Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Premier League Results Matchweek 25: Manchester City Drops Points to Chelsea Again; Wolves Take Down Tottenham Hotspur; Hojlund Scores Twice in Manchester United Win Over Hatters; Bottom Clubs Sheffield United and Burnley Blasted by Identical 5-0 Scores; Glasner To Take Over Crystal Palace; Everton Moves to Safety

Manchester City has dropped four points to Chelsea this season. That is also the number of points by which the Citizens trailed Liverpool after the defending champions drew with Chelsea for a second time. Saturday’s 1-1 draw could have title implications for Manager Pep Guardiola’s side. Manchester City and Liverpool resume their title race with midweek matches versus Brentford and Luton Town on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. However, if the race at the top of the Premier League table remains this tight, with Arsenal part of the three-way chase, Chelsea may well have played spoiler to another Manchester City title. City salvaged a point at the Emirates on Sunday when an 83rd minute Rodri goal offset a first half goal from former Manchester City player Raheem Sterling which staked Chelsea to an early lead. Sterling also scored against his former team in the reverse fixture between the sides. The match Saturday was less thrilling than the 4-4 shootout in November. It was, however, an encouraging result for a young Chelsea club trying to find its footing. Axel Disasi was outstanding at center back for a Chelsea back line which was playing without the injured Thiago Silva. Malo Gusto also proved a nuisance for Manchester City as the Brazilian right back played perhaps his best game deputizing for the injured Reese James. Chelsea also benefitted from Erling Haaland playing one of his worst matches since entering the Premier League. The imposing Manchester City striker missed nine different shots, a plethora of misguided missiles which included some makeable headers which would have changed the match outcome. In total, Manchester City launched 31 shots, nine on target. The Citizens lost ground to both Liverpool and Arsenal in the Premier League title chase.

Liverpool sailed past Brentford 4-1 on Friday as Mohamed Salah, of course, scored in his return from a lengthy absence. Arsenal had an even easier time with Burnley in a 5-0 laugher on Saturday. Martin Odegaard scored four minutes into the match, Bukayo Saka added two goals and Leandro Trossard and Kai Havertz joined in the goalscoring fun. Saka now has six goals in his last four matches and Arsenal has averaged more than four goals a game in posting five straight wins. Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya was not required to make a save as Burnley suffered yet another abject defeat.

There is, however, one team lower than Burnley in the Premier League table. The bumbling Blades of Sheffield United lost by the same 5-0 score on Sunday versus Brighton. The match at Bramall Lane was effectively over in the 13th minute when the Blades’ Mason Holgate was disqualified for an ill-advised high tackle. Brighton’s Simon Adringa, newly returned from winning the Africa Cup of Nations title with Ivory Coast, scored twice amid the carnage inflicted by the Seagulls. Brighton has now scored four or more goals in seven different matches across all competitions this season. Brighton surged past West Ham and Newcastle into seventh place in the table with the win.

A six-point gap remains between the Seagulls and sixth place Manchester United after the Red Devils outlasted Luton Town 2-1 at Kenilworth Road. Rasmus Hojlund scored twice for Manchester United in the first seven minutes of Sunday’s match, finding the net for a sixth consecutive match. Luton Town showed character, however, by scoring seven minutes later and continuing to aggressively pressure the Manchester United defense. Red Devil Manager Eric ten Hag lifted defensive midfielder Casemiro and center back Harry Maguire at halftime as those veteran defenders, along with Rafael Varane, struggled to match the energy of the Hatters. Eighteen-year-old midfielder Kobbie Manoo was far more effective for the Red Devils in holding off the Hatters as Manchester United won a fourth consecutive league outing.

United are now just three points behind fifth place Tottenham Hotspur after a 2-1 Spurs home defeat to Wolverhampton. Joao Gomes bagged a brace as Wolves triumphed for the fourth time in their last six visits to the north London side. The defeat knocked Tottenham Hotspur out of the top four and kept Wolves’ hopes alive for a possible European berth. Relegation seemed more probable than Europe when manager Gary O’Neil took charge of Wolverhampton just days before the season began. Now the side is level on points with 10th place Chelsea, only three points behind seventh place Brighton and the lower rung of European qualification.

Aston Villa, meanwhile, moved back into the top four with a 2-1 win at Fulham. Ollie Watkins delivered both goals to secure all three points at Craven Cottage. Watkins’ output on Saturday matched that of his previous ten matches as Villa’s recent performances had been spotty during their star striker’s dry patch. Watkins’ goals on Saturday gave him 23 goal involvements (combined goals and assists on the season), just one behind Premier League leader Mohamed Salah.

The pressure increased on West Ham Manager David Moyes after his Hammers lost a third consecutive Premier League match with a 2-0 loss at Nottingham Forest. Three consecutive draws preceded the recent losses as the Hammers have scored but three goals in a six-match winless league run. Goals by Taiwo Awoniyi and Callum Hudson-Odoi moved Nottingham Forest four points clear of the relegation line. Moyes, meanwhile, will not be happy with the result or the fact that his Hammers conceded in stoppage time of each half.

Crystal Palace has a new manager after the Eagles’ 1-1 draw Monday with Everton. The newly appointed Oliver Glasner watched from the stands at Goodison Park as a familiar story played out on the pitch for Palace. The Eagles tempered their attack after Jordan Ayew provided them an advantage with his first half goal. Everton went on the front foot and finally broke though in the 84th minute on an Amadou Onana header. Only Sheffield United has conceded more goals in the final 15 minutes of play than Crystal Palace this season. The 17th such concession by the Eagles enabled Everton to steal a point and emerge from the relegation zone by virtue of a goal differential advantage over Luton Town. The Hatters have a match in hand, but the Toffees are also waiting for a ruling that may reduce their current ten-point penalty which has them navigating the relegation rapids in the first place. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, is trying to steer clear of those rough waters with the Eagles flying five points above the drop line as Glasner takes over. The Austrian manager has won a Europa title with Eintracht Frankfurt and taken both that club and Wolfsburg to Champions League qualification. His more upbeat style of play will be welcomed, at least initially, by Crystal Palace supporters. The club has tried to pivot from its traditional, stodgier, style of play twice in recent years. Those failed ventures under former mangers Frank De Boer and Patrick Vieira were short lived with Roy Hodgson coming to the rescue on both occasions to install discipline and organization at the expense of flair and minutes for young developing talent. The 76-year-old Hodgson now steps down after a worrying hospitalization last week. Glasner undertakes a two-pronged challenge in keeping the Eagles safe while transforming their playing philosophy.

Bournemouth similarly tried to change their approach with the preseason appointment of Andoni Iraola. A more expansive style was slow to be grasped by the players during a rough start to the season. The Cherries then went on a run spanning November and December where they won six of seven matches to shoot up the table and separate from the relegation battle. Things have gotten rocky in the new year as Bournemouth searches for its first 2024 victory. A golden chance slipped away at Newcastle Saturday in a 2-2 draw when the equalizer was scored in stoppage time by the Magpies’ Matt Ritchie. The Cherries stay in 13th place, eight points above the drop. Newcastle sits eighth in the table, on the fringes of European qualification.

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