Premier League week 30 round-up: Liverpool left to rue Rashford’s return to form and refereeing woes

Premier League Review Liverpool

Just over two years since netting a decisive quick-fire first half brace against an established rival on his Premier League debut, Marcus Rashford did the same again on Saturday as Manchester United inflicted Liverpool’s fourth league defeat of the season. While the quality of the young striker’s finishes was considerable, the manner in which the visitors shipped both goals gave rise once more to questions over their defensive nous. Despite peppering United’s penalty box in the second half, the only way Liverpool found a route to goal was through an opponent, Eric Bailly inadvertently turning the ball past David de Gea to set up a rip-roaring final 20 minutes. It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for the Reds, though, with Mohamed Salah shackled by Ashley Young, woeful ball retention from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane, plus a bad day at the office for Craig Pawson. Liverpool should have had at least two penalties, especially when Mane was bundled to the floor by Marouane Fellaini. It was one of those days that just wasn’t meant to work out for Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Tottenham moved above Liverpool into third on Sunday when they came from behind to defeat Bournemouth 4-1, a scoreline that disguised how stern a test the Cherries gave Spurs throughout the game. Junior Stanislas gave the home side an early lead, having already missed a gilt-edged chance, and when Harry Kane went off injured it looked like being a tough day for Mauricio Pochettino’s men. However, Dele Alli levelled before half-time and the in-form Son Heung-min struck twice to put the game out of reach, although Bournemouth had a goal harshly disallowed at 2-1, a moment that could have seen the match finish rather differently. Serge Aurier’s late header rounded off a fine win for Spurs, although they are set to be without Kane for a number of weeks after he injured his ankle.

Chelsea breathed new life into their Champions League pursuit with a much-needed win over Crystal Palace on Saturday evening. With Olivier Giroud giving the Blues a bona fide target man in attack, they were far more direct than at the Etihad last week and hit the front through Willian just after the midway point of the first half. If that goal was superb, the champions’ second was extremely fortuitous, Martin Kelly’s attempted clearance ricocheting into his own net. Chelsea were comfortable thereafter and even when Palace scored through ex-Blue Patrick van Aanholt, it came too late for any real grandstand finish. It was another decent display by the Eagles against a top five outfit, but all three of those have ended in one-goal defeats and they need points, not plaudits, to rise out of the relegation zone. Keep playing as they are, though, and the points will surely come.

West Ham have had plenty of bad days this season, but none more acrimonious than Saturday’s 0-3 thrashing by Burnley amid sorry scenes at London Stadium. The Hammers had actually been the better team in the first half, by the admission of both managers, but once the visitors edged in front through Ashley Barnes’ thunderbolt, the touchpaper was lit for mayhem. Firstly, Mark Noble was confronted by one spectator who was quickly put in his place by the veteran midfielder. Then, after Chris Wood doubled Burnley’s lead, another clown thought it was a good idea to grab the corner flag and stick it on the centre circle. That was the cue for 2,000 or so spectators to make their way towards the directors’ box and vent abuse at the club’s co-owners, who were urged over the public address to leave the stadium, which they eventually did. A Joe Hart error gifted Wood another goal and, while Burnley’s players excelled on the field, their substitutes demonstrated class and selflessness off it by allowing children to take sanctuary in their section as chaos reigned around them.

There are still eight matches remaining in the league for West Brom, but they looked like a team resigned to their fate after Leicester eased to victory at The Hawthorns on Saturday. It all started so well for the Baggies when Salomon Rondon gave them an early lead, but once Jamie Vardy struck an outstanding equaliser midway through the first half, the Foxes were in complete control. Riyad Mahrez, who again was superb, put Leicester ahead after half-time and further goals from Kelechi Iheanacho (his first in the league for his current club) and Vicente Iborra piled on the woe for West Brom, who seem to be just playing out time for the remainder of the season on this evidence.

The Baggies look certainties for relegation and it’s becoming increasingly likely that Southampton could join them after their spineless surrender at Newcastle on Saturday. The Geordies were ahead inside 64 seconds through on-loan Kenedy, who doubled his tally later in the first half to put the finishing touch to a swift counterattack that originated from Mario Lemina slipping. The Saints still had ample time to mount a comeback but yet again lacked anything remotely resembling penetration and the contest was put to bed once and for all by Matt Ritchie after half-time. With five of their last eight matches away from St Mary’s, the odds are stacked against Southampton if they are to make it seven consecutive seasons in the Premier League.

The last month has been horrendous for Arsenal, but they capped an overdue good week with a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Watford on Sunday, their first Premier League victory in over a month. Shkodran Mustafi, who was vilified for his display in the Carabao Cup final a couple of weeks ago, headed the Gunners into an early lead and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put them two goals up with a deft finish just before the hour mark. The pivotal moment of the game was Petr Cech’s penalty save from Troy Deeney almost straight after Arsenal went 2-0 ahead and it was a stop which enabled the veteran goalkeeper to record his 200th Premier League clean sheet. Henrikh Mkhitaryan added a third late on for his second goal in four days after netting in Milan in midweek. Arsenal stay sixth and preserve the five-point buffer between them and Burnley.

It’s unlikely to totally silence critics of Sam Allardyce, but Everton’s win over Brighton on Saturday has realistically dispelled any fears of them being dragged into a relegation battle in the concluding weeks of the season. An uneventful first half ended goalless before, on the hour, Gaetan Bong could only head the ball into his own net in attempting to clear and Everton had a precious lead. They made it 2-0 soon afterwards with a fine 20-yard effort from Cenk Tosun and a bad day for Brighton got worse with the dismissal of Anthony Knockaert for a reckless lunge. The Seagulls are still in a comfortable position after this defeat, but they could miss the French midfielder badly for the forthcoming three games after his moment of madness.

If you fail to record a single shot in a Premier League match, you can probably expect to get soundly beaten. That’s unless you’re Swansea, who performed one of the most heroic displays of rearguard action to keep Huddersfield at bay on Saturday after playing for 79 minutes a man short following Jordan Ayew’s early red card. The Terriers had 81% possession and almost 30 shots, but not one of them ended in the Swansea net. That was partly down to Lukasz Fabianski, who made one of the saves of the season in what has been a stellar campaign for the Polish goalkeeper. At the full-time whistle, visiting manager Carlos Carvalhal celebrated as if his team had won. It was the definition of ‘a point gained’ for Swansea, who seem set for top flight safety after this resounding moral victory.

Following their second defeat in Manchester this season, Liverpool could do with getting back on track quickly to avoid being usurped by Chelsea in the top four. With their other Champions League-chasing rivals all in FA Cup action next weekend, the Reds have the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker if they can beat Watford on Saturday. Three points at Anfield would be the best way of getting this weekend’s frustrating defeat out of their system.

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