By Ryan Moran
- Ranieri claims 2-1 victory at the King Power Stadium over a side he managed for four years.
- Manchester City and Arsenal beat bottom half opponents to keep pressure on Leicester City.
- AFC Bournemouth beat Manchester United to pile pressure on Louis Van Gaal.
LEICESTER, UK – Ex-Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri beat his former side, courtesy of in form pair Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Leicester City vs Chelsea
While Chelsea’s European form continues to showcase what the Blues are capable of, their league form contrasts this completely as Leicester’s two main men once again make the difference in the game. Vardy volleyed the Foxes into the lead with Mahrez assisting with a cross from the right.
The Algerian turned from provider into goal scorer three minutes into the second half, beating Cesar Azpilicueta and curling into the top left corner past Thibaut Courtois. Loic Remy halved the deficit, heading in with 13 minutes to play. In Ranieri’s first Premier League game against his former side, Eden Hazard left the field half way through the first half through injury, being replaced by Pedro but the Spaniard couldn’t prevent his side from falling to their ninth loss in 16 games in this top flight campaign.
The win moved the Foxes back to the top of the league on 35 points, two points above second placed Arsenal. Chelsea dropped down to 16th, one point above the drop zone.
Manchester City 2-1 Swansea City
Swansea City started life without Garry Monk in a tight fought game needing Kelechi Iheanacho to deflect Yaya Toure’s strike at goal over Lukasz Fabianski for a stoppage time winner. Both sides had chances to take the game as the Swans showed fight and determination under caretaker manager Alan Curtis.
In a mixed week for City, after losing to Stoke City and then beating Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champion’s League, a point would have been a fair result as Joe Hart was the busier of the two keepers. In his first game in charge, Curtis fielded an unorthodox striker in the form of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who was at the forefront of Swansea’s attacking moves, with Bafetimbi Gomis on the bench. The midfielder came close with a swerving free kick that wrong footed Hart but it was substitute Gomis who in fact levelled the scores.
The Swans had levelled through Sigurdsson with the goal ruled out for a foul by Gomis on Hart but it was the Frenchman who struck high and hard at the front post with seconds left in the game. City were down but not out and Toure received the ball in a wide position and struck against the back of Iheanacho, using the striker’s back as a ramp for the ball to loop up and over Fabianski for all three points.
Aston Villa 0-2 Arsenal
The rollercoaster ride that has been Arsenal’s season was on the rise once again following Champion’s League qualification and a return to the top of the Premier League, even if only for 48 hours. As for Aston Villa, victories over top six sides for Bournemouth and Newcastle left the Villains further adrift at the bottom with an uphill battle with only eight minutes on the clock.
Theo Walcott gave his side an early chance when the forward was pulled down by Alan Hutton in the box, giving Olivier Giroud the opportunity to give the Gunners the lead from the spot and the Frenchman made no mistake. The away side dominated the first half and doubled their lead through Aaron Ramsey, finishing off a counter attack before half time. Jack Grealish, returning to the side, started slowly in the first half but was much improved in the second with the winger being the more likely to score. Unfortunately for Grealish, he wasted chances, something you can’t do when you’re toiling away at the foot of the table.
AFC Bournemouth 2-1 Manchester United
The Vitality Stadium once again proved a good omen for AFC Bournemouth as Joshua King finished off a well worked set piece routine to end a miserable week for the Red Devils. Defeat to Wolfsburg dumped the away side out of the Champion’s League and into the Europa League, with defeat to the Cherries giving Tottenham the chance to leap frog them into fourth place with a win at Newcastle.
United were put under pressure very early on with King running at Guillermo Varela to force a corner. The resultant corner by Junior Stanislas beat everyone in the box including David De Gea, with the assistance of wind, ending up in the Spaniard’s net. The away side did manage to go in level at half time when Marouane Fellaini poked the ball after a scrappy game of pinball pushed the ball into the Belgian’s path. Anthony Martial also had chances to level the scores, the biggest being Stanislas’ panic clearance landing at the feet of the striker to bear down on goal, the resultant effort failed to trouble Artur Boruc in the Bournemouth goal.
With the Cherries already beating the Red Devils from a corner, King once again caused havoc in the box when Matt Ritchie’s low corner evaded everyone but King whose first time finish beat the United bodies on the line. No reply from the away side meant one point from their last nine available. A courageous 86 minute display from Harry Arter received a mention by manager Eddie Howe after Arter’s partner lost their child at birth in midweek.
Tottenham 1-2 Newcastle United
With Europa League qualification guaranteed, Tottenham couldn’t carry the momentum through to Sunday’s game at White Hart Lane with Ayoze Perez claiming victory for the Magpies in second half stoppage time. Eric Dier had put Spurs ahead converting from Christian Eriksen’s corner only for a late Newcastle surge, Alexsandar Mitrovic capitalised from a scramble in the opposing penalty area to cancel out Dier’s goal only for his side to secure all three points very late in the game.
The result meant Tottenham couldn’t close the gap on Manchester United, failing to capitalise on the chance to leap frog the Red Devils into fourth place. As for the away side, they move out of the relegation zone at the expense of Norwich.
Liverpool 2-2 West Bromwich Albion
Divock Origi’s deflected strike five minutes into stoppage time rescued a point in what was a distasteful game from Jurgen Klopp’s perspective. In fact it was the home side who took the lead through Jordan Henderson, finishing off a passing move.
In recent weeks the Baggies have taken points from Arsenal and Tottenham, when Craig Dawson capitalised on Simon Mignolet’s failure to punch away a West Brom corner, tapping in the loose ball to cancel Henderson’s opener. The away side took the lead in the second half through Jonas Olsson’s header only for Origi to claim a point when it looked like West Brom would take all three. The Baggies also had a goal disallowed when Olsson found the back of the net, only for a late offside flag to rule out the goal. Having only taken a point from the game, Liverpool drop down to ninth in the league, Watford climbing into the Red’s vacant seventh place.
Norwich City 1-1 Everton
Norwich fought back from a goal down to earn a point after Romelu Lukaku put the Toffees ahead, heading in Gerard Deulofeu’s cross. For Everton, it was their third consecutive draw, failing to hold onto their lead with Wes Hoolahan finishing from close range two minutes into the second half.
Both sides had chances to take all three points, Leighton Baines hitting the bar and Cameron Jerome unable to capitalise on a golden chance for the Canaries. For the home side, the draw was not enough to keep them out of the relegation with both Newcastle United and Bournemouth producing surprise victories.
Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
As Tottenham and Manchester United stuttered, Yohan Cabaye’s first half effort moved Palace level on points with fifth placed Spurs and three points away from United in fourth. The result however had no effect on Southampton’s current position but meant the Saints are now five points off of the guaranteed Europa League place after their loss at Selhurst Park.
While Cabaye grabs the headlines for the finishing the move, Yannick Bolasie put the after burners on to leave the defenders behind, racing to the by-line, delivering a pin point cross for his team mate to finish. Although the game was dominated by the home side, Shane Long nearly made the Eagles pay for complacency late on, drawing a top class acrobatic save from Wayne Hennessey. Alan Pardew’s side did manage to hold on for all three points and the Champion’s League places three points away.
Of the weekend’s other fixtures:
Sunderland 0-1 Watford
West Ham United 0-0 Stoke City
The Emirates Stadium hosts the top fixture of the round of fixtures with Arsenal welcoming Manchester City to North London on Monday, the last game of the round that all kicks off on Saturday 19th December.
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