Friday, April 26, 2024

Premier League Mid Week Results (Match Week 29): Arsenal and Manchester City Hammer Opponents While Liverpool Loses; Eagles Soar Over Newcastle; Fernandes Leads Manchester United Win

Jurgen Klopp’s final Liverpool season now includes three non-winning efforts across all competitions to Manchester United and a first ever loss at Goodison Park to Everton. This latter milestone may also have cost the German manager a chance for a second Premier League title. Arsenal and Manchester City crushed their opponents during the week while Liverpool was lamely capitulating to its neighborhood rival. Arsenal now leads Manchester City by a point in the title chase while Liverpool trails the Gunners by three points. Manchester City has a game in hand versus both other contenders while Arsenal has a seemingly insurmountable goal differential advantage.

Arsenal began the midweek festivities on Tuesday when the Gunners demolished Chelsea 5-0. It was the heaviest Premier League defeat the Gunners had ever inflicted on their London rival. Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard quickly put the Gunners ahead in the fourth minute of play before the sides settled down to a relatively evenly played match for the balance of the first half. Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson even provided one of his patented glaring misses as Chelsea missed an opportunity to level matters. The Gunners, however, then exploded in the second half as former Chelsea player Kai Havertz and teammate Ben White each notched braces to create the rout. Havertz, much unloved during the latter stages of his Chelsea tenure, showed no hesitation in celebrating his goals against his former employers. Martin Odegaard was at the center of the fearsome Arsenal attack, assisting on two of the second half goals as the Gunners ran over and past Chelsea’s high priced midfielders Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez. Cole Palmer and Malo Gusto were unavailable for Chelsea. Palmer has 29 goal involvements for the Blues this season and is tied for the league lead in goals. Gusto has been a revelation deputizing at right back for the perpetually injured Reese James. The absence of those two players on Tuesday demonstrated how wanting is the rest of the team in performance and attitude.

While Arsenal proved itself worthy of title contention, Liverpool fell flat on its face in Wednesday’s Merseyside derby, meekly capitulating to rival Everton in a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park. The Toffees scored on two set pieces. Everton’s 21-year-old center back Jarrad Brathwaite scored first in the 27th minute on a scrappy close-range effort as Liverpool desperately tried and failed to clear the ball. Dominic Calvert-Lewin then followed with a majestic header at the 57-minute mark. Liverpool, meanwhile, failed to convert its own chances as Jurgen Klopp’s farewell tour continues to sour. The spectacle of Everton fans chanting “You lost the league at Goodison Park,” on Wednesday is sure to remain a painful memory for the manager. The unexpected loss was not only the first time Klopp had lost at Goodison Park but also the first time that Everton had prevailed over their rivals since 2010. The Toffees have rebounded in grand fashion from a pummeling versus Chelsea almost two weeks ago. Everton defeated Nottingham Forest in a key battle between relegation rivals last week. The win over neighborhood rival Liverpool on Wednesday likely ensured Premier League survival with the Toffees rising eight points above the drop line with four matches left. The resurgence of the oft injured but supremely talented Dominic Calvert-Lewin cannot be understated nor can the belief instilled in the club by Everton Manager Sean Dyche, a veteran of many successful relegation battles during his time with Burnley. Of course, Dyche’s sartorial shift in uncharacteristically donning a track suit on Wednesday instead of his customary suit and black raincoat, may also have contributed to breaking the recent Merseyside hex for the Toffees.

The stage was then set for defending champion Manchester City to finish the trifecta of title influencing midweek matches. The Citizens responded in the manner of Arsenal, crushing Brighton in a 4-0 walkover. Phil Foden scored a pair of goals as the Citizens seemed unaffected by the injury absence of leading scorer Erling Haaland. Julian Alvarez, Haaland’s replacement, scored one of the other goals while Kevin De Bruyne rounded out the scoresheet with an uncharacteristic header. Defender Kyle Walker assisted on both De Bruyne’s opening goal and the final Manchester City goal by Alvarez. Meanwhile, despite the alleged brilliance of Brighton Manager Roberto De Zerbi, the Seagulls continue to sink in the table, now having lost half of their last ten matches.

Manchester City is the only club in the Premier League with a longer winning streak than Crystal Palace. The Eagles won their third straight match, all over top half sides, with a 2-0  defeat of Newcastle as striker Jean-Philippe Mateta delivered a brace for a second consecutive match. The victory clinched Premier League survival for Crystal Palace, an accomplishment which looked uncertain when Manager Oliver Glasner took over in February.

Manchester United, unimpressive in its recent FA Cup win over lesser side Coventry, again walked a tightrope against an inferior side before the Red Devils ultimately put away Premier League cellar dweller Sheffield United on Wednesday. The Blades, winners of only three matches all season, led twice at Old Trafford. A 2-1 deficit at the 60-minute mark for Manchester United was transformed to a 4-2 victory when Bruno Fernandes scored twice and then assisted on the final goal by striker Rasmus Hojlund. Fernandes now has seven goals and two assists in Manchester United’s last five matches. His efforts on Wednesday moved his club into sole possession of sixth place with Newcastle’s loss to Crystal Palace.

Bournemouth moved into the top half of the table with a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton and former Bournemouth Manager Gary O’ Neil. Antoine Semenyo’s 37th minute goal proved the winner as Bournemouth survived a 79th minute red card to frustrate Wolves at Molineux Stadium. Stuart Attwell, the VAR official at the center of Nottingham Forest controversy last week, was the on pitch referee for this match and was again at the center of a dispute. Attwell disallowed a tying goal by Wolves for a seemingly innocuous and unrelated foul in the buildup. A second potentially tying goal by Wolves was chalked off in extra time for offside.

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