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We’re entering the final stretch in the Premier League 2016/17 season now and Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Middlesbrough means the destination of the title is close to wrapped up. But who were the star names of week 36 action? Read on to find out…
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 9, 2017
Manchester City bounced back from their disappointing draw away to Middlesbrough to put five past Crystal Palace in a dominant display at the Etihad.
Star man Kevin De Bruyne got himself on the scoresheet before the hour mark with a controlled effort having set up Vincent Kompany for 2-0, after David Silva gave City the lead. There was still time for more goals with two in the last ten minutes via a left footed strike by Raheem Sterling and a simple header from Nicolas Otamendi from a De Bruyne free kick.
Manchester City hadn’t won their last three games in all competitions before the match against Palace, and a key reason for that was the absence of David Silva. When Silva plays he doesn’t just provide his team with another exceptional player but also enhances the performances of De Bruyne. If both Silva and De Bruyne start they are both creative influences, while when there is only one of them there is a reliance on that player to be the spark.
De Bruyne was back to his best against Palace, often helped by the visitors’ poor marking, which allowed both De Bruyne and Silva to constantly break into space and find both Leroy Sane and Sterling on the wings. De Bruyne has now hit 15 assists this season which is a record for a Manchester City player in one Premier League season.
Manuel Lanzini (West Ham)
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) May 6, 2017
It was déja vu for Spurs once again as for the second season running their title chase faltered against a London rival, with West Ham defeating the north London side 1-0 at the London Stadium. The defeat means Chelsea need just one more win from their final three matches to clinch the title.
Before the game there only looked like there was going to be one outcome. West Ham had failed to win in their last three matches while Spurs hadn’t lost in the league since February at Liverpool. Throughout the game it looked as though some of the Spurs players may have felt it was going to be a simple game as well with several players failing to perform at their usual standards.
A key battle during the game was between Argentinian playmaker Manuel Lanzini and England international Kyle Walker. Walker returned to the side after missing the north London Derby amid speculation that he is looking for a move away from Spurs. Walker though was lacklustre and was often caught high up the pitch out of position which allowed Lanzini to break freely into Spurs’ half. A situation which would have led to a goal in the first half but for a diving challenge from Hugo Lloris on the onrushing Lanzini.
Lanzini was West Ham’s brightest player throughout the match and got the decisive goal after 65 minutes. The ball bundled around the Spurs box before eventually falling to the Argentine, who made no mistake smashing the loose ball into the net to the delight of both West Ham and Chelsea fans.
Jordan Pickford (Sunderland)
Despite already being relegated Sunderland may have just had a huge say in the battle for Premier League survival after defeating Hull City 2-0 at the KCOM Stadium. The surprise defeat for Hull and Swansea’s win against Everton means Hull are now in the drop zone with just two games remaining.
Before the match Sunderland had gone ten games since their last win – a 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the beginning of February. They’d also only scored in one of those ten matches. For Hull it was a first home defeat under Marco Silva. The Tigers may have deserved a draw but ultimately didn’t do enough against a side who looked more organised and determined than in previous matches.
Sunderland still had goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to thank once again as the young shot stopper produced three fine saves to help Sunderland to the win. Pickford made a low diving save in the first half to deny a long range Sam Clucas effort before Sunderland went in front through a diving Billy Jones header after 69 minutes.
Pickford still had to be at his best to preserve the win though and he denied both Lazar Markovic and Abel Hernandez from equalising. Markovic saw a looping header tipped over before Hernandez was thwarted at close range by the promising youngster. Jermain Defoe sealed the win in stoppage time for Sunderland with his first goal since the game against Palace.
Sam Vokes (Burnley)
It may have been a game with seemingly not much riding on it but Burnley and West Brom played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Turf Moor. The result means that Burnley are practically safe with The Clarets six points clear of 18th placed Hull, with a superior goal difference too.
— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) May 6, 2017
It took until the second half for the game to kick into life. Striker Sam Vokes scored the first after Ashley Barnes picked himself up having been fouled to play on and cross for Vokes to tap in. That goal after 56 minutes opened the game up and led to three more goals in 30 minutes.
West Brom got the second ten minutes later with Salomon Rondon turning well in the box and holding off challenges before firing low past Tom Heaton and West Brom then took the lead after 78 when Craig Dawson dived to head in a Chris Brunt corner. The spoils were shared though with Vokes once again the scorer. A Robbie Brady free-kick caught keeper Ben Foster in no man’s land and Vokes looped a header beyond the keeper into the net.
Vokes and Barnes both started Burnley’s victory over Crystal Palace last week and the two again combined well against West Brom. Vokes’ strength caused West Brom’s defence problems all game and the Welsh international netted his two goals despite only having three attempts on target. The two strikers offer a big physical presence for Burnley and not many defences will be looking forward to playing against those two next season. Sam Vokes has also now become Burnley’s second highest scorer in the league this season with eight goals, just one behind Andre Gray.
Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) May 9, 2017
Chelsea took full advantage of Spurs’ slip against West Ham with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge on Monday. The result means Chelsea can win the league if they beat West Brom on Friday. Middlesbrough’s defeat also confirms their relegation to the Championship.
Chelsea were without the PFA Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year N’Golo Kante for the game, which allowed Cesc Fabregas to once again start in Chelsea’s midfield. The Spaniard didn’t take long to assert his authority on the game with a long ball putting Marcos Alonso through in the opening minutes, who then saw his shot tipped onto the crossbar by Brad Guzan.
Chelsea took the lead after 23 minutes. Fabregas again was the provider this time finding Diego Costa in the area who poked the ball through Guzan’s legs and put the league leaders on their way to victory. It was 2-0 before half time; this time Cesar Azpilicueta found Alonso whose powerful shot again went under Guzan’s legs. Chelsea completed the scoring after 65 minutes with Nemanja Matic finishing from a Fabregas ball, the goal becoming the third which went through Guzan’s legs. It was also Matic’s first goal at Stamford Bridge.
The performance of Fabregas showed just why Chelsea will be champions. Chelsea have the likes of Fabregas and Willian in back up who can come into the team and perform when regulars are unavailable. Antonio Conte has got them all fighting and working for the team rather than for themselves.
Cesc Fabregas. 🔥🔥🔥
— Just Football (@JustFootball) May 8, 2017