Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Foxes Back On Top While Magpies Stun Reds

Week 14 of the Premier League comes just ahead of the final European midweek programme of the year but for the six EPL sides in the UCL/EL it was a mixed weekend with just one side securing a win.

Saturday's early kick-off saw Stoke City host league leaders Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium with the Potters keen to move further up the top half of the table. Their pursuit of such a feat saw early success as Marko Arnautovic fired them into a 2-0 lead with strikes in the seventh and 15th minutes. The visitors battled hard to cut the deficit but were unable to create a good enough opening to beat the Stoke defence which managed to hold firm for the full 90 minutes as the Potters claimed the points.

In the first of six 3pm games, Arsenal hosted Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium with the Gunners looking to capitalise on Man City's failure to open up a gap at the top of the table.The first third of the game was a pretty tight one between the two sides but Arsenal soon made a breakthrough as Joel Campbell slotted in a 33rd minute opener for 1-0. However, Sunderland were to go into the half-time break on level terms as Olivier Giroud deflected into his own net to make it 1-1 in the 45th minute but the French striker went from villain to hero as he scored at the correct end in the 63rd minute to give the hosts a 2-1 lead. The three points and a leapfrogging of Man City were confirmed late on as Aaron Ramsey made it 3-1 in the 90th minute.

Manchester United had the chance to end the weekend in at least second spot as they hosted a West Ham United side looking to add another away scalp to their growing list this season which includes Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. However, the Hammers had to settle for just a point in their visit to Old Trafford as the sides cancelled each other out in a 0-0 draw.

Southampton played hosts to bottom of the table Aston Villa looking to move into the top half while Villa were desperate to claim only their second win of the season so far. In a season with little to cheer about for the Villa fans so far, they had the joy of leading 1-0 at half-time after a 44th minute strike from Joleon Lescott. However, Villa were only able to hold on until the 73rd minute as Oriol Romeu drew the Saints level at 1-1 which is how the game ended leaving Villa six points adrift of 19th place.

Leicester City travelled to face struggling Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium knowing a win coupled with bad results for other sides in the top four would see them move two points clear at the top of the table while Foxes striker Jamie Vardy looked to set a new record of scoring in 12 consecutive games. However, only one of those hopes came true as the Swans found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline that saw a superb hat-trick from Riyad Mahrez. The midfielder struck a fifth minute opener before efforts in the 22nd and 67th minutes in a game that saw Vardy's record halted at 11 games.

Watford hosted Norwich City at Vicarage Road looking to move into the top half and such a win would  leave the Canaries on the fringes of the danger zone. The Hornets struck the opening goal on the half hour mark as Troy Deeney slotted in a penalty for 1-0 and they wrapped up the three points in the final stages as in-form Odion Ighalo struck in the 90th minute for 2-0. 

West Bromwich Albion hosted Tottenham at The Hawthorns hoping to move closer to the top half while Spurs had the chance to cut the gap to the top four. However, the two sides shared the points in a 1-1 draw that saw Dele Alli put the visitors ahead in the 15th minute before James McClean equalised in the 39th minute to ensure a share of the spoils.

The evening kick-off saw struggling Chelsea host a Bournemouth side sitting just five points behind the Blues as they visited Stamford Bridge and the Cherries were hoping to become the first promoted side to defeat a defending champion. The sides seemed to be evenly matched in a first half where they score remained level at 0-0 and the parity continued deep into the second half until substitute Glenn Murray sealed a 1-0 win for the visitors with eight minutes remaining.

Super Sunday saw just one game as Newcastle United hosted in-form Liverpool at St James' Park with the Magpies looking to leapfrog rivals Sunderland into 18th place against a Reds side that included six changes from the midweek demolition of Southampton.  A tight first half saw both sides falter in front of goal leaving them level at 0-0 into the interval but the Magpies got lucky in the 69th minute as a shot from Georginio Wijnaldum deflected in off Martin Skrtel for 1-0. Wijnaldum might not be able to claim the effort as his goal but he made sure of a mark on the score-sheet as he confirmed a 2-0 win with a 90th minute strike.

The final game of the week came in the Monday Night Football meeting at Goodison Park as Everton hosted Crystal Palace in a match that saw both sides looking to close up on the top four. A tight first hour saw the score remain level at 0-0 but the Eagles made a breakthrough on 76 minutes as Scott Dann made it 1-0. However, Everton were able to salvage a point as Romelu Lukaku equalised for 1-1 in the 81st minute.