Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Premier League Results Matchweek 28: Arsenal Leads The League After Liverpool And Manchester City Draw; Spurs Smash Aston Villa; Luton Town Keeps Hope Alive; Burnley and Sheffield United Miss Their Chance

Arsenal leads the Premier League with 10 matches left to the season. The Gunners leapfrogged Manchester City and Liverpool in the table when those two clubs drew at Anfield on Sunday, one day after Arsenal were winners at home versus Brentford. The Arsenal win was far form easy. Declan Rice provided the opening goal to put Arsenal into the lead in a first half dominated by the north London side. Disaster then struck before the Gunners could make it into the locker room. Arsenal Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was between the sticks because Manager Mikel Arteta’s usual number one choice, David Raya, was prohibited from facing his parent club. Ramsdale was rusty and it cost the Gunners. A lazy clearance by the Gunner goalkeeper was deflected into the net by Yoane Wissa who alertly flashed across the box to embarrass the Arsenal keeper and knot the game moments before the first half whistle. Fortunately for Ramsdale, Kai Havertz continued his hot run of scoring. The German’s 86th minute goal restored Arsenal’s lead and put them top of the table with the 2-1 win. Havertz, the former Chelsea disappointment, scored in his fourth consecutive Premier League appearance and has become a key cog in Arsenal’s rise to the top. The Gunners still needed a draw the next day between the other two title contenders and the 1-1 tie at Anfield on Sunday completed Arsenal’s ascent to the top of the Premier League table, on goal differential versus Liverpool and by a point versus Manchester City in the razor thin race for the Premier League title.

John Stones gave Manchester City the early lead on Sunday, converting a well-placed delivery by Kevin De Bruyne in the 23rd minute. The lead would be gone five minutes into second half play after Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez was taken down by Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson for a penalty. Alexis Mac Allister converted the resultant spot kick to knot the game at a goal apiece. The match would end that way despite numerous second half chances by both sides in a back-and-forth pitched battle in the final league meeting between the departing Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola. Liverpool will, of course not be happy with dropping points at Anfield but the Reds impressed again despite key injuries. Mohamed Salah was able to participate for just a half hour due to his hamstring problem, Diogo Jota is a long-term absence, and the Liverpool defense featured youngsters Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah filling in for injuries on the back line. Manchester City frustration was evident when an angry Kevin De Bruyne jawed with Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola after being substituted in the second half. Guardiola remains on just one win in nine managerial visits to Anfield.

While the spotlight remains on the Premier League title battle, the battle for fourth place and a berth in next season’s Champions League also tightened on the weekend. Tottenham Hotspur went into Villa Park Sunday and emerged with a 4-0 victory to pull within two points of fourth place Aston Villa with Spurs also holding a game in hand. The home side could generate nothing against a Spurs side which controlled 70% of the possession and held their hosts to just a single shot on goal. James Maddison and Brennan Johnson scored within three minutes of each other early in the second half to break open the game. Villa’s John McGinn was then ejected in the 65th minute and it was all over by the time Son Heung-min and Timo Werner scored stoppage time goals to further inflate the scoreline. Son assisted on two of Spurs’ four goals in addition to finding the net on his own.

Manchester United held onto its slim and fast receding hopes of Champions League football by defeating Everton 2-0 at Old Trafford. The Red Devils remain six points south of Spurs while having played one more match than the London club. Alejandro Garnacho was the key to Saturday’s win, drawing two first half penalties which were converted by teammates Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. Everton’s winless run stretched to 11 matches with the defeat which highlighted once again the Toffees’ lack of bite, Everton having scored just seven goals in those 11 matches.

West Ham fell four points behind Manchester United in the race for sixth in the table when the Hammers achieved only a draw at London Stadium versus relegation side Burnley. It could have been worse for West Ham as Burnley was shockingly ahead 2-0 at halftime. The relegation bound Clarets then remembered who they were and threw away the lead in the second half to further seal their relegation fate. Lucas Paqueta scored for the Hammers in the first minute of second half play. Substitute Danny Ings equalized to salvage the home point with a stoppage time goal. With the point, Burnley remain level on points with Sheffield United at the bottom of the Premier League table.

The Blades also threw points away on the weekend, blowing a two-goal lead on the south coast against Bournemouth. Just as with Burnley, the Blades conceded the equalizer in stoppage time as Bournemouth’s Enes Unal found the net to grab a point for the Cherries and ensure two more lost points for Sheffield United.

Luton Town completed the trio of relegation zone clubs which grabbed a point this weekend. Unlike Burnley and Sheffield United, however, the point could be meaningful for Luton Town. The Hatters pulled to within three points of 17th place Nottingham Forest and Premier League safety with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace. The Eagles scored early on an 11th minute goal by Jean-Philippe Mateta, controlled the match at Selhurst Park from there and seemed destined to claim all three points until conceding in the final minute of stoppage time to hand the much-needed point to the Hatters. Crystal Palace has conceded more goals in the final 15 minutes of play than any other Premier league side this season and a key challenge for new manager Oliver Glasner will be to prevent the type of late breakdowns such as that which occurred once again on Saturday. Making matters more painful for the Selhurst Park supporters was that the equalizing last gasp header by Luton Town’s Cauley Woodrow was made possible by a pinpoint cross from former Crystal Palace player and fan favorite Andros Townsend.

Things are becoming desperate for Nottingham Forest after a 1-0 loss at Brighton marked a third consecutive defeat, a sixth loss in the Tricky Trees’ last eight league outings. Brighton should have been ripe for the plucking, staggering from a Europa League shellacking in Rome on Thursday and missing injured stars Kaoru Mitoma, Solly March and Joao Pedro. Even with Saturday’s win, the exceedingly average Seagulls now have but three wins and an equal number of losses and draws in their last nine Premier League matches. The Tricky Trees are in worse shape, however, now having lost six of their last nine league outings. A second consecutive 1-0 loss, courtesy of a 29th minute own goal by Nottingham Forest’s Andrew Omobamidele, dropped the Trees to within three points of the relegation zone.

A win by Luton Town against Bournemouth this Wednesday could set up a dead heat for the final place of safety in the table. Coincidentally, Nottingham Forest visits Luton Town at Kenilworth Park on Saturday. The win by Brighton on Sunday moved the Seagulls to within a point of seventh place West Ham.

One point back of the Seagulls lurks Wolverhampton. Surprising Wolves was a 2-1 winner over Fulham as Manager Gary O’Neil’s side continues to stay in the hunt for an improbable European berth. Rayan Ait-Nouri’s first goal of the season and an own goal by Fulham’s Tom Cairney were enough to power Wolves to a fourth win their last six Premier League matches.

Wolverhampton’s chances for Europe were helped by Monday’s result at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea were 3-2 winners over Newcastle. The Magpies dropped a point behind now ninth place Wolverhampton amid a group of five clubs within a four-point band in table places seven though tenth. West Ham currently leads the band in the race for the Europa Conference League. Chelsea is in 10th position, four points back of the Hammers after an encouraging day at the Bridge. Cole Palmer provided yet another fine performance in his maiden season for the Blues, notching a goal and an assist in Chelsea’s 3-2 victory. Tireless but seldom accurate striker Nicolas Jackson also found the net against the Magpies. Most noteworthy, however, was a spectacular goal by Mykhailo Mudryk. The Ukrainian speedster provided the ultimate winning margin with a weaving run though the Newcastle defense before converting off a difficult angle in the 76th minute. Mudryk has provided few of those moments and it was encouraging for both the player and Chelsea supporters witnessing a brief glimpse of what ownership must have been hoping for when they splashed an excessive transfer fee for the winger. Newcastle, meanwhile, continues to ship goals at an alarming rate. Only bottom of the table Sheffield United has shipped as many away goals this season as the Magpies. The porous Newcastle defense has allowed 48 goals home and away in 28 Premier League matches versus only 20 concessions in the same amount of matches last season.  

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