The Premier League was disrupted this weekend as the not so small matter of the FA Cup quarter-finals meant several fixtures were postponed.
For those clubs unaffected, they were provided with a temporary advantage with those at the top and bottom of the league looking to make the most of their extra fixture. Here’s a look at the five things we learned from the latest action.
Chelsea do further damage to their top four hopes
Consistency has been the problem at Chelsea since Christmas and despite showing some promising signs of recovery in the aftermath of their EFL Cup Final defeat to Man City, they have once again lapsed into horribly familiar territory.
A 2-0 away defeat to Everton leaves them down in sixth and while they are still onlye three points off the top four, a seventh loss of the season will do little to boost the belief that they can string together a crucial unbeaten run between now and the end of the season.
We’ve seen this before by Sarri’s Chelsea and the Stamford Bridge faithful will be well aware that this was simply another tale of turgid possession football, without enough bite to win the game. They also gave two soft goals away, the second being a daft penalty conceded by Marcos Alonso, which effectively killed the game and left yet more questions being fired in the direction of Sarri and his coaching staff. They remain alive in the Europa League, but there is now a lot riding on their success in that competition.
Liverpool ride their luck back to the top of the table
This was certainly not a vintage Liverpool performance. Whether it was tired legs or an edgy, twitchy tendency to overhit every second-half pass in the final third; the Reds just couldn’t click into gear and kill the game at Fulham. They were met with a more resilient white wall at Craven Cottage as the relegation doomed club fought for their lives for a modicum of respect in an effort to lift their fan’s spirits. However, Klopp will know his team got out of jail here and appeared agitated on the touchline as he ordered his troops to try and calm down their frantic efforts in West London.
A first half training exercise had given Liverpool a 0-1 lead courtesy of a lovely bit of play between Firmino and Mane. But as the game wore on, with only a one goal advantage you could sense the belief returning to Fulham. A collector’s item blunder between Van Dijk and Alisson with barely a quarter of an hour to play, gifted a goal to their former forward Ryan Babel which could have been devastating to Liverpool’s title ambitions.
However, they kept coming at Fulham and were rewarded with a penalty after Mane was manhandled by Sergio Rico. Milner’s conversion was enough to secure a 1-2 win and get the job done. The result was all that mattered but this performance will not live long in the memory.
Burnley in the mire after poor home defeat
This game looked poised for a crucial Burnley victory which would have allayed their relegation fears after a recent run of poor form. The wind and rain swirled and bombarded the Lancashire terraces on Saturday afternoon, as a hot and cold Leicester City visited Turf Moor. If Burnley needed more encouragement, Harry Maguire was happy to provide it, after getting himself sent off after just over three minutes on the pitch.
Credit must go to the Foxes though, as they dug in and continued to play their way, creating big problems for Burnley despite their numerical disadvantage and early shock to the system. Burnley fans will be bitterly disappointed to have seen their side toil against ten men, as the home side managed just two shots on target all game. Wes Morgan’s late winner for Leicester leaves the Clarets stuck fast in the relegation mire with just seven games left on the board to save their skin.
West Ham mount a comeback to heap more misery on Huddersfield
Huddersfield fans must have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief and few could have blamed them for their astonishment. When you’ve only seen your side score 15 goals all season, to nab three at The London Stadium was a minor miracle and with just 25 minutes on the clock, they looked set to finally clamber off the bottom of the table.
However, their beleaguered supporters had also witnessed their side concede 53 times in just 30 games going into this clash with West Ham. So when Angelo Ogbonna pulled back a goal for the home side with 15 minutes on the clock and the score at 2-3, the nerves must have been horrific.
A late rally for the Hammers saw Javier Hernandez grab a dramatic brace inside the final 10 minutes to win the game, devastate the away side and heap more misery on their supporters as their slow and painful Premier League relegation rattles on towards its inevitable conclusion. Football can be bloody cruel.
Newcastle continue their recovery to mirror their finale to 2017-18
Another team to leave it late on Saturday was Newcastle United. Their entertaining clash with Bournemouth at The Vitality ended with a 94th-minute thumping volley by Matt Richie, to earn his side a point and continue their recent impressive recovery.
An open game had seen Salomon Rondon give the visitors the lead right on half time only for a Joshua King brace to wrestle back control for the home side. Ritchie’s stoppage-time beauty though means Benitez’s men have now taken ten points from their last five games.
It looks set to be another strong end to the season for the Magpies, as they carry on from spring 2018 when a late surge saw them ghost into the top half of the table. The Newcastle faithful will be desperate for a new deal for Rafa before someone else comes knocking.