Premier League Review – Gameweek 23

Norwich 4 – 5 Liverpool

A frantic second half saw this match turn into one of the games of the season as an injury time winner gave Liverpool the three points.

Roberto Firmino opened the scoring 18 minutes in when a scuffed effort found the back of the net, but Norwich seemed to wake up after that. Diemurci Mbokani scored a backheel to level the scores before Steven Naismith scored a debut goal to put the hosts in front before the break. West Hoolahan converted a penalty ten minutes after half time to put Norwich 3-1 up, but Jordan Henderson pulled one back just a minute later before Firmino added his second of the day to level the scores once more. James Milner put Liverpool back in front with 25 minutes to go, but Sebastian Bassong scored one of the best goals of his career when he rifled in from outside the box in the 90th minute. It all seemed to be over, but a mess of attempts and blocks in the Norwich penalty area eventually allowed Adam Lallana to volley the ball into the ground, with the ball looping into the top corner to end a hugely dramatic second half.

Despite their incredible attacking performance, Norwich are now just two points above the relegation zone in 17th position. Liverpool move to within three points of the European qualification positions in 7th.

Crystal Palace 1 – 3 Tottenham Hotspur

Dele Alli scored one of the goals of the season to help secure three points as Tottenham Hotspur came from behind to beat a Crystal Palace side struggling up front.

Much has been said of Crystal Palace’s lack of scoring options up front, and this game further piled the pressure on Alan Pardew to shell out on a striker. Crystal Palace did manage to take the lead, but could only find the net through a Wilfried Zaha cross that was diverted into the net via Jan Vertonghen. Tottenham Hotspur were dominating the game, and they eventually found a deserved equaliser through a rifling Harry Kane header. Dele Alli continued his impressive first season in the top flight with one of the goals of the season, flicking the ball up, taking it over his and the Palace defenders’ head and smashing a volley into the bottom corner with just six minute remaining. Spurs then rounded off the victory as Alli turned provider for Nacer Chadli to curl in in injury time.

With both Manchester City and Arsenal failing to win this allowed Spurs to close the gap on the rest of the top four. They remain five points adrift of the top spot, but are now just two points behind 2nd and 3rd place. Crystal Palace continue to slide down the table after an impressive start to the season, and now sit in 11th position.

Leicester 3 – 0 Stoke

Leicester got back to winning ways and returned to the top of the Premier League table with a comprehensive win over a lacklustre Stoke side.

It took a while for the first goal to come, but with Stoke resting key playmaker Bojan it was inevitable that Leicester would be the ones to find the net. It was Danny Drinkwater who opened the scoring, with his powerful shot just before half time being Leicester’s first goal of the season from outside the penalty area. Jamie Vardy ended his eight game goal drought in the 66th minute when he latched on to an excellent ball, rounded Jack Butland, and coolly slotted home. Leonardo Ulloa rounded off the victory in the 87th minute to put the tie firmly to bed.

With both Arsenal and Manchester City failing to win, this victory means Leicester move three points clear at the top of the Premier League. Stoke move down to 9th, but will be looking forward to their League Cup semi final 2nd leg in midweek.

Manchester United 0 – 1 Southampton

A debut goal from Charlie Austin lit up an otherwise dull affair as Manchester United’s struggles in front of goal continued.

Manchester United’s last 11 home matches have all been goalless at half time, and this fixture didn’t look like it would end that streak. When the half time whistle blew Old Trafford rung with boos from the home supporters, but even that didn’t seem to fire up the Manchester United players. They were no better in the second half, but to be fair Southampton were no better going forward. Until Charlie Austin came on that is. The new £4 million man got up to head in a winner just seven minutes into his debut. Even then Manchester United failed to threaten, with that header being one of just three attempts on target in the whole game. The boos sounded again at full time, and pressure on Louis van Gaal is once again ramped up.

This leaves Manchester United five points adrift of a crucial top four position in the Premier League, whilst Southampton’s resurgence means they are now just four points behind Man United in 8th.

Sunderland 1 – 1 Bournemouth

Sunderland managed to rescue a point after going behind to Bournemouth as the two sides played out a crucial match in the race to avoid Premier League relegation.

Bournemouth’s new striker Benik Afobe scored for his 2nd consecutive when he netted a diving header 13 minutes in, a goal which fell in the middle of a dominant half an hour from the visitors. But Sunderland started to edge their way back into the game after this, and they managed to take advantage of this when their new found goalscoring defender Patrick van Aanholt rifled in just before half time. Lewis Grabban should have won it for the visitors in the second half, but he failed to find the net from five yards out. Otherwise it was a second half of few chances, and a point was a deserved result for both sides.

Sunderland remain in 19th position and are four points off safety, whilst their relegation rivals Bournemouth are in 16th position with four points between them and the drop zone.

Watford 2 – 1 Newcastle

Watford managed to break out of their poor spell of form with a vital win over the relegation threatened Newcastle on Saturday.

Newcastle performed well in midfield throughout the first half and managed to keep Watford quiet, but they were barely out of the dressing room before they fell behind. It was that man Odion Ighalo again, who managed to find the net for the first time this year when he latched on to Troy Deeney’s through ball, rounded Rob Elliot, and slotted in the opener. 12 minutes later Ighalo turned provider when he set up Craig Cathcart to put the Hornets two goals to the good. Jamaal Lascelles managed to pull one back for Newcastle 20 minutes from time, but ultimately the visitors couldn’t find an equaliser and Watford picked up a deserved three points.

Watford’s first win in six moves them back into the top ten of the Premier League, whilst Newcastle remain in the bottom three with two points separating them from the safety of 17th.

West Brom 0 – 0 Aston Villa

Aston Villa managed to extend their two match unbeaten streak when they held derby rivals West Brom to a goalless draw in one of the dullest games of the season.

It’s a struggle to find anything noteworthy from this match. Aston Villa should probably have been awarded a first half penalty when Jordan Ayew was fouled, but apart from that it was an incredibly dull affair. West Brom were dominated in possession by the relegation threatened visitors, and the hosts didn’t manage a shot on target all game. Aston Villa put four of their attempts on target, but their lack of clinical edge in front of goal meant that they never really looked like scoring.

West Brom sit in an uninspiring 14th position in the Premier League after this result. Aston Villa did manage their 5th point from their last three games, but they are in desperate need of wins rather than draws. They are ten points adrift of safety with just 13 points from their opening 23 games.

West Ham 2 – 2 Manchester City

A brace from Sergio Aguero rescued a point for Manchester City as they failed to beat West Ham for the second time this season.

Enner Valencia managed to put West Ham in front just 53 seconds into the game with a cool finish from inside the area, but Sergio Aguero won and then converted a penalty eight minutes later to level the scores. Dimitri Payet continued to impress throughout the game, and his fancy footwork and excellent passing range helped Valencia to stab home a second after half time to put the Hammers back in front. But it was a tale of two strikers as Aguero struck again nine minutes from time to rescue a point for a poor looking Manchester City.

West Ham have now picked up four points against Manchester City this season, and this point allowed them to narrow the gap between them and 5th placed Manchester United. They are now just a point outside the European qualification positions. Man City’s away form continues to trouble them, and they slip three points behind Leicester with this defeat.

Everton 1 – 2 Swansea

Swansea managed to get a much needed three points as they contained Everton’s deadly attack in a 2-1 victory to put some distance between them and the Premier League relegation zone.

Everton’s inability to win matches has been a real problem this season, but one thing you can’t fault is their attacking play. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t on display on Sunday. Gylfi Sigurdsson opened the scoring with a penalty 17 minutes in before Jack Cork diverted the ball into his own net to level the scores. Andre Ayew found the winner via a deflection ten minutes before half time though. Everton missed a host of chances throughout the match, with in form striker Romelu Lukaku heading over the bar twice when he should have scored.

Everton’s troubles with results continues. They have won just three of their last 14 home matches and only one in their last ten Premier League games overall. This leaves them in 12th position, and pressure is mounting on Roberto Martinez. Swansea’s back to back wins puts them up to 15th position in the league and they now have a four point cushion over 18th placed Newcastle.

Arsenal 0 – 1 Chelsea

Arsenal lost the top spot in the Premier League as Diego Costa fired Chelsea to victory in more ways than one.

Diego Costa looks revived now Guud Hiddink is in charge, and he made his first impact on the game 18 minutes in when he raced clear of the Arsenal defence. Per Mertesacker hauled the striker down and received a red card for his troubles, setting the stage for a difficult afternoon for Arsenal. Five minutes later Costa was there again, getting clear at the near post the meet a Branislav Ivanovic cross and put the visitors in front. Olivier Giroud was replaced with Gabriel due to Mertesacker’s dismissal, which led to Arsenal really struggling in front of goal. Arsenal never really looked like getting back on level terms, and the hosts only managed one shot on target in the whole match.

With Leicester winning on Saturday, this left Arsenal trailing the Premier League leaders by three points, and they are now behind Manchester City on goal difference. Chelsea move up to 13th position with this win, and their seven point cushion over the relegation positions is starting to look much more comfortable.

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