Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Premier League Match Week 17: Gunners Go Top As Liverpool, Manchester United Draw; Villa Wins Late As Watkins Stings Former Club; Manchester City Drops Points Again; Newcastle Stops The Rot; Cooper Uprooted After Trees Fall To Spurs

Manchester United grabbed an unexpected point at Anfield where a frustrated Liverpool was held to a goalless draw which knocked Manager Jurgen Klopp’s side from their perch at the top of the Premier League. The wasteful home side launched 34 shots without success, there being no efficiency to its attack. Fifteen of Liverpool’s shots came from distance as the number of total attempts without scoring established a new club record. Manchester United, meanwhile, were happy to sit back and absorb the pressure. The Red Devils had just a single shot on target and not a single corner kick versus the 12 corner opportunities which Liverpool failed to capitalize upon. The ugly match continued Manchester United’s scoreless run at Anfield which now extends to five years, but it was the Red Devils who were smiling at the end.

Liverpool fell to second in the table as Arsenal handled Brighton in a 2-0 win at the Emirates. The Gunners dominated the proceedings but failed to break though until a Gabriel Jesus header in the 53rd minute. The contest then remained in the balance until an 87th minute Kai Havertz goal sealed the victory with the former Chelsea player’s fourth goal in his last seven appearances. The midfield of Havertz, Odegaard and Rice seems finally to be clicking as Manager Mikel Arteta had envisioned.

The clean sheet put an end to 32 consecutive Premier League matches in which Brighton had scored. The Seagulls were likely weary from their Thursday Europa League victory as Brighton deals with the rigors of European competition for the first time. Brighton has failed to win five consecutive Premier League matches which followed a midweek Europa League match. Arsenal moved back to the top of the table after their stumble at Aston Villa the week before.

Aston Villa are level on points with second place Liverpool, both clubs trailing the Gunners by a point, after a come from behind 2-1 victory at Brentford. The Villans scored twice after Brentford’s Ben Mee’s 71st minute red card. Alex Moreno equalized six minutes after Mee’s departure and Ollie Watkins scored the winner in the 85th minute, his ninth goal of the season. Watkins once played for Brentford and punctuated his goal celebration by pointing at a Brentford supporter who had purportedly been heckling the striker throughout the match. Villa’s Boubakar Kamara would be red carded late in final stoppage time of a chippy contest which saw a player from each side sent off, ten different players booked, and both managers cautioned.

The malaise for Manchester City continued as the Citizens dropped points for the fifth time in their last six Premier League matches in a 2-2 come from ahead draw with Crystal Palace. The defending Premier League champions were ahead by two goals after 75 minutes of play. Despite the absence of the injured Erling Haaland, all was fine with the Manchester City attack as goals by Jack Grealish and Rico Lewis seemed to have Manchester City coasting to victory against out of form Crystal Palace. It is Manchester City’s defense, however, which could jeopardize its title defense. Jean-Philippe Mateta’s 76th minute goal put Crystal Palace within striking range, the French striker capitalizing on the work of Jeffrey Schlupp who broke free of the Manchester City defense and found Mateta in front of the Citizens goal. Mateta would then draw a stoppage time foul in the box from City’s Phil’s Foden. Michael Olise proceeded to deliver the game’s tying penalty kick to capture the point for the Eagles and stun Manchester City supporters who witnessed a third consecutive home draw in league competition. Manchester City’s 34 points after 17 matches is Manager Pep Guardiola’s worst start to a Premier League campaign. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, now has two draws and two wins in its last six visits to the home of the Citizens.

Tottenham Hotspur has back-to-back league wins for the first time since October after defeating Nottingham Forest 2-0 at the City Ground. Richarlison scored for the third time in his last two matches and Dejan Kulusevski had a goal and an assist as Spurs moved to within just a point of Manchester City in the table. The one fly in the ointment for Manager Age Postecoglou was an ill-advised red card by midfielder Yves Bissouma, his second of the season. His suspension further complicates the holiday fixture schedule for a Spurs side already stretched by injury. Nottingham Forest lost for the fifth time in six matches and Manager Steve Cooper paid the price with his reported sacking on Tuesday. Fan favorite Cooper was increasingly at risk during a thirteen-match run which had seen the club win just once and descend into the relegation discussion. The Tricky Trees are 17th, five points from the drop after the weekend. Cooper’s replacement is expected to be former Wolverhampton and Tottenham Hotspur Manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

Newcastle leapfrogged Manchester United into sixth place in the Premier League table with a much needed 3-0 victory over Fulham which ended a three-match losing run across all competitions for the Magpies. A 22nd minute red card by Fulham’s Raul Jimenez smoothed the way for Newcastle’s victory. Initially assessed a yellow card, Jimenez was given the hook after VAR determined his airborne challenge of Newcastle’s Sean Longstaff was deserving of an early shower. Newcastle didn’t immediately gain traction with its manning advantage but cruised to the victory with three second half goals against the Cottagers. Lewis Miley, who joined the Newcastle academy at the age of seven, scored his first goal for the senior team in the win.

West Ham responded to last week’s clean sheet whipping at Fulham by hammering Wolverhampton 3-0 at London Stadium on Sunday. Mohammed Kudus scored twice to help move the Hammers past Brighton into eighth place in the Premier League table.

Everton would be level on points with Brighton and potentially competing for a European berth but for its ten-point penalty levied by the league. The Toffees 2-0 defeat of Burnley on Saturday was a fourth consecutive victory as Everton suddenly has the longest current winning run in the league. Amadou Onana and Michel Kean provided the goals which ensured a triumphant return by Everton Manager Sean Dyche to Turf Moor where he patrolled the technical area for almost ten years. Burnley, meanwhile, seems destined for relegation after registering yet another dismal performance in a season which has seen the Clarets lose 13 of their 17 Premier League matches, winning just twice. Burnley’s two wins have come against fellow relegation zone occupants Sheffield United and Luton Town.

The Blades brought a little sunshine to Chelsea supporters at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as Chelsea scored a rare home win in a 2-0 subjugation of Sheffield United. Cole Palmer was the star for Chelsea, scoring the Blues’ first goal and then setting up Nicolas Jackson to tap in Chelsea’s insurance goal.

Luton Town was tied at a goal apiece with Bournemouth on Sunday when tragedy nearly struck. Luton captain Tom Lockyer suffered a cardiac event just seven months after a similar incident befell him in a Championship playoff in May. Fortunately, medical personnel were again heroic and Lockyer was responsive before being stretchered from the pitch for transport to a local hospital. The Welsh international is reported to be in stable condition. The match between Bournemouth and Luton town was abandoned, to be rescheduled for a future date.

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