutes later Foden met De Bruyne's pass at the near post and scored with a delightful touch just inside the post. It was 3-0 after 34 minutes. City broke forward after a Chelsea attack with Sterling racing towards goal with Kante on his tail. Sterling took the ball out to the left of goal hitting the far post with his shot. The ball rebounded to De Bruyne who scored.
Gundogan went close after 43 minutes following slick passes by De a Bruyne and Sterling. Gundogan's flicked shot passed wide across the goalmouth.
In the second half Mendy made a very good one-handed save from Rodri's header following a De Bruyne free kick.
After 63 minutes Lampard replaced Ziyech with Hudson-Odoi and Kante with Billy Gilmour. City were happy to consolidate rather than extend their lead, and Chelsea failed to make any headway. Despite his absentees, Pep Guardiola's three substitutes were Fernandinho, Aguero and Mahrez!
Chelsea did get a consolation goal in the second minute of added time when substitute Havertz crossed from the left and Hudson-Odoi collected on the right and hit the net.
Monday 4th January, 2021
Southampton 1 Liverpool 0
Ralf Hasenhuttl was back on site after his self-isolation. However, his number one goalkeeper (McCarthy) has tested positive for the virus, so he had to be replaced by Fraser Forster for a first start in any game this season. In defence Stephens was covering for Vestergaard and in midfield Diallo took the place of the injured Romeu.
Jordan Henderson was chosen to play as centre-back next to Fabinho in the Liverpool side. Thiago was making his first start since mid-October. He was joined in midfield by Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Thiago was penalised for a foul on Armstrong, much to his discontent. Ward-Prowse floated a free kick down the left side of the area and Danny Ings beat everyone else to the ball and lifted a lovely shot into the net across Alisson. The goal was scored in only the second minute. In another minute, Thiago was shown yellow by referee Andre Marriner for a second foul.
Djenepo had to go off due to injury after half an hour and was replaced by Tella. Former Southampton man Mane had a second shot hit well off target and so far, the visitors had not caused Forster to make a save. Tella had a chance on the edge of the area after 40 minutes when Ings headed the ball on and the 21-year-old made space for a right foot shot which he put just wide.
In first half added time Mane got to the bye-line on the left and lifted a cross to the centre of goal where Salah headed just over the bar.
Liverpool put the "Saints" under pressure early in the second half with Thiago having an on-target shot blocked and Wijnaldum's shot hitting Stephens' hand at short range. All Liverpool got for that was a corner.
To be honest I was surprised to see Thiago coming out for the second half as he had already been sailing close to the wind regarding the possibility of a second yellow card. He probably had a final warning from the referee after a 53rd minute foul. Shaqiri replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain whilst Thiago stayed on.
Robertson pushed a ball down the left side to Mane after 61 minutes. Mane's shot across the goal took a slight touch off a defender for a corner. Liverpool still hadn’t managed to test Forster, who was not looking too confident but was being well guarded by his defence.
Forster did at last have to make a save in the 75th minute after Robertson passed inside to Mane who tried to hit a shot across the keeper. Thiago had another shot blocked and Alexander-Arnold's shot went wide, with a slight touch from Salah.
Valery replaced Walcott and he was sent clear after 83 minutes with Alisson miles out of his goal area to challenge. Valery hit a shot past the keeper, but it just did not carry the strength to beat the Liverpool defenders who saved the day. Liverpool had a corner in the last minute of added time, which was headed over by Mane, who had been Liverpool's main threat. He had been very well policed by Kyle Walker-Peters, who won Sky's man of the match award.
Ralf Hasenhuttl was quite overcome with emotion after this precious win. The Southampton manager previously worked in Germany and is a long-time admirer of Jurgen Klopp. Not only was this a great result for Southampton who are now only four points behind Liverpool, but also of course for the other teams who must be regarded as legitimate contenders for an open title race, including Spurs.
Friday 1st January, 2021
Everton 0-1 West Ham
Man Utd 2-1 A. Villa
Saturday 2nd January, 2021
Spurs 3-0 Leeds
C. Palace 2-0 Sheff Utd
Brighton 3-3 Wolves
West Brom 0-4 Arsenal
Sunday 3rd January, 2021
Burnley P Fulham
Newcastle 1-2 Leicester
Chelsea 1-3 Man City
Monday 4th January, 2021
S'hampton 1-0 Liverpool
Premier League Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Liverpool 17 9 6 2 37-21 16 33
2. Man Utd 16 10 3 3 33-24 9 33
3. Leicester 17 10 2 5 31-21 10 32
4. Spurs 16 8 5 3 29-15 14 29
5. Man City 15 8 5 2 24-13 11 29
6. S'hampton 17 8 5 4 26-19 7 29
7. Everton 16 9 2 5 26-20 6 29
8. A. Villa 15 8 2 5 29-16 13 26
9. Chelsea 17 7 5 5 32-21 11 26
10. West Ham 17 7 5 5 24-21 3 26
11. Arsenal 17 7 2 8 20-19 1 23
12. Leeds 17 7 2 8 30-33 -3 23
13. Wolves 17 6 4 7 18-24 -6 22
14. C. Palace 17 6 4 7 22-29 -7 22
15. Newcastle 16 5 4 7 18-26 -8 19
16. Burnley 15 4 4 7 9-20 -11 16
17. Brighton 17 2 8 7 21-28 -7 14
18. Fulham 15 2 5 8 13-23 -10 11
19. West Brom 17 1 5 11 11-39 -28 8
20. Sheff Utd 17 0 2 15 8-29 -21 2