Written by Contributor: Sean Gallagher
EPL Roundup Matchday 30: Leeds Complete Incredible Comeback over Wolves; FA Cup Quarter Finals Come to a Close; United Crash out of Champions League
In the final Premier League matchday before a crucial international window, we saw spots booked in the FA Cup Semi-Finals as well as a Premier League game doing its best March Madness impression. Let’s dive into what happened!
I’ve said this regarding a couple of matches this season, but Wolves versus Leeds on Friday night may have taken the cake as game of the year. It just had everything. What an important game this was for new Leeds manager Jesse Marsch who’s trying his best to make a good first impression at a club in danger of going down to the second division next season. Wolves would’ve liked an easy win to vault into 6th place in the table. They were well on their way after the first 45 minutes.
The ‘old gold’ got their breakthrough nearly a half hour into the game after Jonny Otto scored in one of his first games back from an ACL tear. It felt like nothing could go right for Leeds when player after player kept going down with an injury. They desperately needed the halftime whistle so Marsch could adjust the tactics and get some fresh legs onto the field; but Wolves doubled their lead just before the break. A great set-play off a free kick set up Francisco Trincao to make it 2-0, seemingly putting the game out of reach. Trincao has been struggling a lot this season so this performance is exactly what he needed to get his confidence up.
The second half started and quickly produced a questionable call that would change the whole game: Wolves striker and Mexico star Raul Jimenez was given a second yellow card after a 50/50 collision with Leeds keeper Sam Meslier. It surely wasn’t enough to send someone off, but referee Kevin Friend disagreed and the match was turned on its head. Wolves have an argument for the sending off of Jimenez. But they can’t blame anyone but themselves for the way their defense completely capitulated soon after they were forced to play with 10 men.
Leeds proceeded to score 2 goals in the span of 3 minutes over a Wolves team that looked like they’d seen a ghost. The traveling fans going berserk made the moment that much better for the Yorkshire team, who weren’t done yet. The winning goal in the 91st minute was one of those you could feel coming. After a moment of chaos in the box, Leeds’ Luke Ayling found himself with the ball at point-blank range in front of the net and all he had to do was fire it in. He didn’t exactly land the cartwheel he attempted as a celebration, but it didn’t matter. Leeds had just gotten perhaps their biggest win of the season. Maybe the ‘Ted Lasso’ jokes about Jesse Marsch will come to a halt after he oversaw this historic comeback.
FA Cup Action:
The quarterfinals of the FA Cup also occurred this past weekend, postponing the scheduled Premier League games for participating teams. Chelsea defeated 2nd-tier Middlesbrough in a comfortable 2-0 victory, continuing to play well despite ongoing ownership drama. Everton were absolutely thrashed by Crystal Palace 4-0; a very telling result given the state of the Toffees. It would have felt odd to see them play for a spot in the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium while simultaneously fighting for their Premier-League-lives. Maybe Frank Lampard will be secretly a little bit happy that he won’t have to worry about playing an FA Cup match against a grueling opponent so he can keep focus on staying up!
Manchester City struggled to break down Southampton until the 60th minute when they blew the doors open and ended up winning 4-1. The always-pesky and energized Nottingham Forest held their own against Liverpool, but fell short on a late goal by Diogo Jota to give the Reds a 1-0 win. Forest are a team I would love to see get promoted. They are always such an entertaining watch and have a storied history, along with incredible fans.
We now know our Semi-Final matchups which will all take place at Wembley: Chelsea will take on Crystal Palace, and Manchester City face Liverpool. The interesting note to keep an eye on is the fact that City play Liverpool in the Premier League on April 10th, and the two teams will have to face off again in this FA Cup match on the 16th. It will be fascinating to see how both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp plan to go about managing both games. City and Liverpool have faced each other once this season, in an edge-of-your-seat 2-2 Premier League draw back in October. Hopefully we get more of the same when the two clubs play twice in April.
- It’s looking more and more like Arsenal will finish in 4th place. They did struggle in a midweek game against Liverpool, but bounced back in a comfortable win against Aston Villa on Saturday. And based on the inconsistencies of the teams below them, the Gunners are serious contenders to play in the Champions League next season
- Tottenham played a vital game against West Ham on Sunday and came out 3-1 winners. Very important win for Spurs who are still lurking behind Arsenal for 4th place
- Leicester are back in the top-half of the table after winning 3 of their last 4. Brendan Rodgers will want to finish out the season with his side playing like this to make up for all the brutal losses they’ve suffered thus far
- Manchester United were the only English team to fail to progress in the Round of 16 of the Champions League. They were defeated by Spanish club Atletico Madrid at Old Trafford, meaning Cristiano Ronaldo will finish without a club trophy for the first time in 12 years
- USA! USA! The United States Men’s National team will head to Mexico on Thursday night to play their final 3 World Cup Qualifying matches. Remember when the Americans couldn’t qualify in 2018? Well, they aren’t exactly in danger of doing it again, but injuries are starting to pile up at the wrong time. Sergino Dest, Weston McKennie, and Brenden Aaronson are just some of marquee names that will be watching from the sidelines. Christian Pulisic, who’s been putting up some nice goal-scoring performances for Chelsea as of late, will have added weight to his shoulders playing without some of his best teammates