Watford’s jaw-dropping win over Liverpool and Brighton and West Ham’s slapstick six-goal draw stick in the mind
Welcome to theguardian.com review of the 2019-20 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …
Sheffield United 3-3 Manchester United 24 November
Just fabulous entertainment. The Blades went 2-0 up through a lucky ricochet off John Fleck’s knee and a classy low finish from Lys Mousset and were outfighting and outplaying their more vaunted opponents. Then from nowhere Daniel James sped down the right and sent in a hopeful cross, Brandon Williams smashed in a fabulous half-volley, and eight minutes of bewildering, anything-could-happen madness later the visitors led 3-2. The home side wobbled but refused to capitulate, fought their way back into the game and Oli McBurnie scored a richly deserved last-minute equaliser. “Won it, lost it and got a result out of it,” concluded Chris Wilder.
Southampton’s 3-0 win over Norwich in their first post-lockdown fixture all but confirmed their Premier League status, a remarkable achievement given the dismal state they were in after being thrashed 9-0 at home by Leicester in October. The quality of most of their performances since, when motivation might easily have waned, has been a credit to all involved. Notably, at Old Trafford Michael Obafemi scored a richly-deserved stoppage-time equaliser, while against Manchester City at St Mary’s Che Adams grabbed his first goal for the club with a fabulous long-range opportunistic lob that embarrassed Ederson. For the remaining 75 minutes they simply refused to submit to City’s increasingly desperate attacking, creating an unexpected low-scoring thriller.
Leicester 0-4 Liverpool 26 December
The champions’ finest hour. The 3-1 win over Manchester City in November might have felt and indeed been more important but Liverpool’s dismissal of Leicester, who went into the game in second place (albeit already 10 points off the pace, having played an extra game), was the moment when their opponents must have realised theirs would be a forlorn chase. Leicester had gone into the festive season in brilliant form – they had won 10 of their past 12, losing only at Anfield – but City and then Liverpool put them in their place in the final game before and the first game after Christmas. Liverpool ripped them to shreds, could reasonably have scored twice as many, and Trent Alexander-Arnold provided two wonderful assists and an excellent goal in an impeccable full-back performance.
Watford 3-0 Liverpool 29 February
Liverpool arrived at Vicarage Road having won 26 of their first 27 games. Sure, they had lost at Atlético Madrid in the Champions League a couple of weeks earlier, but Watford were a different and far less fearsome prospect. It has been a strange and largely miserable season for the Hornets, who have let their managerial merry-go-round spin out of control and the results likewise, but for one evening in February they played like world-beaters. Pace, commitment, bravery, quality, they had the lot. With these three points they moved out of the bottom three, and given the standards set in this performance they seemed unlikely to return. In fact, Watford dropped back into trouble in the season’s final week, and they can now consider at their leisure quite how a team good enough to beat Liverpool was bad enough to be relegated.
West Ham 3-3 Brighton 1 February
A riot. Of course, most of the six goals were to a greater or lesser degree rubbish – massive deflections, an own goal, a ludicrous defensive lapse, and also an extremely rare instance of an on-field referee disallowing a goal for handball but VAR declaring it legal. But never mind that, this was a brilliant game. Entertainment of the kind that can only really be conjured by quite seriously flawed teams, but absolutely top-notch entertainment all the same.