Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Match Week 33 Results And Midweek Preview: Ronaldo Shines; Seagulls Strike Again; Gunner Slide Continues; Bees Strike Late

Cristiano Ronaldo rescued Manchester United with his 50th career hat trick as a Red Devil in a 3-2 defeat of Norwich. Manchester United had squandered a 2-0 lead over the League’s cellar dwellers before Ronaldo rescued his underperforming teammates with a 76th minute free kick for his third goal. Ronaldo has hat tricks in two of his past three league appearances to single handedly keep Manchester United in the top four race.

The Portuguese superstar now trails only Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min in Premier League scoring this season and has surpassed 20 goals across all competitions, becoming the first Manchester United player to do so since Ronaldo’s 2008/09 season for the Red Devils. Manchester United is solidly back in the top four race, three points behind fourth place Tottenham Hotspur, after rival competitors for the number four spot suffered a rough weekend.

Brighton and Hove Albion continued to prove surprising spoilers in the top four race when the Seagulls defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 on Saturday, one week after the Seagulls defeated Arsenal. Brighton held Spurs without a shot on target as the Seagulls scored in the 90th minute to record a second consecutive win in north London. Brighton has shockingly emerged from a six-match losing run spanning February and March to remain in contention for its first ever Premier League top half finish.

Spurs remained three points ahead of Arsenal, Brighton’s victims of the week prior, when the Gunners again showed a lack of firepower in a 1-0 defeat to a Southampton side which had conceded six goals in a loss to Chelsea the week before. Arsenal’s third consecutive loss and fourth in five matches has changed the complexion of the top four race. Arsenal has scored twice in that run of five matches as the absence of a Premier League quality striker has become glaringly evident.

West Ham wasted an opportunity to go level with Manchester United and Arsenal on points when the Hammers drew 1-1 with Burnley at London Stadium. Burnley were bright in their first match since the sacking of Sean Dyche but bungled the chance for the win when Maxwel Cornet missed a penalty kick. West Ham dominated play towards match end but was stonewalled by the acrobatic efforts of Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope.

Brentford’s 2-1 win over Watford was the Bees’ third consecutive win and Brentford’s fifth victory in the Bees’ last six outings. Christian Ericksen has been integral to Brentford’s run and the Danish international’s cross was headed in by teammate Pontus Jansson five minutes into second half stoppage time to further damage Watford’s survival hopes. The Hornets equaled a Premier League record with a tenth consecutive home defeat. Jansson’s goal for the Bees was the 15th time Watford has conceded in the final 10 minutes of a Premier League match this season, more times than any other league team.

Newcastle also scored five minutes into final stoppage time to take all three points in 2-1 home win over Leicester. Bruno Guimaraes scored a brace for Newcastle, including the match winner and the January transfer now has three goals in five starts for the Magpies. Newcastle has won eight of 12 matches to eliminate any relegation threat for the Magpies. Leicester manager Brendan Rogers made eight lineup changes from the team’s Europa Conference League match on Thursday. Guimaraes first goal off came off a corner kick, marking the 17th goal from a set piece that the Foxes have conceded this season, more than any other Premier League team.

Mid-Week Matches

Six Premier League matches are scheduled from Tuesday through Thursday this week as the league catches up on rescheduled matches. Action begins Tuesday with the latest chapter of the historic Liverpool and Manchester United rivalry. That rivalry has dimmed in recent years due to the struggles of Manchester United and the ascendancy of Liverpool under manager Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool’s clashes with Manchester City and its legendary manager Pep Guardiola have had far more bearing in determining recent Premier League and cup championships. Liverpool cannot afford a loss, or they could lose touch with Manchester City in the league race where they trail by a point. Manchester United is still trying to grab the final Champions League slot for next year. The Red Devils will be without Ronaldo who will miss the match due to the passing of his infant son. Without their primary goal threat, the match at Anfield should be an uphill challenge for United.

A London derby Wednesday also has top four implications as Arsenal heads to Chelsea hoping to snap a three-match losing run for the Gunners. Arsenal has lost four of five matches to surrender its command of the fourth and final Champions League berth to rival Tottenham Hotspur. The Gunners trail Spurs by three points in the table and are level on points with Manchester United. Third place Chelsea has won five of its last six matches to build a five-point lead over Tottenham Hotspur for third position in the table with two matches in hand.

Brighton and Hove Albion shook up the race for fourth with wins the past two weeks over Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. The Seagulls can now play spoiler in the title race when they visit Manchester City on Wednesday. Manchester City and Liverpool are separated by a point at the top of the table with a loss potentially fatal to the title hopes of either side. The Seagulls have never won a league match at the Etihad and failed to score a goal in three consecutive and five of their last seven league visits to Manchester City’s home.

Two matches bear watching this week in the battle for survival by teams further down the table. Everton hosts Leicester on Wednesday hoping to build on its three-point lead over Burnley for the final invitation to compete in the league next season. There has been no place like home for the Toffees who have registered seven of their eight wins in the league this season at Goodison Park. Leicester, meanwhile, has lost six of its last eight away matches. A Burnley win versus Southampton on Thursday, coupled with an Everton loss to the Foxes, would put the Clarets even on points with the Toffees though Everton would still have a match in hand. The two clubs battling to avoid relegation have the same goal differential entering this week.

Mid table sides Newcastle and Crystal Palace meet at St. James Park Wednesday. The two teams are level on points, but Newcastle has been a tale of two seasons as Eddie Howe has reversed the direction of a franchise which was dwelling in the relegation zone for much of the first part of the season. The Magpies have won their last five home matches at St. James Park. Crystal Palace has successfully transitioned to a younger, more attacking club under Manager Patrick Vieira. Club stalwart Wilfried Zaha has seemed re-energized for the Eagles this season and needs one more goal to establish a new personal best for league goals in a season. 

FA Cup

Liverpool and Chelsea advance to Cup Final

Liverpool and Chelsea will face each other in the FA Cup final. The two sides met earlier this season in a Carabao Cup final which saw Liverpool prevail when Chelsea’s substitute goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga missed the game’s final kick in a match which went to a penalty shootout. Liverpool advanced to the rematch by outlasting Manchester City in a 3-2 FA Cup semifinal win. The Reds had sprinted to a 3-0 halftime lead before Manchester City made it more a of a contest with two second half goals. Sadio Mane scored a first half brace for the Reds after Ibrahima Konate scored the opening goal with his header. American goalkeeper Zack Steffen played in place of Ederson in goal for Manchester City and was culpable on Mane’s first goal, providing a two-goal lead for Liverpool, after Steffen lost possession of the ball in his own box. Liverpool remains in contention for a quadruple of titles this season. The Reds, one point behind Manchester City in the Premier League race, have won the Carabao cup, advanced to the final of the FA Cup and will be playing in the semifinal of the Champions League against Villareal.

Chelsea advanced to face Liverpool in the FA Cup final when the Blues eliminated Crystal Palace 2-0 in the other semifinal match. Crystal Palace played well organized defense and kept Chelsea scoreless until the 65th minute when substitute, and former Crystal Palace loan player, Ruben Loftus-Cheek gave Chelsea the lead. Mason Mount scored the clincher 11 minutes later. Crystal Palace, playing without the Chelsea loaned Conor Gallagher, presented little threat in attack despite the loud exhortations of its boisterous fan base which was in full voice at Wembley. Chelsea will be playing in its third consecutive FA Cup final when it faces Liverpool. The Blues lost last season’s final to Leicester. 


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