The English Premier League motors into Week 9 and we take a look at the fortunes of the big three: Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
When Juan Mata left the field, everyone in the stadium rose to their feet in a hearty show of affection for a man who had somehow found the right chemistry to leave a club for another member of the Big 6 without receiving death threats.
Jose Mourinho, not so much.
The ‘Special One’ won three Premier League titles during his time at Stamford Bridge. You would imagine a haul like that would land you a Mata-like round of applause.
As Mourinho left his seat following a wild final few minutes in which Ross Barkley stole a point with the last kick of the game, and Chelsea’s Assistant Coach, Marco Ianni, pumped his fists in the face of the United boss, he gave the fans who once loved him the three finger salute.
The United board should stop thinking about sacking Mourinho, and instead hire Eileen Drewery.
United never play well at Stamford Bridge. They go through the motions, apply their makeup, straighten their bowtie, and walk out onto the stage, but rarely perform. Before the noon kickoff, Chelsea had only lost once at home in 16 attempts against United sides. The smart money was on the home side, but it was United who was the better side and deserved all three points.
The first chance of the game went the way of United. Luke Shaw crossed from the left and Romelu Lukaku headed wide from the penalty spot in an opening 15-minutes where Chelsea rarely troubled the team in red.
Then came the goal, against the run of play.
20-minutes had registered on the clock when Willian swung in a corner. Antonio Rüdiger managed to lose the attention of Paul Pogba to head home the opener, and Chelsea should have gone into the half-time interval with a two-goal advantage when Marco Alonso ghosted past the United backline but failed to control the ball with only David De Gea to beat.
Ten minutes after the restart and United was level.
Once again it was Shaw delivering from the left. David Luiz cleared the ball but injured himself in the process. The ball fell to Mata who fired in a shot, which the Chelsea keeper saved. The ball pinballed to Ashley Young, and his shot come cross found Anthony Martial who took a touch before volleying it into the back of the net.
Chelsea reacted well.
Luiz got on the end of a Willian free-kick only to see his glancing header whistle past the post by a few inches, and N’Golo Kante saw his right footed shot saved by the palm of the Superman from Spain.
Each time Chelsea poured forward, United looked dangerous on the break, and that’s how they got their second goal. The ball found Mata on the right, who managed to poke it past Luiz before racing down the touchline. The Spaniard found Marcus Rashford, who squared it to Martial, and the Frenchman smashed it into the bottom corner for his 40th goal since joining the club as the world’s most expensive teenager back in September 2015 (no United has scored more in that timeframe – give the kid a new contract).
2-1 down with 15-minutes to go against United, most clubs would have waved the white flag, but Chelsea have scored eight times in the last quarter of their games this season, four more than any other side, and they made it nine with the last kick of the game.
Pedro sent in a free kick from the right, and Luiz sent a thumping header against the foot of the United post. The rebound reached Rüdiger in the six-yard box, but De Gea parried, only for Barkley to react quickest to score his second successive goal, the first time he has done so since 2015.
The Chelsea players went berserk, as did their fans, and Ianni, who twice got in the face of Mourinho during his celebrations, and the second time he did so, Mourinho reacted angrily.
Mourinho told the press after the match that Ianni had apologised, and he had accepted his apology, but he will be bitterly disappointed to have lost three points at the club where he won three titles.
Man City 5 v 0 Burnley
Chelsea’s point in the early kickoff moved them into pole position until Man City put five past hapless Burnley at The Etihad.
Premier League managers make me laugh.
Sure, Burnley were unlucky on some points (Vincent Kompany should have been sent off, Leroy Sané, maybe; the second goal was a bit dodgy), but City destroyed them, so eat humble pie, Dyche.
Five different scorers showed the strength in depth that City have. Sergio Agüero opened the scoring with his seventh in seven games, Bernardo Silva smashed the second into the roof of the net after the officials failed to see that David Silva had crossed from behind the touchline, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez both scored a couple of rockets, and the talented Sané finished things off in injury time.
The win means City maintain their 100% win rate at home.
Huddersfield 0 v 1 Liverpool
Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, told the press that he has begun winning average games for the first time in his life, after a scrappy 0-1 win at Huddersfield.
Mohamed Salah scored the only goal of the game, finishing neatly in the 24th minute after being put through on goal by Xherdan Shaqiri. It was Salah’s 50th goal in English football and his first in four outings.
Huddersfield was unlucky not to get a point.
Captain, Jonathan Hogg, smashed a long-range effort against the post, Alex Pritchard had a goal disallowed for an offside decision that could have gone either way, and on another day, James Milner’s unintentional handball would have led to a penalty.
Liverpool remains unbeaten.
Huddersfield hasn’t won a game all season.
Here are the fixtures in full:
Fixtures in Full
Chelsea 2 v 2 Man Utd
West Ham 0 v 1 Spurs
Newcastle 0 v 1 Brighton
Bournemouth 0 v 0 Southampton
Cardiff 4 v 2 Fulham
Wolves 0 v 2 Watford
Man City 5 v 0 Burnley
Huddersfield 0 v 1 Liverpool
To Be Played
Everton v Crystal Palace (Sun)
Arsenal v Leicester (Mon)
Premier League Table
1. Man City – 23
2. Liverpool – 23
3. Chelsea – 21
4. Spurs – 21
5. Arsenal – 18
6. Bournemouth – 17
7. Watford – 16
8. Wolves – 15
9. Man Utd – 14
10. Leicester – 12
11. Everton – 12
12. Brighton – 11
13. Burnley – 8
14. Crystal Palace – 7
15. West Ham – 7
16. Southampton – 5
17. Cardiff – 5
18. Fulham – 5
19. Huddersfield – 3
20. Newcastle- 2
Premier League Winner Odds
Man City 4/7
Man Utd 80/1
Premier League Relegation Odds
Top 4 Finish
Man City 1/150
Man Utd 3/1
Sergio Aguero – 11/4
Harry Kane 3/1
Mohamed Salah – 5/1
Eden Hazard – 6/1
Next Manager to Leave
Jose Mourinho – 5/2
Slavisa Jokanovic – 3/1
Mark Hughes 6/1