EPL

Jota on fire as Liverpool pass the test, home relief for Solskjaer - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk November 23, 2020

After an international break that seemed to go on for months rather than days, the Premier League was back with typical gusto this weekend.

Tottenham and Liverpool earned impressive wins over Manchester City and Leicester City respectively to sit top of the pile on 20 points, with Chelsea and the Foxes hot in their wake.

But away from the more obvious facts and figures there are always some hidden gems that you may have missed.

With help from the geniuses at Opta, we have delved into some of the quirkier things to emerge from the Premier League these past few days.


Reds pass the test

Diogo Jota made history by becoming the first Liverpool player to score in each of his first four home top-flight appearances for the Reds.

More impressively, his goal in the beating of Leicester came at the end of a sequence of 30 passes – the first time they have tallied so many in the build-up since Opta began collecting such data in the 2006-07 season.

In that same period, the most a team has had leading to goal was Tottenham when Nacer Chadli netted against QPR in August 2014 with a whopping 48 passes.

Manchester United (Juan Mata 45 versus Southampton), Manchester City (Ilkay Gundogan 44 versus Manchester United), Southampton (Morgan Schneiderlin 40 versus Newcastle United), and Manchester United again (Ashley Young 37 versus Blackburn Rovers) complete the top five in the metric.

Relief for Ole

A poor run of form had seen the pressure grow on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United but back-to-back Premier League wins has helped his cause a little.

Saturday's 1-0 win over West Brom – secured by Bruno Fernandes' second-half penalty – ended a run of 323 minutes without a Premier League goal at Old Trafford.

Only twice have United gone longer without celebrating at home in the competition, the longest being 361 minutes between March and August 2002, while they went 334 minutes between April and August 2007.

Worryingly for Solskjaer, he has another streak in the top five with United going 235 minutes without a Premier League home goal between January and February earlier this year.

Grim reading for the Steel City

Chris Wilder and his Sheffield United side have little to smile about right now as a 1-0 home defeat to West Ham on Sunday left them with just one point from their opening nine matches.

Only three teams have ever accrued such a paltry sum at the same stage of a Premier League season.

Coincidentally, Steel City rivals Sheffield Wednesday did so in 1999-00, while Manchester City are the other unfortunate side in 1995-96. In a potentially bad omen for the Blades, both sides went on to be relegated.

With Wednesday mired in relegation trouble of their own in the Championship, both sides of the Sheffield divide will hope for a boost in fortunes as we edge towards Christmas.

Own goal-woe for Fernandez and Evans

Come on admit it…we all love it when a player ends up with egg on their face and scores past their own goalkeeper. In fact, the more comical the own goal the better.

Over the weekend, two particularly luckless players continued their rotten luck in this regard.

Federico Fernandez was on the scoresheet for the wrong team as Newcastle United were beaten by Chelsea. Since his Premier League debut in 2014, no other player has more own goals than his five – level with Lewis Dunk.

Jonny Evans racked up a sixth Premier League own goal as Leicester City were outclassed by Liverpool. Only Richard Dunne (10), Jamie Carragher (7) and Martin Skrtel (7) have put more in their own net.

Fulham paying the penalty

There are never any guarantees that a penalty will bring a goal…just ask poor Fulham fans.

Ivan Cavaleiro's miss from 12 yards in the 3-2 loss to Everton on Sunday means the Cottagers have missed five of their past eight Premier League penalties, with three different takers in that time.

Both Arsenal and Leicester City have missed five in a row in the competition before (the Gunners between October 1992 and November 1993, and the Foxes August 1994 to September 1996).

The most recent example of a side failing with four in a row was Manchester City last season.

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  • Resurgent Stones went 'back to basics' to regain form and confidence Resurgent Stones went 'back to basics' to regain form and confidence

    John Stones has explained his decision to go "back to basics" in a bid to rediscover his form for Manchester City.

    Stones scored twice – his third brace for club and country – in City's 4-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

    The win, City's fifth in succession in the top flight, sent Pep Guardiola's team into second place above defending champions Liverpool, who could only draw with leaders Manchester United at Anfield.

    Though Palace, shorn of the injured Wilfried Zaha, were hardly a threat, Stones and his centre-back partner Ruben Dias were rock solid as City gave boss Guardiola an early birthday present the day before he turns 50.

    City are the first team to record five consecutive victories in the Premier League this season, while in the 10 games Stones and Dias have started together in all competitions, Guardiola's side have claimed nine wins, one draw and conceded just once.

    Stones, a big-money signing from Everton in 2016, appeared to be surplus to requirements after an injury-hit 2019-20 campaign, with the 26-year-old handed just 12 league starts.

    However, his first Premier League goals for City – and his first in the top flight since he netted for Everton against United in April 2015 – have capped off a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

    "We knew it was a tough game today. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get goals. I need to contribute by getting those goals," Stones told Sky Sports.

    "I'm just trying to keep improving, building day by day on the training pitch, give a platform for the lads to express themselves up the pitch and get some goals.

    "We're taking great pride in it, keeping clean sheets, it's what we're there to do. Hopefully we can keep the run going, keep as many clean sheets as we can because we know how vital they are in big games and in games like today.

    "We know what'll happen if we keep getting them. We don't have to go out and score four or five goals every week. We've done it when it's 1-0 and we've fought right until the 90th minute. We kind of take the credit at the back but we've got to give credit to the whole team."

    Asked how tough it had got when he was out of the side, Stones replied: "Very. It's always tough when you're not playing and you don't get a run of games, and when you do you don't perform to what you can do because maybe you've put too much pressure on yourself.

    "I've gone back to basics, looked at myself first, looked at what I can improve on in every aspect. 

    "You need to look yourself in the mirror and ask if I'm doing everything for myself and for the team and I did that, kept working hard, kept the faith and grinding away, keep trying to improve and I still am now. I don't think you ever stop improving yourself."

    Stones' first goal was a glancing header from Kevin De Bruyne's sensational outside-of-the-boot cross – the Belgium midfielder's 100th assist for City.

    "Kevin's done it over the seasons that I've been here," Stones said.

    "I remember a few, off the top of my head, to Leroy [Sane] when he was here, some outrageous passes that you just don't know how he's done it.

    "As he's put the ball in I knew it was coming straight to me. It's something we can only dream of and Kev can just do it when he wants."

  • Inter 2-0 Juventus: Vidal and Barella dent Pirlo's title defence Inter 2-0 Juventus: Vidal and Barella dent Pirlo's title defence

    Inter dealt a blow to Juventus' Serie A title defence and moved level on points with leaders Milan by securing a 2-0 victory at San Siro on Sunday.

    Former Juve midfielder Arturo Vidal opened his Inter account with a 12th-minute header and Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku wasted chances to increase the Nerazzurri's lead.

    The Bianconeri were unable to make the most of those reprieves as an emphatic finish at the end of a route-one move saw Nicolo Barella double Inter's advantage.

    It was enough to give Antonio Conte a first Serie A win against Juve – the club he led to three straight Scudetti at the start of their ongoing run of dominance – and move the hosts level with Milan, who play their game in hand against Cagliari on Monday.

    Cristiano Ronaldo had a goal correctly ruled out for offside but there was no doubt about Vidal's opener a minute later, as the Chile international rose above Danilo to nod Barella's delivery into the left corner.

    Martinez should have doubled Inter's lead in the 23rd minute when he blazed over with the goal gaping after Wojciech Szczesny parried Lukaku's shot straight to him.

    Striker Martinez again failed to hit the target with his next opening, while Lukaku placed an effort from Barella's cutback too close to Szczesny before half-time.

    Inter finally had a second goal in the 52nd minute, Barella surging into a huge gap in the Juve defence and firing Alessandro Bastoni's ambitious pass into the roof of the net.

    Andrea Pirlo responded by sending on Dejan Kulusevski, Federico Bernardeschi and Weston McKennie but Federico Chiesa had their best effort in the 87th minute.

    Samir Handanovic kept out Chiesa's powerful drive with a superb reaction as Inter held on for an important victory.

    What does it mean? Juve with ground to make up

    Juve would have closed to within a point of Inter if they triumphed at San Siro, and they would have still had a game in hand on Conte's men and Milan.

    However, they missed their chance to make up ground and are now seven points adrift of Inter.

    They will find themselves 10 points off the top if Milan win on Monday, meaning winning their game in hand would still not put them firmly in the title picture.

    Brilliant Barella

    Italy international Barella put in a livewire performance against the reigning champions, creating a game-high three chances – including the assist for Vidal's goal – and producing an emphatic finish early in the second half. After managing one goal and four assists in Serie A last season, he has already scored twice and set up five more in the league in 2020-21.

    Vidal sparks controversy

    Pre-game footage showed Vidal embracing Giorgio Chiellini and kissing the Juve badge on his warm-up top. He may have followed it up by scoring his first Serie A goal since clinching the title for Juve in May 2015, but his muted celebrations led to much discussion about where his loyalties lie.

    What's next?

    Juve face Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday, while Inter travel to Udinese in Serie A on Saturday.

  • Manchester City 4-0 Crystal Palace: Stones at the double as Guardiola's men march into second Manchester City 4-0 Crystal Palace: Stones at the double as Guardiola's men march into second

    John Stones scored twice as Manchester City moved into second place in the Premier League by sweeping aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

    With league leaders Manchester United and defending champions Liverpool sharing the spoils in a goalless stalemate at Anfield, City took full advantage to move within two points of first place.

    On top of another top-class defensive display alongside Ruben Dias, Stones broke the deadlock 26 minutes in with his first league goal for City – Kevin De Bruyne the creator with a sensational cross to bring up his 100th assist for the club.

    Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead early in the second half prior to Stones celebrating an unlikely second, and a classy finish from Raheem Sterling wrapped up a fifth successive league win for Pep Guardiola's ever-improving City.

    In search of his milestone moment, De Bruyne attempted to tee up Sterling with a quick exchange of passes in the 26th minute, when the Belgian might have been better served to shoot.

    Yet his 100th assist did not take long to arrive. His initial poor corner was cleared, but De Bruyne was found by Sterling and, with the outside of his right foot, placed a wonderful cross onto the head of Stones, who turned in his first league goal since he scored for Everton in April 2015.

    Gabriel Jesus was unable to beat Vicente Guaita after latching onto Gundogan's flick-on, but the Germany midfielder took matters into his own hands 11 minutes after the restart, robbing Andros Townsend on the edge of Palace's box and dispatching a fantastic finish into the top-right corner.

    Jordan Ayew mustered Palace's second shot soon after, though it was blocked by Dias, who then played a key part in City's third.

    Dias' header was parried out by Guaita, but the Portuguese's defensive partner Stones was on hand to drill in his second.

    Sterling had the final say, the England forward – who missed a late penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion – curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner to add further gloss to a resounding triumph.

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