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Thursday, September 16, 2021

EPL Match Day 5: One-horse race already? Liverpool on a roll, City see blues

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One horse slips…

They are human after all.

Yes, the champions of England can be beaten.

That honor fell to lowly Norwich City, the 2018/19 champions of the second-tier English football competition, the Championship, the route through which Norwich earned promotion to the English Premier League (EPL)

Final score in the late kick-off game on Saturday at Carrow Road: Norwich City 3 – 2 Man City.

Yes, it took Norwich City to apply the brakes on the juggernaut, the behemoth, the seemingly immovable object that is Manchester City – who by winning the last two EPL titles, had amassed an unprecedented total of 198 points in the process!

What a shocker, coming right after the season’s first international break, partly aided by a piece of calamitous defending from City defender Nicolas Otamendi who appears to have borrowed a leaf from Arsenal’s defensive strategy rule book (more on that later)

By the way City now have only one recognizable defender in, well, the same Nicolas Otamendi.

On Tuesday, City announced that John Stones will be out for upwards of 6 weeks following an injury sustained in Ukraine while training ahead of their Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk.

The champions had already lost first-choice center-half Aymeric Laporte to injury- he will be out of action until, at least, February 2020, while talismanic captain Vincent Kompany departed for Belgium in the immediate aftermath of City’s victorious 2018/19 campaign, with no replacement being sought.

This, coming at a time when 8 of the last 12 goals City have conceded in the EPL have come through set-pieces, 4 of them from corners, including Norwich City’s first; – time for other teams to have a go at the champions?

The other horse pulls 5 steps ahead…

By the time the Norwich – City game was kicking off on Saturday, runaway leaders Liverpool had opened a five-point gap at the top of the log, after brushing aside Newcastle 3-1 in the very first Match Day 5 game following the international break, to make it 5 wins in 5.

This makes Liverpool only the 4th team to win 14 top-flight fixtures in a row, equal with Arsenal who also went 14 without defeat in 2002 and only one behind City’s run of 15 in a row this year (which was ended by Tottenham at the Etihad) and 4 behind the 18 consecutive wins achieved by the champions in 2017. 

Can Liverpool go all the way…unbeaten?

Could they?

Chelsea, Tottenham on fire, Man U lucky, Arsenal pegged back

Elsewhere, Chelsea scored 5, yes, 5 goals to see off winless Wolves 5-2 at the Molineux, while at the new Tottenham Stadium Spurs got 4 unanswered goals against Crystal Place.

For Chelsea, it appears new manager Frank Lampard’s faith in youth is paying off. All 11 of their Premier League goals so far this season have been scored by English academy players who the club had sent out on loan in the Championship last season; – Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori getting on the scoresheet against Wolves.

Manchester Unit labored to 1-nil victory against Leicester at Old Trafford with Marcus Rashford netting the only goal of the game from the penalty spot.

Separately, Arsenal threw away a 2-goal half-time lead to draw 2-2 at bottom of the table Watford, thanks to what has become customary; – two schoolboy defensive mistakes costing them victory.

Aston Villa’s ‘own goal’

Match Day 5 ended with a drab Monday Night 0-0 draw between newly-promoted Aston Villa and top six – chasing West Ham United.

The only incident of note in the match happened in the first half when Villa defender Tyrone Mings’ attempt to tongue-lash team-mate Anwar El Ghazi for not tracking back, resulted in an apparent headbutt between the pair: – leaving the referee and VAR with a tough decision to make – should the two have been sent off?

Well, the match officials didn’t see any bloodied noses in the aftermath of the incident, so, let’s just say, it’s all right!

Full results

Liverpool 3 – 1 Newcastle, Sheffield Utd. 0 – 1 Southampton, Man Utd. 1 – 0 Leicester, Brighton 1 – 1 Burnley, Wolves 2 – 5 Chelsea, Tottenham 4 – 0 Crystal Palace, Norwich 3 – 2 Man City, Bournemouth 3 – 1 Everton, Watford 2 – 2 Arsenal, Aston Villa 0 – 0 West Ham

Golden boot race

Sergio Aguero (7 goals, I assist), Tammy Abraham (7 goals, O assists), Teemu Pukki (6 goals, 2 assists), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (5 goals, O assists), Raheem Sterling (5 goals, O assists), Mohamed Salah (4 goals, 2 assists), Sadio Mane (4 goals, I assist), Ashley Barnes (Norwich, 4 goals, 0 assists)

Adios Javi Garcia….

As widely expected, Javi Garcia became the first EPL manager to be shown the door after seeing Watford go 4 matches without a win. He was replaced by former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores, whose first act was to mastermind a come-from-behind 2-all draw against Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Wolves, who by all standards had a stand-out 2018/19 season upon promotion, remain winless after 5 games; – should Nuno Espirito Santo, the charismatic Wolves boss – the only ‘black’ EPL Manager, be worried?

EPL Table after 5 matches (points)                                                                  

  1. Liverpool (15), 2. Man City (10), 3. Tottenham (8), 4. Man Utd. (8), 5. Leicester (8), 6. Chelsea (8), 7. Arsenal (8), 8. West Ham (8), 9. Bournemouth (7), 10. Southampton (7), 11. Everton (7), 12. Crystal Palace (7), 13. Norwich (6), 14. Burnley (5), 15. Sheffield Utd. (5), 16. Brighton (5), 17. Aston Villa (4), 18. Newcastle (4), 19. Wolves (3), 20. Watford (2)

EPL Match Day 6 fixtures (Kick off time)

Southampton v Bournemouth (Fri. 10pm), Leicester v Tottenham (Sat 2.30pm), Burnley v Norwich (Sat 5pm), Everton v Sheffield Utd. (Sat 5pm), Man City v Watford (Sat 5pm), Newcastle v Brighton (Sat 7.30pm), Crystal Palace v Wolves (Sun 4pm), West Ham v Man Utd. (Sun 4pm), Arsenal v Aston Villa (Sun 6.30pm), Chelsea v Liverpool (6.30pm)

2019/20 UEFA Champions league kicks off

By the way, the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League season kicked off Tuesday, with some interesting match-ups including Dortmund 0 – 0 Barcelona, Napoli 2 –  0 Liverpool, Atletico Madrid v Juventus (Wed., 10pm) and PSG v Real Madrid (Wed., 10pm)

Unfortunately for Arsenal and Manchester United fans – well, Thursday night football is not such a bad idea after all!

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