The Premier League returned for another thrilling Matchday of action over the weekend, the 32nd of the 2017/2018 campaign, and there was drama at both ends of the table as Pep Guardiola’s league leaders moved just three points away from the title and David Moyes’ West Ham United got the better of a dejected Southampton, let’s look back at the last few days’ football.
The Top-Flight weekend began with a tasty clash on Saturday lunchtime at Selhurst Park where Roy Hodgson’s struggling Crystal Palace met with Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying Liverpool live on Sky Sports.
The Eagles got off to the best possible start when Luka Milivojevic converted a penalty but despite their dominant display, the Merseysiders hit back in trademark style through Sadio Mane, who arguably shouldn’t have been on the field, and there could only be one man to win it for them, none other than PL top-scorer Mo Salah to push the South London outfit back into slumber.
Attention then turned to an unusual number of traditional afternoon kick-offs, no fewer than six, even more strangely, one of them involved the league’s second-placed side Manchester United, who hosted Swansea City.
Jose Mourinho has endured some tough afternoons at Old Trafford recently, though this wouldn’t be one of them with the Red Devils striking early through Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to wrap up a 2-0 win over Carlos Carvalhal’s resurgent Welshmen.
At the same time but down in the Midlands, Alan Pardew’s rock-bottom West Bromwich Albion welcomed Sean Dyche’s Europa League challengers Burnley to the Hawthorns Stadium for a desperate encounter.
The Baggies only needed one thing, an unlikely victory, however, it soon became apparent they weren’t going to get this when Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood fired the visitors ahead, Salomon Rondon did pull one back for the Baggies, but it wasn’t enough to prevent an eighth defeat on the spin and Pardew’s subsequent departure from the cub, dark clouds hang over the Midlands.
Things are a little cheerier on the South Coast and more specifically the American Express Community Stadium which housed the mid-table meeting of Brighton & Hove Albion and Leicester City also at 3 PM.
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls were looking to edge further away from danger and have the perfect chance to do this when Glenn Murray missed a late penalty and they were duly punished for it by Vicente Iborra and Jamie Vardy inside the final 13 minutes despite Wilfred Ndidi’s potentially damaging late red card for Claude Puel’s Foxes.
Another mid-table meeting that went right down to the wire in the afternoon came at Vicarage Road as Javier Gracia’s Watford entertained Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth.
These two traded blow for blow throughout the 90 minutes with Josh King cancelling out a Kiko Femenia strike in the first-half, Roberto Pereyra’s early second-half effort had looked to be the game’s winner, only for veteran Jermain Defoe to pop up off the substitutes’ bench to steal a point for the Cherries with a last-gasp finish.
In the North East, while all of this was occurring, Rafa Benítez’s Newcastle United had an opportunity at St James’ Park to make it back-to-back wins against the travelling Huddersfield Town under David Wagner.
The Magpies got a feisty relegation test in the Terriers and took a full 80 minutes to break them down, their new signing and revelation Kenedy crossing for Ayoze Perez for the affair’s only goal ten minutes from time, plunging the Yorkshire side into further trouble
However, relegation six-pointers didn’t get much more pivotal than the final of the afternoon starts at the London Stadium with 17th-placed West Ham hosting 18th-placed Southampton, who were being managed by Mark Hughes for the first time in the league.
It would be a disastrous afternoon for the Welshman as he saw his team slip to consecutive 0-3 away losses as Joao Mario fired the Hammers ahead, then teeing up Marko Arnautovic for a second, the Austrian then getting his third and the final strike of the contest in first-half added-time, three points lifting the Irons out of immediate danger and making the situation even graver for the South Coast side.
BT Sport’s only live match of the Game Week saw the team at the top of the pile in action as they travelled to Goodison Park where Sam Allardyce’s Everton awaited.
The Citizens started the day just two wins away from sealing a third PL triumph and made it clear in the first period that they weren’t in Liverpool to mess around, racing three to the good courtesy of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane, a second-half comeback from the Toffees including a Dominic Calvert-Lewin goal wasn’t nearly enough to get them back in the game, it was City’s evening.
Two eagerly-anticipated Sky Sports Super Sunday clashes dominated Sunday’s billing and all eyes were on North London and the Emirates Stadium first for Arsenal vs Stoke City.
Arsene Wenger’s men looked like they were heading for another highly-frustrating outing when they had failed to register score through 75 minutes, though the best, quick-fire notches from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette two if which were penalties, was very much saved till last, leading Paul Lambert’s relegation-threatened Potters shell-shocked.
Speaking of saving the best till last, that cliché was very much the theme of Sunday as that match was followed by arguably the pick of the Matchday at Stamford Bridge, the London and top-six derby between Antonio Conte’s Chelsea and Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Spurs journeyed to West London having not been victorious at the Bridge in the PL era, something that was about to change, although it didn’t look like it when Alvaro Morata put the Blues ahead, leaving Christian Eriksen to equalise and then two goals in four second-half minutes from Dele Alli to turn the game on its head and make it a historic day for the Lilywhites, all but cementing their top-four spot.
So, now that all the spills and thrills from the enthralling return of the league that we all know, and love have been well and truly reviewed, UEFA Champions League quarter-final action will take centre-stage this midweek, but never fear, the Top-Flight is back for another Matchday next Saturday lunchtime at Goodison Park.
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