Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Sheffield United 2-1 Bournemouth

There were only 3 games played at the weekend in the Premier League because of the winter break and a storm which was fierce enough to call off the Manchester City and West Ham match. The pick of them ended up being in Sheffield, where Sheffield United going for a European place were taking on Bournemouth who are flirting with the bottom three.

Sheffield United came out 2-1 winners in a lively game that became very nervous for the hosts given that they were the favourites to win. The home side also known as the Blades went back up to 5th place and are only 2 points behind 4th place Chelsea. The victory has given Chris Wilder’s team a belief that not only could they finish in a Europa League position which would be an incredible achievement but also that they could have a chance to stun everyone and qualify for the Champions League. Of course despite such a great win we have to remember that Chelsea and Tottenham do have a game in hand of the Blades.But still there is nothing wrong with dreaming.

As for the game it got off to the worst possible start for the home side when Callum Wilson scored his 7th goal of the season to open up the game after just 13 minutes. The first half looked like Bournemouth would go in in the lead, but Billy Sharp equalised for the home side during injury time and that was certainly a psychological changing point for Bournemouth.

The home side had enjoyed 59% possession in the first half and whilst Bournemouth had managed to score it was telling that their goal was their only shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

In the second half though a United take over of the game didn’t exactly happen and in fairness to Bournemouth it was a very equal second period. With six minutes remaining it seemed like the game was destined to end in a draw, but John Lundstram latched onto a Lys Mossett pass and was able to convert sending the home fans wild with jubilation. It was Lundstram’s 4th goal of the season and possibly his most important.

It’s been widely excepted this season that United under Wilder have a game plan which is to suffocate play and really chase down the balls, and even though the club sometimes start games slowly it has been impressive how they stamp their authority on matches. The Blades will now have an 11 day break and their next game will be at home again against Brighton who are in 15th position and surely they will be favourites to win that game also as they have Chelsea clearly in their sights, the Blues have a tough fixture against Manchester United.

As for Bournemouth they will play Burnley next and Eddie Howe’s team are in real trouble in 16th place and just 2 points above the bottom three. It’s all to play for.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

 

 

Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Watford 2-3 Everton

To tell you the truth there has always been a bit of animosity between Watford and Everton. You could go all the way back to the 1984 FA Cup final when Everton beat Watford 2-0. As the final whistle went the Everton fans started singing ”I guess that’s why they call us the Blues”. This was in reference to Elton John who was part of the board of Watford- he is a long time fan, and his hit song- talk about a sucker punch.

Most recently the teams have clashed off the pitch twice. Firstly when Everton did everything in their power to secure the services of Marco Silva, the then Watford manager (look at how that turned out). Then once Silva had jumped ship he put in a bid for Watford striker Richarlison, and for £40m that was accepted, to say the fans were livid of Everton by now would be an understatement.

Led by club captain Troy Deeney there has been a determination and maybe a little menace behind the clubs action to go and beat Everton, and they have been successful in the last few seasons at doing that. This past weekend looked to be no different, as they cruised into a 2-0 lead, but there would be a sting in the tail for the Hornets.

Not only could this match be considered the game of the weekend in the Premier League, it was also the comeback of the weekend, although Brighton did very well at West Ham coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3.

Of all players nobody was expecting Watford defender Adam Masina to open the scoring, but then again this match would turn into a game of defenders. It was Masina’s first goal for the club in his 2 seasons at Vicarage Road. At 1-0 Watford were in control and then there was a crazy 5 minutes where the game swung from huge Watford advantage to no advantage at all.

When Robert Pereyra struck for the home side with three minutes to go of the first half to make it 2-0 the game looked finished. Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti was most upset. Pereyra had just scored his 3rd goal of the season and maybe his most important thus far.

But as Jimmy Greaves once said football is a funny old game and that sentence came to haunt Watford in the name of Yerry Mina, Everton’s defender who had only scored 1 goal for the club previously. Mina struck from a corner in the injury time of the first half, and literally seconds after scoring, he repeated his goal again! All of a sudden the teams went in at half time and the score was 2-2. Everton were jubilant and back in the game, Watford’s players walked off the pitch as if they were losing 3-0.

It’s interesting to note that in the 2nd half whilst the clubs had shared possession the home side had no further shots on goal. When Everton’s Fabian Delph was sent off for a second bookable offence with twenty minutes to go, it felt like the match was going to end in a draw. Certainly playing against ten men did not encourage the Hornets.

But there would be one final cruel twist for Watford, when in the 90th minute Theo Walcott struck the ball home and past the goalkeeper to give Everton all three points. The players were ecstatic as Watford’s ones fell to the ground.

Watford have been very good in the past two months yanking themselves out of bottom place. But they have slumped a little in their last three games and manager Nigel Pearson will have to make it crystal clear to the team that they can’t feel sorry for themselves, they are still very much in the relegation battle.

As for Everton the win moved them past Arsenal and into 9th. What a turnaround it has been for the club since Carlo Ancelotti arrived, from flirting with relegation to possibly finishing in the top half of the table, and what a game of football that was, well, unless you were a Watford fan.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

FA Cup: Game of the Weekend: Shrewsbury 2-2 Liverpool

Nobody would have expected the European and club world champions to have many problems when they were drawn against Shrewsbury in the 4th round of the FA Cup. Liverpool were expected to win comfortably against the League one side playing in the third tier, but the match ended in a 4 goal thriller as the underdogs drew the game 2-2 and forced a replay.

Liverpool did not start with their strongest team which seems par for the course for Klopp and domestic cup competitions. However there were still some recognisable faces on the pitch in the form of Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Fabinho and Adrian was in goal. Liverpool opted to play a 4-3-3 whilst the home team had a slightly daring 3-5-2 wanting to try and pack the midfield out. It was risque to see the team happy to play 2 up front and just 3 at the back against the Reds.

The away side dominated possession and it was no surprise that they took the lead within 15 minutes through Curtis Jones who had stunned Everton in the 3rd round. Scoring so early it felt like Liverpool could 5 or 6 goals, but to their credit Shrewsbury held firm and the half time score read as 0-1.

As the 2nd half got under way Shrewsbury would have had the belief that they were still in the game but just a minute after the whistle they found themselves 2-0 down and practically out of the cup. To add insult to the wounds it was an own goal converted by defender Donald Love. Well no home fan was loving this.

But Shrewsbury found a way back, which was handed to them by one of Liverpool’s youngsters Yasser Larouci his foul giving away a penalty. Jason Cummings made no mistake and slotted home- suddenly there was belief that this game was not dead. Ten minutes later the stadium erupted like it had not done so before when Cummings ran through and took a shot, now it was 2-2 and the atmosphere in the stadium was simply electric.

Jurgen Klopp looked like someone who had been told that Christmas had been banned for the rest of his life. Distraught, angry on the touchline he played his ace cards. On came quality, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain but for the final ten minutes Liverpool could not find a breakthrough and the game ended 2-2.

It was a shock result even if we consider that Liverpool did not start their strongest team and the clubs will meet again in a weeks time.

But there will be a bigger fall out from this as Klopp desperately wanted to win this game and has announced that not only will he field a complete second string side at Anfield he will also not be there to coach the team. This is because there is a gap week in the Premier League and players and coaches have taken pre-arranged holidays.

This is great news for Shrewsbury though, who now have a chance to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup. You would think that any neutral will be willing them on to do it now.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Southampton 2-3 Wolves

The game of the weekend in the Premier League was surely between Southampton and Wolves, a match that produced 5 goals.

Southampton had been the team in form, it was only weeks ago that we were associating the club with relegation contenders but a flurry of great results and form saw them climb to mid table. They even reversed their 9-0 thrashing against Leicester to beat the Foxes at their home and the turnaround seemed complete. Helped greatly by striker Danny Ings who had scored 11 goals in the last 2 months, it seemed like the Saints would grab all three points again when they took on Wolves.

After 35 minutes of the game Southampton were going to pick up the three points, they were 2-0 up and cruising. Ings though had not been the hero of the day. The first goal was scored by Jan Bednarek and when twenty minutes later Shane Long had doubled their lead it looked inevitable that Southampton would win yet another game. The fans were in obvious joyous mood. Even though Long had made 2 assists this season that goal was the first of the campaign for him and he is much loved here and that mattered. Long earned 4 points from this game and for your fantasy team he can be purchased for 6.5m.

At half time Southampton went in 2-0 and the job looked pretty much done. But eight minutes after the second half whistle had sounded Pedro Neto made everyone think when he pulled one back. That was his 2nd goal of the season. Twelve minutes later the face of the game changed when Wolves were awarded a penalty and deadly striker Raul Jimenez slotted home and now it was 2-2 and now Southampton were on the back foot. Jimenez struck again on the 76th minute to give the win to the away side after being 2-0 down in an amazing comeback. That was also Jimenez’s 10th goal of the season and he has made a further 6 assists.

Interestingly enough Southampton did have 5 shots on target compared to Wolves’ 4 and every stat bar the final score and corners went to them. But going forward the home side were simply not clinical enough once they got the 2nd goal. This was perhaps evidenced in the fact that they had just 1 corner the whole game.

The highest performing player for Southampton in the game was Shane Long with 4 points, whilst goalkeeper Alex McCarthy suffered with shipping 3 goals and earned -4 points. For Wolves Raul Jimenez stood out with 8 points but there should be good mentions also for Adama Traore who assisted in a goal which earned him 4 points and Pedro Neto with 4 points also getting the first goal.

Play the newest EPL fantasy game here https://epl-fantasy.com

 

 

Premier League Game of the Weekend: Aston Villa 1-6 Manchester City

Two teams at two different halves of the league with two different objectives played on Sunday afternoon. For Aston Villa they were always going to be the underdog, but they knew they needed to fight for points. The emergence of Watford who looked to be taking up one place for relegation this season means that Villa have become a relegation contender. They fight it.

For Manchester City, the league looks over but they won’t give it up. The champions are 14 points behind Liverpool with this win and the Reds have a game in hand. It could be 17 by the end of the month. City’s true objective in the league was never to be in 3rd place, a position they courted for a few weeks as Leicester showed flashes of the team that won them the league title in 2016. Another objective in winning this game then, was to go 2nd and leapfrog Leicester who had already lost to Southampton the day before.

City met their objective as Villa’s one collapsed in on itself like a black hole. And it is a black hole where most of the Villa team would have wished for when they were on the receiving end of a vintage Manchester City performance.

When City attack this good, not many teams can match them.  A 6-1 victory is a massive score line and one that you feel manager Pep Guardiola needed (lest we forget the team in bottom place, Norwich City, who actually beat Guardiola’s team earlier this season) and these kind of games before a whistle is blown can be potential banana skins. But the only players slipping on them were Villa’s back four who were opened up time and again from the devastating attacks born from defence, made in the midfield and executed so well by a forward line, stand up Sergio Aguero.

It was Aguero who scored his 175th, 176th and 177th goals on Sunday. It was Aguero who passed Thierry Henry’s decade long record of scoring the most goals in the Premier League for a foreign player, and it was Aguero who scored his 12th hat trick, a record in the league surpassing Alan Shearer’s 11.

Aguero earned a whopping 16 pts in the Euro Fantasy League rankings too. He has 60 pts in total and is the current 2nd best potent striker in the rankings. From 12 starts Aguero has scored 13 goals and assisted in another three.

Rightly so Aguero should be championed but let’s not forget Riyad Mahrez who also had a spectacular game scoring two goals himself and at one point both him and Aguero were on 2 goals a piece and we were just wondering who of the two was going to complete a hat trick? Mahrez may have lost out on that battle, but it didn’t matter one bit. Mahrez is now ranked 5th in the fantasy rankings for Premier League strikers with 52 points. He has scored 7 goals and assisted in another 7 and that is an impressive stat.

Talking of stats City had a stunning 22 goal attempts, with 12 on target against Villa, just more than 50% of shots were hitting their target and 50% of goals flew in as a result. Gabriel Jesus’ 9th goal of the season was largely forgotten then giving the exploits of Aguero’s record and Mahrez’s goals.

This was a statement win for City and they would have loved to have kept a clean sheet too but Villa were awarded a last minute penalty, to give what fans remained crumbs from the richness of a six banquet meal.

What this means for the league may seem like little. Guardiola will hope that if Liverpool cannot lose games this season they will start drawing them and dropping points. It would mean that City would have to do what they did last season and go on a truly unique run which saw them win every game in the new year. The league title seems unlikely but at least City are interested in giving a challenge, and, that is the least one could ask for.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

FA CUP: Game of the weekend: Liverpool v Everton

Once the draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup was made all attentions were drawn to the Merseyside derby which would pit Liverpool against old rivals Everton. Usually the cup draw which has no seeds can have some eye catching matches but the only real genuine one was this game.

Liverpool were installed as favourites and that came as no surprise given that they are leading the league by 13 points and haven’t lost a single league match in a year. Add to the fact that the game was drawn at Anfield and Everton seemed to have very little chance of winning the game. The Toffeemen have no wins at Anfield since 1999, a generation ago now.

Jurgen Klopp’s team have also been so dominant, Liverpool just simply win games and don’t stop this season and Everton seemed to have no chance in this match. That is until Klopp hinted that he would rest most of his senior players and opt to play the youngsters. Suddenly Everton had vested interest because the last time Klopp chose the youngsters was in the Carabao Cup last month when they lost to Aston Villa 4-0, suddenly there was hope, or that is supposed to be how the script would run.

However whilst Everton started brightly and exposed this young Liverpool side, Adrian in goal, he who once played for West Ham made some crucial saves. At half time it was 0-0 and the signs started to look predictable for Everton. Cast an eye to the bench of Liverpool who had both Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane ready to come on and work their magic. In the end neither player was needed.

Curtis Jones scored a peach of a goal curling the ball into the top corner to put Liverpool in front after sustained pressure and that continued even after the goal went in. The Liverpool reserves were now fully on top of this game against a proper Everton side and they weren’t about to give up a 20 year undefeated record here against their rivals. They were simply better and yet they shouldn’t have been. For Everton is it now something very psychological as to why they keep under performing against Liverpool, even their youngsters? True there were four fringe senior players on the field for the Reds, but this was all about youth.

Klopp did give a start to Divock Origi which was the right choice given that the player has an uncanny ability to score against Everton, he has downed the team with goals in the last two meetings.

The match ended 1-0 to Liverpool and Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti looked devastated, because this was a game that the club should have won. That’s the season over for Everton now whilst for their rivals it is just beginning, they could win a unique treble and go unbeaten in the league. Their grounds might be next to each other but their ambitions are light years apart.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

 

EPL Game of the Weekend – Man Utd vs Southampton

lukakuWhen Man Utd parted company with Jose Mourinho back in December and brought in club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a caretaker basis, many assumed this was little more than a nostalgia act – a chance to see Ole back at the club for a time while the hierarchy went about searching for a permanent successor to the Portuguese boss. However, in the time since Solskjaer’s return, United have gone on a run of 13 wins in 16 matches, tasting defeat only once – and this run of form has led many to assume that the 46-year-old will be given the job on a permanent basis at some point between now and the start of the 2019-20 campaign. This past weekend, the Red Devils welcomed Southampton to Old Trafford in what would turn out to be a modern-day classic game. Continue reading