The International break is finally over, and after two very boring England matches, I could not wait until the Premier League campaign rolled back in to town. So, after a weekend off, the Premier League action finally returned and offered as much excitement as usual, with many high profile clashes at both the top and bottom of the league.
The weekend kicked off with the small matter of the Merseyside Derby and it was as feisty as ever, with a surprise inclusion for Matthew Pennington and the typically expected rash tackles and passionate fans, the Premier League returned with a bang. The headlines also included the rash discussions that happened on the touchline with Jurgen Klopp and Ronald Koemans’ back room staff traded words following one of Ross Barkley’s many questionable tackles. In the end, Liverpool came out relatively easy 3-1 winners, despite another Everton youngster in Matthew Pennington slotting home to score his first Everton goal, levelling the score for all of 3 first half minutes and handing the bragging rights to the red side of Liverpool in the 3rd successive game under Klopp.
This result put pressure back on the sides in and around the Top 4 as they leapfrogged Manchester City into 3rd. On the same weekend we witnessed a shock result as Sam Allardyce and star of the Show Wilfried Zaha continued Crystal Palace’s amazing turnaround in form with a 2-1 away win at Chelsea which delivered a 4th consecutive win pulling them further away from the relegation zone, and cutting Chelsea’s seemingly unassailable lead from 10 points to 7 following Tottenham’s 2-0 away win at Burnley.
Leicester’s resurgence continued as they beat a lacklustre Stoke City 2-0 at the King Power, which in turn saw Craig Shakespeare become the first English coach to win his opening 4 Premier League games, and also saw them climb to 13th place in the League, having been lumbered in and around the bottom 3 when Claudio Ranieri was sacked. New man Wilfried N’Didi once again proving why he was brought into the club with an assured performance in the centre of midfield and topped off another top drawer performance, he rifled a 25 yard effort into the top right hand corner of the net. Perhaps Leicester have finally found the ideal replacement for the ‘irreplaceable’ N’Golo Kante, and lets not forget he is only just 20 years of age, signalling that there is much more to come from this lad.
Hull City took a massive step in their quest for survival as they beat free falling West Ham, who slip to 15th just 5 points ahead of Hull, will now be looking over their shoulders and dreading the prospect of a relegation battle after such a swansong season last season at Upton Park, while fellow relegation candidates Sunderland once again tasted defeat, which comes with a dip in club form for main talisman Jermaine Defoe, leaving them without a league goal in over 2 months and looking destined to trade places with local rivals Newcastle in the Championship.
The final two games were 0-0 draws, but one hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Tony Pulis’ West Brom travelled to Old Trafford, with their 8th placed position with the time being. They did what any typical Pulis team are known for doing, placing 11 men behind the ball and making life miserable for their opponents and in turn, the fans. I fully believe a result is better than the way a team plays, but watching West Brom at times is like watching paint dry. Never the less, they efficiently took a point, much to Mourinho’s dismay as he seemed to once again throw the toys out of the pram after not getting a result that he wanted. Not content with showing very little respect to West Brom in the post match interview, he later went on to launch a scathing attack onto Luke Shaw, saying he cannot compare him to any other player and that he is nowhere near the first team.
And finally, a south coast derby between Southampton and Bournemouth played out like a mid table game at the end of the season, rather drab and dull with neither sides having much to play for, despite Bournemouth’s poor form prior to the two games in March. Despite both sides hitting the post, the only real highlight was the missed penalty from Harry Arter who blazed over with 13 minutes to go, bluffing the chance to send the Cherries above their hosts.
With International football over until June, we can now look forward to an uninterrupted footballing calendar in the Premier League, and with many more twists and turns, we can look forward to