Premier League hits and misses: Leeds halt Man Utd progress as electric Burnley thrash Wolves

Plus: Burnley secure their biggest win in the top flight since 1965 at Wolves, so are they more than just an effective outfit?

Ole looking to build Man Utd, layer by layer

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leeds’ draw with Manchester United

This was a game that certainly won't live long in the memory but two records were preserved. Manchester United extended their unbeaten away league run to 24 matches, while Leeds have gone six undefeated in the Premier League for the first time since 2002.

Bruno Fernandes was frustrated by the close attentions of Kalvin Phillips while Illan Meslier made a good stop from Marcus Rashford but Manchester City now require just two wins to be confirmed as title winners.

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Manchester United's display against Leeds but feels there was a lack of a cutting edge following their 0-0 draw

It was Man Utd's seventh goalless draw of the season, more than any other side coming at the end of an extraordinary but rare week in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could afford a full training programme without a fixture, but the first Premier League meeting at the home of Leeds since October 2003 ended in a disappointing stalemate.

There have been clear signs of progress under the Norwegian, with the first leg of a Europa League semi-final against Roma in the coming days. Man Utd have now amassed more points than they managed in the whole of last season in the Premier League, but any flickering hopes given to them by City's recent stumble was ended here.

"We've taken baby steps in the way we play, train and in the fitness," Solskjaer said. "The work that's being done in the training ground has been well planned. We've been able to put layer, by layer, by layer.

A plane flies over the ground with a banner aimed at the Manchester United owners before the Premier League match away to Leeds United. 0:40
Manchester United fans' anti-Glazer banner flies over Elland Road as protests against the club's owners continue

"Compared to last season, we've won a few more tight games. Today, we just didn't take our moments when we had them. We wanted to put pressure on City but unfortunately we couldn't score."

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"We go into every game confident in our way of playing. Of course, there are little tweaks here and there. With an addition or two and the way we train this squad, we'll be there."

Leeds were reminded of the huge chasm that had opened up between the two clubs during their 16-year top-flight exile in a thumping 6-2 defeat to Solskjaer's side in December. But here was a reminder of the work Solskjaer still needs to do in order to provide City with a stern title challenge next season.
Ben Grounds

More pragmatic Leeds under Bielsa

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Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa says the draw with Manchester United was an important point but that the changes he made to the side didn't allow them to attack as much

Leeds conceded six against Manchester United in the reverse fixture, while four were let in away to Tottenham and Arsenal earlier this year but Marcelo Bielsa's side remain unbeaten at Elland Road against the so-called Big Six this season with only Spurs to come in their remaining five matches.

The side's front-foot style of playing which served them so well in the Championship and was carried through into their return to the Premier League hasn't been shelved, but it is clear that a more pragmatic approach has been taken during the second half of the season.

Following a stalemate with Man Utd which moved Leeds up to ninth and extended their unbeaten run to six matches, Bielsa said: "It was a very demanding game for us. For the game not to become unbalanced, the team made a massive effort. This effort allowed the game not to become unbalanced for us. The game was played more naturally for them. But even if they predominantly dominated, the chances on goal were similar."

Bielsa reiterated the concept of carrying out a game plan that was 'balanced'. It was noticeable that Leeds had only six shots in this match, their joint-fewest in a league game at home under the Argentine. But there was plenty of bite with 30 tackles made.

Leeds United's Helder Costa reacts to missing a chance
Image: Leeds United's Helder Costa reacts to missing a chance

It was the sixth time this season that one side has tackled another at least 30 times in a Premier League game, with three of the six being Leeds. The question now is whether the Whites can replicate the swash-buckling displays witnessed against the so-called lesser teams on the big occasion.

"This is something I can't affirm," Bielsa admitted afterwards when asked about taking the next step. "These things we have to make them evident more so than through just describing them. But it is clear that there is a margin for improvement that the team hasn't managed yet.

"But at the same time, it is a group that functions in a very united manner, and they have achieved a base where they can go into every game with a fair amount of optimism."
Ben Grounds

West Brom show fight, but errors cost them again

ASTON VILLA 2-2 WEST BROM 3:06
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Aston Villa's draw against West Brom in the Premier League

West Brom were a fingertip away from another vital victory at Villa Park. They had matched an opening Aston Villa penalty with one of their own - a decision Dean Smith found contentious - before an own goal from Tyrone Mings saw them ahead.

It is the kind of luck you need in a relegation scrap and, with three minutes to play, they were on the cusp of a third win in four games to go level on points with Fulham in 18th.

But it was one late lapse in concentration and communication that saw them come away with only a point. Neither Kyle Bartley nor Sam Johnstone could decide who should clear the ball, allowing Keinan Davis to poke a foot through for the equaliser.

It is those moments - and plenty more - that West Brom will rue when they take stock of their season. But one thing they did not lack was fight, bouncing back wonderfully after a demoralising defeat to Leicester on Thursday.

"I can't praise the players enough," manager Sam Allardyce told BT Sport. "There have been plenty of games like this for us where we've ended up drawing instead of winning - far too many, which is why we are so far behind now in points terms.

"I think they did their very best to hang onto this lead, but just the pressure, maybe Kyle [Bartley] could have headed it out for a corner, but I don't want to be too critical of the players today.

"For us, it is very important to finish as strong as we can. It is still achievable in terms of winning four out of five or try to win all five, and you have to try to do it. We tried today and we were so close."

Relegation survival is looking like an ever-distant prospect for West Brom, but at least they will go out swinging.
Charlotte Marsh

Effective football? Burnley are more than that

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Burnley’s win at Wolves in the Premier League

"We play effective football and that was on show today," Sean Dyche said in the aftermath of his team's polished 4-0 win over Wolves.

'Electric' football would be a better description.

Burnley were not safe from relegation before their trip to Molineux. However, they played more like a team with top-four hopes than one with a return to the Championship on their minds. Sean Dyche's team were aggressive, played at a fierce tempo and dominated all the second balls in the key areas of the pitch.

Burnley cohesion with and without the ball was phenomenal. There are no egos in this team with the ethos of teamwork at the heart of everything they do whether it's the relationship between Ben Mee and Tarkowski at the back or the chemistry between Chris Wood, Matej Vdrya and Dwight McNeil in the final third. Dyche is basing this team around strong on-field relationships and their performance level in the first half especially was simply outstanding.

Wolves, in comparison, were puppy-like with their approach. So naive. So sloppy. So meek. The 3-0 lead Burnley held at the break was no fluke - it was earned, spearheaded by the magnificence of Wood in attack.

Yes, Dyche's boys were effective. But that's underplaying it.
Lewis Jones

Head-scratching Liverpool falter again

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s draw with Newcastle

What is the opposite of being a flat-track bully? Well, Liverpool are it.

Time for reflection has been impossible for most clubs this season. However, when Jurgen Klopp sits down to pick out where it all went wrong for Liverpool in this chaotic and constricted season, one damning area of concern will stick out like an Everton shirt nestled within a full Kop.

Liverpool's inability to beat the lower-ranked teams in the Premier League.
Lewis Jones

What odds would have got on Liverpool winning none of their fixtures against West Brom, Fulham, Brighton, Burnley or Newcastle this season? You'd probably have better chance winning the lottery. Eight games, no wins. An unbelievable set of results for a defending champion.

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Thousands of Manchester United and Liverpool fans turned out to protest against their owners and the failed European Super League project on Saturday

A couple of iffy results can be deemed an anomaly but to take just five points from a possible 24 available in eight fixtures against West Brom, Fulham, Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle is bordering on unacceptable for a team that should be chasing for the title, let alone making the top four.

Even when a VAR call went in their favour against Newcastle, Liverpool still managed to throw away the points despite only two minutes left on the clock. Jurgen Klopp referenced that. "We were given a present and still couldn't take advantage," he said.

The result leaves Liverpool's top-four destiny out of their own hands with five games remaining although they statistically have the easiest run-in in terms of average position of their opposition, including fixtures with Burnley and West Brom.

However, as previous results suggest, that may not actually be an advantage for Klopp's strange side.
Lewis Jones

Chelsea have mastered the 1-0 win

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea's win at West Ham

Thomas Tuchel. Big game away from Stamford Bridge. Chelsea win 1-0. It has become a theme of his brief reign. His team have already gone to Tottenham and Liverpool and scored the only goal. Atletico Madrid were beaten 1-0 in Bucharest. Manchester City succumbed by that score in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. Now, West Ham have become the latest victims of this new Chelsea.

It is five wins and two draws from Tuchel's seven Premier League away games so far as his risk-free brand of football looks to be reaping maximum rewards. The inclusion of Cesar Azpilicueta at wing-back for this one was a further clue that the German wanted to give West Ham absolutely nothing.

That made sense given the importance of the occasion. Level on points going into the game and with the tougher run-in, defeat at the London Stadium would have jeopardised the top-four spot that Chelsea have worked so hard to secure having been languishing in mid-table at the start of February.

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Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was full of praise for West Ham saying their defensive resilience reminded him of Atletico Madrid but claimed his side deserved all three points

Tuchel quickly worked out that if Chelsea could establish a solid base then they had the quality in the final third to make the difference. Timo Werner has been wasteful at times - and there was further evidence of that even in victory - but he was the difference-maker, nevertheless, popping up with the winner late in the first half.

Given Liverpool's surprise slip earlier in the day, Chelsea have bought themselves a useful advantage - one they may need as attention turns to Real Madrid and this season's Champions League.

With a trip to the Etihad Stadium still to come, Chelsea know that the job is not yet done. But this was a huge step towards that top-four finish. And given Tuchel's record in these big away games so far, perhaps it would not be such a surprise if City are beaten again by this much-changed Chelsea team.
Adam Bate

Balbuena guilty of kicking football

Fabian Balbuena makes contact with Ben Chilwell's leg after making a clearance 2:42
Danny Gabbidon and Gianfranco Zola say that the red card received by Fabian Balbuena after a VAR review was the wrong decision and that it should not even be a booking

"Surely not" was the feeling around The London Stadium as Chris Kavanagh jogged to the pitchside monitor to review Fabian Balbuena's 'foul' on Ben Chilwell in West Ham's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea.

But there are absolutely no sureties given the current state of officiating in the Premier League.

Balbuena was guilty of kicking a football.

Hammers boss David Moyes described it as "rank, rotten and rubbish", but with an almost apathetic tone. Many have given up on VAR and hold no hope that the situation will improve.

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West Ham manager David Moyes claimed the decision to send off Fabian Balbuena was a decision made by somebody who doesn't understand the game of football

But at the end of a week where football's biggest stakeholders - the fans, players and coaches - tasted victory against a plan that would have disenfranchised so many, VAR and the scrupulous implementation of rules poses its own threat. This isn't football, and its long-term impact is really quite worrying.

Either the rules change - wait, I think we've tried that - or common sense is introduced. Moyes said this was a decision made by somebody who has never played the game; suggestions of having an ex-footballer on hand when decisions are made in Stockley Park may improve the situation, but the authorities seem scared to rely on a common-sense approach.

At the moment, football is being ruled like a criminal trial. It needn't be treated so seriously. A balance between entertainment, fairness and sense needs to be struck. We're miles away at the moment.
Gerard Brand

Blades finally show some steel

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Sheffield United's win against Brighton in the Premier League

This was a bright spot in what has been a miserable season for Sheffield United. After four defeats as interim boss, Paul Heckingbottom could finally taste victory, however ugly this was.

Sixteen of the Blades' losses have been by only a single goal, including last week at Molineux, but here they could toast one of their own. Brighton found Aaron Ramsdale in inspired form, belatedly showing just why £18.5m was spent on him last summer as he kept just a third clean sheet of the league campaign.

A key reason why the side's relegation was a foregone conclusion long before it was confirmed last weekend was the sheer number of defensive combinations that have been forced upon the team this term - 14 in total - but the rearguard action which served Sheffield United so well in 2019/20 was on display here as Brighton's second-half revival was snuffed out.

McGoldrick swivels to find the net in scrappy fashion
Image: David McGoldrick swivels to find the net in scrappy fashion

"I'm pleased with every aspect of the performance tonight," the interim boss said. "In the games I've been in charge of so far, we've shown attacking quality but not been clinical and have then been punished going the other way. But the manner in which we defended having gone in front was really important. To a man, we were excellent.

"The timing of it, the fact it's come after relegation was confirmed... nothing's changed in the players' approach. The application has been there. You can't blame luck when you're at the bottom after 32 or 33 games but the fight is still there. If we keep that, there's no reason why next season can't be a successful one."

Heckingbottom is after some face-saving results with the club's owner Prince Abdullah relaying the message that the next manager "is watching" - and this was the perfect reminder of the club's DNA as a gutsy performance was rewarded.
Ben Grounds

Brighton taught all-too familiar lesson

Jayden Bogle competes for the ball with Jakub Moder
Image: Jayden Bogle competes for the ball with Jakub Moder

Graham Potter admitted his Brighton side missed the suspended Ben White but felt his players collectively fell below their usual standards during their defeat at Sheffield United.

In the Steel City, Brighton had a golden opportunity to move 10 points clear of the relegation zone but they produced a display that typified their campaign: full of passes, full of chances, but desperately short of a clinical touch.

Curiously, the Seagulls have won just four of their 25 Premier League games against sides in the relegation zone (16 per cent) - the lowest win rate of any club in the competition from a minimum of 10 such games.

Jakub Moder was standing in an offside position from Adam Webster's pass
Image: Jakub Moder was standing in an offside position from Adam Webster's pass

Having beaten the likes of Tottenham and Liverpool this season, that unwanted statistic will certainly frustrate supporters aware of their team's potential.

"It just shows how tough and competitive the league is," Potter explained. "It shows that we're doing some things right as we've got the points from somewhere.

"We've certainly got the potential to do better against the sides around us but we simply haven't. Tonight, our performance level wasn't where it has been and when that happens, it's hard to collect points in the Premier League. That's the reality.

"Sheffield United beat Manchester United this season so it shows you what's possible. We're not some super team. We're a team that is trying to develop and get better. We've made some steps but we've clearly got some more to do."

The 16th-placed Seagulls have picked up 21 of their 34 points since the turn of the year, with that return significantly helped by eight clean sheets from their last 15 outings, but it is the shortage of goals that will concern the manager.

Brighton fired a blank for a third Premier League game at Bramall Lane which may just be cause for concern as they head into their final five games of the season.
Ben Grounds

Did Super League drama affect Arsenal?

ARSENAL 0-1 EVERTON 2:53
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Everton's win over Arsenal

It has been one monumental week for Arsenal off the pitch, initially announcing their intention to compete in the European Super League - and very swiftly backing out again.

After mass protests at Chelsea and Tottenham during the week, it was inevitable that the same would happen ahead of Friday's game against Everton, and Arsenal supporters turned out in force to make their feelings about Stan Kroenke's ownership well heard.

Even as the game kicked off inside the empty Emirates, the chants, fireworks and helicopters overhead could be clearly heard. Police stayed outside the ground well after dark to marshal the gathering.

Gabriel Martinelli shows his frustration as Arsenal were beaten by Everton
Image: Gabriel Martinelli shows his frustration as Arsenal were beaten by Everton

Ahead of the game, Mikel Arteta said his players would only focus on matters on the field, despite also being blindsided by the Super League announcement. However, they could not replicate the fiery atmosphere outside the ground, turning out a disappointing performance against a close rival.

Arsenal had more possession (59 per cent) and more shots (14), but did very little with either. Jordan Pickford was only called into real action in the dying minutes of the game when the Gunners were desperate for another late equaliser. Unfortunately this time, there was not late reprieve as Bernd Leno's disastrous own-goal handed Everton victory.

Former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell told Sky Sports: "It was a poor performance. It [the performance] doesn't fill me with any joy, with anything to do with positivity. For me, it's a lacklustre, lifeless performance but we've seen so many of them this season. Ten home defeats and it's looking bad.

Bernd Leno shows his despair after his own goal gifted Everton victory
Image: Bernd Leno shows his despair after his own goal gifted Everton victory

"You could say it is down to the manager, the buck stops with him and of course it does, but as a professional footballer, when you cross that white line, it's your job to perform. You have to have some aggression in your game - you're at home, there's something on the line for Arsenal and you put in a performance like that? No."

Could it be the off-field theatrics that has had an impact? Or are all eyes on Thursday's Europa League semi-final? That now looks to be their best chance of securing European football next season because based on Friday's showing, the Premier League appears to have fallen by the wayside.
Charlotte Marsh

Will Everton now grasp golden opportunity?

Richarlison celebrates his role in Bernd Leno's own goal
Image: Richarlison celebrates his role in Bernd Leno's own goal

Ancelotti stopped short of billing his side's trip to Arsenal as decisive in Everton's quest to finish in the European positions, but after witnessing an ugly win at the Emirates, the Italian underlined the importance of completing a first league double over the Gunners since the 1985/86 season.

After 24 games without a win at Arsenal in all competitions stretching back to January 1996, the manner in which Everton moved to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea would always come a distant second to the result itself.

A first half in which the visitors shaded very nearly turned in Arsenal's favour during the second when Jon Moss initially awarded the hosts a penalty for a foul by Richarlison on Dani Ceballos. But VAR David Coote deemed that Nicolas Pepe had strayed fractionally offside in the build-up.

Gylfi Sigurdsson strikes the crossbar with his first-half free-kick
Image: Gylfi Sigurdsson strikes the crossbar with his first-half free-kick

Mikel Arteta's ire was doubled as a similar call would subsequently go against his side leading up to Bernd Leno's calamitous own goal. A small slice of good fortune was needed, therefore, was required for Everton's first win in six across all competitions and Ancelotti insisted facing one of the would-be breakaway teams added no pre-match motivation to his players.

"We were motivated because it was a vital game. Maybe lose this game, we have lost a lot of opportunity to fight for Europe and that was the only motivation," he said.

"We were a little bit lucky with the VAR decisions but with these three points we keep fighting for the rest of the season. We are in the fight for European positions, and this is where we wanted to be at this time of the season.

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Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti was satisfied with his side's performance against Arsenal but admitted the game should have been a draw after Bernd Leno's howler gifted them a 1-0 in the Premier League

"We are there and have six games until the end and have to do our best."

Only Manchester City (12) have won more away games than Everton (10) in the Premier League this season, while this is the first time since 1986/87 that the Toffees have won 10 away games in a single league campaign.

Indeed, Toffees have now won at Tottenham, Leicester, Liverpool and Arsenal this season. The home defeats to Newcastle, Fulham and Burnley revealed Everton's other face, and Ancelotti knows his side must replicate the away performances against less-fancied opponents if they are to maintain a top-four push.
Ben Grounds

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