Well, what a quiet and uneventful Premier League weekend that was. I have no idea how I’m going to make this weekends football seem interesting. There was only 36 goals, a soft sending off, a few penalties and of course some good old fashioned refereeing mistakes. On second thoughts I probably need a week to write this review.
Manchester United 1 – Bournemouth 1
First game of the weekend and one which on paper looked like it should have been a home win, however football isn’t played on paper, if it was I may have been able to turn pro. United dominated the first half yet it was another home draw in a game which they should have won, especially in the first 20 minutes before Rojo opened the scoring for the home team. United then gave away a penalty, which was the correct call by referee Kevin Friend, in a game where he, unfortunately, helped make the headlines. The penalty was dispatched clinically by Joshua King and that ended the scoring for the game, but not the drama.
The game, which up to 30 minutes, had been very one sided, suddenly turned from a football match to handbags thanks to Ibrahimovic & Mings. The two players had been having a bit of tussle during the game and at one point Zlatan appeared to throw/push the Bournemouth defender over. Then came the first of what should have been 2 straight red cards which referee Friend missed as it appeared that Mings landed studs first on Zlatan’s head whilst he was on the floor. There is a question as to whether Mings did this on purpose or, as he was trying to get back into position to cut out a cross, landed unfortunately on Ibrahimovic’s head. I personally think that Mings knew where Zlatan was and could have ensured he wasn’t going to plant his foot anywhere near the strikers head. Then the retaliation, this came a few minutes later during a United corner, Zlatan could be seen telling Mings what he had done, and showed him the blood from the side of his head. As the ball came in, both players moved to the far post and as Zlatan jumped he swung an elbow which connected with Mings’ face. There is no question on this one, even if Zlatan says that Mings jumped into his elbow, but it should have been a red card, but, yet again it was missed by referee Friend.
Then probably the biggest mistake by Kevin Friend came in the aftermath of Zlatan’s elbow. Friend had already booked Surman for a tackle on Shaw, which was probably only just a foul, but was definitely not a booking, especially as Shaw had got away with a similar challenge earlier in the game. As Zlatan walked away from Mings who was lay on the Old Trafford turf, Surman approached the Swede and gave him a shove, to which, as modern footballers do, Zlatan fell to the ground. Friend immediately booked Surman and continued to try and figure out what to do about Zlatan and Mings, which was to tell off the United striker, but presented no further punishment. It was only after this was sorted did Friend then walked from the 6 yard box to the half way line to send off Surman, after Rooney and Shaw had made sure he knew he had made a mistake by not giving the red card immediately to the Bournemouth player. Then came half time.
The second half was dominated by United, who won their own penalty for a handball from Smith, which you could say was harsh yet the player did move his hand towards the ball, up stepped Zlatan, however Boruc, who like most visiting keepers to Old Trafford had a good game, saved it. United then threw everything in search of a winner yet they found it hard to breakdown a resolute Bournemouth side and in the end had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Swansea 3 – Burnley 2
Whilst his good pal, Kevin Friend, was having a torrid time at Old Trafford, Anthony Taylor made sure he got his name in the papers on Sunday, thanks to the pair of them having spent 3 days away on a Stag party in the build up to the weekends games, along with making his own mistake during the game. The game saw the inform Swansea side beat a Burnley side who have not been able to win away from Turf Moor all season although they did have the lead with just over 20 minutes to go.
Swansea dominated the game in terms of chances and posession and took the lead thanks to Llorente in the 9th minute. Burnley then came back and equalised before half time thanks to Taylor’s mistake. A ball in to the box hit someone’s hand, no questions about that, but whose hand? According to Taylor it was a Swansea players hand and therefore a penalty to Burnley, which Gray scored to equalise. However on watching the replays back it was clear that it was Burnley’s Sam Vokes who handled the ball and the decision should have been the other way, a definite example of why football may need to catch up to other sports in it’s use of technology. Burnley then took the lead when Gray scored on the turn after 60 minutes, yet their lead was short lived with Olsson scoring with a powerful strike less than 10 minutes later to equalise for the home side. Swansea, who hit the woodwork several times during the game, finally got a winner thanks to Llorente in the 92nd minute, meaning their revival under Clement continues, with the side picking up 15 of their 27 points in the last 8 games. Burnley on the other hand, will be glad when March ends as they do not have a home game, where they have picked up all of their league wins, till Spurs visit on 1st April.
Leicester 3 – Hull 1
Okay, so put your hands up all those who thought sacking Ranieri was the wrong thing to do? Now keep your hand up if you think Leicester would have won their last two games with him in charge? Yeah didn’t think many of you would keep your hands up. Leicester have now won twice under Shakespeare who is definitely making a claim for the job, yet going from caretaker to main man isn’t always the sweetest of moves, just ask Hull fans what happened once Mike Phelan got the job permanently earlier this season.
Leicester were back to how they were last season, and more importantly Vardy and Mahrez were back to how they were last season. This change in form for both club and players are what have revived them from a side which were looking dangerously like one who could go from Champions to Championship within 12 months to one which may be able to move away from the relegation places. However things did not begin great for the Foxes, after losing the ball to Clucas on the edge of Hulls box, the Tigers, sprang a good attacking move which ended with Clucas finishing from close range. This seemed to spark life back into the Foxes who then eqaulised thanks to good finish from Fuchs after a nice move between him and Vardy. Mahrez then remembered what made him unplayable at times last season and twisted Hull’s left back Robertson in knots before firing low into the net from 18 yards out. Huddlestone then scored an own goal as a cross went in off of him without him really knowing where the ball was to seal victory for the revived Foxes. Hull continue to look like a side which is destined for the drop, however their performances have improved, but unfortunately so have a lot of other sides around them.
Watford 3 – Southampton 4
Gabbiadini is beginning to stake his claim for the signing of the season (well January at least) as he scored again for the Saints who came from behind to win at Watford. Deeney gave the hosts the lead with a tidy side-foot volley into the top corner within the first 5 minutes. This seemed to wake up Southampton who probably felt a little bit like they should have spent this week celebrating a League Cup success had it not been for United’s luck last Sunday. It took 20 minutes for Southampton to equalise as Tadic powered a low shot in to the back of the net from just inside the 18 yard box and 20 minutes later they were in the lead thanks to the impressive Nathan Redmond, who had another bright game after impressing against United the week before. Watford then equalised with 10 minutes to go thanks to Okaka however 3 minutes later Gabbiadini got his 6th goal in 4 appearances for his new club. Redmond then got his second of the game a couple of minutes later, which effective ensured the win, however Watford did get a late goal to keep it interesting thanks to Doucoure, but it was too late to help his side find an equaliser.
Stoke 2 – Middlesbrough 0
Stoke City will be glad that Arnautovic has got his goal scoring boots back on as he scored twice to win the game for Mark Hughes side. Hughes who has options up front seems to think that Arnautovic, Sobhi Crouch and Allen are his go to men when it comes to winning games, meaning that Bony, Diouf, Walters and Beharino are all waiting in the wings for games, not a bad supporting cast for Stoke. Arnautovic was the player of the game, scoring with a superb controlled effort and tap in from a nod down from Crouch. Middlesbrough went into this game knowing a trip to the Britannia was going to be tough and will have left knowing that they did not really threaten in the game aside from a Gibson chance which was ruled out for offside. It does now mean that Karanka’s side have not scored in their last 4 games and are in serious trouble of going back to the Championship next season if they cannot find the back of the net.
West Brom 0 – Crystal Palace 2
Some people had started to doubt if ‘Big’ Sam would be able to save the Eagles from relegation (okay possibly just me) as he had not seen the upturn in results you would expect from the experienced manager and a squad which has had money spent on it. Yet on Saturday we saw Palace play against a West Brom side who, have been doing much better, than they did in this performance. It was a game which didn’t really excite until Zaha’s goal in the 55th minute which was a brilliant solo goal. Palace then won the game thanks to Townsend in the 84th minute after he had made a run the length of the pitch to get on to the score sheet. West Brom never really threatened and ended the game with only one shot on target. Pulis knows his side are safe but will be hoping for better performances in the future as he looks to continue their development. Palace will be hoping that this win will ignite their push away from the relegation zone after jumping above Middlesbrough and into 17th position.
Liverpool 3 – Arsenal 1
Okay, as a United fan, this result is painful, yet watching Arsenal implode is also pleasurable so I am really struggling how to analyse this game. Liverpool bounced back from their defeat at Leicester to thump an Arsenal side who appear to be lacking in direction, leadership and form. Klopp has a good record against the big sides, having only lost one league game against the ‘big’ six, in the last 16 meetings and will have enjoyed seeing his side win and keep up within touching distance of Spurs and City. Arsenal, who appear to dislike playing against the other big clubs, seem to be set on self-destructing. There is uncertainty around so much going on at the club that it cannot be good for a club which relies on being in the top 4 each season, especially when it appears players are already wanting out even though they don’t know who will be in charge next season.
Sanchez was dropped to the bench with Wenger claiming it to be a tactical decision and the press claiming it to be due to a discipline problem during training. Which ever it was it was a mistake, as Sanchez changed Arsenal when he came on at half time, and set up Welbeck’s goal. Liverpool, by the time Wenger brought Sanchez on, were already two goals up thanks to Firmino and the man who could well be Liverpool’s player of the season Mane. Liverpool wrapped up the game in the 90th minute thanks to a nice move which ended with Wijnaldum scoring. The win means that Liverpool have moved into the top 4 but teams around them have games in hand yet they will be pleased to see United drop points this weekend. Arsenal now have to focus on playing a Bayern side who gave them a lesson last time out as they have their second leg game this week.
Tottenham 3 – Everton 2
Spurs versus Everton, a game which use to be for who would finish 6th or 7th but is now important for the Champions League. Pochettino versus Koeman, a game between two managers who may be in the frame to take over at Barca in the summer. Harry Kane versus Romelu Lukaku, two of the best strikers in the Premier League and hopefully one of them will be playing for United when Ibrahimovic leaves, possibly, maybe. So after United’s result on the Saturday, Everton could have closed the gap on the top 6 if they had managed to beat an inform Spurs side. However this is a Spurs side which looks to be growing in confidence and starting to move into the same form which saw them come so close to winning the league last season.
Spurs took the lead thanks to Harry Kane, the England striker scoring after 20 minutes. The home side then doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half, thanks to Harry Kane who is probably the most inform striker in the league at the moment. Everton then pulled one back thanks to their in form striker, Lukaku. With a goal in it, the game was not sown up for the home side, even though they had dominated on the chance front, yet in the 92nd minute, Alli appeared to seal it with as he turned in Winks freekick. Yet the goal scoring did not end there as substitute Valencia got a consolation goal as he beat the offside trap and turned in Barkleys free kick. The game showed why Tottenham are now a genuine top 4 side, if they can keep their best players then next season they could be genuine title contenders.
Sunderland 0 – Manchester City 2
Sunderland are a side who constantly seem to be in the relegation zone yet somehow survive…but maybe not this season. They are only 6 points from safety though, so it is not unthinkable that they could somehow do what they do best and survive by the skin of their teeth. Rather than me reinventing the wheel why don’t you have a read of Paul’s review of the game here.
West Ham 1 – Chelsea 2
Chelsea are 10 points clear at the top of the league, after beating a West Ham side who had been improving after a poor start to the season, and had won two of their last 5 games. However, it doesn’t matter how good a side you are at the moment, as this Chelsea side look like it is going to take a small miracle to knock them off of their stride in the race for the title. There was hope that West Ham may be able to pull something out of the bag and give hope to all the sides chasing Chelsea. Alas, it was not to be, as Chelsea did what they have done all season under Conte and put in a professional performance to win their 21st league game.
Chelsea struck first, in the 25th minute, thanks to a counter attack after Kante read a pass in midfield and played it forward to Hazard, a quick one-two with Pedro and he was through on goal, finishing past Randolph. The revived Hazard, who seemed to be missing for the most of last season, was involved in the second, 5 minutes after half time. The Belgium forward played in a corner which Diego Costa turned goal wards with his thigh for his 17th league goal of the season. West Ham tried to keep themselves in the game and had chances to pull a goal back, firstly Feghouli’s low shot was well saved by Courtois and then they had a penalty shout denied as the ball struck Alonso’s arm but appeared to be accidental. West Ham did finally score a consolation goal, with Carroll winning the ball, feeding Ayew who squared the ball to Lanzini who put the ball into the back of the net.