Chelsea 3 – 1 Sunderland
Chelsea’s Mourinho-less season began with a convincing 3-1 win over Sunderland, although the departed manager is all but forgotten at Stamford Bridge.
Branislav Ivanovic opened the scoring for the hosts with a 5th minute header to put them in front, and the tie was effectively wrapped up eight minutes later when Pedro pounced to make it 2-0. An Oscar penalty shortly after the break made it 3-0 before Fabio Borini scored a consolation for the visiting side as new interim boss Guus Hiddink watched on. The scoreline wasn’t the main talking point of the match, with the Blues fans unanimous and emphatic support of Jose Mourinho taking centre stage.
Chelsea are in 15th place with a three point cushion between them and the relegation zone. This loss pushed Sunderland further into trouble, and they are now five points from safety in 19th position.
Everton 2 – 3 Leicester
Leicester sealed the Premier League top spot for Christmas day with a thrilling 3-2 win over Everton at Goodison Park, and they are now the first team in history to be bottom of the Premier League one Christmas day and top the next.
Midfield sensation Riyad Mahrez opened the scoring for Leicester from the penalty spot midway through the first half, but Romelu Lukaku extended his Premier League goalscoring streak to seven games five minutes later to equalise. Mahrez added another penalty to his tally after Jamie Vardy was tripped by Tim Howard and Shinji Okazaki put the visitors 3-1 up with 20 minutes left. Kevin Mirallas managed to put one back late on for Everton, but Leicester held on to pick up another three points.
Everton have now failed to win any of their last four Premier League games, a run which has seen them slip to 10th in the table. Leicester continue their remarkable season, remaining two points clear at the top of the table and nine points inside the top four as we approach the halfway point of the season. Not a bad Christmas present for Leicester fans.
Manchester United 1 – 2 Norwich
The pressure increased on Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal as his side slipped to a home defeat against the struggling Norwich to make it six games on the bounce without a win.
Manchester United, as we have seen so often this season, controlled possession throughout the match but failed to open up a leaky Norwich defence as often as they should have. Cameron Jerome managed to get up the other end of the pitch and score the opener in one of the rare periods in which Norwich had the ball. Half time didn’t improve things either, and Jerome turned provider as he broke through the Man United defence and fed the ball to Alex Tettey to slot home. Anthony Martial pulled a goal back for the hosts with over 20 minutes remaining, but a lack of urgency meant that Norwich could fairly comfortably hold on.
Manchester United move out of the top four with this defeat as Spurs leapfrog them, and the pressure is becoming increasingly agonising for Van Gaal now that Jose Mourinho has stated his desire to jump straight back into management and Pep Guardiola has announced he will be leaving Bayern in the summer. Norwich move out of the drop zone with this win, and now sit in 17th position.
Southampton 0 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur
Southampton’s struggles continued as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, a result which moved the visitors into the top four of the Premier League.
Tottenham Hotspur came into this game having lost at home to Newcastle the week before, whilst Southampton have been struggling for weeks now. It was a fairly even contest for much of the first half, but Harry Kane managed to break the back line five minutes before half time and slot in on his 100th Spurs appearance. Dele Alli made it 2-0 just three minutes later as a whipped cross evaded a host of statuesque Southampton defenders to allow the midfielder to tap home from close range. Spurs controlled the game excellently in the second half and never looked like giving up their lead.
Southampton now slip down to 12th in the Premier League following their poor spell of form, and they will be well aware of the fact that they are only seven points clear of the relegation zone. Spurs’ win, coupled with Manchester United’s defeat, mean that the visitors move into the top four on goal difference with this result.
Stoke 1 – 2 Crystal Palace
A stunning late strike for Crystal Palace substitute Lee Chung-yong wrapped up the points for the visitors, but Stoke will feel very disappointed at coming away empty handed.
Conor Wickham smashed in a penalty for Crystal Palace to give them a 1-0 lead on the brink of half time, but Bojan bagged his own penalty midway through the second half the give Stoke a deserved equaliser. To give credit to them, both sides went on the hunt for a winner in this match, with Stoke controlling the ball for large portions of the match whilst Crystal Palace threatened heavily on the break. The winner eventually came in the 88th minute when Lee Chung-yong smashed a 30 yard shot past Jack Butland.
This was Crystal Palace’s 11th win from their last 16 away Premier League games, and it takes them level on points with both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, whereas Stoke miss out on the chance to move into the top half of the table and sit in 11th.
West Brom 1 – 2 Bournemouth
Premier League relegation candidates Bournemouth managed to extend their good run of form with a late winner against nine man West Brom.
James McClean lasted just over half an hour, with a rash challenge on Adam Smith seeing him swiftly dismissed. Bournemouth managed to take advantage of the extra man after the break as Smith fired in from the edge of the area, but Gareth McAuley headed in an equaliser ten minutes from time. But a controversial penalty decision in the late stages of the game allowed Charlie Daniels to smash in a winner for Bournemouth, and with tempers running high Salomon Rondon also saw red for the home side after appearing to headbutt Gosling.
Bournemouth move further away from the Premier League relegation zone as they continue their good form, and they are now in 14th position. This leaves them just one point behind West Brom, who sit in 13th place.
Newcastle 1 – 1 Aston Villa
Both sides missed their chances in the closing stages as Newcastle and Aston Villa played out a draw thanks to Jordan Ayew’s superb equaliser.
It was a largely uneventful first half at St James’ Park, with Newcastle trying to adopt a counter attacking style of play against a very defensively minded Aston Villa. They couldn’t break down the Villa defence normally, until a defensive lapse allowed Fabricio Collocini to net from a corner late in the first half. Aston Villa dramatically improved in the second half, which in turn allowed Newcastle more chances of their own. The home side couldn’t take their chances though, and they were made to pay as Jordan Ayew thrashed a shot into the top corner to level the scored. Georginio Wijnaldum and Rudy Gestede both almost won the game for their respective sides, but smart saves at either end saw the spoils shared at the end of the day.
Newcastle’s resurgence has led them out of the Premier League relegation zone, and they are now in 17th position with a two point cushion over Swansea. Aston Villa remain without a win since the opening day of the season, and they head into Christmas day ten points adrift of safety.
Watford 3 – 0 Liverpool
Watford took advantage of some shocking Liverpool defending to continue their excellent Premier League form on Sunday.
Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper Simon Mignolet missed this game due to injury, and he was missed sorely as Adam Bogdan stepped in to produce some calamitous errors in the opening stages of the game. He allowed Nathan Ake to pounce on his mistake just three minutes into the game, and he followed this up by punching the ball into his teammates’ face in a nervous performance that seemed to have an effect on the rest of Liverpool’s back line. Odion Ighalo added a second to Watford’s tally 15 minutes into the game, and then added a second to his own tally late in the second half to seal the three points for a very impressive Watford.
This was Watford’s 4th win on the bounce in the Premier League, and they are now in 7th position just one point behind 4th placed Spurs. Liverpool are now without a win in three league matches, and see themselves down in 9th with 24 points from their opening 17 matches.
Swansea 0 – 0 West Ham
A frustrated Swansea had to make do with a point after failing to beat a West Ham side who are rapidly becoming the Premier League’s draw specialists.
Swansea dominated large periods of the first half and saw good chances go begging as Andre Ayew and Ki Sung-yeung miss opportunities. Adrian also saved from a spectacular volley from Jack Cork. West Ham failed to make any impact on the game in an attacking sense, and simply had to settle for a good defensive display and yet another draw.
This was West Ham’s 3rd consecutive goalless draw, and their 5th draw in six Premier League games. This leaves them 8th, while the managerless Swansea remain in the relegation zone after winning just one of their last 13 matches. They are improving though.
Arsenal 2 – 1 Manchester City
Arsenal made themselves favourites for the Premier League trophy with a fairly convincing win over the lacklustre Manchester City.
Manchester City may have held on to possession for the opening stages of the match, but they lacked the cutting edge necessary to make their dominance count. Arsenal found that cutting edge when Theo Walcott curled in sublimely from the edge of the area to put the hosts in front. Mesut Ozil continued his excellent providing form with his 15th assist of the season just before half time when he set up Olivier Giroud. Arsenal looked comfortable for the majority of the second half, until Yaya Toure scored a stunning left footed goal with eight minutes remaining. Manchester City made a late charge for an equaliser then, but it proved too little, too late for the title contenders and they were left empty handed.
This moved Arsenal back to within two points of Premier League leaders Leicester, and the fact that they are now four points clear of Manchester City in 3rd makes them the favourites for the Premier League title.