Oliver Norwood

Foster, Watford take point off hosts Sheffield United

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Watford is out of the basement following a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

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Gerard Deulofeu scored for the Hornets, who are six points back of safety but one better than 20th place Norwich City.

Oliver Norwood converted a penalty for the hosts, as Chris Wilder‘s men sit sixth with 29 points.


Three things we learned

1. Blades unrewarded: Sheffield United’s calling card this year has been hard work and defensive organization, but the Blades could not find a winner against Watford despite 57 percent of the ball and a 16-5 edge in shot attempts. Blades even won the tackle battle, snapping off 18 to Watford’s eight, but only a point came to Bramall Lane.

2. Deulofeu will be key to Hornets hopes… The Spaniard wasn’t particularly good, but Deulofeu remains one of the few Watford players capable of making a moment count for something big.

3. As will Ben Foster: American actor Ben Foster has starred in a few superhero movies, so it’s fitting that his Premier League namesake has been unreal in trying to keep the Hornets in the top flight. Speaking of flight, he was airborne for a number of big saves. All three came inside the box, including this phenomenal defiance of Lys Mousset.

Man of the Match: Foster.


Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets are showing fight, but more importantly finding the back of the goal.

Watford scored on one of its first proper chances, a Ben Foster goal kick flicked to Deulofeu by Chalobah. The Spaniard made the most of his opportunity for a 26th minute lead.

The advantage lasted 11 minutes, as George Baldock won a penalty off Will Hughes and VAR said the call was good. Norwood dispatched the penalty for 1-1.

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Lys Mousset came off the bench and forced another fine save out of Foster, one which had to have Chris Wilder wondering if his Blades could find a winner.

PL AT HALF: Four goals across six 10 a.m. ET Boxing Day kickoffs

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The Premier League’s 10 a.m. ET kickoffs took a while to get going, but look primed for breakout second halves.

Crystal Palace 0-0 West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Not much doing aside from one chance produced by Wilfried Zaha wizardry.

Everton 0-0 Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

The Toffees are looking in line for a new manager bounce, out-shooting the Clarets 12-2 at the break but yet to push one over the line.

Sheffield United 1-1 Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Diminutive star Gerard Deulofeu scored off a Nathaniel Chalobah feed as Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets took a lead that lasted only 11 minutes thanks to Oliver Norwood.

Chelsea 0-1 Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Michael Obafemi, you sure can paint a pretty picture.

Aston Villa 0-0 Norwich City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Every bit the six-pointer, with the Canaries the only side to really threaten much of anything.

Bournemouth 1-0 Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

There is no question Arsenal was the better side over the first half-hour, but the Gunners defense let them down again. Jack Stacey wound up deep in the Arsenal box and cut back into a sea of players, and Dan Gosling‘s foot was the first to the ball.

 

Fleck leads Blades to easy victory against Villa

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Sheffield United beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday as John Fleck was the hero for the Blades.

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The Scotsman struck twice in the second half as Villa struggled throughout.

With the win Sheffield United moved up to fifth and have 25 points, while Villa stay on 16 points.


3 things we learned

1. Blades get the job done: For most of this season Sheffield United have been really good to watch. They were dangerous when they got the ball wide but this wasn’t one of their better displays. Chris Wilder wants to get to 40 points as soon as possible and they are now 15 points away from that target. The Blades are solid defensively and force opponents to play their game with their wide players causing all kinds of problems. George Baldock in particular was brilliant and the Blades have taken the PL by storm.

2. Villa lackluster in attack: Villa have lacked cutting edge all season long and this game summed it up. Wesley was anonymous in this game and Grealish headed wide and hit the crossbar with a penalty kick. Villa have lost six of their last eight with just one win in that run and Dean Smith‘s side are in a relegation scrap. There’s no doubt about that.

3. Sheff United dreaming of Europe: This win moved them up to fifth, momentarily, and the Blades have now given themselves a huge lead over the teams stacked up in the bottom half. Their aim at the start of the season was to stay out of the bottom three but now it should be about pushing on for a seventh-place finish to qualify for Europe.

Man of the Match: John Fleck – Two great finishes and his midfield running caused Villa problems all game long. He keeps popping up in dangerous spots in the box. A real unsung hero.


A slow start in the Steel City saw the home side have plenty of the ball, with John Fleck and Lys Mousset linking up well.

The Blades dominated the ball as Villa struggled to get going in attack in a tight, tense first half at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United put in plenty of crosses but Villa dealt comfortably with the wide threat as Kortney Hause blocked one effort well.

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Oliver Norwood whipped in a lovely cross at the start of the second half but David McGoldrick got his finish all wrong.

The home side then got the goal their dominance deserved as John Lundstram crossed and Fleck flicked home his third goal in his last four home games, as the Blades scored with their first shot on target.

A rare Villa attack saw Wesley go close as the visitors finally got going late in game, with Jack Grealish heading a chance just wide at the back post.

Hause then caught McGoldrick with a high challenge as he was booked, and moments later Sheffield United doubled their lead. Fleck ran into the box and McGoldrick flicked a brilliant ball over his own head to pick out the Scotsman to slot home his and Sheffield United’s second.

Villa were then awarded a penalty kick after a lengthy VAR check for handball, but Grealish smashed it against the bar to sum up a terrible outing for Villa.

McGoldrick could have finished a few chances late on but it was a deserved win for the Blades as they continue their fine return to the top-flight.

Newcastle takes three points at Sheffield United

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Allan Saint-Maximin and Jonjo Shelvey scored goals and VAR made its presence felt as Newcastle United toppled Sheffield United 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Thursday.

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Its Newcastle’s fifth result from six following a loss to Chelsea, while Sheffield United sees the end of its seven-match unbeaten run.

The Magpies pull into 11th place with 19 points, two spots below the Blades on goal differential.

Sheffield United meets Norwich City on Sunday, when Newcastle hosts Southampton.


Three things we learned

1. Blades make rookie mistake in VAR era: The linesman’s flag was raised when Andy Carroll flicked a header into the Blades final third, but Shelvey kept running onto the ball and referee Stuart Atwell allowed play to continue into the 1v1 chance between the midfielder and Sheffield United goalkeeper Dean Henderson. Shelvey passed around Henderson and into the goal, the backstop apparently spotting the flag and assuming the call. Big mistake, as VAR negated the linesman’s flag.

2. Bruce rewarded for lineup risk, and ASM breaks down the door: Manager Steve Bruce pulled the plug on big money striker Joelinton‘s automatic spot in the Starting XI, installing veteran center forward and hometown hero Andy Carroll in that spot. Carroll was solid with Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron on his flanks, and won the pivotal assist in the second half.

Saint-Maximin is either the league’s best dribbler or a fixture in the debate, but he’s been unable to find the back of the goal whether through fine saves or misfired shots. Raise your hand if you had 50-50 header for his first Premier League marker. Didn’t think so. If this busts down the door, look out.

3. Magnificent Martin deserves a rest: Newcastle backstop Martin Dubravka was the biggest factor in the result, as the Slovakian national team goalkeeper was at his shot-stopping best. He was stopping all of the Olivers, with fine stops on McBurnie and Norwood in the first half and a well-controlled box in the second 45.

Man of the Match: Dubravka — Respect to Carroll, but the keeper made six saves on the night for a richly-deserved clean sheet.


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A deflection off Miguel Almiron forced Martin Dubravka into a fine reaction stop in the sixth minute.

Newcastle then had the ball for a spell without real threat, as Blades’ Oli McBurnie’s curl wide in the 15th minute was the next moment of danger for either side.

The Magpies scored soon after, Saint-Maximin rising high to thump a header inside the post after Andy Carroll laid off for Javi Manquillo‘s cross.

McBurnie then forced an incredible save out of Dubravka when George Baldock sent a terrific cross into the heart of the box.

Almiron gave away a dangerous free kick in first half stoppage time, but Dubravka was again there for a two-handed parry of Oliver Norwood‘s rip.

VAR made its voice heard in the 71st minute, when it ruled that

Watch Live: Sheffield United v. Manchester United

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Sheffield United and Manchester United duke it out for fifth place status in the Premier League on Sunday at Bramall Lane (Watch live at 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The host Blades are unbeaten in five-straight since losing to Liverpool, and count a win over Arsenal and draw with Spurs amongst their streak.

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In-form Anthony Martial hopes to help the Red Devils move into fifth with a win, while a draw will obviously leave both sides short of their goals.

Andreas Pereira, Brendan Williams, and Fred will be the midfield to tangle with the Blades’ feisty combination of Oliver Norwood, John Fleck, and John Lundstram.

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