Who were “back to their reliable best” in the Premier League at the weekend and who showed a “sheer lack of quality and application”?
There were wins for Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea while Huddersfield were relegated following their defeat at Crystal Palace.
Our reporters grade each teams’ performance from A to F…
Southampton played a 4-3-2-1 formation and it was effective against Brighton, with opposition manager Chris Hughton conceding Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side were the better team.
Their midfield and forward line pressed the Brighton backline throughout and it eventually pushed them into making the slip-up which led to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s decisive goal in the 53rd minute. (James Kilpatrick)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Nathan Redmond (10pts)
Burnley were back to their reliable and hard-to-beat best in their vital 2-0 win over Wolves on Saturday – ending a run of four Premier League defeats in the process – a victory that boosted their survival hopes.
However, perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the Clarets’ solid display was their shutout, a first clean sheet in nine league games further proof that the Burnley of last season really are back. (Richard Morgan)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – James Tarkowski (17pts)
Marco Silva has perked Everton up at just the right time to lift spirits around Goodison Park. Everton picked up from where they left off in their victory over Chelsea before the international break with a classy performance at West Ham, where they completely dominated in every department.
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Silva’s slick side had nine shots on target at the London Stadium and had this game sewn up inside 33 minutes. By the final whistle, Everton had run more than six kilometres further than West Ham, making 146 sprints to the hosts’ 132. The intensity is there, confidence is there and Everton are climbing the table because of it. (Jack Wilkinson)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Kurt Zouma (14pts)
Brendan Rodgers is already having the desired effect at the King Power Stadium and is getting the best out of a talented squad.
Jonny Evans, Ricardo Pereira and Youri Tielemans are emerging as central figures in the side that has often relied on Jamie Vardy and James Maddison for inspiration.
Though they were often profligate in front of goal the Foxes looked watertight at the back and rarely looked like conceding through the 90 minutes. Seventh spot is well within sight. (Nick Howson)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Wes Morgan (19pts)
Manchester City: B+
After half an hour it looked like City would be hitting 5+ goals for an 11th time this season. Slick, energetic and completely dominant, Pep Guardiola’s side had Fulham chasing shadows in the opening period, and though it ended only 2-0, City were rarely if ever in danger of conceding.
Once again Bernardo Silva was the subtle star of the show. The perfect long-term replacement for his namesake David, the Portugal midfielder rarely puts a foot wrong, and deserved his goal and assist.
Guardiola could have easily dropped the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling ahead of a tough schedule, but chose to keep momentum after that tricky international break. It worked, and they go into a vital few weeks with the wind in their sales. (Gerard Brand)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Bernardo Silva (16pts)
Cardiff may have lost to Chelsea but they caused Maurizio Sarri’s men more than a few problems in their 2-1 defeat, with Josh Murphy and Sean Morrison putting in standout performances.
Neil Warnock’s side had the same number of shots on target as Chelsea (3) and can count themselves unfortunate to have lost the game. Chelsea’s opening goal through Cesar Azpilicueta should have been chalked off for offside. (James Kilpatrick)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Victor Camarasa (8pts)
This wasn’t vintage Liverpool. It wasn’t even a good Liverpool display. But Jurgen Klopp’s side did show they have the fight required to take this Premier League title race to the wire.
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The midfield three of Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and Jordan Henderson weren’t necessarily pretty to watch – they were rarely able to take control of the ball and produce any kind of flow – but their work rate and willingness to get stuck in was key to Liverpool stopping Spurs. To add, their full-backs won them the game again.
But Liverpool also showed nerves, and plenty of them. With six games to go, it’s understandable, but Klopp will want his side to relax with more big tests to come. (Gerard Brand)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Andy Robertson (10pts)
Manchester United – B-
A few days after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was confirmed as Manchester United on a permanent basis, United produced arguably their poorest display under the Norwegian as they edged past Watford 2-1. United were careless in possession, struggled to build any momentum and were on the back foot for much of the match, as highlighted by the fact they had eight shots compared to 20 from Watford.
- Why win hints at challenges ahead
But there were positives in the defensive display as Luke Shaw impressed at left-back and Phil Jones and Chris Smalling managed to largely keep Watford at bay. United also looked threatening on the counter through Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, both of whom scored.
It wasn’t a memorable performance to mark Solskjaer’s first game as permanent manager, but at this stage of the season, and particularly immediately after an international break, the result was probably more important than the display. (James Walker-Roberts)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Luke Shaw (10pts)
Watford – C+
“We dominated the game, had possession for long parts of the game, created more chances, had more shots, more corners, but we didn’t score and they punished us.”
Javi Gracia summed up Watford’s frustrating afternoon at Old Trafford nicely.
Watford did plenty right against Manchester United as they controlled much of the game and created most of the openings. However, they were made to pay for their lack of a cutting edge and a defence that was caught out when United countered.
The consolation for the Hornets is that a repeat performance should give them a strong chance of winning their FA Cup semi-final against Wolves next Sunday, provided they can find a scoring touch. (James Walker-Roberts)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Abdoulay Doucoure (8pts)
Five minutes before Liverpool’s winner, Spurs could have won it themselves. Racing through on goal with sole defender Virgil van Dijk occupied by Heung-Min Son, Moussa Sissoko blazed over. Of all of Spurs’ midfield and attacking players, Sissoko may have been the last man Mauricio Pochettino wanted on the ball.
It’s fine margins, and now after four defeats and a draw Spurs are in a real battle to make top four, a battle they should never have got themselves involved in.
The narrative from Poch is continuing; give or take, it reads: ‘We are overachieving given the circumstances of the stadium and spending.’ He’s not far wrong, but this was a chance missed in the top-four race. A nervy Liverpool could have been beaten, but instead Spurs are looking over their shoulders nervously. (Gerard Brand)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Lucas Moura (7pts)
Brighton won the possession battle against Southampton, but they had just the one shot on target out of the 14 attempted because, on the most part, their south coast visitors forced them into attempts from distance.
Glenn Murray was isolated up top for long periods and Hughton may well call on Florin Andone to lead the line for their midweek game against Chelsea if he is fit in time. (James Kilpatrick)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Lewis Dunk (4pts)
Chelsea may have edged past Cardiff but they did so in controversial circumstances as Azpilicueta’s equaliser should not have stood.
Antonio Rudiger was also fortunate not to receive a red card on an afternoon when Chelsea lacked spark in attack, and only really got going when Eden Hazard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were introduced in the second half. (James Kilpatrick)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Cesar Azpilicueta (10pts)
Crystal Palace: C
So many chances wasted, and only against Huddersfield will they get away with it in the Premier League. Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha both especially guilty of squandering wonderful opportunities. The Eagles found a way and got the job done with two goals and a clean sheet, but it’s a win that looks much better on paper. (Freddie Clayton)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Patrick van Aanholt (19pts)
It’s relegation for the Terriers, and it’s been inevitable for some time. A spirited first half should’ve seen them take the lead but for two great saves by Vicente Guaita. However, they allowed Palace a number of second-half chances as Huddersfield showed that they’re simply not good enough for the Premier League. (Freddie Clayton)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Terence Kongolo (3pts)
Wolves produced a lacklustre performance at Turf Moor, with the visitors perhaps distracted by next weekend’s huge FA Cup semi-final with Watford.
Either way, Nuno’s side barely made it out of first gear in the Lancashire sunshine and worryingly, they now head into that Wembley showdown having won just one of their last six Premier League games. (Richard Morgan)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Roman Saiss (6pts)
Yes, this was against the champions and potentially one of the best Premier League sides we’ve ever seen. Yes, they are adjusting to life under a caretaker manager. But Fulham shot themselves in the foot for both goals.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Joe Bryan saw loose passes capitalised on for the goals, while at the other end Fulham failed to have a shot on goal for the first time in a home league game since 2010. That’s 188 games ago.
Scott Parker insists he’s loving his time as caretaker boss despite four straight losses, but if he does get the full-time job, he has a huge rebuilding job in the summer after the Cottagers’ big summer spending backfired. (Gerard Brand)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Joe Bryan and Sergio Rico (3pts)
The away-day blues continued for the Cherries, whose manager Eddie Howe will be concerned by the sheer lack of quality and application from his side.
Relegation fears might be distant but this was a troubling display which bar one Callum Wilson chance never looked like being punctuated by a sustained period of pressure, let alone regular attempts on goal.
Though a record top-flight points tally is still within sight, such an ambition will remain a pipe dream if their woeful away record does not improve. (Nick Howson)
Fantasy Football top points scorer – Dan Gosling (3pts)
West Ham: E-
The Hammers produced a dire display against Everton at the London Stadium.
They had just three shots on goal, which was their lowest in a home Premier League game since 2005/06, and players were subjected to boos from disgruntled supporters.