EPL week 22 review: Liverpool open up a seven-point lead; Utd win again
Week 22 of the English Premier League sees Liverpool open up a seven-point lead at the top, with Man City playing on Monday, and Spurs losing to Man Utd at Wembley.
Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the English Premier League (EPL) to seven points, and ended a run of two successive defeats, after beating Brighton at the Amex.
More than anything, the result showed a growing maturity in Jürgen Klopp’s squad, who have now won every single game they have played against the sides that operate out of The Big Six.
Talking of his team’s slender 1-0 win, Klopp hailed it as their most mature performance of the season, telling the press – we know we can control the game, and we are not that childish anymore.
The goal came in the 50th-minute, and it came from a typical source when Mohamed Salah cracked home his 14th EPL goal of the season from the penalty spot after Pascal Gross sent him packing. The Egyptian is now level with Harry Kane in the chase for the Golden Boot.
At the other end of the pitch, Liverpool continues to have an impregnable defence securing their 13th clean sheet of the season, impressive when you consider Fabinho played as an emergency central defender in the absence of the injured Dejan Lovren.
And what does that seven-point gap mean to Klopp?
“It means nothing,” said the German pragmatist.
Man City face Wolves at The Etihad on Monday and are 2/11 to reduce that deficit to four points by the time we take our hands off the handlebars of life and slip into a deep slumber.
Champions League Qualification: Arsenal & Spurs Stutter, Chelsea & Man Utd Step-Up.
On the Champions League qualification front, it was a big weekend for Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri’s men stretched their lead over fifth-place Arsenal to six points after beating Newcastle at home, with Arsenal losing at West Ham.
Pedro got on the end of a David Silva special to open the scoring in the ninth minute, but boos rained down from the stands with Chelsea strolling into the half-time break on an even keel after Ciaran Clark had headed Newcastle back into contention.
If we are to believe the whispers on Marvin’s grapevine, Willian is off to Barcelona, and if he goes, Chelsea will miss him. The Brazilian is capable of creating a Goal of the Season competition all on his lonesome, and he added another to his resume with a cracking curler in the 57th-minute to win the game for the Londoners.
“In this moment, he’s a fundamental player – he has to stay with us,” Sarri told the press after the win.
It was his first EPL goal since the end of October.
Chelsea is now a single point behind third-place Spurs, and three-points behind second-place Man City (with City facing Wolves on Monday night).
Newcastle, on the other hand, falls into the relegation zone after Southampton and Burnley picked up three points, and Cardiff booking a point at home to Huddersfield. The Magpies have only won one match in ten games since the Premier League gave Rafa Benitez the Manager of the Month award in November.
Newcastle faces Cardiff next in a crunch tie before facing Man City and Spurs.
West Ham 1 v 0 Arsenal
West Ham moves up to ninth after recording their sixth win in nine during the London derby with Arsenal at the London Stadium. Sami Nasri appeared in his first EPL game since August 2016, and his first professional game since sitting out a six-month ban for breaking doping violations, and it was the Frenchman who set up Declan Rice to score the winning goal in the 48th minute. It was the 19-year-old’s first goal for the club, and afterwards, Manuel Pellegrini waxed lyrical about the young man’s performance.
It was the first time Arsenal had failed to score in an EPL game since the opening game of the season, and they are now winless in five appearances away from The Emirates, a stat that will worry Unai Emery in this most competitive of Champions League qualification run-ins.
Spurs 0 v 1 Man Utd
Dark horses Man Utd continue to run rampant under their temporary leader, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. The United board appointed the Norwegian ahead of EPL ties against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle and a home FA Cup tie against Reading in the hope that he could take his side on a confidence-boosting run, and that’s what happened with five wins from five.
The Molde boss’s first stretch was Spurs at Wembley, and he got through it thanks to the brilliance of Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, a world-class goalkeeper in David De Gea, and the inability of the Spurs forward line to find that killer touch.
United went into the half time break with a deserving lead after Rashford raced onto a Pogba through ball to score with a fantastic finish from the right. It was Rashford’s third successive EPL goal, and his fourth goal in five games under Solskjaer.
Spurs were a different side in the second half, and the longer the game went on, the deeper United sat, protecting that one-goal lead. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Toby Alderweireld all had clear cut chances to deliver a point for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, but the Spanish #1 was simply unstoppable.
United’s sixth win on the tamp sees them pull level with Arsenal, trailing by goal difference, and they are six points behind Chelsea who currently occupy that fourth golden spot.
Here are the rest of the weekend’s results.
Results in Full
West Ham 1 v 0 Arsenal
Burnley 2 v 1 Fulham
Crystal Palace 1 v 2 Watford
Cardiff 0 v 0 Huddersfield
Brighton 0 v 1 Liverpool
Leicester 1 v 2 Southampton
Chelsea 2 v 1 Newcastle
Everton 2 v 0 Bournemouth
Spurs v Man Utd
To Be Played (Mon)
Man City v Wolves
Premier League Table
1. Liverpool – 57 points
2. Man City – 50
3. Spurs – 48
4. Chelsea – 47
5. Arsenal – 41
6. Man Utd – 41
7. Watford – 32
8. Leicester – 31
9. West Ham – 31
10. Everton – 30
11. Wolves – 29
12. Bournemouth – 27
13. Brighton – 26
14. Crystal Palace – 22
15. Burnley – 21
16. Southampton – 19
17. Cardiff – 19
18. Newcastle – 18
19. Fulham – 14
20. Huddersfield – 11
Man City 6/5
Top 4 Finish
Man Utd 16/5
Fulham – 4/11
Harry Kane 23/10 (14 goals)
Mohamed Salah 23/10 (14 goals)
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 7/2 (14 goals)
Sergio Aguero 7/1 (10 goals)
Next Manager to Leave
Claude Puel 4/7
David Wagner 3/1
Rafa Benitez 10/1
Marco Silva 14/1
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