By Nathan Shields, Manchester United writer
Poor defending and a lack of ideas in a confused display put an end to United’s 29 game unbeaten away run in the Premier League with a 4-2 loss to Leicester City on Saturday.
The hosts started off as by far the more dangerous side.
Foxes forward Kelechi Iheanacho left Paul Pogba and Harry Maguire to eat his dust six minutes in, and after some interchanging passes between James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, the returning reds skipper managed to recover.
However, against the run of play, an absolute screamer from Mason Greenwood put the visitors a goal to the good.
After some meandering exchanging of passes with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bruno Fernandes out on the right flank, Greenwood made a chance out of nothing, cutting in onto his left foot and launching a rocket into the top corner - ending his goalless run at six games.
Leicester wasted no time pushing for a leveller, with Ricardo Pereira’s searching cross narrowly avoiding the far corner and whistling inches wide of the post.
In the 31st minute, their efforts were rewarded, with a huge assist coming from the reds’ shaky and unconvincing attempt to play it out from the back.
Maguire eventually succumbed to the relentless Leicester press and found himself caught in possession by Iheanacho.
Iheanacho then found Tielemans at the edge of the box, who looped a shot past a stranded De Gea to make it 1-1 at the King Power Stadium.
Victor Lindelof found himself in referee Craig Pawson’s book in the 52nd minute, but the Sweden captain in the wall blocked the following free-kick from James Maddison.
Nemanja Matic then almost bettered Greenwood’s stunner when United’s number 31 produced a sweetly struck shot on the half-volley, which dipped just over the bar.
In the 65th minute, another returning red came into the fray as Marcus Rashford replaced Sancho.
Shortly after, David De Gea made a terrific save to deny Tielemans a brace, tipping a thunderous effort onto the post and wide.
His heroics would soon mean nothing as the home side went ahead. Caglar Coyuncu tapped in following United’s failure to clear a corner.
De Gea again did his best to keep the ball out of the net, but his defenders’ inability to clear the danger resulted in a pinball that saw the ball find its way to the Leicester centre-half.
Solkjaer didn’t waste time changing things after going a goal down, with Scott McTominay and Jesse Lingard came on to replace Matic and Greenwood.
Within minutes, the score was level when Rashford raced onto the end of a fine over the top through ball from Lindelof and thumped home.
Sixteen seconds from kick-off and the home side found the net again. Ayoze Perez darted forwards, finding an unmarked Jamie Vardy who met the pass with a tidy half-volleyed strike. In the first minute of injury time came the final nail in the coffin, Maguire failed the track substitute Patson Daka, who smuggled home at the far post, following a corner.
Ole will be looking to utilise his squad for United’s next game – a home Champions League tie against Italian side Atalanta, with an eye on his side’s next Premier League fixture, a massive game against rivals Liverpool.
With everybody seemingly coming away from the King Power Stadium without picking up any injuries, Solksjaer faces no new selection conundrums.
However, he will want to freshen up ideas as well as legs to improve his side’s fortunes after a string of lacklustre performances.
By Archie Burkinshaw, Tottenham Hotspur writer
I knew the atmosphere was going to be electric but it still exceeded my expectations, just watching it on the TV made it feel like I was at the stadium. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Magpies came flying out of the block from kick-off, taking the lead inside two minutes thanks to a well worked move culminating in a Callum Wilson header.
For the first 15 minutes, Newcastle played at a ridiculous intensity, which completely overwhelmed Spurs, thankfully the score was kept at only 1-0. After the initial exchanges Tottenham vitally realised Newcastle couldn’t defend, so instead of trying to play through the middle Spurs mixed it up and played the long ball to test Newcastle’s back line.
At the first time of asking it worked, Sergio Reguilón's beautiful first touch allowed the Spaniard to play the ball to Tanguy Ndombele on the edge of the area who then curled a beauty into the top corner. This derailed the Newcastle players who could feel the mood shift in the stadium. The mood was not going to improve as Tottenham were not done there and two well worked moves later Kane and Son had put Tottenham 3-1 up at half time.
The contest was done at that point, the second-half proved to be an incredibly one sided affair. Tottenham should have scored more, especially as substitute Jonjo Shelvey was sent off with ten minutes left to play. Instead Tottenham actually lost the second-half 1-0 due to a comical Eric Dier own goal two minutes from time, meaning Tottenham ran out 3-2 winners.
Tottenham handled the occasion tremendously given the circumstances and beat a poor side that showed bags of spirit. Nuno appears to have found his team following back to back victories fielding the same starting XI in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Skipp and Højbjerg give a brilliant balance to the side, allowing Ndombele, who was the best player on the pitch, to play higher up the field and create problems. Kane was back to his best, leading the line instead of playing as an attacking midfielder and he took his goal superbly, calmly lifting the ball over the onrushing Dúbravka to get his Premier League goal tally up and running.
Tottenham’s front four of Ndombele, Lucas, Son and Kane linked up beautifully, optimised by Spurs' third goal which had all of them involved, cutting Newcastle open allowing Son to score an easy tap-in. I think we will cause most teams problems going forward. It is our backline which concerns me. Conceding two goals in a game we completely dominated is a worrying sign.
Special mention needs to be given to Sergio Reguilón who pleaded with the referee to stop the game after he saw a Newcastle fan collapse in the stands, Eric Dier also responded brilliantly by running over to the bench to ensure a defibrillator was taken immediately over to stand where it was needed. Thankfully, an update was given after the game had finished stating the fan who had gone into cardiac arrest was in a stable condition in hospital.
The games keep coming thick and fast for Tottenham who travel to Holland mid-week to face SBV Vitesse in the Europa Conference League before then making the short trip to play in-form West Ham on Sunday.
By Owain Wyse, Sheffield United writer
Goals from Substitutes Lys Mousset and David McGoldrick inside the last ten minutes turned the game on its head after Jacob Brown’s 55th minute opener.
The Blades made one enforced change with Jaydon Bogle replacing the injured George Baldock at right back, opponents Stoke also made one change, West Brom loanee Romaine Sawyers replacing Jordan Thompson in the heart of the midfield.
In an exciting game both sides showed their obvious qualities, as they pushed each other every step of the way in a tight battle to gain one over fellow promotion rivals. From a United point of view there were many positives within the performance, good spells of possession football and innovative flicks and movement around the oppositions area provided good chances for a goal. Defensively they also looked solid, mainly restricting their high-flying opponents to shots from long range and set pieces for their best efforts on goal.
Despite the good United performance in the first half, they couldn’t find a way through Adam Davies, who made multiple good saves throughout the half, a header from Billy Sharp being the best of the lot. Stoke also had their chances, two falling to the goal scorer Jacob Brown. First his looping header was cleared off the line by Billy Sharp then, his powerful drive from outside the area was well beaten away by Swedish stopper Robin Olsen.
In the second half the first chance fell to Enda Stevens, but he could only fire his left footed shot wide of his far post. Shortly after Stoke opened the scoring, Brown turning away from three United defenders and shooting right footed into the near bottom corner. He earned himself a booking for his celebration in the process.
Slavisa Jokanovic then turned to his bench first Mousset, then Hourihane and finally David McGoldrick. Just three minutes after coming onto the field McGoldrick was involved, first his one two with Billy Sharp got him in behind then he showed the necessary intelligence to look across the line and find the square ball to Lys Mousset who powered his finish home into the top corner.
Just a few minutes after their first United completed the turnaround. Connor Hourihane slipped the ball into the path of the advancing Enda Stevens, who fired his first time cross low and hard into the area. David McGoldrick continued his run onto the loose ball and directed his finish into the bottom right corner.
With that win United move up to 13th 5 points behind Huddersfield, who occupy the final play off spot. Opponents Stoke drop down to 5th 2 points clear of 7th placed Reading.
By Louis Pantziarka, Chelsea writer
Chelsea held on for a well fought 1-0 victory over Brentford at the Community Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with Ben Chilwell netting the only goal of the game.
The Blues were forced to put together a makeshift defence, with Toni Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Reece James deemed not fit enough to face the Bees. Nathaniel Chalobah and Andreas Christensen were joined by Malang Sarr making his Premier League debut, while in midfield Ruben Loftus-Cheek made a second consecutive start and N’Golo Kante was back in - Mason Mount and Jorginho started on the bench.
Thomas Tuchel had warned that this would be a difficult game for Chelsea, but his side succeeded in dampening the crowd with a comfortable start to the game. Loftus-Cheek once again started in the deepest midfield role and was instrumental in the opening minutes. He looked comfortable in and out of possession – pressing Brentford’s midfield, driving forward impressively and keeping the ball with consummate ease.
Chelsea hit the back of the net about after 20 minutes – counter attacking well after Bryan Mbeumo hit the post for Brentford, only for Romelu Lukaku to be deemed offside as Timo Werner put the ball on a plate for him. Werner looked the most likely to make something happen and he nearly put the away side ahead after some more good link-up play between him and Lukaku.
Just as it was looking like the first half would peter out, Chilwell popped up with the all-important goal. Cesar Azpilicueta floated a cross into the area and as it was cleared to the edge of the box, Chilwell caught the ball flush on the half-volley. It was such a sweet hit that David Raya didn’t stand a chance and was the left back’s third goal in three games for club and country.
Chelsea started the second half in a similar vein to how they started the first – keeping the ball, but rarely looking like creating big chances. That allowed Brentford to grow into the game, as their pressing game kicked into gear and the home crowd got behind them. By the time the seventy minute mark came around, the pressure really began to tell and the Edouard Mendy show could begin.
With an inexperienced back line, Chelsea were always going to rely on Mendy at some point and boy did he deliver. The Senegalese international made four vital saves, including an acrobatic tip over the bar from an overhead kick and a point-blank stop with his face.
Chalobah was forced to clear off the line, as along with Christensen and Sarr the away side fought off wave after wave of Brentford attack. With minutes remaining the Blues managed to take the sting out of the game, interrupting the home side’s flow with injury stoppages. In the end the final whistle was a welcome relief, as Tuchel summed up speaking to the BBC after the game:
"We were very strong for 70 minutes and very lucky for 20 minutes, to sum it up. We escaped with the three points thanks to Edouard (Mendy). It was like a cup game at the end; they took risks and the atmosphere gave them a lot of courage."
This wasn’t a classic Chelsea performance by any means, but it was one of those results that champions grind out. They didn’t play badly, but they also never hit top gear. Mendy deserved his man of the match award and the Blues fought hard for the three points. They’ll now hope to build some momentum as they welcome underdogs Malmo to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
By Charlotte Atherton, Wigan Athletic writer
Bragging rights belong to Wigan Athletic after a showstopping performance in their local derby match against Bolton Wanderers.
Latics got off to a flying start when Will Keane opened the scoring just six minutes into the game at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Goals from James McClean and Callum Lang in the second half, wrapped up all three points for Wigan and secured a sweet victory over their local rivals.
Right from the kick off Latics came out firing on Saturday afternoon and it was not long before they took the lead thanks to Will Keane.
Charlie Wyke managed to bring the ball down on the edge of the area which allowed McClean to square it to Keane, who found himself unmarked in the centre of the box to slot home his fifth goal in six games on his 50th appearance for the club.
Both Lang and McClean had chances to double Wigan’s lead shortly after when the pair tried their luck from the edge of the area, but their efforts landed straight into the gloves of Joel Dixon in the Bolton net.
The Wigan defenders were called into action late on in the first half, a brilliant stop from Jack Whatmough prevented Dapo Afolayan from finding the equaliser for the home side.
On the stroke of half time, Wigan should have doubled their lead when Jordan Cousins picked up a loose ball in middle of the field and found Lang charging towards goal, but his effort from the right side of the area glanced just wide of the target.
It was Bolton who started the second half the brighter of the two sides and they came close to bringing the game level, when a powerful strike from Antoni Sarcevic beat Ben Amos between the sticks for Wigan but bounced off the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
From this moment, there was only every going to be one winner and that would be Wigan Athletic.
McClean doubled the lead for the travelling side in unbelievable fashion, his shot from distance was fired straight into the top corner of the Bolton net, sending the 4000 travelling Latics supporters crazy.
Lang made it three for Wigan in the 65th minute, when he was able to squeeze the ball between Dixon and the near post for his first league goal in a local derby in front of the buzzing away end.
Following the third goal there was a short stoppage in play as tempers began to flare in a heated derby, both clubs are investigating.
McClean capped off a memorable afternoon for Latics when he added the fourth of the game, he got on the end of Lang’s through ball across the box to wrap up a deserved derby day victory for Wigan.
By Lauren Whitehead, Huddersfield Town writer
Huddersfield Town move into the top six after a 2-0 win over Hull City yesterday afternoon.
The Terriers took the lead after just nine minutes when Tom Lees managed to latch onto an unfortunate block by Hull goalkeeper Matt Ingram.
The result was then secured in the 73rd minute as Duane Holmes ran the ball around the edge of the box and drilled it home.
It was a tense atmosphere from the first whistle as Town’s Levi Colwill picked up a yellow card within the first minute of play.
However, it was the hosts who pressed early with chances from both Sorba Thomas and Danel Sinani after just seven minutes.
Sinani's delivery from the corner flag as a result gave Lees the opportunity to tap the ball past the Hull defence and put the home side on the scoreboard.
Despite a chaotic start to the game, the Tigers did catch a glimpse of a goal when Andy Cannon’s shot was tipped over the bar by Lee Nicholls in the 20th minute.
A second came shortly after as Nicholls made a vital save to deny Keane Lewis-Potter’s free kick which was very much on course for the equaliser.
The visitors came into the game towards the end of the first half and with that, also found the second yellow for Richard Smallwood’s foul on Sinani.
A clash of heads saw Lewis O’Brien and Jacob Greaves receive treatment in the 34th minute, but thankfully both were able to continue.
A 42nd minute shot by Sinani almost gave the Luxembourg international his first Huddersfield goal but it was tipped over the bar by Ingram.
George Honeyman received the third yellow card of the game after recently returning from injury for a foul on Jonathan Hogg, who was also making his return.
The following free kick saw Duane Holmes' shot go just wide on the stroke of half time.
Both sides returned unchanged for an aggressive and frustrating second half.
Within the first 15 minutes back on the pitch, there was a call for a penalty by the hosts as Danny Ward was fouled in the box, as well as an unnecessary and unexplained challenge on O'Brien by Malik Wilks.
Hull had varying chances at the start of the half as it was Lees who kept out a shot by Lewis-Potter with Nicholls off his line.
A 64th minute substitution saw Scott High replace Sinani, followed by Ollie Turton replacing an injured Matty Pearson just seven minutes later.
A corner ball by Thomas in the 72nd minute was not met by a blue and white shirt, however Holmes latched onto the end of it, ran it around the edge of the box and hammered it past Ingram to secure Town’s lead.
Naby Sarr replaced Thomas shortly after, with the defender making a crucial save after just three minutes on the pitch.
The closing moments saw several attempts for both sides, but did not prove any real chances.
However, a dominating Huddersfield side had already sealed their fate and ran away with all three points.
By Ben Brown, Leeds United writer
Armando Broja commemorated his first Southampton start with his first goal as his second half strike was enough to see the Saints ease past an off-the-pace Leeds United. Broja added a calm finish to the end of a swift Southampton break after the visitors had started the second half on the front foot, collecting Nathan Redmond’s cutback before firing high into the net over the despairing Illan Meslier.
In truth the hosts should have been far out of sight before the eventual winner, completely dominating a first half where Leeds simply could not cope with their pressing intensity. A clinical nature was the only thing missing from their first half performance, their closest efforts coming from near post flick-ons from set pieces from the impressive Broja, the clearest opportunity coming when Mohammed Elyonoussi inexplicably failed to connect properly when left completely free a couple of yards away from the goal line.
Leeds meanwhile, missing six senior players, switched to a back three to sacrifice a man in midfield which left the hosts with complete freedom to run at the back line as soon as the midfield press was bypassed, which they did time and time again to run the visitors ragged and leave them incredibly fortunate to be level at half time. A slight improvement at the start of the second was immediately snuffled by Broja’s opener and the closest they came to an equaliser resulted from a Southampton mistake, where Dan James couldn’t quite capitalise on a misjudgement of a long ball by Mohammed Salisu as his poke past Alex McCarthy dribbled past the far post. Jack Harrison’s neat footwork and eventual drive blocked by Salisu was their only other notable opportunity as the dire visitors failed to register a shot on target, completely lacking the intensity and slick interplay which we have become accustomed to seeing from them under Marcelo Bielsa. Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips could only watch on in anguish from the side-line as their absences impact on their sides performance was clear for all to see.
Their first league win of the season means that Southampton leapfrog their opponents up to 15th in the table, whilst Leeds remain looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone, 3 points and a position ahead of a yet to play Newcastle United in 18th place. The Saints will look to build on the result when they host a currently winless Burnley in a week’s time at St Mary’s, whilst Leeds’ predicament doesn’t get any easier when they welcome a Wolves side to Elland Road buoyed by their sensational comeback victory against Aston Villa.
By Jude Hall, Sheffield Wednesday writer
Darren Moore’s side were left frustrated after they surrendered a two goal lead to take a point away at Wimbledon.
The Owls made a fine start when Lee Gregory’s curling effort from the edge of the box found the back of the net 13 minutes in.
After a comfortable first half, Wednesday were given the chance of a second after the break when Paul Kalambayi was adjudged to have pushed Lewis Wing in the penalty area.
Taking over from Barry Bannan on spot kicks, Lee Gregory coolly dispatched his penalty sending the keeper the wrong way and giving the away side a two goal cushion with just half an hour left.
And Wednesday should have been beyond doubt just moments later when Bannan played Fisayo Dele-Bashiru through on goal down the right but the midfielder’s touch let him down and The Dons defence were able to mop up the danger.
Minutes after Wednesday’s chance to seal the points, the hosts made a game of it. Substitute Aaron Pressley was left free in the middle seeing his strike saved by Wildsmith but Nesta Guinness-Walker hammered home the rebound.
Darren Moore’s men had the chance to get their two goal lead back when Lee Gregory laid it off for Saido Berahino who’s powerful shot 12-yards-out was blocked by Nikola Tzanev before Wing’s cross found Gregory who also saw his attempt saved brilliantly by the AFC Wimbledon keeper.
The Owls were made to pay with just five minutes remaining when the inevitable happened as Luke McCormick was gifted far too much time and space to pick out a cross for Jack Rudoni who was unmarked and headed beyond Wildsmith from point-blank range.
An unhappy Wednesday boss said: “We threw two points away, we should have won the game. End of. In terms of the performance I thought we started well, second half we started even quicker… For about an hour, 70 minutes, I was really pleased. But then for some reason we just let them back in the game.”
Following his brace Lee Gregory also came out to face the press saying: “Honestly, this is a massive loss for me today. When you score two you’re meant to be going away from the game buzzing.”
It’s another disappointing result for Wednesday fans who are growing more restless with every result, with Darren Moore having some work to do in order to win a large section of his supporters back. The Owls will have little time to ponder on the weekend’s game with another trip on Tuesday night to face Cambridge United.
By Lewis Williamson, Stoke City writer
Stoke City lined up similarly to their winning match against West Brom before the international break, making only a single change in midfield with Romaine Sawyers returning to the side after missing out against his parent club. Sawyers took the place of Jordan Thompson in the middle of the park.
Sheffield United similarly made just one change from their previous game away to Bournemouth in which the Blades lost 2-1, replacing the injured George Baldock at right-back with Jayden Bogle. Otherwise, the team remained unchanged from before the international break.
Stoke City were looking to put pressure on the top four in their promotion push this campaign, with a win seeing the side move up to third over Coventry and Fulham, whilst Sheffield United were looking to maintain their mid-table standing with a loss seeing them fall behind in-form Nottingham Forest.
Sheffield began the game invigorated in front of the home crowd, pushing down the left flank seeing Morgan Gibbs-White heading wide early on, and a few other crosses into the box being unmet by the attack.
Stoke retaliated with a well-hit corner from star Mario Vrančić which met the head of Jacob Brown but was cleared off the line by forward Billy Sharp. Tommy Smith had a shot kept out by Blades keeper Robin Olsen, and Sharp had a header kept out at the other end by Adam Davies.
The first goal wouldn’t come until ten minutes into the second half with Jacob Brown turning well on the edge of the box and firing a shot into the bottom corner, though his celebration gained the striker a yellow card.
Sheffield failed to register much of a response to the Potter’s opener, but their equaliser came in the 80th minute with substitutes David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset linking up with Mousset sliding the ball past Davies.
Enda Stevens played through David McGoldrick for the late winner in the 83rd minute, placing the shot into the bottom right-hand corner earning the Blade’s first win since their 1-0 victory against ten-man Derby in September.
Michael O’Neill’s side will be disappointed by their form taking them two points behind fourth-place Coventry who managed a point against Blackburn Rovers after going 2-0 down. The Potter’s will be hoping to return to winning ways against league leaders Bournemouth in mid-week.
By Maurício Alencar, Footrace Football Expert
The ultimate substitution occurred last week when the Newcastle takeover by the PIF was completed. Prince Mohammed bin Salman on for Mike Ashley, Sports Direct off for PIF, and domestic workers’ rights abuses replaced by overseas human rights abuses.
The big substitution got Newcastle fans raving. Many were caught chanting “we’ve got our club back”. Most surprisingly, Newcastle’s LGBTQ+ group United with Pride celebrated the substitution as well, stating that they hope “there is potential to be a positive influence to improving the conditions for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere”.
On the other hand, prominent wide-eyed journalists and writers ranging from Simon Kuper of The FT to Oliver Holt of the Mail Online have described the Saudi takeover as signs of “a national malaise”, or have evaluated that “murderers are welcome if they are rich enough”.
Rarely are football journalists and fans at odds with each other. The fans generally regard it as the best substitution ever in football. The journos generally regard it as the worst substitution ever. Alan Shearer, occupying both identities, is “excited” and “conflicted”, as told in his column for The Athletic.
It should be the case that the only thing that matters to a football fan is that their club’s values are kept intact, football is played on a pitch in front of local fans, and that there is a feeling of community about the club- and that
In the case of The Super League , the changes to the game only mattered to fans because it meant that most clubs in the country and the rest of Europe were at risk of being removed from the football pyramid, and consequently the football pitch completely. And in the case of this Newcastle, the change mattered to its fans only because a leech of a club owner in Mike Ashley had drained the community replete (for heaven’s sake, he tried to change St James’ Park’s name into Sports Direct Arena in 2011!). In both cases, fans played their part as the “12th man” in catalysing action, a part they know very well as match-attendants impacting results.
The new decade presents an opportunity for football fans to therefore take on more animated roles in reacting to changes that happen off the pitch. The perfect world would surely be if it occurred in the same tone, attitude, and language to what happens on the pitch:
If/when the “golden share” fan vote is announced, that should be equivalent in celebrations to Deeney’s heroic goal against Leicester in the semi-final of the Championship Play-Offs. If/when Saudi Arabia and Arsène Wenger’s proposals for a biennial World Cup fails to go through and are skied over the net, English supporters opposed to it should be standing on their feet, flinging their arms about, and hilariously singing “waaaay”.
When the PIF completed the deal to takeover Newcastle, there shouldn’t have really been chants of “we got our club back”. There probably should have been sighs, mixing relief and despair all into one sound- like maybe when your team, that has gone into the match as favourites to win, manages to sustain pressure from the opponents to finish the match at a tedious little scoreline of 0-0. For better specificity, there probably should have been dry, ironic chants of “legal assurances, what does that mean?” in relation to the Premier League’s statement on the separation of Saudi Arabia to Newcastle United.
In a year where the Super League got red carded for foul behaviour and dissent, people are calling for a better referee of the game in the form of an independent regulator, and fans have gloriously returned after a near 18-month injury, you’d think the football gods would’ve sent someone better on as a sub.