It was all a bit of a damp squib in the end, as Manchester United followed up their superb fightback against City last weekend by falling to a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford to the league’s bottom club, West Brom. The loss, combined with City’s win over Spurs earlier in the weekend, confirmed City as this year’s Premier League champions in the most anti-climactic way. Jay Rodriguez scored the goal that won the title, so to speak, as United put in an awful performance, devoid of any spark or creativity, and now even the carrot of a potential FA Cup win looks insufficient to save the season.
Manchester City did their bit convincingly, winning 3-1 at Spurs to halt an alarming run of form. City were back to their bewitching best, and took the lead through Gabriel Jesus in the first half after having gone close on a couple of occasions. Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty made it 2-0 a few minutes later, and while Christian Eriksen halved the deficit with an extremely lucky strike, with the ball deflecting off Aymeric Laporte’s attempted tackle and into the net, Raheem Sterling scored late on to seal the game and atone for his earlier misses. Elsewhere, Mohamed Salah scored yet again, as Liverpool beat Bournemouth 3-0 at Anfield. Sadio Mane opened the scoring inside 8 minutes, scoring from the rebound after his initial header had been saved, and while Liverpool failed to register again in the first half, Salah got his 30th league goal of the season when he headed home brilliantly from a right-wing cross. Roberto Firmino wrapped things up at the end with an emphatic finish, and Liverpool continue in their quest to overhaul United in second place.
Burnley’s European ambitions look a little closer now, as the Clarets beat Leicester 2-1 at Turf Moor. They were 2-0 up within ten minutes, with goals from Chris Wood and Kevin Long, and although Jamie Vardy got a goal back with a quarter of the match remaining, Burnley held on to go nine points clear of their opponents, and amazingly, just two points behind Arsenal in sixth. The reason for that was Arsenal’s 2-1 loss away to Newcastle. Alexandre Lacazette’s superb volley had put the Gunners in front, who were playing a rotated XI following their Europa League exertions. However, goals from Ayoze Perez and Matt Ritchie propelled Newcastle to the win, encapsulating just how crucial Rafa Benitez has been in keeping the Magpies safe this season. Arsenal, on the other hand, continued their woeful away record, having failed to pick up a single point on their travels in 2018, and surely their regression this season must mean that Arsene Wenger’s time is finally up.
Wilfried Zaha’s double fired Crystal Palace to a huge 3-2 derby win over Brighton, and sent the Eagles six points clear of the drop, with four games to play. Zaha opened the scoring in the fifth minute, scoring after a short corner, and James Tomkins doubled the lead soon after, again from a corner. Glenn Murray got one back soon after, but Zaha restored Palace’s two goal lead again in a bonkers opening half an hour to the game. Jose Izquierdo scored barely five minutes after that to move Brighton back within a goal, but while they huffed and puffed all throughout the rest of the match, Palace held on to record a famous win, one that almost surely secures their place in next season’s competition. Huddersfield too picked up a crucial 1-0 win at home to Watford, with Tom Ince scoring in stoppage time to sink the Hornets, and moving the Terriers seven points clear of danger. In this context, Swansea’s 1-1 draw with Everton was damaging for the south Wales club, even though they picked up a point. Kyle Naughton’s unfortunate own goal had put the Toffees ahead, and Swansea proceeded to throw the kitchen sink at them, going close on multiple occasions before Jordan Ayew’s fine finish brought them back on level terms. However, with teams around and above them picking up wins, Swansea remain precariously positioned at the edge of the relegation zone, one place and five points ahead of Southampton.
Southampton were desperately unlucky, as Chelsea came back from two goals down to beat the Saints 3-2 at St. Mary’s. A win would have reignited Southampton’s hopes of escaping the drop, and it looked they would be getting one against the most unlikely opponents, as Dusan Tadic and Jan Bednarek’s goals put them in the driving seat. However, Chelsea do possess a number of supremely talented footballers, and Eden Hazard inspired a comeback for the ages, scoring one, while Olivier Giroud bolstered his reputation as a super-sub, grabbing two goals after coming off the bench, to leave the Saints shell-shocked, and crucially, five points from safety with only five game to play.
So that’s that then; United’s meek defeat to West Brom means that City are now mathematically confirmed as champions. While this has looked a formality for months now, hopes of a strong end to the season by United were raised after their fightback against City last weekend. Those have now been extinguished with this defeat, and the rest of the season will be an exercise in ensuring United do not let second place, which has been theirs for virtually the entire season, slip as well.