Premier League Review – Matchday 23
Saturday 6th February, 2021
Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 0
Villa completed a first top flight “double” over Arsenal for 28 years. Ollie Watkins’ second minute goal was enough to secure the points to leapfrog Spurs for a day, leaving Arsenal behind in 10th place. With Leno suspended, Mikel Arteta gave Mat Ryan (on loan from Brighton) his debut. Ryan is apparently a boyhood gooners’ fan.
Watkins’ goal followed a weak defensive pass by Cedric, seized by Bertrand Traore, who crossed low to Watkins. Watkins shot took a strong deflection from Holding and beat Ryan low inside his right post. Arsenal had a free kick after 28 minutes when Grealish fouled Saka. The kick was taken well by Xhaka and Martinez saved well diving to his left, conceding a corner against his former team. There was a nice move down the left channel between Watkins and Barkley before Traore tried to chip Ryan, who saved. Barkley’s follow-up was saved.
Saka was fouled by Konsa some 40 yards from goal. Konsa was booked but in his post-match comments, Arteta thought Konsa should have been shown a red card for preventing a goal-scoring opportunity.
In the second half, Pepe put a shot wide across the goal after Smith-Rowe’s short central run and subsequent pass. Saka had a shot well blocked by Targett after Bellerin had passed to Saka after another central run. Xhaka lifted a pass to Pepe on the left of the area and his shot was well saved and blocked near the right-hand post. Pepe had another shot from a similar position saved by the legs of Martinez after 68 minutes. Watkins fed the ball to Grealish towards the left of the Arsenal area. Grealish’s shot was well saved by Ryan, diving to his left. After 82 minutes, Grealish stole the ball off Smith-Rowe and he provided the chance for Watkins, whose shot passed just the wrong side of Ryan’s left post.
Odegaard came off the bench and had a good chance inside the area in the closing stages, but he hit his left foot shot over the target.
Burnley 1 Brighton 1
This was the battle of the recent Liverpool-beaters! Both teams maintained their distance from the bottom three with this draw. Ashley Barnes, who had scored Burnley’s penalty at Anfield, was back in the side.
Burnley had a free kick after 25 minutes, taken by McNeil. The ball tested Sanchez, who saved at his left post. From the corner which passed across the area Tarkowski’s shot was also saved and cleared. Brighton took the lead in the 36th minute when Lewis Dunk headed home from Gross’s corner, taken on the right. Aaron Connolly started this game, and he had a shot tipped round the left post by Pope before the end of the first half.
Burnley equalised in the 53rd minute. Barnes had a shot blocked on the right of the area. The ball ran to Pieters, whose powerful drive was saved by Sanchez, but the ball reached Gudmundsson just inside the area near Barnes’ original position and he did not fail. Brighton had not conceded a goal for 458 minutes. Burnley hadn’t scored for over 240 minutes. Sanchez made a close-range save from Westwood’s 71st minute shot, and then managed to recover the ball despite Barnes’ attempt to follow-up.
Newcastle 3 Southampton 2
Newcastle had Allan Saint-Maximin in their starting line-up for the first time since November and Arsenal loanee Joe Willock was also in the midfield three with Almiron behind Wilson. Southampton were not as weak as anticipated. Bednarek's red card following the 9-0 at Old Trafford had been overturned. Vestergaard returned next to him, and Ralf Hasenhuttl also had a loanee in midfield - Takumi Minamino from Liverpool. Romeu also returned to bolster the midfield.
The match was played in persistent rain. There were early threats at each end. Wilson had the ball in the net after 7 minutes, but he had been offside when Shelvey had passed the ball. Willock had a debut goal in the 16th minute. Saint-Maximin took on a long ball down the left flank and ran into the area teeing up Willock with a simple pass back inside the area.
Danny Ings ran onto a nice back-heeled pass by Che Adams after 22 minutes but Darlow saved his shot. Newcastle had a second goal in the 26th minute. Almiron took a pass from Saint-Maximin who was ahead of him on the left side of the area. Almiron hit a shot from the left which was turned into the net off the unfortunate Bednarek, capping a personal nightmare week.
Minamino scored an excellent goal in the 30th minute, taking a pass from Bertrand before advancing into the left of the box, scoring with a rising left-footed shot.
Newcastle had to make two substitutions during the first half with Krafth and Joelinton replacing the injured Manquillo and Wilson. There were four minutes of added time and in the last of these Alex McCarthy made an awful attempted clearance, intended for Bertrand, but stolen by Almiron who scored inside the keeper’s left post. There was no doubt this was Almiron's goal. It was the first time in over 5 years that Newcastle had scored three first half goals in the Premier League.
The heavy rain progressively affected the playing surface in the second half. Shelvey had a great chance to add to the score in the first minute after the break after good work by Joelinton and Willock, but the Newcastle captain pulled his attempt wide from the middle of the area. Ward-Prowse got a goal back with an excellent free kick from 25 yards in the 48th minute. Jeff Hendrick was then shown a second yellow card for shoving Minamino in the back. This free kick was a lot further out and came to nothing.
Darlow had to make a good save from Vestergaard's close range header from a Southampton corner. After taking a short cross from Redmond, Danny Ings saw his right foot shot across Darlow rebound off the far post. Darlow managed to grab the ball afterwards. Redmond had a shot blocked. Ings was offside for his pass, as was Che Adams who did put the ball in the net.
Most of the action was now in the Newcastle half as the "Magpies" formed a five-man defensive wall, depending upon an occasional break. They did have an attack where Almiron was fouled by Bednarek just outside the area. Schar took the kick which he hit into the wall, challenging to recover the ball, seriously injuring himself in the process. Schar was stretchered off. Newcastle had used their three subs and were down to 9 men with 78 minutes on the clock. They would also have to negotiate added time.
There was some desperate defending at times. Dummett had been Steve Bruce's third substitute (for Saint-Maximin) before Schar's injury, and he made several vital headed clearances. Darlow failed to hold a long ball after 88 minutes and Ings's follow-up was cleared off the line, but there had been a foul on the keeper anyway. There were 6 minutes of added time, but Newcastle held on.
Newcastle have beaten Everton at home and away this season, plus West Ham away, but I would suggest this was their best result of the season. It was a heroic performance.
Fulham 0 West Ham United 0
Fulham made three changes with Lemina, Cordova-Reid and Cavaleiro coming in for Alina, Anguissa and Mitrovic. David Moyes' one change was for Jarrod Bowen to return in place of Ryan Fredericks. Fulham had 22-year-old striker Josh Maja on the bench. He is on loan from Bordeaux, but he has only scored three goals in the last calendar year.
Cresswell hit an early free kick over for West Ham before at the other end Loftus-Cheek led two attacks where Fulham had shots on goal blocked and cleared.
After 20 minutes, Cresswell found Benrahma on the left of the Fulham box with a good ball. Benrahma fed it to Rice at the back of the area on the left and the England midfielder hit a low shot towards Areola's right post. The goalkeeper saved comfortably. Lookman had a shot go just wide after 34 minutes, after receiving from Cavaleiro on his right.
Lotus-Cheek made a good run early in the second half and was brought down just outside the area. The free kick taken by Cavaleiro was blocked then went out for a corner as Fabianski failed to hold or clear the ball properly. After the corner Andersen returned a good ball over the defence where Decordova-Reid got goal side of the defence but fired over from the right of the area. Soon after that, Lookman threaded a ball forward to Loftus-Cheek who was inside the area on the left, but the Chelsea loanee hit the back of the side netting.
West Ham came close after 63 minutes when Coufal got on the end of a Rice cross but headed against the top of the bar. Tosin headed over from a Fulham corner after 71 minutes. Fulham had had more attempts on goal than their opponents so far. Lookman had a free kick after 75 minutes which beat the "Hammers"' wall but passed wide of Fabianski's left post. Cavaleiro hit a shot way over the bar after Tete's good work getting into the area and across from the right.
Scott Parker put on both Mitrovic and Maja for Robinson and Lemina. Mitrovic got good contact on a Lookman ball from the left, but his shot passed just outside Fabianski’s right post. Anguissa hit another shot with power, but straight at the keeper. For all their efforts, that was only their second attempt on target.
After 89 minutes, Mitrovic challenged for a ball in the area and it fell for Loftus-Cheek who hit a strong low shot just outside the post. Fabianski was booked for wasting time, which is an indication of West Ham's feelings about the game.
In the last minute of added time Andersen was booked for a blatant foul on Yarmolenko. As West Ham were preparing to take the kick, Mitrovic made the most of an elbow in the face from Soucek, which was not deliberate. Referee Mike Dean was called to the monitor and Soucek was sent off for violent conduct. Mitrovic seemed to be pleading Soucek's case as the referee walked to the monitor. The red card has since been rescinded on appeal, as the contact was regarded as accidental.
It was a moment of controversy at the end of a game which had contained no malice.
Manchester United 3 Everton 3
This match was played on the 63rd anniversary of the Munich air crash which so decimated the 1958 United team. Both teams wore black armbands, and the game was preceded by a minute's silence.
United started with Pogba playing next to McTominay. Greenwood was one of the three behind Cavani. Fernandes and Rashford were the other two. Olsen was in goal again for Everton, who played Davies, Gomes and Doucoure in midfield behind Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, and Rodriguez.
Everton had made a few forays into the United half, particularly when Digne led them forward but there was little action for either goalkeeper in the first quarter of the game. United began to dominate in terms of possession and territorial advance. Greenwood made a mazy run into the right side of the area before hitting a shot, but that passed a distance wide of the far post. United took the lead in the 24th minute when Rashford lifted a ball from the right and Cavani headed in at the back post.
Pogba had to go off injured and was replaced by Fred after 39 minutes. There was a moment of excitement for Everton after Digne got deep into the United half and Richarlison tried a shot to the far post from that side. I think De Gea always knew the shot was passing wide. Bruno Fernandes scored a nonchalant but superb goal in the 45th minute. He had let a ball run to Wan-Bissaka to his right before taking the return then scoring with a right-footed shot that curved a little and dipped under the bar beyond Olsen's reach. Calvert-Lewis had a chance when he appeared to beat the offside trap but pushed his shot wide anyway.
Early in the second half Luke Shaw advanced and took a wall pass from Cavani before hitting a shot that was saved strongly by Olsen, moving to his left. Everton got a soft goal back in the 49th minute. Davies sent Calvert-Lewin away who got goal-side of Harry Maguire towards the left of goal. Calvert-Lewin's short range shot had no power, but De Gea failed to hold the ball and parried it to the feet of Doucoure, who scored.
The scores were level inside 52 minutes. They had advanced again down the left, but the ball was crossed to Doucoure who was on the right of the United area. Doucoure passed inside and James Rodriguez scored with an excellent low driven shot inside De Gea's left post.
Rashford was denied by Olsen after taking a short pass from Cavani before advancing inside the left of the Everton area. United regained the lead in the 70th minute. They had a free kick on the left, taken by Luke Shaw. McTominay rose and headed inside the far post. Olsen should have saved this one. United had more pressure after 76 minutes with a shot by Fernandes passing over the bar. A minute later, Rashford should have scored when he was found in space inside the area by Cavani. Rashford chose to get the ball onto his left foot but fired wide across the goal.
After 85 minutes, Digne got ahead of Gomes to receive a pass, hitting a shot inside the area which hit the back of the outside of De Gea's right-hand post. Maguire was looking for a foul when challenged by Calvert-Lewin, but referee Jon Moss was not interested. Calvert-Lewin passed inside to Richarlison who should have done better with his shot but pushed it wide under pressure from two defenders.
There were four added minutes indicated, this time was extended after substitute Tuanzebe was booked for a foul on Everton sub Josh King on the left. Digne swung in a long free kick. Keane got a touch and Calvert-Lewin got behind Maguire and scored with a low shot past De Gea. This was a dramatic moment and comeback having been two goals down.
Sunday 7th February, 2021
Spurs 2 West Bromwich Albion 0
Harry Kane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg shared your man of the match accolade. As mentioned in the match report, Harry drew level with our second highest club goalscorer Bobby Smith, with 208 goals. Both players records stand with 317 appearances. There are, of course, more goals and more appearances to come from Harry, who has now scored 20 or more goals in seven successive seasons – a club record. He is quite a phenomenon.
Hojbjerg has quite a record too. He is our only outfield player to have played every minute of this season’s Premier League campaign so far. Hugo has also played every minute. Heung-min son is the only other player to have started every one of our league games to date, but he has been substituted several times.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Leicester City 0
Jonny was back for Wolves after an ACL injury, playing for the first time since August, when Wolves were still wrapping up last season in Europe. Jamie Vardy was on the bench for Leicester.
Pedro Neto made an excellent run after 15 minutes, getting down the left flank and deep into the Leicester area before cutting the ball back to Traore, who made a hash of his attempt on goal, although James Justin did block the weak shot. Wolves defenders blocked Leicester’s efforts after 34 minutes with Iheanacho, Barnes and Maddison threatening to score.
Jonny was replaced in the second half by Hoever. Traore crossed for Neto who was at the back post, but Ricardo managed to clear. Barnes had a shot towards Rui Patricio’s left post, but the shot took a deflection and passed wide for a corner. With 14 minutes to play, Wolves had a corner on the right and Fabio Silva sneaked behind the Leicester line to collect Neves’ pass. Schmeichel made an important save and there was no offside flag either. Vardy did come off the bench and had a chance in added time with a header from Albrighton’s cross, but he put that wide.
Liverpool 1 Manchester City 4
“Alisson Blunderland” was a well-used headline after a game in which Liverpool’s ace goalkeeper gifted not one, but two goals to the Premier League leaders and clear favourites. City’s Phil Foden, still only 20, was also the headline maker with a man of the match performance which included his fifth Premier League goal of the season. Foden played at “false nine” for City. Liverpool lost a third successive home game since 1963. Even Jurgen Klopp admitted that his side would have to aim to keep a Champions League place.
Liverpool did have Fabinho back next to Henderson, but of course these are both makeshift defenders. Mane was also back as part of the usual front three. Mane put the first decent chance of the game over the target, when he headed Alexander-Arnold’s cross after 24 minutes. Five minutes later Firmino hit a right foot shot towards Ederson’s left corner, but the keeper was well-positioned to make the save.
Sterling went down under Fabinho’s challenge and referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Top league scorer Gundogan hit a quite appalling shot over the bar. The goal-less first half gave no indication of the second half feast to come.
The first goal was scored by Gundogan after 49 minutes. Foden had two chances at a pass to Sterling, and when he (Sterling) took the return his shot was saved by Alisson but parried to Gundogan who could not miss this time. Liverpool were awarded a penalty when Salah fell after a slight touch by Ruben Dias. The Egyptian did score from the spot in the 63rd minute. After a foul on Foden by Fabinho and a short free kick taken by Gundogan, Foden crossed and Stones converted, but this shot was wiped off by an offside decision.
Alisson’s first clear blunder came in the 73rd minute. He had already struggled under pressure trying to play out from the back with a pass to Fabinho, and when the ball soon came back to him the goalkeeper kicked it straight at Foden who got into the right side of the area and teed up Gundogan for another close-range finish. Three minutes later the keeper did it again. This time passing to Bernardo Silva, who lifted a simple cross towards the back post where Sterling headed into the net. The £70 million plus keeper had to hang his head in shame.
Gabriel Jesus came off the bench and Foden capped his day when he received a pass towards the right of the area, coming inside Robertson before beating Alisson with a rocket left-footed shot. No keeper was going to stop that one. It was City’s 14th consecutive win in all competitions.
Sheffield United 1 Chelsea 2
Thomas Tuchel maintained the back three strategy with Christensen replacing the injured Thiago. Olivier Giroud got the nod up front, playing between Mason Mount and Timo Werner. Ollie Burke took a pass from McBurnie within the first minute and hit a shot just outside the keeper’s right post. After 11 minutes Bryan crossed from the left and Basham went down in the area under Chilwell’s challenge. Referee Kevin Friend paused before awarding a penalty, but VAR found an offside anyway.
Chelsea had little sight of goal in the first half but took the lead in the 43rd minute when Werner passed the ball back to Mount who was central at the back of the area. Mount made no mistake with a left foot shot inside the post. The “Blades” were gifted an equaliser after 54 minutes when Rudiger passed into his own net past Mendy after intercepting a McBurnie ball intended for Burke.
Werner intercepted an intended back pass for Ramsdale and when he got into the area, went down as Ramsdale slid in. Initially Mr. Friend said, “No penalty”, but changed his mind after viewing the monitor. Jorginho scored his penalty in the 5th minute, and this one did come with a skip. Rudiger redeemed himself to a degree with an important block from Fleck, who had made a good penetrating run deep into the Chelsea area. Substitute Brewster, still seeking his first United goal, had two shots blocked at the start of added time. Billy Sharp had an overhead shot saved in the 6th minute of added time.
Monday 8th February, 2021
Leeds United 2 Crystal Palace 0
Leeds were unchanged but Palace were missing the injured Wilfried Zaha. Batshuayi and Benteke were on the bench but Roy Hodgson gave a debut to recent loan signing Jean-Phillippe Mateta, who has arrived from Mainz. Palace could only manage 6 players on the bench.
Leeds had the best possible start, scoring inside the third minute. The goal followed a Palace failure to clear from deep on the left with Dallas providing the final pass to Harrison who scored from the edge of the area with a deflected right foot shot which beat Guaita beneath his bar.
After 9 minutes Bamford met a cross by Alioski and his header was saved by the Palace keeper, with Bamford slipping and failing to reach the half-cleared ball. Palace were hardly getting into the Leeds half and they gave the ball away again after 21 minutes allowing Bamford to advance towards the goal. Bamford scooped a shot way too high.
Palace at last managed to spend more time in the Leeds half and Jordan Ayew did force a save from Meslier after 35 minutes with a low shot towards the keeper's left post. Leeds had a corner on the left after 42 minutes, following which Struijk received a good cross by Phillips. Strangely, the Leeds defender headed the ball not goalward, but back towards the left flank. Struijk had put an earlier header over the target from another corner. He had a good chance in the second half from another corner, but that was cleared.
Andros Townsend replaced Patrick Van Aanholt at half-time but played on the right of midfield. Palace already had Mitchell at left back. Palace started the second half brightly, but Patrick Bamford made it 2-0 after 52 minutes. Raphinha collected a Klich ball on the left side of the area and Guaita saved his shot well but could only parry the ball which ran to Bamford who was able to pick his spot. It was Bamford's 100th career goal.
Batshuayi replaced the debut boy Mateta after 65 minutes, not that Palace had ventured that far forward on enough occasions.
Guaita saved well from Dallas at his right post after 70 minutes. Benteke was added to the Palace armoury, replacing Jordan Ayew. Harrison picked up a loose ball (by Clyde) after 83 minutes and hit the bar with a left foot shot.
The win put Leeds into the top half of the table above Arsenal.
Saturday 6th February, 2021
A. Villa 1-0 Arsenal
Burnley 1-1 Brighton
Newcastle 3-2 S'hampton
Fulham 0-0 West Ham
Man Utd 3-3 Everton
Sunday 7th February, 2021
Spurs 2-0 West Brom
Wolves 0-0 Leicester
Liverpool 1-4 Man City
Sheff Utd 1-2 Chelsea
Monday 8th February, 2021
Leeds 2-0 C. Palace
Premier League Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Man City 22 15 5 2 43-14 29 50
2. Man Utd 23 13 6 4 49-30 19 45
3. Leicester 23 13 4 6 39-25 14 43
4. Liverpool 23 11 7 5 44-29 15 40
5. Chelsea 23 11 6 6 38-24 14 39
6. West Ham 23 11 6 6 34-28 6 39
7. Everton 21 11 4 6 34-28 6 37
8. Spurs 22 10 6 6 36-22 14 36
9. A. Villa 21 11 2 8 36-24 12 35
10. Leeds 22 10 2 10 38-38 0 32
11. Arsenal 23 9 4 10 27-23 4 31
12. S'hampton 22 8 5 9 29-37 -8 29
13. C. Palace 23 8 5 10 27-39 -12 29
14. Wolves 23 7 6 10 23-31 -8 27
15. Brighton 23 5 10 8 25-30 -5 25
16. Newcastle 23 7 4 12 25-38 -13 25
17. Burnley 22 6 5 11 14-29 -15 23
18. Fulham 22 2 9 11 17-31 -14 15
19. West Brom 23 2 6 15 18-54 -36 12
20. Sheff Utd 23 3 2 18 15-37 -22 11