Super League saga casts cloud over domestic weekend as clubs face mixed fortunes

Timo Werner celebrates a vital goal for Chelsea against West Ham
Timo Werner celebrates a vital goal for Chelsea against West Ham (PA Wire)
21:32pm, Sun 25 Apr 2021
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The weekend after the scandal before saw Liverpool and Manchester United held to draws but there was a vital Premier League victory for Chelsea.

The European Super League remained the biggest story in town but it was a significant weekend at both ends of the table in the fight for Champions League places and to stay in the top flight.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five things we learned.

VAR sinks to new lows

Referee Chris Kavanagh (right) sends off Fabian Balbuena (PA Wire)

What else could break through the non-stop ESL outrage but more baffling VAR decisions. West Ham look set to appeal against the red card given to Fabian Balbuena, who caught Ben Chilwell’s calf in the act of clearing the ball. The VAR intervened and, after looking at the monitor, referee Chris Kavanagh inexplicably decided it was worthy of a sending-off. The handball rule, meanwhile, struck again when Callum Wilson’s late goal for Newcastle against Liverpool was disallowed on review because the ball deflected onto his hand.

Chelsea move on with victory

After the drama of Tuesday, when Chelsea fans played a major role in the collapse of the ESL with their protest ahead of the Brighton draw, the focus stayed on the pitch at the London Stadium. The 1-0 victory over West Ham moved Chelsea three points clear of their opponents in the race for Champions League football. Liverpool, though, are now four points adrift following Joe Willock’s late equaliser for Newcastle, while Manchester United played out a goalless draw with Leeds.

Super sub Willock

He may not like the tag, but Willock’s very late equaliser against Jurgen Klopp’s side was the third match in a row in which he has come off the bench and changed the result. The on-loan Arsenal man has made himself a fan favourite at St James’ Park and it remains to be seen whether he can force his way into Mikel Arteta’s plans when he heads back to the Emirates Stadium.

Good signs for the Blades

Sheffield United interim manager Paul Heckingbottom celebrates with David McGoldrick (PA Wire)

Sheffield United may be down but they showed their spirits remain up with a rare victory over Brighton – Paul Heckingbottom’s first points as interim manager. With relegation confirmed so early, the Blades have a chance to steal a march on their rivals in terms of their preparations for next season. One key question, of course, is who will be in the hotseat. Heckingbottom insists he is happy to go back to the under-23s, but more victories over the final five matches would make him hard to ignore.

Burnley time it right again

The most surprising result of the weekend came at Molineux, where Wolves were beaten 4-0 by Burnley, who once again showed an uncanny knack for pulling off a victory just when things were starting to look dicey. Chris Wood’s first Premier League hat-trick lifted them nine points clear of the bottom three and all but guaranteed another season in the top flight for Sean Dyche’s men. Brighton’s defeat was a boon for West Brom but they were denied a vital victory by Keinan Davis’ last-gasp equaliser for Aston Villa.

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