Manchester City stutter in their race to defend their title, while Chelsea make winning look easy. Here’s all the review, news, and opinion from an exciting gameweek 22 of the Barclays Premier League:
Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool
The Villains have failed to score a goal in their last five Premier League matches, and are without a league win in 2015. Liverpool, on the other hand, have four wins from their last five, drawing once. Villa had the first chance of the match, but Christian Benteke’s tame header was caught by Simon Mignolet. The Merseyside outfit opened the scoring in the 25th minute when striker Fabio Borini fired in a Jordan Henderson cross. It was the striker’s first goal of the season. Raheem Sterling should have made it two-nil before half-time but he misjudged Brad Guzan’s positioning and chipped into the keeper’s hands. Benteke had another chance in the second-half, this time he tested Mignolet, but couldn’t beat him. Villa kept attacking but it was Liverpool who eventually doubled their advantage through Rickie Lambert. The former Southampton striker collected a Sterling pass, turned his marker, and fired past Guzan. The win keeps Liverpool in the hunt for a European spot, they sit eighth. Villa are three points from relegation in 15th place.
Brad Guzan (Villa) – was exceptional when called upon and not at fault for either goal. He made a spectacular double save in the second half to keep his team in it. He will definitely be frustrated with the absence of goals at the other end of the pitch.
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – looks a real solid replacement for the departing Steven Gerrard. The stand-in captain was a real leader on the pitch, guiding his team to victory. His deliveries were dangerous, and always disrupted the Villa defense.
Burnley 2-3 Crystal Palace
Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace came from behind to earn all three points for the second consecutive gameweek. Burnley enjoyed a three-minute stint where they scored two goals, but they couldn’t take a hold of the match. Ben Mee gave The Clarets the lead in the 13th minute with a header from a corner, before Danny Ings doubled their advantage. The striker collected a pass from Scott Arfield who pressed brilliantly to regain possession and find Ings. Dwight Gayle scored to bring Palace back into the game before the half-time whistle. Shortly after the restart, Jason Puncheon scored the equaliser with a hard, low shot. Both teams came close to finding a winner, with Burnley having a shot cleared off the line and Palace hitting the post. But it was Palace who found the winner late in the match when Puncheon sent a cross to Gayle who controlled and swept home. Burnley remain one-point above relegation in 17th place, while Palace are 13th place, with two wins in their last two.
Danny Ings (Burnley) – has scored three goals in his last three matches to take his tally for the season to seven. He still had a lot of work to do for the second goal, demonstrating his clinical ability in front of goal once again.
Dwight Gayle (Palace) – is rediscovering his exceptional form from last season at the perfect time. The forward got his team back into the game with a smart finish in the first half, and kept a cool head to fire home the winner in the second. He takes his tally for the season to five goals, scoring three in his last two starts.
Leicester City 0-1 Stoke City
Leicester remain bottom of the league after their fifth home defeat of the season, and 13th in total. The Foxes started with intent after Anthony Knockaert’s shot was well saved by Asmir Begovic. Moments later, Danny Nugent watched his shot curl inches away from the Stoke City net. Stoke’s first meaningful chance came just before the break, but Phillip Wollscheid’s header was wide. Leicester continued to create chances but there was no end product. Stoke looked the more likely between the two to score in the second half, and they eventually found the opener when Jonathan Walters played in Bojan Krkić who turned and shot. Substitute Peter Crouch almost scored with an audacious attempt in stoppage time, but his volley hit the side netting. Stoke remain 10th place after this victory, and are now seven points from a European spot.
(Leicester) – N/A
Bojan Krkić (Stoke) – scored his fourth Premier League goal of the season with a brilliant turn and finish. With the fans and manager behind him, he looks right at home in a Potters shirt.
Queens Park Rangers 0-2 Manchester United
QPR remain in the relegation zone, one-point from safety, while United remain in the hunt for a top-three finish. QPR could have scored before the 20-minute mark, but David de Gea was at United’s rescue once again, denying Charlie Austin a 14th Premier League goal. Johnny Evans lost the ball after good pressure from Bobby Zamora, the striker set-up his strike partner, but de Gea was equal to the shot. De Gea made another fantastic save on the half-hour mark, again denying Austin what looked a certain goal. Radamel Falcao had an opportunity to give United the lead in the second half with a headed effort, but Robert Green was on his toes and saved confidently. United found the opener just before the hour-mark when Antonio Valencia picked out substitute Maroune Fellaini who drilled a fierce shot past Green. Youngster, James Wilson, added a second in stoppage time to secure all three points for The Red Devils. Wilson’s initial shot was saved by Green, but the rebound was unstoppable. United remain two points behind third-place; they sit in fourth.
Charlie Austin (QPR) – would have had a couple of goals any other day. He was denied twice by de Gea, and was unlucky not to add to his already admirable goal tally this season.
Maroune Fellaini (Man United) – made an instant impact after coming on as a half-time substitute in place of the disappointing Juan Mata. The Belgian scored his third Premier League goal of the season to lead his side to victory.
Swansea City 0-5 Chelsea
The league leaders put in an exceptional performance to extend their lead at the top to five points. Chelsea opened the scoring within the first minute of play rather fortuitously when Gylfi Sigurdsson’s pass was misplaced and fell to Oscar. The Brazilian did well to dribble towards the box and fire in a low shot past Lukas Fabianski in goal. Sigurdsson almost made up for it moments later, but his vicious effort cannoned off the post. It was all Chelsea after that. After a string of passes, Fabregas found Diego Costa who scored to double Chelsea’s advantage. Willian rattled the post before a giveaway from Tom Carroll led to a third Chelsea goal scored by Diego Costa. Oscar scored his second moments later to send Chelsea into the dressing rooms with a four goal advantage. The Blues didn’t match their performance from the first half, and looked comfortable to just cruise towards the final whistle. Substitute Andre Schürle scored a fifth to send Chelsea five points clear. Meanwhile, Swansea have won one of their last five matches and remain ninth place.
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Diego Costa (Chelsea) – took his tally for the season to 17 with his double. The Spaniard was clinical in front of goal but will be disappointed not to have completed his hat-trick. His predatory instincts were on full display. Frightening on his day, indeed.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Sunderland
The Spurs keep their top-four hopes alive with an important win at home to a struggling Sunderland side. Despite giving new signing, Jermaine Defoe a start, Sunderland couldn’t produce enough to win the match. Tottenham took an early lead after a scrappy start when defender Jan Vertonghen’s deflected shot flew past the goalkeeper. Sunderland felt that they should have been awarded a penalty when Defoe was brought down in the box by Vertonghen. The referee decided not to award a penalty despite jeers from Sunderland fans and protests from the players. Moments later, Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher missed from three-yards out, but Sunderland eventually found their equaliser through Sebastian Larsson’s clinical free-kick. Tottenham could have regained the lead before the half, but Harry Kane’s shot thumped off the post. Tottenham found their winner late into the second half when Christian Eriksson’s shot cannoned off the post and into the net. Tottenham scored a third, but it was wrongfully given as offside. Nonetheless, they secured the victory and are three points behind fourth-place. Sunderland are now only a single point away from the relegation zone. Shaky.
Christian Eriksson (Spurs) – has a habit of scoring late, important goals. The pacey winger was a handful all match, and he looked the most likely to create a chance. He has now scored eight goals this season, surpassing his tally of seven in the previous campaign.
Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland) – got his team back in the game with a beautiful free-kick. The goal was his third of the season, and he’ll be hoping he can score a few more to prevent his team from flirting with the relegation zone.
Newcastle United 1-2 Southampton
The Saints made it three wins in a row after their victory at the Sports Direct Arena. New signing Eljero Elia gave Southampton the lead inside 15 minutes when he sent a low shot past Dutch compatriot Tim Krul in goal. After having a ferocious shot saved earlier by Forster, Yoan Gouffran scored a freak equaliser to get his team right back into the match. The ball bounced off of him after Southampton’s defenders were scrambling to clear the danger. The goal gave Newcastle some life, and they almost scored again through Ayoze Perez who sent his shot wide of the post. Newcastle started the second half with purpose and intent, but they couldn’t find another goal. Southampton were determined, and they eventually found the winner when Elia scored his second of the night with a deflected shot. Newcastle continued to press forward, but it was Southampton who almost had a third when Graziano Pelle’s header struck the woodwork. Late protests from Newcastle players for a handball by Jose Fonte were ignored, and The Saints continue to march on. They remain third, while Newcastle slip to 11th place.
Yoan Gouffran (Newcastle) – was involved the entire match and was a little fortunate to score his first goal of the season. The Frenchman could have had a couple though, and will be looking to build on his performance.
Eljero Elia (Southampton) – scored his first and second Premier League goals, and was a real handful throughout. His manager may consider securing his services at the end of the season. He is currently on loan from German side Werder Bremen, but already looks comfortable and confident playing in the Premier League.
West Ham United 3-0 Hull City
The Hammers record their first Premier League win of the New Year with a confident performance against relegation-zoned Hull. Incidentally, it was Hull City who could have opened the scoring after great work from striker Sone Aluko who found Ahmed El Mohamady in the box. The Egyptian couldn’t keep his composure, and he sent his shot wide of the post. Aluko should have given Hull the lead on three separate occasions, but he wasn’t decisive enough in the final third. West Ham took the lead in the second half when Andy Carroll scored a rebound after Enner Valencia’s shot was saved by the keeper. Hull City looked out of ideas and lacked any real confidence moving forward. As a result, West Ham took advantage and found their second goal. Valencia released Morgan Amalfitano who finished neatly. Stewart Downing added a third three-minutes later to heap more misery on Hull and move West Ham back in contention for European football; they sit seventh place.
Enner Valencia (West Ham) – was involved for the first and second goal, and his pace really troubled Hull’s defenders. His initial shot was saved, before Carroll swept home the rebound, and he did well to play in Amalfitano for the second.
Sone Aluko (Hull City) – looked the likeliest of the Hull players to find the back of the net, and created lots of early chances. His final ball was lacking though, and he couldn’t help his team avoid defeat.
Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal
The Champions continue to struggle as their title hopes take another major dent. Arsenal were awarded the first opportunity to take the lead when Nacho Monreal was brought down in the box by Vincent Kompany. The decision looked a soft one, but nonetheless the penalty was given. Spaniard, Santi Cazorla stepped up to fire past Joe Hart in goal and give Arsenal a precious goal advantage. Man City continued to pile men forward in search of an equaliser, but Arsenal were disciplined in the back and defended strongly. The Gunners continued to counter, and they eventually doubled their lead when Cazorla’s free-kick was met by the head of Olivier Giroud. Man City’s defenders looked confused at times as Cazorla dangled past them searching for a third. Arsenal held on for the victory that strengthens their surge for a top-four finish. They remain in fifth, two points away from third-place.
(Man City) – N/A
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal) – ran rings around the City defenders at times. The Spaniard put in a composed and disciplined performance to help his team bag all three points. He scored confidently from the penalty spot and provided an assist for the second. He now has five goals and four assists so far this season.
Everton 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
The Toffees miss a penalty in their goalless draw against West Brom. It was a very one-sided match with West Brom failing to register a single shot on target. Ben Foster was kept busy, but didn’t really have to stretch to make any of his saves. Everton were awarded a first-half penalty when Joleon Lescott handled in the box, but Kevin Mirallas fired his spot-kick wide, onto the post. There were very little chances created afterwards, as West Brom dealt with Everton’s onslaught. Everton remain 12th place, but need to get their season rolling again, and soon. They are without a league win in 2015, a run that stretches to six games. West Brom, meanwhile are undefeated in their last two matches since Tony Pulis was appointed manager—they sit 14th place.
Phil Jagielka (Everton) – marshalled and organized his defense well. The England international recorded his fourth clean sheet of the season.
Ben Foster (West Brom) – wasn’t really tested as much as he would have expected, but he was confident when called upon. He guessed the right way for the penalty, and he will probably argue that he would have gotten a hand to it.