Great Goals: Jamie Vardy – West Bromwich Albion vs. LEICESTER CITY (March 2018)

Jamie Vardy has a happy habit for finding the back of the net on his trips to The Hawthorns. In four Premier League visits to West Bromwich Albion’s ground, Vardy has scored on every single visit there – three of them turning out to be decisive winning goals too.

However, this one was his best against the Baggies in March 2018 and the technique used saw it voted by BBC pundits as the Match of the Day Goal of the Season for the 2017-2018 campaign. West Brom were 1-0 ahead when Vardy rekindled the telepathic understanding he and Riyad Mahrez enjoyed for several seasons.

Mahrez produced a long pass and Vardy made the run behind Craig Dawson. Knowing where the goal was, Vardy watched the dipping ball fall out of the sky and with a first-time shot on the volley, drove the ball beyond Ben Foster. Leicester would go on to win the game 4-1 and drive West Brom closer to relegation.

The pass, the vision, the skill and the shot were all first-class and that is why Vardy is one of the best English strikers of recent times in the Premier League.

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Iconic Moments: Koeman axed by Everton (October 2017)

After a seventh-place finish in his first season in the hotseat at Goodison Park, expectations were high at Everton for Ronald Koeman to mount a serious challenge for a top-four finish in pre-season. By the end of October, his managerial reputation looked destroyed and his club management career was over – for the time being at least.

Everton were forced to sell star striker Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2017 after the Belgian marksman turned down a new contract. They cashed in on Lukaku and earned £75 million from Manchester United with Wayne Rooney making an emotional return to his boyhood club as part of the deal. However, it became clear that Rooney was a signing for the fans and not really a player Koeman wanted.

There were other big arrivals for hefty sums of money, including Icelandic international Glyfi Sigurdsson, future England no.1 goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and centre-back Michael Keane from Burnley. However, Lukaku wasn’t replaced and that was a costly decision. Koeman even had to swallow his pride and bring back Oumar Niasse from the doldrums. He did give the Dutchman a priceless victory with two goals off the bench against AFC Bournemouth in September but by then, Koeman was already in big trouble.

Heavy back-to-back defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, coupled with a humiliating display in a UEFA Europa League group stage game in Atalanta put Koeman on the backfoot. Another European defeat at home to Lyon which saw an ugly brawl started by Ashley Williams put him on the verge of the sack when Arsenal visited Merseyside on Sunday 22nd October.

Rooney did give Everton the lead but Arsenal’s dominance in the game was so one-sided. Idrissa Gueye was sent off and only a brilliant display from Pickford stopped the scoreline creeping towards double figures. When Alexis Sanchez scored his first Premier League goal of the season to make the scoreline 5-2, the look on Everton chairman Bill Kenwright’s face said it all. Everton finished the evening in the bottom three. Koeman was sacked a day later. He has since become the manager of the Netherlands international team.

The hunt for his successor became messy and eventually, they sacrificed all principles and turned to Sam Allardyce just to steer them away from relegation danger after David Unsworth’s character-building month as interim boss. Allardyce did what was required and guided Everton to comfortable safety with an eighth-place finish but the fans never took to his style of football and he was sacked at the end of the season, replaced by the manager the Everton board always wanted as Koeman’s ultimate successor, Marco Silva.

The 2017-2018 season was a scrappy one for everyone connected with Everton Football Club.

Shock Results: Chelsea 2-3 Burnley (August 2017)

Goalscorers: Sam Vokes 24, 43, Stephen Ward 39, Alvaro Morata 69, David Luiz 88

Teams:

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill (SENT OFF), David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas (SENT OFF), Jerome Boga (Andreas Christensen 18), (Charly Musonda 90), Willian, Michy Batshuayi (Alvaro Morata 59)

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Ben Mee, Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Jack Cork, Steven Defour (Jon Walters 75), Jeff Hendrick, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes

Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 41,616

Reigning champions Chelsea were once again expected to be among the frontrunners for the Premier League title in 2017-2018. On the opening weekend of the season, Antonio Conte’s side faced Burnley, who were starting their fourth Premier League campaign. On their three previous visits to Stamford Bridge, the Clarets had conceded seven goals. So, they were considered major outsiders.

However, the champions imploded in a spectacular first 45 minutes which was to be the story of their season. The first sign of trouble for the hosts came after just 14 minutes when referee Craig Pawson dished out a straight red card to Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill. Cahill, who had taken on the role on a full-time basis following John Terry’s summer departure, made a lunging two-footed tackle on Burnley midfielder Steven Defour. It was classed as dangerous play by Pawson and Cahill could have few complaints. This meant Jerome Boga’s shock debut was over too, sacrificed to make way for defensive centre-back Andreas Christensen.

Nine minutes later, Burnley fully capitalised on the extra man advantage as Sam Vokes fired the visitors ahead with a volley beyond Thibaut Courtois. It would get worse for a stunned home faithful. Six minutes before half-time, Burnley put together a brilliant team move which led to their second goal. It was left-back Stephen Ward who finished the move off, firing an angled drive beyond Courtois’ despairing dive. Incredibly, it was 3-0 just four minutes later. A flying header from Vokes continued his red-hot streak and put Burnley fans into dreamland. The Welshman had now scored seven goals in his last six Premier League matches dating back to the end of the previous season. The scoreline was even more spectacular considering Burnley had won just one away match in the whole of the previous campaign and that had been at the end of April at Crystal Palace.

Conte looked a pale shadow of the energetic character Chelsea fans had seen on the touchline during his debut Premier League season and he urgently needed a reaction from his misfiring players in the second half. The belated arrival of Alvaro Morata in the 59th minute was the galvanising factor in their second half improvement. 10 minutes after his arrival, the Spaniard, who had joined from Real Madrid, had his first goal for his new employers, heading home from close-range.

Any hopes of Chelsea salvaging something from the contest were as good as over when Cesc Fabregas added to Conte’s headaches. Booked needlessly for dissent in the first half, the Spaniard’s clumsy challenge on Jack Cork with nine minutes left to play saw him heading for an early shower and reduced Chelsea to nine men.

David Luiz did pull another goal back just before stoppage-time but it was too little, too late. Burnley held on for a famous victory. Sean Dyche’s side were one of the success stories of the season and will be playing in UEFA Europa League qualifying later this week as a reward for their seventh-place finish. Chelsea’s fifth-place league result was very disappointing and Conte was sacked in July 2018.