Friday, 4 December 2015

City Back On Top As Reds Edge Out Swans

As the season nears its busiest month due to the festive period, the Premier League schedule reached week 14 which saw a mix of high scoring games and tight encounters.

In the first of five 3pm games, Aston Villa hosted Watford at Villa Park with the hosts desperate to end their woeful form of just one win this season while the Hornets looked to edge closer to the top half. The visitors opened the scoring after just 17 minutes as in-form Odion Ighalo continued his scoring streak for 1-0 but Villa struck back just before the interval as Micah Richards made it 1-1. Villa scored again in the 69th minute but at the wrong end as Alan Hutton's own goal put the Hornets 2-1 in front and they looked to have wrapped up the win as Troy Deeney made it 3-1 with just five minutes left of the 90. Villa set up a tense finish as Jordan Ayew fired in on 89 minutes for 3-2 but to their dismay, that was how it ended. 

Bournemouth hosted Everton at the Vitality Stadium with the Cherries hoping to move out of the bottom three and prevent the Toffees from closing up on the top four.  The Blues struck an opener in the 25th minute as Ramiro Funes Mori gave them a 1-0 lead and they were two goals to the good within 11 minutes as Romelu Lukaku scored for 2-0. Bournemouth stormed back into contention in the final ten minutes as Adam Smith fired in for 2-1 before Junior Stanislas equalised for 2-2 in the 87th minute. Everton ended the Cherries streak with a strike five minutes into added time from Ross Barkley for 3-2 but the game ended 3-3 as Stanislas got his second in the final seconds.

Newcastle made the long trip to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park hoping to move out of the bottom three while the Eagles had a focus on the top four. The Magpies made a superb start with Papiss Cissé opening the scoring inside ten minutes for a 1-0 lead but the Eagles bounced back in style with two goals in three minutes to take a 2-1 lead. James McArthur and Yannick Bolasie edged the hosts in front before another quick double either side of the half-time break from Wilfried Zaha and a second from Bolasie made it 4-1. Newcastle's miserable afternoon got even worse as the game entered the final stages with McArthur scoring his second to complete a 5-1 hammering.

Manchester City hosted Southampton at the Etihad Stadium with the hosts looking to regain top spot while the Saints hoped to move closer to the top four. City started the better of the two sides and were two goals to the good inside 20 minutes as Kevin De Bruyne's ninth minute opener was followed by an effort from Fabian Delph for 2-0. Southampton pulled on back just after the interval as Shane Long made it 2-1 in the 49th minute but it was to be only a consolation as Aleksandar Kolarov sealed a 3-1 success in the 69th minute.

Sunderland and Stoke City met at the Stadium of Light with the hosts looking to move out of the bottom three and the Potters hoping to advance into the top half. A tight first half saw the sides remain level at 0-0 into the interval but the Potters were dealt a blow within two minutes of the restart as Ryan Shawcross was sent off. Despite having an extra man, Sunderland only made an effect in the final ten minutes as strikes from Patrick Van Aanholt (82) and Duncan Watmore (84) sealed a 2-0 win.

The evening game saw a top of the table clash as Leicester City hosted Manchester United at the King Power Stadium with both sides knowing a win would put them clear at the top above Manchester City. The Foxes had another focus in the form of aiding Jamie Vardy's hopes of setting a new record by scoring in 11 consecutive games and they did just that as the red-hot striker struck the record breaking goal in the 24th minute for 1-0. Manchester United's recent form has seen few goals scored by the Red Devils but just one proved to be enough to secure a point as Bastian Schweinsteiger levelled just before the interval for 1-1 which is how the game ended.

Sunday began with a lunchtime London derby as Tottenham hosted Chelsea at White Hart Lane with the visitors looking to increase their gap ahead of the bottom three and prevent the hosts from closing on top spot. Both sides seemed battled to score an opener but across the 90 minutes seemed only to cancel each other out as they shared the points in a 0-0 draw.

Super Sunday coverage began with West Ham United hosting West Bromwich Albion at Upton Park with the Hammers having eyes on the top four and the Baggies on moving into the top half.  Mauro Zaraté gave the hosts an early lead with a 17th minute strike for 1-0 but alike their previous game, the Baggies benefited from an own goal as a shot from Rickie Lambert cannoned in off Winston Reid in the 50th minute to make it 1-1 which is how it ended.

The sole game not to be televised was Liverpool's hosting of Swansea City at Anfield with the Reds looking to close up on the top four and the Swans keen to boost their flagging form that saw them on the fringes of the danger zone. The sides seemed to cancel each other out in a first half where neither was able to mount a single shot on target and the second half seemed to be going along the same lines until a breakthrough came on the hour mark. Neil Taylor was unfortunate to concede a penalty and just like he did a few days earlier in the Europa League, James Milner stepped up to fire the reds into a 1-0 lead which they held on to to claim the three points.

The weekend ended with part two of Super Sunday as Norwich City hosted Arsenal and with both sides at opposite ends of the table, the Gunners were tipped to claim a comfortable win. Their pursuit of such success saw them open the scoring on the half hour mark as Mesut Ozil took advantage of a John Ruddy mistake to make it 1-0 but the Canaries battled back and drew level just before the interval through Lewis Grabban and at 1-1, the sides had to settle for a point each.