Thursday, 17 December 2015

Foxes Stun Champions While Reds Late Show Denies Baggies

Ahead of what could be the one of the most exciting festive periods in Premier League history, week 16 became one of the lowest scoring weekends of the season with just seven sides managing to score twice while only four sides claimed clean sheets.

Saturday's opener saw Norwich City host Everton at Carrow Road with the Canaries looking to move out of the bottom three and prevent the Toffees from closing up on the top four. However, their hopes were dented early on as Everton opened the scoring in the 15th minute as the in-form Romelu Lukaku made it 1-0. The Canaries bounced back just after the restart as Wes Hoolahan equalised in the 47th minute for 1-1 and despite both sides rallying for a winning goal, they were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

In a battle between two sides looking to move into the top half, Crystal Palace hosted Southampton at Selhurst Park in the first of just four 3pm games. The Eagles were in good form ahead of the game while the Saints were on a mixed run so it was no real surprise that the hosts struck first as Yohan Cabaye fired them into the lead after 38 minutes. Southampton looked to draw level but were unable to breach the Palace defence which ensured the hosts sealed a 1-0 win leaving the Saints without a win in four.

Manchester City had eyes on taking top spot as they hosted a Swansea City side desperate to end a poor run of form which had seen them win just once in nine games. The hosts struck an opener in the 26th minute as former Swans attacker Wilfried Bony made it 1-0 and his side were unlucky not to add to their advantage as the game went on.

The win looked to be on course for the hosts until a leveller from Bafetembi Gomis in the 90th minute saw him end a barren run in front of goal for 1-1. The joy was soured by a deflected effort just minutes later from Kelechi Ihenacho for 2-1 which saw City leapfrog Leicester into top spot.

Sunderland hosted high-flying Watford at the Stadium of Light looking to move out of the bottom three while the Hornets had the chance to go up to seventh. The hosts have had a poor season so far and less than four minutes into the game, their woes were extended as Odion Ighalo fired the visitors into the lead. The game became a tight one between the sides and though they battled on, Sunderland were unable to draw level leaving Watford to claim the points in a 1-0 win and sit comfortably in the top half.

West Ham hosted Stoke City at Upton Park with both sides harbouring hopes of bridging the gap to the top four. However, the sides seemed to evenly matched not only in the table but also on the pitch as they shared the points in a 0-0 draw.

Saturday Night Football saw Bournemouth host Manchester United at the Vitality Stadium with the Cherries looking to record back-to-back SNF wins after last week's win over Chelsea while United had the chance to close up at the top. The Cherries raced out of the blocks with an opening goal from Junior Stanislas coming straight from a corner in the second minute. United drew level in the 24th minute as Marouane Fellaini made it 1-1 but the hosts were able to regain the lead just seven minutes after the interval with as Josh King struck the winning goal to seal a 2-1 win.

Sunday's action started with bottom side Aston Villa hosting Arsenal at Villa Park with the Villa looking to secure a rare victory while the Gunners eyed up top spot. A good start for the visitors saw them given a great chance to open the scoring as they were awarded a penalty in the eighth minute which Olivier Giroud slotted in to make it 1-0.

Villa's woes this season have seen them have two managers and current coach Remi Garde's task of a win grew even tougher before half-time as Aaron Ramsey made it 2-0 in the 38th minute. The two goal lead for Arsenal proved to be enough to send them above Man City at the top and leave Villa eight points from safety.

Liverpool hosted West Bromwich Albion at Anfield looking to avoid back-to-back defeats while the Baggies hoped to widen their advantage over the bottom three. The Reds opened the scoring in the 21st minute as returning captain Jordan Henderson scored on his first league start since August but his effort was soon cancelled out by a clever equaliser from Craig Dawson who made it 1-1 on the half hour mark.

Completing Sunday's trio of games was Tottenham Hotspur's hosting of Newcastle United at White Hart Lane with Spurs eyeing up a top four spot while the Magpies hoped to increase their advantage over the bottom three.  The hosts struck first with Eric Dier heading in to make it 1-0 after 39 minutes and the sides remained just one goal apart until deep in the second half when Aleksandar Mitrovic levelled in the 74th minute and the Magpies sealed their second win in a row with a last-gasp strike from Ayoze Perez for 2-1.

The weekend's action came to an end with Monday Night Football which saw high-flying Leicester City host struggling champions Chelsea with the Foxes keen to regain top spot and prevent the Blues from moving clear of the bottom three. After missing out on the chance to extend his scoring record last week, Jamie Vardy laid the foundations for a new streak as he made it 1-0 to the hosts in the 34th minute and the Foxes doubled their lead just three minutes after the interval. Riyad Mahrez fired in a stunning effort to make it 2-0 and leave the visitors with a huge task to prevent a ninth defeat in a poor season so far. They ticked the first box to a comeback with a 77th minute strike from Loic Remy but at 2-1 they were unable to draw level leaving them just one point above the drop zone while the Foxes moved two clear at the top.