Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Match Week 29 Results: Standoff at Selhurst; Ronaldo Answers Critics; Reds, Gunners, Hammers Win; Sanctioned Chelsea Edges Newcastle; Watford Says It Ain’t Over; Marsch Madness Begins For Leeds

Manchester City was held to a scoreless draw at Selhurst Park as Crystal Palace registered their second clean sheet against the Citizens this season. The pesky Eagles had previously defeated City in a 2-0 victory at the Etihad. Manchester City had 74% of the possession in Monday’s draw but was unable to put a shot past Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita who was aided by the woodwork on two of Manchester City’s attempts. Palace also received outstanding defensive performances from left back Tyrick Mitchell and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate.

The dropped points at Selhurst leaves Manchester City only four points ahead of Liverpool in the title chase.

A massive match occurs Wednesday when Liverpool visits a red-hot Arsenal team. The Reds and Gunners have each won 8 of their last 10 league matches, each losing but once over that span. Liverpool defeated Brighton 2-0 on Saturday to keep the pressure on Manchester City. Luis Diaz bravely scored Liverpool’s first goal despite being violently fouled by Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez. VAR review quizzically assessed no card on the Seagull goalkeeper. Mohamed Salah ended Brighton’s hopes when the league’s top scorer converted a second half penalty kick. Salah’s score marked his 20th league goal of the season and Liverpool’s 2,000th goal in Premier League play. Salah became the sixth player to score 20 or more Premier League goals in four consecutive seasons. Brighton lost a sixth consecutive match, a run which has seen the club score only once. The Seagulls are likely safe from any relegation concern, however, due to points accumulated earlier this season. Brighton won four of its first five fixtures, winning just three more matches since then though posting a joint league leading 12 draws.

Arsenal defeated Leicester 2-0 for their fifth consecutive win. Thomas Partey opened scoring in the 11th minute by heading in a corner kick from Gabriel Martinelli. Leicester has conceded a league leading 15 goals from set pieces this season. Alexandre Lacazette’s converted penalty kick provided the insurance goal. Arsenal leads Manchester United by a point for the final Champions League berth with the Gunners having played three fewer matches than the Red Devils heading into Wednesday’s contest with Liverpool.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the target of much recent criticism, reminded everyone of his greatness with a hat trick at Old Trafford which kept Manchester United in the hunt to secure Champions League football for next season.

Ronaldo’s scoring burst on Saturday was historic as his 807 career goals now surpass the 805 attributed to Austrian-Czech striker Josef Bican, making the Portuguese legend the all-time greatest goal scorer for club and country. Ronaldo’s first hat trick for the Red Devils in 14 years came as his club desperately needed a spark and the footballing legend stood accused of much of the unproductive drama swirling about the club. A recent trip by Ronaldo home to Portugal, reportedly without his manager’s knowledge, was the latest controversy. Even after Ronaldo’s best performance this season, Manager Ralf Rangnick chose to speak of the challenges of managing Ronaldo in postgame comments. Ronaldo’s brilliance, however, can cover sins elsewhere in an underperforming Manchester United lineup. A penalty kick by Harry Kane after a United handball and an own goal committed by struggling Manchester United captain Harry Maguire kept Spurs in the match before Ronaldo settled matters in the 81st minute. Before being substituted to a standing ovation from United supporters, Ronaldo was credited for eight shots, five on target, for the match with three of his shots finding the back of the net. Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, continued an up and down season which has seen alternating wins and losses over its last seven matches across all competitions. Spurs fell to eighth in the Premier League table, six points behind fourth place Arsenal and will try to pick up the pieces when they head to Brighton for a Wednesday match.

West Ham stayed in the race for a Champions League berth by delivering a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at London Stadium. Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko was understandably emotional celebrating his 70th minute goal which broke a scoreless tie. The Hammers’ Pablo Fornals added a second score before Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey scored a consolation goal for Villa in the 90th minute. West Ham stayed three points behind Arsenal. Aston Villa lost for a first time in three matches.

Chelsea overcame a week of distractions to grab three points on an 89th minute goal by Kai Havertz to defeat Newcastle 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The victory was emotional for a Chelsea club facing an existential threat from government sanctions levied because of owner Roman Abramovich’s connection with Russian President Valdimir Putin in light of that country’s Ukrainian invasion. Newcastle, which has its own controversial Saudi Arabian associated ownership, lost for a first time in 10 matches. An outstanding defensive effort by the Magpies was wasted when Chelsea’s Jorginho lofted a perfectly placed pass over the defense to find Havertz for the winner. Wolves jumped over Tottenham Hotspur, into seventh in the table, with a 1-0 win over struggling Everton. The Toffees have now scored one or fewer goals in 20 of their 29 matches this season as Sunday’s home defeat inflicted further misery on Everton and their manager Frank Lampard. Only cellar dwelling Norwich has accumulated fewer league points than Everton since Lampard took charge of the Toffees. Things won’t get easier when resurgent Newcastle visits Goodison Park for a Thursday match up.

A surprising 2-1 victory by Watford at Southampton put the Hornets level on points with Everton, the Toffees tenuously holding on to the league’s final safe position due a better goal differential. Two goals by Cucho Henandez provided hope for a Watford side which had been left for dead after only one victory in its previous 16 matches. Southampton lost for a third consecutive time as Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 10th place side is experiencing a rough patch within an otherwise successful season.

Watford moved ahead of Burnley in the relegation places as the Clarets lost 2-0 to Brentford, a third consecutive loss for Manager Sean Dyche’s Burnley side. While trailing Watford by a point, however, Burnley has played two fewer matches than the Hornets. Brentford, meanwhile, won for a second consecutive outing to build  a comfortable eight-point cushion against the drop. Ivan Toney, scorer of the two goals on Saturday, has been all the buzz for the Bees. Toney has all five goals for Brentford in the two-match winning run, three scored by penalty.

American Manager Jesse Marsch registered his first Premier League victory in a 2-1 defeat of Norwich. The struggling Whites needed a stoppage time goal by 19-year-old substitute Joe Gelhardt, who entered the match just minutes before, to dispense with the bottom dwelling Canaries at Leeds’s Elland Road home.

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