EPL

Alisson wonderland, Klopp comebacks and withdrawn stars - the Premier League weekend's quirky facts

By Sports Desk May 17, 2021

It's always nice to start with a "thank you".

If you're in the business of picking out some of the most noteworthy and unusual statistics from a Premier League weekend, a goalkeeper scoring the winning goal in stoppage time for one of the most famous clubs in world football does much of the job for you.

Alisson, we salute you.

However, Jarrod Bowen might not be saluting David Moyes, while the current incumbents at Goodison Park have few reasons to be cheerful.

All you need is glove

There was no doubt over the moment of the weekend or, for that matter, the moment of Liverpool's lacklustre season in defence of their Premier League title.

Alisson trotting up from his own half to head home a stunning winner for the ages at West Brom is sure to be replayed countless times over the coming years.

Brazil's number one became the first goalkeeper in Liverpool's 129-year history to score a competitive goal for the club.

He is the sixth goalkeeper to score in the Premier League, joining Peter Schmeichel, Brad Friedel, Paul Robinson, Tim Howard and Asmir Begovic on an exclusive list.

Remarkably, Alisson is the first keeper in the competition to score with his head.

Jurgie time?

The identity of the goalscorer was absurd and, at 94:18, it was Liverpool's latest away winner since Christian Benteke struck against his current employers Crystal Palace in March 2016.

However, Liverpool have made last-gasp winners something of a forte in the Premier League, despite such acts typically being associated with their most bitter rivals.

The Reds have scored 38 winners in second-half stoppage time, 13 more than any other club. Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all have 25.

This sense of a never-say-die attitude has found fresh impetus under Klopp. Since his appointment in October 2015, Liverpool have recovered 94 points from losing positions – more than any other Premier League club during this time.

Teenage kicking for Carlo

Another game involving a Merseyside club and another unlikely goalscorer, but it was tale of woe for the hosts at Goodison Park.

Relegated Sheffield United beat Everton 1-0 thanks to an early goal from debutant Daniel Jebbison. At 17 years and 309 days, Jebbison became the youngest player to score a match-winning goal since Federico Macheda (17 years and 232 days) did so for Manchester United against Sunderland in April 2009.

There are not too many home comforts for Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti right now. Only Fulham (four) – who, like the Blades, will be playing Championship football next season – have claimed fewer than their six home points in 2021.

Nine home defeats overall is the joint-most Everton have suffered in a league campaign, alongside similarly slim returns in 1912-13, 1947-48, 1950-51 and 1993-94.

Bowen on the board

Jarrod Bowen has enjoyed a productive season at West Ham, scoring eight goals and laying on five assists for David Moyes' men.

The former Hull City favourite might argue he would have been even more use with a few more minutes on the field.

Before the late drama in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion, Bowen was substituted – the 23rd time this season he has been withdrawn during a match this term.

Aston Villa's Bertrand Traore didn't see the final whistle in the 3-2 weekend loss to Crystal Palace and has made way 22 times – the same amount as Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

Daniel Podence (19), Leandro Trossard (16), Alexandre Lacazette, Roberto Firmino and Miguel Almiron (15) are the other men in the division who must most dread the sight of the fourth official's board.

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    European club football's main event is almost here, with two bona fide giants of the game set to face off at the Stade de France on Saturday.

    Either Real Madrid or Liverpool will be crowned champions of Europe in Paris; whichever team manages it will be providing their fans with a glorious end to a tremendous season.

    Of course, Madrid did what Liverpool could not on the domestic front, as Los Blancos head into this game as LaLiga champions – the Reds ultimately missed out to Manchester City on the last day of the Premier League campaign.

    But this has still been a successful season for Jurgen Klopp's side, who could yet claim a treble having already lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup in England.

    It promises to be an immense spectacle, with Opta's pre-match facts highlighting the wealth of footballing greatness that is set to be on display.

    The history

    Much of the build-up to this match has centred around two separate narratives of "revenge" relating to the 2018 Champions League final meeting between these two.

    The first obvious desire for retribution comes simply from the fact Madrid won 3-1 in Kyiv – the other surrounds Mohamed Salah, whose match was ended early on that occasion after a collision with Sergio Ramos.

    Either way, if Liverpool – and Salah – are to have their vengeance, they'll need to contend with Madrid's astonishing record: they have won each of their previous seven Champions League/European Cup finals.

    To put that stat into context, no other team have even won the competition more than seven times, let alone won in seven consecutive final appearances.

    But if you're looking for omens, answer this: who last beat Madrid in a European Cup/Champions League final, and where was it played?

    Liverpool, in Paris (1981)…

    The managers

    For about 24 hours, Klopp had joined an exclusive list of managers who had reached the European Cup/Champions League final four times.

    But then Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid pulled off their third great escape in as many knockout ties, meaning the Italian would set a new record for the most final appearances as a manager in UEFA's flagship competition.

    But the historic achievement he'll no doubt be craving is still up for grabs.

    Victory on Saturday will ensure Ancelotti is the first manager to lift the trophy four times, having won the competition in 2003, 2007 and 2014.

    But here's another omen. The only club to beat an Ancelotti team in a Champions League final? That's right, Liverpool in 2005.

    Nevertheless, Klopp doesn't have a particularly encouraging record against Los Blancos. He's faced them nine times in the Champions League, with his 33 per cent success rate the worst among teams he's faced at least three times.

    The danger men

    It would be fair to bill this match as something of a Ballon d'Or shootout.

    Certainly, ahead of Saturday, the favourite is Karim Benzema, and with good reason. The France striker has enjoyed an incredible season and been central to Madrid's route to the final – he has scored 15 goals, two behind the all-time record for a single Champions League/European Cup campaign.

    What helps make that such a remarkable achievement is the fact he would become the second-oldest scorer in a Champions League final (34 years, 160 days) after Paolo Maldini (36 years, 333 days) if he does net in Paris.

    Madrid will likely need to keep the vengeful Salah in check, however.

    Since the start of the 2017-18 season, the Egyptian has 44 Champions League goal involvements, a tally bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (55) and Kylian Mbappe (47).

    If Liverpool are successful, Salah will surely become the frontrunner for the Ballon d'Or – unless Sadio Mane, who has scored three in his past four Champions League games and won the Africa Cup of Nations, has a decisive impact.

    The prize

    Liverpool are bidding to join Milan with seven European Cup/Champions League crowns, the second-most in the competitions' collective history.

    Of course, the only team with more than seven are Madrid. Victory for them will take them to 14 titles, remarkably twice as many as any other club, a fact that really highlights their obsession with the competition.

    Either way, a behemoth of European football will enjoy another memorable occasion in Paris on Saturday.

    But if it's Liverpool who succeed, it'll be difficult to look at this as anything other than the early stages of English domination in the Champions League, given Premier League teams have won two of the past three already.

  • 'Looks good' for Thiago and Fabinho ahead of Champions League final, Klopp confirms 'Looks good' for Thiago and Fabinho ahead of Champions League final, Klopp confirms

    Jurgen Klopp is expecting both Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho to be fit to feature for Liverpool in Saturday's Champions League final against Real Madrid.

    The two key midfielders were doubts for the Reds heading to Paris this week.

    Thiago hobbled out of the final match of the Premier League season against Wolves with a calf injury, while a hamstring complaint means Fabinho has not played since the win at Aston Villa on May 10.

    However, Klopp offered a positive update in his pre-match news conference on Friday.

    "The mood is good, very good," the Liverpool manager said. "We're really excited about being here now, getting a feeling of the stadium, the location. That's all good.

    "It looks good for both Thiago and Fabinho. Fabinho trained completely normal; Thiago trained yesterday with the team, will train today, and then we will go from there."

    Liverpool are unbeaten in the nine games they have played this season without either Thiago or Fabinho in the starting XI, although they have drawn three of those matches.

    The pair have appeared together in the line-up 20 times in 2021-22, contributing to an outstanding 17 wins.

  • Cavani: Poor final season in front of Man Utd fans leaves a 'bitter taste' Cavani: Poor final season in front of Man Utd fans leaves a 'bitter taste'

    Edinson Cavani admits enduring a poor final season with Manchester United after fans returned to Old Trafford left him with a "bitter taste", as he prepares to leave after two years at the club.

    Cavani is moving on from United as a free agent at the end of his contract, having scored 12 goals in 41 Premier League appearances since joining in October 2020 from Paris Saint-Germain.

    The Uruguay international initially impressed for United, scoring 10 goals in his first Premier League campaign as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils finished as runners-up in a 2020-21 season played almost entirely behind closed doors due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    However, the 35-year-old then struggled for game-time under both Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick during his final campaign with the Red Devils, making just seven Premier League starts and scoring two goals in the competition.

    Cavani, who suffered a number of frustrating injuries and was used largely as a back-up to Cristiano Ronaldo this term, told the club's official website he regrets not contributing more in his final season with the club, the first full campaign in front of supporters since the beginning of the pandemic.

    "I wanted to contribute more this season," he said.

    "One of the things that has left me with a slightly bitter taste is that when we had a highly enjoyable and pretty decent season [in 2020-21], we weren't able to have the supporters along with us.

    "And now, this season, with the fans coming back into the grounds and stadiums, I haven't really been able to have the kind of campaign, if I'm being honest, on a personal front, that I would really have liked.

    "I would have been able to score the kind of goals I did last season, and then be celebrating them a bit more with the fans – the kind of stuff that is great for a forward or a striker to be doing.

    "But I want to sincerely thank the fans from the bottom of my heart, because they have always shown me a lot of affection, and that is very important for a footballer."

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