With no let up in sight across the English New Year fixture schedule, the Portuguese contingent in the Premier League and Championship remained in the thick of the action this midweek.
The most recent round of fixtures started with Ricardo Pereira again playing a starring role as Leicester City inflicted another defeat on struggling Everton manager Marco Silva. Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva’s Manchester City emerged victorious in their clash with Liverpool, but Nuno Espírito Santo’s Wolves surprisingly went down to Crystal Palace and José Gomes’ start to life at Reading continues to prove difficult.
My job to return confidence - Silva
Leicester’s victory over Everton at Goodison Park on Tuesday was an upset that should not really have come as an upset, given the visitors’ recent form for surprising the bigger clubs. Indeed Portugal international Ricardo Pereira scored the winning goal for the Foxes in their recent win over champions Manchester City, and Leicester also won away at Chelsea last month.
This time it was Marco Silva’s Everton on the receiving end, and the 1-0 loss to Jamie Vardy’s goal for Leicester – assisted by Ricardo - leaves the Portuguese manager facing growing mumbles of criticism on Merseyside. Silva’s side have won just one of their last eight games, and have suffered four defeats in their last five, leaving them in a disappointing 11th place in the Premier League.
“If you look at the past performances and results, we haven’t been consistent,” former Sporting boss Silva said. “This is the moment to be honest and look clearly at the game, to analyse the match, and pass the feedback to our boys. I felt our team was too nervous in some moments in the match. We did not put our game out there.
Silva, who substituted André Gomes just after the hour mark, added: “We know, because of how [Leicester] respect us, how they will come here to play. They started the game with a 4-5-1, blocking the space and waiting for our mistake.
“We made a mistake and they scored in that moment, which made things more difficult for us and after that we didn’t create the good moments to change the result for us. But we have the quality to do different things in our attack, to show more creativity. We have players to do that.
“This afternoon wasn’t the best for some of them, but it is my job to work with them and pass this confidence to them.”
For his part, Leicester boss Claude Puel was pleased with his team's performance and mentioned Ricardo’s part in the only goal. The former Porto man was deployed in an attacking role on the left and his utilisation as someone to spring the counter attack worked perfectly when he found Vardy to assist the winner.
“We tried to score,” said Puel. “With the ball recovery and a good assist from Ricky, he gave a good ball with good timing and space for Jamie. We know the quality of Jamie in this situation.”
Bernardo sets record on City win
The game of the week was without question the clash between Manchester City and Liverpool, with City hosting the league leaders looking to get themselves back into the title race. The visitors arrived with a 7-point advantage at the top, with many feeling that a victory for Jurgen Klopp’s men would put the title beyond City.
The champions prevented such a scenario with a well-deserved 2-1 victory, and Bernardo Silva was again impressive for Pep Guardiola’s men. Although Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane stole the headlines with the crucial goals, the Portugal international set a season record in the Premier League for distance covered, clocking 13.7km and drawing the praise of his coach after the match.
“He did everything,” Guardiola said about Bernardo. “He is the smallest one but shows us that to play football you don’t have to be taller or more physical. He is incredible. I haven’t seen performance like that in a while.”
Nuno: "There are no excuses"
Nuno Espírito Santo was named on the shortlist for the Premier League’s Manager of the Month for December, but his Wolverhampton Wanderers side started the New Year with a surprise 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening.
Nuno selected Rui Patrício, João Moutinho, Hélder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro for the match against struggling Palace, while Rúben Neves was introduced on 73 minutes with the game goalless to try to find a breakthrough. Instead, Wolves conceded twice in the final ten minutes to suffer their fifth home league defeat of the season.
“I was disappointed, it was a tough game,” said Nuno. “As the game went by we managed the ball, but credit to Crystal Palace, they fought, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It was not a good game.
“There are no excuses. We didn’t perform well and Crystal Palace had one day less than us to recover. We know this is a tight schedule and today we fought. A couple of days ago we were celebrating and now we have to bounce back.
“We are proud of what we’ve doing, but we want to keep growing, with persistence through the season.”
Gomes heads to Old Trafford in disarray
New Reading manager José Gomes is still looking for his first victory in English football, as he prepares his side for Saturday’s FA Cup match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The Portuguese coach, who left Rio Ave for Reading last month, managed to stem the team’s recent poor run of form with a credible 0-0 draw at Queens Park Rangers during his second game in charge last weekend. However, Tuesday night brought a damaging 4-1 home reserve to Swansea City, with Gomes’ side finding themselves 3-0 down at half time.
"Today, we gave a late Christmas gift to Swansea for the first 45 minutes. And we are not here to give anything to anyone," Gomes told reporters after the match.
"The way that we started – showing no energy, no strength, scared – playing like that we cannot win. They get into our box on four occasions and scored three goals...we rolled the red carpet out for them.
"We were without energy and too relaxed. We have no time for these kinds of behavioural mistakes,” said the Royals boss.
By Sean Gillen