Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Premier League Results Match Week 22 Results: Manchester City Extends Lead in Title Chase; Liverpool Swats Bees; Hammers Fall; Man U Madness; Coutinho Stars In Return; Gunners Under Fire; Canaries Surprise; Rafa Sacked

 An individual moment of brilliance by Kevin De Bruyne was all that separated Manchester City from Chelsea in a 1-0 victory by the Citizens at the Etihad. De Bruyne’s 70th minute strike led Manchester City to its 12th consecutive league victory and effectively ended Chelsea’s Premier League title chase as the Londoners fell 13 points behind the Mancunians in the table.

The quality of the Belgian midfielder and his ability to step up in big moments was a stark contrast to the failures of Chelsea’s big money attackers such as Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic. Despite its heavy spending, Chelsea still has difficulty on the offensive end. Lukaku added to long standing doubts regarding his ability to influence big games as the Belgian striker failed to capitalize on at least two goal scoring opportunities on Saturday.

Liverpool remained 11 points behind Manchester City with a match in hand on the league leaders after a comfortable 3-0  Liverpool win over Brentford at Anfield on Sunday. Fabinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Minamino scored for Liverpool as the Reds played without scoring aces Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane who are participating in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Leeds surprised fourth place West Ham in a 3-2 surprise at London Stadium. Jack Harrison’s third goal of the match proved the charm for Leeds which had seen West Ham tie the match after each of Harrison’s two earlier goals. The former Major League Soccer player had one goal for the season before Sunday’s hat trick.

Dysfunction at Manchester United was on full display both on and off the field on Saturday. The Red Devils squandered a two-goal lead provided by a Bruno Fernandez brace to draw 2-2 with Aston Villa. Manchester United players seemed to “run out of gas” in second half action as they struggle to play Manager Ralf Rangnick’s more pressing form of game. Philippe Coutinho returned to Premier League action after a four-year absence to lead the comeback for Aston Villa. Entering the match in the 68th minute, Coutinho assisted on a goal by Jacob Ramsey who reciprocated by assisting on Coutinho’s equalizer in the 81st minute. Equally maddening for Manchester United fans was an internal squabble which seemed to confirm rumors of locker room unrest. Anthony Marital was missing from the Manchester United bench as Rangnick claimed the player refused to travel and participate in the match. Martial refuted that claim on social media as drama swirled about a once proud franchise.

A hard fought M23 derby resulted in a 1-1 draw between Brighton and Crystal Palace. Despite dominating much of the contest, Brighton needed an inadvertent own goal by Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen to secure the tie in the 87th minute after the Eagles’ goal came earlier in the second half on a strike by outstanding Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher. Crystal Palace goalkeeper Jack Butland saved a first half penalty kick in the contest, Butland’s first such save in 11 career penalty kick opportunities. The non-decision was a league leading 10th draw of the season for Brighton.

Another match which decided nothing between the participants was a 1-1 draw between Newcastle and Watford. The addition of new transfers Chris Wood and Keiran Trippier to the Magpies line-up was not enough for Newcastle to overcome the Hornets and to, at least temporarily, escape the relegation zone.

Both clubs lost ground in the relegation battle when the shock of the weekend occurred at Norwich where the Canaries’ 2-1 win over Everton snapped a six-match losing run and revived hopes of Premier League survival for the East Anglia club. Norwich moved to within a point of safety with the unexpected victory. The loss to Norwich proved the end of Rafa Benitez as Everton manager. The Spaniard was dismissed the following morning after an abbreviated and hugely unsuccessful tenure at Everton for the former Liverpool manager. The Toffees lost for a ninth time in their last twelve matches to finish the weekend just six points above the Canaries in the table as the specter of an unthinkable relegation begins to loom. The Everton manager position has been a revolving door under Owner Farhad Moshiri who now searches for his sixth manager, excluding interim appointments, in six years of ownership. Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard are two of the bigger names being rumored, though Moshiri may also just ride out the year with an interim appointment before taking his next big swing.

Postponement of the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur triggered widespread criticism of both the Gunners and the league. Arsenal’s request to postpone the match was approved though only two player absences were attributable to Covid. The introduction of postponements principally attributable to factors other than the pandemic is viewed by many as a disturbing development posing a threat to the league’s integrity. 

Midweek Matches

Three rescheduled league matches will be played over Tuesday and Wednesday. A fourth match involving Burnley and Watford has been pushed again at the request of the Clarets. Postponements have caused Burnley to play five fewer league matches to date than clubs such as Manchester City, Chelsea, and West Ham. Chelsea visits Brighton on Tuesday with the Seagulls having struggled on their home pitch. Three of four league losses for the Seagulls have occurred at Brighton’s American Express Community Stadium. Wednesday action sees Tottenham Hotspur travel to Leicester as Spurs continue to contend for a top four spot. Antonio Conte’s men trail fourth place West Ham by just four points in the table while having played four fewer matches than the Hammers. Manchester United has the opportunity to quickly rebound from its disappointing weekend draw when the Red Devils visit struggling Brentford. The Bees have lost four of their last five matches. The second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal between Arsenal and Liverpool is tentatively scheduled for Thursday should Arsenal be able to field enough players.

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