Saturday 21 October 2017

5 things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

Manchester United's Anthony Martial showed he could be a real striking option in the closing weeks of the season
Manchester United's Anthony Martial showed he could be a real striking option in the closing weeks of the season

Manchester United's hopes of a top-four Premier League finish were boosted by winning at Burnley and Liverpool losing at home to Crystal Palace.

The Eagles' shock 2-1 victory virtually secured their top-flight status as a fascinating relegation battle provided more twists and turns.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at five things we learned this weekend.

NO ZLATAN, NO PROBLEM

Manchester United's players spared a thought for injured team-mates Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo by wearing training tops with their colleagues' names on ahead of their game at Burnley. But the pair were not missed as United kept their top-four ambitions alive with a comfortable 2-0 success. Anthony Martial played through the middle in Ibrahimovic's absence, both opening the scoring and looking a player reborn after a disappointing campaign. With Marcus Rashford benched ahead of the Manchester derby on Thursday, Martial linked up intelligently with Wayne Rooney, who also helped himself to a goal on only his second Premier League start of 2017.

FAMILIAR FACES CAUSE A STIR

Christian Benteke toiled in his time at Liverpool, making only 14 Premier League starts following his £32.5million move from Aston Villa in July 2015. But the big Belgium striker is spearheading Crystal Palace's fight for survival and he returned to Anfield to haunt his old club. Benteke scored twice in a 2-1 Palace win which boosted the Eagles' survival hopes and damaged Liverpool's top-four prospects in equal measure. But Benteke was not the villain of the piece as Mamadou Sakho, currently on loan from Liverpool, celebrated the equaliser from his place on the Palace bench to send social media into meltdown.

SILVA'S GOLDEN TOUCH

Were it not for Chelsea's Antonio Conte closing in on a league and cup double then Marco Silva would be a strong shout for manager of the year. Hull had won only once since the second week of the season when Silva succeeded Mike Phelan at the start of January, and it appeared a hopeless task for the Portuguese. But Silva has overseen an amazing turnaround and the former Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos boss extended his remarkable record of not losing a home league game for three years as 10-man Hull beat Watford 2-0. Two points above the drop, Hull might have a fight on to keep Silva if they do stay up.

FERNANDO MUST KEEP FIRING

If Silva is to be denied a happy Hull ending then it could be down to Swansea's Fernando Llorente. The Spanish World Cup winner was criticised for his work ethic recently and Swansea boss Paul Clement revealed that Llorente had sprinted zero metres at Watford last week. But Llorente's game has always been one of aerial power rather than pace, and no player has scored more headed goals in the Premier League this season than the 32-year-old. Llorente claimed his 12th goal of the campaign in Saturday's 2-0 win over Stoke, and he needs to keep on scoring if Swansea have a chance of surviving in the top tier.

BORO ARE GONERS

Middlesbrough have five games left to save their Premier League skins, but in reality it's all over for them. Boro hoisted the white flag on a thoroughly miserable afternoon on the south coast as Bournemouth thumped them 4-0. Gaston Ramirez's red card for two daft offences - an embarrassing dive and a needless ill-judged tackle on the touchline - also reflected an indiscipline in stark contrast to that of the commitment produced by Hull and Swansea. With Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool still to play, Boro fans can start planning their road trips around the Sky Bet Championship next season.

Press Association

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