EPL

Premier League data dive: Liverpool title blow after rare Salah miss, Conte's Spurs thwarted

By Sports Desk December 28, 2021

Liverpool suffered a major blow to their title hopes when they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City.

Ademola Lookman scored, netting in consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in his career, having grabbed a goal in the 6-3 Boxing Day defeat at Manchester City.

The former Everton player's contribution, after a rare penalty miss from Mohamed Salah, means City's lead in the title race stands at six points at the halfway stage in the season.

West Ham and Crystal Palace also won on Tuesday, while Southampton battled for a point against Tottenham.

After a big result in the context of the title race, Stats Perform takes a look at the pick of Tuesday's Opta data.

Leicester City 1-0 Liverpool: Salah miss hurts as ex-Everton man Lookman sinks Reds

After converting 15 consecutive Premier League penalties, Salah missed at Leicester, and it was that kind of frustrating game for Liverpool.

It was just Salah's second ever miss from the spot in the English top flight and his first since October 2017 against Huddersfield Town. From then on, he had been immaculate, so when Kasper Schmeichel pulled off a save at the King Power Stadium it was a major surprise. Having said that, since the start of 2020, Schmeichel has saved more penalties in the Premier League than any other goalkeeper, with the latest stop his third in this period.

The result was also a major turn up, Leicester winning consecutive league matches against Liverpool for the first time since April 1999, thanks to Lookman's second-half strike.

Liverpool failed to score for the first time in 29 Premier League games and for the first time in 28 away fixtures across all competitions, as Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers celebrated a big win against one of his former clubs.

The Reds had been unbeaten in 35 December games since a 4-3 loss to Bournemouth in 2016, but their year ends on a negative note.

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham: Kane scores again but Spurs denied a winner

Tottenham's Harry Kane has made a habit of getting the better of Southampton's defence during his stellar career, but this time he had to settle for a penalty equaliser at St Mary's Stadium. By firing past Fraser Forster to level up after James Ward-Prowse's opener, Kane ensured Antonio Conte became the first Tottenham manager to go unbeaten in the first seven league games of a Spurs career.

Kane has now been directly involved in 17 goals in 12 Premier League starts against Southampton (11 goals, six assists), and he was only denied a winner by a controversial VAR offside call.

A fine early strike from Ward-Prowse gave the Saints midfielder a goal for a third successive game. The last time he scored in three straight matches was back in March 2019, and the third goal in that run also came against Spurs.

Perhaps Southampton fans were not expecting their team to hold on. After all, the last time they won their final game of a calendar year was all the way back in 2010, when they beat Huddersfield Town 4-1 in a League One fixture.

The dismissal of Mohammed Salisu, who fouled Son Heung-min to give away the penalty that Kane tucked away, certainly hurt Southampton. Indeed, since Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first Premier League game in charge of Southampton in December 2018, only Arsenal (13) have been shown more red cards in the competition than Saints (11).

Crystal Palace 3-0 Norwich: No Zaha, no Gallagher, no problem for Eagles

Wilfried Zaha was suspended and Conor Gallagher was also absent, but Palace were three goals to the good by half-time against bottom side Norwich.

It was Odsonne Edouard who stepped up to shine, scoring the home side's opening goal from the penalty spot before claiming assists as Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeffrey Schlupp boosted the lead.

His three goal involvements followed the former Celtic striker having just four (three goals, one assist) across his previous 15 games in the Premier League.

Palace finished the day in 10th place and have impressed many under the leadership of manager Patrick Vieira, losing just once and scoring 18 goals in their 10 Premier League home games since the Frenchman came in, taking 17 points from those fixtures.

This was just Palace's fourth win in their last 25 games without star man Zaha (D3, L18), but they have not lost in their last five when he has been absent.

Norwich have conceded a league-high six penalties this season and have only scored eight goals in 19 games – the joint-lowest tally in a top-flight season after as many matches, alongside Leicester in 1977-78.

Watford 1-4 West Ham: Worrying times for Ranieri

Despite impressive wins over Everton and Manchester United early in Claudio Ranieri's reign, the Italian's Watford team are in trouble now after a fifth consecutive defeat.

An early opener here from Emmanuel Dennis was a red herring. Watford were mauled as Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Mark Noble and Nikola Vlasic scored for the Hammers.

The result means West Ham won 22 Premier League games in 2021, and only in 1959 (23) have they enjoyed more top-flight league wins in a calendar year.

West Ham have also clawed back 12 points from losing positions this season, more than any other side.

Captain Noble netted the Hammers' third from the penalty spot, his first Premier League goal for 706 days since he scored in January 2020 against Leicester.

It was Noble's fifth successful penalty against Watford in the competition, with only the Premier League's record scorer Alan Shearer having put away more spot-kicks against a team in the competition, netting seven against Everton.

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  • Jurgen Klopp compares Liverpool’s kids’ impact to ‘darts sensation’ Luke Littler Jurgen Klopp compares Liverpool’s kids’ impact to ‘darts sensation’ Luke Littler

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp likened the instant impact of his academy players to that of darts player Luke Littler last month – but then asked for the youngsters to be given time to find their feet.

    Jayden Danns scored his first two goals in only his third appearance after fellow 18-year-old Lewis Koumas had opened the scoring on debut as Southampton were beaten 3-0 to set up an FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester United.

    As sons of former Premier League players Neil Danns, the ex-Crystal Palace midfielder, and Jason Koumas, who played for West Brom, the pair will have a lot of experience to call on but Klopp said they should be allowed to do that out of the spotlight.

    Referencing Littler, who reached the World Darts Championship final at the age of 16, the German asked for perspective despite the youngsters’ key roles in a depleted side.

    “It is little bit like the new darts sensation, it is fine for tonight. Tomorrow, leave the boys in the corner,” Klopp said.

    “Everyone who is with us, we should have our moments, they will have more moments than we expect.

    “All of it was obviously incredibly important. Against a Southampton team we would have had problems with anyway but in our situation we tried to give as much information as possible to them and we had to improve during the game.

    “The first 15 minutes we were all over the place; we tried to press but the timing was horrendous and Southampton used that.

    “We found a way into the game and the goal we scored was in a nearly perfect moment, it felt like a momentum change and then an exceptional finish from Lewis.

    “We now had the momentum rather than Southampton and won a lot of high balls and scored, the play was special, the way we won the balls was special and something like that, as impossible as it seems, can happen.

    “Maybe the people (fans) don’t forget it when the transfer window opens, don’t close the door (on young players) with 12 signings.”

    On Danns, who came off the bench to score twice in 15 minutes to earn the man-of-the-match award, Klopp added: “Exceptional talent. Of course it is not natural that a boy 18, is as calm as you like. The second goal calm as you like.”

    Saints boss Russell Martin was left to rue several missed chances in the opening 30 minutes in particular.

    “I don’t think 3-0 is a fair reflection of the game as we should have been one or two up before they got close to a goal,” he said.

    “The difference in the game is the quality of the finishing and their goalkeeper making some brilliant saves.

    “If we are ever going to lose, then let’s do it being the team we want to be and I can’t ask any more from them tonight.

    “I really enjoyed watching my team but I am really hurt for them and the result as I didn’t think we deserved that.”

  • Steven Naismith hits out at ‘idiots’ who struck Lawrence Shankland with objects Steven Naismith hits out at ‘idiots’ who struck Lawrence Shankland with objects

    Steven Naismith condemned the “idiots” who threw objects at Lawrence Shankland as he waited to take Hearts’ penalty in their 1-1 draw at home to Hibernian.

    The Jambos top scorer had to hold his nerve before he equalised from the spot just before half-time after a range of items rained down on him from the stand behind the goal housing Hibs fans.

    Shankland was struck by more objects when defending a corner later in the game, while Hibs goal-scorer Emiliano Marcondes was also hit by something thrown from the Hearts end.

    Hearts boss Naismith said: “I think it was everything that was in everyone’s pockets, whether it be coins, vapes or whatever. All the stuff getting launched on, it’s just not acceptable.

    “If that then gets looked at, what’s going to happen is they are just going to reduce the amount of fans that can go into that stand and that’s going to impact what I think is a good atmosphere, a good derby which has a fierce rivalry.

    “It’s just idiots that are going to spoil the party for everybody. It’s just not good enough, end of.”

    Shankland’s penalty – contentiously awarded after Hearts forward Kenneth Vargas went down while trying to get away from Will Fish – just before the break cancelled out Marcondes’ 27th-minute opener for Hibs.

    “It was end to end at times, both teams had chances and, ultimately, that bit of quality was the thing that was missing in the game,” added Naismith.

    Hibs boss Nick Montgomery was adamant his team deserved to win the game and felt referee Kevin Clancy made an error by sticking with his decision to award the penalty to Hearts even though he was advised by VAR to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.

    “The VAR is there to call the referee over so he doesn’t make a mistake and when he called him over, I looked at it on the monitor and my opinion is no way it’s a penalty – and I don’t think anybody else probably thought it was,” said Montgomery.

    “And then, lo and behold, he’s got a clear view of it, he can slow it down, he can watch it. Yeah, he gives a penalty. I’m just really disappointed that we don’t take three points. It cost us two points.

    “Maybe we’ll get another apology this week like we did after Aberdeen. Maybe we won’t. But at the end of the day, what we won’t get back is any points.”

    Asked about the objects being thrown from the stands, Montgomery said: “I don’t condone it, Steven doesn’t condone it. Neither do the clubs. Unfortunately there were a few things.

    “Emi Marcondes had it in the first half as well when we had serious pressure on them.”

  • Stuart Kettlewell pleased with second-half reaction to beat Livingston Stuart Kettlewell pleased with second-half reaction to beat Livingston

    Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell was thrilled his players responded to his half-time criticism after watching them come from behind to beat Livingston.

    The visitors trailed at the break to Tete Yengi’s third-minute strike but improved in the second 45 minutes after scoring through Sam Nicholson, Blair Spittal and substitute Jack Vale.

    The win moves the Steelmen to within three points of the cinch Premiership top six, while Livingston are now seven points adrift at the bottom.

    Kettlewell said: “It showed great character coming here. You can see their team was up after the first goal, which was really poor and I was really annoyed at half-time.

    “It wasn’t how we passed the ball, it was the fact we all had eyes for the ball. It was a great reaction, the guys got some stick at half-time and the goals were of sheer quality.

    “But once we get that organisation behind the ball it worked for us.”

    Asked if his team now had their sights on top six, Kettlewell, whose team face Rangers at the weekend, added: “We have to, we won’t get carried away because it’s one victory, one win but we have to set the bar high.

    “Simply from my side it’s about the performance, especially the second half. If we can piece together that first half against Celtic then we can put on a real show.

    “It needs to be bigger picture. We’ve had so many strong performances since the turn of the year and games we should have won.

    “We’ve conceded cheap and soft goals which happened tonight but play like we did in the second half then I think we can compete with most teams.

    “That creative flair we have, the ruthless edge to score.

    “We’re maybe third or fourth top scorers in the division and that speaks volumes for replacing someone like Kevin van Veen.

    “We’ll need that to continue and that can set the bar for where we want to be and where we want to go.”

    Livingston made the perfect start but ended the game looking like a team that were heading for relegation.

    Manager Davie Martindale admits his side looked vulnerable after Motherwell equalised in the 49th minute through Nicholson.

    He said: “Of course it’s confidence. That group at the start went to Easter Road (against Hibs), good value, shape and discipline.

    “Now we look a million miles away from that and it’s down to belief.

    “First half we gave up a wee bit of territory but that was part of the game plan.

    “It probably gave them a wee bit more than I’d hoped. I thought we looked a threat on the counter.

    “Shamal George didn’t have a lot to do then we go out and lose an early goal, a cheap goal.

    “The game became very difficult for the players, position, form, eats into that.”

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