Chelsea and Manchester City came into the weekend tied for first place, but a City draw away at Everton meant that the weekend ended with a two-point lead for the Blues. On the other end of the table, QPR continued their road losing streak and fell into the relegation zone, replacing Burley who beat them 2-1. In a cold, blistery weekend of football, we saw some important score lines to help shape the campaign in the new year.
Sunderland (0) – Liverpool (1)
Liverpool wrongfully missed out on an obvious penalty in the 3rd minute, but scored in the 7th with a great run and advantage played by Lazar Markovic. The newly acquired Serb’s first goal proved enough for the win, although the game should have been put out of reach during the Reds-dominated first half, or the second half where Sunderland’s Liam Bridcutt received his second yellow card and was sent off. Liverpool dominated the entire game, yet at times seemed transfixed watching the weak defense from Sunderland instead of attacking. Liverpool remain in the hunt for a Champion’s League spot, while Sunderland remain only a few points clear of the drop.
Burnley (2) – Queens Park Rangers (1)
A beautiful run and shot by Scott Arfield opened the scoring for Burnley, who were able to leapfrog QPR and escape the relegation zone. The great individual effort was answered shortly after with a run by Charlie Austin that resulted in a take-down and penalty. Austin converted the shot hard into the bottom left of the net to tie the score at one. Minuted later, Burnley would answer with a beautiful ball over the top to Danny Ings who flipped home what proved to be the game winner. The second half featured spirited chances from both sides, but neither team could convert in the end. With the loss, QPR set a premiere league record with 10 straight losses away from home this campaign.
Chelsea (2) – Newcastle United (0)
From the opening whistle, Newcastle seemed the more aggressive side, creating multiple chances via team play and individual run. A slip in focus, however, cost them as a quickly taken corner was switched via ground to a wide-open Oscar who tapped in the opening goal. The second half brought considerably less pressure from Newcastle, and the Blues were able to take advantage, leading to a spectacular team setup for a Diego Costa goal to put the game away. With Petr Cech in goal, Chelsea looked comfortable at the back, and were able to keep the clean sheet to move clear of Manchester City.
Everton (1) – Manchester City (1)
City, coming in tied with Chelsea, leave 2 points back after being held away at Everton. Multiple chances from both teams – including some spectacular saves from Joe Hart – left the game scoreless until the 74th minute. A counter-attack led to a deflected shot by David Silva becoming a glancing header by the perfectly-placed Fernandinho and the break-through goal. Minutes later, though, a free kick sent into the box was gracefully headed into City’s goal by Naismith, a reward for Everton’s tenacity throughout the match. In the end, City seemed unmotivated, and largely the worse side for much of the day – and they leave with only one point.
Leicester City (1) – Aston Villa (0)
Full on domination was the name of the game for Leicester City, as they could (and perhaps should) have beaten Villa by much more. Paul Konchesky scored in the dying minutes of the first half off of a failed clearance, but the score could easily have been three or four at that point had it not been for heroic play from Aston Villa keeper Brad Guzman. Matty James executed a harsh tackle in the second half, resulting in a straight red to him and a second yellow to Ciaran Clark who jumped up to fight, making it 10 on 10. In the end, the toothless Villa side was no trouble for Leister City, who moved within two points of escaping relegation.
Swansea City (1) – West Ham United (1)
Swansea appeared the better side for most of the day, but allowed a late first half goal by West Ham’s Andy Carroll to change the tone of the game and in the end leave them with only one point from the weekend. Carroll demonstrated great individual skill to get the goal – in sharp contrast to the great team game played by Swansea all afternoon. They were forced to push hard for an equalizer in the 2nd half, and got one off of a corner kick when Bafetimbi Gomis went unmarked and put a header into the bottom corner of goal where a West Ham defender knocked it in. Several more chances followed, but in the end the home team had to resign itself to just the one point.
West Bromwich Albion (1) – Hull City (0)
Tony Pulis’ first Premier League game in charge of West Brom resulted in a win as neither team provided a lot for the viewer. After several missed opportunities in the first half, West Brom were able to take advantage of a Hull City Blunder. An indirect free-kick was awarded inside the box after an illegal back-pass to the keeper, and Saido Berahino was able to send a runner into the net through an advancing wall of Hull players. Pulis’ first win puts them 2 points clear of the relegation zone.
Crystal Palace (2) – Tottenham Hotspur (1)
Our second rookie manager of the day, Alan Pardew, enjoyed a win as well as Crystal Palace were able to pull out a comeback win – their first in league play since November. Tottenham took the lead minutes into the second half on a Harry Kane goal, only to have Palace pull even minutes later on a converted penalty when Benjamin Stambouli brought down Joe Ledley in the box. in the 80th minute, Palace got the winner on a great run by Zaha and deflected pass that fell to Jason Puncheon for the goal. With the win, Palace move out of the drop zone, and Spurs fall short of moving into the top 4, falling into 6th place behind rivals Arsenal.
Arsenal (3) – Stoke City (0)
Alexis Sanchez proves the star as two goals and an assist help Arsenal win handily at home. Scoring opened with a Sanchez cross to Koscielny who easily planted a header into goal. Sanchez’ first goal was a gem, featuring a creative run and low crossing shot that showed his great individual skills. The Second, coming just after the restart, was a deflected free-kick that gave Arsenal all the room they needed to spread out and hold the ball. The Gunners never really seemed challenged, and moved above Spurs to fifth place, only one point behind Manchester United.
Manchester United (0) – Southampton (1)
For the Red Devils, missed chances meant that this clash of the 3rd and 4th placed teams ended in disappointment at home. Almost completely healthy for the first time this season, United controlled the ball and limited chances for Southampton, but simply ran out of ideas in the second half. Dusan Tadic, coming on after the break, scored in easy fashion after a ball came off the post and fell to his feet. Juan Mata had several great chances to get an equalizer for United, but in the end nothing came of his hard work, and the home loss meant Southampton jumps to 3rd place in the table whileUnited falls to 4th, only one point above Arsenal.