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By Ryan Moran

  • Manchester United are without a win in five games following defeat to Stoke.
  • Guus Hiddink’s first game in charge of Chelsea ends in a draw.
  • Southampton record shock victory over Arsenal.

A fifth straight defeat for Manchester United allowed Crystal Palace into fifth as Louis Van Gaal’s decline continues.

Stoke City 2-0 Manchester United

Manchester United slipped to a fifth match without victory as two first half goals from Bojan Krkic and Marko Arnautovic sealed the three points for Stoke.

A mistake from Memphis Depay allowed Glen Johnson to pounce on the weak header, squaring the ball to Krkic who finished from close range through the bodies on the line. The Potters doubled their lead when a free kick hit the wall and rebounded to Arnautovic whose first time strike from outside of the box beat David De Gea in the opposing goal.

United had chances to get back into the game, their most notable chance coming from Wayne Rooney’s low cross which was met by Marouane Fellaini who in turn could only find the glove of Jack Butland who parried clear of danger.

The difference for the Red Devils was the work rate from front to back, attacking players not making the effort to get back and defend. Depay’s lazy header lead to the opening goal. Arnautovic’s example of work rate set the tone for the game, back helping to cut out attacks down Stoke’s left wing and then breaking forward with intent.

Liverpool 1-0 Leicester City

Leicester slipped to their second defeat in 18 Premier League games at the hands of Liverpool. Christian Benteke stretched to grab the only goal of the game to turn their poor run of form around. As for Leicester, the one goal didn’t tell the story of the game as the Reds ran riot in the first half but couldn’t find the finish to make use of their domination.

The home side had 25 shots to Leicester’s seven, 13 of them on target. The Foxes wall stood strong for 63 minutes but Benteke found a way through. More surprisingly both Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were denied the chance to further their goal and assist tallies as Leicester failed to score for the first time this season. Arsenal’s slip up meant Leicester still retain top spot but as City were victorious, they are within three points of the summit.

Southampton 4-0 Arsenal

Cuco Martina stunned St Mary’s Stadium as the defender’s opener set Southampton on for a much needed win. The game wasn’t without controversy however as the home side’s second appeared to contain a foul in the build-up.

As the ball dropped out to Martina, no one expected the full back to strike the ball with such quality and verve. As it was, the ball curled from well outside the goalpost and into the corner, giving Petr Cech in the Arsenal goal no chance to save it. Shane Long added a second but fouled Laurent Koscielny on his way into the box, tripping the defende. With the referee unaware of the incident, the goal stood and a miserable Boxing Day was becoming ever so clear for Arsenal.

Jose Fonte added a third from a corner as Cech seemed caught in no man’s land making the defender’s header a certainty of bulging the net. Long added a fourth in stoppage time but it could have been five as Virgil Van Dijk headed into the Arsenal goal, only to be ruled out for offside.

The defeat denied Arsenal a chance to leapfrog Leicester at the top of the league and allowed Manchester City to close the gap behind them to a single point.

Manchester City 4-1 Sunderland

Manchester City soared back into contention after Kevin De Bruyne was the star on top of City’s tree at the Etihad Stadium. It could have all started so differently for the Citizen’s though as Raheem Sterling was adjudged to have handled the ball outside the area, with replays showing it was in fact inside the area therefore denying Sunderland a penalty.

From this moment on, the game was all City as De Bruyne took center stage from the first goal all the way to the last. The Belgian combined with Sterling as his cross allowed the winger to head his side into the lead. Yaya Toure’s low drive doubled the lead but the Black Cats defence allowed the Ivorian far too much time and space for a player of Toure’s quality. Wilfried Bony gave his side a third before half time, heading in De Bruyne’s free kick as the game seemed to be wrapped up before half time. The play-maker soon got his reward as he added a fourth w with a guided effort into the bottom corner.

There were downsides for Manuel Pellegrini as Joe Hart failed to keep a clean sheet. Fabio Borini scored a consolation with his second bite of the cherry after initially being denied by the leg of City number one. Vincent Kompany’s substitute appearance was short lived as the club captain limped off, his first appearance after recovering from injury. David Silva was brought down by Sebastian Coates late on, but the resulting penalty was skied by Bony in an attempt to find the top right corner.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Norwich City

Harry Kane surpassed Teddy Sheringham’s record for the amount of goals scored in a calendar year as his brace took his tally to 27 for the year. Tom Carroll added a late third as Spurs consolidated their place in the top four.

Norwich started brightly without the goal to show for their attacks, Tottenham’s first goal kick started a turn in the quality of their play as Dele Alli’s through ball was met by Kane. the Englishman touched the ball past the onrushing Paul Rudd who fouled the striker inside the box. The England international took the responsibility and made no mistake, striking down the middle for the opening goal. Confidence oozed out of Tottenham’s attack from there on in as they doubled their lead with a counter attacking goal. Erik Lamela started the move by finding Alli who worked the ball from left to right towards Kane, who struck the ball across Rudd for 2-0. Carroll added a third to seal the three points for Spurs.

With United losing and Crystal Palace’s stalemate with AFC Bournemouth, Spurs now have a two-point cushion with Manchester City in their sights.

Chelsea 2-2 Watford

Guus Hiddink’s reign as Chelsea interim manager commenced with a draw at home to high flying Watford. Diego Costa’s brace marked a platform for the Spaniard to build on after a poor start to the season. The Hornets’ double act of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney were on the score-sheet as the Blues came from behind to take a point.

Chelsea took the lead from a corner, John Terry latching onto the cross heading into the path of Costa whose strike on the turn beat Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal. Minutes later Deeney had the chance to level the score from the spot after Nemanja Matic raised his arms towards the ball, the Watford striker beat Thibaut Courtois as the sides went in level at half time.

After half time, the away side dealt the first blow with a slice of luck, Ighalo’s strike towards goal deflecting off of Gary Cahill, needing the deflection to beat Courtois as the Hornets took the lead at Stamford Bridge. Costa grabbed his second when Willian’s pinpoint through ball was met perfectly by the Chelsea striker, taking one touch before striking across Gomes for the equaliser. Oscar had the chance to claim victory from the spot after Eden Hazard was scythed down by Valon Behrami but the Brazilian could only find the stands.

The number five resonated strongly with this game as Costa’s fifth yellow card of the season means he will miss Chelsea’s game with United on Monday while Watford have now gone five games unbeaten to sit comfortably in the top 10 in the league.

Of the weekend’s other fixtures:

AFC Bournemouth 0-0 Crystal Palace

Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham United

Swansea City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion

Newcastle United 0-1 Everton

Manchester United face Chelsea on Monday 28th December with eight fixtures taking place just two days after the last round of fixtures.

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