It’s another bad Premier League experience for Saul Niguez as Chelsea squeeze past Watford; Diogo Jota helps Liverpool add to Everton’s problems; Leeds celebrate at home, while Wolves and Newcastle are frustrated; Leicester stutter again; Neal Maupay scores the hard ones
Watford 1-2 Chelsea
Everton 1-4 Liverpool
Aston Villa 1-2 Man City
Southampton 2-2 Leicester
West Ham 1-1 Brighton
Wolves 0-0 Burnley
Chelsea dropped two points against Manchester United on Sunday, but this was two points fortuitously gained. Having made six changes, frankly, they got away with one.
Saul Niguez was given the chance to redeem himself after a forgettable debut against Aston Villa in September, but put in an almost identical performance. He was subbed off at the break with just 50 per cent passing accuracy in the opposition half, having given the ball away six times, gained it just once, and won just two of his eight duels. On loan for the season, Premier League football may well pass the Spaniard by.
And while Ruben Loftus-Cheek was solid, it’s worth remembering Chelsea were without their three best midfielders on Wednesday night in N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic.
On the one hand, Manchester City and Liverpool look mesmerising, and this feels like another 90+ point season where playing badly isn’t tolerated. On the other hand, Chelsea haven’t fielded their best XI for a number of weeks and still sit top.
Andrew Robertson’s pass was slightly behind Diogo Jota but it did not matter. The Portuguese simply checked his run, stretched out a leg to hook the ball past Allan, then slammed an unstoppable finish past Jordan Pickford from close to the byline.
The goal mattered little in the context of the result. Liverpool were already out of sight at 3-1. But it turned a comfortable derby win into a rout and it also underlined the brilliance of a player who looks right at home alongside Mohamed Salah in Liverpool’s attack.
In truth, Jota has done ever since his £41m arrival from Wolves last summer. Many scoffed at the fee. The consensus was that Liverpool had overpaid for a player who was talented but inconsistent. Now, though, it is difficult to view it as anything other than a bargain.
Jota’s goal was his fourth in his last three appearances and his eighth in the Premier League this season, putting him third in the scoring charts behind only team-mate Salah, whose tally now stands at 13, and Jamie Vardy, who has hit nine for Leicester.
His numbers were similarly impressive despite his injury troubles last season.
In fact, with 17 goals in 32 Premier League appearances for Liverpool in total, he is averaging one for every 120 minutes minutes played – an even better strike rate than Salah, who has averaged a goal every 124 minutes in the same timeframe.
It’s not just goals he’s bringing to the side either. Against Everton, nobody won more duels (11) or completed more dribbles (three). He ranked top for chances created too (three). Everton could not live with Salah but the same was true of Jota.
Salah remains Liverpool’s superstar, of course, but at 24, five years younger than his Egyptian team-mate, Jota is showing it might not be long until he enjoys the same status.
Bernardo Silva is in the form of his life!
The Portugal international produced another standout performance in Man City’s 2-1 hard-fought victory at Aston Villa and to cap it off he produced one of the goals of the season.
The goal, which came just before half-time, was a sensational, ruthless, move from the champions.
It started when Riyad Mahrez and Joao Cancelo delicately played their way out of a tight space inside their own area for Fernandinho to release Jesus.
The Brazilian’s early cross picked out Bernardo and the forward put the gloss on the stunning counter with a brilliant first-time volley which flew past Martinez from 18 yards.
It was a goal that left even Pep Guardiola laughing on the sidelines. “He is a player on another level,” said Guardiola after the win at Villa Park.
He has scored four goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 55 for Manchester City.
And in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, who was jeered on his return to Aston Villa when he came on as very late substitute, he has shown his importance to City’s title chances this season once again.
It has been a pretty frustrating season for Leicester so far. Their lack of consistency has seen dreams of returning to the Champions League turn into a mid-table scrap, and their performance at Southampton epitomised the rollercoaster season they are having.
It was a very slow start from the Foxes as Southampton out-played them in the first period. Their set-piece frailties were again widely exposed with the Saints scoring from their first two corners and ended the half with six of their nine shots being on target.
But as the case has been a few times this season, the second half was far better. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall came on and sparked life into a disjointed Leicester, with James Maddison also picking up where he left off against Watford.
Leicester should have won it late in the half, with Harvey Barnes seeing an effort saved by Alex McCarthy before an almost anonymous Jamie Vardy fired an effort over from an area we have seen him score from dozens of times before.
On the balance of play, a draw was probably right, but Brendan Rodgers did describe it as “two points dropped” based on the second-half performance.