Merseyside is bouncing with joy as September comes to a close with Liverpool and Everton claiming nine points in their first three games of the Premier League 2020/21. Leicester City sits on top of the Premier League table on a better goal difference tally. The Manchester giants have had a mixed start to the new Premier League season with each side earning only three points from two games.
In this column, FootTheBall reports all the action from the big matches witnessed in gameweek three of Premier League 2020/21.
Brighton 2 – 3 Manchester United
The Seagulls are emerging as one of the best attacking sides in the Premier League this season. They proved every bit of it in gameweek three opener against Manchester United. Graham Potter’s side kept 54% possession, attempted a whopping 17 shots compared with United’s six, and clocked a total xG of 2.3.
Potter continued with a three-man defensive line as Brighton lined up in a 3-4-3. Aaron Connolly started as the centre-forward. Leandro Trossard and Neal Maupay operated as the wide forwards. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deployed a familiar starting eleven that helped his side finish in the top four after the restart. Nemanja Matic was introduced in a dual pivot system alongside Paul Pogba. Aaron Wan-Bissaka joined in as the right-back. Mason Greenwood replaced Daniel James on the right-wing.
The Red Devils enjoyed good control on the ball for the first five minutes. They could not optimize their time on the ball to their advantage. Brighton regained control as they made use of their wing-backs to stretch United’s lines and open gaps in the central regions. Consequently, Trossard got close to scoring in the ninth minute. His thunderous strike from the left half-space, outside the box, struck the frame of the goal. There were many more to come. Five to be precise.
Manchester United came close to opening their account in the 19th minute. Bruno Fernandes dipped in a cross from the left-hand side. Martial failed to convert the cross as the ball went sniffing past the far post. Two minutes later Trossard tried another shot from a similar position. This time his shot struck the far post.
Brighton continued to put United under pressure with their consistent attempts. The hosts drew first blood in the 40th minute. Bruno Fernandes had to foul Tariq Lamptey to stop him from surging deep inside United’s box. The referee initially had no doubts and pointed straight to the spot. After confirmation, Maupay stepped up to chip in a “panenka” and sent David de Gea on the wrong side.
However, Brighton’s celebration were short-lived. United equalized with two minutes remaining for the break. Fernandes delivered an inch-perfect free-kick from the left-hand side of the box. Matic arrived at the far post to divert the ball at the face of the goal as Harry Maguire poked it in. The goal was later signed under Lewis Dunk’s name as an own-goal.
United took the lead after ten minutes into the second half. Marcus Rashford collected a through-ball on the counter. He dribbled inside the box from the left and beat Ben White twice before making it two-one for United. The next 35 minutes saw Brighton hitting the woodwork twice. Solly March equalized in the third minute of additional time.
Both teams had shared the spoils. At least that is what we all believed when the referee blew the full-time whistle. There was, however, more drama left to be seen. Maguire’s last-ditch attempt struck Maupay’s arm. Going by the new rules, the referee had to give a penalty after multiple reviews. Bruno Fernandes scored his seventh penalty since the restart.
West Brom 3 – 3 Chelsea
Almost ten times West Brom’s summer transfer has been spent by Chelsea this year. Strikingly, the Blues were down by three goals to nil in the first 30 minutes of the game at the Hawthorns. Although Frank Lampard’s side dominated the game, their defensive frailties let them down.
Slaven Bilic used a 3-4-3 formation. Lampard went for a 4-2-3-1 with Tammy Abraham leading the attack upfront. His inclusion came after Chelsea’s success in the Carabao Cup which saw Kai Havertz combining with Abraham to score a hattrick against Barnsley. Willy Caballero started in goal.
The Baggies shook Chelsea in the fourth minute. Matheus Pereira intercepted Marco Alonso’s header in Chelsea’s half. He carried the ball while making a slight diagonal movement to the centre and passed it to Callum Robinson on the left side, outside the edge of the box. The Irish striker took his time to fire the ball in the bottom right corner of the goal.
Chelsea controlled the next 20 minutes with Havertz, Abraham, Timo Werner, and Mason Mount trying their luck. However, West Brom got another opportunity and it was, once again, Robinson who found the net. Robinson capitalized on another defensive error from Chelsea. Thiago Silva’s half-witted touch on the ball from a Mateo Kovacic pass landed straight at Robinson’s feet. He did not waste a second to carry the ball towards Chelsea’s box and double the lead. Three minutes later, the hosts added another one. A corner kick from West Brom had Chelsea marking blank spots which allowed Kyle Bartley a clean swipe at the far post.
Chelsea recreated the magic of Istanbul from the 2005 Champions League finals. Lampard introduced Callum Hudson-Odoi and Cesar Azpilicueta after the break. Hudson-Odoi had a lively performance. His involvement to create link-ups from the right-wing gave Reece James the room to operate as an inverted full-back. Mason Mount got the first goal for Chelsea in the aftermath. He took a shot from a distance from the left-half space to put the ball in the bottom left corner. Hudson-Odoi made it two for Chelsea after a span of 15 minutes. The English winger played a one-two with Havertz inside the box to finish from the left-hand side.
Tammy Abraham scored in the penultimate moments of the game to earn one point for the Blues. Chelsea were attacking in numbers around West Brom’s box and it was Abraham who popped up in the right place at the right time to tap in after a save from Sam Johnstone.
Manchester City 2 – 5 Leicester City
It was a Jamie Vardy show that maintained Leicester’s perfect start to the Premier League 2020/21 season. The Foxes visited the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola picked a 4-2-3-1 formation. Riyad Mahrez started against his former club. Raheem Sterling was deployed as the sole striker with Phil Foden operating as a left-winger. Brendan Rodgers, on the other hand, tried a five-man defensive system. Daniel Amartey started as the wide centre-back from the right-hand side. Jonny Evans returned after serving his suspension. Timothy Castagne and James Justin were given the remits of a wing-back.
Leicester opted out from keeping possession as they locked City in a compact 5-4-1 medium block. Rodgers had a clear counterattacking theme, leveraging the speed of Vardy and Harvey Barnes. City spent 72% of their time on the ball and got an early lead. Mahrez latched onto the second-ball from a corner as he pulled the trigger from the right side of the box. The ball rocketed direct into the top left corner of the goal. Having taken a lead in the first four minutes of the game, the Cityzens continued to camp in Leicester’s half in an attempt to make it two on the scoreboard. The visitors equalized with 14 minutes left for the first half to conclude. Nampalys Mendy wriggled through City’s pressure to progress the ball from his own half. Vardy was on the verge of collecting the through-ball culminating from Mendy’s pass to Barnes as the Foxes’ number nine was brought down in the box by Kyle Walker. Vardy blasted his first goal from the spot.
Vardy completed his hattrick after two quickfire goals with only 13 minutes into the second half. The first one being a Cruyffesque dink from Castagne’s square-pass. This was his second career hattrick against Manchester City. The English striker is the only player alongside Lionel Messi to bag three goals against Pep Guardiola.
City’s teenage forward, Liam Delap almost scored with four minutes past the hour mark. He headed a perfect cross from Benjamin Mendy only for his effort to hit the crossbar. The situation, nonetheless, turned from bad to worse for City. James Maddison curled in a screamer from the left-half space, outside the box, to put it in the top corner of the far post. With 77 minutes up on the clock, Leicester had effectively won their third Premier League game in a row.
While Nathan Ake scored a consolation goal at the 84th-minute mark, Youri Tielemans restored the three-goal lead in the closing stages of the game following another penalty.
Liverpool 3 – 1 Arsenal
Two tough tests in the first month of the new Premier League season and Liverpool still appear as the best team in the country. The Reds hosted Arsenal after beating Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge last week. Jurgen Klopp was adamant to avenge his Community Shield defeat.
Klopp picked his trusted starting eleven, lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. Joe Gomez returned to the starting lineup with Fabinho moving at the base of the midfield. Jordan Henderson was injured and did not take any part in this crucial clash. Naby Keita filled his place in the midfield. Mikel Arteta brought in David Luiz in the heart of the defense to replace his countryman, Gabriel Magalhaes. Mohamed Elneny started alongside Granit Xhaka in the core of the midfield. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was the left wing-back opposite to Hector Bellerin.
Liverpool crowded out Arsenal’s box right from the kick-off. Virgil Van Dijk got a few touches early in the game to open the account for the hosts. It was seemingly a busy night for Bernd Leno who made five saves. Arsenal, surprisingly, got the first goal of the game. The Gunners built an attack from their preferred left channel which saw Trent Alexander-Arnold taken out of position by Pierre-Emerick Aubmeyang. Maitland-Niles carried the ball in the free space on the left flank and his cross was erroneously put in Alexandre Lacazette’s stride by Andrew Robertson. The goal was a cakewalk for the Frenchman.
Liverpool reverted with two goals before the break. Sadio Mane made it one-one within three minutes of Lacazette’s strike. Roberto Firmino released Mohamed Salah on the right flank. The Egyptian outmuscled Kieran Tierney to find his way inside the box as Leno saved his shot. Mane tapped in the second-ball. Six minutes later, Robertson redeemed Liverpool. The Scottish full-back collected Alexander-Arnold’s cross at the far end of the box to put Liverpool in the lead with no defender to mark him.
The second-half opened with Arsenal gaining momentum. Lacazette missed a big chance to level the score. He failed to finish in a one-V-one situation against Alisson at the hour mark. Nonetheless, Liverpool were still in charge of the majority of the game. Liverpool’s new signing, Diogo Jota came off the bench to score on his debut. Liverpool were reckless in the closing stages of the game and Jota could have easily scored a hattrick in his cameo appearance.
How do things look after the first month of Premier League 2020/21?
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