Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Matchweek 38 Results: Liverpool Finishes Third with Fifth Straight Win; Chelsea Backs Into Top Four; Gareth Bale Sinks Leicester; Kane Swings Golden Boot; Hammers Head to Europa League; Aguero Scores Two as City Celebrates League Title; Everton Crashes; Arsenal Out of Europe

Liverpool concluded its remarkable finishing kick to place third in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Jurgen Klopp’s team overcame innumerable injuries to its backline this season to win its last five games and deliver eight wins in an undefeated 10 match season ending run. The Reds were eighth in the table, having just lost at home to Fulham, before beginning their 10-match run to Champions League qualification. Sadio Mane scored both goals for Liverpool, lifting his season total to 11 and marking the eighth consecutive match versus Crystal Palace that Mane has scored.

The Reds leapfrogged Chelsea into third place as the Blues fell to Aston Villa. Once again Chelsea was victimized by an inability to convert chances. Thomas Tuchel’s club launched 23 shots, seven on target, with only a goal by defender Ben Chilwell to show for their efforts as Chelsea’s forwards and attacking midfielders again failed to convert their opportunities. Former Chelsea player Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Aston Villa and drew a penalty which was converted by Anwar El Ghazi to give Villa a 2-0 lead. Worse yet, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was injured attempting to save Traore’s goal and is a doubt for next weeks’ Champions League final. Chelsea pulled one back on Chilwell’s goal but was unable to avoid Tuchel’s third Premier League defeat and was thus reduced to relying on the charity of others to ensure next year’s Champions League participation. 

London rival Tottenham Hotspur gifted Chelsea their top four spot by defeating Leicester 4-2. Gareth Bale scored a brace in perhaps his final Premier League appearance and Harry Kane bagged his 23rd goal of the season to edge Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for the league’s Golden Boot. Leicester twice took the lead versus Spurs on goals by Jamie Vardy, which sandwiched Harry Kane’s Golden Boot strike, but were undone by an own goal by goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel and the two goals by Bale. Kane, who assisted on the first of Bale’s two goals, finished the season at the top of the Premier League in assists (14) as well as goals. Leicester’s defeat secured Champions League qualification for Chelsea as the Foxes fell out of the top four in a late season collapse for a second consecutive season. Leicester’s fifth place finish provides the consolation of Europa League play next season. With their victory, Spurs secured a place in the less desired inaugural season of the Europa Conference League, a competition of questionable value for clubs accustomed to competing in the two senior European competitions. 

Joining Leicester as the second of the two Premier League participants in the Europa League next season will be West Ham United which resoundingly beat Southampton 3-0 to secure their sixth-place position and the club’s best topflight finish in 22 years. Pablo Fornals scored a brace and assisted on a goal by Declan Rice to key West Ham's 19th win of the season, the highest win total for the club in 35 years.


League winners Manchester City provided some celebratory fireworks in a 5-0 torching of overmatched Everton before lifting the trophy in front of their home fans. Sergio Aguero scored a brace in his final Manchester City appearance and goals by Phil Foden, Kevn De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus added to the rout of the Toffees. City Goalkeeper Ederson stopped a penalty try by Gylfi Sigurdsson to ensure his 19th clean sheet of the season, three more than any other Premier League goalkeeper. Top of the table Manchester City dominated the league this season with the most points, most wins, joint fewest losses, best goal differential, fewest goals conceded and most clean sheets. Remarkably, club high scorer Ilkay Gundogan was joint 9th in the league for goals scored. Everton, which entered the match with flickering hopes of  European qualification, suffered its heaviest defeat of the season and the worst loss of manager Carlo Ancelotti’s career. 

Second place Manchester United became just the fourth club to finish a Premier League season unbeaten away from home, defeating Wolves 2-1 at Molineux Stadium. Anthony Elanga scored his first Premier League goal for Manchester United and Juan Mata perhaps his last for the Red Devils as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played a significantly altered lineup to keep key players fresh for Wednesday’s Europa League final. Nelson Semedo scored for Wolves who now face uncertainty with the departure of manager Nuno Espirito Santos after four seasons with the club. 

Arsenal received a brace from Nicolas Pepe for a second consecutive match to defeat Brighton 2-0. A fifth consecutive victory was unfortunately not enough to prevent the eighth place Gunners from missing out on European competition next season for the first time in 25 years. 

Leeds won for a fourth consecutive time in a 3-1 win over relegated West Brom to complete a top half finish in their promotion season. Rodrigo, Kalvin Phillips, and Patrick Bamford scored for ninth place Leeds while Hal Robson-Kanu scored in the 90th minute for the relegated Baggies. Bamford’s tally was his club leading 17th goal of the season. 

Newcastle defeated Fulham 2-0 as the irrepressible Joe Willock scored for a seventh consecutive league match, a feat previously only previously accomplished by club legend Alan Shearer. Fabian Schar scored the insurance goal for the Magpies with an 88th minute penalty. The Cottagers head to the Championship level next season having not won in their final 10 Premier League matches, losing 8 during their miserable run. A second consecutive victory for the Magpies leaves them with a 12th place finish in a season which once ventured perilously close to the relegation zone. Manager Steve Bruce led Newcastle to five wins and a draw in their final eight games to finish well clear of any relegation concerns. 

Sheffield United defeated Burnley 1-0 as David McGoldrick scored his eighth goal of the season for the Blades. McGoldrick accounted for 40% of the Blades’ total goals this season. Interim manager Paul Heckingbottom led bottom of the table Sheffield United to three wins in their final six games to perhaps merit consideration for a permanent role. Burnley finished the season losing seven of their final nine games.


Premier League in Europe: Europa League Final

Manchester United faces Villareal in the Europa League final on Wednesday. The Red Devils advanced to the final by defeating Roma in the last round while Villareal added to the disappointment this season for Arsenal fans by dispatching the Gunners in the semi-finals. Current Villareal and former Arsenal manager Unai Emery won the Europa League Cup three times with Sevilla and will be participating in his fifth Europa League final, having led Arsenal to the final before falling to Chelsea in 2019. Despite Emery’s track record, Manchester United is favored to win a first trophy of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s managerial tenure when it faces a Villareal side which placed seventh in La Liga domestic competition this season. Manchester United, however, will be without injured center back Harry Maguire as it looks to contain Villareal striker Gerard Moreno who tallied 23 La Liga goals this season. Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani has scored in seven of his last 10 appearances across all competitions and registered a brace in each leg of the Europa League semi-final versus Roma. Cavani played for Emery when both were at PSG.



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