By Ryan Moran
- United’s defeat to Norwich allowed Tottenham to leapfrog them into fourth place.
- Arsenal climb above City with a 2-0 victory at the Emirates.
- AFC Bournemouth complete third consecutive win after defeating West Brom.
Manchester, UK- Pressure builds on Louis Van Gaal becoming the second manager to be sacked by a big club as his United side succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at struggling Norwich.
Manchester United 1-2 Norwich City
While Manchester United remain in the hunt for a Champions League place, two consecutive defeats and no win in his last four games, Van Gaal will be feeling the pressure. Norwich capitalised on the Red Devil’s poor form as Cameron Jerome opened the scoring, keeping his composure to beat David De Gea, before setting up Alexander Tettey to double the Canaries’ lead.
A spirited Norwich side stayed compact to frustrate the home side who found a break through to halve the deficit, Anthony Martial firing into the roof of the net after wriggling clear of a flurry of yellow shirts. Unfortunately for Van Gaal, with a quality manager in Jose Mourinho in search of a new employer, big clubs require consistent results starting with Stoke on Boxing Day.
The result left the home side’s place in the top four in the balance while the away side relied on teams around them failing to pick up points.
Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland
To the distaste of the home supporters, Chelsea secured their first victory in three games against struggling Sunderland. Branislav Ivanovic headed Chelsea into an early lead, under the caretaker management of Steve Holland and Eddie Newton, while Pedro doubled the home side’s lead eight minutes later as Chelsea found themselves 2-0 up with under 15 minutes played.
Even though Mourinho was down in East Sussex, his presence was even stronger in his absence as Chelsea’s supporters made their feelings felt throughout the game especially when Pedro scored. The exact phrase unfortunately is too explicit to write but ‘where were you when we were bad’ gives you the polite version. The home side put the game beyond doubt when Oscar converted the penalty after Costel Pantilimon brought down Willian in the area. Fabio Borini pulled back what was a mere consolation in a game that was put beyond the away side early on, finishing from close range. While the result is a step in the right direction, it also poses major questions over ‘player power’ with players such as Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa producing improved performances to the jeers of their own supporters, is it just coincidence or was it a campaign against the manager? Only they will know.
Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City
Arsenal leapfrog Manchester City into second place courtesy of two first half goals Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. That gave the Citizens too much to do in the second half with Yaya Toure’s late reply not enough to prevent his side from a second defeat in their last three Premier League games.
Mesut Ozil was instrumental, providing both assists as Walcott opened the scoring with a swerving effort on Joe Hart’s goal before the German delivered the pass for Giroud to stab home the goal that doubled their lead. City came out fighting in the second half but couldn’t replicate the Gunners’ clinical first half finishing as the home side held on, even with Toure’s finish halving the deficit with eight minutes to play.
Victory for Arsenal opens up a four point gap between themselves and Manchester City while keeping them within touching distance of leader’s Leicester City.
Everton 2-3 Leicester City
Leicester City cemented their place at the top of the Premier League at Christmas as two Riyad Mahrez penalties confirmed their impressive start to the season showed no signs of ending. Romelu Lukaku leveled the scores at 1-1 with his seventh in as many matches. But another Mahrez penalty gave the Foxes the lead with Shinji Okazaki only widening the deficit with just over 20 minutes to play.
Everton’s inconsistency is the reason they sit mid table even with the quality possessed within the squad, but the Toffees caused their own problems with Ramiro Funes Mori pulling down Okazaki, Mahrez making no mistake from the spot. Lukaku cancelled this mistake but once again the home side were at fault for the second goal, this time Tim Howard tripped Jamie Vardy allowing midfielder Mahrez the chance to double his tally at Goodison Park. Okazaki’s third meant Kevin Mirallas’ late effort was not enough to earn a share of the spoils as Everton continue to drop off the pace in tenth.
Southampton 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham ensured they made Manchester United pay for their second consecutive loss as Harry Kane and Dele Alli produced the goals that took Spurs into the top four. Kane, making his 100th appearance, opened the scoring as he found space behind the Southampton defence to slot past Paolo Gazzaniga in goal.
Defensive frailties were at fault for the first goal as Kane found himself in more space than he should have been allowed, this was also the case in the second as Alli capitalised on poor defending to double his side’s lead. The victory made up for last week’s slip up at struggling Newcastle to move the North London outfit into the top four at Christmas.
Watford 3-0 Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp’s honeymoon period as Liverpool manager seems to have worn off as Watford gave the visitor’s a shock early on in the game, Adam Bogdan gifting the Hornets an early lead. The home side won a corner with three minutes played, the set piece should have been a routine catch for the goalkeeper but Bogdan dropped the ball with Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake reacting quickest to poke home the opening goal of the game.
The nightmare didn’t end there for Klopp and his players as Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney’s venomous partnership once again showed how effective the 4-4-2 formation can be deployed with great effect for both strikers. Deeney turned provider the home side’s second goal, playing the ball over the top for Ighalo who beat Bogdan from a difficult angle going in off the post. The early two goal lead made Liverpool’s visit to Vicarage Road an uphill battle from minute three and finished their misery with Ighalo earning a brace, heading in Valon Behrami’s cross.
Watford are now four points above Liverpool and two places above their opponents in seventh place, one point behind Manchester United in fifth position, just a sign of the impact Quique Sanchez Flores has had since coming in in pre- season. As for Klopp and Liverpool, testing times are ahead after such a positive start to his reign, lack of experience complete with injuries to key players has affected his ability to discover his best line up.
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
While Leicester City may take the fairy tale story of the season, nothing can take away from how impressive Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth have been in the last few weeks. A third consecutive victory moves the Cherries further away from trouble and within a point of their opponents. An early red card for James McClean made the task increasingly difficult for the Baggies for a foul on Adam Smith.
10 man West Brom held on for 18 minutes before Smith’s low drive beat Boaz Myhill, only to be cancelled out by Gareth McAuley’s header with 11 minutes to play. Charlie Daniels converted the winning penalty with three minutes to play while the frustration was too much for Salomon Rondon, sent off for a clash with Dan Gosling.
The result leaves Bournemouth four points clear of the drop zone while Tony Pulis’ resources become limited with the suspension of McClean and Rondon for their next fixture away at Swansea City.
Of the weekend’s other fixtures:
Swansea City 0-0 West Ham United
Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa
Stoke City 1-2 Crystal Palace
Manchester United hope to rebuild their Champion’s League push away at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day.
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