EPL Week 20: Curtain Call

EPL Week 20: Curtain Call

Some had a December to remember – the others not so much.

Liverpool’s title race looks unstoppable as they demolished Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield. The league leaders fell behind for the first time at home after Ainsley Maitland-Niles booted the ball pass Alisson in the 11th minute. Roberto Firmino then scored a no-look tap in just 172 seconds from conceding when the ball was fumbling inside Arsenal’s penalty box. Two minutes later, Firmino in a moment of brilliance together with fancy footwork, slipped past three defenders before punting the ball into the bottom right corner – past a stunned Bernd Leno.

Sadio Mane made it 3-1 before Sokratis Papastathopoulos took Mohammed Salah down in the box for a penalty. Liverpool ended the first half with a 4-1 lead, reducing Arsenal’s tactics to just damage control. The match ended in the second half when Sead Kolasinac pushed Dejan Lovren for a penalty, and Firmino buried it for his hat-trick; his first for the club.

On the other side of the spectrum, Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a night to forget, with just 13 touches in the defeat; six of which came from kick-offs.

Jurgen Klopp during the post-match interview said, “2018 ends with a Christmas present from Mo Salah. I love it, the gesture. He gives the ball to Bobby and he can score a hat-trick. That’s just a nice thing. In the moment, I was not too happy because in training Bobby doesn’t finish with penalties too often, to be honest. Obviously today it was his day and absolutely okay.”

“Look, it worked so it was one of the nicest things I ever saw in my life. Really I don’t know a lot of players who would do that. When I saw him then celebrating with Bobby that was then like ‘wow’. Just outstanding. So far, the gesture of the season – really, really nice.”

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Tottenham Hotspur was in contention for the title until this hiccup against the hungry Wolverhampton Wanderers. This was the Spur’s first defeat in seven league games.

Harry Kane fired a beautifully placed left-footed from outside the penalty box to give the hosts the lead. Largely uninspiring for the rest of the first half, most of the offense came from long shots from Dele Alli and the on-form Son Heung-Min.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s pack then went on a flurry of attack mid-way through the second half. French defender Willy Boly nodded in a powerful header from a corner in the 72nd minute. Things got from bad to worst for the Spurs after Raul Jimenez slotted a perfectly placed ball into the bottom left corner, with Lloris unable to get to it in time. Substitute Helder Costa then sealed the win after beating two defenders with pace and finessed a left footer into the corner.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino blasted his team for being over confident and eased up after the break.

“In the second half we decided that the game was over and when you start to think that you run into problems,” he said in a news conference. “We dominated possession in the first half then we missed that freshness to kill the game, instead we tried to manage it at 1-0.”

The Wolves has been performing beyond expectations, sitting in seventh place after stealing points from Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in their return to the Premier League.

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Manchester City went back to their winning ways after two consecutive defeats.

This put the Citizens up to second place, seven points behind leaders Liverpool ahead of Thursday’s clash between both sides.

David Silva put the team up 1-0 after converting Bernardo Silva’s cross. Ederson made two brilliant saves before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg dispossessed Oleksandr Zinchenko and powered a strike into the top corner. James Ward-Prowse then scored an own-goal after ricocheting off his body from Raheem Sterling’s cross.

Zinchenko then made up for his earlier mistake by delivering a perfect cross into the path of Sergio Aguero to head it past Alex McCarthy.

It was a good performance, especially in the first 30-35 minutes,” Guardiola said in the post-match interview.

“3-1 is a good result. It could have been bigger but after two defeats, winning was the most important thing. The players did what they had to do – they are fantastic players. We gave absolutely everything. Look what happened with Oleks (after the Ukrainian was dispossessed for Southampton’s equaliser) and how he reacted as a young player. He didn’t hide. He was completely the opposite and went on to make an assist. He was the best player on the pitch.”

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Manchester United continued their winning ways after thrashing Bournemouth 4-1 to make it three wins out of three for new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

A brace from the re-energized  Paul Pogba as well as goals from Marcus Rashford and substitute Romelu Lukaku gave Old Trafford attendees more than enough to cheer for. Nathan Ake recovered one for the visitors just before half-time.

Pogba has already scored four goals in just three Premier League appearances under Solskjaer. That figure is equal to as many as he managed to net in his previous 20 games under Jose Mourinho.

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Fulham completed a well-deserved 1-0 win against Huddersfield after some on-pitch drama between Aleksandar Mitrovic and Aboubakar Kamara during a penalty.

“I said to Aboubakar Kamara to leave the ball to Aleksandar Mitrovic, he is the man who shoots the penalties,” said manager Claudio Ranieri.

“It is unbelievable, he did not respect me, the club, the team and crowd. I spoke with him, it is not right. I wanted to kill him, that is normal when one man takes a ball, only because he scored the last penalty (against Manchester United). It should be Mitrovic. That is it.”

Ranieri appeared equally furious with Kamara’s attitude post-match, revealing the forward did not apologize to his teammates or his manager when back in the dressing room.

“He did not apologise. It was impossible to speak to this man. He doesn’t understand the reason. It is the first time in my life.”

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