Still no joy on the football tipping front so far this season and even though I came very close to a clean sweep yesterday, good fortune was not on my side. Bolton landed the first leg of the double with a 2-2 draw at Preston, but Sunderland through away a great chance of dominating and winning at home against lowly Oxford, but some dreadful defending early on, which lead to Oxfords opener, and having a man sent off in the first half effectively ruined their chance of picking up a valuable three points.
They did recover and equalize, had good chances to win it but this is still a team and club in crisis and lacking confidence and if things don’t improve soon it’s more than likely they will be playing League One football again next season. QPR were the better side against Birmingham at St Andrews but they could not convert any of their guilt edge chances, which allowed struggling Birmingham to escape with a 0-0 draw. Derby was the only winner after they impressed beating Hull 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium.
There was plenty of exciting action, controversy and drama in the Premier League at the weekend. Liverpool and Chelsea continued their 100% winning starts to the season beating Leicester 2-1 and Bournemouth 2-0 respectively, and Liverpool stay top on goal difference level with Chelsea. Manchester City dominated possession against second from bottom Newcastle, but had to work hard for their 2-1 win, and it’s fair to say City still have some way to go before they reach the same level and heights as last season.
There were big wins for Wolves against a woeful and bottom of the league West Ham at the London Stadium and Southampton against Crystal Palace, who were missing star man Zaha, at Selhurst Park. Wolves winning goal came at the death in injury time, while Southampton proved how valuable it is to take your goal scoring chances at this level with new signing and striker Ings opening the scoring in the first half and their second came in injury time. Everton were missing key forwards for their home clash against Huddersfield and this probably cost them three points in the end, as while they dominated possession and had plenty of chances to win the game, they could not find a way past a stubborn Terriers back line who held on for a 1-1 draw.
The game of the day from an entertainment perspective was between Brighton and Fulham at the Amex Stadium. Brighton were awarded two penalties, one in each half, and nominated penalty taker German Gross took the first, which was saved, and the Seagulls were punished for this when Fulham deservedly took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Fulham grew in confidence in the second half as Brighton fought to find an equalizer and this confidence told when striker Mitrovic slotted home from close range. This should have been game, set and match for Fulham with less than half an hour remaining, but Brighton proved last season they were very difficult to beat at home and striker Murray was the hero on this occasion, reducing the deficit to 2-1 five minutes after going 2-0 down and winning and scoring the second penalty with only a few minutes of normal time remaining.
On Sunday the performance of the day went to Watford who maintained their 100% winning start beating Spurs 2-1 at Vicarage Road. Cardiff were not far behind giving Arsenal a real scare at the City Stadium, they equalized twice after the Gunners twice took the lead, but the Gunners always had the edge up front and this was the difference in the end with Aubameyang scoring the opener and Lacazette netted a late winner.
The win moved Arsenal up to ninth, Cardiff are fifth from bottom and they are likely to be in a similar position come the end of the season as the pressure of not winning will continue to grind the players down and I can see them taking some real beatings later in the season. Manchester United’s manager Jose Mourinho answered his critics by winning their high pressure visit to an out of sports Burnley 0-2.
Lukaku was the hero for United, netting a first half brace, Pogba missed a second half penalty and second half sub Rashford was sent off ten minutes after coming on, which was probably bore out of frustration and a bit of an inflated ego, as I think he believes he should be a first team starter by now.
Before moving on the EFL Championship I just wanted to air a gripe I’m starting to pick up about penalty takers. I personally don’t understand why managers keep changing their penalty takers and don’t just stick with their main strikers as the first choice as there the most natural and confident goal scorers and I think some of the best examples of this was Alan Shearer and now to a similar extent Harry Kane. Shearer was lethal from the spot as he kept it very simple hitting the ball as hard has he could in to the right or left hand top corners, which gave the keeper little chance of reaching it in time, even if they guessed the direction correctly.
If Murray had taken and scored the first penalty like he did the second for Brighton, it probably would have changed the outcome of the match completely as Brighton were on top at this stage and when they score first at home they win more games than they draw or lose. The same can be said for Mourinho at United who seems to leave penalty taking decisions to the players to decide themselves on the pitch. I can’t understand why Pogba took the penalty for United when striker Lukaku was still on the pitch and on a hat-trick!
In the EFL Championship Middlesbrough are still leading on goal difference after there 0-0 draw at second place Leeds on Friday night. On Saturday there were big wins for Sheffield Utd, who produced a scintillating performance thrashing Aston Villa 4-1 at Brammal Lane, which was their fourth win in a row and moved them up to third on goal difference ahead of Derby, who also won as mentioned above.
Brentford are in fifth place on goal difference after they produced a gritty, hard fought 2-1 win against promotion challengers Nottingham Forest at Griffin Park. On Sunday Bristol City turned on the style and moved up to sixth, the final play-off spot, after they came from a goal down to thrash Blackburn 4-1 at Ashton Gate. Swansea and Bolton are both level on points with Brentford and Bristol City and Swansea were fortunate but impressive beating Millwall 2-1 at the Den after having a man sent off after five minutes and then going 1-0 down
West Brom kept in touch of the play-off places after beating Stoke 2-1 at the Hawthorns, and they had on-loan Newcastle Utd striker Gayle to thank for the three points, as the fox in the box netted a brace with a goal in each half. Wigan also kept in touching distance of the top-six thanks to a hard fought 1-0 win against Rotherham at the DW Stadium. At the other end of the table winless Reading were beaten 2-1 at home by Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and they prop up the table a point behind second bottom Ipswich, who could only manage a 1-1 draw against Norwich at home yesterday. QPR are third from bottom a point ahead of Ipswich after their 0-0 draw at Birmingham and they are level on points with fellow strugglers Hull and Birmingham, who are fourth and fifth from bottom respectively.
Just a reminder there is no domestic football action next weekend and the week after for the International break, which will witness the introduction of the inaugural Europa Nations League, which will be the new qualification system for Euro 2020. The format of the UEFA Nations League features promotion and relegation. The 55 European national teams have been divided into four leagues in accordance with UEFA's rankings and League A includes the top-ranked sides like France, Belgium, Croatia and England and League D includes the lowestranked sides like Luxembourg and San Marino.