Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 31: Arsenal Draws Again; Two More for Haaland; Lampard Still Seeking Win; Eagles Soar Over Saints; Villa Closing In On Europe; Spurs Topped By Cherries; Liverpool Crushes Leeds

Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead for a second consecutive week as the Gunners’ hopes for a title took yet another hit. The advantage over second place Manchester City is now just four points after the Gunners’ 2-2 draw at West Ham. The Gunners have dropped four points in their last two matches, which has opened the door for Manchester City. Arsenal started well again, blitzing the Hammers for two goals in the opening ten minutes of play. Gabriel Jesus opened scoring with his fourth goal in his last three appearances. Marin Odegaard then doubled the lead before Gunner mistakes provided hope for a West Ham club which had been thoroughly outplayed in the game’s early stages. A careless giveaway by Thomas Partey preceded Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes taking down the Hammers’ Lucas Paqueta inside the box. Said Benrahma buried the penalty kick, and the Hammers were in the match. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka had a chance to regain control for Arsenal but failed on his own penalty kick, unfortunately linking the standout young player with yet another penalty kick miss in a big moment as was the case with England’s loss in the 2021 European Championship final. Three minutes after Saka’s miss, Jarrod Bowen scored the equalizer to damage Arsenal’s title chances. Credit to West Ham and Manager David Moyes for clawing back from the brink by getting a result in four of the last five league matches to move four points above the drop zone.

Manchester City won their sixth consecutive Premier League match as Erling Haaland registered a brace in a 3-1 defeat of Leicester. Haaland’s goal count in the league is now 32, matching Mohamed Salah’s record for a 38 match Premier League season, with eight matches left to be played. No player has scored 40 in the English topflight since Jimmy Greaves in 1960/61. The Citizens are in the FA semifinals next weekend so their next league match will be the likely season decider versus Arsenal on April 26th.

New Leicester Manager Dean Smith was rudely welcomed back to the league as many question why he would make the jump onto the sinking Leicester ship in the first place.

Newcastle had a five-match winning run snapped at Aston Villa where Villa manager Unai Emery has turned things around since taking over for Steven Gerrard with the Villans in 16th place earlier this season. Emery could now be headed back to the Europa League where the Spanish manager has won the title on four different occasions. Aston Villa have crept up to sixth in the table after winning seven times in a current eight match unbeaten run in the league. Ollie Watkins posted a brace in the 3-0 defeat of Newcastle and now has 14 goals on the season.

The Villans are just three points behind fifth place Tottenham Hotspur after Spurs was shocked at home by Bournemouth. The Cherries continued their surprising late season run with a dramatic 95th minute goal by Dango Ouattara which delivered Bournemouth’s third win in its last four matches.

Six points now separate Bournemouth from the drop line. Spurs, meanwhile, continue to frustrate and befuddle their fan base with wildly inconsistent results. Failing to capitalize on Newcastle’s loss to Aston Villa was another blow to Tottenham Hotspur’s top four hopes as the fifth place north London club remained three points behind Newcastle while having played one more match than the Magpies.

Seventh place Brighton has played two fewer matches than the two clubs immediately in front of them as the Seagulls lurk one point behind Aston Villa and four points behind Spurs. The south coast club enjoyed their trip to London over the weekend as the Seagulls overcame an early deficit to win 2-1 at Chelsea. Conor Gallagher scored Chelsea’s first goal in five matches on an 11th minute deflection to give the Blues an early lead at Stamford Bridge. Brighton, however, dominated play by controlling possession and launching no less than 26 shots, 10 of which were on target. The 26 shots were the most ever faced by Chelsea in a Premier League match. The equalizing and winning goals by Danny Welbeck and Julio Enciso, respectively, thus had an air of inevitability as Chelsea kept a perfect record of losses in all three of Frank Lampard’s matches since his return as Chelsea manager.

Manchester United broke a deadlock with Newcastle to take sole possession of third place in the table with a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest. Antony scored the opener and assisted Manchester United’s second goal by Diogo Dalot. Playing without both staring center backs and leading soccer Marcus Rashford proved no obstacle to prevailing over a Forest club languishing in the relegation zone and seeking a first win since the 5th of February, a run of ten consecutive non-winning efforts.

Crystal Palace is now perfect in three matches under new and former manager Roy Hodgson. Eberechi Eze, who struggled for playing time in the latter stages of Manager Patrick Vieira’s reign, scored both goals for the soaring Eagles in a 2-0 win over Southampton. Hodgson is delivering on his mandate to keep Palace safe as the Eagles moved nine points clear of the drop line with a perfect nine points from the manager’s three matches in charge. Southampton meanwhile continues to drift south as it seems a miracle will be required for the bottom of the table Saints to survive.

Everton’s survival hangs by a thread after the Toffees were chewed up by Fulham in a 3-1 loss at Goodison Park. Everton have the same number of points as Nottingham Forest but would stay up on goal differential if the season were to end today. The capitulation at home to an out of form Fulham club was a surprise as Everton surrendered three goals or more for just the second time under Manager Sean Dyche, the other time being against league leading Arsenal. The Cottagers ended a run of five straight defeats. Still missing the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham got goals from Harrison Reed, Harry Wilson and Daniel James to capture the away win.

Wolves clawed further away from the relegation battle with a 2-0 win over Brentford which puts Wolves seven points clear of the drop. Brentford lost for a third consecutive match and is perhaps losing interest in the season. The Bees are safe in the middle of the table with European qualification now unlikely as Brentford finds itself six points behind seventh place Brighton despite having played two additional games. Former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid star Diego Costa scored his first Premier League goal in over six years in the first half of Wolverhampton’s win while Hwang Hee-Chan provided the insurance goal.

Leeds was humiliated for a second consecutive week on their home pitch at Elland Road in a 6-1 Monday loss to Liverpool. The scoreline last week was 5-1 in a home defeat to Crystal Palace. Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota had braces for Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold  had two assists to reach 50 in his Premier League career. Leeds remains two points north of the drop with a worrying degradation in goal differential after the two heavy losses. Leeds now leads the league in the dubious category of conceded goals, having shipped 60 to the opposition in their 31 matches.

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