The English Premier League returned on Wednesday June 17th to complete the season that was on pause for nearly three months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. After seeing Sheffield United play to a 0-0 draw with Aston Villa and Manchester City tear apart a short handed Arsenal side, all eyes were on the weekend where the rest of the league got back to action.
Manchester United v. Tottenham Hotspur
The first of the big games came between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in a clash where former United boss Jose Mourinho took on his old team for the second time since his firing in December of 2018. United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to keep Paul Pogba, who was returning from a knee injury, on the bench for the start of the game.
United dominated the first 25 minutes, but it was Spurs who got on the board first with a Steven Bergwijn counter attacking goal. Mourinho set his side up to defend and counter as expected. United struggled to break down the organized Spurs side. In the second half, Solskjaer threw the kitchen sink at Mourinho’s Spurs bringing on Pogba and other attacking substitutions to reinforce Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial. All signs pointed to United finding the equalizer, which they finally did in the 81st minute when Paul Pogba earned his team a penalty. Fernandes converted the penalty and that’s how the game finished.
It was a fair result as both teams where trying to get back into rhythm. United, even though they dominated the game, dropped two costly points as they try to chase Chelsea for the 4th position in the table.
Kicking things off at Vicarage Road, Watford rescued a point to help keep them outside the relegation zone. The game was played to a scoreless 0-0 draw until Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell ripped one of the goals-of-the-year off his left leg in the 90th minute. With just a minute to go Watford answered with another goal-of-the-year candidate, when center back Craig Dawson hammered home a bicycle kick from a loose ball off a corner kick. It tied the game at one a piece. Leicester sits comfortably in third place and would really need to choke to fall out of the top 4.
It was a key point in the standings for Watford, which broke its tie with Bournemouth and West Ham for the final relegation spot. They are safe, for now.
Arsenal v. Brighton
Arsenal, after being dismantled by Manchester City, was eager to get back on track against a Brighton side that was just hoping to avoid falling into relegation territory. Arsenal took the lead in the 68th minute on a Nicholas Pepe goal, but Brighton provided late fireworks with a 75th minute goal by Lewis Dunk and a Neal Maupay 95th minute goal to secure the home win and a very valuable three points.
Brighton now sit 5-points clear of the relegation zone with the rest of the teams below them failing to pick up a win, meanwhile Arsenal now looks closer to the bottom 10 in the league. Newly appointed manager Mikel Arteta has his work cut out for him down the stretch to get the Gunners into 7th place or better. They’re 4-points back of that spot.
Wolves v. West Ham
Wolverhampton Wanderers picked up a 2-0 win over relegation likely West Ham United. The win moved Wolves into a tie for 5th with Manchester United, while European qualification hopefuls, Crystal Palace, defeated relegation likely Bournemouth 2-0. Palace moved just two points off European qualification.
Merseyside Derby: Chelsea v. Aston Villa
Sunday was all about the Merseyside Derby, despite Chelsea taking on Aston Villa. Chelsea dominated from start to finish, as Frank Lampard’s boys looked very sharp from the opening whistle. Football can be tricky though, Villa scored the opening goal late in the 1st half, taking a 1-0 lead into the break. Chelsea wasn’t phased. American substitute Christian Pulisic tied things up for Chelsea at 1-1 in the second half before providing the assist to Oliver Giroud for the eventual winner. Result: a huge, come-from-behind three points for Chelsea, which grows its table lead over United and Wolves to 5-points.
Merseyside Derby: Everton v. Liverpool
Unfortunately, that was the more exciting game, as the Merseyside Derby did not live up to the hype in this weekend’s close out. Everton packed it in with the defend. They had the two best chances of the game despite having less than 35 percent of the ball.
Liverpool started a team without Mo Salah, who never got into the game, and while they dominated possession, they never looked like the Liverpool we’ve grown accustomed to this year. The 0-0 final score means Liverpool will have to wait at least two more games before being crowned champions.
The league is back in action on Tuesday with Matchday 31, and there will be Premier League games almost everyday between now and late July. The summer of soccer is upon us!