City net four at Anfield to go five clear, Spurs, Chelsea also pick up wins
Four more Premier League took place on Sunday, starting in the Capital at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Spurs welcomed West Brom to North London…
Tottenham Hotspur 2 West Bromwich Albion 0
This was must-win for both sides but for very different reasons, Spurs were on a poor run which has seen them slip to ninth and seven points off the top four, whilst for The Baggies they needed wins to try and make up the gap to safety, which was a huge eleven points at kick-off. The hosts were given a boost prior to kick-off after Harry Kane made a surprise return to the line-up, something the visitors would not have wanted to see, but West Brom had a certain Ansley Maitand-Niles making his Baggies debut in this one.
Could the midfielder, on loan from Spurs bitter North London rivals Arsenal, help cause a big result for the visitors? Well, the first half was pretty much attack against defence as Spurs tried to find a way through a resolute Baggies backline, and their goal led a charmed life at times but they defended solidly and frustrated Spurs throughout, and West Brom’s only real chance of the half was a huge one, and it came right at the end of the half, as a cross found Mbaye Diagne free at the back post and his header was superbly saved by Hugo Lloris, it really would have been a smash and grab that, although replays showed he was offside, it was a warning to Spurs though, and the sides went into the break with no score.
Eight minutes into the second period and Spurs finally had the breakthrough, as a lovely ball from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg found Kane who was onside and he took it on and slotted across keeper Sam Johnstone and into the far corner, relief for Spurs and now The Baggies had to try and come out a bit more now if they were to get anything from this one. Just before the hour mark though Spurs broke in devastating fashion as Kane chested a lovely ball into the path of Lucas Moura who charged upfield and then he laid in Son Heung-min who fired a powerful effort that was too much for Johnstone and Spurs now had a two-goal cushion. Could the Baggies respond?
The only two big moments going forward saw Diagne find the net twice, but he was offside on both occasions, and Spurs ran out fairly comfortable winners to give them a boost after a run of three straight defeats. As for West Brom, they worked hard today but didn’t really show enough going forward to have any chance of winning this game, and wins is what they need desperately now as games are running out fast.
Onto the afternoon games now, first up it was a Midlands derby at Molineux, and then a biggie from Anfield…
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Leicester City 0
Both these sides had positive results in the week, Wolves grabbed the first win in several games after coming from behind to defeat Arsenal and end their unbeaten run, whilst The Foxes got back to winning ways with a comfortable victory at Fulham, and the visitors knew a win here would take them level on points with second-placed Man United.
But no doubt Wolves would have liked to build on that result in midweek, so this was set up to be a decent Midlands derby, and it was the hosts who had the best two chances in the opening twenty minutes, with Pedro Neto looking particularly dangerous down the left for Wolves. Leicester then had a couple of openings thanks largely to the quality of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, but the Wolves defence stood firm, and this tightly contested Midlands derby yielded no goals in the opening forty-five minutes, so could one of these sides produce a moment of magic to break the shackles in the second period?
Adama Traore was getting more and more into the game and causing the visitors problems down the right, whilst Leicester brought on the returning Jamie Vardy after the hour mark to try and make a difference upfront for the Foxes who thus far in this half hadn’t really caused Wolves many problems. Leicester finished the game the stronger of the two sides though and saw good chances for Barnes and then Vardy at the end, although Wolves did have a great chance through one of their own subs in Fabio Silva, it ended goalless and both sides picked up a hard-earned point.
Liverpool 1 Manchester City 4
This was a huge game for the Merseysiders, they sat seven points behind City at kick off and knew a win was the only option if they were to keep themselves in the title race, this is because City look unstoppable at the moment and victory for them would put a ten-point gap to Liverpool in fourth, and you feel a gap of that size with 15/16 games to go would be too much to make up. Liverpool certainly had the best chances in the opening half hour, seeing Sadio Mane head over and then Roberto Firmino forced a decent stop from Ederson, but eight minutes before half time City won a penalty after Raheem Sterling was brought down by Fabinho, but Ilkay Gundogan sent his spot kick over the bar, and City had missed a huge opportunity to go in front in a game they had not really got going in thus far.
It is games like this that make you realise that not having fans is a disadvantage as it needed that spark, one where if there was an atmosphere would probably raise the sides level quite a bit, but right now there just wasn’t that spark, could someone find it in the second period, Liverpool were the ones who needed it the most as this was a must win game for them really. But three minutes into the second half Gundogan made up for that penalty miss, as after Sterling had run into the box and found Phil Foden, his effort was well saved by Alisson, but Gundogan fired home the loose ball, and City now had their noses in front, and now Liverpool had it all to do.
Just past the hour mark through Liverpool was given a lifeline after Ruben Dias mis controlled a ball over the top and Mo Salah got in behind him but was pulled back by Dias to give away a penalty, and Salah stepped up to smash home the spot-kick, and Liverpool had hope once again. But Liverpool then shot themselves in the foot with seventeen minutes to go as a poor pass out by keeper Alisson went straight to Foden and he produced a brilliant bit of play down the right to drive to the byline and square for Gundogan who converted from close range, and City was back in the driving seat once again, and unbelievably Alisson made another howler minutes later as he gave the ball straight to Bernardo Silva who chipped to the back post for Sterling to head home, a crazy few minutes from the Liverpool stopper, and one that almost certainly had ruled his side out of this contest now.
And with eight minutes to go City made it four and how, as Foden received the ball on the right before cutting inside and blasting a wonderful effort beyond Alisson, it was a superb strike from the young England star, and a statement to the rest that City are the ones to beat, although it looks very much like the blue half of Manchester will be winning a third title in four years. For Liverpool, it certainly looks like their title defence is over, three straight defeats at home, and they cling onto their top four place, which has to be there focus now, but today was a humbling experience for them no doubt.
Onto the evening game now, and a match between Sheffield Utd and Chelsea from Bramall Lane…
Sheffield United 1 Chelsea 2
The Blades, like West Brom and Fulham, need to win the majority of their remaining games if they have any chance to get out of the bottom three, they are twelve points from safety now so with sixteen games to go it’s starting to get to be an almost impossible task. They welcomed a Chelsea side to South Yorkshire revitalised under new boss Thomas Tuchel and were unbeaten in three without conceding under him so far, so not an easy task for Chris Wilder and his side, but the hosts had won three of their last five, including that win at Old Trafford, so have done well recently.
They nearly had the perfect start as well but saw Oli Burke fire into the side netting from a great position less than a minute into the game, and then Chelsea had a chance when Timo Werner lofted over Aaron Ramsdale, but a covering defender cleared, and then United was awarded a penalty after Chris Basham was brought down by Ben Chilwell, but after VAR had a look, Basham was offside when he received the ball, so the decision was reversed and Chelsea was let off again. Chelsea then failed to convert at the back post after a decent ball in, and all this had happened in the opening quarter of the contest which had been a decent one thus far.
Three minutes before the break and Chelsea put together a great move which saw them grab the lead, Chilwell played a lovely ball into the path of Werner who sent a first time ball back across the box into the path of Mason Mount who was arriving to send a lovely first time finish into the bottom corner, United would have been disappointed to concede so close to half time, but they now had to come from behind to get anything in this one. Nine minutes into the second period Chelsea gift-wrapped the hosts a leveller, as after Oli McBurnie tried to find his strike partner Burke and failed, Anthony Rudiger played a blind ball back to his keeper Eduoard Mendy and didn’t realise he had come out to claim the ball, and the ball rolled into the net for a rather comical own goal and the first goal Chelsea had conceded under Tuchel, however, just before the hour mark Chelsea retook the lead as after Werner had been wiped out by keeper Ramsdale, this after a poor backpass, no penalty was awarded initially until VAR got involved and sent Kevin Friend over to the monitor before he had another look and correctly award a penalty, Jorginho stepped up to convert the spot-kick, and Chelsea were back in front again. Wilder would have been so frustrated at giving away such a soft penalty after getting themselves back into the game, it was a mad few minutes, but The Blades had it all to do again. The hosts had four strikers on the pitch at the end as they tried to find a leveller, with one of those subs Rhian Brewster seeing two shots well blocked, before another sub Billy Sharp saw an overhead kick well saved by Mendy right at the end, but Chelsea saw the game out without much alarm apart from those moments to pick up a third straight win and take them to the cusp of the top four, whilst defeat for United leaves them bottom and almost looking for a minor miracle to get out of trouble.
This is what today’s action has done to the table…
What a weekend for City, they made it ten straight Premier League wins whilst United and Leicester dropped points meaning they are well in the driving seat now, whilst Liverpool must now focus on staying in the top four as a priority as their title chances are probably over now. Chelsea are now the top London side after they went above West Ham into fifth following their victory at Bramall Lane, that defeat for The Blades means they have a twelve point gap to safety still with just fifteen games remaining.
West Brom is not in much better shape after they remain eleven points from safety after losing at Spurs, that result for the North London side sees them just four points off the top four now. That battle for the top four is shaping up to be quite some fight now with five points separating fourth placed Liverpool and ninth placed Villa.
Just one more game to come this weekend, the Monday night football from Elland Road as Leeds United host Crystal Palace with both sides knowing a win takes them into the top ten.