Another trip to London and another 4-1 result, but unlike at Wembley two weeks ago, this time Liverpool were on the right side of it. While such a comprehensive away victory is always pleasurable, it was one that owed less to the Merseysiders’ considerable attacking talents than to West Ham’s utter fragility. The struggling Hammers actually looked the more likely to score first until a deadly breakaway from a corner ended with Mohamed Salah slotting the ball past Joe Hart. Two minutes later, a Liverpool corner saw the ball drop kindly for Joel Matip to lash it to the net for 2-0. The half-time introduction of Andy Carroll gave West Ham a fresh impetus and, while he didn’t score, Liverpool’s defence was tested and then breached on 55 minutes when Manuel Lanzini got on the end of a superb cross. Within a minute, the two-goal gap was restored as the Hammers switched off to allow Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to score his first league goal for Liverpool. West Ham briefly troubled the Reds’ rearguard but didn’t pull another goal back and once Salah added his second of the night with 15 minutes to go, the game was well and truly up. The London Stadium exodus began and Slaven Bilic bore the look of a manager who is merely waiting on delivery of his fate.
That result took Liverpool up to sixth in the table and their position improved further the following day without even playing, as Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat at Manchester City saw them overtaken by the Reds on goals scored. Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring for the league leaders, who survived a scare just before half-time when Ederson made a splendid save from Aaron Ramsey. City doubled their lead shortly after the interval with a Sergio Aguero penalty, although Arsenal rallied to pull a goal back through Alexandre Lacazette. The match wasn’t in the balance for long, though, as Gabriel Jesus struck to seal the win for City, although David Silva appeared to be offside in the build-up. Most Arsenal defeats bring a litany of venom towards team and manager, but this time they were simply outclassed by a first-class outfit whose lead at the top of the Premier League is now a sizeable eight points.
The other London v Manchester battle on Sunday went the way of the capital as Chelsea inflicted Manchester United’s second defeat in three league games. Both teams had opportunities in an entertaining first half and the Blues thought they had the lead when Phil Jones put through his own net, but Alvaro Morata was adjudged to have pushed him at the crucial moment. The Spaniard ultimately made the difference, though, as it was his header from Cesar Azpilicueta’s exquisite delivery that sailed over David de Gea and into United’s net. The visitors had a legitimate claim for a penalty turned down when Marouane Fellaini was held in the box, but Jose Mourinho’s side were edged on the day by a Chelsea team who delivered the perfect riposte to their critics following their hammering in Rome last week. Having been neck and neck with Manchester City not so long ago, United are now in danger of slipping behind a cluster of teams poised to overtake them.
If ever the phrase ‘game of two halves’ could be applied to a football match, a sure-fire contender is Everton and Watford’s clash on Sunday. The first half was Goodison Park was as drab as the 0-0 interval score would suggest. Then came 57 minutes of chaos that was set in motion by Richarlison’s goal as he rounded Jordan Pickford from Andre Gray’s cross. When Christian Kabasele doubled Watford’s lead from a corner, it looked set to be another dismal day for Everton. However, a fortuitous goal for Oumar Niasse was the type of break that a struggling team would crave and it was soon 2-2, Dominic Calvert-Lewin converting from close range. A madcap 12 minutes of stoppage time began with Leighton Baines scoring from the penalty spot to complete an incredible comeback and the Toffees’ efforts were so nearly in vain when Watford won a penalty at the other end in the 101st minute. Incredibly, ex-Everton midfielder Tom Cleverley put the spot kick wide and David Unsworth could enjoy a victory of such relief and ecstasy that it feels as if Everton gained a lot more than three points on Sunday.
If Sean Dyche is genuinely interested in the Everton manager’s job, he put in the perfect application for it on Saturday as Burnley edged Southampton at St Mary’s, the 1-0 win putting them level on points with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool overnight. An inspired substitution proved the difference, with Sam Vokes coming off the bench to score the winner with a superb header that looped above Fraser Forster. At the other end, Burnley’s defence yet again gave a stellar account of themselves, with James Tarkowski and goalkeeper Nick Pope immense on the day. For Southampton, their baffling inconsistency goes on, as does their inexplicable stage fright in front of goal. Mauricio Pellegrino has yet to solve the same problems for which Claude Puel was being slated last season.
Having toyed with Real Madrid in midweek, Tottenham could count themselves fortunate to have beaten Crystal Palace at Wembley on Sunday. The Eagles were the better team for large periods of the game and carved out several chances, but were foiled on multiple occasions by Spurs’ goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, usually third in the pecking order but making the most of his chance due to injuries to others. The game’s only goal came in the 64th minute when Son Heung-min let fly from just outside the penalty area to beat Julian Speroni. Defeat was harsh on a Palace side who played far better than their unenviable position would suggest, but Spurs gave them a lesson on the importance of taking their chances when they come around.
The weekend began with an entertaining 2-2 draw at the bet365 Stadium as Puel’s Leicester claimed a point away to Stoke. The Foxes drew first blood just after the half-hour, Vicente Iborra scoring from a corner, but the Potters were soon level thanks to a powerful Xherdan Shaqiri finish. Leicester retook the lead in the second half when Riyad Mahrez cut inside brilliantly to finish past Jack Butland before Peter Crouch did as Peter Crouch does, coming off the bench to score with a set piece header that earned a point for a resurgent Stoke. With Kasper Schmeichel producing a couple of outstanding saves, both teams had reasons to be pleased with a draw.
Saturday was a fine day for Danish goalkeepers in the Premier League, with Jonas Lossl magnificent as Huddersfield climbed into the top half of the table with a 1-0 win over struggling West Brom. The match-winning moment was one of beauty, Rajiv van la Parra producing a sublime effort from 25 yards which was struck so perfectly that Ben Foster didn’t see the point in trying to save it. There may well have been a foul on a West Brom player in the build-up, but that can’t take from what was a stunning goal. Huddersfield had to do it the hard way after Christopher Schindler was sent off with more than half an hour still to play, but Lossl’s heroics ensured a fourth Premier League win for the Terriers. By contrast, it’s now 10 games without victory for the Baggies, with some fans calling for Tony Pulis to be sacked following this depressing afternoon.
Paul Clement hasn’t yet been subjected to the ‘sacked in the morning’ chants, but if Swansea continue to play as horrendously as there did against Brighton on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti’s former assistant could be forced to look elsewhere for a job. The Swans fell to a fifth home defeat out of six thanks to Glenn Murray’s goal just before the half hour and Brighton were then content to keep it tight at the back and draw Swansea onto them. Clement’s team were not lacking in effort, but so glaring was their lack of quality that even Tammy Abraham was misplacing and overhitting passes. It was a torrid afternoon for the home supporters at the Liberty Stadium, but it was another fantastic result for Chris Hughton, an outstanding manager who keeps on keeping on with zero fuss.
Stuck in 19th place for the past several weeks, a second away win on the bounce has hoisted Bournemouth out of the bottom three, with Newcastle falling to their first home defeat since the opening weekend loss to Tottenham. The Geordies were on top in the first half and could feel aggrieved that a Dwight Gayle goal was wrongly ruled out for offside. After the interval, it was all Bournemouth and, for all their dominance, they must have thought that their goal would never come. It finally did in the second minute of stoppage time, Steve Cook’s header sparking wild celebrations for those Cherries fans who made the long trek to the north-east. This is the type of hard-fought win which, if repeated a few more times, will go a long way to keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League.
The two high-profile head-to-heads on Sunday gave Liverpool an ideal chance to close in on the Champions League positions and it was one they took emphatically. The Reds are now just four points behind Manchester United in second, a proximity which seemed fanciful after their goalless draw at Anfield three weeks ago. However, Jurgen Klopp will remember how they went into September’s international break on the high of thrashing Arsenal and then endured a torrid month upon the resumption of duties. Let’s hope the scenario isn’t repeated when Liverpool line out again on Saturday week against Southampton.