Diogo Jota breathes life into fairytale Jurgen Klopp ending at Liverpool – Premier League hits and misses

Jurgen Klopp’s men bounced back from their Europa League exit and last week’s defeat to Crystal Palace in pursuit of Premier League glory; Plus: Ollie Watkins stars again for Villa; Joao Palhinha’s yellows are becoming a problem; Oliver Glasner impressing at Palace

Jota breathes life into fairytale Klopp ending

Image: Diogo Jota celebrates with Cody Gakpo after scoring

Jurgen Klopp played down the notion of ‘scoreboard pressure’.

Manchester City are too old in the tooth, he countered, to be concerned about seeing their lead at the summit evaporate across a weekend in which they were in FA Cup action.

Both Liverpool and Arsenal are in action again before Pep Guardiola’s side can resume their assault on a fourth straight Premier League title. This engrossing race could yet come down to goal difference, with Arsenal still top by virtue of being eight better off than Klopp’s men.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s win against Fulham in the Premier League

Having Diogo Jota back up to speed and back on the scoresheet therefore comes at a crucial moment.

Again, there were opportunities for this to be a more handsome victory over a Fulham side who lost their way after half-time. But as Klopp pointed out: “We won our last two away games, can I ask for more?”

The win in Atalanta helped ease the frustration of the previous week. At Fulham, Klopp rotated his players out of necessity. “We made these changes because we were 100 per cent convinced we had to. It was not a gamble,” said the Liverpool boss.

Klopp remains positive on the title race and still believes if his side wins all their remaining five matches they will be Premier League champions again.

That the clean sheet eluded them will not concern him too much at this stage. Liverpool have scored in 31 of their 33 games – more often than any other team in the Premier League this campaign.

Judging by the full-time celebrations, Klopp still believes there is time to add to his legacy.
Ben Grounds

Palhinha needs to mellow his yellows

Image: Joao Palhinha picked up his 13th yellow card of the campaign

Joao Palhinha could do with taking some advice from Bruno Guimaraes. The Newcastle midfielder walked a tightrope of being on nine yellow cards and avoiding one for 11 straight matches which therefore stopped him from getting a two-game ban. It showed he could still play with restraint but still not lose any of his edge.

Meanwhile, the Fulham midfielder picked up his 13th yellow card of Premier League season with a mistimed tackle about 25 yards out vs Liverpool. You all know the rest. Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped it into the top corner. Palhinha was punished for his lack of discipline. No player has received more yellow cards than him in the Premier League this season and it’s becoming a problem.

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In addition to his 14 yellows last term, he is just the second player to be given 13+ yellow cards in two separate Premier League campaigns – after Olivier Dacourt (1998-99, 2000-01) and Robbie Savage (2001-02, 2003-04).

He’s a fine player but something needs to change with his indiscipline.
Lewis Jones

Watkins does not need goal to star for Villa

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Aston Villa’s win against Bournemouth in the Premier League

Ollie Watkins did not score in this game but he had his name chanted after the second and third goals because the home support recognised his key role in turning it around. He was outstanding in Aston Villa’s 3-1 win over Bournemouth at Villa Park.

His constant probing of the back line is central to Villa’s attacking play, stretching the opposition defence, opening space for others – and on 12 occasions now this Premier League season, directly leading to a team-mate getting among the goals.

With 12 assists now, that is the second best total by a Villa player during the Premier League era. His clever footwork and unselfish use of the ball set up Moussa Diaby for the second goal before his run and cut-back brought the third goal for Leon Bailey.

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Image: Ollie Watkins has a combined total of 31 goals and assists this season for Aston Villa, the most by any player in the Premier League this season

What makes this so remarkable is that Watkins has scored 19 of his own too. He is only the ninth Englishman to register a combined total of 30 goals and assists in a 38-game Premier League season. But this is a player whose contribution goes beyond numbers.

That was a point made by the Bournemouth manager Andoni Iraola afterwards: “He attacks the space, he is very good at pressing, he created a lot today. With this kind of player, he finds a way to create things. He was really good.

“He has been amazing all season, not only looking at the numbers, it is about what he gives the team. He is very good out of possession, in possession, facing his goal, he doesn’t lose the ball, he can attack the spaces. He is very complete.”

Watkins has worked on his game to become that complete striker but that is exactly what he is now. He has always had pace. Now he is strong enough to hold the ball up and smart enough to make good decisions in possession. No goal but one magnificent display.
Adam Bate

West Ham’s season in danger of petering out

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Crystal Palace’s win against West Ham in the Premier League

West Ham are in the curious position of being just two points outside the top six having conceded four or more goals on five occasions in the Premier League this season.

The effect is that the Hammers could still qualify for Europe for the fourth successive campaign – and yet the end of David Moyes’ reign feels ever closer.

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The manager has given no indication of extending a contract that expires at the end of the season, while he took aim at his own team after their 5-2 thumping at the hands of Crystal Palace.

Moyes admitted he was “embarrassed” by his side’s display, adding there were no “excuses” for what they produced at Selhurst Park.

They plumbed new depths in south London but West Ham have won just one of their last eight games in all competitions, and their top-six rivals all hold games in hand.

The Hammers’ campaign is in danger of petering out. Moyes doesn’t deserve his time at the helm to end in the same way.
Joe Shread

Glasner proving a shrewd appointment for Palace

Image: Crystal Palace have won back-to-back league games against Liverpool and West Ham

Oliver Glasner has surely silenced any of his doubters after delivering Crystal Palace supporters two of their most memorable victories in the space of eight days.

After stunning Liverpool at Anfield, the Eagles ripped West Ham apart in front of their own fans to record back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time in a year.

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Palace have now won two matches by three goals under Glasner, who only arrived in February. The team had only won one match by that margin in their previous 71 games before his arrival.

The Austrian admitted he has benefitted from the return of Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze – whose injury woes undermined Roy Hodgson’s final months in charge – but their improvement is about so much more than the talented duo.

Glasner’s ideas are already taking hold and not just making Palace harder to play against, but far easier on the eye.

Recruiting a manager that had won the Europa League less than two years ago felt like a coup for Palace – and Glasner is showing what a shrewd appointment he could be.
Joe Shread

Everton escape is on – again

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton’s win against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League

Everton are becoming the league’s most proficient escape artists.

If Sean Dyche could have masterminded the ideal afternoon it would have looked something like what actually unfolded at Goodison Park on Super Sunday. Close to perfect.

Everton were not brilliant, they didn’t need to be, but two goals and a clean sheet against direct relegation rivals would have been high on the manager’s wish list – both were granted.

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The Toffees were helped by some questionable officiating, with three generous decisions awarded in favour of Ashley Young, who was lucky not to concede multiple penalties from various offences.

The fallout will undoubtedly centre on match referee Anthony Taylor and VAR official Stuart Attwell for some lapses in concentration to let Young off the hook, but two long-range strikes – from Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil – both that went in off the post, have given Everton the most timely of boosts.

That fact might be lost in the noise. Dyche won’t mind that either. Everton’s off-field tribulations have drawn enough headlines for one season, and so some subtlety around them finishing the campaign in relative comfort would presumably be welcomed.

Say it quietly: Everton look to be staying up.
Laura Hunter

Unprecedented Forest reaction won’t help PL plight

Image: Nottingham Forest post on X: 'Our patience has been tested"

What would have begun as sympathy from the majority of the footballing world will have morphed quickly into apathy.

Nottingham Forest do not help themselves. And yet, there was legitimacy to their claims about poor officiating in their 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park. Most would empathise.

But that’s before an ill-advised statement was posted to their X account, questioning the integrity of VAR official Stuart Attwell, which racked up over 20 million views within its first two hours of publish.

Attwell, branded a “Luton fan” by Forest, was essentially accused of cheating.

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Jamie Carragher has slammed Nottingham Forest’s social media post after they were denied three potential penalties against relegation rivals Everton during their 2-0 defeat.

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher – who felt that both of Forest’s first-half penalty appeals should have been awarded – described the statement as “embarrassing”, while Gary Neville called it “horrendous”. Forest fans might well concur.

Such a knee-jerk reaction feels misguided. Forest are currying no favour by behaving like the world is out to get them. Their task to stay in the Premier League is hard enough without making enemies of the PGMOL.

Statements won’t change results. And in their situation, languishing a point above the drop zone, it’s results that they badly need.
Laura Hunter

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