Premier League Review - Matchday 31
This round of games was played in heat which more than justified the scheduled drinks breaks. The highest temperatures of the year so far were recorded. Names were back on players' shirts, but the "Black Lives Matter" logo was worn on all shirts, and all players and officials "took a knee" at kick-off in all games.
Tuesday 23rd June, 2020
Leicester City 0 Brighton 0
Both sides made changes. One of Brighton's was 19-year-old Tariq Lamptey at right back, making his club debut. Lamptey was signed at the end of January from Chelsea. Lamptey has played against Spurs for Chelsea at U-18 and U-23 level and scored in this Premier League 2 match last August. He's a powerful and fast player with a very good throw too.
After 11 minutes referee Lee Mason awarded a penalty for a foul by Leicester right-back Justin upon Connolly. VAR took its time, but the penalty stood. Maupay's shot was saved by Schmeichel low to his right.
Brighton had to make an early change with Shane Duffy replacing Webster. Lamptey also needed treatment for a facial injury during the drinks break but was able to continue. Leicester were not making much headway and after 26 minutes Connolly had a goal-bound shot deflected to win a corner. Jamie Vardy had only one touch of the ball by this stage.
Aaron Mooy had a shot from 20 yards which took a deflection and won Brighton a corner after 43 minutes. The won a second too, but Leicester cleared. After a free kick conceded by Lamptey for a foul on Vardy, Soyuncu had Leicester's best chance of the half but headed wide.
Leicester at least had more possession and desire in the second half, but there was still little entertainment and hardly a threat on either goal. Maddison had a free kick from 22 yards after 80 minutes but lifted the ball over the target.
This game had to be a hot favourite and was indeed last on Wednesday night's Match of the Day. Brighton will be happy with their point.
Wednesday 24th June 2020
Spurs 2 West Ham 0
THFC would not allow me the fly the Spurs Odyssey flag in the stadium for these behind closed doors games but it will feature in my match report!
Giovani Lo Celso was not only the Sky Man of the Match, but also won the Spurs Odyssey vote. That’s Gio’s eighth success on our polls and it is no surprise that he currently leads the race for our player of the season.
Manchester United 3 Sheffield United 0
As he is on loan from Manchester United, Dean Henderson had to sit out this game. He was replaced by Simon Moore, playing only his second Premier League game of the season. That was the home game against Man Utd, which was drawn 3-3.
The game was preceded by silence for former Man Utd left back Tony Dunne, who died earlier this month. Dunne won two league titles, an FA Cup and the 1968 European Cup with United.
The "Theatre of Dreams" was bedecked with some 40,000 digital images of fans.
With centre back Egan suspended, the "Blades" had veteran Phil Jagielka making only his second league start of the season.
The "Red Devils" took the lead after six minutes after a throw on the right. Rashford took the ball to the bye-line and crossed hard and low where Martial met the ball with a sharp finish. It should have been 2-0 after 12 minutes. Martial and Rashford raced forward and when Martial teed up Rashford, Robinson managed to clear. It was very much a failure by Rashford.
Bruno Fernandes hit a powerful right footed free kick at goal from the left of the area, and Moore managed to slap the ball away. Maguire headed a corner into the net after 20 minutes, but referee Anthony Taylor blew for a foul and was supported by VAR.
The "Blades" played better after the drinks break but Man Utd were clinical around the "Blades" area in the 43rd minute with Fernandes passing to Pogba, who pushed the ball to Wan-Bissaka. The right back crossed low, and it was Martial again who met the cross and finished emphatically.
After 54 minutes Mason Greenwood hit a well-placed shot towards the right of Moore's goal, but it took a deflection and just missed the post. Pogba danced his way into the area, but Martial got in his way before he could unleash a shot.
Anthony Martial secured his first senior hat-trick in the 74th minute receiving a short pass inside the area from Rashford, before flicking the ball over the keeper. This was also the first Premier League hat-trick for Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. Solskjaer soon made five substitutions in one hit.
Sheffield United have had three successive away games since lockdown. They drew at Villa Park and lost the last two 3-0. The "Blades" host Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter-final this weekend before we play at Bramall Lane next Thursday. Hopefully, Chris Wilder's side will still be looking for their mojo.
Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 1
Villa gained a precious point against their former manager and it was a player he previously worked with at Hull, as well as at Villa – Elmohamaday - who scored Villa’s equalising goal.
Villa had the first chance after 6 minutes when Trezeguet met Konsa’s cross from the right but fired over at the back post. Newcastle’s first offering of any note was after 36 minutes when Shelvey pushed the ball out to Saint-Maximin, but his cross from the right passed low through the goalmouth. Mings prevented a good opportunity for Joelinton with a good tackle deep inside the Villa area. Ritchie forced a save from Nyland who could not hold the shot, but his defence cleared.
Saint-Maximin was one of Newcastle’s brighter players and after 58 minutes he received the ball out on the right, before making a run to a central position from which he fired a shot wide of Nyland’s left post. Dwight Gayle had only just replaced Ritchie when he gave Newcastle a 68th minute lead. Another sub - Andy Carroll - crossed from the right and Gayle beat the keeper’s right hand with a low shot across his goal.
Elmohamady’s equaliser came from an 83rd minute corner by Hourihane which was met by the Villa substitute in front of the near post with the ball creeping beneath Dubravka’s dive.
Norwich 0 Everton 1
This was an uninspiring game and there is still little hope for Norwich who remain six points adrift in bottom place. Hernandez had an early shot which bobbled and passed just outside Pickford’s left post. Pickford punched away a shot from outside the area by the advancing Duda.
It took a headed goal by centre back Michael Keane in the 55th minute to decide the game. He met the corner from the right and headed across Krul. Almost the closest chance for the “Canaries” was an inadvertent stab at the back by Andre Gomes, who was glad to see the ball go for a corner and not into his own net.
Wolves 1 Bournemouth 0
Traore started this game for Wolves and provided the first bright moment of the game with a run through the middle after 34 minutes which was only halted by David Brooks’ foul for which a yellow card was shown. The resulting free kick came to nothing. Traore delayed a right footed shot in added time and the ball flew feet over the bar.
Bournemouth held on for an hour but the combination of a Traore cross and Jimenez header gave Wolves the only goal of the game. It was the Mexican’s 24th goal of the season in all competitions. The “Cherries” hardly offered a shot all game but Groeneveld went fairly close with a right footed curer after 83 minutes which passed wide of the far post.
In added time Neto went on a run through the middle and only had the goalkeeper to beat. He did that but his shot was wide. Wolves are level on points with Manchester United and in the hunt for a Champions League place. It’s hard to envisage Bournemouth escaping the drop this year.
Liverpool 4 Crystal Palace 0
Palace arrived at Liverpool in 20 people carriers, having flown from Biggin Hill. The plan was to return to London via the people carriers. This is just one of the ways in which clubs try to maintain a sterile environment for the players.
Jurgen Klopp fielded a full-strength side, welcoming Mo Salah, Andy Robertson and Wijnaldum back to the side. Andros Townsend made his first league start for Palace since December.
Wijnaldum had the first shot on goal after 7 minutes but hooked the ball wide. Salah had been threatening in the box. Mane crossed from the left, but Henderson skied his shot. Zaha suffered early injury in a challenge with Alexander-Arnold and had to be replaced by Meyer.
Hennessy was in goal for Palace and he got down to a shot to his left by Firmino after 15 minutes. Liverpool had a free kick after Jordan Ayew barged Van Dijk in the back outside the Palace area and Alexander-Arnold scored direct from the kick 24 yards out. (23 mins) It was an excellent unstoppable shot placed just inside Hennessy's left post.
After another free kick from the left, touched by Alexander-Arnold and crossed by Robertson, Jordan Henderson's shot rebounded off the post. Virgil Van Dijk tried to follow up, but Palace managed to clear. Ayew committed another foul in dangerous territory, but Fabinho put this kick over.
Hennessy headed a poor attempted clearance from outside his area straight to Salah, who hit a poor inaccurate attempt to score from 30 yards. Salah did score in the 44th minute, collecting Fabinho's ball into the box before inevitably planting his shot past Hennessy.
Palace at least showed spirit at the start of the second half, but they went three down inside 55 minutes when Fabinho arrowed a shot into the net from fully 25 yards. In the 69th Mane made it 4-0 with a right foot shot to the left of the keeper. Salah had sent Mane away down the left channel with a powered pass from just inside the Palace half.
Liverpool didn't stop attacking, but never had to play with high intensity. They had four chances in added time with Hennessy making two saves; one from Salah; the other from substitute Williams.
Man City failed to beat Chelsea so Liverpool secured their first Premier League title. The rest of the world could not stop hearing about it, and I don't recall such a fuss being made about any Premier League win. I do congratulate Liverpool, who are very worthy champions.
Thursday 25th June 2020
Burnley 1 Watford 0
Burnley’s 5-0 thrashing against Man City was matched by the same scoreline at Tottenham in December, but with this win they reached 42 points and certain safety. Watford remain under threat of relegation in a group that has now surely been reduced to five. There was no plane flying over head when everybody took the knee today.
Rodriguez had a good early shot which caught Foster on the hope. The keeper saved and just about managed to flap the ball away with his defence assisting. After 21 minutes Vydra hit a great left foot shot over Foster who was well off his line towards the right of his area. Vydra’s shot rebounded off the outside of the post. Rodriguez’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Dawson and Brownhill then pulled a shot wide. Burnley were playing a brighter brand of football and had probably been fired up by that shameful display over The Etihad by one of their so-called fans. Dawson, who had scored his first Watford goal against Leicester last Saturday, headed over from a corner at the other end.
Watford had a spell on top in the second half and Pope spilt a corner but got away with his error and held Cathcart’s weak shot. Troy Deeney had a header from another corner cleared off the line by McNeil, and Hughes’ attempted follow-up went over. McNeil was provider at the other end after 3 minutes, crossing from the left. Rodriguez met the cross with a lovely glanced header that beat Foster across his goal. Vydra had another chance from the right of the area, but Foster saved this one with his legs.
Southampton 0 Arsenal 2
Aubameyang should have opened the scoring after 9 minutes when he picked up a long ball, advanced down the left then hit his shot against the underside of the crossbar, only to see the ball bounce away to safety.
Southampton goalkeeper McCarthy gifted Arsenal their first goal in the 20th minute, kicking the ball against Nketiah, who was then able to walk it into the net.
Kyle Walker-Peters was a second half substitute for Southampton, replacing Valery. Shane Long replaced Obafemi. The "Saints" took more of the initiative early in the second half with James Ward-Prowse having a decent shot just over the bar from outside the area.
Armstrong tried a left footed shot just before the drinks break but saw the ball pass just over the far corner. Redmond hit the side netting with a right footed shot after 72 minutes. Shane Long forced a good save from Martinez in the Arsenal goal, picking up a long ball towards the left of the area before unleashing his shot.
Jack Stephens was sent off by referee Graham Scott when he brought down Aubameyang just outside the area, thus denying a goal-scoring opportunity. VAR upheld the decision. Lacazette's first shot was blocked by the wall. His second attempt was saved but not held by the keeper and Willock swept up the loose ball. (87 mins)
Chelsea 2 Manchester City 1
Everybody knew that City needed to win to prolong Liverpool's wait for the title. Pep's side would have to do it without Aguero who was away having a knee op. His natural replacement Gabriel Jesus was on the bench and City played with a front three of Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling. Bernardo seemed to be the man in the middle. De Bruyne, Rodri and Gundogan were behind them.
Mahrez had a free kick on the left and Fernandinho met it with a good header after 17 minutes, forcing a good save by Arrizabalaga.
Both sides were matching each other technically, but City spent more time in the Chelsea area. However, Chelsea came close with three chances after 31 minutes. Firstly, Barkley's low cross/shot was half cleared at the right-hand post. Then Mason Mount could not get enough power from his follow-up, after which Barkley had another effort deflected. Ederson then saved from Christensen's header after a corner.
Chelsea did take the lead in the 36th minute. Pulisic took advantage of an error by Mendy just inside the Chelsea half before advancing on goal and beating Ederson's left hand with a well-placed shot. Liverpool fans would have cheered this goal as much as any Chelsea fan.
Mahrez hit a shot over the far corner after a City free kick in the right. Kevin de Bruyne equalised in the 55th minute with a lovely dipping right footed free kick from 25 yards inside the keeper's right post. Only a minute later Raheem Sterling hit the post after De Bruyne and Mahrez had led a break out by City. Liverpool fans could how twitch.
After a City corner on the right, Sterling had a chance at the back of the area, curling a right footed shot just wide of the far post. Pulisic was away again running onto a long ball and beating Fernandinho for pace. He was round the keeper, but Kyle Walker cleared off the line. Tammy Abraham followed up but now Fernandinho managed to clear at the post.
There was more incredible action in the City goalmouth after 74 minutes. Willian crossed and Ederson could only palm Abraham's shot upwards. Pulisic’s effort was saved, and when Abraham shot again from close range the ball was cleared off the line, but it was a handball by Fernandinho who eventually was shown a red card following VAR, with the additional award of a penalty. Willian scored from the spot and the red half of Merseyside (and beyond) could now surely celebrate that elusive title win.
Liverpool have won the title with seven games still left to play – this is the earliest title victory in English top-flight history in terms of remaining matches when crowned champions. For unprecedented reasons this is also the latest in a calendar year that a title has been won. The fans amassed outside Anfield and TV coverage over the next 24 hours has been unending.
Fixtures & Results 23-25.06.20
Tuesday 23rd June
Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Spurs 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday 24th June
Man Utd 3-0 Sheff Utd
Newcastle 1-1 A. Villa
Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wolves 1-0 B'mouth
Liverpool 4-0 C. Palace
Thursday 25th June
Burnley 1-0 Watford
S'hampton 0-2 Arsenal
Chelsea 2-1 Man City
Premier League Table
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Liverpool 31 28 2 1 70-21 49 86 C
2. Man City 31 20 3 8 77-33 44 63
3. Leicester 31 16 7 8 59-29 30 55
4. Chelsea 31 16 6 9 55-41 14 54
5. Man Utd 31 13 10 8 48-31 17 49
6. Wolves 31 12 13 6 44-34 10 49
7. Spurs 31 12 9 10 50-41 9 45
8. Sheff Utd 31 11 11 9 30-31 -1 44
9. Arsenal 31 10 13 8 43-41 2 43
10. C. Palace 31 11 9 11 28-36 -8 42
11. Burnley 31 12 6 13 35-45 -10 42
12. Everton 31 11 8 12 38-46 -8 41
13. Newcastle 31 10 9 12 29-42 -13 39
14. S'hampton 31 11 4 16 38-54 -16 37
15. Brighton 31 7 12 12 34-41 -7 33
16. Watford 31 6 10 15 28-46 -18 28
17. West Ham 31 7 6 18 35-54 -19 27
18. B'mouth 31 7 6 18 29-50 -21 27
19. A. Villa 31 7 6 18 36-59 -23 27
20. Norwich 31 5 6 20 25-56 -31 21