The past weekend in the premier league was jammed packed full of goals.
There were two six-goal thrillers at both Elland Road and St Mary’s as well as a five-goal cracker at The Emirates.
Relegation candidates staked their claim for survival and the top four race took another turn.
Here is your roundup…
GAME OF THE WEEK
Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace
The gunners suffered a rare defeat midweek in the Europa League on penalties to Sporting CP knocking them out of the competition in the round-of-16. Mikel Arteta will have needed his side to bounce straight back in this home fixture against fellow London side Crystal Palace as there is no room for error in this title race between themselves and Manchester City.
Arteta had to deal with two injuries in the build-up to this game with William Saliba suffering a back injury and Takehiro Tomiyasu suffering a knee injury. Despite the latter not being a regular starter, he was still a key part of the squad featuring often, therefore when Arteta found out he was out for the rest of the season he will have been aware what a big miss he would be. Saliba’s injury is more short term and should be back after the international break.
Because of this, Rob Holding started alongside Gabriel in a new look back two. Gabriel Jesus returned to the bench after a long time on the side-lines with an injury, the Brazilian had registered ten goal contributions in 14 games before he suffered injury in November.
There was no shortage of drama at Selhurst Park ahead of this game either as Patrick Viera was sacked after a midweek derby defeat to Brighton. Coach Patrick McCarthy took charge for this one as the club searched for a new manager to take them into the final ten games and keep them in the league.
The interim manager made three changes from Wednesday night dropping Nathaniel Clyne for Joel Ward and replacing the injured Albert Sambi-Lokonga and Joachim Anderson with Luka Milivojevic and James Tomkins.
It took the gunners just under half an hour to take the lead and it was Gabriel Martinelli who broke the deadlock. Ben White intercepted the ball high up the pitch on the right wing and picked the perfect moment to unlock Bukayo Saka in behind the Palace defence. Saka turned and found Martinelli inside the penalty area with a pinpoint cross. Martinelli controlled the ball well, beat Joel Ward for pace and fired across goal into the bottom right corner from around 12-yards out.
Saka doubled Arsenal’s lead in the 43rd minute when he once again linked up with White on the right wing with Saka opting to shoot rather than cross this time when White slipped him in behind. The shot curled around the foot of Joe Whitworth and into the bottom left corner.
This goal meant that Arsenal went into halftime two goals up. Arteta will have known that there was little chance of Palace mounting a comeback but will still have urged his side to keep going and push for more goals.
This is what they did scoring their third in the 55th minute when Granit Xhaka finished from close range. Leandro Trossard dropped deep and allowed Xhaka to bomb into the space he left before passing to him with the Switzerland international finishing the move.
Palace did get one back in the 63rd minute from a corner when Jeffrey Schlupp scored as a result of a corner.
Arsenal quickly diminished any chance of a palace comeback when they made it 4-1 just over ten minutes later. Will Hughes clearance landed at the feet of Kieran Tierney inside the penalty area. The Scotsman cut the ball back to Saka who curled a first time shot past Whitworth and into the bottom left corner from near the penalty spot. This was Saka’s second of the game and 12th of the season.
The win extended Arsenal’s lead at the top of the table to eight points as title rivals Manchester City didn’t play.
Palace stay 12th but with some of the teams behind them making up ground they find themselves just three points above the drop zone. Palace face Leicester at home when the Premier League returns from the international break in the first of three season defining games.
Southampton 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur
All the talk ahead of this clash on the South Coast was about spurs boss Antonio Conte. This was because Spurs had been knocked out the FA cup to championship opposition and knocked out of the Champions League in the round of 16, not scoring a goal in the two-leg tie.
This happened all in the space of two weeks and with a loss in the Premier League to Wolves in-between these two games many Spurs fans had run out of patience with Conte. The Italian manager had also been outspoken in his recent press conferences questioning his players winning mentality.
The tale of the first half was injuries. Both sides lost two players due to injury, Richarlison and Ben Davies for Spurs as well as centre backs Armel Bella-Kotchap and Jan Bednarek for the saints. These injuries disrupted the flow of the first half not allowing either team to get a real foothold in the game.
However, in first half stoppage time Pedro Porro broke the deadlock when he thundered a strike in off the underside of the crossbar from just outside the 6-yard box. This was the Spaniards first goal for Spurs since joining from Sporting in January on loan with an obligation to buy.
Conte will have been happy at halftime with his side leading despite not creating too many chances. Up against one of the lowest scorers in the league, Spurs fans will have been hoping to see the game out and perhaps get a second as Southampton push forward.
But as so often happens, the script was thrown out of the window and the second half was all action.
Just one minute after halftime Che Adams levelled the game. Theo Walcott found himself in space on the right wing. The 34-year-old burst into the penalty area and found Adams who’d manage to evade Cristian Romero and Eric Dier and poked the ball past Fraser Forster hitting the post on its way in.
Spurs retook the lead in the 65th minute. Dejan Kulusevski crossed excellently from the right wing picking out Harry Kane who was on hand to guide a header past Bazunu from inside the 6-yard box. The goal marked Kane’s 23rd of the season only having scored less than Erling Haaland.
Nine minutes later Spurs extend their lead and made it 1-3. Kulusevski once again crossed into a dangerous area, but this time Ainsley Maitland-Niles headed clear. The clearance only made it as far as Ivan Perisic who was waiting on the edge of the box. The Croatian volleyed into the ground, bouncing up and over the outstretched hand of Bazunu and into the back of the net.
Southampton didn’t lose hope and kept battling on until they got a goal back in the 77th minute through Arsenal cult-hero Walcott. Sekou Mara nodded James Ward-Prowse’s cross down to Walcott who volleyed into the bottom-left corner from just outside the six-yard box.
And then, in the third minute of second-half stoppage time referee Simon Hooper awarded Southampton a penalty when Maitland-Niles took the ball away from him as he went to clear it meaning the substitute got none of the ball and all of the man and the referee had an easy decision.
The talisman Ward-Prowse once again saved Southampton firing his unsavable penalty into the top right corner. The saints skipper now has seven goals this campaign and is single handily keeping his team in the relegation fight when without him they would likely be cut adrift.
With the game ending 3-3, Southampton move to the bottom of the table but with only four points separating 20th and 12th nobody is safe any anyone still has the chance to get themselves out of danger.
Spurs remain in the top four but their gap to Newcastle in fifth narrows to just two points and with the Geordies having two games in hand you could argue they are in pole position.
After the late disappointment Conte faced the media and went on a rant about the players commitment, the lack of success the club have had and questioned the owners. This interview didn’t go down well with the higher-ups at Spurs, or the dressing room and it’s expected that Conte may not be allowed to continue as manager and be sacked over the international break.
“I see only 11 players that play for themselves. There are 10 games to go and some people think we can fight. Fight for what with this spirit, this attitude, this commitment?”
Chelsea 2-2 Everton
Chelsea had recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since October after defeating Leeds and Leicester in their two previous Premier League games. Therefore, Graham Potter will have been wanting to extend his sides winning run going into the international break.
Results had improved in recent weeks for Everton with a draw away at Nottingham Forest and a win at Goodison against Brentford last time out. After getting his side out of the relegation zone, Sean Dyche will have been desperate to keep his side above the bottom three with games running out.
The first half of the game Everton showed their improvement under Sean Dyche, defending well and threatening on the counterattack.
From a Chelsea perspective the first half was cagey, but Graham Potter’s men showed glimpses of their attacking threat and with Everton tiring in the second half Chelsea fans will have believed their side would have a good chance to go on and win the game.
Seven minutes into the first half Chelsea took the lead after just seven minutes. Ben Chilwell saw his cross deflected straight into the path of Joao Felix. The Portuguese striker took a touch before firing the ball through the legs of James Tarkowski hitting the post before rebounding into the back of the net. This was Felix’s second goal since joining the blues in January on loan from Atletico Madrid.
Everton managed to get themselves back into the game against the run of play when Abdoulaye Doucoure flicked a header goal bound when Kai Havertz cleared it. However, goal line technology notified referee Darren England that the ball crossed the line before it was cleared so Everton were awarded the goal and levelled the game at 1-1.
Dyche will have been disappointed that his side only held level for seven minutes as Chelsea retook the lead in the 76th minute.
Between Ben Godfrey and Tarkowski, the pair managed to bring Reece James down inside the penalty area forcing the referee to award the home side a spot kick. Havertz made no mistake from 12-yards, sending Jordan Pickford the wrong way and reinstating Chelsea’s lead.
However, to the toffees credit they kept fighting and snatched an equaliser one minute from time. Ellis Simms had only been on the pitch ten minutes when he grabbed the goal for his side. Simms shrugged Kalidou Koulibaly off whilst bursting into the area and curling a shot past an outstretched Kepa.
The goal came as a consequence of poor defending from Koulibaly and a mistake from the Chelsea keeper. Graham Potter will be disappointed with his side, but Simms won’t care as this was his first ever Premier League goal.
The game ended 2-2 with the points shared, something that Everton will have been very happy with having been behind twice.
Everton keep a two-point gap from the relegation zone, but with many sides below having a game in hand, the pressure is still on.
Despite dropping points late on Chelsea fans will be behind Potter as there is clear signs of progression and improvement. Chelsea fans can look forward to season-defining games against Aston Villa and Liverpool when we return from the international break.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-4 Leeds United
Since Javi Gracia’s first game in late February which saw his Leeds side defeat relegation rivals Southampton at Elland Road, the Yorkshire sides form has dipped. Leeds had only accrued a single point in their three previous games facing Fulham, Chelsea, and Brighton. Having slipped into the relegation zone it was important that Gracia’s side secured a win in this relegation six pointer to give their chances of survival a much-needed boost.
Under the guidance of Europa League winning manager Julen Lopetegui, Wolves have managed to just keep themselves ticking over and the right side of the dreaded dotted line. The black-countryside have been inconsistent however, having beaten the likes of top-four challenging Spurs but losing to relegation favourites Bournemouth. Lopetegui will have known that a win against Leeds will have seen them potentially six-points clear of the relegation zone but if they lost, they’d be back in the thick of the scrap.
Leeds started quickly and took the lead on six minutes. Wilfried Gnonto used his lightening acceleration to beat Nelson Semedo and cross from the goal line. The cross was cut back to Jack Harrison who ran onto the cross and curled the ball past Jose Sa. The goal was the result of a clever run by Harrison who lost his man and found space inside a crowded penalty area.
The score was 0-1 at halftime with Wolves not really creating many chances despite being the home side.
Leeds were once again the team that got going first doubling their lead four minutes into the second half. Luke Ayling peeled away from Semedo who was conned by Weston McKennie’s false run and found himself with a free header at the back-post which he forced past Sa. This was really poor defending from Wolves who had four defenders fooled by McKennie’s run leaving Ayling in acres of space in such a dangerous area.
Things went from bad to worse for Wolves when Jonny was shrugged of the ball inside his own area by Rasmus Kristensen. The Dane used his strength to disposes Jonny before shifting the ball onto his right foot firing low through the legs of Sa from a tight angle.
Leeds handed Wolves a lifeline when Illan Meslier peculiarly opted to run out of his penalty area and make a headed clearance from a ball over the top of Robin Koch. The goalkeepers headed clearance only made it as far as Jonny who, to his credit, volleyed brilliantly over the stranded goalkeeper.
Eight minutes later Wolves received another bit of luck when Matheus Cunha’s tame shot deflected nastily off the heel of Maximillian Wober and wrongfooted a helpless Meslier making the score 2-3.
Wolves’ comeback was abruptly halted when Jonny was shown a red card for a high challenge on Ayling. The referee originally brandished a yellow card but after a VAR check he was instructed to show a red card.
This turned the tide of the game and in second-half stoppage time Leeds sealed their win adding a fourth. Adama Traore believed he was fouled by Crysencio Summerville and stopped fighting for the ball.
However, the referee deemed him to not have been fouled and Summerville unlocked the Wolves defence picking out Rodrigo who dinked a shot over Jose Sa after finding himself one on one.
Unused substitute Matheus Nunes was shown a red card for his protests on the bench after Leeds fourth goal as he felt that Traore was fouled.
With the game ending 2-4 Leeds climb out of the relegation zone and into 14thplace. Leeds will need to keep these levels of performances going after the international break if they want to stay in the Premier League.
Wolves will be looking to bounce back after the international break with a tough trip to The City Ground where they will face Nottingham Forest in another relegation six-pointer.
Aston Villa 3-0 AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth will have come to Villa Park bursting with confidence after last weekends well-earned win against a star-studded Liverpool side. Gary O’Neil’s side will have known that a win against Villa could’ve seen them claw their way out of the relegation zone, but it was going to be a tough ask.
This is because under Unai Emery, Villa have had a real upturn in form cementing themselves as ‘best of the rest’ among the teams not challenging for European football. Coming into this game the villains hadn’t lost in their last three games with two wins in that time and only one goal conceded. Villa have clearly been doing well defensively but they’ve also been doing the business down the other end of the pitch. Ollie Watkins is a man in form having scored six in his last seven ahead of this fixture, and after narrowly missing out on an England call up, the striker may still feel he has something to prove.
Villa started quickly and made their early pressure count when they took the lead after just six minutes. Leon Bailley managed to get on the end of a wayward blocked shot and dart past Lloyd Kelly before drilling a cross back to Douglas Luiz who was lurking inside the six-yard box for a tap in. The goal encapsulated the rapid start Villa had made with the awareness of Bailey to anticipate the ball coming to him and the positioning of Luiz. The Bournemouth defenders were caught ball watching with the back three glued to the spot as the cross came in, poor defending.
Both teams had chances throughout the rest of the first half and the early exchanges of the second. Emi Martinez pulled of a brilliant save when Philip Billing’s free kick looked destined for the top corner.
Jacob Ramsey exemplified the gulf in class between the two side when he beat Jack Stephens on the edge of the box and curled a shot underneath Neto doubling Villa’s lead. This was a moment of brilliance from the young English midfielder that denied Bournemouth the opportunity to get something out the game with ten minutes of normal time left to play.
The game was far beyond Bournemouth’s reach when Villa made it 3-0 in the 89th minute. Luiz’s corner was flicked on at the near post by Tyrone Mings, deflecting off Emi Buendia and sailing into the back of the net. The little Argentinian might not have known too much about that goal, but he won’t complain as it adds to his season tally which is now at five.
Villa stay 11th after this win, but now applying pressure to Chelsea and Fulham in the positions above.
Bournemouth remain in the relegation zone with 11 games left to play, it’s starting to look like Premier League survival is going to be too big of an ask for O’Neil’s side.
Nottingham Forest 1-2 Newcastle United
Friday night’s meeting between Nottingham Forest and Newcastle featured two side that have struggled in recent weeks with both teams towards the bottom of the form table.
Forest were winless in their last five Premier League games conceding 12 goals in that time.
Newcastle had still been suffering a hangover from their Carabao Cup final defeat nearly a month ago, but with a win against Wolves at St. James’ Park last weekend Eddie Howe will be hoping his side can begin to replicate their start of season form, only losing once between August and late February.
In the 12th minute Newcastle came close to breaking the deadlock when Trippier’s quick free kick caught the Forest defence out. However, Alexander Isak’s tame effort didn’t find the back of the net. The ball deflected off both Keylor Navas and Renan Lodi before striking the crossbar proving an early let-off for Steve Cooper’s side.
Not too long after narrowly avoiding conceding, Forest went down the other end and scored themselves. Jonjo Shelvey cleared the ball out of defence, bouncing Sven Botman who uncharacteristically made a fateful error passing back to his goalkeeper. This error allowed Emmanuel Dennis to latch onto the failed back pass and chip a stranded Nick Pope who Botman had left short.
Newcastle managed to fight back and equalise on the stroke of halftime. Joe Willock was freed on the right wing after clever play with Allan Saint-Maximin and picked out Isak at the back post. The Swede volleyed spectacularly into the bottom right corner from close range.
With a lack of attacking options fit and available for Eddie Howe to bring off the bench he turned to youngster Elliot Anderson who’d only ever started once in the Premier League. Midway through the second half Anderson thought he had his moment when he headed the ball into the back of the net at the back post. However, unfortunately for the 20-year-old Sean Longstaff was offside in the build-up so Anderson will still have to wait for his moment.
Newcastle managed to snatch a winner in the 93rd minute from the penalty spot when the ball struck Moussa Niakhate’s hand in the box as he jumped for a header. Isak dispatched the spot kick and found the top right corner leaving Navas rooted to the spot.
Brentford 1-1 Leicester City
The foxes travelled to Brentford on a four-game losing streak in the Premier League, tumbling down the table in this time. Therefore, it was important that Brendan Rodgers stopped his side slipping any further down the table by getting a positive result in this game.
Brentford stay in their quest for European football and will have wanted to build on their midweek win against Southampton by securing another victory in this game.
The first goal of the game was scored in the 32nd minute by the hosts. Mathias Jensen capitalised on a poor clearance from a well worked set piece. His half-volley deflected of Ricardo Pereira and wrongfooted keeper Daniel Iversen putting the bees ahead.
Leicester levelled the game up at 1-1 when James Maddison played Harvey Barnes in through the middle of the Brentford central defenders with the English winger chipped David Raya from close range.
The game ended 1-1 with Leicester picking up a much-needed point but still only a point away from the bottom three and in grave danger.
Brentford sit eighth, level on points with Liverpool in the final Europa league spot.