Today’s Premier League action saw none of the top four teams in action, as they clash with each other tomorrow, but there were still plenty of talking points. The pressure increased once again for Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, while Chelsea got themselves back on track.
Here is a review of today’s action:
Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United – Stadium of Light
Sunderland heaped the pressure on Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, and gained their first ever win over United at the Stadium of Light in the process. The home side got out of the blocks quickly, taking the lead on three minutes. Wahbi Khazri fired in a low free-kick which bounced in. Jermain Defoe was denied a chance to double the lead by a last-gasp stop from Chris Smalling. United suffered another blow on 36 minutes when Matteo Darmian was forced off with a shoulder injury. The visitors levelled three minutes later, keeper Vito Mannone denied Juan Mata, but was powerless to stop Anthony Martial netting the rebound from a tight angle. Sunderland started the second-half seeking a penalty when a header from John O’Shea struck the arm of Wayne Rooney, but the appeals were waved away by the referee. But they found a winner with eight minutes to go. Lamine Kone got in unmarked to head a corner which, when Martial tried to clear, it rebounded off the back of United keeper David De Gea and into the net to give the Black Cats a vital win. Van Gaal admitted after the game that it would now be ‘very difficult’ for his side to reach the top four, while Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce insisted that ‘our squad was good enough to cope with injuries.’
Bournemouth 1-3 Stoke City – Vitality Stadium
Stoke bounced back from three straight losses to achieve victory on the South Coast against Bournemouth. The away side ended a streak of over six hours without a league goal when Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross was half-cleared by Simon Francis, only for Giannelli Imbula to fire home on the volley from 25 yards. Jonathan Walters found the side-netting, and Shaqiri had a couple of chances to double the lead. Bournemouth had only one chance of note in the first-half, Charlie Daniels header kept out by Jack Butland. The visitors then suffered a double injury blow around half-time, losing Marc Muniesa and Glen Johnson. But a burst of two goals in three minutes won them the game. First Walters found Ibrahim Afellay on the break, and the Dutchman slotted home,, before Joselu came off the bench to head home Shaqiri’s cross. Matt Ritchie drove home Daniels’ cross to get Bournemouth on the board, and they had chances through Josh King and Junior Stanislaus, but these were not taken, and the home side fell to defeat.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Watford – Selhurst Park
Watford earned a hard-fought win over their hosts, with a double from Troy Deeney doing the damage. They took the lead from the penalty spot on 16 minutes, when Deeney and Mile Jedinak tumbled in the box, and the referee awarded a penalty. Deeney sent Wayne Hennessey the wrong way and Watford had their first away Premier League goal since Boxing Day. Hornets keeper Heurelho Gomes had to be smart to deny Yohan Cabaye, before Hennessey produced a double save from Odion Ighalo and Nordim Amrabat. On the stroke of half-time Emmanuel Adebayor, on his first home start, nodded home Connor Wickham’s cross to score the first Palace goal by a striker from open play in the league this season. Gomes denied Adebayor on a couple of occasions in the second-half, before Watford re-took the lead. Ben Watson floated a cross for Deeney to double his tally. Cabaye hit the post for Palace, before Pape Souare was sent off in stoppage time for a careless foul on Valon Behrami.
Everton 0-1 West Bromwich Albion – Goodison Park
The Toffees came unstuck in this tie, despite having the better of the game. Against the run of play, WBA took the lead in the 14th minute, the only goal of the game, when a Jonas Olsson header was knocked in by Salomon Rondon. Everton had a host of chances, with Ramiro Funes Mori and Aaron Lennon denied by the Baggies’ backline. Ross Barkley and Tom Cleverley then both hit the woodwork. As the second period started, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy then missed chances, before Chris Brunt almost doubled the lead, again against the run of play. Everton threw everything at the visitors, but just did not make their possession and number of chances count, the outcome of the game a classic smash-and-grab raid.
Norwich City 2-2 West Ham United – Carrow Road
Norwich were looking to leave the relegation zone with victory here, and they had the first chance against the Hammers, Russell Martin fired over early on. John Ruddy, back in goal for Canaries in place of Declan Rudd, then tipped over a shot from Enner Valencia. Robbie Brady lofted a free-kick just over the bar, before Jonny Howson blazed a shot inches over. Brady dispossessed Pedro Obiang before shooting home iin the 55th minute to give the home side the lead. Wes Hoolahan doubled the lead soon after, finishing off a fine team move. Dimitri Payet, fresh off signing a new contract in the week, pulled one back, knocking in the rebound after Victor Moses’ shot was blocked by Ruddy. Payet found Mark Noble, who equalised. West Ham had chances to win the game, though Emnanuel Emenike blew a great chance when he fired straight at Ruddy.
Swansea City 0-1 Southampton – Liberty Stadium
The Saints made it six games unbeaten with victory away to Swansea. They made four changes, including Victor Wanyama serving the first of a five-game suspension. They had the first chance when Graziano Pelle’s volley was stopped by Lukasz Fabianski. The game ebbed and flowed back and forth, with chances for both sides. Andre Ayew and Gylfi Sigurdsson for the Swans, and Virgil van Dijk and Shane Long for the away side. The Saints thought they had took the lead on 57 minutes, Pelle turning in a cross that had been dropped by Fabianski. However, the referee ruled the ‘goal’ out for a foul on the former Arsenal keeper. Long was denied by Fabianski again, before he netted on 69 minutes, nodding home a James Ward-Prowse centre. Fabianski then denied Charlie Austin, and the Saints had inflicted a first loss under Francesco Guidolin on the Swans.
Chelsea 5-1 Newcastle United – Stamford Bridge
A comfortable evening’s work for Chelsea, who made it 10 league matches unbeaten. Pedro led the way with a double. Diego Costa, sporting a face mask after breaking his nose in training in the week, was showing no ill-effects as he gave the reigning champions the lead on five minutes, after a pass from Willian. Pedro then intercepted a poor pass to race away and double the lead on nine minutes. It was effectively game over before half-time when Costa found Willian, who bundled home. An almost perfect half for the Blues was soured by the sight of John Terry limping off after a clash with Aleksandar Mitrovic. Cesc Fabregas floated a pass for Pedro to make it four just before the hour. Substitute Bertrand Traore then clattered home Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross for number five. The only bright spot for the North-East club was a fine strike from Andros Townsend.
There are three games to be played in the Premier League on Sunday, Liverpool play Aston Villa while the top four collide. Manchester City face Tottenham while Arsenal host leaders Leicester.
By Steve Osborne @BlizzardSteve75