In a week when all the drama was off the pitch, Manchester City edged closer to securing the Premier League title with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
Chelsea’s goalless draw with Brighton was enough to lift them into the Champions League spots after they beat Man City in the FA Cup semi-finals at the weekend, while Diego Llorente’s late equaliser for Leeds denied Liverpool the chance of a top-four spot.
Newcastle took a big step towards securing their top-flight status with a dramatic win against 10-man West Ham, but Sheffield United were relegated to the Championship after Wolves’ 1-0 win at Molineux.
Elsewhere, Mason Greenwood netted two goals in Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Burnley, and Eddie Nketiah grabbed a stoppage-time goal for Arsenal in a 1-1 draw with Fulham, while Leicester celebrated reaching the FA Cup final with a comfortable 3-0 win over relegation-bound West Brom.
Check out my team of the week and then make your own selections towards the bottom of the article.
Goalkeeper: Alisson (Liverpool)
Alisson: Alisson did everything he could to get Liverpool through the game against Leeds without conceding a goal but in the end it was poor defending on a set-piece that let him down. The Brazilian made an excellent save from Patrick Bamford in the opening exchanges followed by a superb stop from Jack Harrison from six yards, and another from Tyler Roberts. This was a difficult match for Liverpool in light of the protests and recrimination due to the emergence of the European Super League, but they nevertheless called on all their experience and professionalism to gain a valuable point in difficult circumstances. Alisson was in superb form.
Did you know? Alisson saved three ‘big chances’ against Leeds – his joint-most ever in a Premier League match (also three v Fulham in December 2020).
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Diego Llorente (Leeds), Jonny Evans (Leicester), Luke Shaw (Man Utd)
Trent Alexander-Arnold: I don’t think I have ever watched a game where the pre-match focus on a team was so intense, and for all the wrong reasons. Liverpool’s fixture against Leeds was shrouded in the knowledge that their owners had joined the breakaway without consulting their players or manager. Leeds came out in pre-match warm-up shirts announcing their disgust while the rest of the nation seemed to follow in their revulsion of the idea. To be honest, enormous credit must go to Jurgen Klopp and his players, who dominated the first half and should have won the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold played as though he had never read a newspaper or been on a social media platform in his life, and once again showed nerves of steel throughout. As for the touch for Sadio Mane’s goal, it was just masterful.
Did you know? Eight of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s 31 Premier League assists for Liverpool have been for Sadio Mane, at least three more than he’s provided for any other player.
Diego Llorente: Diego Llorente lived dangerously throughout the match with Liverpool and might have been punished on occasion. However, the Leeds defender salvaged a point with his first goal for the club and managed to keep Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota reasonably quiet for most of the evening. This was the sort of game that in the circumstances would have produced an electric atmosphere if both sets of fans had been allowed inside Elland Road. Quite what Leeds fans would have been singing is anyone’s guess, but Llorente still has all this to experience and it is something we can all look forward to next season.
Did you know? Llorente’s goal against Liverpool was his first in his 10th Premier League game for Leeds, and his first goal overall since July 2020 for Real Sociedad at Villarreal.
Jonny Evans: Well, they’ve not been there since 1969 and strange things happen in FA Cup finals. Leicester City’s return to Wembley in a few weeks to play in the final of the greatest knockout cup competition in the world will be a fitting tribute to the efforts the club have made since the arrival of the Srivaddhanaprabha family. To a generation of Leicester fans, Jonny Evans’ performance in the semi-final might well have brought back memories of greats like Graham Cross, Peter Rodrigues or David Nish, all of whom played for Leicester in 1969. Evans has had a fantastic spell at Leicester since his arrival from West Brom. His goal in a 3-0 victory over his former club on Thursday has put a serious dent in the Baggies’ Premier League survival hopes.
Did you know? In the game against West Brom, Jonny Evans scored his first Premier League goal since December 2019 against Aston Villa.
Luke Shaw: Isn’t it strange, but when Jose Mourinho leaves a football club players suddenly start to blossom again. Luke Shaw had a torrid time under Mourinho and now the player is back in the England squad and playing the football of his life. Marcus Rashford also suffered under Mourinho’s management come to think of it. However it was Shaw and Rashford who destroyed Burnley and who have both played a pivotal role in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rejuvenation of Manchester United. The club sit second in the table, are in the latter stages of the Europa League and Mourinho is out of work. How interesting.
Did you know? Only Bruno Fernandes (87) has created more chances in the Premier League this season for Manchester United than Luke Shaw (61).
Midfielders: Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton), Phil Foden (Man City)
Youri Tielemans: He played his 100th game for Leicester in the FA Cup semi-final victory over Southampton on Sunday and was instrumental in Leicester’s demolition of West Brom four days later. Youri Tielemans is proving to be a crucial player for Brendan Rodgers. The Belgium international is as important to Leicester as N’golo Kante was during their title-winning season. Tielemens may not be as pleasing on the eye as James Maddison, for example, but he can see the pass and often provides the continuity between defence and attack for the Foxes. Leicester now sit four points clear of Chelsea and West Ham and look good for a Champions League spot, and have an FA Cup final to look forward to. Quite what’s happened to West Brom I just don’t know.
Did you know? Tielemans made exactly 100 passes – 89 successful – in the win over West Brom. The Baggies, on the other hand, only played 250 in total.
Gylfi Sigurdsson: The match wasn’t a classic but the finishing was. Two outstanding finishes from Gylfi Sigurdsson and the same from Harry Kane really made the game worth watching. Sigurdsson has made my TOTW on an number of occasions and has arguably been Everton’s player of the season. I certainly can’t remember when I’ve seen him play better. He was impressive at Swansea, where he made his name, struggled at Spurs but really matured under Carlo Ancelotti. He strikes a beautiful ball and was a thorn in Tottenham’s side all evening. Sigurdsson’s has really found himself at Everton.
Did you know? Sigurdsson was the third player to score a Premier League brace against Spurs after having played for them in the competition, after Darren Bent (April 2010, Sunderland) and Matthew Etherington (December 2011, Stoke).
Phil Foden: It was a crazy game at Villa Park. Two red cards and both deserved. First, John Stones for a tackle he was never going to make that, once again, raises questions about the centre-back’s judgement. As for Matty Cash, his was a stupid dismissal for a second bookable offence that could have been so easily avoided. Meanwhile Ilkay Gundogan nearly joined both of them for putting his hands on the referee. I know it’s been a difficult week but have these players gone doolally? Fortunately there was one bright spark amid the madness, and that was Phil Foden. His goal was lovely and he his rapidly developing into a fine player.
Did you know? No player has scored more goals in all competitions before turning 21 for Pep Guardiola than Manchester City’s Phil Foden (29 – level with Bojan).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Mason Greenwood (Man Utd), Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
Harry Kane: When Harry Kane was scoring goals at Everton he couldn’t possibly have foreseen that it would have been Jose Mourinho’s last game in charge and that his former team-mate Ryan Mason would be installed as caretaker manager for the following fixture. Such is football. Both Kane’s goals at Goodison Park rescued a valuable point for Spurs but they came at a price. The injury sustained against Everton has put a question mark over Kane’s fitness and threatens his chances of facing Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final. A win against City will make up for the most awful week for chairman Daniel Levy. To lose a cup final, after sacking your manager on the day you announce you are entering a catastrophic European Super League, just couldn’t get much worse.
Did you know? Harry Kane’s 31 goals in all competitions is at least three more than any other player for Premier League clubs in 2020-21.
Mason Greenwood: All credit to Manchester United’s academy, they keep developing their homegrown talent. Mason Greenwood’s two goals against Burnley had the hallmarks of a top-class finisher who, if he can keep it all together, will save the club millions of pounds in the transfer market and in time win them trophies. Greenwood is leading the United line at 19 years of age and has the ability and stature to carry it off. There is no telling where this lad could end up.
Did you know? Mason Greenwood has moved level with Wayne Rooney for the most goals scored by a Manchester United teenager in the Premier League (15).
Gareth Bale: I was surprised Daniel Levy installed Ryan Mason as Tottenham’s caretaker manager before fellow academy coach Chris Powell – Gareth Southgate’s England assistant – or first-team coach Ledley King, both of whom have considerably more experience. Meanwhile, it took a spark of magic from Gareth Bale to set Spurs on their way to an important victory against Southampton. Should Tottenham beat Manchester City in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final they will have sacked Jose Mourinho, the very man they brought in to win them a trophy, just days before the fixture. You couldn’t make it up.
Did you know? Gareth Bale has had a direct hand in 11 goals in his last 11 starts in all competitions for Tottenham (9 goals, 2 assists), while he’s scored in each of his three Premier League games against former club Southampton.
The Crooks of the Matter
It took just 48 hours for this coup d’état to fall apart, and like all hostile takeovers there will be casualties. Twelve owners of some of the biggest clubs in the world, six of them from the Premier League, proceeded to detonate a nuclear device. They decided among themselves that they would create a European Super League, but they were the only ones worthy of playing in it, with a few exceptions of course.
Did the pandemic scramble their brains as well as fleece their pockets? As feasible and as clever as the idea might have been, it failed to take into account one very important element – the fans. Who starts a business without consulting its customers in order to understand what they want and if they are actually interested in buying the latest product? The reaction from disgruntled fans announcing their displeasure was immediate as it was overwhelming.
Money has always been the driver of the game and greed its petrol, but the professional game is nothing without fans. What’s more, they are not for sale so cannot be bought. That’s why this concept never stood a chance.
Result: Fans 1-0 Greed (own goal).
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