EPL

Premier League data dive: Alisson the hero as Liverpool take Champions League box seat

By Sports Desk May 16, 2021

Champions League qualification is all that is left to be settled in the Premier League, and there was another huge twist on Sunday.

With Liverpool heading for what could have been a costly draw at relegated West Brom, an unlikely hero cropped up in the form of goalkeeper Alisson.

Before Alisson's heroics at the Hawthorns, Crystal Palace overcame Aston Villa, Tottenham kept on their push for a European finish by beating Wolves, while Everton's dismal home form continued with what Carlo Ancelotti labelled an "embarrassing" defeat to lowly Sheffield United in the late game.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the best facts from across Sunday's games.

Crystal Palace 3-2 Aston Villa: Mitchell completes Eagles comeback

Sunday kicked-off with what turned out to be a five-goal thriller – Palace coming from behind twice to win 3-2. Villa have lost four of their last seven Premier League matches when scoring first (W1 D2). Prior to this, they had won 12 of their first 13 league matches this season after netting the game's opening goal.

Palace scored three goals in a Premier League match for the first time since their 5-1 win over West Brom in December, while they did so at Selhurst Park for the first time since beating Leeds United 4-1 in November.

There were 42 attempts at goal in this match (23 for Palace, 19 for Villa), with only Manchester United's 6-2 defeat of Leeds seeing more in a Premier League game this season (43).

Tyrick Mitchell became Palace's youngest top-flight scorer (21y 257d) since Clinton Morrison in May 1998 against Sheffield Wednesday (18y 361d), while he is the youngest to score and assist in a Premier League game for the club since George Ndah in January 1995 against Leicester (20y 22d).

Mitchell scored the winner after teeing up Christian Benteke – only Olivier Giroud (32) has scored more headed Premier League goals than the Belgian (31) since the start of 2012-13.

John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi netted for Villa, but Wilfried Zaha's 11th goal of the season, his most in a single top-flight campaign, levelled the scores before Mitchell's winner.

Tottenham 2-0 Wolves: Kane keeps on golden boot charge as Spurs aim for Europe

Harry Kane struck as Tottenham moved into the top six with a 2-0 win over Wolves. Kane has now scored 22 goals and provided 13 assists in the league this season – the only players who can better his 35 goal involvements in Europe's top five leagues are Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi.

Kane has also hit the woodwork nine times in the Premier League this season, the most since Kevin De Bruyne in 2016-17 (also nine). Since full shot data is available for the Premier League (2003-04), the only player to hit the woodwork more in a season is Robin van Persie in 2011-12 (10).

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg set up Kane's opener and then got Spurs' second just after the hour, scoring and assisting in a Premier League game for the first time in his 145th appearance.

Tottenham have now won each of their first three home league matches under Ryan Mason, making him the first Spurs boss to do so since Harry Redknapp in November 2008.

Meanwhile, since winning three of their first five away games in the Premier League in 2020-21, Wolves have only won two of 13 on the road in the competition (D5 L6).

West Brom 1-2 Liverpool: Alisson makes Reds history

Liverpool's Champions League chances were hanging by a thread as they won a late corner at the Hawthorns, but the most unlikely hero rescued three points.

In Liverpool's entire history since they were founded in 1892, Alisson is the first goalkeeper to ever score a competitive goal for the club, after he headed in Trent Alexander-Arnold's delivery.

His goal was Liverpool's latest Premier League away winner (94:18) since Benteke vs Crystal Palace in March 2016 (95:10), while the Brazilian scored the very first headed goal by a goalkeeper since the formation of the competition in 1992.

Hal Robson-Kanu put West Brom ahead with his first Premier League goal since November 2017, the Welshman having last started a top-flight game in December of that year.

Mohamed Salah equalised with an excellent first-time finish, his 125th goal for Liverpool in all competitions, and he is still level with Spurs' Kane in the race for the golden boot.

Liverpool have now won six of their last eight Premier League games (D2), the same number as they registered in their 19 top-flight games beforehand (W6 D5 L8), and with Chelsea and Leicester City meeting this week, the Reds are in a strong position to snatch a Champions League spot.

Everton 0-1 Sheffield United: Toffees' European hopes fall flat

European qualification may be finally beyond Everton now after they suffered their ninth home defeat of the campaign – their joint-worst total in a league season, alongside 1912-13, 1947-48, 1950-51 and 1993-94.

Bottom club Sheffield United picked up only a second win from their past 24 away league outings (D3 L19), and ended a run of seven straight Premier League defeats on the road since beating Manchester United 2-1 in January.

Only Fulham (four) have earned fewer home points in the Premier League in 2021 so far than Everton's tally of six (P11 W1 D3 L7), with the Toffees' one win the joint-fewest on home soil in the competition this calendar year (level with Burnley and Fulham).

Daniel Jebbison (17y 309d) marked his full Premier League debut with the winner, the teenager becoming the youngest player to ever score on his first start in the competition, breaking Danny Cadamarteri's (17y 343d) record set for Everton against Barnsley in September 1997, which was also scored at Goodison Park.

Jebbison is also the youngest player to score a match-winning goal in a Premier League game since Federico Macheda (17y 232d) in April 2009.

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    Liverpool will not see many differences between Jurgen Klopp and incoming manager Arne Slot, though the Dutchman must learn to cope with the added pressure at Anfield.

    That was the message from Australia coach and former Manchester United assistant Rene Meulensteen, who expects fellow countryman Slot to succeed on Merseyside.

    Slot leaves the Netherlands after three highly successful seasons with Feyenoord, during which he led them to the league title in 2023 and was named Eredivisie Manager of the Year on two occasions.

    That record has Meulensteen expecting further success for the former Feyenoord boss.

    Meulensteen, speaking on behalf of William Hill Vegas, told Stats Perform: "There was a lot of speculation about different names being touted with [Xabi] Alonso and Rubin Amorim, but then when Arne Slot's name came up, I didn't necessarily think that it was a bad choice and a bad decision.

    "I like him. I rate him as a coach and as a person. I think he's got a likeability about him, he's a good communicator, he plays a brand of football that is very much in line with what Klopp has done over the last few years.

    "You won't see many differences there, he might tweak one or two things, but it will still be high press, high energy, dynamic football. 

    "In my opinion, I think it's always the proof is in the pudding, but I think it's not a bad choice at all for Liverpool."

    Liverpool managed 82 points in the 2023-24 Premier League, finishing nine behind Manchester City and seven adrift of second-placed Arsenal.

    The Dutchman will officially take charge from next Saturday, subject to receiving a work permit, and Meulensteen believes it will be a step up for Slot.

    "Liverpool are a global brand, it's a big club, it brings different expectations and winning the Premier League is the hardest thing to do," he added. 

    "The ambitions will be there for Liverpool. Same with the Champions League. So the difference between that step from Feyenoord to Liverpool is really in terms of the expectations, which brings a different kind of pressure.

    "You need to be able to handle that, clubs like Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal, City, Chelsea, you want to be successful, but at the same time play in an attractive style of football.

    "It's a difficult kind of combination, and obviously he's going from the Eredivisie, the Dutch league, to the Premier League.

    "That will be his biggest step up because that is where he's going to be confronted with every week.

    "If he's clever, he has to bring somebody in his staff along that knows the Premier League, that understands the Premier League."

    Rene Meulensteen was speaking on behalf of William Hill Vegas: https://vegas.williamhill.com 

  • Martin 'overwhelmed' after guiding Saints back into Premier League Martin 'overwhelmed' after guiding Saints back into Premier League

    Russell Martin admitted he was "overwhelmed by the love and support" from Southampton, after guiding the Saints back into the Premier League.

    Martin's side sealed their return to the top flight at the first attempt, with Adam Armstrong's strike enough to seal a 1-0 victory over Leeds United in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

    The former Swansea City boss, who replaced Ruben Selles at St Mary's last June, secured his first promotion as a manager, having also done so five times as a player.

    And Martin fought back tears as he reflected on his achievement.

    "I feel really emotional, I feel overwhelmed by the love and support I've had over the past nine or 10 months - especially in the tougher times," he told Sky Sports. "The team have been so brave, and I'm really proud of them.

    "I've enjoyed watching the team grow, and watching the players grow. I absolutely love that group of players. I'm so pleased for them because what we've asked them to do is not easy."

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    "I'm so proud to be captain of this club. I'm so proud of the boys today, I think they've been unbelievable," the defender told Sky Sports. "I think we probably didn't play our best game today, but we showed a different side.

    "A few people have doubted us over this season. Can we defend? Can we dig in? I think we really showed that today. The feeling I've got now is the best feeling I've ever had in football. Honestly, I'm just so emotional."

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    "What a way to go up! I saw the space in behind [for the goal] and I knew if I put it across goal it was going to go in, so it was a nice one.

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  • Leeds United 0-1 Southampton: Armstrong sends Saints marching back into Premier League Leeds United 0-1 Southampton: Armstrong sends Saints marching back into Premier League

    Southampton secured an immediate return to the Premier League after Adam Armstrong was the hero in a 1-0 victory over Leeds United in the Championship play-off final.

    Saints' top scorer Armstrong provided the decisive first-half strike at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, with his 24th league goal of the season sending Russell Martin’s side straight back into England's top division.

    The pair had scored a combined 197 goals this campaign, but just the one finish was enough to settle what was only the third second-tier play-off final between two sides relegated the previous year.

    Southampton join Leicester City and Ipswich Town in winning top-flight promotion, while Leeds – who hit the crossbar through Daniel James late on – must prepare for at least another campaign in the Championship.

    Daniel Farke's team settled the quicker of the two sides, who were separated by just three points during the regular season, but with little success in front of goal.

    Archie Gray – the youngest Leeds player to appear at Wembley – drilled just wide early on, while Wilfried Gnonto shot straight at Alex McCarthy.

    However, Southampton struck the all-important opener after 24 minutes, somewhat against the run of play.

    Armstrong beat the offside trap after Ethan Ampadu's mindless charge out from the back, latching onto Will Smallbone’s throughball before neatly slotting past Illan Meslier.

    A shoulder injury forced a distraught David Brooks off soon after but the Saints went close to doubling their lead just before the break as Meslier parried away Armstrong’s drive.

    Crysencio Summerville curled just wide from the edge of the box within four minutes of the restart as Leeds sought an equaliser.

    Substitute James rattled the crossbar with a right-footed effort six minutes from time and was again denied by McCarthy, as Southampton held on to seal their return back to the big time.

    One Armstrong finish, one giant step for Saints

    Southampton were appearing in their first-ever play-off final, and they had lost on eight of their 10 previous visits to Wembley, including each of the last five.

    However, the Saints stopped the rot with a little help from a promotion expert – boss Martin achieved five of them as a player, and this was his third to the top flight overall.

    Armstrong's cool finish proved the difference; his 24 goals this term is the most by a Southampton player in a single season since Rickie Lambert struck 27 in 2011-12 – their last promotion-winning campaign.

    It was also the Saints' 100th – and most important – goal of the season; their first time reaching triple figures since the 2009-10 season under Alan Pardew.

    More play-off pain for Leeds

    Leeds have now appeared in the English Football League play-offs on six occasions, failing to secure promotion in each of those instances.

    The omens did not look good when they fell behind considering not since Cardiff City in 2010 has a team failed to get promoted after opening the scoring in a Championship play-off final.

    It is just over 16 years since their third play-off final disappointment against Doncaster Rovers in League One (May 25, 2008), with Leeds now playing the most such matches without ever gaining promotion.

    Farke also missed the opportunity to become the third manager – after Steve Bruce (four) and Neil Warnock (three) – to win three Premier League promotions, following his Championship-winning campaigns of 2018-19 and 2020-21 with Norwich City.

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