6 Premier League matches took place on a packed day of action.
Premier League football resumed today after a short period of rest over the Christmas period. 6 matches were played on an action-packed St. Stephen’s/Boxing day. Here’s how they played out.
LEICESTER CITY vs. MANCHESTER UNITED
Manchester United travelled to the King Power Stadium in today’s early kick off. Much was at stake with the teams sitting 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring for Manchester United in the 23rd minute to give his side the lead. That goal would have come as a relief to Rashford, having missed a sitter earlier in the match. He was played through by a Bruno Fernandes touch before finishing expertly into the bottom corner while one on one with Kasper Schmeichel.
The lead wasn’t to last long though. Leicester struck back in the 31st minute with Harvey Barnes providing the equaliser. He was given the ball after Manchester United lost the ball in their own half before driving towards goal and unleashing a powerful shot into the corner from just outside the box. Bruno Fernandes was partly to blame for the goal. The Portuguese international was closed down inside the Manchester United half which led to the turnover.
Manchester United were arguably the better side in the second half having created more chances than their opposition. Their pressure finally paid off in the 79th minute. This time Fernandes turned from provider to finisher as he slotted past Schmeichel in the box. Substitute Edinson Cavani played a key part in the goal as he carried the ball under pressure and timing his pass into Fernandes to perfection.
United are no slouches when it comes to goalscoring but their defensive frailties have been exposed one too many times this season. Leicester didn’t create too much in the second half but all they needed was one chance. That’s all they needed as they equalised again in the 85th minute. Ayoze Perez pulled back a brilliant low cross to Jamie Vardy who scored – or at least thought he did – with a low finish. Unfortunately for him, and unfortunately for Axel Tuanzebe, the goal was credited as an own goal after coming off the Manchester United defender.
The match finished 2-2 as both teams failed to pick up what could have been a vital 3 points. Liverpool fans would have been satisfied with the scoreline as neither team could close the gap on the title challengers.
FULHAM vs. SOUTHAMPTON
Fulham started the season poorly but have showed steady signs of improvement over the last few weeks. Southampton, on the other hand, have surpassed all expectations so far this season and currently sit in 7th. The two teams faced each other in one of two 3 o’clock kick-offs today.
Shane Long started his first game of the season, but he was unable to influence the game all that much in the first half. In fact, neither team really got going. Only 3 shots were produced in the first 45 minutes, the lowest tally of any Premier League game so far this season.
The second half produced far more entertainment than the first. That said though, the match ended scoreless. That would probably not have been the case in the pre-VAR era.
Shane Long was the first to put the ball in the back of the net but his goal was ruled offside. He was also involved in Southampton’s second disallowed goal. He played through Che Adams who crossed into the feet of Theo Walcott who then applied the finish. The goal looked legitimate but upon inspection from VAR, Che Adams was just offside in the build-up.
Fulham had their fair share of chances in the second half, also. Ivan Cavaleiro had Fulham’s best chance of the game, by far. He was in space as Antonee Robinson’s perfect cross found his head but he was unable to keep his header down. His chance was similar to Marcus Rashford’s sitter in the Manchester United – Leicester game.
The match finished 0-0 at Craven Cottage. Neither teams could complain too much, both were evenly matched throughout.
ASTON VILLA vs. CRYSTAL PALACE
Aston Villa faced Crystal Palace in the other 3 o’clock kick-off. Aston Villa have been one of the surprise packages of the season so far. Their early season form was particularly impressive, they’ve dipped slightly since but still remain in the top half of the league.
Jack Grealish has been the talk of the town in recent weeks but it was Bertrand Traore who opened the scoring for Aston Villa. He got on the end of a rebound in the 5th minute to make it 1-0 to Villa.
Crystal Palace had a potential penalty shout in the 23rd minute after a Matty Cash challenge on van Aanholt. The issue was taken to VAR but after a period of deliberation the decision was no penalty.
Tyrone Mings made life a lot harder for Villa just before half time. The centre back picked up his second yellow of the night to reduce Villa to 10 men going into the second half.
The red card didn’t seem to effect Aston Villa all that much. In fact, they doubled their lead in the 67th minute. Kourtney Hause scored this time from another rebound. This time Ollie Watkins hit the bar from a header and Hause reacted quickest to make it 2-0.
Villa all but wrapped up the game in the 76th minute. Anwar El Ghazi stepped up to the plate this time with a scorcher from Anwar El Ghazi. He took a first time shot which hit the far post and went into the net.
The match finished 3-0 to Aston Villa. The Villains currently sit 6th in the table, but could move up to as far as 2nd with their game in hand.
ARSENAL vs. CHELSEA
Arsenal took on Chelsea at 5:30 in a vital London derby at both ends of the table. Mikel Arteta in particular needed a win to ease the ever-increasing pressure on his shoulders. Arsenal won just 1 game in their previous 10 Premier League games leaving the Gunners in 15th. Chelsea, on the other hand, needed a win to pressurize Liverpool at the top of the table. A loss for Chelsea would leave them 9 points behind the leaders, depending on the Liverpool result tomorrow.
Arsenal started the game better than Chelsea before fading for a period. They did, however, contain Chelsea, not allowing any big chances to be created. Rob Holding in particular was impressive during that period, marshalling Timo Werner time and time again.
Their defensive quality paid off in the 35th minute when Kieran Tierney was fouled in the box leading to an Arsenal penalty. Alexandre Lacazette stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake from the spot to give Arsenal an unexpected lead.
That goal gave Arsenal a newfound confidence. They began to control the game and looked more dangerous in the final third than they have been in recent months.
They doubled their lead just before half time from another dead ball situation. Bukayo Saka won a free kick from well outside the box. Granit Xhaka stepped up to take and the distance of the free kick was no problem for him as he rifled the ball into the top corner.
Arsenal held a shock – but deserved – 2-0 lead going into half time. Frank Lampard, clearly not happy with his team’s performance, brought on Callum Hudson-Odoi and Jorginho for the second half.
Chelsea’s substitutions did nothing to disrupt Arsenal’s momentum. In fact, Arsenal were arguably better in the second half.
They made it 3-0 in the 56th minute through Bukayo Saka. Although *probably* intended as a cross, Saka lofted the ball over Mendy into the Chelsea goal from an acute angle. He deserved a goal for his performance on the night, whether it was deliberate or not.
Chelsea got a goal through Tammy Abraham in the 85th minute to give them the slightest bit of hope. The goal was initially disallowed for offside, but after deliberation from VAR the goal was deemed to be legitimate.
Chelsea were given a chance to make it 3-2 in the 90th minute as Pablo Mari gave away a penalty. Jorginho, normally so reliable from the penalty spot, stepped up to take it. Bernd Leno had other ideas as he saved from an unusually weak Jorginho penalty to relieve the increasing pressure.
Arsenal’s defence stood firm thereafter as the match finished 3-1 to the Gunners. The win was much needed, particularly from Mikel Arteta. This evening’s result could be the catalyst to a much-needed winning run for Arsenal.
SHEFFIELD UNITED vs. EVERTON
Sheffield United had picked up just 2 points all season, meaning a win is much needed at this stage of the year. They took on high flying Everton in one of two late kick-offs. Contrastingly, Everton have enjoyed a fantastic start to the season finding themselves in 4th prior to the match.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin had the best chance in a lacklustre first half. He brilliantly controlled Michael Keane’s long pass before taking the shot on the volley which went just wide of the post. It would have been one of the goals of the season had it gone in.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first half. Both teams struggled to create opportunities with the final ball being especially poor.
It took until the 79th minute for either team to get a shot and target. Unfortunately for the struggling Sheffield United, that shot resulted in an Everton goal. Gylfi Sigurdsson finished accurately into the bottom corner after some neat interplay in the box involving Bernard and Doucoure.
The match finished 1-0 to Everton in a match of few chances. Sheffield United’s winless run continues as they sit bottom of the league while Everton move up to 2nd, just behind their rivals Liverpool.
MANCHESTER CITY vs. NEWCASTLE
The odds were firmly stacked against Newcastle as they took on a Manchester City team stacked with quality, despite a less than impressive start to the season. Newcastle’s confidence would have also taken a hit on Tuesday given their elimination from the EFL Cup at the hands of Brentford.
City, as expected, opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Raheem Sterling should receive huge credit for the goal as he evaded a number of defenders in the box before squaring to Ilkay Gundogan who applied the finishing touches.
Manchester City largely controlled much of the remainder of the half after the goal. Kevin De Bruyne had a great chance to make it 2-0 after a Man City break but his shot from close range was saved well by Karl Darlow.
Newcastle still had reason to believe going into the second half with the scoreline at 1-0. City were far from their best, despite controlling much of the half.
That hope quickly faded away, though, as City made it 2-0. Ferran Torres tapped it in from close range after Fernandez’s block/clearance fell straight to his feet. Joao Cancelo did brilliantly in the build up to create the goalscoring opportunity.
Raheem Sterling, although a very capable goalscorer, is inclined to miss the odd sitter. He had a nearly unmissable chance to make it 3-0 in the 59th minute but he failed to hit the back of the net. He blocked his own shot as his standing leg got in the way of a certain goal. Bernardo Silva had another good chance from the follow up but he was also unable to apply the finish.
Manchester City enjoyed near total domination in the second half and always looked good value for the win. The match finished 2-0 to City who move up to 5th following the victory.