Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Manchester United

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LONDON — Chelsea and Manchester United drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Louis Van Gaal‘s side showed more attacking intent throughout but a wonder strike from Jesse Lingard wasn’t enough to win them the game.

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Chelsea equalized through Diego Costa in stoppage time and after an end-to-end encounter, a draw was probably the fair result.

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Here’s three things we learned from a breathtaking clash in west London.

LINGARD’S MAGIC BORN AND BRED IN MANCHESTER

Right on the hour mark a moment of pure magic arrived for Manchester United. It was produced in United’s academy as teenage left back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson whipped in a wicked cross which took a touch off Wayne Rooney and then the ball dropped to Lingard.

The 23-year-old has spent four spells out on loan from Old Trafford but has been a regular since usurping Memphis back in October. This was easily his best moment in a United shirt as he controlled the cross, juggled it up to himself and hit a majestic volley into the top corner with his back to the goal as he fell to the ground. His double dab celebration on Super Bowl 50 day was memorable in front of the jubilant traveling United fans and it came just moments after Kurt Zouma had been stretchered off following what looked like a horrendous knee injury after he landed awkwardly. United have always had incredible pride at producing local lads in their academy. Lingard and Borthwick-Jackson both shone on Sunday for the Red Devils, even if they couldn’t grab the win.

COSTA BAILS OUT OVER-CAUTIOUS CHELSEA

After watching Chelsea play at Watford on Wednesday in their 0-0 draw and then today against United, it’s clear they are being over-cautious. Multiple times during the game the home fans moaned and groaned as midfielders hit a pass back towards their own goal. Costa was isolated for much of the match and when he did get on the ball it was often wide. Chelsea finished the first half well offensively, as a slick move between Willian, Mikel and Oscar set up Costa who dragged his shot wide.

In the second half the injury to Zouma seemed to unsettle their defensive shape and United pounced with Lingard’s moment of magic. In attack Branislav Ivanovic had a volley superbly saved by David De Gea and he also denied Cesc Fabregas at the near post. Costa toiled up top but misplaced passes and players looking back instead of forward. It looked as if Chelsea’s 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions was about to be ended, but at the death a slack pass in attack from Memphis gave Chelsea the ball back and a slip from Daley Blind on the edge of the box let in Costa to slot home and he almost won it late on with De Gea denying his Spanish international teammate. The Blues are still unbeaten since Jose Mourinho was fired in December but they still seem to be second-guessing themselves in games and under Guus Hiddink they aren’t the fluid attacking unit they should be with the players they possess. On a positive note they aren’t losing games and are heard to beat, and the draw on Sunday will feel like a win.

MARTIAL WINS BATTLE OF THE WINGERS

After bursting onto the scene and scoring four goals in his first four games as a United player, Anthony Martial went missing for a while. There’s no doubt that in recent weeks the French attacker has been their best, and most consistent, outfield players this season. The same can be said for Willian at Chelsea and both wingers were in great form on Sunday.

Martial started brighter as he cut inside and drilled a powerful effort towards the top corner which Thibaut Courtois tipped away brilliantly. Martial, 20, also curled in a beautiful cross which was cleared but on the left flank he gave Branislav Ivanovic a very tough afternoon. On the same flank, but further up, Willian grew into the match and in a 10 minute spell before half time his pace and stepovers bamboozled Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The teenage left back kept dropping further back as Willian’s brilliance continued and in the 36th minute his incisive run and double stepover put Borthwick-Jackson on his backside and his cross just evaded the onrushing Oscar.

The pendulum of power continued to swing from Martial to Willian throughout the match and the former cut inside from the left — that is fast becoming is trademark — and drilled a low shot just wide of Courtois near post five minutes after half time. Martial was involved in Lingard’s goal and as Chelsea tried to grab a late equalizer they switched Willian into the center with subs Pedro and Eden Hazard on either side. That stifled Willian a little but the switch worked as Chelsea piled forward and finally got the goal they probably deserved. These are not vintage United or Chelsea teams but there’s no doubt they have two world class wingers who are a constant outlet and threat.

BONUS: The two goalkeepers weren’t bad either, were they? Thibaut Courtois made two stunning saves from Lingard and Rooney in the second half, while David de Gea made great saves from Ivanovic, Fabregas and then Costa at the death. Both goalkeepers are 25 and under and they will duel for many years, alongside Manuel Neuer, to be the best on the planet.

Manchester United: Solskjaer hopeful of new Paul Pogba contract

Paul Pogba contract
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is singing a new tune, hopeful that star midfielder Paul Pogba will stick around Old Trafford for the long term.

Reports say that United has an option to extend Pogba’s contract by an extra year beyond its 2021 expiry, but Solskjaer is thinking bigger. He has been praising Pogba plenty since the World Cup winner returned to the lineup.

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It’s a bit surprising given Pogba and his super agent’s constant time in the rumor mill, with Real Madrid often linked with the Frenchman. And that agent, Mino Raiola, has not been so nice when it comes to judging Solskjaer.

But Solskjaer is reportedly hopeful that Pogba can join Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and others in building a new power.

“I can’t comment on discussions between player and the club but. of course, we want to keep the best players around the club,” Solskjaer said. “We want to build a squad for the future and Scott and Nemanja are a similar position but at different stages in their careers. One at the start, one really experienced one.”

Pogba leads United in key passes per game with 2.3, though his minutes have been severely limited by injuries this season. He had 13 goals and nine assists last season, and turned 27 in March.

The way United’s performed in recent weeks it would not be a surprise if keeping its main talents while adding another stalwart center back and wing would propel it into a more serious table discussion.

Do you buy the idea that Pogba could be with United well into the future?

Suarez goal gives Barcelona win, relegates neighbors Espanyol

Espanyol relegated
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Seventh-place one season ago, La Liga mainstays Espanyol are being relegated from Spain’s top flight.

The final decision came at the hands of their Catalan neighbors Barcelona, who got a second-half goal from Luis Suarez to relegate Espanyol.

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Espanyol are 11 points back of 17th place and can only capture nine more points this season following the 1-0 loss in a match where both teams had a player sent off.

Suarez’s goal was a nice one after Antoine Griezmann’s back heel pass to Lionel Messi saw the Argentine’s shot deflect onto the path of the Uruguayan finisher.

Espanyol had been in the top flight since 1994 and has only spent four single seasons outside La Liga since 1929. Leganes and Mallorca may join them soon.

Barcelona moves a point back of Real Madrid. Real has four matches left to Barca’s three and holds the tiebreaker.

Klopp reacts to Liverpool wins, says Henderson injury ‘not nothing’

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Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a bit more what we’re used to from the Premier League champions.

But that wasn’t the focus of the post-match despite a highlight-reel show from Mohamed Salah, as Reds boss Jurgen Klopp sounded an ominous note when asked about Jordan Henderson leaving the match with injury.

“I don’t know exactly but it was something with the knee I think. We know it’s not nothing.”

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Henderson’s not exactly a player to hit the deck unless he’s feeling pain, and Klopp removed him for James Milner with 10 minutes to play.

That’s about the only bad news from the win, as Liverpool became the first team this season to breach the 90-point mark and saw Salah’s brace move him within three goals of the Golden Boot lead.

Salah would only say, “Let’s take it game-by-game,” but it’s clearly on his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold says the Egyptian is hungry to get a share of a third-straight Golden Boot.

From the BBC:

“He has his targets, he’s around the Golden Boot and it’s something he wants to retain,” Alexander-Arnold said. “He’s a world class player who scores so many goals for us and we try to get him on the board as much as possible.”

As for the match, Brighton almost as missed some big chances as Liverpool before the game was out of reach. Klopp admits that it was a challenge.

“We started really well,” Klopp said. “We had to adapt a little bit as we knew what they wanted to do but it was a little bit hard to defend. We left one or two players in a position where if we won the ball we had players in the counter-attack position. We got the first two goals with super balls but we could have scored more. I said to the boys at half-time they could have been 2-2 too. It was a nice game to watch.”

The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.

Liverpool march continues with 3-1 win at Brighton

Brighton - Liverpool recap
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Mohamed Salah had two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes of Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday.

Salah is now three goals behind league leader Jamie Vardy, and Liverpool’s 92 points are 23 more than Man City. Jordan Henderson also scored for the Reds.

BRIGHTON – LIVERPOOL FULL MATCH REPLAY

Leandro Trossard scored for Brighton, whose 36 points are nine clear of the bottom three with four matches to play (The 18th and 19th place sides do have a match each in hand).

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Liverpool’s 30 wins through 34 outings is a Premier League record and Jurgen Klopp’s men are chasing several PL records. The Reds finish with Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle United.


Three things we learned

1. Salah somehow under the radar: Look, the Egyptian star’s 32-goal league season was an outlier. Not a lot of guys consistently hit 25, let alone the 30 mark in the Premier League. But Salah has rather quietly put together another amazing season with 19 goals and nine assists in PL play plus another four and three in cup competitions. Salah is one assist of joining the a small group of players to get double digit league goals and assists in a top five European league this season.

While it’s become sexy to praise Sadio Mane as the Reds’ top winger, Salah has been just as good. He could’ve had another goal in the 53rd but Mat Ryan made a fine intervention at close range. If Salah is under the radar, it’s because Liverpool has spread the wealth this season and had so many heroes in close matches. But boy, oh boy, is he their best weapon.

2. Lamptey shows glimpses, then youth: The sample size is very small, but 19-year-old Chelsea outcast Tariq Lamptey has played well at right back in most of his outings for Brighton since the return from the coronavirus pause. Lamptey was at blame for Liverpool’s third goal in both the chance conceded and actual finish from Salah, but the $4 million January buy looked well worth the price tag in a terrific first half at the Amex.

3. Seagulls still missing final ball: Brighton produced four big chances in the game to Liverpool’s two, but only put one in the back of the net (SofaScore). That’s sadly been par for the course this season, as Brighton’s style has been worthy of a top half place. Brighton entered the day with seven fewer goals than its expected goals total. Only Everton, Watford, and Norwich have been less fortunate.

Man of the Match:

Salah.


Brighton – Liverpool recap

Salah had a goal and an assist within 500 seconds of kickoff.

The Egyptian took a feed from Naby Keita to score off a Davy Propper giveaway and then set up Henderson’s second to have the Seagulls’ heads spinning early.

Brighton found a chance in the 19th but Neco Williams recovered with a slide to block Leandro Trossard from slotting a point-blank goal.

The Seagulls pulled within one just before halftime when in-form youngster Tariq Lamptey swept a cross into the mix for Trossard to punch home.

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Salah could’ve had it 3-1 at one end but Brighton’s Dan Burn asked the Egyptian to hold his drink with a butchered wide-open shot at the back post in the 60th minute.

Jurgen Klopp didn’t like the close score, and brought on Fabinho, Andy Robertson, and Sadio Mane in the second half. One of the players he removed, Naby Keita, had a strong hour before departing the contest.

Henderson almost produced a third Liverpool goal after a rare Lamptey error spring a chance that took a wicked turn off Dale Stephens.

The Reds made it 3-1 off the ensuing corner, Salah’s clinical header in front of Lamptey. Henderson limped off for Liverpool late in the contest.

Ryan denied Salah a hat trick in stoppage time and the Egyptian headed over the bar at the final whistle. He could’ve had five.