All you need to know about Wednesday’s “in-hand” matches in the Premier League all in quickie form, complete with Bay State Soccer Sentinel insight and analysis:
City dominate 10-man Arsenal, postpones Liverpool’s crowning: Book-ended goals by Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne before and after the halftime interval put Manchester City well on its way to a 3-nil win in the nightcap of Wednesday’s fixtures. The win lifts City to 60 points on the season and is the Blues’ third win in the league out of their last four. In addition, it cuts the deficit between it and top of the table Liverpool to 22 points with nine matches remaining; had Arsenal won, Liverpool could have captured its first top-flight title in 30 years with a win over Merseyside rivals Everton on Sunday.
Sterling puts City ahead: After a rather stellar first half by Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno (see below), Sterling put Manchester City ahead, 1-nil, in first-half stoppage time to snap his 13-match scoreless skid — and to score the first official goal of the season restart (also see below). He had put 28 shots on frame in 2020 leading into Wednesday, and this was his first goal. He has also figured in six goals in his last seven appearances against Arsenal.
de Bruyne penalty gives the Blues space, Foden wraps it up: With Arsenal down to 10 men thanks to David Luiz getting sent off for a denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity four minutes after the second-re-start, de Bruyne sent Leno the wrong way and buried the penalty, giving the hosts a deserved 2-nil lead with about 40 minutes to play at the Etihad. Then in an 11-minute minimum stoppage time period after Eric Garcia was stretched off following a collision with City goalkeeper Ederson, Phil Foden wrapped up all three points — they weren’t in doubt — by following up a Sergio Aguero miss with a rocket into the roof of the net.
Sheffield United move up to sixth, Aston Villa remain 19th following scoreless draw: The first Premier League action in 100 days kicked off shortly after 1 p.m. ET. And while there were good attempts at goal — Villa had a good amount of them in the second half, including a flurry in the first 15 minutes — neither side produced a goal. The draw did, however, move the Blades up to sixth on 44 points, while Aston Villa remain second from bottom.
Sheffield United robbed of a goal: As the end of a scoreless first half entered the 42nd minute at Villa Park, it looked like the Blades — a side who were looking to jump into the Champions League places — had scored, as Aston Villa goalkeeper Orjan Nylund carried a caught cross backward over the goal line, stumbling into the side netting. Referee Michael Oliver noted to the players that his goal line tech watch did not vibrate; VAR did not look at it, either.
Both matches see moments of silence, silent protests: Prior to the start of both matches, all the starters wrapped around the center circle in honor of England’s National Health Service as it fights COVID-19, as well as taking a knee at the opening whistle in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We’re expecting more of this as the weekend matches kick off.
WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT
Bernd Leno, Arsenal: Four massive saves by the tall German in the first 40 minutes not only kept the match scoreless, but also kept Arsenal in it. Two of those saves came in back-to-back minutes, while the Gunners had difficulty at the other end. Before Sterling scored, Leno had 29 touches on the ball — which was five more than any Arsenal player at that point. One can make the argument that Leno could have — should have? — made a step to his right to block Sterling’s shot, but that shouldn’t deflect from the solid shirt Leno put in Wednesday.
Hawk-Eye Innovations: Not necessarily unfair to include a technology service in this edition, given the rubbish that occurred at Villa Park Wednesday evening. The company asserts the system worked, but that the cameras were “significantly occluded” as part of its apology. Whatever the hell that means.
David Luiz, Arsenal: Gunners supporters all over the world are hoping the end of the month and the end of Luiz’s tenure comes rather quickly. Luiz, the second first-half sub by Arsenal due to injury after 23 minutes, had poor spacing which allowed City’s attacking unit to move in on Leno. He also mis-read de Bruyne’s pass to Sterling for the go-ahead tally, the second such error by Luiz leading to an opposition goal in 2020. He was then sent off in the 50th minute after denying Riyad Mahrez of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, leading to a penalty and a 2-nil City lead after de Bruyne converted the spot kick. Possession went in favor of City after Luiz came on, and we’ve said it before: Mikel Arteta has a massive task on his hands in rebuilding the Arsenal defense.
LET’S TALK ABOUT STATS, BABY
David Luiz has now conceded pens away to Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City, and has been sent off at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad.
To add insult to injury here, he is also the first play to be sent off, concede a pen, and make an error that leads to an opposition goal for the first time since Carl Jenkinson of West Ham did it against Bournemouth in 2015.
Manchester City had nearly 71 percent of the football with 12 shots on target to Arsenal’s 29 percent and 0 shots on target. Outstanding performance by the Blues, absolutely rubbish — with the exception of Leno — by the Gunners.
WHAT SWEENS REALLY THINKS RIGHT NOW
Arsenal should let Luiz go on a free transfer now, two weeks before his contract is up. Let’s see what the market around the world for an inept defender really is.
I think I heard a sigh of relief from our Everton supporter subscribers when Sterling beat Leno in first-half stoppage time. They won’t have to see Liverpool raise the trophy in their stadium.
THEY SAID IT
‘‘I think the goalkeeper was in the Holte End when he caught it — or dragged it back. My issue is obviously one of frustration. Seven cameras haven’t picked it up — the most technical league in the world — everything we see at every angle and it hasn’t seen a goal. That is disappointing from our point of view.” — Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder