You know that the business end of the season is nearing when the first major cup of the campaign comes to its conclusion. The sight of Liverpool lifting the League Cup high was the smoking gun signalling the beginning of the race to the finish line, the drama of that particular final pushing the weekend of Premier League action somewhat into the background.
Although the cup final dominated the headlines, Matchweek 27 still served up eight entertaining matches, with Watford’s heroic effort to earn a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford standing out as weekend’s surprise result. Elsewhere, Tottenham tore apart a sorry Leeds United in what turned out to be Marcelo Bielsa’s final game in charge of the Whites, and Newcastle continued their terrific recent form to triumph 2-0 in a relegation six-pointer with Brentford.
Another step closer to declaring the champions and the victims of relegation – it’s time to pick the latest selection of our Stars of the Week.
Stars of the Week – Matchweek 27
Goalkeeper: Ben Foster (Watford)
They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but for Manchester United it was a familiar story as the top four chasers once again ended up with a poor result against Watford.
Although dreadful finishing was without question the key factor in United leaving with a 0-0 draw, a lot of credit and recognition should also be directed towards Watford’s keeper Ben Foster, who came up with the answer on the rare occasions where United did manage to hit the target.
The veteran goalkeeper thwarted Bruno Fernandes in a scenario that looked certain to end with a goal, and made three saves in total to earn a fantastic clean sheet and potentially a huge point for Watford.
Having been beaten 4-1 by Crystal Palace just days earlier, this Foster-inspired performance has instantly made things a bit more positive for the Hornets.
Defender: Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur)
A week of extreme opposites for Tottenham ended back on a high following Saturday’s lunchtime kick off, in which the North London side completely dismantled Leeds within the first 30 minutes.
Whilst the trio of Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dejan Kulusevski was once again on song, it was the surprise figure of Matt Doherty who raced out of the blocks at Elland Road. The Irish fullback made a lung-busting run forwards to score with a simple finish and put his side in front, and was involved in some neat interplay with Kulusevski on the wing just a few minutes later before the latter slammed the ball home for 2-0.
Defensively, Doherty offered one of his better performances this season as well, making four interceptions as Spurs just about managed to shut out Leeds United.
Midfielder: Oriol Romeu (Southampton)
Southampton’s magnificent rise since Christmas continued during Friday night’s clash with Norwich City, in which the Saints comfortably dispatched the Canaries 2-0.
It was a dominant display by the St Mary’s Side, and one in which the usually quiet Oriol Romeu took centre stage. With 85 touches, 90% passing accuracy, two tackles and one interception, it was a fairly typical Romeu performance until he struck with a sensational late goal to deservedly seal the points for the home side, his first goal of the season.
It is usually his midfield partner James Ward-Prowse getting the lion’s share of the praise but Romeu was dominant in the centre of the pitch here, and proved that, much like Ward-Prowse, he is also capable of the spectacular.
Forward: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Harry Kane’s mixed week in the Premier League may have more or less mirrored the fortunes of Tottenham as a whole, but against Leeds he looked much more like the Kane who shone at the Etihad last weekend.
The England Captain overpowered the hosts at Elland Road, striking with a top-class volley on his weaker left foot 27 minutes into the contest to give Spurs a 3-0 lead, effectively finishing Leeds off. Kane wasn’t fully done there, though, and later launched a stunning pass from deep that found attacking partner Son Heung-Min, who finished clinically to claim a goal for himself and an assist for Kane.
Now seemingly back on top form, the Spurs talisman will no doubt be crucial in his team’s remaining games if they are to achieve an ambitious top four finish.
Manager: Eddie Howe (Newcastle United)
After a somewhat positive January, Eddie Howe and Newcastle United crowned off a sensational February with another vital victory in a relegation six-pointer with Brentford.
Just a few short weeks ago these two clubs were lightyears away from each other in the table, but the recent contrasting form of both sides set this match up nicely as a crucial battle for the survival bids of both. Despite suffering a couple of injuries to key players, Howe stuck to his guns with an attacking approach and was rewarded when the revitalised Joelinton powered home a header on 33 minutes, before midfielder Joe Willock struck on the counter attack to put Newcastle in control with a 2-0 lead.
The Magpies were certainly helped by an early red card for Brentford, but make no mistake, this result was another fantastic triumph for Howe, who has now lifted Newcastle to 14th in the table. They’re not out of the woods yet, but the season really is getting brighter from week to week on Tyneside now.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.