Monday, 24 January, 2022

Covid-hit Chelsea held by Wolves as Man City top Christmas charts

Covid-hit Chelsea held by Wolves as Man City top Christmas charts

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Covid-hit Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Wolves on Sunday after the Premier League rejected their request to postpone the game as Manchester City put struggling Newcastle to the sword.

In the final match of a weekend on which just four games were played due to the coronavirus crisis, Tottenham held 10-man Liverpool to a 2-2 draw, denting their title hopes.

Premier League clubs will meet on Monday to discuss what action to take over the Covid chaos, with growing questions over the integrity of the competition as the busy festive period looms.

Stumbling Chelsea, who have struggled with illness and injuries in recent weeks, were only able to name four outfield players on the bench for their match at Molineux.

The visitors, who have now won just two of their past six league games, enjoyed the bulk of possession but mustered just one shot on target and are now six points behind leaders City.

Thomas Tuchel was without Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have all tested positive for Covid-19. Jorginho, Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were also not in the squad.

Chelsea earlier confirmed that their request to have the game called off been turned down.

The European champions' appeal is understood to have been rejected because the Blues were deemed to have had enough players to fulfil the fixture.

"I gave my opinion and you can do with it what you want," a frustrated Tuchel told the BBC. "I can't compare to other games, it is just our situation.

"It is not safe. We talk about protecting players and a safe environment but it is not safe. I would not be surprised if the next test shows up and we have more positives.

"How should it stop if we sit in the bus and have dinners and just stay together like nothing happened?"

- Newcastle calamity -

Defending champions City crushed relegation-threatened Newcastle 4-0 to confirm their position at the top of the table at Christmas.

Eddie Howe's side shot themselves in the foot in just the fifth minute, when calamitous defending handed City the lead after goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had carelessly conceded a corner.

The defence only half-cleared and Joao Cancelo hooked the ball back into the six-yard box. Newcastle appeared to be in little danger but Ciaran Clark inexplicably chose not to make a simple headed clearance and Ruben Dias headed the loose ball into the net.

The home side rallied but City silenced St James's Park shortly before the half-hour, when Cancelo smashed a right-footed shot past the helpless Dubravka from the edge of the area.

City maintained their firm grip on the match in the second half, with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling doubling their lead to ensure an eighth consecutive league win.

It was City's 34th league victory of 2021, establishing a new record for the most top-flight wins by a team in a calendar year and they finished the day three points clear of second-placed Liverpool.

"I prefer to win titles, but when you break a record from a long, long time ago, in a calendar year, the most victories, you are consistent," said Guardiola.

"You win games and win games and win games, and this is the most precious value this team has."

Liverpool's preparations for their visit to Spurs were hit after midfielder Thiago Alcantara became the latest of Jurgen Klopp's players to return a suspected positive test for Covid.

The two teams produced a thrilling spectacle at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Spurs playing their first match for two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak in their camp.

Harry Kane gave Spurs an early lead but Diogo Jota equalised in the 35th minute against the wasteful hosts and Andy Robertson stooped to head the visitiors into the lead midway through the second half.

But Tottenham were level five minutes later when Son Heung-Min made the most of a failed effort by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker to clear, steering the ball into an empty net.

Moments later Robertson was sent off for a wild tackle on Emerson Royal following a VAR review but Liverpool held on to win a point.