Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Match Week 34 Results: Burnley Breaks Free; Everton Sinks; City Swats Hornets; Gunners Blast Manchester United; Spurs Stung; Pulisic To The Rescue; Newcastle Crashes Top Half; Leeds Escapes Eagle Nest

Burnley emerged from the relegation zone for the first time since October with a gritty 1-0 home victory over Wolverhampton. The Clarets have moved two points ahead of struggling Everton in the race for survival with two wins and a draw under interim manager Mike Jackson who replaced the popular Sean Dyche. The managerial change is getting results despite widespread criticism of the sacking of the iconic Dyche. Matej Vydra scored the winner for Burnley, assisted by Wout Weghorst in the 62nd minute. Wolves lost for a sixth time in nine matches as the club failed to gain on seventh place West Ham in the battle for European qualification.

Burnley’s win loaded the pressure on Everton for its Merseyside derby against Liverpool later Sunday. The Toffees employed a low block defensive strategy which provided them only 17% possession against Liverpool. The strategy worked into the second half until Jurgen Klopp began reaching into his deep bench. Substitute Divock Origi worked a give and go with Mohamed Salah which led to Andy Robertson’s first goal for Liverpool at the 62nd minute mark. Origi then scored Liverpool’s second goal on a header made possible by an acrobatic bicycle kick assist from fellow substitute Luis Diaz.

The 2-0 defeat was a seventh consecutive away loss for the Toffees. Everton was last in the relegation zone this late in the season more than 20 years ago.

Manchester City stayed one point ahead of Liverpool in the title race with a 5-1 swatting of Watford. Gabriel Jesus became the first Brazilian player to score four goals in a Premier League match. Watford lost a fourth consecutive match as Manager Roy Hodgson’s Hornets trudge towards relegation.

Arsenal took command of the race for the fourth Champions League berth by defeating listless Manchester United 3-1. Manchester United increasingly becomes a one-man team as Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 100th Premier League goal which he dedicated to his recently deceased infant son. Ronaldo’s teammates seem to be merely playing out the string under interim manager Ralph Rangnick. Arsenal’s second consecutive win put the Gunners two points up on Tottenham Hotspur and six points above Manchester United for fourth place and Champions League qualification. It took only three minutes for Arsenal to take the lead at the Emirates on Nuno Tavares’ first Premier League goal. After Ronaldo halved the lead, the Gunners extended their advantage on a Bukayo Saka penalty kick. Granit Xhaka sealed matters with a frozen rope goal at the 70-minute mark.

Tottenham Hotspur is fumbling its chance for Champions League football next season by dropping five of its last six available points. Spurs failed to put a shot on goal for a second consecutive week in a 0-0 point sharing with a Brentford side which had the better of play often orchestrated by former Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen. Spurs need to get past Leicester and Liverpool before a showdown with Arsenal on May 12th which could decide things between the rivals. Brentford notched its 40th point of the season in extending a four-match unbeaten run which has included wins over Chelsea and West Ham.

Christian Pulisic was the star of another London derby when he came off the bench at Stamford Bridge to score a 90th minute winner in a 1-0  Chelsea victory over West Ham.

The win snapped a three-match losing run at home for third place Chelsea. West Ham’s only fit center back, Crag Dawson, received a red card less than five minutes before  the Pulisic goal. West Ham Manager David Moyes started Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio on the bench as the Hammers rotated players in preparation for their Europa League semifinal tie with Eintracht Frankfurth which begins Thursday. West Ham is currently seventh in the league, two points behind Manchester United and three points ahead of Wolves. Sixth place would mean Europa League qualification. Seventh place would mean Europa Conference League qualification. But winning the Europa League this year would mean Champions League for the Hammers next season.

Newcastle moved into the top half of the table with a 3-0 win at Norwich. Joelinton scored a first half brace and Bruno Guimaraes finished the match’s scoring less than five minutes into second half play after intercepting a pass from Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul. Newcastle won for a fourth consecutive match. Norwich failed to add to its 22 goals for the season, six goals fewer than any other Premier League club at weekend’s end. The Canaries are eight points from safety and appear poised to fly back down to the Championship tier of English football.

Two clubs in the middle of the table, with little to play for, produced a meaningless result in a goalless draw between Leicester and Villa. The draw did end a four-match losing run for 15th place Aston Villa which is nine points removed from relegation concerns. Ninth place Leicester is more focused on Thursday’s Europa Conference League semifinal than any remaining league business.

Leeds, however, needs to remain focused to avoid joining Everton and Burnley in their relegation scrap. Manager Jesse Marsch’s side grabbed a crucial point in a goalless draw at Crystal Palace which increased Leeds’s cushion versus Everton and the relegation zone to five points. Everton has a match in hand, however, and Leeds faces a gauntlet of Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea in its next three matches. Crystal Palace snapped a three-match losing run across all competitions. The Eagles sit comfortably mid-table in 14th position.

Southampton fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Brighton. The Seagulls stunned the Saints with a Danny Welbeck goal less than two minutes into the match. Brighton’s lead doubled later in the first half on an own goal by the Saints’ Mohammed Salisu. James Ward-Prowse began the Southampton comeback in first half stoppage time with his 14th career Premier League goal from a free kick, four less than David Beckham’s league record. Ward-Prowse continued his man of the match performance with a tying goal early in second half play. The uneven performance further validated Southampton’s standing as one of the league’s most unpredictable teams. In their last four matches the Saints  were demolished 6-0 by Chelsea, impressively defeated Arsenal, floundered in a poor loss to Burnley and then rallied from a two-goal deficit for Sunday’s draw. Disappointed Brighton can take solace in breaking a five-match goalless run at home.

Only one Premier League match is scheduled before next weekend. Chelsea visits Old Trafford Thursday to take on Manchester United. 

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