Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Match Week 28 Results: Gunners Shoot Past Manchester United and West Ham Into Top Four; City Outclasses United; Liverpool Keeps Pace; Hammers Fall; Spurs Sink Everton; Newcastle Rolls; Canaries’ Sad Song

Arsenal swept into the Champions League places by defeating lowly Watford while Manchester United and West Ham fell to the top teams in the table. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s youth project paid dividends once again as 23-year-old Martin Odegaard was the oldest of three Gunner goal scorers. Sharing the score sheet with Odegaard was Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, both of whom are 20 years old. Saka, who assisted on Odegaard’s opening goal, is second in Europe’s top five leagues in combined goals and assists by players under 21 years of age. Saka also had a hand in Marinelli’s winning goal via an expedited throw-in which seemed to catch the Hornets off guard. Alexandre Lacazette, one of the few influential Arsenal veterans, assisted on the Saka and Martinelli goals. The two goals by Watford represented an offensive explosion for the Hornets but failed to keep the table’s penultimate team from losing for an 18th time in 27 matches this season.

Manchester United and West Ham came up short against far more difficult opponents than the Gunners faced. The Red Devils were overwhelmed 4-1 by crosstown rival and table leading Manchester City. United’s shaky defense was no match for the ruthless efficiency of the Citizens’ attack. Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez each had two goals in the one-sided victory.

Poor play by Manchester United center back and captain, Harry Maguire, played a role in both De Bruyne goals as well as Mahrez’s second score. Maguire’s teammate, right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, was also targeted by the City attack. Jadon Sancho provided the lone bright spot for Manager Ralf Rangnick when the former Manchester City property momentarily tied matters in the first half. Sancho’s goal came on one of only two shots on target by Manchester United for the match, none in a less than energetic second half by the Red Devils. Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani missed the match due to injury with manager Ralf Rangnick resorting to playing Bruno Fernandez in a forward attacking role for which the Portuguese midfielder seemed ill suited.

West Ham mounted a more spirited effort but was unable to convert its chances in falling 1-0 at Liverpool. Liverpool’s score came on a precise Trent Alexander-Arnold low cross which threaded the Hammer defense to find the foot of Sadio Mane for the winner, Mane’s twelfth goal of the season. West Ham manager David Moyes remains in search of his first career win at Anfield as the Hammers dropped to sixth in the table after failing to win for a third time in their last four league matches. Liverpool remains six points behind league leading Manchester City, having played one less match than the Citizens.

Chelsea provided a reality check to Burnley as the defending Champions League and Club World Cup winners outclassed the Clarets 4-0. A second straight loss leaves Burnley in the relegation zone looking to re-ignite the spark which had them taking points in four of five matches before their more recent struggles. Kai Havertz had two goals and Christian Pulisic and Reese James also scored for a Chelsea attack which seems energized with the return of winger James from injury and the emergence of Pulisic as a more consistent force. Pulisic and James assisted on the Havertz goals.

Everton could be the team Burnley overtakes in the race for survival. The Toffees delivered a listless performance in a 5-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur to remain a slim point above Burnley and the possible first relegation for Everton in 70 years. Spurs stayed in the Champions League discussion as the wildly inconsistent club has now defeated Manchester City, lost to Burnley and FA Cup opponent Middlesbrough, and smashed Leeds and Spurs by an aggregate 9-0 margin over its last five matches in all competitions. Manager Antonio Conte has his club poised just three points below rival Arsenal for the final Champions League qualification berth despite the Italian manager’s withering public criticism of his roster. Harry Kane scored two of the five Tottenham Hotspur goals. Carlo Ancelotti appears to have made the wisest decision in football when he abandoned the sinking Everton ship for Real Madrid where the Italian manager is currently leading the La Liga table. Donny van de Beek, meanwhile, reportedly spurned opportunities with other Premier League clubs such as Newcastle and Crystal Palace to go on loan to the Toffees. The Manchester United loanee and new Everton manager Frank Lampard may both regret their decisions to join the blue side of Merseyside. Lampard’s managerial future in the Premier League will be severely damaged if he takes Everton down.

Patrick Vieira is tasting managerial success as his Crystal Palace Eagles moved into the top half of the table with a 2-0 win over Wolves. Viera’s men have lost but one of their last six matches as a superior goal differential has moved them ahead of three other clubs which are level on points with the Eagles. Wolves lost for a third straight match as their European dreams are being quickly extinguished. A second straight goalless effort saw striker Raul Jimenez relegated to a substitute role for a second consecutive match as Manager Bruno Lage desperately seeks some form of spark for the Wolves attack. Only Burnley and Watford are less productive in front of goal than the toothless Wolves.

Newcastle won for a fifth time in its last six matches and extended its unbeaten run to eight matches as Manager Eddie Howe continues to engineer a Magpie miracle. Newcastle’s rise after Howe’s appointment stands in stark contrast to the failure experienced to date by Frank Lampard at Everton. A 2-1 victory over Brighton moves Newcastle seven points clear of the relegation zone. Brighton exhibited intricate play to little result, a trademark outcome for a club whose English manger, Graham Potter continues to receive the praise of the British press. The Seagulls’ goal on Saturday was the first time they have scored in a four-match losing run in the league.

Christian Eriksen made his first start for Brentford and the Bees won for a first time in nine outings in a 3-1 win over Norwich which likely ended the survival hopes of the Canaries. Norwich Manager Dean Smith was critical of two penalties which provided the margin of defeat for his club as Brentford’s Ivan Toney made the two penalty kicks to complete his hat trick for the Bees. A stoppage time goal by the Canaries’ Teemu Pukki was only the 16th goal of the season for Norwich in 27 matches. The Canaries are five points from safety with little indication of the club having the capabilities necessary for survival.

Aston Villa registered a second consecutive clean sheet and played the most complete match of Steven Gerrard’s managerial tenure in shocking Southampton 4-0 at Villa Park.  Villa’s attack overran the Saints with four different players finding the net. Danny Ings scored the fourth goal after providing two earlier assists. Philippe Coutinho had a goal and assist for the Villans. The Saints lost for just the second time in 11 matches as they managed only one shot on target versus a barrage of nine shots on target by Aston Villa. The Saints return to St. Mary’s Thursday for a rescheduled match with Newcastle. The Premier League has three other rescheduled matches that day, all three contests involving teams engaged in the relegation battle. Watford visits Wolves, Leeds is home to Aston Villa, and Norwich plays host to Chelsea. 

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