MATCHWEEK 34: PREMIER LEAGUE ROUNDUP
By Aniket Panja
- Chelsea, Man United win as battle for Top 4 heats up
- Arsenal held by Leicester and Norwich look set to play in the Championship next season after Welbeck’s bicycle kick goal at Vicarage Road
Round 34 of the English Premier League fixtures concluded last night with Manchester United churning out yet another enjoyable performance away at Villa Park. But it was the home side who started brightly creating quite a few chances one of which Villa top scorer Jack Grealish blazed over the bar.
Soon after Trezeguet struck the outside of David De Gea’s post as Villa came close to taking the lead. However, all hopes were dashed when Bruno Fernandes was brought down in the Villa penalty area and Jon Moss offered what could be claimed as a contentious spot-kick.
Fernandes, who is yet to lose a match in a United shirt, coolly slotted home from 12 yards, in what seemed like a debatable decision by referee Jon Moss. There was no looking back after that. Mason Greenwood doubled the lead for the Red Devils before halftime, scoring his 19th goal of the season, while Paul Pogba put the game to bed in the second half. Anthony Martial struck the post in a match where United could have scored more.
The week started with Chelsea travelling away to Selhurst Park in what proved to be a cracking encounter. Gary Cahill went down with cramp and William capitalised from the ensuing move to set up Olivier Giroud as Chelsea took the lead. Cristian Pulisic doubled the lead with a thumping finish but the lead was cut down when Wilfred Zaha unleashed a 65mph screamer to beat Kepa Arrizabalaga. Tammy Abraham scored his 16th goal of the season in all competitions after the change of ends but once again Palace struck back with Benteke.
In the dying stages, Palace hit the bar and had Benteke not dawdled on the ball a minute later it could have been 3-3. As it was, Kurt Zouma came racing in with a match-saving tackle to give Chelsea the three points. Meanwhile, Watford took on Norwich in a must-win game in the battle to avoid relegation. Norwich went ahead as early as the fourth minute through Emiliano Buendia but Watford came back thanks to a Craig Dawson goal.
After the break, Danny Welbeck came to life and scored the winner with a bicycle kick. It was the former Manchester United forward’s first win in a Watford shirt that almost makes sure that Norwich will go down. In the late kickoff, Arsenal took on Leicester in a massive game in the race for a Champions League berth. The Gunners got off to a bright start with the front three of Saka, Laca and Auba wreaking havoc. Kasper Schmeichel was called into action several times but could not keep out Aubameyang’s opener.
Arsenal would have doubled their lead had it not been for Schmeichel’s brilliance. He first parried a Lacazette shot low to his right, then kept out Bakayo Saka’s shot with his feet and comfortably grasped another Lacazette header from a delicious pass from Bellerin. Arsenal should have had a bigger lead and paid the price in the second half when Nketiah was sent off for a dangerous challenge on James Justin. The tide turned and Jamie Vardy as he always does score against Arsenal. The Gunners held on to keep the foxes at bay. The match ended 1-1 and with that, one would feel Arsenal’s hopes of securing a top-four spot are all but over.
Leicester is in fourth, a point above fifth-placed Manchester United with 59 points and one behind third-placed Chelsea. In other matches, Manchester City recovered from their abomination against Southampton to put five past Newcastle United. City was at their fluent best once again and never looked troubled and frankly could have scored more. Sheffield United and Burnley both secured 1-0 wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United respectively.
The loss means the hammers under David Moyes are still in danger of being relegated. Newly crowned Premier League Champions Liverpool brushed aside Brighton and Hove Albion with a 3-1 win and barring a minor blip in the first half, never looked challenged.
Danny Ings scored his 18th goal of the season to stay in contention for the golden boot as Southampton drew 1-1 with Everton and pressure mounted on Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur as they were held to a goalless draw by lowly placed Bournemouth. Mourinho was saved by the VAR as Callum Wilson’s 89th-minute goal was ruled out; for a foul earlier in the move leading up to the goal.