Liverpool 2 – 2 Newcastle
Newcastle came from two goals behind to boost their chances of Premier League survival as they thwarted an in form Liverpool at Anfield.
Liverpool looked set for another good day at the office on Saturday as Daniel Sturridge notched the opener after just over a minute of play. Adam Lallana added a second on the half hour mark and it looked like it would be another Liverpool thrashing after an excellent run of good form. But whatever Rafa Benitez said at half-time worked wonders as Papiss Cisse clawed one back with a header shortly after the break and the Toon Army continued to press. Jack Colback’s deflected shot levelled the scores with 25 minutes to go and allowed Newcastle to pick up what could be a crucial point away from home, and their first away point of 2016.
Newcastle remain in 19th position, but the gap between them and the safe zone has been reduced to one point. The Canaries have played a game less than Newcastle though, but the relegation battle is hotting up as the gap closes. Liverpool remain in 7th position, with Southampton closing the gap behind them to one point after their win at the weekend.
Bournemouth 1 – 4 Chelsea
Chelsea picked up a comprehensive three points in a surprisingly well matched game between them and fellow mid-table side Bournemouth; which is a sentence we never thought we’d be saying at the beginning of the season.
This was a surprisingly well matched contest, despite the 4-1 scoreline, and it will be slightly disappointing for Eddie Howe that this result will go down in the record books as a comfortable win for Chelsea. The first half was anything but comfortable for the visitors, but the creative passing play from Cesc Fabregas made all the difference. He teed up Pedro just five minutes into the game before backheeling to Eden Hazard for the misfiring Belgian to score his first Premier League goal of the season. Tommy Elphick headed in shortly after, but Chelsea’s ruthlessness in front of goal was a nightmare to the Cherries. Fabregas added his 3rd assist of the game as he slipped through Willian in the second half and then Hazard rounded off the result with his 2nd in injury time.
Neither of these teams have much left to play for in the Premier League. Bournemouth could have drawn level with Chelsea with a win, but as it stands they slip down to 14th after West Brom’s draw on Monday. Chelsea move up to 9th, and after the first half of the season they had a top half finish would be classed as a success.
Aston Villa 2 – 4 Southampton
Relegated Aston Villa slumped to their 10th straight defeat as Southampton’s attacking quality tore the Villains defence to pieces on Saturday.
It took just 15 minutes for the pacey Shane Long to open the scoring with a header, and 25 minutes later he proved his worth yet again as he profited from an awful mistake from Leandro Bacuna to square it for Dusan Tadic to score. Long was made to look like a world class player throughout the game as Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards fumbled around trying to nullify his pace and movement. Ashley Westwood managed to pull one back on the stroke of half-time for an Aston Villa side who, to be fair to them, did look improved in attack. But 15 minutes after the break they were exposed at the back again as Long set up Tadic for his 2nd of the day. Again Westwood pulled one back for the hosts, but Sadio Mane headed in in injury time to put the result beyond doubt amid a chorus of boos from the Villa Park faithfuls.
Aston Villa remain on a dismal 16 point total in the Premier League, although their performance on Saturday was arguably one of their better ones this season. Southampton close the gap on West Ham to two points and Liverpool to one point as they continue their quest for European qualification.
Manchester City 4 – 0 Stoke
Manchester City dominated the game as they strolled to a comprehensive win over the out of form Stoke City on Saturday, boosting their confidence ahead of a crucial midweek game.
Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne were rested for this in preparation for Real Madrid’s visit on Tuesday, but it didn’t make an ounce of difference as the hosts strolled to a comfortable and comprehensive win. Fernando opened the scoring ten minutes before half-time as he headed in from a corner, and Sergio Aguero added a second from 12 yards after the excellent Kelechi Iheanacho was brought down in the box. Iheanacho got the reward for his hard work when he stabbed home from close range in the second half, and the teenager added his second ten minutes later as he rounded the keeper and sealed the victory.
Manchester City are turning on the style at just the right time for them. They move up to 3rd after Arsenal failed to beat Sunderland, and they are five points clear of Manchester United in 5th. Stoke conceded four goals for the 3rd consecutive Premier League game, and their hopes of achieving their best ever finish in the Premier League are going down the pan. They are in 10th now, but are seven points adrift of 8th placed Liverpool.
Leicester 4 – 0 Swansea
Leicester boosted their Premier League title ambitions in emphatic fashion as they romped to a comprehensive victory over Swansea on Sunday.
Riyad Mahrez, the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year, got the ball rolling for Leicester as he slotted in the opener after just ten minutes, and Leicester went on to prove that they can perform without top scorer Jamie Vardy, who is currently suspended. Vardy’s replacement, Leonardo Ulloa, took advantage of this game time as he headed in Leicester’s 2nd half an hour into the game. A scrambled finish from Ulloa on the hour mark put the result beyond doubt for Leicester and Marc Albrighton put the icing on the cake by scoring a 4th.
This emphatic performance leaves Leicester needing just three points from their final three Premier League games to claim the title, after Spurs buckled under pressure and failed to beat West Brom. The Foxes could now seal the Premier League title with a win at Old Trafford. Swansea remain safe from relegation, and they are just playing for pride at the moment.
Sunderland 0 – 0 Arsenal
Sunderland clambered out of the bottom three as they picked up a hard fought and deserved point at home to an Arsenal side who were flat and uninspiring throughout.
Sunderland battled hard in this game and came close to grabbing themselves a goal numerous times. Patrick van Aanholt hit the post with a free kick and both Sunderland and Arsenal had penalty appeals waved away. In defence they were solid and determined, limiting Arsenal’s chances excellently. The visitors were sluggish and uninspiring, with their best opportunity being a well saved free kick from Mesut Ozil and a rebound that fell to Alex Iwobi. Overall though, Sunderland deserved their point from the game.
This lifts Sunderland out of the bottom three on goal difference, and Big Sam’s side have now only lost one of their last seven. Arsenal drop down to 4th after Manchester City’s win, and with them struggling to win their position in the Champions League certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion. They are just five points ahead of Manchester United and the chasing side have a game in hand.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 1 West Brom
West Brom all but ended the Premier League title race when they equalised against a Tottenham Hotspur side who looked like the pressure of the title challenge was getting to them.
Spurs started the game well and dominated the opening half, eventually finding the breakthrough as a whipped Christian Eriksen cross was diverted into the West Brom goal by Craig Dawson. But West Brom came back at the hosts and put in an uncharacteristically attacking display as they searched for an equaliser. They found it with 17 minutes remaining as own goal scorer Dawson headed in a corner from six yards. Spurs then seemed to let the pressure of needing a win get to them; through balls were overhit and possession was squandered needlessly as they hunted for a winner which never came.
This leaves Spurs seven points adrift of the Premier League leaders with just nine points left to play for, meaning Leicester only need three more points from their remaining three games to snatch the title away from Spurs. West Brom remain in mid-table, but their performance at White Hart Lane was a massive improvement on what we’re used to seeing from the Baggies.
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