Premier League Playback: Should we be surprised by Steven Gerrard’s madness?

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GERRARD’S RED-MIDST, MATA’S MAGIC

Steven Gerrard strode onto the Anfield pitch at half time to take part in his last-ever match against Manchester United for Liverpool. 38 seconds later, the Liverpool skipper walked straight back off as the rid-midst descended and he inexplicably stamped on Ander Herrera, who laid on the floor, just after delivering a crunching tackle on Juan Mata.

[ RELATED: Gerrard apologizes for red card ]

Gerrard was shown a straight red card, while Herrera was shown a yellow for his tackle on Gerrard, and hamstrung his team as they battled hard but lost 2-1 to United to leave them five points off of fourth place with eight games to go. Speaking to Sky Sports right after the game, watch in the video above, Gerrard apologized to the fans as he will now miss at least three of his final nine matches for the Reds through suspension.

“I need to accept it; the decision was right. I’ve let down my team-mates and the fans. I take full responsibility,” Gerrard said. “I don’t know what caused it. Probably just a reaction to the initial tackle [by Herrera]. I shouldn’t say more about it really. I’ve just come out here to apologize to the dressing room and supporters.”

Everyone everywhere was simply wondering “why?” when they saw Gerrard purposely stamp on the leg of Herrera right under the nose of referee Martin Atkinson. Gerard had no complaints about the red card and rightly so. But let’s not act like he’s an angel on the pitch and hasn’t been involved in contentious moments before. As a youngster he was close to being hooked out of Liverpool’s academy for crunching tackles and had to curb the physical side of his game.

During his illustrious career Gerrard has been sent off eight times, four of those reds have been in derby games against Merseyside rivals Everton or Manchester United. On all four occasions he has been sent off for reckless challenges but when you earn your living as a marauding central midfielder, you run that risk. The fact that this was Gerrard’s last-ever game against bitter rivals United before he moves to the LA Galaxy and calls an end to his 17-year career definitely played a part in his crazy decision to stamp on Herrera. So did the fact that he was left on the bench for United’s biggest game of the season and that he is no longer deemed a regular by Brendan Rodgers after spending almost six weeks on the sidelines.

[ RELATED: Mata scores stunning goal of the season contender ]

The pent up frustration in Gerrard cost his team a shot at beating United on Sunday as they rallied but had no answer for Mata’s brilliance. This will be painful for fans of Liverpool to accept, but Gerrard’s slip at home to Chelsea played a pivotal role in the Reds not winning the title last season and his silly challenge on Herrera could cost them a top four spot this season. Leaving after 38 seconds on a red card was not they way Gerrard wanted to go out in his last game as Liverpool’s leading man versus fierce rivals United, but that’s what happened.

On the other side of the fence, Juan Mata had his best game in a United short. Above is a moment of pure genius produced by  the majestic Mata.

He dug out this beauty in the 59th minute as time almost stood still inside Anfield when the Spaniard sprung himself in the air and volleyed home an incredible acrobatic effort from an almost impossible angle. That goal will be close to the hearts of United fans for the rest of time, as Mata’s two strikes on Sunday delivered a marvelous win which keeps them in pole position to finish in the top four.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

After the game Louis van Gaal hailed Mata’s display, as the Spaniard who cost $45 million from Chelsea last January is finally fitting in at Old Trafford and becoming an integral part of LVG’s plans. Even if the Dutchman is slightly reticent to admit it and is a little uneasy about dishing out praise…

“Juan is one of my better players,” van Gaal said. “I looked for balance and now I have found a position where he plays very good and he also scores two goals and marvelous goals.”

Marvelous. Majestic. Mercurial. Mata is finally making his mark at Manchester United, and did so on Sunday in the biggest game of their season so far as one of the fiercest rivalry matches in world soccer did not disappoint. See the highlights, below.

Premier League Schedule – Week 30

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-1 Swansea Recap and watch here
Hull 2-3 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-2 Man United Recap and watch here
Man City 3-0 WBA Recap and watch here
Newcastle 1-2 Arsenal Recap and watch here
QPR 1-2 Everton Recap and watch here
Saints 2-0 Burnley Recap and watch here
Stoke 1-2 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Tottenham 4-3 Leicester Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here

REFS MUST GET VIDEO HELP

After two minutes of Manchester City’s game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Wilfried Bony went down outside the box in a challenge from Craig Dawson as he went through on goal. Clear red card. However referee Neil Swarbrick, as I’m sure you are aware of now, sent off Gareth McAuley instead of Dawson in a clear case of mistaken identity.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

Swarwick has since apologized and the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) have called for video technology to be used to help out their officials in tight situations.

“We need to see what technology we can use to help get referees’ decisions more accurate. Football as a whole has to look at it,” Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL said. “All it takes is a split-second lapse in concentration. Neil had four or five elements to judge in half a second and it is that type of situation that would lend itself to technology.”

[ RELATED: English refs want video help ]

In essence it was the correct decision for a red card and a PK (just not to the right player) so West Brom can’t argue about the outcome too much as they got off to the worst possible start in their 3-0 defeat. But having video technology with the fourth official on the sidelines — or perhaps an official watching a TV screen in some neutral location like they do for contentious calls in NHL — would make the most sense.

It takes 10-15 seconds to take a quick look and see if the right player was sent off and if a decision regarding a penalty kick was for a dive or not. (Maybe that will help to get rid of diving too?) Those worried about every decision being placed under video scrutiny, I hear you. But perhaps a challenge system could be brought in so coaches have three of them during a match, but mostly this technology would be used to overturn incorrect decisions by a referee if the fourth official has clear video evidence to show that a mistake has been made.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Referees sending off incorrect players hasn’t happened a whole lot, but in the past 12 months it has occurred three times which is three more times than it should happen. With Kieran Gibbs given a red when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handled on the line for Arsenal against Chelsea last season and Wes Brown was sent off instead of John O’Shea for Sunderland at Manchester United earlier this campaign, big mistakes have been made. With the pace of the game and scrutiny on officials from pundits, fans and outsiders who can see every angle in a replay close to 10 seconds after the incident in question took place, why can’t referees get that kind of technology to help them out?

Below are the views of our panel as to how referees can be helped out.

KANE DESERVES CHANCE TO LEAD ENGLAND

On Saturday Harry Kane scored another Premier League hat trick to take his tally in the PL to 19 this season, and 29 in all competitions as the man named PL Player of the Month for January and February kept his insane hot-streak going in the 4-3 win over Leicester City. 

Kane, 21, was called up to England’s full national team squad this week for the first time and the Tottenham Hotspur forward deserves the chance to lead the line for the Three Lions in their upcoming games against Lithuania and Italy, not just sit on the bench for the “experience.”

[ RELATED: Premier League schedule ]

Moving through England’s youth ranks and scoring goals at every level, it’s about time he got his chance after a season of blossom few would have predicted last August. Sure, Kane had potential, but the rapid rate of his development has stunned observers and provided Roy Hodgson with a welcome selection dilemma up front.

How do you fit Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Kane into and England lineup? Hint: you play Kane up top on his own. With Sturridge still easing his way back into things after injury, Rooney a guaranteed starter and Welbeck a little off the boil, Hodgson’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, or a variation of 4-3-3, would suit Kane in the lone central role and allow Rooney the freedom to create in behind him. On the wings Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge would provide pace, trickery and balance, as Kane and Sturridge could well interchange as we often see both drifting out wide for their club teams to create havoc.

Simply put, Kane’s time is now. Yes, he is just 21 but at the moment he is carrying Tottenham’s top four hopes and is a talisman who a team can be built around. England awaits the Hurri-Kane.

AMERICANS ABROAD

Tim Howard was the only U.S. national team player to taste success in the Premier League this weekend. Geoff Cameron went the full 90 at right back, hear his thoughts on the Potters chase for their best-ever PL finish in the video above, but Crystal Palace made Stoke pay for slack defending.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan couldn’t help his side shutout Swansea as a late goal saw Villa’s winning-streak end at three in all competitions as the Midlands clubs are still entrenched in a relegation battle. As for Howard, he helped Everton squeak by QPR to ease their relegation concerns after a tough exit from the Europa League last Thursday.

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

West Ham hands Watford another home loss as record-signing Haller shines

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West Ham United’s record signing has manager Manuel Pellegrini feeling great and Watford boss Javi Gracia looking over his shoulder.

The Irons took care of Watford 3-1 at Vicarage Road on Saturday, with Sebastien Haller having a role in all three goals during a brace-bagging performance.

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform v. Norwich?

Watford falls to 0-3, high hopes sincerely grounded having lost to Everton, Brighton and Hove Albion, and now West Ham. Two of those losses came at home, a year after the Hornets remarkable 2018-19 season ended with eight losses at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 


Three things we learned

1. Seb’s star show: West Ham United fans will be watching their big center forward closely this season as the club hopes it has its long-sought answer to the center forward position. Haller’s sensational pass helped the Irons earn a third-minute penalty, and he raced to the doorstep to deposit Felipe Anderson‘s second-half cross. After 15 goals and nine assists for Eintracht Frankfurt last season, Haller is every bit the multi-faceted playmaker required for the position. Will he be able to keep it up.

2. Don’t forget Felipe: West Ham’s transfer record holder prior to Haller’s arrival was as electric as ever. The Irons holding onto him this summer may’ve had a little bit of luck involved, but it was also a stroke of genius.

3. Will Hughes the silver blonde lining: The 24-year-old midfielder was very decent in defeat, getting an assist on Andre Gray‘s clinical equalizer before it all went back to poor form for the Hornets.

Man of the match: Haller


Noble’s penalty came after a clearly-fouled Manuel Lanzini launched himself into the air for what was a stonewall foul.

Gerard Deulofeu smashed a shot off the cross bar in the 7th minute after a terrific cross-18 through ball.

West Ham looked wide open in the midfield and allowed Hughes to show a bit of wizardry in cueing up Gray for his well-taken goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The teams continued to battle well for the points in entertaining fashion, and it was West Ham’s all-time transfer buys who delivered the winner.

Anderson‘s cross through traffic met Haller at the back post for a hopeful winner, and Haller later made it two.

Djenepo stunner downs Brighton after Andone straight red

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It wasn’t that long ago that these two teams faced off in League One…nine years ago, to be exact. Now, both Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion are established top flight sides and looking to build.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

One of those building blocks for Southampton is young Mali international Moussa Djenepo who announced himself to the Premier League on Saturday with a thumping second-half goal that put Southampton through against 10-man Brighton 2-0, with Nathan Redmond adding the second late as Brighton was caught forward for an equalizer.

The win gave Southampton its first points of the campaign, while Brighton was dropped for the first time in the new season.

The Seagulls were the better side until Florin Andone earned a deserved sending-off for a horror challenge on Yan Valery. Dan Burn had the ball in the back of the net but VAR ruled it out for offside, and the halftime break saw Southampton regroup with the advantage and take charge for the final 45 minutes. Brighton, however, did have spells of possession throughout the second half that will worry Southampton supporters moving forward given the man and scoreline advantage.


Three things we learned:

  1. Brighton looks more dangerous than last season going forward, a positive sign for those who saw the Seagulls struggle to score last season. Before the red, they were by far the better side, and even after falling a man down they had moments of positivity despite being forced back. Graham Potter refused to bunker in after the red, something supporters will appreciate, and they had chances to get back in the game down the stretch.
  2. VAR continued to correctly apply the laws of the game. Lewis Dunk had a potentially stunning opener after going a man down, but it was disallowed as Dan Burn all alone and very offside backed goalkeeper Angus Gunn to the ground. It could have easily been given as a foul, but instead VAR wiped it off for offside, also a fair call as he interfered with play. While some may not like how intrusive the technology has been, it has done a solid job of applying the laws to the game, albeit in a somewhat clunky manner.
  3. Southampton will take the three points no questions asked, but there is no doubt the Saints need to improve. They were second-best for much of the game, even at times with the advantage, and could have been pegged back with an embarrassing result. They were out-passed in the attacking third and nearly doubled up in chances created despite an hour-long man advantage.

Man of the Match: Youri Tielemans


Brighton was the most dangerous team early on and had a number of chances in the opening 20 minutes. Off a set-piece, Neal Maupay got his head to a seventh minute corner at the back post but he didn’t have the necessary accuracy and goalkeeper Angus Gunn also got a slight touch to keep it out. They had another chance from a 3 v. 1 short corner off the training ground minutes later but Dan Burn whiffed on his open header at the doorstep. Then Martin Montoya put a long-distance header wide left on the 20-minute mark.

With the game calming down past the half-hour mark, out of nothing, the match turned on its head as Brighton’s Andone produced one of the most shocking challenges you will see, with a heavy touch on the ball followed by a studs-up lunge straight into the leg of Valery, who was lucky to come out of the collision unscathed. Referee Kevin Friend showed absolutely no hesitation in sending Andone off.

The opener came on 55 minutes when Djenepo collected the ball in space outside the top of the box and as nobody closed him down, he unleashed a fabulous curler that found the top corner and opened his Premier League account having just come off the bench two minutes earlier. He created the space required thanks to a slight touch inside to his right before

Nathan Redmond came close to putting Saints two-up and burying the game, but he put his low chance just wide right on 64 minutes. Jurgen Locadia had Brighton’s biggest chance to get back level, hammering the post with a volley on 87 minutes on a tight-angle chance he should have deposited in the back of the net. Southampton made them pay, killing off the game in the first minute of stoppage time as a low cross from Sofiane Boufal found a sliding Redmond at the doorstep for a 2-0 lead.

Palace stuns wasteful Manchester United at the death

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Manchester United found a way to throw away a dominant performance through more penalty drama and a poor late concession from its well-paid goalkeeper.

Crystal Palace had not beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford since 1989, and never topped the Red Devils in the Premier League era, but now has a 2-1 Saturday win for its resume.

Daniel James‘ 89th minute goal seemed to have given United a result for its controlling effort, letting Marcus Rashford off the hook for a missed penalty, but De Gea allowed Patrick Van Aanholt to score a near post, stoppage time winner with poor goalkeeping after Paul Pogba was caught in possession and allowed Christian Benteke to spring a rush.

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform v. Norwich? ] 

Marcus Rashford smashed an effort off the post less than a week after Paul Pogba saw his effort saved at Wolves.

VAR absolved Palace of a possible first half red card and seemingly clear second half penalty, and Jordan Ayew scored on the Eagles’ only true chance of the morning.

James set the game level with a gorgeous strike after quickfire, clinical passing in the 89th minute.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

United has now won just three of 15 matches in all competitions since defeating PSG in the UEFA Champions League.


Three things we learned

1. MORE PENALTY DRAMA: Yes, all caps. Should we bold, too? After Anthony Martial raced to make sure Marcus Rashford would take United’s 70th minute penalty, the English youngster did what Paul Pogba did and missed his chance. Rashford smashed off the post.

2. Everyone can finish a glorious chance (even Palace): Roy Hodgson‘s goal-starved Eagles needed a bit of help to get on the score board, and Ayew’s finish came on Palace’s first touch inside the Manchester United 18. Victor Lindelof underestimated Schlupp in the challenge, and Ghanaian won a Vicente Guaita goal kick onto the path of Ayew. 1v1 with De Gea, he didn’t miss.

3. The kid’s got flair: Daniel James’ second finish in three PL matches for United was a beauty, a quickly snapped side-of-the-foot offering that swam over the gloves of a flailing Vicente Guaita. The 21-year-old’s $20 million transfer tag looks pretty justified early.

Man of the match: Martial


United was far and away the better team in the match, aside from Marcus Rashford’s penalty miss.

The Red Devils had VAR work against them on three separate occasions, and only one really passed the smell test. While we’ll acknowledge that the VAR crew knows what it’s watching far more than us, Gary Cahill getting off the hook for a take down of clearly through Anthony Martial and the same Frenchman being denied a penalty shout after Martin Kelly put off his shot effort with some since groping will be watched again and again.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Before all that, though, Ayew scored with Palace’s first touch in the United 18.

Barnes thumper sees Leicester City past Sheffield United

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Jamie Vardy and Oli McBurnie cancelled each other out, but young Harvey Barnes produced a moment of brilliance to see Leicester City through for their first win of the young season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Barnes’ second career Premier League goal was an absolute stunner, coming just six minutes after he entered the fray at Bramall Lane off the bench. The 21-year-old unleashed a rifling volley that saw the Foxes through, with Kasper Schmeichel and the Leicester City defense preserving the lead over the final half-hour.

Another youngster, Hamza Choudhury, covered himself in glory across the 90 minutes in a defensive midfield position, covering the back four well and keeping Leicester City comfortable in defense as Sheffield United looked for an equalizer down the stretch.


Three things we learned:

  1. Poor touches in midfield can be dangerous. Chris Basham will be kicking himself for a cheap giveaway right on the halfway line that directly lead to Vardy’s opener. It came out of nothing more than slight pressure from behind, and put the Foxes in with Sheffield United’s back line pressing higher on the ball. Midfielders have to be better, especially if Sheffield United has any long-term prospects of staying in the Premier League next season.
  2. Boy can Leicester City run a scything counter-attack. The goal came on a gifted counter, but they ran others that deserve plaudits as well, including one just after halftime that saw Vardy combine well with James Maddison and new boy Ayoze Perez, with the latter ending up with just too tight an angle to finish from. Do not give the Foxes any opportunities to break, because it will not end well for you.
  3. Leicester City continues to be the sum of its parts. Some teams repeatedly struggle to implement quality brought in via the transfer window, but the Foxes have been one of the best and adding talent that truly improves the club as a whole. James Maddison is a brilliant addition, Ayoze Perez is contributing up front, and Harvey Barnes – brought in from West Brom last winter – is making his presence known. 21-year-old Choudhury, a recent youth team promotion, also performed fabulously at the back to preserve the victory.

Man of the Match: Hamza Choudhury.


The first 20 minutes of the match were incredibly sloppy, with Leicester City holding the majority of possession but doing very little with the ball in an attacking sense and unable to put anything together going forward. The first chance of the match fell to Sheffield when George Baldock rifled a one-time volley towards the top corner a half-hour in but it had little movement and Kasper Schmeichel collected easily despite solid pace on the effort.

Leicester City went in front out of relatively nothing seven minutes from halftime as Chris Basham lost the ball in midfield leading to a vicious counter from the Foxes. James Maddison sent through a ridiculous ball forward with the outside of his boot, lofting it over the scrambling defenders to Jamie Vardy, and the England striker made no mistake with a thumping finish at the near post.

The Foxes looked more likely to score a second than Sheffield United did an equalizer, but against the run of play McBurnie bagged his first Premier League strike. Baldock came good from his earlier mistake with a fabulous delivery from extremely deep on the right flank and it found the head of the former Swansea man who buried the chance to level the scoreline.

That wouldn’t last long, however, as Barnes was on hand to collect the ball off the head of Caglar Soyuncu and rifle it one-time before it hit the ground, delivering an absolute howitzer into the top corner for a moment of brilliance that put Leicester City in front for good. Schmeichel was required to preserve the three points with 15 minutes to go, somehow parrying a close-range effort by John Lundstram he should have scored from. Sheffield pressed for an equalizer but Leicester City’s defense was up to the task, locking things down for the win.