June 28, 2022, 9:30

Premier League hits and misses: Cristiano Ronaldo heroics save Man Utd while Luis Diaz is now Liverpool’s danger man

Premier League hits and misses: Cristiano Ronaldo heroics save Man Utd while Luis Diaz is now Liverpool’s danger man

Ronaldo silences doubters, but cause for concern at Man Utd

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win over Tottenham in the Premier League.

Write off Cristiano Ronaldo at your own peril.

No one thrives on criticism like the 37-year-old whose game-winning hat-trick against Tottenham takes him to 807 career goals to become recognised by FIFA as the greatest goalscorer in men’s football history.

  • Man Utd 3-2 Spurs – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats
  • Premier League table | Fixtures | Results

Reports that Ralf Rangnick believes Ronaldo is on the wane and not the man to lead the line for United next season surfaced this week. But irrespective of Ronaldo’s future beyond the summer, the United interim boss will be glad he can call on the five-time Ballon d’Or winner for the rest of this season, as his dysfunctional squad will more than likely need his heroics to dig them out of a few more holes before its conclusion.

Ronaldo’s performance only serves to cover over the cracks for United who, as Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville put it after the game, “are not very good”. They were fortunate to come up against Spurs on an off day and could have easily lost the game.

But, they did win, and United fans left Old Trafford in jubilant mood. Without doubt, that will be felt throughout the club – which can only benefit Rangnick’s side ahead of a key Champions League last-16 second-leg against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Is Ronaldo the right man for United going forward? Maybe not. Could he be the man to save their season? Quite possibly.
Zinny Boswell

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Move over Mane, Salah – Diaz is the man

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s win at Brighton in the Premier League.

You’d have been hard pushed to find a single soul who thought the arrival of Luis Diaz would push even Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah into the shade. But that is the reality as the signing from Porto has adapted to life under Jurgen Klopp so quickly and is currently Liverpool’s most dangerous attacking player.

He was the game’s outstanding player at the Amex with a display full of high energy, sublime quality and a huge amount of bravery – as seen by his opening goal that he put himself on the line for. “He did what a striker had to do,” Klopp said.

“I didn’t see it back but it was spectacular enough in the first moment. To get in there with his head, it was really brave. A great goal.”

  • Brighton 0-2 Liverpool – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

It took him a while to warm up with Klopp visibly encouraging him to track back after losing a duel with Tariq Lamptey. It was like Klopp’s words lit a fire under Diaz, who ripped the game apart from that moment.

Some of the highlights of his display: a 50-yard lung-bursting run back to nick the ball off Lamptey at the end of the first half, and an equally as destructive 50-yard run forward that ended with a ridiculous pass to Salah, who should have doubled his tally for the afternoon. His running power is extraordinary.

As January transfer window signings go, they don’t get much better than this one.
Lewis Jones

Devil is in the detail for up-and-down Spurs

Meaningful momentum continues to elude Antonio Conte. After their 5-0 win over Everton on Monday, it was another defeat for his Tottenham team. Since the turn of the year, they have won seven matches but have yet to win back-to-back games in that time.

There was a theory that a lack of preparation time was the issue, consistently failing to achieve results when having four days or fewer to prepare for the game. That was not an issue at Old Trafford, the game was just taken away from them in key moments.

  • Man Utd 3-2 Tottenham – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

Spurs were better than United for much of the match, having more of the ball and managing to find Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son in pockets of space. There were signs of the growing understanding between Dejan Kulusevski and Matt Doherty on the right wing.

But encouraging Cristiano Ronaldo to shoot for the opening goal was an error. Conceding so quickly after levelling it up when Sergio Reguilon played Jadon Sancho onside meant the second goal was self-inflicted too. And losing the match from a corner will infuriate Conte.

Cristian Romero had started off marking Ronaldo but contrived to lose him. Doherty ended up contesting the header but barely got off the ground. Big games are decided in the details. With Spurs still seventh, their Champions League hopes could be decided by them too.
Adam Bate

Burnley must use break to work on the ‘details’

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brentford’s win over Burnley in the Premier League.

It’s three weeks until Burnley’s next scheduled fixture. The chances are they will spend plenty of this unusual break stewing on a damaging defeat at Brentford.

With five minutes of normal time remaining, they were moving out of the relegation zone. They could easily have been ahead. But instead, a quickfire double from Ivan Toney has left them a point from safety, having played two games more than fourth-bottom Everton.

However, they cannot afford to waste these coming weeks. Sean Dyche said his side’s display in west London summed up their season, with mistakes in the ‘details’ undoing their good overall performance. It is those details they must focus on if they are to salvage survival when they return to action for their run-in.

  • Brentford 2-0 Burnley – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

More ruthless chance-taking is a must. Maxwel Cornet and Dwight McNeil passed up excellent opportunities to open the scoring on Saturday. Such wastefulness also cost them in the first half last week against Chelsea.

Defensive focus is key too. The capitulation at the start of the second half against Chelsea last week lost them that game and a late implosion lost them this one, with Christian Eriksen afforded far too much time to cross with his left for the first before Nathan Collins’ red card foul for the penalty. It wasn’t the first time they’d given Brentford some encouragement, with James Tarkowski forced into numerous blocks earlier in the game.

Man City are up next, which could mean things get worse before they get better for Burnley. But then comes a trip to Norwich. A must-win match if they are to turn this around. First though, it is all about hard work on the training pitch…
Peter Smith

Eriksen and Toney inspire Brentford into strong position

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Two-goal hero Ivan Toney says Brentford deserved the three points after his late double secured the victory for the Bees against Burnley.

Paul Merson is convinced Brentford are staying up. They now have a nine-point gap on the relegation zone and while third-bottom Burnley have three games in hand, there was plenty of evidence in Brentford’s win over the Clarets on Saturday to support the Sky Sports pundit’s argument.

Boss Thomas Frank praised the “unique” character of his side after the win and Brentford have an admirable team ethic. They have a distinct style of play which is well-honed, as well. But they also have a couple of individual talents who may just be inspiring them to another season in the Premier League.

Christian Eriksen and Ivan Toney are their game-changers.

Eriksen’s cross for Toney’s opener was brilliant. Afforded just a little too much space on the left wing, he put it on a plate for his striker – as Toney said himself afterwards.

Moments later, Eriksen set the striker on his way to win the spot-kick for the second. The “best penalty taker in the world” – as Merson and Frank call Toney – converted it emphatically to seal the victory.

That’s five goals in two games for Toney, who was the match-winner last week at Norwich. What a time to hit a run of form. With Eriksen’s quality carving out opportunities, there’s a good chance he’ll add to that tally of 11 Premier League goals this season.

It’s been a fantastic effort from Brentford – that self-declared bus stop in Hounslow – to put themselves in the position they have. It will be remarkable if they can capitalise and secure their Premier League status for another season.

But with Eriksen and Toney adding spark to the combined qualities of the team, there’s every chance Brentford will do just that.
Peter Smith

Seagulls suffering from age-old dilemma

Brighton have come a long way since 2007. A fifth successive Premier League season goes to show truly how far, but Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool brought back memories from an almost unrecognisable past.

Luis Diaz’s brave first-half header and Mohamed Salah’s second-half penalty saw Liverpool close the gap on league leaders Manchester City to three points, and also condemned Brighton to a fifth successive league defeat for the first time since their 2006/07 League One campaign.

Brighton ended that season 18th in English football’s third tier. There is no danger of that repeating itself any time soon, but there is a real threat that their once-promising Premier League campaign could fizzle out.

  • Brighton 0-2 Liverpool – Match report and highlights
  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

As things stand, Brighton could still secure their best-ever figures in a Premier League season; nine points from their remaining 10 games will see Graham Potter’s side surpass the 41-point tally amassed in the previous two campaigns.

But with no side in the Premier League having scored fewer goals than the 10 Brighton have managed at home this season, this is looking increasingly unlikely with each passing game.

The Seagulls’ all-too-familiar Achilles’ heel has reared itself yet again. Just as it did in recent seasons, their goal-shy attack continues to stump progress on the south coast. Potter has between now and the end of the season to see if he can finally come up with a solution.
Jack Wilkinson

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