3:01 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s win over Brighton
Liverpool may be the Premier League champions, but their away form has been an odd sticking point. They had not won on the road since February, or scored in their last five away games in all competitions, before facing a Brighton side who have been much improved since the restart.
But much like London buses – and Liverpool buses no doubt – two goals arrived within eight minutes of the kick-off and 127 seconds of one another as Mohamed Salah and Jordan Henderson found the net, taking advantage of Brighton’s seeming inability to play out from the back.
- Brighton 1-3 Liverpool – Match report and highlights
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Plain sailing, right? Not exactly. Brighton were unfazed by the Premier League champions and took the game to Liverpool, pulling a deserved goal back at the end of the first half. The Reds sometimes looked overrun by their opponents but their quality eventually shone through with their five substitutions all of the highest quality.
Brighton away could easily have been a banana skin. They have beaten Arsenal and Tottenham at the Amex Stadium this season and drawn against Chelsea, but Liverpool came through pretty much unscathed. They broke a record in the process too, becoming the fastest team to reach 30 Premier League wins, doing so in 34 games.
That will be the aim for Liverpool now – shattering records. Now they have reset their odd away form, they will be looking to become one of the best teams the Premier League has ever seen and break the 100-point mark.
Brighton’s progressive approach backfires
2:59 Brighton boss Graham Potter says that he was disappointed that his side ‘gifted’ Liverpool a couple of goals but was pleased with the bravery and personality that the team showed in their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League.
Graham Potter’s intelligence and innovation was clear from his time in Sweden, and it was his possession-based brand of football which brought him to Brighton nearly 14 months ago.
For a club still striving to establish itself in the top flight, no victories in 2020 brought an existential crisis and Potter used the break to recalibrate. Brighton’s first four matches since the restart had produced four of his side’s five lowest shares of possession all season – but it is clear the manager is determined to adopt a high-risk philosophy.
Having virtually assured themselves of safety with victory at Norwich, Brighton reverted back to being progressive against Liverpool’s intensive high pressing, but with alarming consequences as the visitors were given a two-goal start.
Davy Propper had his pocket picked by Naby Keita for a simple finish for Salah before Keita once more forced the error for Henderson to make it 2-0 inside eight minutes.
“Liverpool are one of the best pressing teams in world football and Brighton have played right into their hands,” Jamie Carragher said on commentary. “Jurgen Klopp talks about counter-pressing being the best playmaker and he’s been proved right twice in the opening 10 minutes.”
Brighton showed character to make a fist of things, their offensive qualities highlighted by another fine Leandro Trossard strike, but the damage had been done. Playing with the shackles off is to be lauded, but to be caught twice was highly naive and a learning curve for Potter and his players ahead of facing Manchester City.
Signs of progress for Arsenal
2:58 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s draw with Leicester
While the 1-1 draw with Leicester was ultimately disappointing for Arsenal, there was more evidence of the progress being made under Mikel Arteta on Tuesday night.
As he pointed out in his post-match interview with Sky Sports, the Gunners should have scored more than once in the first half. In fact, they probably should have been out of sight. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka ran riot for periods. It was just a shame for them that Alexandre Lacazette could not take his chances.
- Arsenal 1-1 Leicester – Match report and highlights
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There were more signs of improvement in midfield, where Dani Ceballos produced what Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp described as a passing “masterclass” in the first half, and there was also evidence that the team is getting to grips with Arteta’s off-the-ball demands. Their pressing was aggressive and it stifled Leicester.
It was perhaps understandable, then, that they started to tire in the closing stages, especially after they were reduced to 10 men, but while the Arsenal of old might have crumbled after Jamie Vardy’s leveller, there was certainly no lack of fight as they battled to hold on for a point.
“You can see the effort, the intensity and the quality that the players are putting in,” said Arteta. “That’s why I’m extremely proud of them.”
Champions League qualification may prove to be beyond them this season, but they do at least appear to be heading in the right direction.
A point gained or two failed to nab?
In the context of their first-half mauling, a draw for Leicester at Arsenal was a relief. But in the context of their faltering campaign, and the recent surge of Chelsea and Manchester United, the Foxes’ failure to find a winner in the final minutes against their numerically-disadvantaged opponents may prove more significant.
- Leicester fixtures | Man Utd fixtures
Since Christmas, Leicester have collected just 19 points. Had the season started on Boxing Day, they would be in the wrong half of the table. What they urgently need if they are not to be overtaken in the quest for Champions League qualification is wins. The trip to Bournemouth on Sunday will be critical at both ends of the table. And also carries the distinct feel of a ‘must win’. Then it is Sheffield United. Tough. Then Tottenham. Tough as well. And then, on the final day of the season, it is Manchester United – the team which, at the time of writing, could be just a point behind Brendan Rodgers by the close of play on Thursday.
A Champions League ‘winner-takes-all’ qualification cup final surely awaits on July 26. Only three wins from their remaining four games may be enough.
Jorginho could yet have vital Chelsea role to play
2:59 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s win at Crystal Palace
Frank Lampard looked incandescent with rage. His Chelsea side, so easy on the eye going forward, had only just regained some breathing space against a stubborn Crystal Palace side.
Tammy Abraham had fired the Champions League contenders into a 3-1 lead when 82 seconds later, Christian Benteke was afforded the freedom of Selhurst Park to reduce the deficit once more.
- Crystal Palace 2-3 Chelsea – Match report and highlights
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Lampard looked to his bench and called for Jorginho. The Italian has been overlooked since the restart, but with the clock showing 80 in this helter-skelter London derby, this was time for an experienced head.
Billy Gilmour had filled in admirably for the injured N’Golo Kante, but Chelsea had been losing control of the midfield battle since the start of the second period.
“I think Frank Lampard will have to change the midfield,” said Sky Sports’ Gary Neville in commentary. “It’s getting overrun. It’s a bit lightweight.”
A repeat of the defeat a week ago at West Ham could well have unravelled in those final 10 minutes, but Jorginho wrestled back the initiative for the visitors, completing 26 of his 29 passes and winning both his duels.
Lampard had hailed the midfielder’s professionalism in the lead up to this nervy win, and his cameo suggests he could still make a vital contribution in the run-in.
Time to reconsider, David?
3:00 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win over Newcastle
Many things have changed at Manchester City in David Silva’s 10-year spell but he has remained the magnificent constant and will go down in history as arguably their greatest-ever player.
Those that needed reminding of his brilliance were given a dollop of it in the laughably one-sided 5-0 win over Newcastle. Silva bagged two assists, taking his tally for the club to 121, and curled home a fantastic free-kick. Amazingly, this was the first time he had scored and assisted in a Premier League game since January 2016.
- Manchester City 5-0 Newcastle – Match report and highlights
The midfield maestro has already revealed that this season will be his last with City, which will bring the curtain down on an extraordinary period of domestic domination. Qatar side Al-Duhail have reportedly offered him a lucrative deal but there has been no official communication on the matter.
With him still influencing games at the very highest level, perhaps he is leaving a year too soon.
Wilder’s winning formula has Blades daring to dream
2:53 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Sheffield United’s win over Wolves
“The players dug really deep and found something from within.”
Chris Wilder’s post-match assessment after Sheffield United’s last-gasp victory over Wolves painted a familiar picture, one which could be applied to any number of battling Blades performances throughout this stellar return to the top-flight.
- Sheff Utd 1-0 Wolves – Match report and highlights
It really shouldn not come as a surprise anymore, Sheffield United have ripped up the script newly-promoted sides are supposed to follow and punched so consistently above their weight that their once unlikely bid of qualifying for Europe for the first time in the club’s history is now firmly in sight.
4:24 Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says he pulled his calf celebrating John Egan’s late winner over Wolves
Of course, with Wilder having to keep a lid on expectation, he does not see it that way. “We’ve never felt anything is in our grasp, or in our reach, we shouldn’t be anywhere near the position we are in,” he added. “People should be focusing about us not being in the bottom three.”
He is right, but having swept obstacle after obstacle aside to return to the Premier League after a 12-year absence, and then emphatically defied the odds to preserve their top-flight status, who would bet against Sheffield United turning their wildest dreams into reality?
Spurs show fighting spirit to please Jose
2:59 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s win over Everton
“It’s beautiful,” Jose Mourinho said of the half-time bust-up between Hugo Lloris and Heung-Min Son during Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Everton.
A furious Lloris exchanged angry words with Son, with the pair needing to be separated by Giovani Lo Celso as the captain continued to berate his team-mate for failing to track an Everton run just before the interval.
- Tottenham 1-0 Everton – Match report and highlights
In what has been a difficult run for Spurs, it is just what Mourinho wanted to see from his players, who bounced back from a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United to get their bid for European football next season back on track.
“It’s a consequence, probably, of our meetings. If you want to blame somebody for that, it’s me. I was critical of my boys because they are not in my opinion critical enough with themselves, I asked them to demand more from others, I asked them to put their colleagues under the pressure of the team spirit you have to give,” the Tottenham boss said afterwards.
Mourinho will want that passion to continue when Spurs face relegation-threatened Bournemouth, live on Sky Sports on Thursday, before a crucial north London derby against Arsenal, also live on Sky Sports on Sunday, as the race for Europe continues.
Ancelotti still has work to do
2:24 Carlo Ancelotti still believes Everton have a chance to make the European positions despite defeat at Tottenham.
Unbeaten since the restart and having won their two previous games coming into this one, Everton had the opportunity to overtake Tottenham with a victory in London.
Instead, they struggled to impose themselves on the game and did not commit enough bodies to the attack until it was far too late. Indeed, it was not until the 81st minute that they had their first attempt from inside the penalty box.
Carlo Ancelotti has Everton going in the right direction but this was a reminder that there is some way still to go – something that Gary Neville noted on co-commentary for Sky Sports.
“The biggest job that Carlo Ancelotti has is to change the mentality,” said Neville. “You just sometimes feel that Everton start a game, they look promising, and then all of a sudden a goal goes in against them and their inferiority complex means they lose belief, particularly in big games. There is no need. They have talented players. Get on the ball. Get to the ball.
“It is a big task and it is a big club. He has just got to shift the mindset. It is almost as though the players feel they don’t belong. They don’t really believe they should beat big teams and belong in these big games. I hope the Everton players don’t get on the bus and think they were unlucky. It has not been good enough. It has been boring.”
In truth, there have been some encouraging results at Goodison Park this season. Everton have been beaten by only one of the top six on home turf. But with only one point to their name against top-half teams away from home, that’s an area that Ancelotti must address.
Welbeck’s wonder strike gives Watford breathing space
2:47 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Watford’s win over Norwich
It has been a difficult season for Danny Welbeck, who has struggled with injuries since his move to Watford from Arsenal.
That is nothing new for the former England striker. He has battled back from injuries all through his career, but those battling qualities are exactly what Watford needed, and he delivered against Norwich.
- Watford fixtures
With Watford flirting dangerously with the relegation zone, the striker produced a stunning overhead kick to score his first Premier League goal since August 2018, when he scored for Arsenal against West Ham.
And what a time to get it. The spectacular goal sealed victory and helped his side move four points clear of the relegation zone. Crucial breathing space with just four games remaining in the season.