PREMIER LEAGUE MIDWEEK ROUND-UP: LIVERPOOL RUN RIOT, LEEDS LEAVE IT LATE & NEWCASTLE STAY WINLESS
With a packed December schedule getting underway with these mid-week fixtures, the winter Months prove to be crucial in the final league standings come May.
The action didn’t relent in these mid-week matches, starting on Tuesday with a last minute win for Leeds and concluding with goals galore in a Manchester United victory at Old Trafford.
With every top tier team in action, there’s lots to dissect. The best place to start, depending on your connections to either club, would be at Goodison Park with the Merseyside Derby on Wednesday night. If your loyalties lie with Rafa Benitez’s Everton, this will make for a grim read. Liverpool ran out as comfortable winners, registering four attempts on goal inside the opening five minutes.
Everton were slow out of the blocks in comparison, lacking an inner belief to beat their neighbours from down the road. Jordan Henderson would open the scoring within the first 10 minutes of this encounter, curling a delightful shot past a busy Jordan Pickford. Saving a shot from Mo Salah just before, the England international had his work cut out.
Salah would score Liverpool’s second of the night, a hostile Goodison Park not phasing the likes of the Egyptian in the slightest. Found by Henderson, he left Everton shirts in his wake before slotting expertly past an exposed Pickford. 2-0 within 20 minutes, some home supporters exiting before it got worse. Demarai Gray would score a rare Everton attack, Richarlison seizing the ball and playing in his fellow Everton attacker. One of Everton’s better buys in the transfer window ran through, placing it between Allisson’s legs for 2-1. A momentary belief then entered the Toffees, Doucoure having a shot blocked before the half-time interval.
This belief would remain for the opening exchanges of a now hotly-contested second half, Anthony Gordon breathing life into surges going forward stifled by an immobile Salomon Rondon. But, from a long ball forward from Liverpool, the Reds killed the contest. Salah seized on a potential Seamus Coleman error, beating his man for pace and sliding it underneath a frustrated Pickford.
Diogo Jota would add a fourth, a brilliant passing move finding the Portuguese attacker who spun Allan and struck with venom past Pickford once more. Liverpool have now averaged three goals per game this Premier League campaign, the attackers stealing the headlines for Klopp’s Reds.
A chorus of boos ringing around Goodison Park at the end, Rafa Benitez looks on borrowed time to turn around his terrible Toffees. The two other teams making up a three horse race for the Premier League won in their away games also, making up their own bracket at the top. Manchester City dominated the first half of their contest at Villa Park, Ruben Dias opening the scoring after a whole host of chances for Guardiola’s men bypassed them. Hit from the edge of the box, Martinez fumbled the Manchester City star-man’s strike in for 1-0.
Bernardo Silva’s volley for 2-0 was a world-class goal, a move kickstarted by Mahrez’s tricky feet in the Manchester City area and finishing with Silva volleying in from a Gabriel Jesus centre. Aston Villa scored early in the second half to make the game interesting in the second 45, Ollie Watkins converting from a corner-kick routine worked on by Steven Gerrard’s men prior.
Villa had chances here or there to get a point, but Guardiola’s men dug deep for the three points. Chelsea also had to dig deep in their away game at Watford, outperformed for a majority of the game at Vicarage Road with a lower xG than their lower half opponents over the full 90 minutes. Watford had a number of chances early on, Joao Pedro unlucky to be denied by a Chalobah block.
The Blues’ resolve was tested, and after the game was restarted due to a fan emergency in the stands, they took the lead. A well-worked move found Ballon D’or shortlisted Mason Mount, the Chelsea midfielder scoring past Bachmann. Emmanuel Dennis would equalise on the stroke of half-time, the Hornets man in good form with four goals and four assists in the league. Deflected in, Ranieri’s side deserved a slice of luck.
Unfortunately, even with more shots than Tuchel’s Champions League winning Chelsea, the Blues showed their quality in winning ugly at the expense of the home side. Hakim Ziyech hit one with twenty minutes to go that caught Bachmann off-guard, finding its way into the net over the Austrian.
Tuchel’s comments post-match told a fair story, holding his hands up at a lacklustre Chelsea display. Missing the likes of Jorginho, Chelsea battled and came away with another win to remain top of the pile. Other games of note from Wednesday’s action saw three draws, West Ham dominant against Brighton but finishing with a point after Maupay’s acrobatic overhead kick gave Potter’s men a draw.
A goal ruled out for VAR also helped Potter’s Seagulls, an offside against Antonio ridding The Hammers of all three points in that one. Leicester continue to stumble this season, their leaky defence troubling Rodgers and co once more. Coming from behind twice at St Mary’s, a James Maddison strike early into the second half gave The Foxes a share of the spoils against Southampton.
Wolves failed to capitalise on West Ham drawing, making an unlikely surge into the top four this season under Bruno Lage. 6th spot will have to do for the time being, only two shots on target from 16 attempted from his Wolves players leading to a stalemate.
Frustrated by a Burnley side set up to do just that, Sean Dyche would be happier with a goalless draw from this one. The final matches of this bumper mid-week action came at Tottenham and Manchester United, both home sides running out winners. Tottenham comfortably beat Brentford, Heung Min-Son’s tap-in making it 2-0.
The action at Old Trafford wasn’t as straightforward, the Red Devils battling back from a controversial Arsenal opener to win 3-2.
With two goals from Ronaldo, he’s looking anything but a problem for Ralf Rangnick who takes charge of his first match as Red Devils manager on Sunday at The Theatre of Dreams.