Monday, December 28, 2020

Match Week 15: Baggies Take Point at Anfield; Gunners Find the Target; Everton Go Second; Villa Latest to Embarrass Eagles; Spurs Slide Continues

Top of the Table

Liverpool - League leader Liverpool was fortunate to extend its unbeaten Anfield run with a 1-1 draw with surprisingly competitive West Brom.  A twelfth minute goal by Sadio Mane was the only scoring until West Brom tied the game in the eighty second minute.  The Reds managed just one additional shot on target against the deep defending Baggies following the Mane goal.  Liverpool’s lead in the table entering Monday was three points over second place Everton. 

Everton – Everton won a fourth consecutive match by defeating Sheffield United 1-0 as the resurgent Toffees moved to second in the table behind their cross-town rival Liverpool.  A Gylfi Sigurdsson 80th minute free kick provided the winner for Everton in a taut defensive match.  The Toffees have registered all three of their clean sheets this season in the last four matches.

Leicester – Leicester came back twice to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.  A Jamie Vardy shot deflected off United’s Axel Tuanzebe for an own goal with but five minutes left to knot things for the Foxes.  Leicester fell to third in the table behind surging Everton.

Manchester United – Manchester United maintained its good road form in  the 2-2 draw at Leicester.  The Red Devils are unbeaten in their last fourteen away games and have scored at least two goals in their past eleven road matches, equaling the league record.  United, fourth following the draw, hold a game in hand on the competitors above them in the table.  

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs’ increasing aptitude for self-destruction was on full display in a 1-1 draw with Wolves.  Spurs scored one minute into the game and then went into a defensive shell.  An 86th minute equalizer by Wolves saw Jose’s men throw away points from a winning position for a fourth time this season.  With Spurs winless in their last four Premier League matches, Mourinho’s conservative style of play is again under question.

Manchester City – Manchester City extended its current unbeaten run to six matches with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle.  The Citizens scored in a twenty fourth consecutive match against the Magpies, equaling a Premier League record.  City had won four in a six-match unbeaten run, rising to sixth in the table with a game in hand entering Monday’s match with Everton.  

Aston Villa – Aston Villa scored two second half goals while playing with only ten men to secure a 3-0 defeat of Crystal Palace.  The clean sheet was a league leading eighth of the season for the Villans. Aston Villa’s third win in an unbeaten run of four matches moved the club to seventh in the table with two games in hand.  Villa was travelling to eighth place Chelsea Monday.

Chelsea – Chelsea were poor in a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal.  Forward Timo Werner continued his poor run and was removed at half-time.  Jorginho missed his third penalty kick in his last six tries across all competitions.  A third defeat in three matches dropped the Blues all the way to eighth in the table.  Chelsea have lost their last three away Premier League matches.

Southampton – Southampton drew 0-0 at Fulham to extend an unbeaten away run to seven matches. The Saints were well undermanned with striker Danny Ings, midfielder Oriol Romeu and center back Jannick Vestergaard all missing from the line-up.  A James Ward-Prowse free kick which touched the cross bar was the match’s only noteworthy event.  Only four points separated the ninth place Saints from second place Everton in the table entering Monday.

Mid Table

West Ham – West Ham scored an equalizer on a headed goal by Tomas Soucek to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw with visiting Brighton.  No Premier League player has scored more headers than Soucek since his league debut in February of this year.  The Hammers have now drawn their last four league meetings against Brighton.

Wolves – Wolves escaped with a late point at Molineux versus a strangely passive Spurs side.  Struggling to generate quality chances after conceding an early goal, Wolves secured the point in a 1-1 draw with a late header from defender Romain Saiss off a well-placed corner kick from Pedro Neto.   The late goal helped Wolves avert a fourth loss in five matches.

Leeds – Patrick Bamford’s penalty kick, his tenth Premier League goal of the season, was enough for Leeds to take all three points in a 1-0 victory over Burnley.  Leeds will be untroubled by accusations of gifted officiating decisions, winning for a second time in three matches.

Newcastle – Newcastle managed just 24% possession and two shots on target in meekly conceding 2-0 to Manchester City.  The absence of leading scorer Callum Wilson ensured the futility for the Magpies.  Newcastle have lost three of their last four league away matches.

Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace have now allowed ten goals in their last two matches while remaining scoreless themselves.  The 3-0 loss to Aston Villa was incurred despite the Eagles  enjoying a man advantage for the entire second half.  With the Villa loss, Palace failed again to keep a clean sheet since the season’s opening weekend and had lost four of seven matches.

Arsenal – Arsenal scored three goals for the first time since the opening weekend in a 3-1 victory over London rival Chelsea.  Manger Mikel Arteta infused some of his younger players into the line-up and the Gunners played with renewed energy.  It is a tricky thing, though, when your best line-up excludes your purported best player (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang).  It was the Gunners first win in eight matches and, at least temporarily, ended talk of relegation.


Bottom of the Table

Brighton & Hove Albion – Brighton relinquished two leads in their 2-2 match with West Ham which was the Seagulls’ league leading sixth draw of the season.  While delivering a good effort versus a more talented West Ham side, Brighton continues to risk a relegation fight with fewer victories this year than all but Sheffield and West Brom.

Burnley – Burnley will feel they were treated unjustly in a 1-0 loss to Leeds.  Leeds penalty kick goal came on a questionable call and an equalizing goal by Burnley was also seemingly wrongly disallowed.  The Clarets generate little in attack and thus any bad luck is usually decisive.

Fulham – Fulham earned a point for a fourth consecutive match in the goalless draw with Southampton.  The Cottagers managed just one shot on goal, that coming in the eighth minute.  Manager Scott Parker was in quarantine for the match.

West Bromwich Albion – Manager Sam Allardyce captured his first point at West Brom in dramatic fashion as his Baggies drew 1-1 with first place Liverpool.  Semi Ajayi scored a header from a corner kick to provide the tying goal for the defensively solid Baggies at the eighty second minute mark.  Nineteenth place West Brom needed only 22% ball possession to become the first opponent not to lose in a match at Anfield this season. 

Sheffield United – The Blades 1-0 loss to Everton was a tenth defeat by a one goal margin in their fifteen matches.  Sheffield United is the first team in Premier League history team to be winless through Boxing Day.  The Blades’ eight goals this season are joint lowest with Burnley.



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