By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from match-week 22 of the Premier League season
- Full weekend results
A big upset, a record broken and a controversial referee decision? Sounds like a regular Premier League weekend. Here are five lessons learned from a dramatic match-week 22.
Swansea complete the upset of the season
Who called this? There was an air of expectation that Liverpool would not only beat Swansea, but hammer them by four, five or six goals. What happened at Anfield could have huge implications at both ends of the table as the Swans took advantage of a poor Liverpool defence to claim a shock 3-2 win.
A frustrating first half for Liverpool saw no goals scored and a lesson that Swansea were not to be taken lightly. The Welsh club took a shock lead not long after the break through Fernando Llorente’s close range finish. The Spaniard added a second with a header just four minutes later to leave Anfield stunned. It took Liverpool three minutes to get one back through Roberto Firmino, and the Brazilian went on to score the equaliser after 69 minutes. It looked from there that Liverpool would go on and clinch the three points, but Swansea did not read the script. An excellent run from Tom Carroll set up Gylfi Sigurdsson to score the winner and give Paul Clement his first win as Swansea manager.
The win took the Swans off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation zone. It was an unexpected and huge three points that could be the difference between going down and staying up. It is also a massive three points dropped for Liverpool who fall further behind Chelsea. With a defence like that, it is difficult to see the Reds recovering the gap and going all the way. There is an air of doubt with Jurgen Klopp’s side due to results such as this. You cannot help but feel that Chelsea or Tottenham would have won this fixture with ease, and that may be the difference at the end of the season.
Overall this will likely go down as the upset of the season. Nobody expected this result and it will end up being a big one when the season is completed.
Rooney breaks the record and establishes himself as a Manchester United legend
Wayne Rooney established himself as one of the greatest Manchester United players after breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record against Stoke City.
The Englishman netted his 250th goal for the club in style with an excellent free kick in stoppage time to rescue a point for his side at the Britannia Stadium. What is special is that not only did he break the record, but the style in which he did it. His team were down 1-0 with less than two minutes to go in stoppage time and Rooney stepped up to score one of the goals of the month. An incredible achievement to add to his career.
The match itself saw United domination for much of it, but they fell behind to a Juan Mata own goal in the first half. The Spaniard’s misery was further added to when he missed a sitter just minutes later. The United pressure continued and they were finally rewarded with Rooney’s late equaliser. It may be seen as a missed opportunity for the Red Devils after Man City, Spurs and Liverpool all dropped points.
Bad referee decisions can cost you games
There may not be a more clearer example this season. Manchester City looked rejuvenated against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday. The Citizens were largely dominant in the first half but could not take advantage of the many chances that came their way.
The second half proved to be a different story however. Leroy Sané took advantage of Hugo Lloris’ missed diving header clearance to give the home side a deserved lead. The French keeper made another mistake as he dropped the ball into the path of a grateful Kevin De Bruyne who tapped it in to double City’s lead. Spurs were getting completely outplayed but managed to get a goal back through Dele Alli’s header. It was after this where the controversy happened. Raheem Sterling found himself through on goal to make it 3-1, however a push from Kyle Walker made the winger stumble and he was unable to finish. It was clear to everyone in the ground except the most important one, the referee. In a matter of seconds, Spurs would go up the other end and equalise through Son Heung-Min leaving the Etihad stadium in a stunned silence.
Pep Guardiola was understandably frustrated and Mauricio Pochettino was a relieved man when the final whilst sounded. His side gained a point from an unlikely position whilst City lost a potentially valuable two points. Just goes to show how much one mistake can influence not just a game, but possibly an entire season.
Chelsea were the biggest winners of the weekend
Match-week 22 could not have gone much better or Antonio Conte and Chelsea. Defeat for Liverpool and the draw between Man City and Tottenham allowed the Blues to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table when they faced Hull City on Sunday.
The Tigers put in a good effort but went behind to a first half stoppage time goal by Diego Costa. The Spaniard returned to the first team after missing last weekend’s 3-0 win over champions Leicester with a back injury after a disagreement with a fitness coach, amid reports of Chinese Super League interest. Costa received great support from the crowd upon his return and made his impact immediately. Gary Cahill added a second ten minutes from time to put the game beyond any doubt and extend Chelsea’s lead to eight points.
Arsenal were the only title rivals to pick up three points after a dramatic end to their game against Burnley. The Gunners’ title chances appeared to have taken a huge hit as Andre Gray converted from the spot to level after Shkodran Mustafi’s header had finally broken Burnley’s resistance. Arsene Wenger was sent to that stands after protesting the decision, but that did not stop the 10 man Arsenal from securing the win. They got a penalty of their own in the 97th minute in which Alexis Sanchez converted to send the Gunners into second place.
Apart from that it was a perfect weekend from Chelsea’s perspective, and their already high chances of winning the title have been increased.
What else happened?
Crystal Palace and Sunderland fell into further danger after being defeated again on Saturday. Palace are still in search of their first win under the management of Sam Allardyce as a Seamus Coleman late goal secured Everton a win at Selhurst Park. The Eagles are now in the relegation zone after Swansea’s shock win at Liverpool. Sunderland were defeated 2-0 by West Brom at the Hawthorns to send the Black Cats to the bottom of the table. David Moyes is under severe pressure and could be the next manager to be sacked. Middlesbrough could not clear themselves from their precarious position as West Ham defeated them 3-1 at the Riverside.
Leicester are now officially the worst defending champions after 22 games after being soundly defeated by Southampton. The Foxes continue to look a far cry from the team that won the title last season. Bournemouth and Watford played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in their mid-table clash.
Full Premier League results
Liverpool 2- Swansea
Bournemouth 2-2 Watford
Crystal Palace 0-1 Everton
Milddesbrough 1-3 West Ham
Stoke 1-1 Man United
West Brom 2-0 Sunderland
Man City 2-2 Tottenham
Southampton 3-0 Leicester
Arsenal 2-1 Burnley
Chelsea 2-0 Hull
The Premier League returns on Tuesday 31st of January.
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