10 talking points from the weekend’s football

Ruthless Rashford repays Mourinho’s faith as Southgate watches on

Before the match against Liverpool, Marcus Rashford hadn’t started a Premier League game since Boxing Day. Manager Jose Mourinho insists that Rashford is a key player for United and proved that by starting him in the crucial clash against Liverpool.

Rashford’s performance did the talking. The 20-year-old turned Trent Alexander-Arnold inside out and then drilled the ball past Loris Karius for his first goal. He then pounced on hesitant defending from Liverpool to slam home his second goal of the afternoon.

Earlier on in the week, Mourinho stated that Rashford’s lack of starts shouldn’t affect his chances of playing for England at the World Cup. Fortunately for Rashford, Gareth Southgate was at Old Trafford to see him score his first Premier League brace since his debut in a 3-2 win against Arsenal in February 2016.

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Tosun is starting to find form for Everton

Cenk Tosun hasn’t had the easiest start to life on Merseyside since joining for £20 million in January from Besiktas. His first goal for the Toffees against Burnley last weekend would have been a relief for him but his team lost 2-1.

His second goal against Brighton helped his side to a much-needed win after three defeats in their previous four Premier League games. Tosun had this to say after the win against Brighton: “I feel good physically. I feel like I have settled into England as well and I hope I can keep going like this and keep scoring goals.”

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Huddersfield may regret not taking their chances

Jordan Ayew was controversially sent off for Swansea after 11 minutes for a challenge on Jonathan Hogg but they managed to hang on for a point. Huddersfield dominated the game once Swansea went down to 10 men but they couldn’t find the all-important goal.

Hogg, Steve Mounie and Florent Hadergjonaj were among the Huddersfield players to create chances but none of them found the back of the net. The Terriers have failed to score in a league-high 16 Premier League games this season and are just four points clear of the relegation zone. A point would usually be a good result but in this instance, it is two points dropped for Huddersfield.

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Newcastle run rings around sorry Saints

Kenedy set the tone of the match after just 63 seconds when he put Newcastle in front and Southampton didn’t recover. Kenedy scored another and Matt Ritchie got the third as Newcastle moved from 16th to 13th, five points clear of the relegation zone. Rafa Benitez had done a fantastic job with Newcastle this season, especially when he wasn’t able to buy any players in January and had to sign three on loan instead.

Kenedy and Dubravka have made a big difference while Islam Slimani is yet to play due to injury. After the match, Mauricio Pellegrino said: “I am the Southampton manager right now. I believe I can keep the team up.” He may think so, but I’m sure Southampton fans don’t share his optimism.

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West Brom are down and out

With eight games to go, there is no hope for West Brom. They took a surprising 1-0 lead against Leicester before the Foxes came back and hammered them 4-1. The Baggies have now dropped a league-high 21 points from winning positions in the top flight this season. Alan Pardew has not improved the club’s fortunes since replacing Tony Pulis in October.

Pardew may remain until the end of the season, but there is very little chance of him being there beyond May. West Brom were right to sack Pulis but wrong to bring in Pardew. Their last eight fixtures include games against Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two relegation spots left to be decided.

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Unsavoury scenes at the London Stadium

The football took a back seat at the London Stadium as fans invaded the pitch on numerous occasions during Burnley’s 3-0 win over West Ham. The Hammers fans have every right to be aggrieved with their owners who they feel have sold them a dream and failed to deliver. When the fans moved to the London Stadium, it was supposedly for European nights. That has failed to materialise and instead, West Ham have found themselves in a relegation battle.

The pitch invasions were not good to see but the fans are desperate to be listened to. The owners made promises they haven’t kept and of course, the fans are furious. Amid all the chaos, the Clarets won back-to-back games for the first time since December as Ashley Barnes scored in three successive league matches. Burnley’s clinical finishing was commendable. They scored three goals from just four shots on target.

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Crystal Palace have got to keep fighting

Against both Tottenham and Manchester United, Crystal Palace were unlucky to lose. The same can be said of their performance against Chelsea. The Eagles gave it their all but ultimately it wasn’t enough as Antonio Conte’s men won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. Palace were completely overrun in the first half but after bringing on Wilfried Zaha at half-time, they were much better. James Tomkins made some fantastic blocks to stop Chelsea going further ahead and Palace had a goal disallowed before they eventually scored but it was too little too late. Roy Hodgson’s side are in the relegation zone with eight games to play but if they keep playing like they have done in recent weeks, they will be competing in the Premier League again next season.

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Willian continues to shine

At the moment, when Willian plays well, Chelsea play well. The Brazilian has been in fine form for the Blues lately and was deservedly named Man of the Match for another excellent performance against Crystal Palace. He has now scored 13 goals for Chelsea this season – his best return in a single campaign for the club. In addition, Willian has had a hand in 17 goals in his past 18 starts for Chelsea in all competitions (12 goals, five assists). Chelsea face Barcelona in their last 16 clash in the Champions League. Willian scored in the first leg and will no doubt be crucial in the second.

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Cech finally reaches a historic milestone

Good things come to those who wait and Petr Cech knows all about that. His last clean sheet came against Newcastle in a 1-0 victory on the 16th December and since then Arsenal have gone 11 games without keeping a clean sheet. That run finally came to an end against Watford as Arsenal won 3-0. Cech registered his 200th Premier League clean sheet, the first goalkeeper to achieve this feat in the competition’s history. He definitely earned his record as he made four saves and denied pantomime villain Troy Deeney from the spot to save his first penalty in 16 attempts as an Arsenal keeper.

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Kane goes off injured but Son steps up in his absence

Bournemouth were 1-0 up when Harry Kane limped off with an ankle injury. Kane has been Spurs’ best player this season but Son Heung-min is a close second. All of Tottenham’s four goals were scored after Kane went off injured. Son scored in four consecutive games for the second time this season while Dele Alli and Serge Aurier got the other goals. Spurs will miss Kane while he is out injured but his team-mates have shown that can still get three points without him. This was the first time, in 11 attempts, that Spurs had won in the Premier League when they had conceded the first goal.

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