Premier League Playback: Legendary Lampard strikes, United’s shambolic implosion

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‘SUPER FRANK’ SCORES FOR  CITY, SALUTED BY CHELSEA

From time to time, the Premier League throws up storylines you can only dream of. During Week 5 there were some great scenes but perhaps the most lasting memory will be Frank Lampard scoring in a game involving Chelsea, but not for them.

In the 85th minute on Sunday, Lampard popped up in the box to score his first goal for Manchester City on his home debut and grabbed the Citizens a point after they’d been reduced to 10-men. The former Chelsea man didn’t celebrate the goal and at the end of the game Lampard looked shell-shocked as he walked over to the Chelsea fans situated in a pocket at one end of the stadium. Lampard received a standing ovation from those fans, as this may well be the only chance they get to show the England midfielder their appreciation with his new career in MLS calling him Stateside before 2015 arrives. City’s fans also applauded ‘Lamps’ off the pitch as the love was there from both fans (even if Mourinho said Lampard’s ‘love story’ is over at Chelsea) and players, as Didier Drogba took to social media to salute “his idol” and a “true legend.”

Here’s what Lampard had to say about his equalizer, his feelings and the spine-tingling salute he received. A remarkable moment for one of the greatest players in Premier League history.

“It’s a difficult one,” Lampard said. “I would be unprofessional if I didn’t come on and do my job and get in the box. It’s a tough one. I had 13 amazing years with the Chelsea fans so I am mixed. I am obviously pleased the team I play for got a draw. It’s a really hard one… I’m a bit lost for words to be honest. I didn’t expect to come on and score like that. I come on and the Chelsea fans are singing [for me] so that’s emotional and then these fans [Man City] have taken to me and been brilliant as well. I’m really stuck in the middle here.”

For well over a decade ‘Super Frank’ has been the heart and soul of Chelsea Football Club. Over the summer the 36-year-old left Stamford Bridge as the clubs legendary all-time leading goalscorer saw his contract run out and has since signed for New York City FC in Major League Soccer. Lampard has since, somewhat surprisingly, been loaned out to NYCFC’s sister club, reigning PL champions Manchester City. This wasn’t the kind of thanks he would have been hoping to give Chelsea’s fans as he previously stated he didn’t want to play against them. Then he came off the bench to score… Who writes these scripts?

By doing so, Lampard became the first player in PL history to score against 39 different teams, as he scored against his beloved Chelsea for the first time in his career and delivered yet another memorable moment. This time, it came while wearing a lighter shade of blue.

Premier League Schedule – Week 5

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Burnley 0-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Leicester 5-3 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Newcastle 2-2 Hull City Recap and watch here
Queens Park Rangers 2-2 Stoke Recap and watch here
Swansea 0-1 Southampton Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
West Ham 3-1 Liverpool Recap and watch here

HOW CAN UNITED SOLVE DEFENSIVE WOES?

Another prominent storyline to come out of Week 5 was the 5-3 drubbing Manchester United received at newly-promoted Leicester City.

Louis van Gaal’s men raced into a 2-0 lead as superstars Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao shone, but defensive lapses stated to creep in as Leicester pulled one back before half time. Around the hour mark United made it 3-1 and it looked to be over, but then they imploded in a fashion we’ve never seen from the Red Devils. Not this month, anyway… Leicester scored four unanswered goals in the final 27 minutes at the King Power Stadium and van Gaal’s revitalization of United came to a shuddering halt.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

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#1 – Blackett is caught deep, as 7 United players are back defending.

This win has to go down as the best in PL history for Leicester but, as is customary, the continued struggles of one of the worlds biggest clubs will grab the headlines on Monday morning. The shocking defensive display from United in the second half, and particularly after Jonny Evans had to go off injured in the first, was hard to believe. It is what happens when a midfield diamond is ridiculously top heavy.

Leicester caught United rocking in a 17 minute spell as they scored three times to turn things around and make it 4-3, before Leonardo Ulloa’s late penalty sealed a famous win for the Foxes. The newly-promoted side had lost nine-straight PL games to United before’s Sunday’s eight-goal thriller. Wayne Rooney, playing at the top of the diamond, set up Di Maria to score and slotted in perfectly as the chief creator offensively. However, defensively he was sloppy in the moment that mattered most. In the 62nd minute Rafael gave away a penalty which David Nugent scored to make it 3-2 and for all of United’s dominance, that’s where their experienced players (captain Rooney, I’m looking at you) needed to grab hold of everyone and say ‘okay, let’s come things down and not conceded for 5-10 minutes.’

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

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#2 – Rooney, top of the D, was caught ball watching as Cambiasso ghosts in.

Instead, Rooney failed to track Esteban Cambiasso from 40 yards out and let the Argentine midfielder ghost into the box to make it 3-3 before screaming at the players around him. Look at the images number 1 to 3 on the left and right to see the move develop for the pivotal third goal which really sent United into a downward spiral from which they never recovered. Rooney, usually a forward  but deployed in an advanced midfield role, is caught on the edge of the box ball-watching as Leicester’s midfielders flood in. Tyler Blackett is so deep initially that the rest of the United defense drop inside the 18-yard box and six players are marking nobody. Then Cambiasso arrives unchallenged to hammer the ball home and send the King Power wild.

From that moment on, United were dead men walking and the sequence which led to Jamie Vardy’s goal to make it 4-3 was simply shocking. One long ball in behind the pedestrian duo of Chris Smalling and Blackett set the former Halifax Town man free as LVG sat in the dugout with his head in his hands after his side coughed up a 3-1 lead. Going forward, the defensive issues will be helped by Luke Shaw’s return to fitness, plus Phil Jones coming back. When that happens we will likely see a back four of Rafael at right back (he didn’t cover himself in glory with a silly challenge to concede the first PK), Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo at center back and then Shaw at left back.

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#3 – Cambiasso smashes home to make it 3-3. United have 5 v 2 in the box.

It wasn’t only the defenders who were at fault for United’s capitulation on Sunday in the Midlands. Van Gaal’s top heavy side succumbed to Rooney’s lack of tracking back, Di Maria’s insistence to follow suit and the duo of Falcao and RVP not coming back past the halfway line. Leicester’s modestly manufactured diamond outclassed and outworked United’s hugely expensive one. This United rebuild will take time, we all know that. But did anyone, including van Gaal, expect the Red Devils to be hammered 5-3 at Leicester?

“It is not good because we had the game in our pocket and gave it away,” van Gaal said. “Not because of Leicester; we gave it away and I don’t like that. We have too many players who want to seek for the goal. You cannot say the defense was weak. You play like a team, Leicester showed that. We did not play like a team in the second half and that is not only defence. In a defensive situation the whole team is responsible, not just one defender.”

Credit must go to the Foxes for dismantling United in front of a raucous home crowd but this victory should come as no surprise. In their three home games this season, Leicester have drawn with Everton and Arsenal and beaten Manchester United. It’s safe to say Nigel Pearson’s workmanlike side are adpating to life in the PL better than anyone expected. Right now they have eight points from five games and have a much more favorable schedule on the horizon. Also, their performance proves the perpetual unpredictability of the PL as plenty of so-called underdogs upset the apple cart in Week 5. Watch the highlights below from United’s latest humiliating defeat, as their inability to defend and van Gaal’s insistence on placing all of his superstar attackers in the same starting lineup came back to bite him at Leicester, hard. At the point last season under David Moyes, United had seven points and sat in eighth place. Right now, after splurging over $200 million over the summer, they sit in 12th spot with five points.

OZIL AND WELBECK THE NEW BERGKAMP AND WRIGHT?

Was it just me, or did anybody else have this flashback when watching Arsenal on Saturday? As Danny Welbeck played in Mesut Ozil for the first goal, then the duo combined 79 seconds later for Welbeck to score his first Gunners goal, it reminded me of one of the greatest strike partnerships in recent Arsenal history: flashes of Ian Wright and Dennis Bergkamp emerged on the Villa Park pitch on Saturday.

Okay, that may be a stretch, but both Welbeck and Ozil exhibit remarkably similar characteristics to the Arsenal legends I’ve likened them to.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights, here]

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Before the ball has even reached Welbeck’s feet on the halfway line, Ozil is ready to dash in behind.

Aston Villa were hit for three goals in just 192 seconds on Saturday, as Arsenal tore them apart with two stunning moves initiated by Ozil and Welbeck. German international Ozil has had plenty of critics since he arrived for $100 million from Real Madrid last summer but scored his first goal of the season thanks to Welbeck’s vision and his own willingness to make runs through the heart of Villa’s defense. On plenty of occasions, Ozil was the furthest man forward and drifted in from the left to play centrally, where he is at his most dangerous. Ozil has shown he can torment Villa’s defense but he must now shine in the big games against the best teams in the PL and Europe.

Welbeck and Ozil, just like Wright and Bergkamp, seem to have already developed that kind of telepathy which exists between players who click right away. Welbeck has had a handful of training sessions at Arsenal after his Deadline Day move from Manchester United but is already off the mark and his ability to find Ozil for the first goal, then lay the ball off and time his run into the box to get on the end of Ozil’s cross for the second, must not be underestimated. That’s not easy to do, but in a blistering three-minute spell on Saturday Ozil and Welbeck single-handedly won Arsenal the game.

That glimpse of greatness similar to the antics of Wright and Bergkamp will have Arsenal’s fans salivating. It was only a glimpse, but Ozil and Welbeck seem to be on the same page.

Watch them in action below, as a Villa side impacted by a sickness bug gave up their unbeaten record.

Premier League Star Performers – Week 5

Player Reason
1. Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester) 2 goals, predatory for Foxes
2. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) 1 goal, 1 assist, superb
3. Winston Reid (West Ham) 1 goal, led Hammers defense
4. Frank Lampard (Man City) 1 goal, storybook career
5. Yannick Bolasie (Palace) 1 goal, ripped Everton apart

REGRESSION ON MERSEYSIDE

It was a bad Saturday and Sunday for soccer fans along the banks of the River Mersey.

Liverpool were shocked 3-1 away at West Ham on Saturday, then Everton were beaten 3-2 by Crystal Palace on Sunday as the regression of both teams continue.

[RELATED: Premier League stats]

On one of my many trips to Liverpool last season, I wrote this longform piece about the city before a pivotal Merseyside derby last term, as both teams were in the top four hunt and a positive vibe was in full force. This Saturday Liverpool host Everton at Anfield in the 223rd edition of the derby, and both teams are in desperate need of a win after disappointing starts to the current campaign.

[RELATED: Premier League schedule]

Liverpool have lost three of five, while Everton have now conceded 13 goals in five games and have just one win. Due to their success of last season, both sides are back in European competition after lengthy absences. Liverpool beat Ludogorets 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League last Tuesday, while Everton beat Wolfsburg 4-1 on Thursday. This weekend, perhaps due to their midweek European outings, they put in jaded displays as their squads come to grips with the grueling demands of trying to succeed in the PL and in Europe. Right now, domestic success is evading both squads and that will add extra spice to one of the finest, and fiercest, derbies in world soccer which you can watch at 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN this Saturday.

Mario Balotelli poked fun at Manchester United’s shocking defeat to Leicester on Sunday, but his own performance against West Ham on Saturday left a lot to be desired as Daniel Sturridge’s return to fitness can’t come soon enough for Liverpool.

Across Stanley Park, Tim Howard’s Jekyll and Hyde season continues after he recorded the most saves in a single Europa League game on Thursday (12), but gave away a PK for Palace’s opener and made a hash of a cross for the second goal on Sunday. Everton’s defensive woes will be very concerning for Roberto Martinez but his attack-minded approach is always likely to leave the Toffees open at the back.

In the video above our analysts examine Liverpool’s struggles, as Rodgers’ men are finding ‘life after Luis Suarez’ particularly challenging this season as the new boys are struggling to settle in.

TOP FIVE GOALS. YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THESE…

Two stunners from Hull City, Di Maria’s wondergoal, Sakho’s cheeky chip and Kranjcar’s cracker.

Watch five goals of the very highest caliber below in the top strikes of Week 5.

MEN IN BLAZERS POLISH THING OFF

It seems only appropriate, and positively necessary, to let the MiB wrap things up after an incredible weekend chocked full of drama. From Louis van Gaal’s many moods (described as the ‘Hulk in reverse’ by Rog) to Liverpool’s sad long-haired fan, let the lads round up all the important stuff.

[RELATED: Full archive of the Men In Blazers]

Plus, remember, you can watch the premiere of “The Men In Blazers Show” on NBCSN on Monday, tune in at 10 p.m. ET.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Solskjaer warns “could have been one of those nights” for Manchester United

Manchester United Solskjaer
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clearly relieved after his dominant but wasteful Manchester United finally beat goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson and Copenhagen in extra time of their Europa League quarterfinal in Cologne.

“I think it was just one of those nights,” he said after the win. “I think we deserved to win, that’s clear, but they made it very hard for us.”

Johnsson made 13 saves as United out-attempted the minusM-1000 underdogs from Denmark by a 26-9 margin. The Red Devils blocked several Copenhagen chances in tight, making the Danes’ total of zero shots on target a bit deceiving.

[ RECAP: Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen ]

“Their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times,” Solskjaer said. “It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us.”

But United was clearly the better team on the day, as expected. Juan Mata entered late in the game and was an influential sub in extra time.

He says the Red Devils were a bit beat up on a hot night in Germany.

“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said. “At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.

“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”

United will meet either Sevilla or Wolves in a dynamite semifinal in one week.

Manchester United breaks through Copenhagen in extra time

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Manchester United – Copenhagen: The Europa League’s biggest underdogs of the quarterfinals took the tournament favorites to extra time before succumbing 1-0 in Cologne.

Bruno Fernandes highlighted his Man of the Match performance by converting an Anthony Martial-won penalty in the 95th minute for Manchester United, the only way past Copenhagen’s terrific goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson.

But Fernandes gave United a scare, needing care for his hamstring at the final whistle.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Johnsson made 13 saves, seven from inside the box, to keep Copenhagen within a sucker punch of eliminating the Red Devils over 90 minutes.

Manchester United heads to Dusseldorf for an Aug. 17 semifinal against the winner of Tuesday’s tilt between Wolves and Sevilla.


Three things we learned

1. Copenhagen plays prime tournament soccer: The heaviest underdogs in the quarterfinals, Copenhagen executed a traditional 4-4-2 in a less-traditional low block for much of the match. The low block wasn’t the surprise, but instead of two banks of five, the rows of four with two men hassling up front challenged United for time and helped spring a number of dangerous counters. The Danes opened up in extra time after going behind, but taking it to extra time was more than many expected out of them.

2. VAR denies the Red Devils: A rout would’ve been on if this match was staged a year ago without VAR, as the assistant referee twice allowed United goals to go to video. Harry Maguire was offside before assisting the first would-be Red Devils goal, while Mason Greenwood was off before ripping a rocket off the far post and into the goal.

3. Bruno is a beast: Fernandes was everywhere, cueing up his teammates for chances when he wasn’t smashing them off the frame in a bid to win it himself. The Portuguese playmaker registered three key passes, put three of his five shots on target, and won the majority of his duels on top of scoring the game’s lone goal (SofaScore). Now United must hope his late leg injury was just a product of 120 minutes and nothing major.

Man of the Match

Fernandes, and yes we had him here before he smashed his penalty home. Fernandes is now the Europa League’s leading scorer with seven goals between Sporting Lisbon and United.


Manchester United – Copenhagen recap

United has plenty of the ball in the first 10 minutes but Copenhagen provided legitimate danger that Eric Bailly managed in his own six.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka blocked a cross with his face and needed treatment, looking quite dazed before returning to the game.

Another Copenhagen chance was blocked in the six by Bailly (again), who proved a wise choice over Victor Lindelof.

VAR had a look at an early United goal and rightly chalked Harry Maguire offside in the build-up. And it took Mason Greenwood’s hammer off the far post off the board for offside early in stoppage time.

Copenhagen was in it at the break. Would United pay?

[ MORE: Lukaku leads Inter past Bayer Leverkusen ]

The early stages of the second half remained with the Red Devils, Copenhagen parking all its men behind the ball at times.

Rashford flubbed a chance to shoot or pass to Paul Pogba when Bruno Fernandes spotted him at the back post just after the hour mark.

Fernandes tried his luck from distance in the 63rd, ripping a shot off the far post.

Ex-Everton man Bryan Oviedo nearly put Copenhagen ahead in the 66th only to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bailly clog his shooting lane after Rasmus Falk dazzled to get into the box.

Karl-Johan Johnsson made a flying save on Anthony Martial to force an 84th-minute corner that came to nothing for United.

Johnsson denied Martial again in-tight at the start of stoppage time, but the high was short-lived as the Frenchman was dropped in the box moments later.

Fernandes stepped to the spot and used a stuttering run-up before blasting his penalty home.

Martial nearly had it 2-0 after the restart when he dribbled through the Copenhagen 18 but took it himself instead of laying off to Juan Mata in what would’ve been a fairly straight-forward chance for the Spaniard.

Johnsson denied Fernandes at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time, United unfortunate to not score on the ensuing corner when Mata’s shot was blocked to Lindelof, who fired off the outside of the post.

Lindelof made a fine intervention to block a close-range equalizer bid in the 116th.

Inter Milan rides early goals past Bayer Leverkusen

Inter Milan - Bayer Leverkusen
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While Manchester United and Copenhagen played chess across the country, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen were staging double jumps all over a checkerboard in Dusseldorf.

Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella scored twice in six first-half minutes before Kai Havertz answered in the 24th to account for all the goals in Inter’s 2-1 defeat of Bayer.

Lukaku has scored in nine-straight UEL matches, a new record.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Inter now waits for an Aug. 16 semifinal in Cologne, where it will meet the winner of Tuesday’s match between Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk

Bayer now must settle for the Europa League again via its fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

The three goals in the nine minutes were highlighted by Lukaku doing his best “Harry Kane versus Leicester City” falling down finish.

Nicola Barella put Inter ahead after a quarter-hour when he made the most of a loose ball outside the 18.

A Manchester United connection saw Inter ahead by two when Ashley Young found Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian striker maintained his composure while being dragged to the ground, beating Lukas Hradecky with a low shot.

Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland’s interplay near the box ended with the transfer rumor mainstay slipping a shot home to bring Bayer back within one.

Lukaku had penalty decisions taken off the board by VAR in each half.

Who’s next for Manchester United if Sancho stays at Dortmund?

Chiesa to Manchester United
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The transfer rumor mill is usually buzzing this time of year, but it’s nearly a cacophony following Michael Zorc’s announcement that Jadon Sancho will be staying at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Reports say Manchester United is not quitting on the idea of Sancho at Old Trafford, but here are some other targets if the Red Devils have to look away from the English phenom.

Federico Chiesa, Fiorentina

Linked with United for some time including a Monday nod from Football-Italia, Chiesa’s approximately $80 million price tag is high but half of what Dortmund is asking for Sancho.

The versatile playmaker has often been linked with Juventus, though Fiorentina is loathe to do business with The Old Lady unless absolutely necessary after big sales of Roberto Baggio and Federico Bernardeschi to Juve in the past.

The 22-year-old already has 17 Italian caps and scored 10 goals with six assists for La Viola this season in Serie A play, career bests in both.

Douglas Costa, Juventus

This one could become even more feasible if Juve latched onto Chiesa.

Juve desperately needs to get younger and Costa doesn’t figure to fit into the plans of Andrea Pirlo, a month away from his 30th birthday.

Costa works better on the right side and would be a worker bee looking to set up Rashford and Martial or cut back for Bruno Fernandes. He boasts double-digit assist seasons in the Bundesliga (Bayern), Serie A (Juve), and Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk).

TURIN, ITALY – MAY 19: Douglas Costa (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Raul Jimenez, Wolves

This one still feels like a long shot of long shots given the players’ age and status at Wolves, but the El Tri star has been linked with United in the past.

Jimenez doesn’t solve the wing issue presented by Sancho staying at BVB, and you’d fancy the Red Devils to go after one of Wolves’ wingers before Jimenez.

But Solskjaer enjoys Marcus Rashford at left wing and could use Anthony Martial at right wing a bit more often than center forward. Throw in Mason Greenwood and the boss would have a lot of permutations to use around Bruno Fernandes in a front three or four.

Ivan Perisic, Inter Milan

Mentioned as part of a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez, that’s less on the cards after the Chilean accepted a Man United payoff to move to Inter for free.

The 31-year-old favors the left wing and Inter would be happy to offload him after Bayern declined its option to buy the loanee who managed seven goals and 10 assists in just over 1600 minutes.

That’s pretty good output for a part-time player who kept some tread on the tires.

Perisic to Manchester United
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15: Ivan Perisic of Croatia (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

James Rodriguez, Real Madrid

If you’re sensing a thread amongst most of these players, it’s no surprise considering United has a wage scale to meet the needs of many wantaways.

Real desperately wants to get something for Colombian star James, who at 29 played less than 800 minutes for La Liga’s champions this season.

His two-year loan stint at Bayern also saw him as a part-time player, but like Perisic a productive one. James scored 15 times with 20 assists over two seasons with the Bavarians.

Kingsley Coman, Bayern Munich

This would cost a lot of dough.

The 24-year-old has been a part of nine-straight league winners between Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern.

Okay that’s cheating a bit considering his Ligue 1 crowns came off a handful of appearances over two seasons at the Parc des Princes.

But the left and right winger might be on for a change of scenery with Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane set to dominate the preferential places at Bayern.