Friday, April 28, 2023

Premier League Results Matchweek 33: Manchester City Closes On Title With Win Over Arsenal; Spurs Claw Back At Old Trafford; Newcastle Pounds Toffees; Seagulls Ambushed at Forest; Survival Hopes Blossom For Fighting Cherries; Foxes Fall Into Drop Zone

Kevin De Bruyne was the best player on the pitch as the Belgian midfielder scored twice and assisted a third Manchester City goal in a 4-1 thrashing of Arsenal at the Etihad. It was a De Bruyne free kick that was headed in by John Stones in first half stoppage time to break the back of an Arsenal side which was on its back heels for the entirety of the first stanza. Erling Haaland assisted both of De Bruyne’s goals before scoring his own in the 95th minute to cap the scoring for City. The Norwegian wonder’s 34th Premier League goal broke a tie with Mohamed Salah for the league’s scoring record for a 38-match season. Manchester City overwhelmed an Arsenal side which has been flagging in recent weeks, the Gunners now having gone four matches without a win as their time at the top of the table quickly winds down. Arsenal’s defense, weakened by the absence of the injured William Saliba, has conceded 11 times during the winless run. Manchester City, meanwhile, seems to be peaking at the very best time and now trails by just two points in the Premier League title race with two matches in hand. City can thus afford to lose one of its remaining matches, an unlikely event based on current form, and still win the title.

The race for the top four looks just about run as Manchester United holds a six-point advantage with two matches in hand versus closest pursuers Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa. United Manager Erik ten Hag still can’t be overly pleased with Thursday’s 2-2 draw with Spurs. The Red Devils sprinted to a two-goal lead over a Tottenham Hotspur squad reeling from poor results and managerial chaos. The north London side responded, however, under latest interim manager Ryan Mason. The familiar combination of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min delivered the equalizer when the former crossed to the latter who found the net in the 79th minute. The point kept Spurs in fifth place above Aston Villa and Liverpool in the battle for a Europa League spot with Brighton lurking not far behind.

Newcastle United likely sealed its Championship League qualification with another scoring outburst in a 4-1 defeat of Everton. The victory at St. James Park marked the third time in the last five league games that the Magpies have scored at least four times. Callum Wilson struck for a brace as the Magpies have now scored ten goals in their last two matches. Newcastle has an eight-point edge in the table over fifth place Spurs in its bid to return to the Champions League for the first time in 25 years.

Aston Villa and Liverpool, meanwhile, are making a late sprint to lock in Europa League competition for next year. Aston Villa took another step towards Europe with a 1-0 home win over Fulham which saw defender Tyrone Mings score his first league goal in 55 appearances. Villa has now won eight of its last ten matches to surge up the table to sixth position, a point above Liverpool.

The Reds continued a late season run to salvage something of a disappointing season with a 2-1 win at West Ham. Defender Joel Matip’s first goal of the season proved the winner in the 67th minute of play.

The Reds survived a late match controversy when an apparent handball by Thiago in the 88th minute went uncalled, much to the vocal consternation of West Ham Manager David Moyes.

Brighton is still in contention for Europe, but the Seagulls did their cause damage in a shocking 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest on Wednesday. Perhaps fatigued and dispirited by their FA Cup semifinal loss on the weekend, the Seagulls became the first club to lose to Nottingham Forest in almost three months. The Forest victory shakes up the relegation picture as the Tricky Trees moved out of the drop zone with the victory at their City Ground home where six of their seven wins this season have been achieved.

Manager Steve Cooper’s side moved a point beyond new relegation zone occupant Leicester with the win. The Foxes descended into the realm of doom despite salvaging a point with a late Jamie Vardy goal in a 1-1 draw at Leeds on Tuesday. Leeds improved on its two recent back-to-back drubbings at home but will rue dropping two points in a match the Whites dominated for long stretches and where striker Patrick Bamford muffed a close-range opportunity in the final minute. Luis Sinisterra’s 20th minute goal for Leeds ensured that Leicester remains the only club in the five major leagues of Europe to not keep a clean sheet since play resumed after the World Cup break. The Leicester defense, stingier than usual against Leeds, has conceded more goals this season than all but two other Premier League clubs. The Foxes even conceded three goals to Chelsea early in March, one of only two times this season that the London club scored three or more goals.

Chelsea’s goal production has almost completely disappeared under interim manager Frank Lampard as the Blues once again failed to score in a 2-0 home loss to Brentford on Wednesday. Chelsea has scored just once in its last seven matches across all competitions with a Conor Gallagher deflected score versus Brighton the only goal in five matches under Lampard. Chelsea fans are anxiously waiting on the rumored finalization of negotiations with Mauricio Pochettino to become the next Chelsea manger. Brentford won for the first time in more than a month as the Bees, once challenging for the European positions, are now looking to cinch a top half finish. Brentford is currently eight points above 11th place Chelsea.

Bournemouth, with its highly economical roster, is only three points below mega spending Chelsea in the Premier League table after the Cherries notched a 1-0 victory at Southampton. While the managers of clubs farther up the table such as Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Newcastle’s Eddie Howe, Aston Villa’s Unai Emery and Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi understandably dominate the conversations for Manager of the Year, the job done by Bournemouth’s Gary O’Neil should not be overlooked. The Cherries have made little change to the roster of a promoted squad which even former manager Scott Parker claimed was not Premier League quality. O’Neil and his “Fighting Cherries,” however, have defied the odds and are now seven points above the drop line after winning three of their last four and five of their last eight league matches.

Crystal Palace is safe, its mission accomplished after enjoying a new manager bounce under Roy Hodgson. The uncharacteristic goal flurry which marked the three early wins under Hodgson, however, appears over after the Eagles were held without a goal for a second consecutive match in a 2-0 loss to Wolves. The match was essentially over when Eagle defender Joachim Anderson deflected a ball into his own net in the third minute of the match. The victory for Wolves was the club’s third clean sheet win its last four matches and drew Manger Julen Lopetegui’s squad even with the 12th place Eagles in the table.

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