Aston Villa has the worst attack in the Premier League. Only two teams have scored fewer goals than Stoke City, which meant 0-0 was always the most likely result from Saturday’s meeting at Villa Park.
But with any soccer match (particularly at the professional level), there is the expectation that teams will do basic things, like be able to show they’re capable of win the game. We assume teams actually are trying to win, but sometimes, on some very rare occasions, teams aren’t able to show it.
Saturday turned out to be one of those days. The teams combined for only two shots on goal, one of which appeared to be an ill-aimed Matthew Lowton cross. Stoke only put two shots toward Brad Guzan all day, neither of which hit the keepers’ gloves. Stuart James, on hand for The Observer, call the match “painful to watch at times.”
There were, however, three Americans on the field (Oh! So that’s why he’s posting about this):
- Brad Guzan starting in Aston Villa’s goal isn’t news, nor was his ability to keep a clean sheet. However, he did almost nothing on Saturday. No shots on goal for Stoke meant no saves for the U.S. national team’s No. 2.
- Geoff Cameron got another start at left back and had a decent day, though similar caveats apply. Aston Villa couldn’t be described as threatening.
- A for some reason, Eric Lichaj was called in to pay left midfield against one of the weaker attacks in the league. Nominally a fullback, the U.S. international got (what’s becoming) a rare start in front of Nathan Baker, playing well defensively against a Stoke flank manned by Matthew Etherington.
The most notable part of the match had nothing to do with the American trio. Darren Bent, long out of the team with injury and (lately) rumored difference of opinion with Paul Lambert, came on in the 66th minute to applause from the Villa faithful.
But as with everything else that happened at Villa Park on Saturday, it’s hard to say it mattered. The match ended 0-0 with little chance it could have done otherwise.
Tottenham Hotspur’s thin hopes of winning the Premier League demand all three points from its visit to Chelsea on Monday (Watch live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
Spurs are eight points behind Leicester City, and a loss or draw makes the Foxes the 2015-16 champions.
[ MORE: Burnley clinches promotion to the Premier League ]
Reigning champion Chelsea, in an odd twist, can play the spoiler for either its London neighbors or the fairytale Foxes.
Chelsea: Begovic; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Mikel, Matic; Willian, Fabregas, Pedro; Diego Costa. Subs: Amelia, Baba, Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy, Oscar, Hazard, Traore.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (c), Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Dier, Dembele; Lamela, Eriksen, Son; Kane. Subs: Vorm, Davies, Wimmer, Carroll, Chadli, Mason, Clinton.
Sam Vokes‘ 61st minute header has Burnley back in the Premier League at the first time of asking, and there’s only one way to describe it.
[ MORE: Bobby Wood to Hamburg for $4 million? ]
Burnley clinched automatic promotion thanks to its 1-0 win over QPR and Brighton’s draw earlier in the day. With Brighton facing Middlesbrough this weekend, only one could pass Burnley in points.
Take away the math, though, and Burnley is flying off the emotion of the 1-0 win.
From the BBC:
“It’s magic, it’s a great feeling. You could feel the anticipation around the place when we kicked off. We knew what we had to do after the Brighton result earlier. Magic scenes here today. Getting that goal sparked relief around the place. I missed a lot of the Premier League last season but hopefully I’ll get another chance next season.”
And here’s Sean Dyche, classically stoic in the face of extreme emotion:
“That was well off our performance level but the result was all that mattered today. The resilience, belief and character got us through. You can’t be brilliant every week, we don’t think we’re the real deal, but we’re a real group that sticks together.”
If you don’t know much about Burnley, we suggest Joe Posnanski’s SportsWorld piece from last season’s Premier League campaign.
Congrats to the Clarets.
One claret and blue team has been relegated from the Premier League, but another is taking its place.
Sam Vokes did not score in 15 Premier League appearances last year with Burnley, but his goal on Monday boosted the Clarets back into England’s top flight.
[ MORE: Bobby Wood to Hamburg for $4 million? ]
Vokes, 26, headed home in the second half to give Burnley a 1-0 lead over Queens Park Rangers, and the Clarets held on to make sure their absence from the Premier League was a mere season long.
The win gives Burnley 90 points with one match to play. With Middlesbrough and Brighton & Hove Albion sitting on 88 points and playing each other on the final day of the season, only one winner can pass the Clarets.
There seems to be growing interest in USMNT striker Bobby Wood, who is having a sensational season for Union Berlin in 2.Bundesliga.
Linked with Liverpool in March, Wood is now said to be desired by Hamburg in Germany’s top flight.
[ MORE: Klinsmann calls up 40 for Copa America camp ]
Hamburg’s strike corps consists of young target forward Pierre-Michel Lasogga, ‘Gladbach loanee Josip Drmic and veteran Ivica Olic.
Bild.de says the fee is around $4 million, but that the club has yet to begin discussing terms with Union.
Wood has 17 goals and 3 assists in league play this season, and has also become a mainstay with the U.S. team under Jurgen Klinsmann.
[ MORE: Timbers striker wanted by Palace, St. Etienne ]
Union Berlin is sixth in 2.Bundesliga, while Hamburg is 11th in Bundesliga.
Fellow USMNT striker Aron Johannsson has faced a long injury lay-off with Werder Bremen, while a similar situation has faced Terrence Boyd. The latter is with Red Bull Leipzig and is set for a promotion to the Bundesliga barring extreme unlikelihood over the final few weeks.