Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Premier League Preview Match Week 23 Results: City Drops Points Versus Saints; Liverpool Closes Gap; Chelsea Spanks Spurs; Manchester United Climbs Over Hammers Into Top Four; Gunners Frustrated By Clarets; Canaries Fly To Safety; Ranieri Sacked; Newcastle Wins; Lighting Outages, Bottle Tosses, Drones and Fires

Manchester City dropped points after 12 consecutive league victories as the Citizens were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton at the Etihad. Three second half Manchester City shots glanced off the woodwork and Raheem Sterling missed on a close-range opportunity as the Saints miraculously held on for a point against the Premier League leaders.

A 3-1 win over Crystal Palace moved Liverpool to within nine points of Manchester City with a game in hand. Palace manager Patrick Vieira had legitimate basis for complaint though after a match in which two of Liverpool’s goals reflected questionable officiating. An offside Bobby Firmino was not flagged on one of Liverpool’s goals while a second goal resulted from a penalty kick awarded after extensive VAR review of a seemingly non-existent transgression by Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

Chelsea won for the first time in four matches to move within ten points of Manchester City as the Blues defeated an overmatched Tottenham Hotspur side 2-0. The loss by Spurs was the first by former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte in his return to the Premier League. Conte was again vocal after the match regarding his dissatisfaction with a Spurs’ roster in need of reinforcement to compete with top clubs such as Chelsea.

Manchester United crashed the top four with a 1-0 victory over West Ham as Marcus Rashford scored for a second consecutive match in a substitute role for the Red Devils. Rashford’s winner came in the waning moments of stoppage time as the young forward scored for a second time in four days.

Running mate Anthony Martial, also a late substitute, is now reported to be off on a transfer to Sevilla after butting heads with manager Ralf Rangnick in recent weeks.

Arsenal’s top four aspirations were not helped by a goalless home draw against Burnley. The veteran Clarets, aligned in a narrow formation, conceded the wide areas of the field to their opponent, and harmlessly headed away seemingly unending crosses from the young Gunners. The lack of a clinical striker was evident for both clubs. Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette missed chances while the status of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains anyone’s guess. Burnley, meanwhile, is without Maxwel Cornet, away on Africa Cup duty, and has said goodbye to long time striker Chris Wood, now plying his craft at Newcastle.

Newcastle won its second match of the season, a 1-0 defeat of Leeds, to move to within a point of currently safe Norwich City.

Norwich pulled free of the relegation places when the Canaries defeated the spiraling Hornets of Watford by a 3-0 margin as American Josh Sargent scored his first two Premier League goals. While Norwich celebrated winning back-to-back matches for a second time this season, Watford lost for a 10th time in 13 league matches under manager Claudio Ranieri who was sacked on Monday. There was symbolism for Ranieri’s flickering tenure when the lights failed at Watford’s stadium, causing a delay in Friday’s painful proceedings for Hornets. Roy Hodgson, the former Crystal Palace manager who once referred to the antics of Watford mascot Harry the Hornet as “disgraceful,” appears the choice to replace Ranieri, which would force an awkward reconciliation with Harry.

Everton may soon be joining the relegation fray after the Toffees lost their first match under interim manger Duncan Ferguson, a 1-0 loss to an Aston Villa side managed by former Liverpool legend and Toffee nemesis Steven Gerrard. Everton seems to have no clear direction on their next manager with reported differences of opinion between the Board and Owner Farhad Moshiri after six failed appointments in six years. Adding to the chaotic circumstances in Merseyside were unruly Toffee fans who hit Aston Villa players with water bottles after the match’s deciding goal.

Wolverhampton’s 2-1 win at Brentford was a fourth win in a five-match unbeaten run for, moving the club to within four points of a top four berth. Bees’ manager Thomas Frank, meanwhile, is starting to show the stress after a fourth straight defeat. The Danish manager was assessed a red card for his comments to officials after a match which marked a sixth loss in seven matches for the Bees. The match at Brentford Community Stadium was temporarily halted when an unidentified drone hovering over the stadium was deemed a security threat by the referee. Wolves’ Molineux Stadium, meanwhile, was the site of a damaging fire Saturday night causing reportedly significant damage to the grounds.

A more common event this weekend was Brighton’s 1-1 draw with Leicester. The Seagulls have tied their opponents in more than half their matches and lead the league with 12 draws in their 22 league matches. By comparison, Sunday’s result was only the fifth draw by Leicester in 20 league matches this season.

The league now embarks on a two-week winter break. Proceedings reconvene Saturday, February 5th when Watford and presumably strange bedfellows Harry and Roy visit Burnley. Other league matches ensue that midweek as FA Cup matches dominate the first weekend of February. 

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