Premier League week 15 round-up: Five-star Liverpool go fourth

Premier League Review Liverpool

Quick-fire visits to Stoke and Brighton were fraught with danger for Liverpool, but they overcame both challenges convincingly, following up Wednesday’s 3-0 win in the Potteries with a 5-1 victory at the Amex Stadium on Saturday. The final score was somewhat misleading, as Brighton gave a good account themselves for large spells but were punished by a clinical Reds outfit. Two goals in as many minutes from Emre Can and Roberto Firmino just after the half-hour mark put Liverpool in a commanding position and when the Brazilian doubled his tally early in the second half, the points appeared to be in the bag. Brighton soon pulled one back from a wrongly-awarded penalty, though, and Liverpool were put under pressure from the home side for a while in the second half before Philippe Coutinho finally made sure of the points late on with a cheeky free kick which he hit under the defensive wall. The fifth Reds goal went down as an own goal from Lewis Dunk, who got the last touch to a goalbound Coutinho effort. This was Brighton’s first heavy defeat of the season while Liverpool emerged from two potentially tricky away games with six points and eight goals to move into the top four.

Arsenal had won 12 Premier League home games on the bounce but were put to the sword by a ruthless Manchester United side in a rip-roaring encounter at the Emirates on Saturday evening. The visitors were two goals to the good inside 11 minutes, Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard pouncing on slack Gunners defending. United somehow got to half-time with the 2-0 lead intact as Arsenal wasted a succession of chances, finding David de Gea an impossible nut to crack. They did pull a goal back soon after the interval through Alexandre Lacazette and laid siege to the United goal but couldn’t find an equaliser. Instead, the game was put out of their reach when Lingard finished off a swift counterattack for his third goal in two matches. The only negative for the visitors was the red card shown to Paul Pogba, who will now miss the Manchester derby as a result. Still, this was a major fillip for Jose Mourinho and his team, having lost on their two previous visits to Arsenal.

It proved to be a win they badly needed, with Manchester City yet again striking late to turn one point into three. The leaders gave probably their poorest performance of the season against 19th-placed West Ham, who were under little duress in the first half. The Hammers even had the temerity to follow Huddersfield’s lead and go in front on the verge of half-time, Angelo Ogbonna heading past Ederson as City defended poorly from a corner. The interval introduction of Gabriel Jesus gave the home side some extra invention and they duly equalised through Nicolas Otamendi. It was one-way traffic from thereon, but West Ham goalkeeper Adrian frustrated City time and again until the 82nd minute when David Silva edged the hosts in front. The visitors then spurned a late chance to snatch a leveller, Diafra Sakho missing a very good opportunity to claim a point for the Hammers. City did it the hard way again, but they have looked a bit iffy ahead of next week’s crucial derby.

Sam Allardyce got off to a winning start as Everton manager, seeing his team defeat Huddersfield 2-0 and climb into the top half of the table, a remarkable turnaround from being in the bottom three only a few days ago. The first half was rather tame at Goodison Park but the Toffees took a deserved lead on 47 minutes through Gylfi Sigurdsson, scoring twice in four days after failing to find the net in his first three months at Everton. The result was put beyond doubt in the 73rd minute when young striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin finished past Jonas Lossl, consigning Huddersfield to another away defeat. Indeed, they haven’t even scored on their travels since the opening day of the season.

Tottenham’s poor form continued when they had to settle for a point away to Watford on Saturday. The Hornets took an early lead when Christian Kabasele headed to the net from a corner, although Spurs didn’t take long to get back on level terms, Son Heung-min finishing from close range. It was a controversial equaliser as, only a few seconds before, Ben Davies got away with a clear push on Richarlison in Spurs’ penalty area. The visitors were reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Davinson Sanchez caught Richarlison in the face with an elbow and Martin Atkinson produced a red card. Watford almost made their man advantage count when Abdoulaye Doucoure’s volley crashed off the post, but it ended 1-1 and the home side were far more content with the draw than off-colour Tottenham.

Chelsea are doing their best to cling to their slender title retention hopes after coming from behind to beat Newcastle 3-1 on Saturday. Just as he did at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, Dwight Gayle gave the Geordies a surprise lead near the quarter-hour mark, but the champions were level a few minutes later through Eden Hazard, who once again was outstanding. Alvaro Morata’s header put Chelsea in front just after the half-hour and the points were secured with 15 minutes to go when Hazard casually chipped a penalty into the Newcastle net. Antonio Conte’s men consolidate third place while the Magpies are hovering dangerously close to the bottom three as their miserable form continues.

Claude Puel maintained his fine start to life at Leicester as his team won again on Saturday, defeating Burnley 1-0 at the King Power Stadium. It was a frenetic encounter at times but the only goal came as early as the sixth minute when Demarai Gray turned the ball home, colliding with the post in doing so. Burnley had opportunities at the other end but their afternoon got worse when Robbie Brady went off injured after half an hour. Goalkeepers Kasper Schmeichel and Nick Pope both had impressive games and the Foxes shaded it on the day. It’s a second defeat in three for Burnley but it’s not one that will overly worry Sean Dyche.

Alan Pardew’s first game as West Brom manager was about as uneventful as it gets, a goalless draw against former club Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns. Both teams have been toothless in attack for much of this season and it was easy to see why, with neither side ever really threatening to trouble the scoreboard operator. The only incident of note was a penalty claim for Palace when Ben Foster caught Wilfried Zaha in the box but referee Michael Oliver failed to blow for a foul. It’s now three draws in a row for the Baggies, who lie just outside the relegation places, while the Eagles are still waiting for their first away goal in the league this season, although the draw moved them off the bottom for the first time since August.

That position is now occupied by Swansea, who got off to the perfect start at Stoke but fell to another sobering defeat. Wilfried Bony, who scored twice for Stoke in this fixture last season, got his first goal since rejoining the Swans inside the opening three minutes. The home side were level on 36 minutes when Xherdan Shaqiri, a specialist in spectacular goals, got one of the less refined variety this time. The Potters struck again just five minutes later, Mame Biram Diouf netting as Swansea failed to deal with a corner. The second half came and went without much incident, much to the relief of Mark Hughes, whose Stoke side rise to 13th while the Swans now prop up the table.

It finished honours even at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday afternoon between south coast neighbours Bournemouth and Southampton. The main talking point wasn’t either of the goals, but instead a blatant penalty not given by Jon Moss when Sofiane Boufal took down Adam Smith in the box. The Cherries hit the front shortly before half-time when Ryan Fraser swept the ball beyond Fraser Forster, but they were pegged back on the hour mark by the in-form Charlie Austin, who again showed that he is by far the Saints’ most potent goal threat. A draw seemed the right result all told, despite the home side justifiably arguing that they should have had a penalty. Moss, however, had the courage to publicly admit his mistake afterwards, something that referees all too rarely do.

Liverpool might have had a helping hand from the officials at Stoke last week, but they needed no such luck in seeing off a Brighton side that are nowhere near as bad as a 5-1 home defeat might suggest. The Reds have a do-or-die Champions League clash with Spartak Moscow on Wednesday night and they couldn’t have prepared for it in better fashion than with that pair of away wins over the past six days.

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