Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Arsenal Drops Points Again Despite Late Comeback; Newcastle Demolishes Spurs; Stellini Sacked; Foxes Trot Past Wolves; Toffees Fall Into Relegation Zone; Hammers Smash Cherries

Arsenal drew a third consecutive match as its title hopes further dimmed heading into Wednesday’s match at Manchester City. Title race nerves seemed on display when goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale passed inexplicably to a Southampton player to gift the Saints a goal only 30 seconds into the Gunners 3-3 tie. Southampton would extend to a 3-1 advantage, former Gunner Theo Walcott scoring the second goal for the Saints, before Arsenal staged a dramatic late comeback. Goals by Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka in the 88th and 90th minutes, respectively, had the Emirates Stadium rocking and imploring their heroes for a winner. The comeback fell short, however, as a Leandro Trossard shot sailed over the crossbar in stoppage time and the Gunners were left to rue their damaged title chances. The lead is now five points with Manchester City having two matches in hand.

The factual implication of Friday’s result is that Manchester City needs only a draw on Wednesday to control its own destiny. The psychological effect of Friday’s result is muddied. Clearly, Manchester City is thrilled. Arsenal cannot feel good about dropping points to the worst club in the league, by record, at such a critical juncture of the season. Arsenal did, however, show character in their late comeback, digging deep and getting clutch goals from two of their young stars. Even so, points were dropped and a title further endangered. The Gunners have now dropped six of the last nine points available to them during this run-in. Southampton will also have mixed feelings about Friday’s outcome. A point against the league leaders would have been unexpected entering the match. The relegation threatened Saints, however, had a two-goal lead with two minutes to play and collapsed, allowing two vital points to slip away.

Newcastle United humiliated Tottenham Hotspur in a 6-1 shellacking of a team chasing the Magpies for a top four berth. Spurs, however, showed none of the quality or grit of a Champions League participant when the north Londoners shipped five goals in the first 21 minutes at St. James Park. Newcastle’s Jacob Murphy scored two goals in the first 10 minutes. Alexander Isak had his two goals by the 21-minute mark. Joelinton scored in the 6th minute for the Magpies while Callum Wilson added the sixth goal in the second half after matters were already settled. Tottenham Hotspur Manager Cristian Stellini instituted an unfamiliar back four alignment for this match which his defenders seemed unable to comprehend. The former Antonio Conte assistant was sacked the next day. Newcastle and Manchester United are now both six points ahead of Spurs in the final four chase.

Aston Villa, meanwhile, captured a point at Brentford to move within two points of fifth place Spurs. An 87th minute goal by Douglas Luiz extended Villa’s unbeaten run to nine matches but ended a five-match winning streak.

Leicester is out of the relegation zone after the Foxes captured a much needed 2-1 win over Wolverhampton in Manager Dean Smith’s home debut as Leicester manager. Playing without unwell star James Maddison, Leicester got goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Tim Castagne to put down Wolves and earn the first win for the Foxes since February 11th.

Everton fell into the bottom three after a goalless draw at Crystal Palace. Despite the effect in the table, the Toffees did well to snap a three-match winning run by Crystal Palace and Manager Roy Hodgson. Everton held the Eagles to no goals and only two shots on target after Palace had scored nine goals in winning Hodgson’s first three matches in charge. The Toffees live to fight another day with the Evertonians trailing 17th place Leicester on goal differential alone and Leeds just a point beyond the Toffees and Foxes.

Leeds lost a third consecutive match, their fourth defeat in five matches, as Fulham were 2-1 victors at Craven Cottage. Leeds looked better after humiliating losses in their previous two outings, where they conceded 11 goals in aggregate, but moral victories are worth little at this time of year. Harry Wilson and Andres Perriera scored for Fulham while teammate Joao Paulinha was guilty of a 79th minute own goal which provided a glint of hope for Leeds and made the final minutes interesting.

Nottingham Forest lost for the sixth time in their last seven matches as the tricky Trees were unsurprisingly cut down 3-2 at Liverpool. Diego Jota scored a brace and Mohamed Salah had the winner to keep Liverpool’s European hopes alive. The Reds moved past Brighton, otherwise occupied with FA Cup business this weekend, into seventh place in the table with the win.

FA Cup

It will be Red versus Blue in an all-Manchester FA Cup final on June 3rd. Manchester City advanced 3-0 over Sheffield United as Riyad Mahrez took a star turn with a hat trick against the Blades on Saturday. Mahrez’s goal haul was the first hat trick in an FA Cup semifinal since 1958. The victory kept Manchester City in the chase for a title treble while the ease of victory allowed Guardiola to give some of his stars a rest before Wednesday’s showdown with Arsenal in the Premier League title chase. The Citizens will face their cross-town rival Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

The Red Devils eliminated Brighton 7-6 on penalty kicks when Victor Lindelof converted his penalty after the Seagulls’ Solly March committed the only miss of 14 kicks by the two clubs. The match was goalless through regulation and extra time as goalkeepers David De Gea and Robert Sanchez were the star performers for the Red Devils and Seagulls, respectively. United have a chance to capture a second cup title of the season, having already won the Carabao Cup back in February. The two Manchester sides will face each other in an FA Cup final for the first time.

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