Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Matchweek 36 Results and Midweek Matches Goalkeeper Saves Liverpool; Chelsea and Leicester Battle For Top Four; West Ham Dealt Hammer Blow; Blades Cut Down Everton; Spurs Tame Wolves But Not Out of Woods; Kane Wants Out; Hodgson To Leave Crystal Palace

Liverpool’s late season surge to potential Champions League qualification took a dramatic turn with a 95th minute header by goalkeeper Allison Becker to keep hope alive with a 2-1 victory over West Brom. The game was difficult for Liverpool from the start as they fell behind to a Hal Robson-Kanu goal early on before Mohamed Salah’s  22nd goal of the season saw matters level at halftime. A taut second half played out before Liverpool’s final chance off a late corner. Allison’s expertly placed ball made him just the sixth goalkeeper to score in the Premier League and the first to achieve his goal via header. Allison is also the first Liverpool goalkeeper to score in club history.


Liverpool’s win moved the Reds to within a point of Chelsea and three points of Leicester as those two clubs prepare to meet on Tuesday for a second time in 72 hours. Leicester defeated Chelsea on Saturday in the FA Cup final which extended an unbeaten run versus Chelsea for the Foxes to six consecutive matches. A win on Tuesday would clinch Champions League football next season for Leicester. Liverpool, meanwhile, goes to Burnley on Wednesday with an opportunity to move into the top four. Chelsea, with a loss or draw against Leicester, would be overtaken by a Liverpool win at Turf Moor where Burnley has been abysmal of late, establishing a club record with nine consecutive home losses. Leicester could be overtaken by Liverpool on goal differential, dependent on the scores of this week’s matches,  if the Foxes were to lose at Chelsea and Liverpool wins the following day. Both Liverpool and Leicester have a goal differential of 21 heading into the week’s action while Chelsea is but one goal better. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side will continue to be without Diogo Jota who is out for the season with a foot injury. Leicester’s Jonny Evans will miss the Chelsea match with a heel injury. 

Chelsea is poised for potential disaster as their fine run under Tuchel has hit a major bump. Losses to Arsenal and then in the FA Cup final have further highlighted scoring deficiencies and the failures of their two German attackers, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, acquired last offseason. Meanwhile, joint top scorer for the season Tammy Abraham has played little under Tuchel and was not even on the bench for the past two games where Chelsea failed to score. Tuchel also uses Christian Pulisic as a “super sub”, a role the young American cannot be pleased with. Where just weeks ago Tuchel’s run with Chelsea was considered one of the season’s success stories, the Blues are now in danger of finishing outside the top four and with no trophies to show should they lose the Champions League final. Tuesday will be a major test of the Tuchel regime against a Leicester squad which has the third best away record in the league, and which will have gained confidence from their Cup victory. 

Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham also have a mathematical chance for top four but would need to win out and have both Chelsea and Liverpool lose their final two matches. West Ham would have an inferior goal differential in any tie breaker scenario with Spurs or the other top four contenders. The Hammers were dealt a blow to their Champions League chances in a disappointing 1-1 draw at Brighton. The Hammers salvaged a point when an 87th minute goal by Said Benrahma offset a goal of three minutes earlier by the Seagulls’ Danny Welbeck. West Ham are seventh in the table, equal on points with sixth place Spurs but with a 12 goal poorer goal differential. A seventh-place finish in the Premier League table would mean qualification for the newly created  Europa Conference League. While paling against the more prestigious Champions League and Europa League competitions, the new tournament would still represent European football and a big step forward for teams such as West Ham or possibly Everton. West Ham would have been thinking three points more than manageable from their upcoming Wednesday match with West Brom, but the outcome now becomes more questionable after the Baggies’ strong performance against Liverpool and recent failures by the Hammers who have failed to win in four of their last five matches. 

Eighth place Everton are on the outside looking in after a devastating 1-0 home loss on the weekend to last place Sheffield United. The Blades showed surprising ambition against the Toffees and 17-year-old Daniel Jebbison became the youngest player to score in their first Premier League start.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti expressed embarrassment in postgame comments at the poor effort made by his club in such a critical game as Everton tied a club record of nine home losses in a season. The reeling Toffees are three points behind Spurs and West Ham as they face another home test Wednesday versus Wolves. 

Spurs positioned themselves for Europa League qualification with a 2-0 victory over Wolves. Harry Kane’s 22nd goal of the season opened the scoring and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg provided the insurance goal to keep Spurs on course for a likely Europa League berth under a manager to be named later. Kane, who is tied with Mohamed Salah in the chase for the Premier League’s Golden Boot, celebrated the Spurs victory by telling the club that he wants to leave in the coming transfer window. Next task for Spurs is to defeat Aston Villa on Wednesday. 

The Villans were surprised 3-2 by Crystal Palace over the weekend in a surprisingly entertaining game which saw the launch of 42 shots in aggregate between the two teams. Christian Benteke scored in a third consecutive match for the first time in five years for Crystal Palace and young defender Tyrick Mitchell notched his first Premier League goal for the south London club. Wilfried Zaha also scored for the Eagles who were able to overcome two different leads taken by Villa on goals by John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi. Manager Roy Hodgson has now announced his departure from Crystal Palace effective the end of the season. The 73-year-old manager rescued a desperate situation upon his 2017 hiring and has admirably kept Palace safe in his care. The Eagles host Arsenal in a London derby on Wednesday. Arsenal take a three-match winning run into their league match with Crystal Palace as the ninth place Gunners retain an improbable mathematical chance to sneak into a Europa League or Europa Conference spot. 

Another poor performance by Fulham was in stark contrast to the valiant efforts over the weekend of similarly relegated clubs West Brom and Sheffield United. With their 3-1 loss to Southampton, the Cottagers and manager Scott Parker have now failed to win in eight consecutive matches, losing seven during an egregious streak which wrecked any chance of their Premier League survival. Southampton won a second consecutive match for the first time since December behind goals by Che Adams, Nathan Tella and Theo Walcott. 18-year-old Fabio Carvalho scored in his first Premier League start for the Cottagers. Fulham’s prospects do not improve as they go to Old Trafford on Tuesday to face a Manchester United side anxious to end a two-game losing skein. Southampton have a difficult matchup when they host an in-form Leeds team Tuesday. 

Ferran Torres delivered a hat trick, including the winning goal, as Manchester City defeated Newcastle 4-3 in the first appearance by the Citizens since clinching the league title. Joao Cancelo also scored for the champions who were able to overcome Newcastle goals by Emil Krafth, Joelinton and Joe Willock. Krafth’s goal was his first in the league while Arsenal loanee Joe Willock scored in a fifth consecutive appearance for the Magpies. Willock’s stock has risen considerably in recent weeks and Arsenal has a decision to make regarding the young midfielder’s future. Willock exhibits energy and a scoring spark but is not the type of possession player which Gunner manager Mikel Arteta purportedly prefers. With the win over Newcastle, Manchester City established a Premier League record of 12 consecutive away wins. Manchester City are away again at Brighton on Tuesday while Newcastle hosts Sheffield United the following day. 

Fans return in limited quantities to Premier League stadiums for the mid-week matches and Sunday’s final games. Particularly interesting will be the atmosphere at Old Trafford where Manchester United fans made a premature visit as part of their protest efforts just two weeks ago. Crystal Palace fans will have opportunity to salute departing manager Roy Hodgson on Wednesday while, that same day, Harry Kane could potentially be making his final appearance before Spurs home fans.

FA Cup Final

Leicester City won its first FA Cup in club history with a 1-0 victory over Chelsea. Youri Tielemans struck in the 63rd minute for the Foxes and goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel, and perhaps a bit of good fortune, enabled Leicester to hold off furious Chelsea efforts at a comeback. An offside goal by Ben Chilwell and an own goal by Leicester’s Wes Morgan were both ruled off in the second half for a Chelsea squad which pressed the action to no avail. There was also question as to a potential hand ball by Leicester in the lead up to Tielemans’s goal but Chelsea’s futile attack and questionable line-up decisions by Thomas Tuchel were more the story of Chelsea’s performance. For Leicester, it was an impressive and emotional win for players, manager, and ownership. The two clubs have another monumental battle Tuesday which could determine Champions League qualification.  

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