Hammers Ensure Safety With Rare Away Win As Blues Threaten To Sneak Into Top Four
After another enthralling weekend of the Premier League, the penultimate matchday of the 2017/2018 season, it’s now time to look back at all the action and what a few days of drama it truly was, as David Moyes’ West Ham United secured their Top-Flight status for another campaign and Antonio Comte’s Chelsea boosted their top-four hopes against a “Big Six” rival.
We start with the one-off Sky Sports Friday Night Football clash between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United at the American Express Community Stadium, which kicked off the Premier League weekend.
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls knew that three points would be enough for a second season in the PL, but could they shock Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils? The answer was yes, they could, and yes, they did, Pascal Gross getting the only goal of the game just after the break, one that had to be awarded by the goal-line technology, but Brighton won’t care how, just that they are safe, second place is still not sealed for United.
There was little rest bite from the action as there was another match a matter of hours later, a pivotal Saturday lunchtime affair between Paul Lambert’s desperate Stoke City and Roy Hodgson’s virtually safe Crystal Palace.
The Potters went in knowing that a defeat would prove the final nail in their relegation coffin live on Sky Sports and there was a glimmer of hope for them on the stroke of half-time when Xherdan Shaqiri popped in a free-kick to make it 1-0, but late strikes from James McArthur and Patrick van Aanholt for the visitors brought an end to a ten-year stay in the top tier of English football for the Staffordshire side.
Another team that could have been relegated there and then were Darren Moore’s West Bromwich Albion and they faced the daunting task of needing to pick up three points to even keep their faint survival hopes alive at the Hawthorns Stadium, against fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Both teams had their chances throughout the 90 minutes and it looked for all the world like Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs were going to keep the Bagies at bay and send them down, however, it wasn’t to be as substitute Jake Livermore scrambled a winner home in added-time to take Albion off the foot of the table for the first time in months, they are now unbeaten in five, and if midweek results go their way may have a final day chance to complete a “Great Escape,” Tottenham are now at risk of dropping out of the top four.
While other sides needed wins just to keep their safety candles burning, the Hammers travelled to the King Power Stadium in another one of four traditional afternoon kick-offs on Saturday, with an opportunity to get the safety job done with only a second away win of the year.
They would grab the chance with both hands, overpowering Claude Puel’s ninth-placed Leicester City with a dominant display, going ahead in the first period through Joao Mario and then, sealing the deal in style via a stunning Mark Noble volley, results on the day secured survival for the Irons and they can now start to look ahead to next season after a turbulent few months.
While all of this was unfolding, there was slightly less to play for at Vicarage Road in Hertfordshire where two nearly-safe mid-table outfits did battle in the form of Watford and Newcastle United.
Javier Gracia’s Hornets were looking for a bit of inspiration to take into next year having endured a torrid time if things wince Christmas and fought hard enough to get this, securing their own PL status in the process, it arrived with a fairly comfortable 2-1 triumph, they led Rafa Benítez’s men by two goals at the break, Roberto Pereyra and Andre Gray getting them, and Ayoze Perez’s consolation in the second period wasn’t enough to mount a Magpies comeback.
The final of the 3 PM starts did involve a team deep in the fight to avoid relegation to the Sky Bet Championship, Swansea City journeying to the Vitality Stadium.
Meeting them there were Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth, keen not to lose to a struggling side for the second week in succession and they wouldn’t, edging out the wasteful Swans under Carlos Carvalhal and pushing them into the dreaded drop zone, Ryan Fraser’s 37tn minute strike enough to separate the two sides.
Attention then swiftly turned to Merseyside and another monumental match in the complexion of the dog fight at the wrong end of the table, 18th-placed Southampton in action against Everton at Goodison Park live on BT Sport.
Any kind of positive result would have been enough for Mark Hughes’ Saints to sneak above their Welsh Tuesday evening opponents and out of the bottom three, and while they would have been frustrated to concede in stoppage time to Tom Davies, Nathan Redmond’s earlier effort saw them pick up a valuable point, though they will now be without Maya Yoshida for their biggest game of the season in midweek, in Wales.
Sunday served up yet more decisive encounters, three of them to be more precise, two of which formed Sky Sports’ Super Sunday coverage, the first coming at the Etihad Stadium.
On the afternoon that Pep Guardiola’s men would finally get to ft the PL trophy, they hosted a battling Huddersfield Town under David Wagner who were able to grind out a point in a goalless draw, a crucial one for them, although the occasion rightly belonged to the Citizens as they remained on track to break all kinds of Premier League records.
Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated fixture of the entire weekend was the next one and it involved two of the league’s top six teams, Chelsea and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, meeting at Stamford Bridge.
It would be fair to say that the Reds were suffering some hangover from reaching the UEFA Champions League final just a few days ago in Rome and were rolled over by the Blues, who should have scored plenty more than the one they did in the first-half through Olivier Giroud, they will take 1-0 and are now just two points off the Lilywhites in fourth.
At the same time, and also in the capital, a special afternoon was taking place at the Emirates Stadium, Arsene Wenger’s final home match as Arsenal boss against rivals for sixth place, Sean Dyche’s Burnley.
There could only ever be one result ad the Gunners made it happen for their manager of 22 years, who’s reign will end with the conclusion of the term, romping to a 5-0 thrashing with the help of strikes from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac and Alex Iwobi, making sure that the Clarets now cannot pip them to finish in sixth position.
So, now that all the spills and thrills from yet another full weekend program of the league that we all know, and love have been well and truly reviewed, more English Top-Flight action will take place this midweek, see below a list of fixtures, before matchday 38, the final of a memorable campaign, will grab centre-stage next Sunday afternoon.
The Following Fixtures Have Been Rearranged From Previous Matchdays And Will Be Played This Week:
Swansea City vs Southampton (Tuesday 7:45 PM)
Glanville’s Prediction: 1-0.
Chelsea vs Huddersfield Town (Wednesday 7:45 PM)
Glanville’s Prediction: 4-0.
Leicester City vs Arsenal (Wednesday 7:45 PM)
Glanville’s Prediction: 1-3.
Manchester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion (Wednesday 8 PM)
Glanville’s Prediction: 3-0.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Newcastle United (Wednesday 8 PM)
Glanville’s Prediction: 2-0.
West Ham United vs Manchester United (Thursday 7:45 PM)
Glanville’s Prediction: 2-2.