Sunday, 17 January 2016

Foxes Level At The Top After Reds Deny Gunners

A midweek programme in the Premier League saw week 21 split across two evenings which saw defence become a rarity with eight sides scoring three or more goals and just five claiming a shutout.

Tuesday saw three games starting with Aston Villa hosting Crystal Palace at Villa Park with the Villans eager to secure a first home win of the season while the Eagles looked to end a run of three games without a win. A tight affair saw the sides remain deadlocked at 0-0 into the half-time interval before a 58th minute strike from Joleon Lescott put Villa ahead and the slim lead proved to be enough to secure a 1-0 win and their first since the opening week of the season.

AFC Bournemouth hosted West Ham United at the Vitality Stadium looking for a first win since mid December while the Hammers had the chance to secure a third win in a row. The Cherries started the better of the two sides as they took a 1-0 lead inside 17 minutes through Harry Arter but the Hammers battled back just after the hour with Dmitri Payet equalising on 67 minutes. The hosts were then cast aside as Enner Valencia scored a ten minute brace on 74 and 84 minutes to seal a 3-1 win.

Newcastle United hosted Manchester United at St James Park looking to move out of the bottom three while the visitors had eyes on a return to the top four. The Magpies suffered an early blow by conceding a penalty in the ninth minute which Wayne Rooney converted for a 1-0 lead before Jesse Lingard doubled the lead in the 38th minute.

Georginio Wijnaldum slotted in on 42 minutes for to cut the deficit to 2-1 before Aleksandar Mitrovic scored from the penalty spot on 67 minutes to level at 2-2.  Rooney struck his second and United's third in the 79th minute for 3-2 but the hosts salvaged a draw in added time with a last-gasp effort from Paul Dummett.

Wednesdays action saw five games kick off at 7.45pm starting with Chelsea's hosting of West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge. The Blues struck the opening goal on 20 minutes with a rare strike from Cesar Azpilicueta but were pegged back just 13 minute later as Craig Gardner equalised for 1-1. The Baggies gifted their hosts the lead in the 73rd minute as Gareth McAuley deflected into his own net but his blushes were saved by a last gasp leveller from James McClean who salvaged a 2-2 draw in added time.

After meeting in the Capital One Cup last week, Manchester City hosted Everton at the Etihad Stadium looking to avoid back to back defeat to the Toffees while looking to close on the top two. The sides seemed to be more evenly matched that the previous game as after the semi final first leg saw three goals, this game saw none as the sides shared the points in a 0-0 draw.

Southampton hosted Watford at St Mary's Stadium looking for only their second win in nine games which the Hornets hoped to avoid back-to-back defeats. The Saints took an early lead as Shane Long fired in for 1-0 in the 17th minute and the lead was doubled midway through the second half as Dusan Tadic scored within minutes of coming off the bench to seal a 2-0 win on 72 minutes.

Stoke City hosted struggling Norwich City at the Britannia Stadium with both sides looking to secure a third win in a row. The Canaries suffered a blow on 31 minutes with the dismissal of Gary O'Neil but the hosts took until four minutes after half-time to make their man advantage count as Jon Walters opened the scoring in the 49th minute. Despite being down to ten men, Norwich equalised just six minutes later through Jonny Howson who mad it 1-1 but a goal from Joselu on 67 minutes put the Potters back in front before a Ryan Bennett own goal confirmed a 3-1 win for Stoke.

The last of the early games came from the Liberty Stadium as Swansea City hosted Sunderland with the Swans looking to move clear of the bottom three while the Black Cats looked to exit the danger zone with a win. A perfect start for the visitors saw them take the lead inside three minutes through Jermain Defoe but they were pegged back on 21 minutes by a penalty from Gylfi Sigurdsson who made it 1-1. A mixed three minutes for the hosts saw Kyle Naughton sent off on 37 minutes before Andre Ayew put them 2-1 ahead. Patrick Van Aanholt continued his good run in front of goal with an equaliser on 49 minutes but a second from Defoe on 61 minutes was followed by his hat-trick strike five minutes from the end to seal a 4-2 win.

The final two games kicked off at 8pm with top spot the prize for the two visiting sides starting with current league leaders Arsenal's trip to face Liverpool at Anfield. The Reds struck an early as Roberto Firmino gave them a 1-0 lead inside ten minutes but a rapid response from the Gunners saw Aaron Ramsey equalise just four minutes later. Firmino struck his second on 19 minutes to regain the lead but another short lived lead for the Reds was ended by Olivier Giroud making it 2-2 in the 25th minute.

After the the frenzy of four goals in the first 25 minutes, the sides remained level into half-time before Arsenal went ahead for the first time on 55 minutes with Giroud's second goal making it 3-2. The visitors looked set to go clear at the top of the table only to be denied in the final seconds of added time by a rare strike from Joe Allen who made it 3-3 leading to a spectacular celebration from Reds manager Jurgen Klopp.

Tottenham Hotspur hosted Leicester City at White Hart Lane with the hosts keen to open a gap to fifth place while the Foxes looked hoped for a favour from Liverpool which coupled with a win for themselves would move them level at the top. After drawing 2-2 just days earlier in the FA Cup, the sides played out a tight game which was settled by a single goal as Robert Huth headed in on 63 minutes to claim all three points.