Wednesday, November 30, 2022

World Cup News: Pulisic Lifts USA; England Smothers Wales; Koulibaly Delivers Winner For Senegal; Japan Flops; Germany Stays Alive; Aging Belgium Falls to Morocco; Fernandes Shines For Portugal

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic provided an individual moment of brilliance to lift the US into the final 16 of the World Cup. The US star sacrificed his body in colliding with Iran’s goalkeeper in a 1-0 US win which sets up a knockout match with the Netherlands on Saturday.

The US qualified second in a group which saw England take the honors after a 3-0 win over Wales which saw the Welsh manage just a single shot on target. Manchester City’s Phil Foden finally got a start for the England team and responded with a goal in his first extended outing of the tournament. Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, scored the other two goals for England versus Wales and his tournament total of three goals draws him even with three other players for tournament best so far.

England will face Senegal in the next round after Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly scored the winner for the Senegalese in a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo scored the Ecuadoran goal after Watford’s Ismaila Sarr had given Senegal an early lead. Koulibaly’s goal eliminated an Ecuador side which could have advanced with a draw.

Japan followed up its surprising opening match victory over Germany by falling flat on its face in a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica. The Ticos had conceded seven goals to Spain before posting a clean sheet against the Blue Samurai.

Germany avoided early elimination by drawing 1-1 with Spain. The Germans are the only team in its group not to have notched a victory but will be favored in their final group match Thursday against Costa Rica with a chance yet to advance to the knockout stage.

Premier League referee Anthony Taylor was at the center of controversy as he blew the final whistle while South Korea prepared to take a corner kick at the end of a 3-2 Ghana win over the South Koreans. The apoplectic South Korean manager was assessed a red card by Taylor over his protestations.

Victorious Ghana, which got an opening goal from 23-year-old Southampton center back Mohammed Salisu, fields the youngest roster in the tournament.

Belgium, on the other hand, started seven players in their thirties in a 2-0 loss to Morocco as the country’s “Golden Generation” may be nearing the end of their trophyless run. Internal discord between members of the aging and frustrated Belgian squad made headlines after a match which damages the Belgians’ chances for advancement. Chelsea’s little used Hakim Ziyech assisted on Morocco’s second goal after having an earlier goal reversed on VAR review.

Canada scored the fastest goal of the tournament at the two-minute mark of its match with Croatia but then watched the Croatians pour four goals into the Canadian net in a 4-1 loss which eliminated the Canadians from the tournament. Canadian manager John Herdman made comments before the match which the Croatians felt were disrespectful and the European power, which finished second to France in 2018, responded by spanking the North American upstarts.

Brazil punched its ticket for the knockout round by defeating Switzerland 1-0 as Manchester United midfielder Casemiro scored the goal in a second consecutive win for the Brazilians. Portugal also advances to the next round after a 2-0 win over Uruguay. Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes continued his excellent tournament with two goals against the Uruguayans. Portugal could be a tournament dark horse with Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo joining four other Premier League players in a star-studded Portuguese starting eleven.

Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen and his Denmark teammates saw an early end to their tournament in a 1-0 loss to Australia. Australia moves to the knockout stage of the tournament for the first time since 2006.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

World Cup News: US Stonewalls England Stars; Japan Stuns Germany; Ronaldo Makes History In Portugal Win; Courtois Saves Belgium; Spain Puts Seven Past Costa Rica; Richarlison Brace Leads Brazil

The shining stars of the Premier League were checked by an aggressive United States men’s team in a goalless draw on Friday. With an enormous talent advantage, the seasoned England team could not overcome the aggressive play of the Americans. Both sides struggled to create chances with Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic hitting the crossbar with the match’s best chance for the US.

The US finished with just one shot on goal with England putting just three attempts on target. England Manager Gareth Southgate came under criticism after the match for not employing Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold to help open up the US defense. Neither Premier League star saw the pitch on Friday. England still appears a lock to advance absent a heavy defeat against Wales next week.

The Welsh fell 2-0 to Iran on Friday as the Iranians scored the latest winning goal in tournament history. The match was into the eighth minute of final stoppage time when Iran scored its first goal and then added a second three minutes later. The tournament is seeing extended stoppage times as officials are putting increased emphasis on recapturing lost regulation minutes. Wales played with ten men from the 86th minute onward after a red card was assessed against former Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy. The US needs to beat the Iranians Tuesday to make it to the knockout round.

While the US draw with group favorite England was impressive, it was Japan which delivered the tournament’s second shocker when the Blue Samurai defeated Germany 2-0. Japan came from behind following Germany’s first half penalty kick by Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan. Germany was unable to convert its chances as the Germans launched 26 shots, nine of which were on target. Chelsea striker Kai Havertz had a first half goal pulled back due to an offside call against Germany.

Former Chelsea and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois saved a penalty kick and another former Chelsea player, Mich Batshuayi, scored the game winner in Belgium’s 1-0 win over Canada.

Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, celebrated his newly won freedom from Manchester United by becoming the first man to score in five World Cups when he scored a penalty kick in a 3-2 Portugal win over Ghana. Ronaldo’s now former Manchester United teammate Bruno Fernandes had two assists in Portugal’s win.

Spain scored the nation’s most ever goals in a World Cup match in a 7-0 rout of Costa Rica. Former Manchester City forward Ferran Torress scored twice for the Spaniards while Gavi became the youngest goal scorer at the World Cup since Brazil’s Pele.

Brazil began play in this year’s tournament with a 2-0 defeat of Serbia as Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison scored both goals for the Selecao. Richarlison’s second goal on a bicycle kick is perhaps the goal of the tournament to date.

Robert Lewandowski finally scored his first World Cup goal in Poland’s 2-0 win over a Saudi Arabia side which had shocked Argentina days earlier. Former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny stopped a penalty kick in the Poland win.

France became the first club to seal their advancement to the knockout round as Kylian Mbappe scored twice in a 2-1 defeat of Denmark for France’s second consecutive group win. A Lionel Messi goal, meanwhile, helped Argentina rebound from its loss to Saudi Arabia and avoid an early tournament exit with a 2-0 win over Mexico. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

World Cup News: Premier League Stars Shine in England Win, US Awaits on Friday; Messi and Argentina Shocked by Saudis; Olivier Giroud Matches Thierry Henry As France Routs Aussies; Ronaldo Steals Headlines Off The Pitch

Four different Premier League players scored and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka notched a brace as England sprinted away from Iran in a 6-2 win in their World Cup opener. Jude Bellingham, the only non-Premier League player on the England squad, opened the scoring 35 minutes in with a glancing header into the Iran net. Saka followed with the first of his goals eight minutes later and Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling added to England’s first half lead with a stoppage time goal. Saka’s second goal of the match opened second half scoring and subs Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish added to the rout. The Three Lions tallied six goals in a major tournament for only the second time in the nation’s history. A perfect day for England included one scary moment when Harry Kane took a knock on one of his oft injured ankles. Despite wearing a brace while leaving the stadium, Kane has been ruled fit for the United States on Friday by England Manger Gareth Southgate.

The Americans squandered a golden opportunity to take all three points in their match with Wales when center back Walker Zimmerman needlessly clattered into Gareth Bale in the 82nd minute. Bale’s penalty kick tied the match at 1-1 which held up as the final score as both teams tired in the final minutes.

Wales had dominated second half action after the insertion of physically imposing striker Kieffer Moore, scorer of four goals for Premier League side Bournemouth this season. Moore’s presence in the box pressured a US defense which had an easy time of things in the first half. Leeds defensive midfielder Tyler Adams and Arsenal’s backup keeper Matt Turner helped hold the invigorated Welsh attack at bay before Zimmerman’s fateful error. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic assisted a first half US goal by Timothy Weah but was hindered by a lack of support from a thin US forward line. Norwich’s Jeff Sargent started at striker for the US and was ineffective before being substituted for Jordan Morris in the second half. Borussia Dortmund playmaker Gio Reyna was a surprising non-participant for the US and had supporters scratching their head as to whether the cause was injury or tactical on the part of US Manager Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter’s confusing post-match comments just added to the mystery. Pulisic and friends face the England juggernaut on Friday.

The tournament’s first upset was a shocker on Tuesday when Saudi Arabia came from behind to capture a 2-1 result over Lionel Messi and Argentina. Messi’s penalty had given Argentina a first half lead which was overcome by the Saudis in the first 10 minutes of second half play. Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was victimized by the Saudi goals which were the first conceded by Argentina after posting clean sheets in its most recent five matches leading into the World Cup. The loss by Argentina to 51st ranked Saudi Arabia rates among the all-time World Cup upsets such as the 1950 loss by England to the US.

Saudi Arabia sits atop its group after Poland and Mexico played to a scoreless draw. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski continued his World Cup futility when his penalty kick was saved by veteran Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa. Lewandowski has never scored in the World Cup and has a growing legacy for underperformance in big matches.

Former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, went through the entire 2018 World Cup for champion France without ever scoring a goal. He scored two on Tuesday in France’s 4-1 win over Australia. Giroud’s second goal of the match tied him with Thierry Henry as France’s all-time goal scorer.

All world goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t start play for Portugal in this year’s World Cup until Thursday, but he is already making news. The Portuguese striker and Manchester United have agreed to terminate his contract with the club. The separation follows on recent explosive interviews and statements where Ronaldo's criticism of the club and Manager Eric ten Hag reached all new levels.

Friday, November 18, 2022

World Cup Is Here

The Premier League goes on pause until Boxing Day as 136 of its players head to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. The Premier League unsurprisingly has more players participating in this World Cup than any other league in the world. Twenty-five of the 26 players on England’s team play in their country’s topflight division. Nineteen year old Jude Bellingham, the latest Borussia Dortmund  wunderkind, is the only England player not currently in the Premier League though he’s rumored as a transfer target of several of the top English clubs.

Manchester City has the highest representation in Qatar with 16 players from its roster playing for their countries, five of whom will be playing for England Manager Gareth Southgate. Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne will need to have an outstanding tournament if the “Golden Generation” of his native Belgium is to finally realize its cup winning potential with a now aging roster. Former Tottenham Hotspur center backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen now compete in the Belgian domestic league but continue to anchor the Belgian defense long past their Premier League primes.

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson is in a battle with Liverpool’s Allison Becker to start between the sticks for Brazil, a tournament favorites with a roster that includes 12 Premier League stars. Manchester United has 14 players headed to Qatar, three of whom (Casemiro, Fred, Antony) will play for the Brazilians.

United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, is likely seeing his last World Cup for Portugal. Ronaldo’s club teammates Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot join him on the Portuguese roster.

Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen returns to the world stage for Denmark after his life-threatening cardiac event in the Euros. Chelsea’s eighth place position in the Premier League table belies the fact that it will have twelve of its players playing for their home countries in Qatar. Christian Pulisic, limited in his minutes this season for Chelsea, stars for a young United States team which will face England in a much-awaited match the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday. Pulisic will be facing Chelsea teammates Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Conor Gallager across the pitch that day. Despite being often referred to as Captain America, Pulisic could get competition for the captain’s armband from Tyler Adams of Leeds. The defensive midfielder is key to US hopes should they hope to advance against some of the elite attacks of some of the European and South American nations. Adams’s Leeds teammate Brenden Aaronson is also on the US roster.

Other Premier League sides sending large numbers to Qatar include north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur (11 players) and Arsenal (10 players). Spurs’ Harry Kane captains the England team while goalkeeper Hugo Lloris wears the armband for defending champion France. Arsenal’s Willian Saliba will join Lloris on a France roster which will look a bit different from that which triumphed in 2018. Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and former Manchester United player Paul Pogba will both be missing due to injury. Saliba’s Arsenal teammates Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli will both be in the mix for minutes on Brazil’s front line along with Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison.

Credit to Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe who has his Magpies sitting  third in the Premier League table despite having only five World Cup participants on his roster, one fewer than tenth place Brentford. Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimaraes joins the loaded Brazilian squad in Qatar.

Injuries will keep several current and former Premier League stars from competing for their countries while others are racing the clock to recover in time to participate in all or some of their country’s matches. Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min plans to take the pitch for South Korea at some point in the tournament while wearing a mask to protect recently incurred facial fractures. Manchester City’s Kalvin Philips and Kyle Walker are both on England’s roster but are still question marks due to injury. Manchester United’s Raphael Varane and Wolverhampton’s Raul Jiminez, absent for an extended time from league play, still hope to compete for France and Mexico, respectively.

Unfortunately for Premier League fans, the countries of prolific goal scorers Erling Haaland (Norway) and Mohamed Salah (Egypt) didn’t survive the tournament’s qualification process and the two stars won’t be competing in Qatar. Brazil is a clear favorite to win its sixth World Cup. Argentina, however, is also a strong contender as Lionel Messi tries to capture his first World Cup trophy in what is probably his last try. If Messi is to be successful, he’ll need help from Argentine Premier League players such as goalkeeper Emiliano Matinez (Aston Villa), center backs Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United) and Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), midfielder Alexis Mc Allister (Brighton) and forward Julian Alvarez (Manchester City). South American rival Uruguay fields an aging roster featuring former Premier League players Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez represents the next generation strike force for the Uruguayans. England, France, Spain and Belgium are the European squads many expect to be in the mix for the championship.

The competition kicks off on Sunday as host nation Qatar plays an Ecuador side which includes three players from Premier League side Brighton Hove and Albion. and Albion. 


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Match Week 16 Results: Odegaard Fires Arsenal Past Wolves; Citizens Stung by Bees; Magpies Fly Into Break With Win Over Chelsea; Spurs Overcome Leeds’s Leads; United Wins As Ronaldo Rages; Cherries Top Toffees

Arsenal heads into the World Cup break with a five-point lead over Manchester City after the Gunners’ 2-0 win at Wolverhampton. Two goals by Martin Odegaard ensured the Gunners will be top of the table on Christmas Day for the first time since 2007. Wolves offered little threat to the league leaders as the league’s poorest attack failed to score for an eighth time this season.

Manchester City fell further behind in the title race, losing late to Brentford in a surprising 2-1 home defeat at the Etihad which ended City’s 16 match home winning streak. Ivan Toney scored the winner for the Bees in the eighth minute of stoppage time. Toney’s two goal performance was a strong response to his omission from the England squad which will head to Qatar.

Harry Kane is the only Englishman to score more Premier League goals than Toney since the beginning of last season. Brentford secured their first away win of the season.

Newcastle won a fifth consecutive match as the magnificent Magpies trail only Arsenal and Manchester City as the league pauses until Boxing Day. Joe Willock’s goal secured all three points in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat of Chelsea. Chelsea lost a third consecutive Premier League match and are winless in their last five league matches as the Graham Potter experiment is not going well. Potter’s former club, Brighton, had difficulty scoring goals. Chelsea had trouble scoring goals under former Manager Thomas Tuchel. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Chelsea still can’t score. The Blues under Potter have only scored twice in their past five league matches after the defeat at Newcastle. Frustrations boiled over in the loss at Newcastle as both Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz got into shoving matches with opponents as the match reached its conclusion. Chelsea is eighth in the table as Potter now gets a pause to consider how best to proceed with his troubled Blues.

Spurs took advantage of a poor Leeds defense to win a seven-goal shootout in London. Rodrigo Betancur scored the tying and winning goals in the 81st and 83rd minutes, respectively, to hand Leeds a 4-3 defeat. The leaky Leeds defense squandered three different leads at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A key objective following last season’s managerial change at Leeds was to tighten the defense following the wide-open play practiced under former manager Marcelo Bielsa. Leeds has failed miserably in trying to achieve that objective as the club has now allowed six more goals after 14 matches than the comparable period last season. Leeds wasted a brace by Rodrigo and a fourth goal in four appearances by Crysencio Summerville. Only three clubs have allowed more goals than Leeds and two of those clubs are in the relegation zone. Spurs, meanwhile, accepted the generosity Saturday and head into the break in the top four.

A stoppage time goal by 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho gave Manchester United a 2-1 win over Fulham.

The Red Devils stay fifth in the table, three points behind Spurs. Cristiano Ronaldo missed the match due to illness but made headlines anyway with an interview critical of the club and Manger Eric ten Hag as the relationship between club and legend is becoming increasingly untenable. Fulham, meanwhile, were without striker Aleksandar Mitrovic for Sunday’s match as the Serbian rested a troublesome foot injury, hoping to find fitness for the upcoming World Cup. The newly promoted Cottagers remain in the top half of the table after an encouraging start to their season despite the loss.

Liverpool moved up to sixth in the table with a 3-1 win over Southampton. Darwin Nunez scored twice as the Reds put back-to-back wins together heading into the break. Southampton Manager Nathan Jones, not unexpectedly, received  a rude welcome in his Premier League debut.

Unai Emery posted a second consecutive win in his return to the Premier League as Aston Villa defeated Brighton 2-1. Danny Ings scored both goals for Villa while Brighton managed just two shots on target for the game. With the victory, Villa moves to within three points of seventh place Brighton.

Leicester has now won four of its last five matches after a 2-0 victory at West Ham. A goal by James Maddison for the Foxes moved him past Riyad Mahrez on Leicester’s all-time Premier League goalscoring list behind only Jamie Vardy. Maddison needed to leave the match after suffering a knock to his knee but is expected to be fit for his England World Cup debut. West Ham lost at home for a second consecutive week and have only scored one goal during a three-match losing run in the league. The loss to the Foxes was West Ham’s ninth league loss of the season, joint most in the Premier League. The Hammers were also eliminated from the Carabao Cup at home by Blackburn Rovers during the week.

Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha missed the target on a penalty kick to deprive the Eagles of a valuable away point in a 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest. Forest has now taken points from five of the last seven matches after a Morgan Gibbs-White goal delivered a third league win of the season. Manager Steve Cooper’s men could yet survive despite losing seven of their first ten league matches to open the season. Palace, meanwhile, are left with a sour taste heading into the break after a flat performance punctuated by Zaha’s failed kick.

Jordan Pickford and Alex Iwobi both had unpleasant exchanges with their own away fans as Everton continued to struggle in a 3-0 loss at Bournemouth. The Toffees also lost by three goals to the Cherries in a Carabao Cup match earlier in the week. Everton Manager Frank Lampard is once again settling into the hot seat after the Toffees lost for a fifth time in their last seven league matches. Everton are a slender point from the relegation zone as they appear destined to repeat their survival battle of last season. Whether Lampard will be participating in that fight is a different question. Bournemouth, meanwhile, ended a four-match losing run to stop its own slide toward the relegation scrap.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Match Week 16 Preview: Chelsea Faces Top Four Newcastle; Gunners Set Sights On Wolves; Spurs Tries To Get Back On Track; Next Man Up At Southampton; Forest Home To Eagles

Chelsea hasn’t won in four consecutive matches, has lost its last two contests and has only scored twice during its winless run. Graham Potter’s crew have tumbled from the top four to a current seventh place position in the table. The Blues head to Newcastle Saturday to face a club on a more positive trajectory. The Magpies have risen to third in the table after winning four consecutive matches and five of their last seven. It could be time for Newcastle to end a run of four straight league defeats to Chelsea.

League leading Arsenal has scored 23 more goals this season than the relegation bound Wolverhampton. That gap should increase when the Gunners visit Molineux Stadium Saturday.

Brentford have not won at Manchester City since 1937 as the Bees approach a daunting task at the home of the second place Citizens. The Bees have yet to win on the road this season.

Tottenham Hotspur has lost three of four matches as it prepares to host Leeds. The recent poor run of form by the north London side has them holding onto the final Champions League qualification slot by just three points over Manchester United. Spurs Manager Antonio Conte should have more weapons at his disposal this weekend as Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski appear set to return from injury. Leeds has won back-to-back matches to put three points between Manager Jesse Marsch’s side and the drop zone.

Manchester United will also be in London this weekend as the Red Devils visit Craven Cottage to take on Fulham. The Cottagers lost in heartbreaking fashion on a late penalty versus Manchester City last weekend and will be eager to take out that frustration on the other Manchester club. United are coming off a surprising two goal loss to Aston Villa which was playing its first match under Unai Emery.

Villa heads to the south coast Sunday to face Brighton. The Seagulls have found their scoring touch in back-to-back victories where they have scored seven goals in total.

Liverpool are home to a Southampton side playing its first league match under Manager Nathan Jones as the Saints have wasted little time in replacing former manager Ralph Hasenhuttl who was sacked last week. Jones is taking a big step up to his first Premier League job. The Welshman had been managing Luton Town in the English Championship division. He faces a daunting task at Anfield where the Saints have conceded 16 goals and scored none in losing on their last five league visits to Liverpool.

Liverpool is currently outside the European places based on the club’s current eight place standing but will hope to build on its impressive win at Spurs last week.

Bournemouth is just a point above Southampton as the Cherries hover just outside the drop zone after suffering four straight losses. The Cherries will host Everton which is in a similar position just a point better than Bournemouth. Everton has severe problems scoring with only relegation dwellers Wolverhampton and Nottingham Forest having scored fewer goals than the Toffees. The two clubs met earlier this week in the Carabao Cup with Bournemouth emerging with a 4-1 victory.

Nottingham Forest will try to lift itself off the bottom of the table when Crystal Palace visits the City Ground. Palace has moved into the top half of the table after winning three of its last four matches. The Eagles are getting performances from some of their young stars such as Eberichi Eze and Michael Olise to ease some of the burden on Wilfried Zaha.

West Ham lost at home to the Eagles last week and the Hammers are at London Stadium again this weekend to face Leicester. The two clubs are now level on points after a run of three wins in four by the Foxes. Leicester’s defense has turned around remarkably. The Foxes have conceded only three goals in their last seven matches after shipping 22 goals in the first seven games of the season.

Carabao Cup

The Carabao Cup concluded its third round during the week. Manchester United reversed its result versus Aston Villa in league action just days earlier with a 4-2 victory to move on in the tournament. Arsenal surprisingly was bounced out of the competition by Brighton in a 3-1 final as the Seagulls continue to find the net with regularity. Chelsea also exited the tournament in a 2-0 loss to Manchester City. Liverpool barely survived to the next round by wining on penalties versus Derby County after fielding a largely unrecognizable line-up. West Ham exited on penalties to Blackburn Rovers while Nottingham Forest overcame a 75th minute red card to hold onto a shocking 2-0 result over Spurs. Other Premier League clubs advancing to the next round included Bournemouth, Leicester, Wolves, Southampton and Newcastle. Bournemouth and Wolves eliminated Premier League rivals Everton and Leeds, respectively. The Cup resumes in December with Round of Sixteen matches highlighted by an attractive Liverpool versus Manchester City matchup.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Match Week 15 Results: Arsenal Trips Chelsea; Liverpool Tops Spurs; Haaland Late Penalty Closes Out Cottagers; Villa Routs United in Emery Debut; Eagles Put Down Hammers; Hasenhuttl Ousted After Sinful Saints Loss To Newcastle; Wolves Score Twice, Still Lose; Super Summerville

Arsenal notched its 11th win of the season, tops in the league, as the Gunners defeated Chelsea and former Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang by a 1-0 margin at Stamford Bridge. Aubameyang was a non-factor from the beginning, touching the ball just eight times versus the 64 touches for Arsenal’s new striker, Gabriel Jesus. Jesus was unable to find the net, however, and it was a different Gabriel, center back Gabriel Magalhaes, who struck the game winner in the 63rd minute. The victory at Chelsea marked the first time in a decade that Arsenal has won three consecutive matches over traditional Big Six clubs. Chelsea, meanwhile, has captured only two of the available twelve points in its last four league matches after Sunday’s defeat followed the embarrassing loss at Graham Potter’s former Brighton club last week. Potter has his work to do with a Chelsea roster which looks a collection of ill fitted pieces. Chelsea’s older roster visibly struggled to keep pace with the far younger Gunners on Sunday.

Former Arsenal Manager Unai Emery enjoyed his first match back in the Premier League when his Aston Villa side embarrassed Manchester United 3-1. Manchester United was unable to find the net on its own as Jacob Ramsey of Aston Villa scored a goal for either team.

Villa won a home match against Manchester United for the first time since 1995. Cristiano Ronaldo captained Manchester United for the match less than three weeks after walking out on the club during a match versus Spurs.

Liverpool won its first game away from home this season by defeating Spurs in London Saturday. Mohamed Salah had a brace for Liverpool, assisted on his first goal by teammate Dawin Nunez and assisted on his second goal by a gaffe from Spurs defender Eric Dier. A Harry Kane goal in the 70th minute brought Spurs back to within a goal but the comeback ended there as Manager Antonio Conte’s side suffered its third loss in the last four matches. Despite the loss, Tottenham Hotspur remains fourth in the table, three points ahead of Manchester United. Liverpool, currently eighth in the table, ended a two-match losing run.

It was Erling Haaland to the rescue as the indomitable Norwegian striker entered the match in the second half for 10-man Manchester City and delivered a penalty kick in the sixth minute of added time to defeat Fulham 2-1. City was undermanned from the 26th minute onward due to a Joao Cancelo red card. The winning score was Haaland’s 18th goal of the Premier League season and keeps Manchester City a point behind league leading Arsenal. The loss by ninth place Fulham ended a four-match unbeaten run for the Cottagers.

Michael Olise had a 95th minute winner to give Crystal Palace its first away victory of the year in a 2-1 defeat of West Ham at London Stadium.

Ironically it was the first Premier League goal for Olise since he scored against those same Hammers in January of this year. Crystal Palace has won three of its last four matches and has lost only one of its last six outings. A third loss in four matches for the Hammers has drawn them once again into the relegation race with but a two-point cushion on 18th place Southampton.

The Saints fell into the drop zone and Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl was fired following a dismal 4-1 loss to Newcastle. Hasenhuttl commented to reporters after the match that he didn’t see a way out of the Saints current slump. He was gone the next day. Newcastle, meanwhile, once again flexed its muscles as the now third place Magpies won for a fourth consecutive outing, extending their unbeaten run in the league to nine matches.

Brighton and Hove Albion put together back-to-back wins for the first time since August with a 3-2 defeat of Wolves. The Seagulls have scored a total of seven goals in the two victories, just one less than Wolves have scored all season. Saturday was the first time Wolverhampton has scored two goals in a match all season.

Bottom of the table Nottingham Forest are now level on points with Wolverhampton after a 2-2 draw with Brentford. An own goal by Bees defender Zanka in the 96th minute handed the point to Forest. Brentford leads the league with seven draws after a third non-decision in the Bees’ last four matches.

Crysencio Summerville scored the matchwinner for a second week in a row as Leeds defeated Bournemouth 4-3. Summerville has notched three goals in his last three appearances with none of those goals coming earlier than the 84th minute. Bournemouth lost a fourth consecutive match after squandering an earlier two-goal lead.

The Foxes are now breaking into a trot up the table as Leicester took all three points in a 2-0 away win at Everton. The Foxes have won three of their last four matches to rise to 14th in the table, level on points with both Everton and a West Ham side who the Foxes will face next week. James Maddison assisted on both Leicester goals versus Everton, doubling his season assist total and submitting a late bid to join the England team heading to Qatar. Oft injured Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, meanwhile, limped off the field to make for even a worse day for Manager Frank Lampard’s Toffees. 

Premier League in Europe

Champions League Draw
The draw for the Champions League Round of Sixteen was announced Monday. Liverpool will face defending champion Real Madrid in a repeat of last year’s final which the Reds lost 1-0. Bolstered by the addition of scoring dervish Erling Haaland, Manchester City is a favorite in this year’s tournament and takes the next step in their title quest when they meet RB Leipzig in the next round. The German side is currently sixth in the Bundesliga table. Chelsea will also face a German opponent in Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund has not advanced beyond the Round of Sixteen since current Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp brought them to the quarterfinals in 2011/12. Tottenham Hotspur draws AC Milan as the two clubs will face each other for the first time in 11 years. The Premier League sides caught somewhat of a break in the competition when two of the cup favorites, PSG and Bayern Munich, were selected to play each other in the next round. The Champions League resumes in February.  

Europa League Playoffs
Manchester United, after failing to win its Europa League group, must qualify for the next round via playoff. Their opponent is none other than Spanish giant Barcelona which drops down from Champions League after its elimination in group play. Both clubs can be disappointed by the group stage results in their respective competitions but have presented fans with an intriguing playoff matchup between two historic clubs. The playoffs begin in February.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Match Week 15 Preview: Arsenal Face Revenge of Aubameyang; Liverpool Tries To Get Back On Track Versus Decimated Spurs; Premier League Return of Unai Emery; Forest Is Home To Bees

A familiar face awaits Arsenal when the Gunners visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now plays in a blue shirt for Chelsea after an epic fallout with Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta saw the club’s captain depart north London last season.

Aubameyang scored 92 goals over four years at Arsenal before Arteta found the practice habits and overall game of the Gabon international to be lacking. Arteta prefers more versatile and hardworking forwards while Aubameyang’s tardiness to not only practice but games themselves was a bad fit for the culture Arteta was building. Aubameyang was first stripped of his captaincy and then shipped to Barcelona. He is now back in the Premier League and looking to settle a score with his former manager and club. Arteta, meanwhile, has no regrets and his dynamic group of young players sits atop the Premier League table. Arteta will be managing his 150th match for Arsenal on Sunday and already has more wins than any Arsenal manager in history to that point in their managerial tenure. Arteta’s 86 wins exceed those of luminaries such as Arsene Wenger and George Graham in their first 150 contests as Gunner managers.

Tottenham Hotspur hosts the other mega match this weekend as Spurs is home to Liverpool. Spurs are a full ten points ahead of Liverpool in the table but suffered a blow during the week when Son Heung-min suffered facial fractures in the club’s Champions League win. The injuries require surgery and the South Korean international is sidelined from league play and is a doubt for the upcoming World Cup. Conte was already missing Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski to injuries on a rapidly thinning front line. Every league match, meanwhile, is massive for Liverpool as the Reds try to climb out of their ninth-place position in the table after two consecutive losses.

Manchester City have won 14 consecutive matches at home as they prepare to host Fulham this weekend. Two more home victories would tie the club record of 16 consecutive wins which was set more than 100 years ago. Erling Haaland’s participation for Saturday’s match is uncertain which is casing consternation for Fantasy Football players globally. Surprising Fulham is unbeaten in its last four Premier League matches.

Newcastle United has won five of six matches to climb to fourth in the Premier League table. The Magpies travel to Southampton Sunday to face a Saints side which hovers just a point above the relegation line. Needless to say, Eddie Howe is the toast of Newcastle supporters while Ralph Hasenhuttl is barely hanging on to his job on the south coast. Miguel Almiron will be missing for this match, but Newcastle striker Callum Wilson has three goals and an assist in his last four matches at St. Mary’s, the home of the Saints.

Unai Emery makes his Premier League return when he manages Aston Villa against Manchester United Saturday. Emery could have a rough afternoon in front of the home supporters as he has had little chance to work with players who have lost three of their past four matches prior to his arrival. He faces a Manchester United side which has lost but once while winning seven of its last ten matches.

West Ham United are home to Crystal Palace on Sunday where a victory could propel the Hammers ahead of the 10th place Eagles. Three of the Hammers’ four wins this season have come at London Stadium while the Eagles have yet to win a match away from their Selhurst Park home. Crystal Palace will have difficulty breaking their losing run on the road if Odsonne Edouard and Cheik Doucoure are unable to play. The club’s best striking option and most dependable midfielder are both questionable with injuries for this weekend’s match.

After notching his first Premier Leage win last week, Brighton Manger Roberto De Zerbi takes his Seagulls to Wolverhampton on Saturday. Wolves are a sorry sight and reportedly will be bringing former Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui on board as manager following the World Cup break.

Nottingham Forest is the only club to have fewer points in the table than Wolves as the basement dwelling club prepares to host Brentford on Saturday. Disappointing transfer Jesse Lingard has yet to score or provide an assist this season for Forest. Manager Steve Cooper, meanwhile, has bad memories of facing Brentford, having lost twice to the Bees in the Championship playoffs while Cooper was managing Swansea. Brentford should have a golden opportunity Saturday to capture their first win on the road this season.

Leicester will be trying to climb out of the relegation zone when the Foxes travel to Everton Saturday. The Foxes are 18th in the table but only three points removed from the 12th place Toffees in the congested lower half of the Premier League table. Contrasting styles will be on display at Goodison Park. Everton has conceded fewer goals than any club outside the top four this season while only Liverpool and Fulham have scored more goals than the Foxes outside of the top four clubs.

Bournemouth travels to Leeds on Saturday. The Cherries have fallen from eighth in the table to 14th during a winless run which has seen Bournemouth lose its last three matches. Leeds snapped a four-match losing streak of its own by shocking Liverpool last weekend.

Premier League in Europe


Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur captured its Champions League group with a dramatic 2-1 win over Marseilles as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg struck the dramatic winner five minutes into second half stoppage time. With Manager Antonio Conte consigned to the stands for his poor behavior last match, the London side came back with two second half goals to overcome an early deficit. Spurs needed at least a draw to stay in the competition. All other Premier League participants had already secured their places in the tournament’s final round entering this week’s matches. Manchester City and Chelsea had already clinched their groups with a match to spare. Both clubs finished group play with a flourish as Manchester City rolled over Sevilla 3-1 and Chelsea came from behind to defeat Dinamo Zagreb 2-1. Denis Zakaria scored the winner in his Chelsea debut. Liverpool would have needed a four-goal margin of victory to top its group but will take some satisfaction in defeating group winner Napoli 2-0 on Tuesday. Liverpool qualifies for the next round as a dangerous second-place finisher after Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez goals inflicted Napoli’s first loss of the tournament. The draw for the next round is Monday. 

Europa and Conference League 

Arsenal won its Europa League group as it beat FC Zurich 1-0 on a goal by Kieran Tierney to secure a place in the final sixteen of the tournament. Manchester United, however, will face a playoff with a club dropping from the Champions League after its 1-0 win over Real Sociedad. The Red Devils need to win their match by two goals for automatic qualification. Alejandro Garnacho scored his first goal for Manchester United to give Sevilla its first group stage loss. The Spanish club remained atop the group, however, and earned automatic advancement on a better goal differential than the Red Devils. West Ham became the first Europa Conference League club in the brief history of the competition to sweep all six group stage matches. The Hammers were 3-0 winners over FCSB Thursday.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Match Week 14 Results: Arsenal Bombards Forest; Back To Drawing Board for Klopp and Liverpool; Disaster for Chelsea in Potter’s Return To Brighton; Spurs Survive Scare at Bournemouth; Wolves Score !

Arsenal overwhelmed Nottingham Forest in a dominant 5-0 performance at the Emirates. The Gunners needed to go to their bench when Bukayo Saka was injured, and substitute Reiss Nelson delivered two goals in three minutes. Nelson’s goals were his first for the club in almost two years. England Manager Gareth Southgate now anxiously awaits to see if Saka will be fit for his nation’s World Cup run.

The Gunners’ dominance was a stark contrast to Liverpool’s loss to this same Forest team the previous week. Liverpool lost a second consecutive match to a club sitting in the relegation places when the Reds’ 29 match unbeaten string at home ended in a 2-1 loss to Leeds. An 89th minute goal by Crysensio Summerville dramatically raised Leeds out of the drop zone and potentially provided a reprieve for embattled Manager Jesse Marsch. Liverpool, meanwhile, is ninth in the Premier League table with its title hopes all but extinguished and even European qualification now becoming a question. While the club has been impacted by injuries, there can be little excuse for losses to some of the league’s poorest clubs and the type of miscues such as the errant back pass from center back Joe Gomez to out of position goalkeeper Allison that led to Leeds’s first goal on Saturday.

Manchester City remained two points behind Arsenal after a surprisingly difficult 1-0 victory at Leicester. With Erling Haaland missing from the City lineup, City struggled to penetrate Leicester’s defensive shell. World class midfielder Kevin De Bruyne saved the day for the Citizens with his perfectly placed free kick which delivered City’s goal and its ninth win of the season to keep the pressure on Arsenal.

Graham Potter experienced a difficult afternoon Saturday when he was rudely welcomed back to Brighton in a 4-1 to his former club as chants of “Judas” rang out from the Brighton supporters. Potter had ended his successful reign at the south coast club when London called during the current league season. Chelsea’s embarrassing performance on Saturday included two own goals in what was Potter’s first defeat as manager of the Blues. Chelsea fell to sixth in the table after the defeat, three points behind Newcastle for Champions League qualification. Eighth place Brighton’s milestone win was not just new manager Roberto De Zerbi’s first Premier League conquest but also the Seagulls’ first Premier League win over Chelsea in 15 attempts.

Tottenham Hotspur ended a two-match losing run in the league with a 3-2 come from behind win at Bournemouth. Rodrigo Bentancur’s stoppage time goal completed the comeback from what had been an early two goal deficit for Manager Antonio Conte’s side.

Conte will hope the dramatic win provides momentum as his club heads into its critical Champions League match with Marseilles Tuesday needing a result to advance in the competition. Bournemouth, meanwhile, falls to within two points of the relegation zone after the Cherries’ third straight loss.

Newcastle won for a fifth time in six matches as the Magpies remain a top four club after a 4-0 defeat of Aston Villa. Newcastle striker Callum Wilson scored twice as he makes his case for a place on England’s World Cup squad. Wilson’s six goals trail only Harry Kane and Ivan Toney for goals by Englishmen in the league this season. Villa failed to score a goal for a sixth time this season as new manager Unai Emery will be assuming the reins of a club which hovers a perilous single point above the drop zone.

Marcus Rashford scored his 100th goal in a Manchester United jersey to give the Red Devils a 1-0 win at Old Trafford over West Ham. Rashford has scored in successive matches for a first time since January as he attempts to revive his own flickering World Cup hopes. Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, recently ruled out of Spain’s World Cup roster, responded to the disappointment with three magnificent saves for his Premier League club. Michail Antonio, Kurt Zouma and Declan Rice all had clear chances which were denied by De Gea’s brilliance. De Gea’s heroics ensured a clean sheet in center back Harry Maguire’s first start for the Red Devils since his benching for poor performance in August. Manchester United’s unbeaten run is now extended to eight matches across all competitions as the Red Devils lurk just a single point behind fourth place Newcastle in the league table. The 13th place Hammers, meanwhile, failed to win for a 15th consecutive time at Old Trafford.

Crystal Palace nudged into the top half of the table with a 1-0 win over Southampton, the Eagles third consecutive home victory. The match teased of the potential for a creative Crystal Palace side should they identify a productive striker. Eberechi Eze, Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha are more than capable of creating chances, but the club has had a long dry spell when it comes to strikers taking those chances. Despite just the one score on Saturday, Eagle striker Odsonne Edouard hinted at more when he missed a Zaha pass in front of the net by tantalizing inches and had a converted chance called off due an Olise offside before ultimately cashing in the winner. Edouard once scored 88 goals in four seasons for Celtic and a consistent scoring threat, other than Zaha, for the Eagles would be a gamechanger.

Crystal Palace, of course, is an offensive powerhouse compared to the woeful attack of Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton rocked the world on Saturday by scoring a goal to capture a point in a 1-1 draw at Brentford. Ruben Neves scored what was only the sixth goal in 13 matches for Wolves. Allowing a goal versus the impotent Wolves attack was not surprising for Brentford as only three clubs have conceded more often than the Bees this season. Wolverhampton’s Diego Costa brought back memories of his Chelsea days not with a goal but a senseless headbutt which cost the temperamental striker a red card and will sideline him for Wolves until after the World Cup break.