Monday, January 2, 2023

Premier League Results: Matchweek 18

Two of the top four clubs dropped points on Saturday. Everton delivered a particularly gutty performance in holding Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates. Erling Haaland scored his 21st goal of the season to give the Citizens a one goal lead at the break before Demarai Gray shocked the defending champions with his 64th minute screamer. The surprising outcome could prove critical to the survival chances of Everton and manager Frank Lampard as the Toffees snapped a three-match losing run with an unexpected point which puts keeps them a point clear of the drop zone. Newcastle was a second top four club to drop points at home Saturday as they were held to a goalless draw at St. James Park by Leeds. The clean sheet by Leeds was the first in the last eight league matches for the Whites. The defensive performance by Jesse Marsch’s men deprived Newcastle of a seventh consecutive league win and the chance to make up ground on Manchester City and Arsenal. The frustrated Magpies suffered a league leading fourth goalless draw of the season.

League leading Arsenal played the late match on Saturday and thus had full knowledge of the Manchester City and Newcastle results and the opportunity to increase their points advantage over their closest rivals. The Gunners burst from the gates to take the lead on a Bukayo Saka goal just past the one-minute mark of their match at Brighton.

Martin Odegaard doubled the advantage before halftime and Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli scored in the second half as the Gunners prevailed 4-2 to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points over Manchester City. Nketiah has now scored three goals across two league matches and a Carabao Cup appearance since the club began post-World Cup play with the 23-year-old deputizing for injured striker Gabriel Jesus.

Arsenal supporters could also take some glee in the continued struggles of their crosstown rival Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs Manager Antonio Conte’s side were unaccountably flat in front of a frustrated home crowd in a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa on Sunday. The loss was the third in the last four league matches at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Conte’s future, as well as those of stars Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, could play out elsewhere if the current squad continues to play uninspired football and a boost is not obtained from the January transfer window. Aston Villa Manger Unai Emery remained undefeated versus Spurs, dating back to his time at the helm of Arsenal.

Manchester United leapfrogged Spurs into the top four, landing in the Champions League places for the first time this season. Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford began the Red Devils Saturday match versus Wolverhampton on the substitutes’ bench as discipline for missing a team meeting. The day ended well for the English international and his club, however, when Rashford came off the bench to score the winner in a 1-0 United win at Wolverhampton.

The goal scorer executed a neat give-and-go with teammate Bruno Fernandez before muscling past Wolverhampton defenders in the box to score his third goal in three matches, including a Carabao Cup win. United goalkeeper David De Gea made the goal stand up with a points saving stop on Wolves striker Raul Jimenez in extra time. Capping a good day for the Red Devils was the sight of Manager Eric ten Hag and Rashford embracing after the match with no apparent continuing drama from the now forgotten disciplinary action.

Liverpool was perhaps the luckiest club in the Premier League through this latest round of matches as the Reds captured all three points merely by virtue of watching Leicester self-destruct. After a Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall goal had given Leicester an early lead, the Foxes’ Wout Faes scored the next two goals…into his own net. The two own goals handed all three points to a perhaps undeserving Liverpool. Faes became the fourth Premier league player to register two own goals in a match. 

Problems remain for Chelsea after Graham Potter’s crew dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest. Chelsea squandered an early lead provided from Raheem Sterling’s opportunistic goal which resulted when an attempted clearance by Forest defender Willy Boly deflected off his own crossbar to the feet of Sterling. Chelsea generated nothing else in a match which saw striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fail to make the scoresheet for an eighth consecutive match. Chelsea Manager Graham Potter has not made an impact on a stagnant Chelsea attack and seemed to be outmanaged on Sunday by Forest Manager Steve Cooper. Forest dominated the second half and earned the point with a 63rd minute goal by Serge Aurier as Willy Boly got the assist in reparation for his earlier error. Nottingham Forest earned a valuable point in its survival fight while Chelsea has now won but once in seven league matches under Potter.

West Ham is on a five-match losing run after the Hammers fell 2-0 at home to Brentford. West Ham manager David Moyes is under increasing pressure as his listless charges hover just above Nottingham Forest and the relegation zone only by virtue of better goal differential. West Ham’s 11 losses after 17 matches are joint most in the Premier League along with cellar dwelling Southampton. Brentford, meanwhile, remains in the top half of the table after extending an unbeaten run to five matches. Striker Ivan Toney scored his 12th goal of the season against the Hammers and is third in league scoring behind Erling Haaland and Harry Kane. Toney also assisted on Brentford’s second goal before suffering a late game injury requiring him to be stretchered off. Subsequent messaging from the club indicates the injury may not be as serious as first feared.

Fulham won a second consecutive match and the Cottagers enjoy a lofty seventh place position in the table after defeating Southampton 2-1. Joao Palhinha scored the 88th minute winner for Fulham after Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse had earlier scored a goal for both teams. Ward-Prowse’s own goal had given the Cottagers an early lead before Southampton’s free kick specialist leveled matters with his dead ball prowess. His 56th minute free kick goal moved him to within three such goals of David Beckham’s Premier League record. The Saints alas lost for a fifth consecutive league outing as they look up at the rest of the table.

Crystal Palace responded to their heavy Boxing Day defeat to Fulham with a much-improved performance in a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth. Jordan Ayew and Eberechi Eze scored the goals which ended a two-match steak where the Eagles did not so much as put a shot on target. Michael Olise assisted on both goals for Crystal Palace as the traveling Eagle supporters got a glimpse of the 21-year-old’s as yet unrealized potential.

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