April 19, 2021
(Reuters) – Talking Points from the Premier League weekend:
NEVER MIND THE PREMIER LEAGUE…
Twelve of Europe’s top football clubs announced late on Sunday night that they were launching a breakaway Super League in the face of widespread opposition from within the game and beyond.
WEST HAM SUDDENLY HAVE SOMETHING TO LOSE
In the build-up to their away trip to Newcastle United on Saturday, West Ham were finally being talked about not as imposters but the real deal for a top-four finish.
Victory at Newcastle would have put them third with five games left to play and piled the pressure on the likes of Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
But with something incredible seemingly within touching distance, the wheels came off as five calamitous minutes cost them in a 3-2 defeat.
An own goal by Issa Diop, a red card for Craig Dawson and a goalkeeping howler by Lukasz Fabianski sent the Hammers in 2-0 down at the interval, and although they showed great heart to battle back to 2-2 they conceded late on to lose the match.
West Ham are still very much in the hunt, but they will need to keep their nerve better than they did at Newcastle.
SAINT-MAXIMIN HAS BEEN NEWCASTLE’S SAVIOUR
If, as seems likely, Newcastle United survive in the top flight, the return of French winger Allan Saint-Maximin will go down as a turning point in their battle against the drop.
After a six-game winless run had Newcastle in grave danger of dropping into the bottom three, they have picked up seven points in three games and Saint-Maximin has been a key figure.
He inspired a comeback win at Burnley last week and was superb in the first half against West Ham in a win that lifted Newcastle into 15th spot.
The 24-year-old has been restricted to only 13 league starts this season, but when he has played Newcastle have a win ratio of 37% compared with 15% when he is unavailable.
KANE DOUBLE WILL ONLY INCREASE SPECULATION
Harry Kane must be starting to wonder what more he can do for a Tottenham Hotspur side who appear wholly incapable of benefiting from his prolific goal spree.
The England skipper struck twice on Friday at Everton to move top of the Premier League scoring charts with 21 goals, but once again his side dropped points in a 2-2 draw that leaves their hopes of finishing in the top four remote at best.
Kane has been directly involved in 62 goals in 62 appearances in all competitions for Spurs under Jose Mourinho (45 goals and 17 assists) but unless they beat Manchester City in next week’s League Cup final, he will still be waiting for the first winners’ medal in his career.
While the Golden Boot prize would be consolation, Kane knows his career will ultimately be defined by silverware.
And if Tottenham are to beat City, they might need to do it without Kane anyway as he hobbled off at Goodison Park with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR FULHAM AS LATE GOALS BITE
A second-half penalty put Fulham within touching distance of a first-ever win away at Arsenal, but yet again they conceded a late goal — this time seven minutes into stoppage time — to drop two points in their battle against relegation.
Scott Parker’s side had defended heroically after going ahead, but Eddie Nketiah bundled the ball home to snatch a 1-1 draw for Arsenal, nudging Fulham ever-closer to the relegation trapdoor.
While Sheffield United are already down and West Bromwich Albion are nine points from safety, Fulham still have a slim chance, sitting six points behind Burnley. But they need to start turning valiant displays into wins.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)