EPL

Premier League data dive: Aguero moves past Rooney, Willock matches Shearer and Kane strikes gold

By Sports Desk May 23, 2021

The Premier League race is run. A season that has seemingly been a never-ending story finally concluded on Sunday with the focus centred on the top four.

Chelsea lost but still ended up securing Champions League qualification, Liverpool won to astonishingly end an eventful campaign in third and poor Leicester City missed out after a crazy game at home to Tottenham as Harry Kane clinched the Golden Boot.

West Ham finish above Spurs in sixth to make the Europa League, while Manchester United ruined Nuno Espirito Santo's last game in charge of Wolves. There was yet another goal for Joe Willock, while David McGoldrick made sure he will no doubt be the subject of a pub quiz question in years to come.

Manchester City had clinched the title long ago, but a home game with Everton offered a chance for their returning fans to say farewell to a club legend.


Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Tuchel slips up on the road as Blues lose

Thomas Tuchel's side held on to their top-four spot thanks to the result at the King Power Stadium, with the German coach able to celebrate despite suffering his first away defeat in the league since taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Villa, in the process becoming the 25th different player to manage a Premier League goal against Chelsea having previously been at the Blues. Anwar El Ghazi doubled the lead with the 100th penalty scored in the competition this season, the first time a campaign has reached triple figures.

On the subject of penalties, Jorginho finished with the most goals for Chelsea in the league with seven – all from the spot. It is the lowest number for the club’s leading scorer in a top-flight season since 1974-75, when Ian Hutchinson also managed seven.

Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane helps Reds prosper at Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has now finished in the top four at the end of the five full seasons he has had in charge of the Reds, who handed their former boss Roy Hodgson a 2-0 defeat in his Palace swansong.

Sadio Mane got both goals, the second with the aid of a huge deflection. He has scored 10 or more in all seven of his Premier League campaigns, including his two with Southampton before moving to Anfield in June 2016.

Liverpool won their meetings with Palace by a combined 9-0 score; only against Ipswich in 2001-02 (11-0) have they enjoyed a bigger aggregate margin across two Premier League games in the same season. While he had no need to conjure up another last-gasp goal this time, Alisson Becker did manage to keep a clean sheet on his 100th league outing for Klopp's side.

Leicester City 2-4 Tottenham: Foxes run into trouble against Bale and Kane

Leicester spent 242 days in the Premier League's top four this term, only to end the final one sitting in fifth place. For a second successive year, a late loss of form has cost them a Champions League place.

A sixth defeat in 13 matches did not appear on the cards when they twice led against Spurs thanks to Jamie Vardy, who scored two penalties in a match for a third time this season. However, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal – his second in the top tier – levelled matters, with the visitors then moving clear in a frantic finish.

Gareth Bale scored twice late on in potentially his final game for Tottenham, but will Kane still be there when the transfer window shuts? The striker's 41st-minute effort lifted him to 23 for this term as he became only the third player to win the Golden Boot award as many as three times, following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (also three).

Aguero at the double, Willock matches Shearer (yes, really)

In scoring twice after coming on as a substitute, Aguero ended his City career as he had started it – with a brace off the bench (he had done just the same on debut against Swansea City, way back in August 2011). His double takes his final tally to 184 Premier League goals, in the process surpassing Wayne Rooney (183) for the most by a player for a single club.

As for Manchester United, a 2-1 triumph at Wolves sees them become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away across an entire top-tier season, a feat most recently achieved by Arsenal in 2003-04. The current-day Gunners beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0, though still finished eighth for a second year in a row.

At Fulham, Willock was on target once more in a 2-0 win for Newcastle United. It means the on-loan Arsenal midfielder becomes only the second Newcastle player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, after hall-of-famer Shearer in 1996.

West Ham secured a top-six finish for only the second time in the Premier League era thanks to a 3-0 win over a Southampton team who do not prosper on their travels – they ended up losing 10 of their 11 away fixtures in 2021, during which they leaked 33 goals and scored just seven times.

There was a win for Leeds United at home to West Brom, taking them up to 59 points – the most by a promoted club since Ipswich Town (66) in 2000-01. Sheffield United finished bottom, but at least signed off on a winning note. Striker McGoldrick grabbed the only goal against Burnley to earn his own place in history: it was the 1,000th scored in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season.

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  • Gudelj defends Neymar challenge: 'I tried not to hit him hard' Gudelj defends Neymar challenge: 'I tried not to hit him hard'

    Nemanja Gudelj has defended the challenge on Neymar that may have led Brazil's star man to sustain his ankle injury in the victory over Serbia.

    Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar limped off in the 80th minute of the Selecao's 2-0 triumph on Thursday, having been subjected to nine fouls – more than any other player during the opening round of group games.

    Neymar, who suffered what has been described as a lateral ligament injury to his right ankle, shared an update on his official Instagram account on Saturday, including photos of his heavily swollen foot.

    Gudelj received a yellow card for his 49th-minute challenge – and was substituted eight minutes later – but the midfielder insists he had no intention of injuring his opponent.

    "I didn't feel like I tackled him very hard myself," Gudelj told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "I tried not to hit him hard and certainly not on his ankle. I think he got injured during another action, because he played on for a while.

    "I felt I had no choice because Neymar is deadly when he enters the penalty area. It was a necessary foul in my opinion, but one that eventually cost me a substitution."

    Serbia suffered their eighth World Cup defeat since 2006 after going down against Brazil, with only Australia losing on more occasions at the finals during this span (nine).

    Dragan Stojkovic's side can reignite their last-16 hopes with victory over Cameroon on Monday, before their Group G campaign concludes against Switzerland four days later.

    "We played too carefully in the second half [against Brazil] and showed too much respect," Gudelj added. "We collapsed, so we certainly asked for a goal against a team with as much quality up front as Brazil.

    "Whether we have seen the future world champions at work, I don't know. But they are definitely one of the favourites. They are an excellent team with technical and dynamic players. They're definitely going to fight for the gold.

    "We have faith in ourselves and hope. Of course, you can lose a game against Brazil, because they really have an excellent team.

    "We just need to win two games now. So, we're going full steam ahead, with attacking football – the way we like to play."

  • Belgium 0-2 Morocco: Saiss and Aboukhlal sink Red Devils for famous World Cup win Belgium 0-2 Morocco: Saiss and Aboukhlal sink Red Devils for famous World Cup win

    A superb second-half performance from Morocco secured a famous 2-0 World Cup victory against Belgium at Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday.

    Victory for Roberto Martinez's side would have seen the 2018 semi-finalists become the second side to book their spot in the knockout stage, alongside France, but the Red Devils fell short.

    Having seen a first-half free-kick from Hakim Ziyech disallowed, the same tactic provided dividends in the second period as Abdelhamid Sabiri's dangerous ball took a slight touch off team-mate Romain Saiss to put Morocco on course for just a third win in their World Cup history.

    The win was then secured in the final minutes of the game, Zakaria Aboukhlal smashing home from close range after Ziyech's fine work to leave Group F wide open with one round of games to go.

    Belgium saw the majority of possession early on and dictated play, Michy Batshuayi forcing an early save from Munir Mohamedi, who came into the side as a very late change for Yassine Bounou.

    Having been on the back foot for the majority, Morocco thought they had scored on the brink of half-time as Ziyech's free-kick found its way into the net, but Saiss was offside and adjudged to have blocked Thibaut Courtois' line of sight.

    Lightning struck twice for Martinez's side after the break, as Sabiri whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the left to the near post which found its way past Courtois via a faint touch off Saiss, who was awarded the goal, with no offside flag to save Belgium this time.

    Any hope of a late fightback from Belgium was wiped away in added time, Ziyech winning the ball off a poor touch from Axel Witsel and teeing up Aboukhlal to smash home.

     

    What does it mean? Belgium's fine run ends

    Winning their past eight group-stage matches at the World Cup, victory would have seen Belgium set an outright record in that regard, while they had not lost at this stage of the tournament since 1994.

    Morocco, with just two wins from 17 previous fixtures at the tournament (D6, L9), were largely unfancied before a ball was kicked in a group that contained two semi-finalists from Russia 2018, but they have avoided defeat against both.

    A famous triumph inflicted Belgium's first ever defeat to an African nation at the World Cup, and Morocco now just need a point against Canada to reach the knockout stage for the first time since 1986.

    Moroccan magic

    Heading into the game, Morocco had failed to score in 53 per cent of their World Cup matches (9/17), which stood as the joint-highest percentage of any nation to have played at least 10 matches in the tournament.

    While chances from open play were limited, Morocco's effectiveness from set-pieces proved crucial, with the same move against Belgium working twice – though the first was ruled out.

    Disappointing De Bruyne

    Usually one to pull the strings in midfield, Morocco's fine organisation left Kevin De Bruyne's influence on the match being limited, the Manchester City man creating just one chance for his team during the game.

    De Bruyne ended up being the man at the end of attacking sequences for Martinez's side, with more shots (three) than any of his team-mates but failing to hit the target with any, while also losing possession on a game-high 27 occasions.

    Key Opta facts

    - Belgium have lost seven of their past 19 matches in all competitions (W9 D3), as many defeats as they had suffered across their previous 74 games combined (W57 D10).
    - Morocco's victory over Belgium was their first win in five games at the World Cup (D2 L2). Meanwhile, it was the first time that they had recorded consecutive clean sheets at the World Cup since 1986.
    - Belgium are just the third side to lose their 50th game at the World Cup, after England in 2002 (v Brazil) and Spain in 2010 (v Switzerland), though the latter went on to win the tournament that year.
    - The Red Devils have only scored fewer goals after two games at a World Cup once before (none in 1930) – they had scored eight goals across their first two games in 2018.

    What's next?

    Morocco tackle Canada in their final group match on Thursday, knowing a draw will be enough to secure a spot in the knockout stage, while Belgium lock horns with Croatia on the same day.

  • Rashford grateful for 'unbelievable' opportunity to play alongside Ronaldo Rashford grateful for 'unbelievable' opportunity to play alongside Ronaldo

    Marcus Rashford will "forever" cherish his days of playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United.

    Ronaldo's Old Trafford departure was confirmed on Tuesday as United revealed the two parties came to a "mutual agreement" regarding his immediate exit.

    That came after the 37-year-old held an explosive interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, during which he openly criticised the club, its board and manager Erik ten Hag.

    United said they "initiated appropriate steps" in the wake of the interview's full release, ultimately resulting in his second spell at the club coming to an end.

    Ronaldo had struggled for form this season and found himself behind Rashford and Anthony Martial in the pecking order when they were all fit.

    Despite the acrimonious conclusion to Ronaldo's time at the club, Rashford only looked back on their time together with a positive outlook.

    "Listen, it's been an unbelievable experience to play with him," Rashford said.

    "He's obviously one of my idols and someone I've always looked up to, so to have the opportunity to play with him is unbelievable.

    "I'll take that with me and it's something that I can keep with me forever.

    "So, I wish him all the best. We obviously want to thank him for the things that he's done for Manchester United and wish him all the best in the rest of his career."

    Ronaldo is yet to sign with another club, but according to reports there are no restrictions on where he can move.

    Chelsea and Newcastle United have been mentioned as potential destinations for the Portugal great, while Flamengo and Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr are also rumoured to be keen.

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