Friday, January 15, 2021

Matchweek 18 Results: Manchester United Takes the Lead; Sharp Goal Raises Blades; Spurs Sputter; Gunners Fire Blanks

Manchester United moved past Liverpool to claim the table’s top spot with a 1-0 victory over Burnley. A rare goal from Paul Pogba, his second of the season, was decisive for the Red Devils who have now won nine times in an eleven-match unbeaten run.  Burnley efforts were focused on stifling the Red Devils as the Clarets did not manage a shot on target until extra time.  

Perhaps as notable as a new league leader was the first victory of the year for Sheffield United, winless in twenty consecutive matches entering the week.  Fittingly, it was club veteran Billy Sharp scoring his 100th goal which delivered the victory for the Blades over a somnolent Newcastle side.  Newcastle has managed but one goal during a current run of three losses in four matches as manager Steve Bruce comes under increasing fire for the Magpies desultory style of play.


Manchester City continued its rise in the table with a 1-0 defeat of Brighton.  The Citizens were third in the table following their win, only four points behind the league leaders with a game in hand.  It was a sixth clean sheet in eight matches for a City team which is no longer characterized by the offensive fireworks of prior years. Brighton failed to win for a ninth consecutive match and continue to drift toward the relegation places.  

Everton is level on points with Manchester City after a 2-1 victory over Wolves.  A Michael Keane header was the difference for a Toffees squad which has won five of its past six matches.  Wolves are now winless in their past five matches, falling from tenth to fourteenth in the table during that stretch.  

Spurs have also dramatically declined in the last five matches, winning but once as they have gone from being league leaders to sixth in the table after this week’s draw with Fulham.  There is growing concern that Spurs are lacking in attack options beyond Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.  Kane’s goal versus Fulham was the 23rd scored by the dynamic duo out of 30 total goals scored by Spurs this year.  The draw in the London derby versus Spurs means Fulham, once thought doomed to relegation earlier in the season, are but two points from safety after winning a point for a fifth consecutive match.  

Arsenal’s three match winning run was halted at the Emirates by Crystal Palace in a goalless London derby.  The absence of Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney and his ability to trigger the Gunners attack with driving runs and adept crosses was impactful for the north London side.  Alternatively, the return of Crystal Palace defender James Tompkins from injury for the south London Eagles helped stiffen their disciplined defense.  Tompkins also had a goal opportunity glance off the bar for Crystal Palace.   

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