Thursday, 28 January 2016

Foxes Clear At The Top While Reds Edge Canaries

Ahead of the double resuming of cup action in the form of the Capital One Cup semis and the FA Cup fourth round, Premier League gameweek 23 saw a nine-goal thriller with three other sides scoring three times while just three teams claimed a clean sheet.

Saturday's early game saw Norwich City host Liverpool at Carrow Road with the Canaries hoping to avoid a trilogy of losses while the Reds looked for their first league win of 2016. The Reds made the first breakthrough in the 18th minutes as Roberto Firmino put them one goal to the good but they were soon pegged back by a clever back-heeled effort from Dieumerci Mbokani who equalised on 29 minutes for 1-1.

The Canaries stunned the visitors with two goals either side of the interval with Steven Naismith continuing his scoring streak against the Reds with a debut goal on 41 minutes before Wes Hoolahan tucked away a 54th minute penalty for a 3-1 lead. Liverpool hit back with two strikes in eight minutes from Jordan Henderson (55) and a second for Firmino (63) to level at 3-3. James Milner made it 4-3 to the visitors before an added time leveller from Seb Bassong looked to have salvaged a draw at 4-4. However, Liverpool sealed a stunning win as Adam Lallana fired in with just seconds left of added time to seal a 5-4 win.

In the first of six 3pm's, Crystal Palace hosted Tottenham Hotspur in a London derby at Selhurst Park with the Eagles searching for a first win in five games while Spurs looked for back-to-back successes. The hosts took the lead on the 30 minute mark as Jan Vertonghen deflected into his own net for 1-0 but Harry Kane levelled for the visitors on 63 minutes before a stunning effort from Dele Alli on 84 minutes and a late strike from Nacer Chadli sealed a 3-1 win.

Leicester City hosted Stoke City at the King Power Stadium knowing a win would send them three points clear at the top while the Potters hoped for a second win in three games. The sides looked to be going into half-time all square only for Danny Drinkwater to fire the Foxes in front three minutes before the interval. Jamie Vardy doubled the lead as he ended a barren run in front of goal in the 66th minute and the Foxes wrapped up a comfortable 3-0 win with an 87th minute effort from Leonardo Ulloa.

Manchester United hosted Southampton at Old Trafford looking to close on the top four and also end a run of 10 home games without scoring in the first half while the Saints hoped to claim a third consecutive win. The sides played out a goalless first half meaning United's shocking run of 0-0's at home extended to an 11th game and the home fans were even more upset when Charlie Austin marked his Saints début with the winning goal in the 87th minute to seal a 1-0 success.

Sunderland hosted Bournemouth at the Stadium of Light looking to cut the gap from safety while the Cherries hoped to claim consecutive wins. A great start from the visitors saw them take an early lead with a goal from recent signing Benik Afobe in the 13th minute but the hosts ensured a level score going into the interval with a 45th minute leveller from the in-form Patrick Van Aanholt for 1-1. Both sides pushed for a winner in the second half but had to settle for a share of the points which leaves the hosts four points from safety.

Watford hosted Newcastle United at Vicarage Road desperate to end a run of four defeats while the Magpies harboured hopes of consecutive victories. A tight first half saw the sides remain level into the interval but just seconds after the restart, Watford were ahead as Odion Ighalo fired in for a 1-0 advantage. Craig Cathcart doubled the lead with a rare goal in the 58th minute before Jamaal Lascelles scored his first goal for the Magpies to cut the gap to 2-1 on 71 minutes but the Hornets held on to claim a first win in six.

West Bromwich Albion played host to local rivals Aston Villa in a derby game at The Hawthorns hoping to avoid consecutive losses while Villa had the chance to remain unbeaten for a third game. The sides were hard to part in both the first half and second half as they were evenly matched on the score front, sharing the points in a 0-0 draw.

The evening game saw West Ham United host Manchester City at Upton Park with the chance to move into fifth with a win while for City, a win would close the gap at the top. A perfect start for the hosts saw Enner Valencia fire them into the lead inside the first minute before Sergio Aguero made it 1-1 just eight minutes later from the penalty spot. Valencia regained the Hammers' lead in the 56th minute before a second strike from Aguero sealed a 2-2 draw in the 81st minute. 

Super Sunday began with Everton's hosting of struggling Swansea City at Goodison Park with the Toffees looking for their first win of 2016 while the Swans had hopes of securing consecutive victories. The visitors took the lead with a penalty from Gylfi Sigurdsson in the 17th minute before gifting the hosts a leveller on 26 minutes as Jack Cork deflected into his own net to make it 1-1. The winning goal came on 34 minutes as André Ayew made it 2-1 to the visitors and they held on to move clear of the bottom three.

The final game of the weekend saw a London derby at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal hosted Chelsea hoping to draw level with Leicester at the top while the Blues looked to register a second win in four games. Arsenal were dealt an early blow with the dismissal of defender Per Mertesacker in the 19th minute and were quickly made to pay as Diego Costa fired the visitors into a 1-0 lead within four minutes. The Gunners ten men pushed to draw level but to no avail as they slipped to a first loss in five games leaving them in third spot.