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Wenger hits out about Chelsea’s first goal; Bellerin update

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LONDON — Arsene Wenger cut a frustrated figure high up in the stand at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things learned

Serving the third match of his four-game touchline ban, he TV cameras often panned to Arsenal’s manager struggling to get messages down to this assistant coaches on the bench.

In truth, even if he was on the touchline it wouldn’t have made much difference.

[ MORE: Conte reacts to victory ]

Arsenal put in an inept defensive display and now trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by 12 points with 14 games to go.

But should Marcos Alonso‘s goal, which set them on their way to a fifth-straight home victory over Arsenal in the league, have been disallowed for a foul on Hector Bellerin?

“Of course it was a foul,” Wenger said bluntly. “But he allowed the goal and after that, I feel we started well, but after that it was a much more difficult task because we were 1-0 down and Chelsea is very strong at defending and very good on transition in counter attack. We paid for that.”

The decision to take Bellerin off, who looked extremely dazed, came very quickly and Wenger has called for more fouls given for aerial battles. He also confirmed that Bellerin was confused after suffering the blow to his face from Alonso’s elbow and “didn’t know what the score was” as he walked off the pitch.

“The decision was for me very quick but you have to respect that, it’s the head,” Wenger said. “One of the particularities of the games today is that referees are much more severe with tackles on the ground and let more go with elbows in the face. It is not only today but in many, many games I see that. It is more dangerous to hit in the head than in the legs.”

Bellerin’s injury aside, Wenger admitted that plenty of his players weren’t up to their usual levels at Stamford Bridge.

Asked if Arsenal’s slim title chances are now over, he wouldn’t throw the towel in and said he would be focusing on the next game.

“We were maybe not good enough in possession to get our game more dangerous. We lost many balls in positions where you can’t afford to lose it when you play against a team who is good on counter attack. Overall, look at all their shots. Our goalkeeper didn’t have a lot to save today, even if I concede we did not create a lot in the final third. It was the kind of game Chelsea loves and they mastered it very well.”

What about Chelsea, are they the champions elect?

“They look at the moment in full confidence, powerful, strong, they don’t concede goals. It’s theirs to lose. They are in the best position. They don’t play in Europe. They can wait every week for the next game and prepare properly. They are in a very, very strong position.”

Arsenal are not.

After a fourth defeat in nine games in the Premier League they are now embroiled in a battle for a top four finish. Arsenal has 47 points, with Tottenham on 47 points, plus Liverpool and Manchester City on 46 points ahead of the later games in Week 23.

That means one of those giants won’t finish in the top four and given Arsenal’s back-to-back defeats and slack defensive display at Chelsea, the Gunners will be looking over their shoulders nervously.

With Wenger’s contract running up in the summer, plus the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil (both of whom had off days) up in the air. There’s a massive few months coming up in Arsenal’s future.

AT HALF: Alexander-Arnold’s sensational goal highlight of wild 45 minutes

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An insane first half between Chelsea and Liverpool yielded three goals, two that counted, and one that was a thing of pure beauty at Stamford Bridge.

Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s goal was the beautiful part, while Roberto Firmino has also scored and Mason Mount‘s toe couldn’t skip past VAR in the run-up to Cesar Azpilicueta’s overruled goal.

A free kick atop the Chelsea 18 came Liverpool’s way after Andreas Christensen got tangled with Sadio Mane.

[ STREAM: Chelsea v. Liverpool (NBCSN) ]

A training ground play had Salah roll a shot pass for Alexander-Arnold to belt past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute.

The goal is Alexander-Arnold’s first in 10 months for the Reds, who are bidding to go 6-0 to start the season. That’s above, and here’s Firmino’s below:

10-man Wolves level late against pitiful Palace defending

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Wolves fought back for a deserved point via a last-second equalizer, as Crystal Palace’s stoppage time silliness allowed a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park on Sunday.

A Leander Dendoncker own goal put the Eagles in front, and Palace was up a man when Romain Saiss took his second yellow with 18 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But danger man Jeff Schlupp was denied in the box by star man Rui Patricio minutes before Diogo Jota capitalized on Palace allowed a silver platter cross to get to his feet.

Wolves are still winless, with four draws through six matches, and sit 19th. Palace’s eighth point has it 12th on the table.


Three things we learned

1. Ward giveth, and taketh away: Joel Ward forced the own goal that gave Palace the lead when his wild drive through traffic turned off Leander Dendoncker to defy Rui Patricio, but his inexplicable stooping, missed intervention on the game winner was stunning. More on that below.

2. Wolves fight to death to find easy winner: Adama Traore, Jonny Otto, and the Wolves attack did not bow their heads after Palace took their fortunate lead nor after Romain Saiss’ second yellow card sent them diown a man, and Nuno Espirito Santo will love how his men fought to the final whistle while making timely interventions at the back (and taking advantage of Palace misfires).

Wilfried Zaha was dispossessed and it took three uncontested passes down the left of the Palace shape for Traore to find himself one-on-one with Patrick Van Aanholt. The Dutch defender played off Traore, who simply swept a cross to the back post. A chest trap, volley or 900 other things from Joel Ward could’ve ended the game, but he tried and missed a diving header that allowed Jota two touches to roof into an empty cage.

3. Silly from Saiss should’ve sealed it: Romain Saiss was sitting on yellow for a foul on Wilfried Zaha when he went out of his way to foul the Ivorian right on the touch line. Both managers saw the clear foul up close and personal, and Nuno Espirito Santo will certainly not like the idea of trusting Saiss again after his automatic ban.

Man of the Match: Vicente Guaita — The Crystal Palace goalkeeper was sensational in the draw, and the only reason Wolves weren’t ahead well before the Dendoncker own goal.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

An early corner kick led to a James McArthur goal mouth block of Leander Dendoncker’s low drive toward the near post, as Wolves got their first pressure on Palace following an opening 10 minutes that belonged largely to the hosts.

Palace’s Ayew headed a Luka Milivojevic corner into the arms of Rui Patricio in the 26th.

Vicente Guaita made the play of the first half when Raul Jimenez looped a cross over Mamadou Sakho to an unmarked Matt Doherty. The powered header was slapped away by a flying Guaita to keep it scoreless.

The keeper was again called upon when a 1-2 allowed Diogo Jota to lash a shot on goal in the 38th.

Palace took a stunning lead within 40 seconds of halftime, as Ward’s hard drive took a big turn off Dendoncker to spin past Patricio. The sequence began with Jeff Schlupp dribbling Willy Boly, the latter being imperious for most of his season.

By the time Romain Saiss was shown his second yellow for a fouls on Wilfried Zaha, the game felt academic. Would the 10-man Wolves find anything in the final 18 minutes?

The opposite, really, as Schlupp cued up substitute Christian Benteke which looked set for glory until the Belgian took an extra touch and drove into the arms of Patricio.

West Ham surges past tame Manchester United

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Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham United passed a big test, moving into the Top Four with a decisive 2-0 defeat of struggling Manchester United at London’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scored on either side of halftime to send West Ham fourth with 11 points.

Man United remains eighth with eighth, and lost Marcus Rashford to injury.


Three things we learned

1. Healthy Yarmolenko a big asset: Injuries short-circuited Andriy Yarmolenko’s first year at West Ham after they did the same to his only campaign at Borussia Dortmund, so it’s been easy to forget that the Ukraine playmaker is pacey, creative, and lethal. His lunging finish to beat De Gea in the first half was simply one moment of a match full of good ones, as he fooled Harry Maguire in the process. Three shots, a key pass, and a goal from the right-sided wide man. Good stuff.

2. Pogba import underscored as Rashford adds to injury woes: With Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba already out, the non-contact injury that sent Marcus Rashford to the tunnel is a scary thought for a United team incapable of creative work through the middle. Andreas Pereira was a danger out wide, and Daniel James has proven himself a handful, but a long-term injury to Rashford would heap pressure on young Mason Greenwood. Without Pogba pulling the strings inside — forget Martial’s early season wizardry — this team is in big, big trouble.

Not great, Ed.

3. Technique on return: Aaron Cresswell had a free kick from the right of the 18, with the wall lined up to stop any ideas of a near post effort. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. The West Ham left back swept a piece of technical beauty over the wall, spinning it into the upper 90 despite the best efforts of David De Gea. Sensational.

Man of the Match: Yarmolenko.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Andreas Pereira’s industrious run up the right forced a hard obstruction out of Angelo Ogbonna, who collected a yellow card.

Andriy Yarmolenko was bright early, and linked up with Felipe Anderson to curl a shot into the arms of David De Gea in the 20th minute.

Marcus Rashford drove into the box then was thrown-off by the oncoming Declan Rice and bobbled his dribble, allowing the West Ham man to take the ball away.

De Gea had to make a save on a half-hit Mark Noble strike which was re-directed by Victor Lindelof.

Yarmolenko scored before halftime, Noble and Anderson working the ball inside for the Ukrainian to cut past De Gea through traffic. Beautiful stuff, and it forced a rare mistake out of Harry Maguire.

The second half started well for United, with Juan Mata missing a sliding effort at the back post set up by Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay bundled a shot to Lukasz Fabianski in the 57th.

That’s when Rashford limped off following a non-contact injury.

Yarmolenko set up Anderson for a near post drive that De Gea foiled in the 62nd.

Cresswell made it 2-0 from a free kick in the 84th, De Gea somehow getting a hand to the left-back’s piece of technical beauty.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Liverpool, Arsenal v. Aston Villa

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We’ve got two more London-hosted Premier League matches for your Sunday morning.

[ STREAM: Chelsea-Liverpool | Arsenal-Villa ]


There will be tests of depth and hunger, as Liverpool and Chelsea meet at Stamford Bridge off of midweek losses in the UEFA Champions League (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

Christian Pulisic is on the bench again as Mason Mount passes fit and Willian gets the other wing.

As for Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp is deploying his choicest XI for the occasion, aside from Alisson Becker’s continued absence through injury.

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Chelsea:

Liverpool


On another side of London, Arsenal will look to build on its midweek and forget about last weekend when it hosts Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, online via NBCSports.com)

Unai Emery is going to start 18-year-old Bukayo Saka after the youngster was the easy Man of the Match against Eintracht Frankfurt at midweek.

He’ll team with Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

No major surprises for Dean Smith‘s Villa.

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Arsenal

Aston Villa