If goals were weighted according to their aesthetic beauty and pure quality, Liverpool would have comfortably beaten Newcastle on Sunday. Alas, it’s only the quantity of goals that truly matters, so the Reds were left once again reflecting on a 1-1 draw that, in the greater scheme of things, feels more like a defeat. Liverpool started brightly at St James’ Park and hit the post early on with a flicked header from a corner (for in-form teams, those chances go in off the post) before Philippe Coutinho unleashed a goal of the season contenders with one of those long-range curlers in which he specialises. If that goal was nothing short of sublime, Newcastle’s equaliser was the definition of ridiculous. Jonjo Shelvey picked out Joselu with a neat through pass, but the gap between Liverpool’s centre-backs could accommodate an international airport. Even in trying to make up lost ground, all Joel Matip could do in tackling Joselu was deflect the ball off him and see it roll just inside the post (again, when you’re on a good run, that ball bounces back off the post). Craig Pawson then cowed out of giving two stonewall penalties to Liverpool for 18-yard box wrestling, leaving Kopites hugely frustrated at half-time. The Reds had been profoundly unlucky up to that point, but simply did not do enough to really threaten Newcastle in the second half and, for a finish, it was the home side who looked the more likely to plunder a late winner. Despite the first half litany of misfortune, Liverpool probably wouldn’t have deserved to win the game overall.
Manchester City also enjoyed a sumptuous goal from an outrageously gifted attacking midfielder, but Kevin de Bruyne’s strike against Chelsea proved sufficient to keep Pep Guardiola’s men on top of the league. The champions came into this game on a very good run of form, but Antonio Conte was disappointingly negative in his tactics and it was the visitors who bossed matters at Stamford Bridge. The withdrawal of Alvaro Morata shortly before half-time removed Chelsea of a focal point in attack and when de Bruyne found the net midway through the second half, City had the lead they deserved. In contrast to the free-scoring victories which they had been chalking up recently, they needed to be patient and resilient to make that one moment of magic count, but the significance of beating the champions in their own backyard to keep pace with Manchester United at the top of the league was every bit as satisfying as the multi-goal romps of September. This was a big test for City and they passed it impressively.
The need to win for both teams at Stamford Bridge had amplified following Manchester United’s fourth 4-0 win in seven Premier League games this season. As predicted, the Red Devils had far too much for a Crystal Palace team still waiting to find first gear, never mind get out of it. The result rarely seemed in doubt even as early as the third minute when Juan Mata opened the scoring and, while Palace were gallant for most of the first half, two goals from Marouane Fellaini either side of half-time turned the final 40 minutes into a procession for United. Romelu Lukaku maintained his record of scoring in every league game for his new club in the closing stages. Even allowing for the cruelty of the fixture list for Palace, they accepted their fate all too readily and showed very little sign that they are capable of finding form any time soon.
The comparative goal drought of August seems a long time ago now for Harry Kane, who added two more goals to his outstanding early season tally as Tottenham eased past Huddersfield at John Smith’s Stadium. The in-form England striker pounced on hesitant Terriers defending to open the scoring on eight minutes and it was soon 2-0, Ben Davies left in plenty of room to place a fizzing drive past Jonas Lossl. Kane added Tottenham’s third midway through the first half with a cracking effort from just outside the penalty area and the rest of the game was a stroll for Spurs. The scoring was rounded off on 90 minutes through a rather unlikely source, Moussa Sissoko applying the finishing touch for a rare goal, but one that Spurs fans will hope can inspire him to add consistency to his game. This was Huddersfield’s first meeting with a top six outfit since being promoted and it served to remind them of how ruthless the Premier League’s top brass can be.
Having picked up just seven points in 19 away games last season, Burnley needed just four away matches to surpass that total in 2017/18, a hard-fought 1-0 win at struggling Everton pushing the Clarets into the top six. Indeed, with the Toffees now 16th, it seems like a reversal of where many observers expected these teams to be this season. It wasn’t a Goodison Park classic by any means, with the only goal arriving midway through the first half from Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick. Burnley’s superbly-drilled defence has already frustrated Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool this season and Everton were the latest side to find it too tough a nut to crack. Ronald Koeman’s men resorted to rather atrocious efforts from long range and the substitutes deployed by the under-fire manager had minimal impact. The home fans vented their fury at full-time when Burnley’s travelling support had yet another ecstatic trip home.
Arsenal kept up their 100% home record in the league with a routine 2-0 win over Brighton on Sunday lunchtime. The scoreline was an accurate reflection of how things went at the Emirates, with Brighton giving it a go but being undone by the quality of the home side. The deadlock was broken shortly after the quarter-hour, with Nacho Monreal finding the net after three initial efforts were blocked. The visitors had a couple of opportunities later in the first half but found themselves two goals down on 52 minutes when Alex Iwobi finished off a superb Alexis Sanchez assist. A goal-line clearance denied Arsenal a third goal but in the end it was comfortable for Arsene Wenger’s men.
Comfortable it certainly wasn’t for Slaven Bilic and West Ham, but the Croat had some overdue jubilation when one of his substitutions paid off handsomely against Swansea on Saturday. With the Hammers struggling to find a route to goal and the home fans getting very restless at London Stadium, Bilic’s withdrawal of Javier Hernandez for Diafra Sakho was roundly booed. Just as the knives were being sharpened for full-time whistle vitriol, though, Sakho popped up with the winning goal in stoppage time to consign Swansea to a first away defeat of the season and lift some of the gloom that had been enveloping on West Ham.
There was also a late winner at the bet365 Stadium as Stoke got the better of Southampton. A tame first half looked set to end goalless until Mame Biram Diouf struck shortly before the interval. Stoke could easily have been 2-0 up soon after, only for Saido Berahino’s penalty to be saved by Fraser Forster. Maya Yoshida equalised with a header in the second half and the Saints were on course for a decent away point until one of their former players came back to haunt them with five minutes to go. Peter Crouch is not renowned for his intricate footwork, but his flicked finish to secure victory for Stoke was a moment of quality from the veteran striker who remains ever-capable of making an enormous impact for the Potters, even with limited game time.
The theme of decisive late goals was continued in the meeting of West Brom and Watford at The Hawthorns. A quickfire double in the first half from Salomon Rondon and Jonny Evans put the home side in a very commanding position, but the impressive Abdoulaye Doucoure netted his third goal of the season shortly before half-time to pull Watford back into it. The Baggies were minutes away from a morale-boosting win until Richarlison, for the second week in a row, netted in the dying stages to earn valuable away points for Watford. The Hornets’ 100% away record might have come to an end, but this still felt like a very good point gained for Marco Silva’s men.
The spoils were also shared at the Vitality Stadium between Bournemouth and Leicester, neither of whom benefited greatly from the draw but both of whom will probably accept a point and aim to kick on. Surprisingly for two teams known for their commitment to attack, this was a game of precious few opportunities, the best of which fell to Shinji Okazaki for the Foxes. The result leaves Bournemouth second from bottom, with Leicester just outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
Liverpool’s latest disappointing draw makes it just one win from the last seven in all competitions and, with Manchester United coming to Anfield immediately after the international break, things don’t promise to get a whole lot better for Jurgen Klopp’s men any time soon. If there are positives to be extracted from the Reds’ current standing, though, they have still lost just once in the league so far and lie just two points behind Tottenham in third place. Who knows, a win over their fiercest rivals on Saturday week could alter the perception of Liverpool’s early season form drastically…