Thursday, 26 November 2015

Foxes Go Top as Reds Hammer City

After yet another International break in what has been a short season so far, the Premier League resumed with the top four all having the chance to end week 13 on top but the results saw some real surprises with three sides scoring four goals in comfortable wins. In a fitting tribute to those lost in the recent terror attacks in Paris, every game was preceded by the French national anthem - 'La Marseillaise'

Saturday's early kick-off came from Vicarage Road as Watford hosted Manchester United with the visitors knowing a win would see them move to the top above Man City. The Hornets fell behind early on as Memphis Depay put the Red Devils 1-0 up inside 11 minutes and the lead continued long into the second half until a frantic finish. Troy Deeney levelled for the hosts with an 87th minute penalty for 1-1 but had the horror of connecting to a Bastian Schweinsteiger cross to hit into his own net in the final minute to give United a 2-1 win.

In the first of six 3pm games, Chelsea hosted fellow stragglers Norwich City at Stamford Bridge with the Blues and Canaries both desperate to move clear of the bottom three. However it was to be a good day for Jose Mourinho's men as they sealed a 1-0 win courtesy of a 64th minute strike from Diego Costa.

Everton hosted Aston Villa at Goodison Park with the in-form Toffees eager to close up on the top four while Villa searched for a first success under Remi Garde. However, Villa's hopes were dented as early as the 17th minute as Ross Barkley fired in for 1-0 before Romelu Lukaku doubled the lead on 28 minutes. Everton were in firm control as the interval neared as Barkley struck his second and the hosts' third on 42 minutes before Lukaku followed suit just before the hour mark to complete a 4-0 rout.

This time last year, Leicester City propped up the league table but as they travelled to St James' Park to face Newcastle United, they had the chance to go to the top. Foxes striker Jamie Vardy went into the game knowing a goal would bring him level with Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of scoring in 10 successive games and he did just that just before the interval to put the visitors ahead at 1-0.  The Magpies fell further behind on 62 minutes as Leonardo Ulloa struck for 2-0 before the points and top spot were secured for the visitors in the 83rd minute as Shinji Okazaki made it 3-0.

Southampton and Stoke City have both had a mixed first third of the season with them both around mid-table ahead of their meeting at St Mary's. Stoke started the better of the two sides with an early opener from Bojan Krkic in the tenth minute and in a battling game, the effort from the Spanish striker proved to be enough to secure a 1-0 win and the three points for the Potters.

Swansea City hosted AFC Bournemouth at the Liberty Stadium with both sides desperate to boost their flagging seasons with the Swans on the fringes of the bottom three and the Cherries sitting one place off the bottom. The Cherries made the better start of the two sides and took a lead inside ten minutes with a strike from Joshua King before a Dan Gosling strike on 28 minutes put the visitors in control at 2-0. However, Swansea were far from out of the contest as AndrĂ© Ayew pulled one back just two minutes later for 2-1 and the Swans would go into the interval on level terms after Jonjo Shelvey slotted in a 39th minute penalty for 2-2. Both sides pushed for a winner in the second half but had to settle for a point each which the hosts will surely be the happier about. 

West Bromwich Albion went into the weekend on the fringes of the bottom three so the prospect of high-flying Arsenal visiting The Hawthorns would be a tough test. A close first third of the game was ended by the opener for the Gunners on 29 minutes as Olivier Giroud struck for 1-0 but his effort was cancelled out in stunning style just six minutes later as James Morrison rocketed a shot past Petr Cech to equalise. The Baggies' joy extended into the interval as they went ahead on 40 minutes after Mikel Arteta deflected the ball into his own net for 2-1 and that was how it remained until the final whistle as the Gunners wasted the chance to top the table.

The evening kick-off saw a huge clash between the day's original leaders Manchester City and in-form Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium with City sitting third after Leicester and rivals Unites leapfrogged them. Both sides were boosted by the return of their star strikers with Sergio Aguero starting for City while Reds' pair Christian Benteke and Daniel Sturridge were named on the bench.

The Reds were gifted the lead inside seven minutes as Eliaquim Mangala deflected past Joe Hart for 1-0 after Roberto Firmino's cross and Liverpool were two goals to the good on 23 minutes as Philippe Coutinho fired in a stellar effort past the helpless Hart. City were in serious trouble just after the half-hour mark as a spectacular combination between Emre Can and Coutinho saw Firmino seal his first goal for the Reds for 3-0. The hosts remained in the hunt though as the interval neared with Sergio Aguero firing in a stunning strike for 3-1 but his return lasted just an hour with the Reds introducing Christian Benteke soon after. The Belgian was influential in the last say on the score as he headed on for Martin Skrtel to volley past Hart to complete a 4-1 triumph.

After a bumper Saturday, Super Sunday saw just one game but what a game it was as Tottenham Hotspur hosted West Ham United in a five-goal thriller of a London derby at White Hart Lane. The hosts made the first mark on the game as Harry Kane scored a 22nd minute opener for 1-0 before Toby Alderweireld added a second on 33 minutes to put Spurs in control at 2-0. Kane added his second and the hosts' third just five minutes after the restart to leave the Hammers needing a miracle to avoid defeat but such a feat seemed impossible as Kyle Walker made it 4-0 with just seven minutes left. West Ham did have some slight consolation in their afternoon as Manuel Lanzini struck in the 87th minute for 4-1 but it mattered little as their rivals moved clear in fifth place.

The week's action came to an end with the Monday Night Football feature from Selhurst Park as mid-table Crystal Palace hosted struggling Sunderland with the visitors looking for their first away win of the season. A tight game on a cold London evening saw the sides remain level as the game entered the final third but Sunderland boosted their hopes of ending their travelling hoodoo as Jermain Defoe struck in the 80th minute and the strike proved to be enough as the Black Cats claimed a 1-0 win.