Betting Week in Review: The Premier League and FA Cup Feature in our Round-Up
January is traditionally the busiest time of year for football fixtures and this year is no different. Mid-week there was a costly defeat for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, and in the FA Cup, a defeat for the holders’ Arsenal means there will be a new name on the famous trophy this year.
Premier League Defeat is Final Straw for Chelsea
The pressure on Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was immense going into the Premier League clash with Leicester City on Tuesday night. Backed to the tune of over £200m in the summer transfer window, the new recruits at Stamford Bridge have struggled with consistency, which has affected results. Their 1-0 win away at Fulham in their previous game was their only win in four league games and only their second in seven.
They faced Leicester who was in fine form. The last defeat the Foxes suffered was a 2-0 loss at home to Everton in mid-December, and since that game, they have won against Tottenham (0-2), Newcastle United (1-2) and Southampton (2-0) and also drew with Manchester United (2-2) and Crystal Palace (1-1). A win against the Blues would put Leicester top of the table.
It took Leicester just six minutes to stamp their authority on the fixture. Defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi scoring his first goal of the season to give the home team the lead. Chelsea thought they had a chance to level the game from the spot when Jonny Evans fouled Christian Pulisic. However, VAR ruled the offence took place outside the area, and Chelsea wasted the freekick. It was Chelsea’s only notable effort in the first half.
Hopes of a fightback were soon dashed for Chelsea. James Maddison broke clear four minutes before the break and kept his cool to finish on the half volley. Leicester controlled the second half, and with Chelsea barely threatening, it was a routine 2-0 win for them. For manager Frank Lampard at Chelsea, it was the beginning of the end. He would guide his team to victory in their next game, a 3-1 win at home against Luton in the FA Cup on Sunday but the hierarchy had seen enough and Lampard was fired on Monday. 18 months after taking the role.
United Go Top and Liverpool’s League Woes Continue
Manchester United had the chance to regain top spot when they faced Fulham at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night. They duly obliged, despite going behind in the game due to an Ademola Lookman goal in the fifth minute. United are used to going a goal behind, especially in away games, and goals from Edinson Cavani in the 21st minute and a stunning strike from Paul Pogba in the 65th gave the visitors the win and the valuable three points.
The biggest shock in the Premier League last week, much to the bookies’ delight, was Burnley’s stunning 1-0 win at Anfield against the current champions Liverpool. Burnley last tasted victory against the Reds at their ground in 1974 and Liverpool was on an incredible run of 68 games since they last lost at Anfield.
The pre-match odds of 1/2 for Liverpool, 6/1 for the draw and 11/1 for Burnley reflected the apparent gulf in quality between the two sides.
Burnley defence takes a lot of credit for this famous win. Liverpool enjoyed 72% of the possession and put 30 crosses into the box during the game but rarely did these trouble the away team who dealt with every ball coming in. It wasn’t controlled and pretty but was effective against a team that was struggling for goals. The game was decided in the 83rd minute when Ashley Barnes converted from the spot. Liverpool’s goalkeeper Alisson caught Barnes to give away the penalty which the 31-year-old converted and although Liverpool did have chances to equalise late on, they were unable to take any of them.
FA Cup Favours the Punters With Most Games Going to Form
For many football fans and clubs, the FA Cup is escapism. A chance to forget league form for a weekend and an opportunity to compete with teams from a different league. For lower league teams it’s a chance for a giant-killing and for football betting fans, a chance to cash in on shock results.
The third round had produced quite a few shocks. League One Blackpool beat Premier League team West Bromwich Albion. The Seasiders played 120 minutes against top-flight opposition, securing a 2-2 draw before winning on penalties. Another highlight was Chorley beating Championship club Derby. Chorley plays their league football in the sixth tier, four below Derby but beat the Co-vid hit club 2-0 to progress to the fourth round.
Punters hoping to cash in on surprise results were largely disappointed with few surprises in the fourth round.
Chorley lost 0-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the first fourth-round game on Friday night. The hosts can feel hard done by after having the best chances in the game but losing to a fantastic 30-yard goal by Wolves’ Vitinha. Although it was a goal worthy of winning a game, it was the Premier League team’s only shot on target. The part-timers did themselves proud though in the narrow defeat, having five shots on goal themselves. The game is the last for Chorley for at least two weeks with the National League suspending the competition due to Covid-19. Despite the defeat, the prize money is a much-needed lifeline for the club with many clubs in the National League facing serious financial issues.
Brighton needed a stunning long-range shot themselves to beat League One side Blackpool 2-1. Yves Bissouma opened the game’s scoring, his delightful near 30-yarder giving the Premier League team the lead in the 27th minute. A shock result did appear possible when the Seagulls equalised on the stroke of halftime, Gary Madine poking in a Luke Garbutt cross. A Covid outbreak at the club forced seven changes for Blackpool and as the game wore on Brighton looked the likelier of the two teams to score. They broke the deadlock in the 57th minute, courtesy of an Alexis Mac Allister shot that kindly deflected off Steven Alzate. Maxwell saved well from Brighton’s top scorer Neal Maupay (seven league goals) and Davy Propper, but the game remained 2-1.
Holders Arsenal Out and United Overcome Rivals Liverpool
Arsenal paid for the price for fielding an under-strength side as the holders were beaten 1-0 by Southampton. The FA Cup has been a happy hunting ground for the Gunners, but manager Mikel Arteta’s decision to leave out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka from the starting line-up was costly as a strong Southampton side had much of the game.
The Saints took the lead due to an own goal that was scored by Gabriel who turned in Kyle Walker-Peters’ cross in the 24th minute. The lead could have been increased with Bernd Leno making a great save to deny Che Adams. Arsenal did improve in the second half but Eddie Nketiah’s shot in the 67th minute was the only effort that troubled Fraser Forster in the Saints goal. The former Newcastle man saved the shot well as it was deflected towards the goal. Southampton faces Wolves in the next round.
The highest-profile game of the weekend was undoubtedly the clash between Manchester United & Liverpool. The two teams had played just a week earlier, in a rather drab 0-0 encounter in the league. Thankfully for fans and bettors alike, this fixture was much more entertaining and having plenty of goalmouth action, and with the game swinging from side-to-side, it was a great game for the neutrals.
Liverpool’s recent failure to score goals is well documented, but the visitors took the lead. Mohamed Salah’s goal in the 18th minute was the first time Liverpool had been ahead in games between the two since 2017. The lead only lasted eight minutes, Marcus Rashford playing an excellent ball that enabled Mason Greenwood to run through on goal. The youngster kept his nerve to beat Alisson in the Liverpool goal. Rashford gave United the lead shortly after halftime. Greenwood repaid Rashford’s earlier assist by providing the pass, and the England man timed his run to perfection and finished off calmly. Salah once again scored this time from close range in the 58th minute to set-up a grandstand finish.
Liverpool had chances to win the game. United’s keeper Dean Henderson made saves from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Salah, but it was the introduction of Bruno Fernandes that would swing the game in United’s favour. Surprisingly used as super-sub, a role his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær was devastating in, Fernandes scored the winner in the 78th minute. A foul on Edinson Cavan by Fabinho gave Fernandes his chance with a freekick just outside the area. He hit a bending shot that swung around the wall and out of reach of Allison.
It was a good result for punters as the over 2.5 goals market is always well backed when these two teams play. Manchester United faces West Ham in the next round, pitting Solskjær with former United boss David Moyes at Old Trafford.