Four more games happened on Valentines Day but there would be no love lost in these encounters for sure, beginning at St Marys as Southampton took on Wolves… Southampton 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 These two met in the FA Cup Fifth Round at Molineux during the week and The Saints prospered there, and they say you rarely get the same outcome when you meet so quickly again, so would that mean a Wolves win on the South Coast? The Saints are on a poor run in the league so the visitors could take advantage of that perhaps, Wolves themselves hadn’t lost for two games after a win over Arsenal and then a point against Leicester, so plenty to build on there. The Saints had the first chance of the game when Nathan Redmond saw a lovely curling effort tipped around the post by Rui Patricio, but there was nothing he could do about the host’s opener after 24 minutes as a lovely run down the right by Stuart Armstrong saw him cross and find Danny Ings produce a wonderful powerfully volley into the far corner, it was wonderful technique, and the hosts were in front. Wolves, who had been poor in the first period, needed a response, and they got one seven minutes into the second period after a very harshly awarded penalty against Ryan Bertrand after a powerful cross from Nelson Semedo hit his arm, and Ruben Neves stepped up to dispatch the penalty, and just like that Wolves were right back in this contest. It was a very harsh decision against Bertrand though, it must be said. Wolves were a different side this half, much more attacking threat and endeavour, and twenty minutes into the second period Pedro Neto produced a wonderful piece of skill to get past Jannik Vestergaard before firing a brilliant effort beyond Alex McCarthy into the far corner, and The Saints had let another lead slip, and they were the ones now chasing the game, what a turnaround it had been. Could the Saints respond, well their best chance saw a Redmond effort saved by Patricio, but Wolves saw the game out to take a big three points, and for the second season in succession come from behind to win at St Marys, you could see how much it meant to Nuno Espirito Santo at the final whistle, he was very animated on the sideline and shared hugs with all his staff. For the hosts, it was a crushing defeat, and for the first time in their history six straight league defeats, it’s a very testing time for them that’s for sure. Now for the early afternoon showing from The Hawthorns as struggling West Brom welcomed title chasing Manchester United to the Midlands… West Bromwich Albion 1 Manchester United 1 On paper there looked to be only one winner in this contest, West Brom are second from bottom and are on a poor run of form, whilst United were looking to go back into second spot and five points behind leaders Manchester City with a victory, but football is not played on paper is it, so could West Brom upset the Red Devils here? They certainly needed to as they desperately need the points to try and spark some miracle escape from the bottom three, they were thirteen points from safety at kick-off. Well, less than two minutes in and West Brom had the lead as a lovely ball in from the right by Conor Gallagher saw Mbaye Diagne wrestle with Victor Lindelof and win the tussle to head past David De Gea and give The Baggies the perfect start to this one, although United need not worry at this stage as they had picked up twenty-one points from losing positions this season, so they were used to going behind in games. United needed a spark though, they had been pretty slow and lethargic for the majority of the first period, and just before half time they got that spark after Luke Shaw’s cross from the left was brilliantly volleyed home by Bruno Fernandes and United had that moment of magic at a crucial time in the contest and certainly went into the break in a better frame of mind had they not found that moment. Just past the hour mark United thought they had been given the chance to go in front after Semi Ajayi was adjudged to have brought Harry Maguire as the two tanged going for a cross, but after VAR sent Craig Pawson over to the monitor, he overturned his decision and no penalty was forthcoming, Maguire looked offside anyway when the ball came in. but the correct decision had been reached, I thought. Could anyone win this game though? United saw Sam Johnson save from Mason Greenwood before a follow-up effort from Scot McTominay cleared off the line, whilst Diagne missed two golden chances for the hosts, and then right at the death Maguire saw a header brilliantly tipped onto the post by Johnstone, meaning the game did end all square. A point for each side then but a point that does not do either much good at both ends of the table if truth be told. Now to the North of the Capital, and The Emirates, as Arsenal took on Leeds United in the late afternoon showing on Sunday… Arsenal 4 Leeds United 2 The Gunners have hit a stumbling block recently after going seven games unbeaten, and they welcome a Leeds side to North London who has won three of their last four outings and have climbed above them in the table now, so this should be a decent game as we all know Leeds only play one way, and that is full-on attack mode, so could this suit Arsenal perhaps with their pace and power going forward? There were starts for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard in the host’s lineup, whilst Leeds were missing the influential Kalvin Phillips meaning others would be in different positions to compensate, so would this affect the visitors? Thirteen minutes in and the returning Aubameyang gave Arsenal the lead after a couple of stepovers cut inside and fired an effort between two defenders and despite keeper Illan Meslier getting a hand on it he could not keep the ball out and it found the net, Leeds could have done better defensively and the keeper probably should have done better too, but it was good play by the Gunners forward, and Leeds poor form in the capital looked to be continuing. After 33 minutes Arsenal thought they had a penalty when Stuart Attwell pointed to the spot after Bukayo Saka burst into the box and appeared to be tripped by Liam Cooper, but on replay, this wasn’t the case and the penalty was overturned after VAR asked Attwell to go over and look at it on the monitor, much to the dismay of Mikel Arteta, it was probably the right decision though so could Leeds take advantage of this? Unfortunately for Leeds, their keeper decided to give the hosts a penalty not long after as he dilly-dallied on clearing a ball and Saka nipped in to take it off him and the Leeds keeper brought him down trying to get the ball back, and Aubameyang stepped up to send him the wrong way and The Gunners had a two-goal lead five minutes before the break. Not a good moment for the Leeds keeper and the visitors had a mountain to climb here. And just before half time Arsenal made it three when lovely close control inside the box by the Gunners ended with Hector Bellerin being laid into fire past Meslier at his near post for his first goal at home for two years, and the hosts were ripping the visitors to shreds. Meslier, in particular, wasn’t helping his side in this one, the young Leeds keeper had not had the best of half’s that was for sure, it seems with Leeds it’s feast or famine these days, and they certainly needed to find something drastic in the second period to get themselves back into this contest, a contest the hosts were now in total control of. Two minutes into the second period and Arsenal looked to have put the result beyond all doubt as Aubameyang marked his return to the starting eleven with a hat-trick as he stooped to head home what looked like a mishit cross from Emile Smith-Rowe, what a return for the Arsenal striker who had been through some tough times personally, so this was just the boost he and the Gunners needed. Leeds though as we know will continue to play the way they do, and they pulled a goal back just before the hour mark when Pascal Struijk powered home a header from a Raphinha corner, and then with just over twenty minutes remaining Leeds pulled another one back after a cut back from Tyler Roberts found Helder Costa, both of whom had come on as second-half subs, to side foot home, and suddenly the hosts looked shaky and Leeds sniffed a remarkable comeback at The Emirates. Arsenal though managed to hold on and avert a disaster and could have added further goals had Aubameyang and then Saka not struck the woodwork, but a good day for the Gunners and it takes them back above Leeds into the top ten. It was a thoroughly entertaining watch between two sides who produced superb attacking football. The final game of the day saw us up to the North West and Goodison Park as Everton took on struggling Fulham… Everton 0 Fulham 2 The Toffees have only one defeat in their last five, although we would find out how much Thursday’s energy-sapping FA Cup thriller against Spurs has taken out of them, they took on a Fulham side who were in a precarious position, sitting third bottom and ten points from safety at kick-off, but it would be hard to get any points against an Everton side who could go level on points with Merseyside rivals Liverpool in fourth with a win. Dom Calvert-Lewin was absent though after picking up a hamstring injury in that midweek cup game, which was a blow for the hosts, although Fulham had never won a league match at Goodison in twenty-seven attempts, and they would have to try and end that run without Aleksandar Mitrovic who had come down with Covid. The opening half-hour though saw the Cottagers utterly dominate and saw plenty of openings pass them by, and it took the Toffees 33 minutes before they had a real effort on goal, which saw Seamus Coleman drive forward and fire an effort off the outside of the post, but the hosts had looked flat and lethargic in the opening forty-five minutes, and Fulham had been the better side, sadly though, for all their neat play, the strugglers had nothing to show for it, a reason why they are in the position they are, they cannot score goals. But three minutes after the break Fulham had the goal they deserved as a lovely play between Ola Aina and Ademola Lookman saw the former lay a ball across for Josh Maja to net his first-ever Premier League goal by converting from close range, and The Cottagers now had a lead to show for all their wonderful play thus far. And twenty minutes into the second period Fulham increased their lead after a shot from Harrison Reed had been tipped onto the post by Robin Olsen, Maja was on hand to follow in and tap home for his second of the night, and Fulham looked well on their way to a huge three points, Everton had been woeful so far in this one and needed a big last twenty-five minutes to get anything from this contest. The closest The Toffees came to getting themselves back into the contest came when Josh King, on as a sub for the hosts, poked home an Andre Gomes cross, but he was offside, so it didn’t count, and Fulham comfortably saw out the game to record a first-ever league win at Goodison and grab a massive three points in the process. Maybe their survival charge starts here? For Everton it was a very poor showing and they fall to a very disappointing loss here. Let’s have a look at the table after Sunday’s results… Wolves go up to 12th after a come from behind win at Southampton, who fall below them into 13th after sixth straight loss, whilst United do go back into second on goal difference despite a disappointing draw at West Brom, the host’s point doesn’t really do them any good either and remain twelve points from safety. Arsenal leapfrog Leeds into tenth after their win over Marcelo Bielsa’s men at The Emirates, and Fulham will believe they can get out of trouble after their first-ever win at Goodison Park means they are just seven points from safety now, Everton remain seventh after a disappointing evening. Two more games to end the weekend take place tomorrow, which are below… Monday February 15 West Ham United v Sheffield United (6pm) Chelsea v Newcastle United (8pm) Hammers go fourth if they win, Blades need points as they are now fourteen points from safety with only fifteen games to go, Chelsea will end the weekend fourth though if they win, Newcastle need points to ease the pressure, especially after Fulham’s win Sunday evening. Liverpool will be hoping that West Ham and Chelsea fail to win as a win for either sees last season’s Champions out of the top four.
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