Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
With the international break ongoing, Premier League teams had the chance to improve their seasons before players jetted off for various commitments. With games running out at the top and bottom of the league, vital points were at stake. Which players won those points and made Names of the Premier League?
Craig Dawson (West Bromwich Albion)
The result means West Brom have now moved onto an impressive 43 points. That’s just 6 shy of their best points tally in the Premier League. Meanwhile, Arsenal find themselves out the Champions League places having lost four of their last five league matches.
It took just 12 minutes for West Brom to take the lead. Some appalling zonal marking meant that Craig Dawson had a clear run and powered in Nacer Chadli’s inswinging corner at the near post. Arsenal initially responded well and equalised just a few minutes later with Alexis Sanchez producing a fine finish after Chadli failed to track back.
Ten minutes into the second half, though, and the home side were back in front. A goalkeeping error allowed Hal Robson-Kanu to tap in. Dawson sealed the points with 15 minutes remaining with his second headed goal – this time from a James McClean corner. The defending was once again poor and any of three West Brom players could’ve easily scored.
Dawson has benefited from Tony Pulis’ desire to have strong and tall defenders across his backline. Though a natural centre back, he is enjoying a great season in the right back slot. The height of the Baggies’ defenders make them a danger at any set piece. West Brom have now scored 14 goals from corners this season.
🎥 We are the highest scorers from corners in the @premierleague this season with 14 goals!
— West Bromwich Albion (@WBA) March 22, 2017
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United)
Manchester United’s third game in a week saw them pick up a win over Middlesbrough with the visitors coming away with a 3-1 victory.
In the absence of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United needed other attacking players to step up. Thankfully for them, Jesse Lingard produced a man of the match performance and got on the scoresheet with a superb strike.
In the early stages, it was clear that Manchester United were by far the quicker team. Lingard linked up with Marcus Rashford on several occasions only to be denied by Victor Valdes in the Middlesbrough goal.
The breakthrough did come for Mourinho’s team after half an hour, with Marouane Fellaini heading in an Ashley Young cross. United looked comfortable after that goal. They doubled their lead just after the hour mark with Lingard racing through and as the Middlesbrough defence backed off him, the England winger fired a shot into the top corner from 25 yards. A late Middlesbrough rally saw Gestede reduce the deficit only for a Valdes slip to gift Antonio Valencia a goal and clinch the points for United.
The goal was Lingard’s first in the Premier League this season and for a player with his talents, he should really be scoring more goals. Lingard will hope from now until the end of the season he can continue to produce this kind of performance and cement himself as a regular for both club and country.
Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City)
A goal-fest at the London Stadium saw Leicester City claim their fourth straight win in all competitions since the departure of Claudio Ranieri with the away side holding on to win 3-2.
Although the game produced five goals it was the performance of Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel that helped the champions win. The keeper produced two outstanding saves towards the end of the match to keep Leicester ahead.
Early goals from Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth put the visitors two goals up in the opening ten minutes before a superb Manuel Lanzini free kick hauled West Ham back into the match. Jamie Vardy increased the lead once again before half time, but West Ham came back out in the second half determined to grab at least a point.
The home side got one goal back midway through when Andre Ayew’s header found a way past Schmeichel, but they were thwarted by the keeper twice in the final 15 minutes. The first superb save saw Schmeichel claw away an Andy Carroll header that looked destined for the corner. Then Carroll was again denied in stoppage time as a Robert Snodgrass free kick found its way to the striker. He was about six yards out and had the goal at his mercy but Schmeichel produced a save reminiscent of his father – an outstretched right hand beating the ball away.
Schmeichel has perhaps been the one Leicester player whose performances haven’t dipped this season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one of the “bigger clubs” enquire about the Dane in the summer.
Benik Afobe (Bournemouth)
1⃣ Back to back wins ✅
2⃣ A solid clean sheet ✅
3⃣ Nine points off the bottom three ✅
— AFC Bournemouth 🍒 (@afcbournemouth) March 18, 2017
In a potentially pivotal match towards the lower half of the table, Bournemouth picked up a crucial 2-0 victory over fellow strugglers Swansea City at the Vitality Stadium. The result has moved Bournemouth up to 11th in the league. It leaves them nine points clear of the relegation zone while Swansea are now just three points above the drop (in 17th).
Eddie Howe once again decided to use two strikers against Swansea with Benik Afobe partnering Joshua King. The decision to go with two up top allowed Bournemouth to go slightly more direct, with Afobe using his strength to hold the ball up. The ex-Arsenal and Wolves man repaid the manager’s faith in him with the second goal – and a major role in the first too.
Bournemouth broke the deadlock after half an hour. A nice piece of footwork by Afobe on the edge of the box created room for a strike and although the shot was heading wide, Bournemouth got the luck they needed as it deflected in off Alfie Mawson. The Cherries never really looked in too much trouble after the first goal and got their second in the 72nd minute to put the game beyond doubt. King slipped Afobe in who finished from the right-hand side of the penalty area into the far corner.
King had scored Bournemouth’s last five goals and it was about time somebody else chipped in for Bournemouth. Afobe has now scored four goals this season in the league. That matches his record for last season, although Afobe did only join Bournemouth in January 2016, and would have hoped to have been easily beating his previous tally.
Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
A nicely worked move allowed promising youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score his first Premier League goal with a simple tap-in, inside the opening ten minutes of the game. The game from then on was quite even with both sides having chances. But then a red card for Tom Huddlestone in 73rd minute killed the game as a contest with Everton making the most of their man advantage.
It took just five minutes for Everton to grab their second of the game. Substitute Enner Valencia got onto the end of a chipped ball by Lukaku and finished from close range with his left foot. Valencia and Lukaku then combined again. Valencia’s through ball found Lukaku, and Everton’s top scorer used his pace and strength to get beyond the tired Hull defence and finish from ten yards out. Lukaku was gifted his second – and Everton’s fourth – when a back pass put him one on one with Eldin Jakupovic in the Hull goal. The Belgian rounded the keeper before finishing.
Lukaku recently rejected a contract offer from Everton and has stated his desire to play Champions League football. If he is to leave in the summer the forward will have no shortage of suitors. The striker is likely to improve most top sides in the Premier League and around Europe. At only 23 years of age, Lukaku has all the time and ability to become one of the world’s best strikers.