Premier League Review – Matchday 31
Following the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh on Friday 9th April, all Premier League matches were preceded by a two-minute silence, and all players and officials wore black armbands.
Friday 9th April, 2021
Fulham 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
There was no Tosin at the back (he was on the bench) and no Lookman (injured) for Fulham, so Scott Parker played Kongolo in a back three with Tete and Robinson playing at wing-back. Mitrovic was up front again. Wolves played a back four. Wolves had an early free kick floated in from the right by Semedo, and this was headed wide across the goalmouth by Willian Jose.
Andersen sprayed some nice long passes to his wing-backs, but nothing came of these moves until Robinson crossed after 27 minutes and Loftus-Cheek headed wide across the goal. Mitrovic had a shot well blocked by Coady after receiving a short, lofted ball from Harrison Reed. Pedro Neto had to go off with an injury after 32 minutes and was replaced by Moutinho. Wolves also reverted to a back three.
Mitrovic had a chance with a header after Robinson's cross three minutes before half time, but the striker put his header wide. Wolves thought they had the lead in first half added time when Podence crossed from the right and Willian Jose headed in what would have been a first Wolves goal. Podence was found to be offside (by a whisker) by VAR.
There were no clear chances at either end early in the second half. Anguissa replaced Loftus-Cheek after 63 minutes. Wolves had a free kick 20 yards out after 67 minutes. Neves and Saiss stood over the ball. Saiss took the kick and put the ball wide. Maja replaced Harrison Reed in the 74th minute. Fabio Silva came on in place of Willian Jose 4 minutes later.
Robinson had a decent effort after 81 minutes trying to place a right-footed shot inside Rui Patricio's left post. The goalkeeper was alert and saved comfortably. Fulham's last throw of the dice regarding substitutions was Cavaleiro for Aina. Wolves had a free kick from the left and Moutinho's header was on target but held by Areola.
Adama Traore grabbed the points for Wolves in the second minute of added time with his first league goal for 16 months. Fulham had been pressing for a precious goal, but Traore was sent away by Fabio Silva's sharp pass and scored with a right-footed shot from an angle on the right. It was a heart-breaking defeat for the home side whose struggle against relegation will continue. The win put Wolves onto 38 points, surely enough to ensure another Premier League season.
Saturday 10th April, 2021
Manchester City 1 Leeds United 2
Nathan Ake made his first start since Boxing Day. Ake was one of seven changes after City's Champions League game, which included Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Zinchenko, Ferran Torres, Mendy and Fernandinho. There was, of course, an array of talent on the bench. Sergio Aguero was not in the squad. Guardiola clearly had his eyes on City's quarter-final second leg game in Dortmund this week.
Leeds were not allowed to play Harrison, who is on loan from City, so they included Helder Costa. Leeds created the two best opportunities in the first 15 minutes, exposing space on City's left flank where Zinchenko was playing in front of Mendy. Both Raphinha and Roberts hit balls into the area for Bamford, but sadly behind the striker. Sterling finally brought a save from Meslier after 18 minutes with a right foot shot from the left of the area after Fernandinho's pass. Both Torres and Jesus had shots blocked following a City corner three minutes later.
City soon began to dominate possession and Sterling had a couple of decent chances go wide, the second of which was teed up by Fernandinho after a good run. However, Leeds took a surprise lead in the 42nd minute following a long ball down the left flank which was picked up by Helder Costa. He passed inside to Bamford who laid the ball on for Dallas whose right-footed shot hit the inside of the post and rolled behind the line into the goal.
With first half added time approaching Liam Cooper was initially shown a yellow card by referee Andre Marriner following a challenge upon Gabriel Jesus, but VAR called the referee to the monitor and the card was upgraded to red, as the challenge had been high and dangerous. Bamford was sacrificed so that Struijk could cover at centre-back.
John Stones had made several runs forward throughout the game, but one after 53 minutes nearly created a goal after his pass to Zinchenko, whose low shot was well saved by Meslier diving low to his left.
Pep Guardiola took off Ake for Gundogan with 58 minutes on the clock. Fernandinho took over at centre-back whilst Zinchenko and Mendy swapped roles. The play was generally in one direction, but City's efforts were either off target, or being well defended by Leeds. Fernandinho hit a 25 yard shot after 70 minutes which was pushed over the goal by Meslier. Cancelo had a left foot shot saved and held by the busy Leeds keeper.
Foden replaced Mendy. The equaliser soon followed when Fernandinho passed forward to Bernardo Silva, who passed inside to Torres who scored with a low shot. (76 mins) After all their defending, Raphinha made a breakaway which was thwarted by a great tackle by Ederson, who also cleared in one motion.
Bernardo Silva went close with a left foot shot across goal after 87 minutes, but 10-man Leeds stole the points with an added time goal by Stuart Dallas as he broke away to take on an excellent pass by Alioski before finishing confidently through Ederson's legs. It was City's fourth league defeat, but they remain well clear at the top of the table.
Liverpool 2 Aston Villa 1
Jurgen Klopp made a couple of changes with Mane and Keita on the bench, replaced by Firmino and Milner. Villa included Nakamba and Trezeguet. Villa captain Jack Grealish is expected to be out for another two weeks after suffering a setback in his comeback from injury.
Liverpool were seeking to avenge a surprise 7-2 beating early in the season at Villa Park.
After an early corner and a cross by Alexander-Arnold, Salah had a shot which was saved and held by Martinez at his right-hand post. Salah made an uncharacteristic miss after being let in on goal by Mings' error in failing to deal with Jota's attempted through ball. The ball reached Salah who pushed his shot wide.
Konsa had an on-target header following a Villa free kick after 21 minutes which was Alisson’s first required save. Liverpool had a couple of chances after 31 minutes. Firstly Alexander-Arnold hit a shot which passed over the roof of the net, and then from a corner taken by Robertson, Jota headed just as close to the top of Martinez's goal.
Liverpool had been in charge and had most chances, but when McGinn pushed a ball to Watkins and he hit a left foot shot, Alisson got a touch low to his right, but let the ball slip under his right arm into the net at the Kop End (43 mins). It looked as if Liverpool had equalised in added time after Jota picked up Alexander-Arnold's long pass before passing inside. Robertson had a shot blocked after Salah slipped him the ball, before Firmino mis-kicked the ball into the net. There was a lengthy VAR review to check firstly if Cash had got a touch to the ball on its way to Jota, and then to establish that Jota had been marginally offside when the original pass had been made. The review took an age.
There were shots at either end, but they were off target, before Liverpool equalised in the 57th minute. Robertson's shot could only be parried by Martinez and Salah was on hand to sweep up. After 61 minutes Watkins was deep in the Liverpool area and passed back to Trezeguet who prodded his shot across the goal, only to see the ball rebound across the goal off the inside of the post. Trezeguet tried to score from the rebound with a header, but that was wide.
With 74 minutes on the clock, Jurgen Klopp put on Sadio Mane for Firmino. Shaqiri was a late change for Liverpool, replacing Kabak with Fabinho moving into defence. Shaqiri was involved in Liverpool's winning goal in added time as he crossed from the right and another sub Thiago Alcantara had a shot very well saved by Martinez. The ball ran out to Alexander-Arnold who was inside the area towards the left and hammered home his right-footed shot. Just before the final whistle Shaqiri sent Mane away with a very good pass, but Martinez was equal to Mane's shot.
The win put Liverpool back in the top four before Chelsea's game. Liverpool's last home win in the Premier League was 9 games ago on 16th December, against Spurs. They had lost their previous 6 home league games.
Crystal Palace 1 Chelsea 4
Roy Hodgson started with the same side as that which drew at Goodison Park and included 18-year-old midfielder Jesurun Rak-Sakyi on the bench. Chelsea had Zouma in for Christensen whilst Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic came in for James and Werner, both of whom were on the bench. Batshuayi was ineligible to take part for Palace as he is a Chelsea loanee.
The early possession stats suggested Vicente Guaita was in for another busy game, and he made a good save from Pulisic who met Mount's cross from the right. The goalkeeper couldn’t stop Havertz scoring though after Chelsea won the ball back on the right of the area and Havertz scored with a well-placed shot across the keeper (8 mins). It was 2-0 within two minutes as Chilwell passed forward to Havertz, who this time cut the ball back for Pulisic who scored with a powerful shot high into Guaita's net. A repeat of the West Brom score did not look likely.
Havertz showed delightful touch in the Palace box after 21 minutes, taking a lofted ball from Jorginho and lifting the ball over Van Aanholt with his first touch before forcing a save from Guaita with a right-footed shot. It was 3-0 inside 30 minutes after Chilwell was brought down by Kouyate, who was booked. Mason Mount swung in the free kick and Zouma headed into the net.
Palace finally got forward and threatened when Ayew's cross was cleared inside the 6-yard area by Azpilicueta.
Palace had one or two promising attacks early in the second half, but Chelsea continued to look the sharper of the two sides. Benteke got a goal back in the 63rd minute with a nice header from a good cross by substitute Jeffrey Schlupp. Havertz took on a neat forward pass by Pulisic and tested Guaita with a left-footed shot after 67 minutes.
It was 4-1 in the 78th minute. Chelsea had been enjoying success down the right flank through Hudson-Odoi, but his replacement Reece James provided a cross which led to the goal scored at the back post by Pulisic after the cross had taken a deflection. Mason Mount had provided the pass for James.
Sunday 11th April, 2021
Burnley 1 Newcastle United 2
It was looking grim for Newcastle and manager Steve Bruce as they were a goal down before Bruce brought on star players Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin after 57 minutes. Maximin was the real star as he laid on Jacob Murphy’s stunning equaliser, before scoring a solo winner to give Newcastle a healthier six-point lead over Fulham with a game in hand.
Burnley were without Nick Pope, due to a shoulder injury and his place was taken by Peacock-Farrell. An additional problem for Steve Bruce was the absence of his captain Jamaal Lascelles.
Vydra fielded a long ball deep inside the Newcastle area and Burnley won a corner, taken by Westwood. Dubravka made a good save from Brownhills’s flick at the near post. Burnley did have the lead after 18 minutes when Wood carried a ball into the area on the left and when he cut it into the centre of the area, Vydra was in space and scored from close range. This looked like being a hammer blow to Newcastle for so long.
Gayle did have the ball in the net after 35 minutes, but he had been offside, although not by the margin that he and most others thought. Peacock-Farrell saved, albeit not cleanly, a cross by Murphy and as the ball rose up Tarkowski cleared from the advancing Sean Longstaff with a high boot. There was a debate and a VAR review regarding dangerous play, but no penalty and no sanction was given. Dubravka had to save to his left on the stretch to prevent a Dummett own goal after a Burnley corner in first half added time, but the danger was cleared.
Dubravka made an excellent save from Lowton early in the second half after Burnley had won a corner and Lowton had two shots at goal, the first of which was blocked. The second was a dipping shot which Dubravka acrobatically pushed over his bar. On came the Newcastle cavalry in the shape of that double substitution. The move bore fruit almost immediately as Saint-Maximin got to the bye-line inside the area on the right, passing back to Jacob Murphy, who arrowed a shot into the far corner of the goal from the edge of the area.
The second goal belonged only to Saint-Maximin who picked up a pass just inside the Burnley half, advancing to the area where he cut to his left and beat the goalkeeper with a low left-footed shot inside the keeper’s left post. The goalscorer’s dance of delight would have been enjoyed all over Tyneside.
In the closing stages Saint-Maximin had the beating of Tarkowski inside the Burnley area but when he passed back to Almiron, the Burnley centre-back saved the shot with a goal-line clearance.
West Ham United 3 Leicester City 2
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers disclosed that three of his players - Maddison, Perez, and Choudhury - had been punished by being left out of his squad after they breached Covid rules and attended a party (apparently hosted by Perez). With Harvey Barnes and Soyuncu also missing, Leicester were clearly hampered, and West Ham took full advantage, despite a bit of a scare because of Iheanacho’s late goals for the “Foxes”. West Ham were missing Antonio as well as Declan Rice. Club captain Mark Noble made his 400th Premier League appearance for the club. He has also made 58 Championship and 66 Cup appearances for the club. Loanee Jesse Lingard once again starred, scoring the first two goals before half-time.
Goal number one for Lingard came in the 29th minute. It was a move he had started with a ball out to the left, but eventually it reached Coufal on the right of the area and when he cut it back Lingard scored with a half-volley which curled just inside Schmeichel’s left post. Goal number two was in the 44th minute when Bowen raced onto a long ball down the right and with the Leicester defence stretched, he passed to Lingard to his left who had a straightforward finish. The goal survived the VAR review with both Bowen and Lingard looking offside to my naked eye.
Lingard was involved in the third goal, scored three minutes into the second half. He passed inside from the left to Soucek, who continued the move with a short pass to Bowen who scored with a left foot shot from 12 yards. Lingard even made the potential fourth goal when Issa Diop headed in, but this one had been offside. Iheanacho scored his first goal in the 70th minute after Masuaku lost the ball. The former Manchester City man scored convincingly from 20 yards. Fabianski stole the ball off Ricardo’s feet after he had exchanged passes with Tielemans and got into a scoring position inside the box.
There were six minutes of added time and “The Hammers” were made to sweat after Iheanacho added a second goal in the first of these minutes. Albrighton crossed from the right of the box and the ball slipped past three defenders enabling Iheanacho to grab his opportunity from 10 yards. There was some desperate defending against Ricardo with Schmeichel coming up for a last ditch corner, but West Ham held on and drew within a point of Leicester.
Spurs 1 Manchester United 3
On what was another bad day for Spurs, Heung-min Son was voted our best player.
I received many comments, most of which referred to our manager, who is now subject to widespread press speculation about a not-too-distant departure.
Sheffield Utd 0 Arsenal 3
Arsenal drew to within four points of Spurs with this win. There were early chances for Saka and McGoldrick at either end. Martinelli’s shot into the side netting came at the end of good team move by Arsenal, which was a pre-cursor of one the following goals. Lacazette scored in the 33rd minute after a sequence of good passes in and around the area with Partey, Saka and Ceballos also involved. Egan had shot saved at the second attempt by Leno after Partey lost the ball and “The Blades” won a corner just before the break.
Arsenal’s second goal came in the 71st minute when Pepe broke into the area and fired at Ramsdale who could not hold the shot. Martinelli swept in the loose rebounding ball. The third goal came five minutes before the end and was scored by Lacazette after Partey passed forward.
Monday 12th April, 2021
West Brom 3 Southampton 0
West Brom have now scored 8 goals in their last two games, which have been their first back-to-back wins of the season. Apart from their five Premier League wins, the “Baggies”’ only other win was an early season 3-0 Carabao Cup gaame against Harrogate. Southampton fielded what is currently a strong team, but perhaps their players had cast their thoughts and energy towards Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Leicester.
West Brom had a free kick after three minutes, following which Phillips’ shot was parried by Forster. Furlong followed-up with a right foot shot from 15 yards which was headed into the net by Diagne, but there followed VAR controversy after the assistant referee had flagged Diagne offside. Ultimately the word from Stockley Park was that due to "The position of the camera we couldn't draw a definitive line." So, they had to stick with the original offside decision from the linesman.
Kyle Walker-Peters demonstrated excellent skill near the corner flag on the right, getting away from Townsend before hitting a shot at Johnstone who saved at his left-hand post. Redmond, Armstrong and Ings threatened in the West Brom area after 26 minutes, but Danny Ings could only hit a ball across the area from the left of goal, and the defence was able to clear.
Pereira fed a ball to Diagne, but the striker pushed his shot wide. Pereira was upturned by Fraser Forster’s clumsy challenge after Maitland-Niles had crossed short from the right, and Pereira scored from the spot-kick in the 32nd minute. It was 2-0 three minutes later as Diagne crossed from the left of goal to the back post where Phillips finished nicely.
West Brom had been on the back foot early in the second half and Southampton wanted a penalty when there was slight contact on Redmond, but the referee and VAR turned down the appeal. Referee Simon Hooper tried to play an advantage when Pereira was fouled by Diallo as he made a pass into the box, but when that failed the free kick was awarded. Yokuslu took the kick, but it passed a yard over the goal.
West Brom went three up in the 69th minute when Callum Robinson picked up Yokuslu’s excellent through ball and scored with a left foot shot inside the area. Robinson’s only previous Premier League goals had been against Chelsea.
There was no way back for Southampton, although they were awarded a penalty in added time when Djenepo was fouled by Townsend. Uncharacteristically, James Ward-Prowse failed from the spot, with Sam Johnstone making a good save to his right.
West Brom have shown they have some fight left, but I suspect they have left it too late for Premier League survival.
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Everton 0
Everton were missing top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Andre Gomes, and Allan. Along with the injured Jordan Pickford these players are all likely to be fit for Friday night’s Spurs game, but Carlo Ancelotti will have to manage that game without Bernard, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Josh King, Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Doucoure. Everton will start Friday’s game behind Spurs after this bore-draw which edges Brighton a little closer to safety. Yerry Mina did start this game but suffered an ankle injury early in the second half. Ben Godfrey was initially utilised in midfield for the “Toffees”, but then had to cover in defence. There were only 8 subs on the Everton bench, most of whom had no Premier League experience.
Brighton did the early pressing, winning a couple of corners, but gaining no reward. Everton had a free kick after 14 minutes, taken 25 yards out by Rodriguez, but hit over the bar. Moder had a shot go wide for Brighton before Sigurdsson’s ball for Richarlison was intercepted but nearly given away by the goalkeeper as Richarlison continued his chase. Maupay hit a right foot shot just wide after Trossard had picked up Bissouma’s long ball before passing inside after half an hour. Bissouma had a good overhead effort which landed on top of the Everton net.
Despite a little more intensity by both sides at the start of the second half there was no breakthrough. Brighton won a corner after Moder’s attempted cross for Welbeck, and from the corner, taken by Gross, Moder hit a shot just over the target. Coleman blocked a Lallana effort. Brighton were defending well, and after 75 minutes, Bissouma broke forward, feeding Welbeck, whose shot was well blocked. Maupay then fired wide from a good position after another Bissouma pass from his left inside the box.
Friday 9th April, 2021
Fulham 0-1 Wolves
Saturday 10th April, 2021
Man City 1-2 Leeds
Liverpool 2-1 A. Villa
C. Palace 1-4 Chelsea
Sunday 11th April, 2021
Burnley 1-2 Newcastle
West Ham 3-2 Leicester
Spurs 1-3 Man Utd
Sheff Utd 0-3 Arsenal
Monday 12th April, 2021
West Brom 3-0 S'hampton
Brighton 0-0 Everton
Premier League Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Man City 32 23 5 4 67-23 44 74
2. Man Utd 31 18 9 4 61-34 27 63
3. Leicester 31 17 5 9 55-37 18 56
4. West Ham 31 16 7 8 51-39 12 55
5. Chelsea 31 15 9 7 50-31 19 54
6. Liverpool 31 15 7 9 53-37 16 52
7. Spurs 31 14 7 10 52-35 17 49
8. Everton 30 14 6 10 41-38 3 48
9. Arsenal 31 13 6 12 43-35 8 45
10. Leeds 31 14 3 14 49-49 0 45
11. A. Villa 30 13 5 12 43-33 10 44
12. Wolves 31 10 8 13 31-41 -10 38
13. C. Palace 31 10 8 13 33-52 -19 38
14. S'hampton 31 10 6 15 39-56 -17 36
15. Brighton 31 7 12 12 33-38 -5 33
16. Burnley 31 8 9 14 25-42 -17 33
17. Newcastle 31 8 8 15 32-51 -19 32
18. Fulham 32 5 11 16 24-42 -18 26
19. West Brom 31 5 9 17 28-59 -31 24
20. Sheff Utd 31 4 2 25 17-55 -38 14