John McGinn

Getty Images

Early Euro qualifiers: Belgium, Netherlands, Russia all win

Leave a comment

In the early slate of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, there were little surprises as Belgium, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Scotland all found the winner’s column.

Liverpool midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum bagged a first-half brace, including an absolute rocket, as the Netherlands held on for a 2-1 win over Belarus. BATE Borisov midfielder Stanislav Dragun grabbed one back for Belarus soon after halftime, but the visitors held on in Minsk.

[ WATCH: Wijnaldum scores ripper for Netherlands ]

Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt partnered in defense yet again, as they have for 17 of the last 19 Netherlands games, conceding just 17 goals in those 17 matches. Thanks in part to that stellar partnership, Jasper Cillessen had little to do, with Dragun’s headed goal the only shot on target for Belarus in the match, while the Netherlands put seven of their 21 shots on frame.

Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier both found the back of the net as Belgium topped Kazakhstan 2-0 in Astana to remain perfect in qualifying action and keep pace with Russia in Group I. Batshuayi was filling in for an injured Romelu Lukaku, and he latched onto a low back-post cross from Dennis Praet for the opener 21 minutes in. Meunier’s 53rd minute poke came off an absolutely stunning long delivery from Eden Hazard to the far post placed perfectly over the head of the defender. Belgium held 66% possession throughout the match, and while they were only able to put three shots on target, they scored on two of them and held the hosts to just one. Belgium has now scored 30 goals in Euro qualification while conceding just one.

Russia also continued to surge ahead in Group I play one game back of Belgium with a 5-0 demolition of Cyprus in Nicosia. Denis Cheryshev struck nine minutes in to put Russia ahead as he pilfered the ball off the Cyprus back line. The hosts lost Standard Liege defender Konstantinos Laifis to a straight red card, and the rest was elementary. Magomed Ozdoev, Artem Dzyuba, and Aleksandr Golovin all found the back of the net before Cheryshev finished it off with his second of the game in stoppage time. Russia and Belgium have both qualified for the finals, with Russia sitting in second three points behind the perfect group leaders.

Hungary scored 10 minutes in and hung on for a 1-0 victory at home over Azerbaijan. 30-year-old Mihaly Korhut struck a long-distance ripper from well outside the box that appeared to catch goalkeeper Emil Balayev off guard, and the Hungary defense did the rest. RB Leipzig captain Willi Orban and Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath held Azerbaijan to just four total shots, including two on target. Meanwhile, despite splitting the possession nearly halfway, Hungary ripped off 23 shots, putting six on target.

Scotland hammered San Marino at home 6-0 behind a first-half hat-trick from Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. In the pouring rain in Glasgow, McGinn opened the scoring 12 minutes in for his second international goal on a simple cutback and shot from Ryan Christie which clipped McGinn on its way inside the far post. He hit for a second just before the half-hour mark as he poked home a cross by Scott McTominay that was saved into no-man’s land by a diving San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini. The third featured the highest degree of difficulty as a set-piece delivery into the box was headed by Stuart Findlay towards the far post and McGinn ripped it home on the doorstep under pressure. Lawrence Shankland, Findlay, and Stuart Armstrong finished off the scoreline in the second half, although Scotland has still long been eliminated from qualification in the top-heavy Group I.

Premier League player Power Rankings

1 Comment

Our new Premier League player Power Rankings have landed and plenty of stars from Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Wolves feature heavily.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Matchweek eight provided plenty of shock results and our rankings reflect that with 15 new entries.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea) – New entry
2. Aaron Connolly (Brighton) – New entry
3. Jorginho (Chelsea) – Up 3
4. Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) – New entry
5. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – New entry
6. Matt Longstaff (Newcastle) – New entry
7. Adama Traore (Wolves) – New entry
8. John McGinn (Aston Villa) – Up 11
9. Aaron Mooy (Brighton) – New entry
10. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Even
11. Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea) – Even
12. Willy Boly (Wolves) – New entry
13. Rui Patricio (Wolves) – New entry
14. Calum Chambers (Arsenal) – New entry
15. Dean Henderson (Sheffield United) – New entry
16. Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester) – Down 4
17. Gary Cahill (Crystal Palace) – New entry
18. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) – New entry
19. Jeff Hendrick (Burnley) – New entry
20. Wesley (Aston Villa) – New entry

Aston Villa smashes Norwich City in 5-star win

Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Aston Villa climbed out of the bottom three and sank Norwich City into it during a 5-1 defeat of the Canaries at Carrow Road on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wesley scored a pair of first half goals, and Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane, and Douglas Luiz also got on the sheet in the big win.

Josip Drmic‘s stoppage time goal ruined Tom Heaton‘s clean sheet in a game with 44 total shots (22 to Villa).

Norwich has six points and sits 18th. Villa has eight and is up to 14th.


Three things we learned

1. The Villans will feel richly rewarded. Will they roll on? Perhaps no side has been less rewarded for performance this season than Smith’s men, including the remarkably silly officials’ decision at the end of the Crystal Palace match. The only shame is that Villa Park was unable to appreciate the moment.

Now can the Villa team feel a little unshackled, with their points meeting their performance for just a second time this season?

2. Mings the man early: Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings has consistently delivered for the newly-promoted side this season, beginning on Opening Day when he blocked every shot on Earth. He didn’t have a great second half at Carrow Road, but don’t sleep on what he did when the game was still in the balance.

Known before his time at Villa for being a big money buy with as many shocking tackles and injuries as good moments, Dean Smith has turned the center back into an England regular. And he is delivering, making an amazing recovery to stop a deflected effort from leveling the score at 1 shortly after Wesley put Villa in front, and then stopping Buendia’s rip in the 28th.

3. Shades of Benteke from Villa’s new big man: Remember for a moment that the Christian Benteke we saw at Aston Villa was unplayable at at times. Now a big Brazilian is conjuring up memories of the powerful yet deft Belgian, as Wesley scored his third and fourth goals of his Premier League career. The second was nothing special, just a center forward in the right place for a cutback, but the first showed the patience to not launch into a low header.

Man of the Match: 


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Stiepermann’s long dribble looked set for a lay-off to Teemu Pukki, who started the move, but the former Borussia Dortmund man took a shot which deflected onto goal.

He’d take another chance off a corner kick, and end up with three attempts when the sequence ended without a goal. Aston Villa had taken the first three shots, Stiepermann the next three.

Wesley’s chest trap and clever finish of a cross onto the doorstep was a deserved opener for the Brazilian big man, who is recalling the early days of former Villa man Christian Benteke.

In-form Tyrone Mings that made a terrific goal line clearances to keep it 1-0 as Norwich threatened the goal.

Anwar El Ghazi missed a clean bid to make it a two-goal lead with a header off the bar, and John McGinn curled a beauty just wide of the far post after fine work in the 27th minute.

Kenny McLean then caught Conor Hourihane’s run into the box to set up Wesley for a hat trick bid, but McGovern made a pair of saves after a slow run-up from the Brazilian.

The floodgates still opened after that, and Villa rightly deserved the three points.

Premier League player Power Rankings

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The latest Premier League player Power Rankings are here, as we rank the top 20 players based on current form.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Players from Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea dominate our rankings, while there are 12 new entries.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Even
2. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – Up 18
3. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – New entry
4. Riyad Mahrez (Man City) – New entry
5. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Down 2
6. Jorginho (Chelsea) – New entry
7. Fabinho (Liverpool) – New entry
8. Matt Doherty (Wolves) – New entry
9. Youri Tielemans (Leicester) – New entry
10. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 3
11. Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea) – New entry
12. Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester) – New entry
13. Joel Matip (Liverpool) – Down 8
14. Mason Mount (Chelsea) – Even
15. Callum Wilson (Bournemouth) – Even
16. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
17. Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham) – Even
18. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – New entry
19. John McGinn (Aston Villa) – New entry
20. Chris Wood (Burnley) – Down 2

Pesky Burnley twice levels in draw at Aston Villa

Leave a comment

Chris Wood‘s late header gave Burnley its second equalizer in a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday at Villa Park.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Villa outshot the Clarets, had 60 percent of the ball, and passed it well, too, but Burnley dealt with Dean Smith‘s tactics of sending 27 crosses into the fray.

Jay Rodriguez scored Burnley’s other goal, with Sean Dyche‘s club up to 10th with nine points, while John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi struck as Villa collected a point to sit 18th with five points.


Three things we learned

1. Fine margins again for Villa: Dean Smith’s men have out-performed their meager point total, as Villa’s five points are still Bottom Three. While the late disappointment against Crystal Palace as not their fault, this one was self-inflicted as the Villans lost sight of giant Chris Wood, who might as well have “This is our tactical approach” pressed onto his name plate. Not okay.

2. Dyche’s men never quit: Okay, we knew this. Everyone knows this, but Sean Dyche’s men make you look foolish every time you’re ready to doom Burnley into a relegation race. You keep thinking their Fortune will run out, that graft won’t win the day, and then Wood somehow powers his way to a late equalizer. The Clarets won’t tempt a European place this season, but we’d be silly to think of them as anything other than safe. Sorry in advance for the jinx, Burnley faithful.

3. Burnley’s backs bail out everyone else: Besides Wood’s finish, which didn’t exactly cap an outstanding day, the Clarets again put their back line under the gun. Keeping James Tarkowski is proving to be an outstanding bit of non-business for Burnley, who also got good performances out of fullbacks Matt Lowton and Erik Pieters. Both had assists, including the ex-Villa man Lowton on Wood’s equalizer.

Man of the Match: John McGinn was denied the opening goal when Conor Hourihane was spotted offside by VAR, but the soon-to-be 25-year-old Scot wouldn’t stay off the score sheet in scooping up his third Premier League goal.


McGinn thought he had his third goal early, with Hourihane ruled offside by VAR, but Villa would find the lead when El Ghazi used a cute touch of a Frederic Guibert cross to make it 1-0.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Rodriguez found the equalizer off an Erik Pieters’ cross, getting his first goal in the Premier League for Burnley. It was his 34th goal in the top flight.

McGinn got his goal to restore Villa’s lead with a straight-forward finish, but Wood powered down a header off Matthew Lowton‘s finish to deliver 2-2.