EPL

'Boring, boring Man United', Liverpool facing ignominious achievement – the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk April 26, 2021

A week on from the drama, controversy and anger surrounding the European Super League, it felt like football – rather than its potential ruin – was at the front of the agenda this weekend.

However, the spectre of the Super League continued to loom over much of the action, with many of the so-called "big six" seeing it used as a stick to beat them with as they largely stuttered to underwhelming results.

Of those in league action over the weekend (Manchester City beat Tottenham in the EFL Cup final), only Chelsea emerged victorious, as Manchester United and Liverpool were held, while Arsenal lost at home to Everton.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches…

Liverpool 1-1 Newcastle United: Reds to join exclusive list?

It was another underwhelming weekend for defending champions Liverpool, as their 1-1 draw at home to struggling Newcastle United saw them lose further ground in the fight for Champions League places.

Jurgen Klopp's men are four points adrift of Chelsea in fourth, after the Blues beat top-four rivals West Ham 1-0 at the London Stadium.

Liverpool have five matches to close the gap otherwise they face the prospect of an ignominious achievement.

Only five times before have the reigning Premier League champions failed to qualify for the Champions League the season after winning the title.

Manchester United were the first in 1994-95, also doing so in 2013-14. The other teams do this were Blackburn Rovers (1995-96), Chelsea (2015-16) and Leicester City (2016-17).

Wolves 0-4 Burnley: Wood and New Zealand join the United Nations of hat-tricks

Chris Wood enjoyed a weekend to remember as he netted his first Premier League hat-trick in Burnley's 4-0 win over Wolves.

In doing so, he became the first New Zealand national to score a treble in the competition, meaning there have been hat-tricks scored by 46 countries in the Premier League.

New Zealand has joined Gabon, South Korea, Venezuela, DR Congo, Japan, Israel, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Paraguay, Iceland, Sweden, Costa Rica and Serbia on one.

England, unsurprisingly, leads the way with 154 hat-tricks from 69 individuals. Joint second with 18 each are Netherlands and Argentina, while France (17) and Spain (11) are the only other countries into double figures.

Leeds United 0-0 Manchester United: 'Boring, boring Man United'

Fans expecting a repeat of Manchester United's 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United will have been sorely disappointed, not just with the 0-0 draw, but also given it was a fairly drab encounter.

Sure, United have excited on occasion this season, that previous win over Leeds and the 9-0 demolition of Southampton immediately coming to mind.

But Sunday's stalemate was United's seventh 0-0 draw of the season, more than any other team in the Premier League.

On top of that, 2020-21 has now seen United play out more goalless draws than any other Premier League season.

They previously played out six in 2004-05 and 2016-17, but 2020-21 now leads the way.

West Ham 0-1 Chelsea: Tuchel's at home on the road

Thomas Tuchel has made a fine impression at Chelsea since replacing Frank Lampard in January. The achievements seem to be piling up.

Chelsea's latest win saw them leave London rivals West Ham with a 1-0 win that moved them back into the top four at the expense of David Moyes' boys.

As such, he became the first Chelsea manager to avoid defeat in his first 10 away games across all competitions.

The previous club record was set by William Lewis over 100 years ago in 1906-07, when they went nine unbeaten on the road.

Tuchel also matched the record set by Luiz Felipe Scolari for the number of clean sheets (10) in his first 14 Premier League matches.

What's even more impressive about that is it's a league record, rather than just relevant to Chelsea.

Related items

  • Croatia 3-1 Scotland: Scots dumped out of Euro 2020 at group stages Croatia 3-1 Scotland: Scots dumped out of Euro 2020 at group stages

    Croatia secured their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2020 and dumped Scotland out as they claimed a 3-1 win in Glasgow.

    Having led through Nikola Vlasic's early strike, Zlatko Dalic's men were pegged back before half-time as Callum McGregor notched his country's first Euros goal since 1996.

    However, the Croatians' class eventually told, the evergreen Luka Modric netting a stunner before the influential Ivan Perisic headed home from a corner late on, equalling his country's record for the most goals at major tournaments (nine).

    And that ensured the visitors clinched second place in Group D while bringing an early end to the Scots' first major tournament appearance since 1998. 

    Encouraged by an electric atmosphere at Hampden Park, Scotland made the better start.

    But they failed to make the most of their best chance of a frenetic opening period, with Che Adams unable to get a touch on a John McGinn inswinger, allowing Dominik Livakovic to make the save.

    And Croatia were not as generous when their first major opportunity came, with Vlasic making the most of space in the box to finish ruthlessly from a Perisic knockdown.

    Scotland's chances were dealt a further blow just past the half-hour mark when Grant Hanley limped off, and his replacement Scott McKenna made an inauspicious start that saw a yellow card before a touch of the ball.

    However, the Scots levelled things up just before the break when McGregor deftly controlled a panicked clearance before thrashing a low shot into the corner.

    With a draw guaranteed to send both sides crashing out, it was no surprise to see them take more chances in looking to carve out attacks in the second period.

    Croatia almost made it count when only brave goalkeeping from David Marshall prevented Josko Gvardiol poking home, though the same man was fortunate McGinn could only fire wide after getting on his wrong side moments later.

    But it was a moment of sheer quality that eventually broke the deadlock, Modric curling home a beauty with the outside of his boot after slick play around the Scotland box.

    The hosts huffed and puffed in the aftermath of that strike but did not really look like scoring before Perisic wrapped things up, flicking a front-post header into the far corner to send his side through.

    What does it mean? More to come from Scotland

    Although Steve Clarke will have hoped for more, Scotland cannot be too disappointed with their efforts throughout Euro 2020.

    Qualifying represented a major achievement in itself, and this young squad will have plenty of opportunities to go one better at major tournaments in the future.

    What's next?

    England's win over the Czech Republic means Croatia progress as runners-up and will face the team that finishes in the same position in Group E in the last 16, either Sweden, Slovakia, Spain or Poland.

    As for Scotland, a first tournament outing in 23 years comes to an end at the group stages.

  • Czech Republic 0-1 England: Sterling wins Group D for Three Lions Czech Republic 0-1 England: Sterling wins Group D for Three Lions

    Raheem Sterling scored his second goal of Euro 2020 as England beat the Czech Republic 1-0 to win Group D and ensure they will play at Wembley in the round of 16.

    Sterling headed home in the first half of the Three Lions' final group game to move Gareth Southgate's side above their opponents and set up a showdown with France, Germany, Portugal or Hungary next Tuesday.

    The Czech Republic had their chances and must wait to discover their next opponents after slipping to third as a result of Croatia's 3-1 win over Scotland.

    Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka impressed as they came into the side along with Harry Maguire, who played 90 minutes on his return from an ankle injury for an England side that have not conceded a goal in the tournament.

    The Three Lions started with great intensity and they were almost in front when Sterling lobbed Tomas Vaclik but struck the far post after he was picked out by a clever pass from Luke Shaw.

    Sterling did not have long to wait for the opening goal, though, nodding home from close range 12 minutes in when the influential Grealish stood up a delightful cross from the left to the back post in a move that started with an incisive run from Saka.

    Vaclik denied Harry Kane with a reflex save following a brilliant pass from Maguire, but the Czech Republic also had their chances in an entertaining first half.

    Tomas Holes forced a fine reflex save from Jordan Pickford with a powerful strike and Tomas Soucek flashed a shot just wide, before Kane called Vaclik into action once again.

    Both sides made a change at the break, Jordan Henderson replacing Declan Rise and Petr Sevcik on for Jakub Jankto.

    The Czech Republic suffered a blow when Jan Boril was booked for a foul on the lively Saka, ruling him out of his side's last-16 tie.

    Henderson had a late goal disallowed, but England responded to a lacklustre display in a goalless draw with Scotland with a second 1-0 win of the tournament.

  • Slovakia v Spain: Profligate three-time winners at risk due to draw streak Slovakia v Spain: Profligate three-time winners at risk due to draw streak

    Luis Enrique accepted criticism ahead of Spain's decisive Group E clash with Slovakia, where another draw may not be enough.

    Spain have drawn with Sweden and Poland so far at Euro 2020 and could follow Portugal in 2016 as the second ever team to be held in all three matches in a European Championship group stage.

    Portugal went on to win that tournament, but Spain would not even be assured of third place in their pool and a place in the next round if results went against them elsewhere.

    Worryingly for Luis Enrique, whose side missed a host of chances in their first two matches, a point apiece appears the most likely result.

    Spain have drawn each of their past four major tournament matches – one shy of a record for European sides.

    And a point would suit Slovakia, ensuring they advance for the third time in three major tournament appearances, after the World Cup in 2010 and Euro 2016.

    Spain coach Luis Enrique described himself as "preoccupied with us meriting better results but not getting them".

    "We've created enough chances to win both games," he added, yet the under-fire boss recognised he could not complain about scrutiny.

    "We coaches fully understand the fact that we live by results, and what not meeting your objectives means," Luis Enrique said.

    "I'm hoping that by the end of Wednesday we're not only in the knockouts but as group winners. Right now I'll accept the criticism."
     

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Slovakia – Martin Dubravka

    Goalkeeper Dubravka conceded the costly penalty when Slovakia lost their second match to Sweden, having earlier made a stunning save. That was one of just five stops so far at the tournament, though, while he has picked the ball out of his net twice. Spain may be wasteful, but that save rate may need to improve.

    Spain – Gerard Moreno

    Moreno will certainly hope to keen Dubravka busy – if he gets the opportunity. The forward missed a penalty against Poland (Spain's fifth miss from their past eight attempts at the Euros) and Luis Enrique hinted at potentially looking for a solution in attack. Moreno has been involved in more goals (nine) for Spain since his debut than any other player.
     

    KEY OPTA FACTS

    – Slovakia have won only one of their six meetings with Spain (D1 L4), a home victory in a European Championship qualifier back in October 2014 (2-1). This is their first encounter at a major tournament.
    – Spain have won all three of their previous matches on home soil against Slovakia, scoring 11 goals and conceding two.
    – Slovakia are unbeaten in their final group-stage game at both of their previous two major tournaments, winning 3-2 against Italy at the 2010 World Cup and drawing 0-0 with England at Euro 2016. They have progressed from the group stages at both previous tournaments.
    – Including one as caretaker manager in 2018, Stefan Tarkovic has only lost two of his 11 matches in charge of Slovakia in all competitions (W4 D5 L2), with one of those defeats coming last time out against Sweden; Slovakia are yet to lose back-to-back games under him.
    – Spain have drawn their last four major tournament matches (World Cup and Euros); among European nations, only Italy (five from 1980 to 1982) have ever had a longer run of successive such draws.

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