Brighton 0-2 Aston Villa: Player ratings as Cash & Watkins seal three points

Brighton suffered a limp 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.

Kick-off was delayed by half an hour due to the traffic Villa encountered on their way down to the south coast. However, the tardy visitors got the jump on their hosts.

Matty Cash fizzed Villa into an 18th-minute lead. Collecting the ball on the edge of Brighton’s box, Cash steadied himself before arrowing an angular drive in off the far post.

Yet, either side of the opener, Brighton demonstrated the threat they can pose by targeting the yawning space behind Villa’s fullbacks – Cash chief among them.

Up against Villa’s perilously narrow diamond midfield, Graham Potter sent his wingbacks high and wide, with Solly March scurrying down Cash’s flank frequently. Alexis Mac Allister blazed over from inside the penalty area following this pattern of play in the first half.

Between the sharp parps of the referee’s frequently used whistle – the first half saw more yellow cards than any other opening 45 minutes of the Premier League season (per Opta) – Villa’s midfielders were denied from close range as Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn had efforts blocked by a gaggle of blue and white.

Potter rejigged his setup during the interval, sacrificing a midfielder as Brighton lined up with a front three in search of a rare home goal. Only bottom-side Norwich City had scored fewer on familiar turf in the Premier League this term going into the game.

If anything, these alterations hampered the flickering threat Brighton had intermittently posed before the break. Yet, whatever personnel took to the pitch would have been expected to deal with the painfully straightforward approach Villa employed to double their lead.

Tyrone Mings blasted the ball from his own defensive third up the pitch. Ollie Watkins proved the only player able to read the flight of the hoick, latching onto what was surely a clearance and clinically firing past Robert Sanchez.

Danny Ings, Marc CucurellaDanny Ings, Marc Cucurella

Marc Cucurella (centre) jostling for the ball with Villa’s Danny Ings / Henry Browne/GettyImages

Robert Sanchez (GK) – 7/10 – Unable to do much about Cash’s pinpoint strike but impressive in denying Villa from range and inside his own box thereafter.

Joel Veltman (CB) – 4/10 – Unconvincing on and off the ball.

Lewis Dunk (CB) – 4/10 – On his return from suspension, the Seagulls skipper made a goal-saving block in the first half but didn’t cover himself in glory for Villa’s route one second goal.

Marc Cucurella (CB) – 6/10 – Carried out a complex hybrid role as he shuffled between the leftmost member of a back-three and four.

Solly March, John McGinnSolly March, John McGinn

Solly March made his Premier League start of 2022 on Saturday / Charlie Crowhurst/GettyImages

Tariq Lamptey (RWB) – 5/10 – Pushed forward as part of a front three as the game went on but frustrated wherever he started his scampering from.

Jakub Moder (CM) – 5/10 – Having initially been ushered out of midfield during the break, Moder was hooked off altogether an hour in.

Yves Bissouma (CM) – 5/10 – Unable to get his teeth into the contest with Coutinho shadowing him.

Alexis Mac Allister (CM) – 5/10 – Squandered one of the sporadic openings Brighton could carve out.

Solly March (LWB) – 6/10 – Brighton’s brightest outlet with his penetrating darts behind Cash. Oddly switched to the other flank during the interval.

Neal MaupayNeal Maupay

Neal Maupay is Brighton’s top scorer this season / Henry Browne/GettyImages

Leandro Trossard (ST) – 5/10 – Dropping off the front line to receive the ball behind Villa’s midfield trio with mixed success.

Neal Maupay (ST) – 6/10 – Eager to tangle with the towering Mings despite a vertical disadvantage, Maupay found chances hard to come by.

Danny Welbeck (LW) – 5/10 – Connected well with a rare cross that Villa didn’t make first contact to but steered it well wide.

Matty CashMatty Cash

Matty Cash opened the scoring with his second goal of the season / Charlie Crowhurst/GettyImages

Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 7/10 – Calm with the ball at his feet and largely untroubled with his hands.

Matty Cash (RB) – 7/10 – A crisp finish is what his display will be remembered for but endured some tricky moments at the other end.

Ezri Konsa (CB) – 7/10 – Carried out what little defensive work he was faced with devoid of fuss.

Tyrone Mings (CB) – 8/10 – A commanding presence at the back and chipped in with a long-range assist.

Lucas Digne (LB) – 6/10 – Dealt well enough with Lamptey’s electric pace down the flank.

Philippe Coutinho, Joel VeltmanPhilippe Coutinho, Joel Veltman

Philippe Coutinho (left) shimmying away from Brighton’s Joel Veltman / Henry Browne/GettyImages

John McGinn (CM) – 7/10 – At his hustling bustling best in an exceedingly busy – in the best of ways – display.

Douglas Luiz (CM) – 7/10 – Found space in a crowded midfield before he was worryingly forced off early with a fitness concern.

Jacob Ramsey (CM) – 6/10 – Always keen to bundle forward and support Villa’s well-timed attacks.

Philippe Coutinho (AM) – 8/10 – For all the silky wriggles in the attacking third, it was an unexpectedly disciplined defensive display that defined a fine outing.

Ollie Watkins (ST) – 7/10 – Converted his first sight of goal clinically.

Danny Ings (ST) – 6/10 – Ferreting around the top of the pitch, Ings provided more nuisance value than end product – though both are necessary.

Morgan Sanson (CM) – 6/10

Ashley Young (LW) – N/A

Tim Iroegbunam (AM) – N/A

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Man Utd 0-0 Watford: Player ratings as wasteful Red Devils frustrated by Hornets

Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw by Watford at Old Trafford in the Premier League and will see it as two points dropped after dominating the game from whistle to whistle and racking up 22 shots without finding the net. For Watford, it is a vital point their fight for survival.

The reverse of this fixture back in November, which Watford won 4-1, was the final nail in the coffin for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This time, Ralf Rangnick’s United started brightly and went close to scoring very early when Cristiano Ronaldo struck the inside of the post.

Ronaldo had the ball in the net 15 minutes in, only to be denied by an offside flag, while Anthony Elanga started brightly, and Bruno Fernandes had two outstanding chances in the first quarter of the game – one that forced an excellent Ben Foster save and another he directed wide.

When the superb Elanga put Ronaldo through, Old Trafford held its breath expecting the net to ripple. But the 37-year-old was forced wide by Foster and his cross into the middle was headed over by Fernandes, who could easily have had a hat-trick inside the opening half hour alone.

Alex Telles flashed a free-kick just wide and there were penalty claims when Elanga went down under the challenge of Craig Cathcart, one of four Watford starters facing their former club, but it remained goal-less at half-time.

Ronaldo was denied a penalty early in the second half after being bundled over by Hassane Kamara. Moments later, an incisive move saw Paul Pogba and Elanga combine beautifully, with the young Swede firing wide instead of on target. Foster later pounced on another Ronaldo effort.

Watford, meanwhile, having seen the door slammed in their face during the first half began to offer a little more going forward, with Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis coming into the game.

In a bid to win the game, Rangnick made two attacking changes that left Pogba as a sole holding midfielder, effectively operating behind five forwards. Despite the potential overload up front, United struggled to make it count and a resilient Watford stood tall.

Substitute Jadon Sancho fizzed a curling just wide of the far post as the clock ticked into stoppage time, before one final Fernandes drive straight at Foster, who gratefully grasped the ball to his chest.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka impressedAaron Wan-Bissaka impressed

Aaron Wan-Bissaka impressed / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

David de Gea (GK) – 6/10 – Had very little to do.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB) – 7/10 – Made the most of his chance after being recalled. Defended really well and saw plenty of the ball going forward.

Victor Lindelof (CB) – 6/10 – Good distribution and won most of his individual battles, both on the ground and in the air..

Raphael Varane (CB) – 6/10 – Snuffed out potential Watford chances before the danger became a real threat.

Alex Telles (LB) – 6/10 – Offered plenty going forward.

Bruno Fernandes missed multiple chancesBruno Fernandes missed multiple chances

Bruno Fernandes missed multiple chances / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Fred (CM) – 6/10 – Was in control of the game in midfield but tactically sacrificed with just under half an hour to play.

Nemanja Matic (CM) – 7/10 – Played an important role that gave his team a foothold in the game. Not his fault his teammates couldn’t score but swapped for more attacking impetus.

Bruno Fernandes (AM) – 6/10 – Captain for the day and played like a man on a mission, yet his finishing was disappointingly wayward. Should have scored at least one of his great chances.

Paul Pogba (AM) – 7/10 – Occupied quite a free role and it suited him well. Was heavily involved in some of United’s best creative play.

Anthony Elanga impressed but couldn't find the netAnthony Elanga impressed but couldn't find the net

Anthony Elanga impressed but couldn’t find the net / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Anthony Elanga (ST) – 8/10 – Clearly brimming with confidence after his midweek goal. Created numerous chances with direct running and clever passes. Unfortunately missed a great chance of his own.

Cristiano Ronaldo (ST) – 6/10 – Hit the post in the opening minutes and was later denied a goal by an offside flag. Grew frustrated.

Jadon Sancho (LW) – 6/10 – Threatened but couldn’t make it count.

Luke Shaw (LB) – 6/10 – Put plenty of balls in to the box.

Marcus Rashford (ST) – 5/10 – No game-changing impact.

Ben Foster frustrated his former clubBen Foster frustrated his former club

Ben Foster frustrated his former club / Nathan Stirk/GettyImages

Ben Foster (GK) – 7/10 – Made a big early save to deny Fernandes, setting the tone for a busy afternoon. Delighted with a clean sheet.

Jeremy Ngakia (RB) – 5/10 – Looked the weak link in the back four after a tiring first half and was replaced early in the second.

Craig Cathcart (CB) – 7/10 – Survived a penalty appeal in the first half but had the last laugh against his old team.

Samir (CB) – 7/10 – Threw everything at keeping United out.

Hassane Kamara (LB) – 6/10 – Beaten quite a few times on a tough afternoon. Just about held his own in the end.

Moussa Sissoko led his team to an important pointMoussa Sissoko led his team to an important point

Moussa Sissoko led his team to an important point / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Moussa Sissoko (CM) – 8/10 – Most of his work needed to be defensive but it was a really disciplined performance.

Imran Louza (CM) – 7/10 – Frustrated the hosts in midfield. Recovered the ball frequently, while his interception tally was also high.

Tom Cleverley (CM) – 6/10 – Had to do a lot out of possession

Watford struggled to create much for Emmanuel DennisWatford struggled to create much for Emmanuel Dennis

Watford struggled to create much for Emmanuel Dennis / Jan Kruger/GettyImages

Ismaila Sarr (RW) – 5/10 – His pace looked like it could cause a problem but didn’t see enough of the ball to test that out more.

Emmanuel Dennis (ST) – 6/10 – Had to feed off scraps but came into the game a little more after the break.

Joshua King (LW) – 5/10 – Couldn’t continue his good scoring record against his former club. Withdrawn early in the second half.

Christian Kabasele (CB) – 6/10 – Brought on for more defensive stability.

Ken Sema (LM) – 6/10 – Helped contain the hosts.

Juraj Kucka (CM) – 6/10 – Celebrated his 35th birthday with a big point.

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Crystal Palace 1-1 Burnley: Player ratings as Clarets fightback earns valuable point

Crystal Palace and Burnley played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon, sharing a Premier League point apiece.

Patrick Vieira’s side took an early lead through Jeffrey Schlupp in what was an utterly dominant first period, before a role reversal saw the visitors impose themselves on their hosts, equalising within seconds of the restart courtesy of Luka Milivojevic’s own goal.

The game was a far cry from the captivating rollercoaster that was the two sides’ 3-3 draw at Turf Moor earlier in the season, but provided its fair share of excitement and represents a valuable point against in-form opposition for either side.

On a sunny day in south London, the Eagles enjoyed a bright start and didn’t wait too long to break the deadlock, pulling ahead after just nine minutes.

The increasingly impressive Michael Olise was pivotal from the right flank, using a combination of mazy stepovers and weaving movement to create the space to swing in a low cross, which found Schlupp who would’ve done well to miss from a couple of yards out.

Palace assumed control thereafter, and continuously threatened a second while Burnley were penned into their own half for the majority of the half. While the hosts were collectively dominant and dangerous, it was Olise’s individual brilliance that posed the greatest threat.

The winger was clearly enjoying himself on the day, with Ben Mee’s toe and Nick Pope’s smart reactions denying him a much-deserved goal of his own. Despite the pressure, however, the Clarets were able to hold on until the interval, during which Sean Dyche evidently delivered an inspiring team talk.

It took the Clarets just 39 seconds into the second period to get back on level terms. Aaron Lennon was central to the move, starting it off with sharp play before latching onto Wout Weghorst’s head-on and firing in a rasping pull-back which was diverted into his own net by Milivojevic.

Dyche’s men built on that blistering start and began to find their feet in the game, dominating large stretches of play in the process. The visitors were, indeed, very close to finding a second from a corner before the hour mark, although Weghorst couldn’t quite keep his towering header low enough – much to the relief of a flying Jack Butland.

The away fans eventually erupted in celebration in the 67th minute, as Weghorst thought he’d given his side a deserved lead, although their cheers were soon hushed by an offside call. Jay Rodriguez was the guilty party, straying just beyond the Palace back line in the build-up.

There was always a sense that Palace had more to give, and they reminded their visitors of just that when Wilfried Zaha went inches away from pulling ahead. The Ivorian did brilliantly to make space for himself on the left-hand side of the penalty area before seeing his shot across goal hit the face of the post and sail away to safety.

That misfortune was a sign of the action to come. While both teams enjoyed promising phases of play in the remining minutes, neither could break through to snatch a late.

Jack ButlandJack Butland

Jack Butland in full stretch / Christopher Lee/GettyImages

Jack Butland (GK) – 6/10 – Produced some smart goalkeeping throughout, but had no chance of keeping out the visitors’ strike.

Nathaniel Clyne (RB) – 5/10 – Produced one interesting long-range effort early in the first half but subsequently drifted out of proceedings.

Joachim Andersen (CB) – 6/10 – Typically composed and progressive in possession for the first half, although looked tentative as Burnley grew into the game.

Marc Guehi (CB) – 3/10 – Not at his best by any stretch, looking frazzled by the mere presence of Weghorst.

Tyrick Mitchell (LB) – 6/10 – Wasn’t brilliant going forward but put in a characteristically solid display at the back, making three ball recoveries.

Luka Milivojevic (DM) – 6/10 – Looked silly scoring the own goal but had no choice but to get a foot on the ball. Otherwise, he was tidy in his distribution and effective in his screening before being sacrificed for an extra striker.

Conor Gallagher (CM) – 4/10 – Buzzed around but lacked his usual elusiveness and impact – bizarrely quiet.

James McArthur (CM) – 7/10 – Read play well and scurried around to fill gaps and protect his colleagues, registering four ball recoveries.

Michael OliseMichael Olise

A fantastic talent / Christopher Lee/GettyImages

Michael Olise (RW) – 8/10 – Wow – he’s the real deal. A dazzling first half saw him absolutely dominate the match with his attractive creativity and clinical attacking output. Not as influential after the interval.

Wilfried Zaha (ST) – 7/10 – Drifted out to the left often and caused panic every time he got on the ball. Terrorised the Burnley defence when driving towards goal, brought out some dazzling pieces of skill and was desperately unlucky to hit the post in the second half.

Jeffrey Schlupp (LW) – 7/10 – An important presence in the final third – notably making sure he was in the right place at the right time to break the deadlock – while also filtering back into a midfield position to sure up his side defensively.

Jean-Philippe Mateta (ST) – 5/10 – Came on with half an hour ago but wasn’t able to turn the tide in Palace’s favour.

Cheikhou Kouyate (CM) – N/A – A late introduction, not enough time to impact the game.

Michael Olise, Erik PietersMichael Olise, Erik Pieters

Erik Pieters had a torrid time against Michael Olise / Tom Dulat/GettyImages

Nick Pope (GK) – 6/10 – No chance for the goal but produced a good save to deny Olise late in the first half and looked solid throughout.

Connor Roberts (RB) – 5/10 – Didn’t cope too well with Palace’s fluidity on the left wing but provided some sporadic danger upfield.

James Tarkowski (CB) – 6/10 – Should have been tighter on Schlupp for the first goal but was subsequently resolute, managing three interceptions and seven clearances.

Ben Mee (CB) – 6/10 – Could have been more alert for Palace’s opener but was otherwise a typically reliable figure for Burnley.

Erik Pieters (LB) – 2/10 – Struggled to cope with Olise throughout his stint on the field before being forced off with injury – no prizes for guessing who’ll be featuring in his nightmares tonight.

Aaron Lennon (RM) – 7/10 – Looked a spark when he was given the opportunity to directly impact proceedings and, although that wasn’t often, he made Palace pay immediately after the break.

Jack Cork (CM) – 2/10 – Made a few rash challenges and looked simply overwhelmed before being replaced in the second half.

Josh Brownhill (CM) – 6/10 – An active participant in the match, stifling numerous Crystal Palace moves as well as recovering possession five times, but had no creative impact.

Dwight McNeil (LM) – 1/10 – Wasn’t good enough on the back foot, and was barely even involved on the front foot. He’s got bags of potential, but he needs to step up. Absolutely woeful.

Jay Rodriguez, James McArthur, Luka MilivojevicJay Rodriguez, James McArthur, Luka Milivojevic

Jay Rodriguez couldn’t get into the game / Christopher Lee/GettyImages

Wout Weghorst (ST) – 7/10 – Faultless in his awareness and link-up play when the ball was hoofed in his direction, notably playing a key part in Burnley’s equaliser.

Jay Rodriguez (ST) – 3/10 – Showed great tenacity to press throughout, but was occasionally clumsy while having no tangible impact on the front foot.

Charlie Taylor (LB) – 5/10 – Was far better than Pieters, though it was difficult not to be.

Ashley Westwood (CM) – 6/10 – Likewise, Westwood was a far greater threat in midfield than the ineffective Cork.

Ashley Barnes (ST) – N/A – A late change.

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Chelsea cruise into Women’s FA Cup quarter-finals with 7-0 win over Leicester

Chelsea are into the sixth round of the Women’s FA Cup thanks to their joint biggest win of the season, putting seven goals past fellow WSL side Leicester without reply.

The Blues matched their 7-0 away win against Servette in the Champions League group stage back in November, with Pernille Harder the star of the show against the Foxes at Kingsmeadow.

Harder scored twice and bagged a hat-trick of assists, while strike partner also finished with two goals and another two assists. Ji So-yun, Aniek Nouwen and Bethany England helped rack up the score-line with goals of their own in the second half.

For Dutch defender Nouwen, it was a first goal in Chelsea colours, while England would have been happy for the opportunity to net after struggling for regular game time.

Leicester weren’t completely out of the game at half-time. It was just 2-0 at that stage, but an earlier red card for Leicester defender Sophie Howard inside the opening 20 minutes proved to be defining and there was no way the visitors could compete after the break with only 10 players.

Chelsea are the current holders of the FA Cup after comfortably beating Arsenal in the heavily delayed 2021 final at Wembley in December.

The Blues will discover their quarter-final opponents in due course. A battle between Women’s Championship leaders Liverpool and WSL leaders Arsenal and a Manchester derby are the headline fifth round ties that will be played on Sunday.

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Christian Pulisic wants to ‘learn’ from Mohamed Salah

Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic has said there is plenty that he wants to ‘learn’ from Liverpool counterpart Mohamed Salah.

The two wingers will face off in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley, with both aiming to win their first domestic cup competition in England.

And Pulisic is aware of the threat that former Blues player Salah poses, insisting he would like to emulate the Egyptian’s progression.

“He is an incredible player,” Pulisic said in an interview with ESPN. “As far as the Premier League goes this season, he has generally been up there with the best.

“There’s definitely a lot to look up to and I can learn from him. He’s a great goal-scorer, really strong, he does a lot of things well that people don’t even realise to get him into position to score these goals. He’s someone I can learn from.”

Chelsea’s last meeting with Liverpool came in early January at Stamford Bridge, with the Reds surrendering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw.

Pulisic is aware that his side will be in for another tough battle on Sunday but will not be fazed by the challenge.

“The players Liverpool have and the style they play, they make things very difficult for you,” Pulisic said.

“They are a high-pressure team, they have a lot of physical, fast players, dangerous up front. All of the above – they have a lot of good players so it is always a tough team and a good coach.

“We’ve played in finals before. We’ve won and lost them but it’s about getting in the mindset and being ready to fight because in a final, that’s what they’re for. It’s up for grabs, maybe not always the best football-playing team is going to win.

“It is about grinding, fighting and winning that one-off game. That’s what we are going to do; hopefully we are going to get it done this time.”

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