Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Premier League Results Match Week 18: Arsenal Stay Top With Point At Liverpool; Luton Town, Burnley Surprise With Wins; Spurs Return To top Four; Frustration Continues For Manchester United and Newcastle

Arsenal maintained its position at the top of the Premier League table by earning a point at Anfield in a 1-1 final with Liverpool. Gabriel Magalhaes quickly drew first blood when the defender headed in the free kick of Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard to give the Gunners a lead in the fourth minute of play. A solitary moment of brilliance by Liverpool stars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah salvaged the point for the Reds in the 29th minute. Alexander-Arnold found Salah with a pinpointed pass from distance which the Egyptian international blasted past Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya. That ended the scoring, however, as Liverpool was held to a draw for a second consecutive league match at Anfield. Arsenal, meanwhile, are top of the Premier League table at Christmas for the second consecutive year.

Aston Villa would be in first place but for a disappointing draw against bottom of the table Sheffield United on Friday. Villa instead stays level on points with Liverpool, both clubs one point behind league leading Arsenal. The Blades were on the brink of a stunning victory after former Aston Villa player Cameron Archer found the net in the 88th minute to give Sheffield United an improbable lead.

Only a 97th minute goal by substitute Nicolo Zaniolo salvaged a point for third place Villa against their 20th place opponent. The draw snapped a fifteen-match winning run for the home side at their Villa Park fortress. All three of the current relegation zone occupants got a result on the weekend as the two clubs immediately above Sheffield United both earned rare victories.

Luton Town took to the pitch before its Kenilworth road home supporters for the first time since captain Tom Lockyer experienced his cardiac event. The Hatters responded with a 1-0 defeat of Newcastle. Former Newcastle, Spurs and Crystal Palace player Andros Townsend scored the 25th minute winner for the Hatters, assisted by former Everton and Chelsea player Ross Barkley. The lethargic play of a fatigued Newcastle squad is officially becoming a crisis as the Magpies lost for the fifth time in their last six matches across all competitions.

Burnley’s previous two victories this season were over fellow relegation zone dwellers Luton Twon and Sheffield United. Saturday’s victory 2-0 at Fulham was thus the most impressive outing of the season for the Clarets. Goals by Wilson Odobert and Sander Berge fueled the Clarets’ unexpected victory which capped a productive five match run by Burnley which has largely gone under the radar. Seven of Burnley’s 11 points this season have come from its two victories and a draw in the last five matches. Fulham, meanwhile, were whitewashed for a second consecutive losing outing after outscoring opponents 10-0 in two victories preceding its current drought.

In the north of London, Tottenham Hotspur moved past idle Manchester City and into the top four by pouring cold water on the formerly hot Toffees of Everton. The 2-1 final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium saw Richarlison and Son Heung-min provide the goals which ended Everton’s four match winning run in the Premier League.

West Ham moved into sixth place in the table with a 2-0 win over Manchester United as the Hammers jumped over both the Red Devils and Newcastle with their win at London Stadium. Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus delivered goals  in the 72nd and 78th minute, respectively, to defeat punchless Manchester United. The Red Devils have now failed to score in four consecutive matches across all competitions.

Nottingham Forest was able to score twice but was still defeated 3-2 by Bournemouth in Nuno Espirito Santo’s debut as manager of the not so Tricky Trees. The new manager was not helped by a second yellow card  assessed defender Wily Boly which reduced Nottingham Forest to 10 men after just 23 minutes. The Trees fell for a sixth time in seven matches to creep within two points of the relegation zone. Dominic Solanke scored all three goals for Bournemouth, including the winner four minutes into stoppage time. Solanke, a former Liverpool striker, now is joint third in Premier League scoring with 11 goals. Bournemouth has moved from the relegation zone all the way to 12th place in the table by winning six times in a seven-match unbeaten run.

The Cherries are level on points with both Wolverhampton and Chelsea after Wolves’ 2-1 home win over the Blues. Chelsea missed on a plethora of opportunities as it fell behind by two goals before Christopher Nkunku scored in the 96th minute to make the score respectable. Wolves recorded a second consecutive league win against Chelsea for the first time in almost 50 years. Chelsea’s EFL Cup win over Newcastle earlier in the week proved to be a false positive as the Blues quickly reverted to the form which has seen the once proud club lose more matches than any other Premier League club in calendar year 2023.

Brighton rescued a late point last Thursday against Crystal Palace when Danny Welbeck scored in the 86th minute to draw Brighton level 1-1 at Selhurst Park in the M23 derby.

Boxing Day sees five matches across the Premier League as the busy holiday fixture list picks up momentum with additional matches on Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday’s final contest of Match Week 19 could be the most interesting as Arsenal tries to stay top of the table when it hosts a London derby against West Ham. The Hammers have won three of four and have only lost once in their last seven Premier League matches.

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