Around The League Roundup | 11th March

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Article by Samuel Hodgkiss @SamuelHodgkiss 

In a week that saw plenty of controversial decisions, the return of the Champions League and the FA announcing new changes to the laws ahead of next season, there is lots that have happened around the league this week that will be discussed on the Premier League Weekly Roundup.

We kick things off with the action from the Champions League in midweek where Spurs travelled to Germany to face Borussia Dortmund in their second-leg Round of 16 tie, all be it 3-0 up from their home tie three weeks earlier. A brilliant finish from striker Harry Kane was enough on the night to further cement Spurs’ easy progression to the quarter-final stage of the competition, the first time they have achieved this since the 2010/11 season, with that time being the first in their club’s history.

Wednesday evening saw Manchester United travel to Paris looking to overturn a somewhat impossible deficit of 2-0 going into the second-leg. A United side without many stars such as Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard started well, with Lukaku scoring after just 2 minutes from a poor mistake from the PSG defender. Juan Bernat then levelled things on the night for PSG to make believe once again that the tie was over. However, a second from Lukaku and a late Marcus Rashford penalty gave United the 2 more goals they needed to win the tie over the two legs on away goals.

The penalty decision given to United via a VAR change from the referee caused a huge stir on the socials, with people asking whether or not it should have been given as a penalty. Even though in the laws it should be given, I believe that this was not a penalty and therefore the laws on penalties and other game changing decisions like these need to be addressed and more easily interpreted. This links in with news earlier this week announced by the International FA Board about their rules changing for the start of the 2019/20 season. These rule changes include goals that have struck a player’s hand will not be allowed regardless of what circumstance the event has occurred, as well as substitutions leaving anywhere on the pitch, no attacking players in the wall from a free kick and much more. The rule for having no rebounds was considered by the IFAB, although thankfully this was dropped.

Elsewhere in Europe during midweek, Chelsea beat Kyiv 3-0 in a walk in the park performance for Sarri’s men at Stamford Bridge, whereas Arsenal saw themselves on the wrong side of a 3-1 defeat away at French side Rennes, leaving themselves once again to rely on their home form to try and salvage the tie to progress in the competition.

Onto the weekends football now and we start with the lunchtime kick-off as Crystal Palace hosted Brighton in that weird ‘derby’ which doesn’t feel or seem like it should be a ‘derby’. Glenn Murray, who initially wasn’t meant to start but did through a Florin Andone pre-game injury, scored a fantastic goal to open the scoring, and celebrated in subdued fashion with him being a former Palace player. This goal also extends Murray’s tally in this fixture, with him scoring more goals in it than any other player this century and bringing his overall league goals tally for Brighton to 100. A Luka Milivojević penalty drew things level in the second-half, only for an Anthony Knockaert worldie into the top corner to give Brighton a much needed 3 points and do the double over their ‘rivals’.

 



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In the 3 o’clock kick-offs on Saturday, the biggest upset was Southampton’s 2-1 win over Spurs. In the game where Spurs could have been 3 or 4 up in the first half, it was ultimately these missed chances that came back to haunt them and due to bad form in the league they are now looking behind them at the chasing pack for 4th place instead of looking ahead at City and Liverpool. Elsewhere, Bournemouth ended their away day hoodoo with a 2-0 away victory at strugglers Huddersfield, Cardiff earned a vitally important three points with a 2-0 win themselves over West Ham, Rodgers got his first win as Leicester boss winning 3-1 to Fulham and Newcastle overturned a 2-0 deficit at half-time to beat Everton 3-2 at St. James’ Park.

In the evening fixture, Manchester City extended their lead at the top of the Premier League back to 4 points with a 3-1 win over Watford, all be it with a game in hand over Liverpool who played Burnley on Sunday morning. This game saw yet again another refereeing decision take centre stage, as the referee overturned his linesman on an offside call against Raheem Sterling, allowing the goal which upon review was clearly offside. This is just further reason as to why the introduction of VAR next season will play such a huge role in levelling out the consistency of decisions made.

However as lucky as they are on the pitch in terms of decisions, City may not be so lucky of the pitch with the FA, UEFA, and FIFA investigating City over their series of allegations regarding breaches of rules relating to Financial Fair Play, which potentially could come back to haunt them!!

Sunday’s action started at Anfield where Liverpool beat Burnley 4-2 to close the gap further on City to 1 point. Ashley Westwood scored early direct from a corner to give Burnley a surprise lead, all be it with Alisson being fouled and the referee not giving the free-kick. Liverpool quickly scored 2 goals to restore order in the world and extended to 3-1 in the second-half with Firmino’s second of the game. Burnley scored their second late on, but a Sadio Mane tidy finish ended all hope of a late revival from Sean Dyche’s side.

Chelsea, who this week were unsuccessful with their appeal to the Transfer Ban put in place, could not capitalise on Spurs drawing and Arsenal playing United to gain on the top 4 race as they relied on Eden Hazard scoring in the 92nd minute to draw at home to Wolves. As for Arsenal vs Manchester United, a 2-0 win for the home side saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffer his first loss in the Premier League manager and bring them somewhat back down the earth after their win in Paris Wednesday evening. This game also had a dubious refereeing decision, with Jonathon Moss earning a penalty to Arsenal after a soft tackle on Alexander Lacazette by Fred, one where I personally thought this was soft and shouldn’t have been given as a penalty.

This result for Arsenal move about Manchester United into fourth, just one point behind rivals Spurs.

Midweek sees the reds in action again as they travel to Bayern Munich in their second-leg tie in the Champions League, after drawing at Anfield 0-0. City are also in action in midweek, as they host German side Schalke 04, having won in Germany 3-2 in the first-leg. Next weekend sees the FA Cup return as well as the Premier League, with City and United both playing in the competition, with the tie of the round being United play Wolves at Molineux. In the Premier League, Liverpool will be looking to put pressure on City and regain top spot when they travel to Fulham, where three points will somewhat be expected.

In news that is well on the pitch but shouldn’t be on the pitch has covered the headlines today, with 3 separate incidents of fans running on the pitch whilst the games are underway, with the incident at St. Andrew’s being the most distressing. This incident was where Jack Grealish was attacked from behind unawares by a Birmingham City supporter, bringing to the attention of everyone around football about the stewarding at football stadiums, and how it seemingly needs to improve. Furthermore, the ongoing worry with knife crime has sadly been linked to this, how it shouldn’t be as easy to access a player on the pitch, as people have speculated that what if he had a knife in his hand?

This being said, comments made by former Blues midfielder David Cotterill that there should be Armed Police at the grounds is a bit of a stretch, however obvious improvements at the game need to be made so this cannot happen as a regular occurrence and potentially harm footballers on the pitch.

Article by Samuel Hodgkiss @SamuelHodgkiss 

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