The English Premier League is the embodiment of excellence. It is where the giants of football showcase their electrifying skills and deep understanding of the beautiful game. It is the arena for of a select group of heroes trained to provide the stuff of dreams. It is where each game counts and value is indelibly linked to a win. In fact, the Top Flight is like free online games on steroids… but with a much bigger payday for all involved!
Despite the huge investments of both time and money the pinnacle of world football does occasionally dish up shock defeats. Let’s take a look at five matches in the 2017/18 season that delivered rather unexpected results:
August 2017 – Stoke City 1 vs Arsenal 0
Stoke City produced the first upset of the season with a one goal victory over Arsenal. The Potters had to wait until after the break to pull off the one-pointer. Despite dominating possession, the Gunners fluffed a few easy chances billed by a Ryan Shawcross header that went over the bar, leaving the top table club unable to find an equaliser.
The first half belonged to the Gunners but heroics by Stoke keeper Butland saw both teams take a breather without any points on the board. The second half was a different story for the hosts as the talented Berahino took full advantage of some terrible defending to set up Jese Rodriguez for the only goal of the day.
A second attempt by Berahino missed its mark but proved that Stoke’s ability to breach the defence was not a fluke. The football gods were clearly in the Potters corner as a sustained aerial attack by the Gunners failed miserably and a late equaliser by striker Alexandre Lacazette was disallowed by a controversial offside call.
October 2017 – Crystal Palace 2 vs Chelsea 1
Crystal Palace pulled off a historic 2-1 victory over league champions Chelsea at Selhurst Park, a victory that ended a five-month drought that stretched back to the preceding season. It was a bit of a comedy errors for the Blues as an own goal by Cesar Azpilicueta opened the account for The Glaziers. However, a poor performance by Chelsea saw the minnows consolidating the lead just before halftime with a goal by Wilfried Zaha.
The Blues managed to find the back of the net once when a Cesc Fabregas corner was picked up by Tiemoue Bakayoko who headed the ball into the ground and over the line to register his first-ever Premier League goal. As Chelsea was still licking its wounds after a loss to Manchester City, the shock defeat to Crystal Palace signalled dark days for the usually effervescent London club.
October 2017 – Huddersfield Town 2 vs Manchester United 1
Manager David Wagner not only managed to elevate Huddersfield Town back into the top flight for the first time in nearly 50 years, he was the inspiration behind a 2-1 victory over the usually omnipotent Red Devils. Goals by Aaron Mooy and Laurent Depoitre cemented Huddersfield’s first victory over Jose Mourinho’s charges since 1952!
Apart from smarting from a brace of body blows by the bottom club – which by the way were a direct result of poor judgement by Juan Mata and Victor Lindelöf – Manchester United had to suck up the fact that the unexpected loss snapped a 12-game unbeaten streak.
Substitute Marcus Rashford did manage to get one back but it was a matter of ‘too little too late’ for the Red Devils. According to news reports, Manchester United’s manager Jose Mourinho was livid at his team’s dreary performance.
December 2017 – Bristol City 2 vs Manchester United 1
In December, Manchester United suffered a second humiliation when they crashed out of the League Cup with a 2-1 loss to second division club Bristol City. Despite the fact that the Red Devils had a star-studded front three in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, the incumbent cup holders couldn’t capitalise on Bristol’s inexperience in the top flight.
Following goals by Bristol’s Joe Bryan and United’s Ibrahimovic the game was evenly matched until the last few seconds of injury time when Korey Smith set Ashton Gate alight with the decider. It appeared as though United had let down their guard as sloppy defensive play allowed Smith to surge into the area, catch the ball on his chest and follow up with a left footer into the net.
This time Mourinho was gracious in defeat. Although he thought Bristol were a tad lucky he recognised their gutsy performance with this quotable quote; “They played brilliantly, they fought like it was the game of their lives which probably it was,” he said. “A beautiful day for football. A team from the lower division won. A big day for them.”
April 2018 – Manchester United 0 vs West Bromwich Albion 1
Manchester United were again the casualties of a shock defeat to a much weaker team in the form of West Bromwich Albion. This time the damage was significant as it saw key rivals Manchester City win the Premier League as a result.
Conversely the 0-1 victory at Old Trafford was West Brom’s first league away win in 16 attempts. It also ended a protracted run of poor form which saw the bottom club racking up 11 back-to-back defeats.