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Premier League recap and analysis 6/22-6/24

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Soccer Ball

The rich got richer, and the battle to avoid relegation heated up in this week’s Premier League action. 

Burnley v. Manchester City

Since the restart, no team has played better than Manchester City. Perhaps it’s because of manager Pep Guardiola’s use of the (now mandatory) water break in the middle of each half. His side has taken advantage of his instructions during the short periods. The Burnley match was no different. 

City dominated Burnley 5-0 and put the game out of reach before halftime. Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez scored a pair each before being subbed off for garbage time. The same flexibility would not be available to Burnley, who couldn’t fill the subs bench on the team sheet (7/9 subs, 2/7 with Premier League experience). 

Brighton v. Leicester City

A 0-0 draw felt like the correct result in this matchup, until the final moment when a Brighton defender inadvertently hit his hand on the ball that was crossed into the box. The Leicester City players appealed for the penalty, but VAR ruled to not award a kick from the spot. While Brighton was lucky in the circumstance, Leicester also had luck from the spot. In the first half, Brighton’s Neal Maupay had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel. 

Dropping two points in a winnable game could prove costly for Leicester in its hunt for a Champions League spot. With the point, Brighton edges closer to safety for a place in the Premier League at the beginning of next season. 

West Ham v. Tottenham

Tottenham’s winless streak came to an end when West Ham visited Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday. It started slow for Spurs, and for a time it looked like a 0-0 draw in the making, but that changed in the 64th minute. A corner was (slightly) redirected toward goal and the feet of Tomas Soucek. He couldn’t sort his feet out. The ball ricocheted off the West Ham defender and rolled past Lukasz Fabianski into the net. 

West Ham subbed on Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini to try and spark creativity in the attack after going behind. It nearly paid off when Anderson controlled a header in the box and found Jarrod Bowen. Bowen could only hit the post with the effort. Minutes later, Harry Kane made a perfect run to clear the West Ham defense and double the lead. 

Manchester United v. Sheffield United

Anthony Martial delivered the first Manchester United hat trick since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and the Manchester side cruised to a 3-0 victory. Martial was all smiles when he was subbed off near the conclusion. He was the catalyst for everything Manchester United produced, including setting up a Marcus Rashford tap in which was missed in the first half. Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba continued to play well together, making Manchester United a real threat for a Champions League spot. 

Sheffield United continues to hunt for its first goal since the restart, and with the goal drought surpassing 270 minutes, it’s becoming more likely that the side will not be in the Champions League mix. Not all is negative though. The side’s early season form is likely to finish Sheffield United far above relegation.

Aston Villa v. Newcastle 

Aston Villa might not earn a more vital point than the one it got at Newcastle on Wednesday. A 68th-minute goal by Newcastle’s Dwight Gayle looked like the deciding moment in an even match, but Ahmed Elmohamady equalized it with a headed shot from close range in the 83rd minute to steal a point. 

While the draw keeps Newcastle distanced from the relegation zone, Aston Villa moved to a tied position with West Ham and Bournemouth on points, with the three clubs fighting for one Premier League spot. 

Everton v. Norwich City

Michael Keane made his way into the Norwich City box for the corner kick 10 minutes after halftime. He made a quick move toward the center of the goal when the delivery came. Seconds later, he was celebrating with teammates after nodding the ball into the net. That would prove the difference between the sides. 

It doesn’t look like Norwich will avoid the drop. Losing a 1-0 might not spell serious doom for the side, but when other relegation-threatened sides are earning points, climbing out of the six-point hole at the bottom of the table becomes tricky at best. 

Bournemouth v. Wolves

Adama Traore found Raúl Jiménez at the back post for the second straight game in Wolves 1-0 win. Traore used his acceleration to beat the Bournemouth defense down the line and had the quality to send a good ball into the box. Bournemouth didn’t have many chances to salvage a point after the goal at the hour mark. 

The win kept Wolves level with Manchester United for the final Champions League spot for next season. Bournemouth remains level with West Ham and Aston Villa, but the result coming at the expense of one lapse of judgment must sting. 

Liverpool v. Crystal Palace

Nothing could say “Champions” like Liverpool’s domination of Crystal Palace at Anfield on Wednesday afternoon. A curling set piece from Trent Alexander-Arnold opened the scoring, and Liverpool wouldn’t look back from there. Mohamed Salah scored in the 44th minute with a simple tap in around the keeper. Crystal Palace looked to lose hope afterward. 

Goals by Fabinho (55th minute) and Sadio Mané (69th minute) padded the stats for the eventual champs. The 4-0 scoreline was justified, with a fifth goal seemingly coming until the whistle for full time. 

Note: With Manchester City losing to Chelsea the following day, the English top-flight title was clinched for Liverpool for the first time in 30 years.  

sports.ed@ocolly.com