One title race ended in controversial fashion this past weekend, but the Premier League’s charge to the top is only just clicking into gear.
Lewis Hamilton will not be the only one left feeling harshly penalised after events over the last few days, after eight spot-kicks were awarded across the latest round of top-flight fixtures.
Chelsea were a major benefactor, as their win over Leeds United saw them keep pace with title rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.
Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United also scored from the spot in a win over Norwich City, while Conor Gallagher inspired Crystal Palace to a victory over Rafael Benitez’s Everton.
Benitez’s former club Newcastle United, meanwhile, suffered another damaging defeat in their quest to make it to the January transfer window with a fighting chance of staying up.
With all that and more, here are some of the weekend’s quirky stats from the Premier League…
The season of giving is approaching and it seems Premier League referees were more than willing to hand out goalscoring gifts.
Brentford beat Watford thanks to a last-gasp penalty on Friday, when the fun started. Bryan Mbeumo’s resultant strike saw the Bees become the first team in Premier League history to have each of their first 10 home goals in the competition scored by different players.
Champions City then needed a spot-kick to defeat 10-man Wolves, with Raul Jimenez receiving his marching orders for blocking a free-kick from being taken, just 31 seconds after he had received his first booking. Raheem Sterling put it away, scoring his 100th goal in the Premier League. He is the 32nd player to reach that landmark in the top flight.
Chelsea’s clash with Leeds really boosted the penalty numbers, with three awarded at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Rudiger became only the second Chelsea player to win two penalties in a single Premier League match, after Yuri Zhirkov against Aston Villa in March 2010. Jorginho put away both penalties to secure a 3-2 win, with Raphinha having put Leeds ahead from 12 yards.
90+ – Jorginho’s winner (93:11) was Chelsea’s latest winning goal in a Premier League game since Florent Malouda’s strike against Stoke in September 2009 (93:36). Gasp.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 11, 2021
Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake at Carrow Road and Youri Tielemans was also on target for Leicester City in their demolition of Newcastle. Mohamed Salah converted a penalty he won in order for Liverpool to see off Aston Villa and club legend Steven Gerrard at Anfield.
Each penalty at Stamford Bridge resulted in a side taking the lead, a Premier League first, while Saturday was the first matchday to have three 1-0 wins all settled by spot-kicks.
Seven penalties awarded eitiher on Saturday and Sunday ranks second in Premier League history across a single weekend, after September 13-14 in 2003 (eight). Last season saw 125 spot-kicks given, the most ever in the competition, at a rate of 0.33 per game. The count for 2021-22 so far stands at 41.
14 – Mohamed Salah has now either scored or assisted a goal in 14 consecutive Premier League appearances, just one off Jamie Vardy’s record of 15 between August and December 2015. Remarkable. pic.twitter.com/r3Q1TBeU8r
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 11, 2021
Records set to go
Sterling’s goal for City was the 499th scored in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola, in what was his 206th top-flight match in charge.
Guardiola is set be the Premier League manager to have seen his side score 500 goals in the fewest games, with Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp the current record-holder on 234.
Staying with City, they have already won 32 league games in 2021, one shy of Liverpool’s top-tier record for a calendar year, set back in 1982. With four games remaining before the turn of the year, that is surely another record the champions are set to take.
Meanwhile, Liverpool are now on 1,999 top-flight victories, and will become the first team to reach the 2,000 milestone with their next success.
Benitez on thin ice?
It was always going to be a difficult task for Benitez to win over the Everton faithful. Given the chants directed his way by the travelling support at Palace on Sunday, he is as far away as he ever was from achieving that. A 3-1 defeat at Selhurst Park means Everton are on a run of one win in 10 league matches.
The wonderful Gallagher was their downfall, scoring twice either side of James Tomkins bundling home from a corner. The on-loan midfielder has now scored six goals and laid on three assists, contributing to nine of Palace’s 22 league goals this season (41 per cent).
That ranks him eighth in the league when it comes to goal contributions for a side, and top among English players in the competition, and first for players aged 21 or under.
Everton have come from behind to claim 10 points this season, which already marks their best total since 2017-18 (14) and is the most in the competition this season, but based on the frustration directed Benitez’s way, the former Liverpool boss might be in need of a Christmas miracle.
Howe’s that defence staying up?
One place Benitez would certainly feel the love is St James’ Park. Newcastle finally claimed their first win of the season by beating Burnley, but they were on the end of a 4-0 pasting at Leicester.
Newcastle’s defence is the primary course for concern. They have already conceded 34 goals, the worst in the league. After 16 top-flight matches, they have conceded as many goals on eight other occasions, the last being in 1977-78.
Newcastle went down in that season, as they did in the 1960-61 campaign, but Eddie Howe might at least take some solace from the fact that the Magpies survived on the other six occasions.
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