The Premier League title race took another twist today, with the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal the pick of this weekend’s games. Leaders Leicester were aiming to keep up their fairytale season.
Here is a review of all today’s action:
TOTTENHAM 2-2 ARSENAL – WHITE HART LANE
These storied rivals played out the latest chapter of this rivalry, with both clubs looking to close the gap to Leicester City at the top of the table, the Foxes not in action until later in the day at home to Watford.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino was able to recall Moussa Dembele from a groin injury, while the Gunners handed a Premier League debut to Mohamed Elnery.
Arsenal stopper David Ospina, in for the injured Petr Cech, turned behind a Kyle Walker effort, deflected towards him by Erik Lamela, on 26 minutes.
Arsenal, slightly against the run of play, took the lead on 39 minutes. Danny Welbeck crossed along the area for defender Hector Bellerin, his cutback turned in by Welshman Aaron Ramsey, with a fine backheel.
The game changed on 55 minutes when Francis Coquelin, already on a yellow card, slid in on Harry Kane to earn the second yellow, and the dreaded red card.
Spurs immediately capitalised on the man advantage, drawing level seven minutes later. A Lamela corner fired home by Toby Alderweireld.
The home side’s tails were now up, and they took the lead just a couple of minutes later. Kane received a Dele Alli backheel on the left, cut inside and curled home a beauty past Ospina from twenty yards.
The Gunners were able to equalise on 76 minutes, Chilean Alexis Sanchez netting past Hugo Lloris.
Arsene Wenger was incensed, he thought Eric Dier should have got a second yellow card for bringing down Olivier Giroud.
Christian Eriksen and Ramsey were denied late on by fine stops, as both sides were forced to settle for a point, not really much help to other side in their title hopes.
CHELSEA 1-1 STOKE CITY – STAMFORD BRIDGE
Chelsea had one eye on the Champions League tie with PSG on Wednesday, naming Cesc Fabregas on the bench against Stoke. Diego Costa was missing with a tendon injury. Mark Hughes was looking for his first League win at Stamford Bridge as a manager.
The visitors had a couple of good first-half chances to take the lead. Ibrahim Afellay forcing Thibault Courtois into a diving save, before Mame Biram Diouf headed over.
However, it was Chelsea who took the lead on 39 minutes. Bertrand Traore was afforded space before he fired home from the edge of the area.
The second half saw chances come and go for both sides: Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri saw efforts saved by Courtois, while Jack Butland denied Gary Cahill and Willian.
Eden Hazard shot wide, before Stoke equalised with five minutes to go. A cross from Shaqiri was not dealt with by Courtois, and Diouf nodded into the net to give Stoke their first-ever Premier League point at Stamford Bridge.
EVERTON 2-3 WEST HAM UNITED – GOODISON PARK
West Ham produced a rousing fightback from two goals down to win at ten-man Everton, who coming into this tie were 15 league games unbeaten against the Hammers.
Romelu Lukaku fired the Toffees in front on fifteen minutes, his 18th league goal of a fruitful season going in off the post.
Adrian made a fine stop to stop Ross Barkley doubling the lead on 25 minutes.
The course of the game changed when Kevin Mirallas was sent off for a second yellow card after a foul on Aaron Cresswell.
Cresswell crossed for Emmanuel Emenike just before half-time, but the Nigerian was denied by Joel Robles.
On 56 minutes, fine interplay between Lukaku and Aaron Lennon led to the latter doubling Everton’s lead.
Momentum changed again when Lukaku’s poor penalty was gathered up by Adrian. The spot-kick was awarded for a foul by Alex Song on Muhamed Besic.
West Ham finally got back into the game on 78 minutes. Mark Noble’s cross was turned home by Michail Antonio, his third in as many games.
Three minutes later, the scores were level. Dimitri Payet’s delivery dispatched by Diafra Sakho, his first goal since September.
The comeback was complete when Andy Carroll’s header was flicked by Sakho into the path of Payet, who shot home to seal the Hammers’ third straight win.
MANCHESTER CITY 4-0 ASTON VILLA -ETIHAD STADIUM
Manchester City comfortably dispatched beleaguered Aston Villa, Sergio Aguero netting twice in a 4-0 win.
Brad Guzan denied Aguero as City set their stall out early.
Wilfried Bony then fired wide, before Guzan foiled Aguero again.
City had to wait until the second half to take the lead. On 48 minutes, Aguero found David Silva in the area, he passed across goal for Yaya Toure to give them the lead.
Two minutes later, Bony’s pass was hacked into Aguero’s shins by Micah Richards, the former City defender watching in horror as the ball looped into the net.
On the hour, it was game over. Silva lobbed through for Aguero to score. The scoring was completed by Raheem Sterling, tapping home a Jesus Navas cross.
Aguero perhaps should have had a hat-trick, hitting the outside of the post from the penalty spot. After a bright first-half, the second 45 minutes pretty much summed up Villa’s season so far: absolute capitulation.
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-3 BOURNEMOUTH – ST JAMES’ PARK
Newcastle’s survival hopes took a big dent as they were defeated at home by the Cherries.
Without Fabricio Coloccini and Chancel Mbemba, Steve McClaren paired Taylor and Jamaal Lascelles in central defence, while Andros Townsend failed a late fitness test and missed out.
Max Gradel made his second straight start for AFC Bournemouth after recovering from a cruciate ligament injury and Eddie Howe selected King alongside Benik Afobe in attack, but midfielder Harry Arter was absent through injury.
Gradel and King were at the centre of the visitors going ahead just before the half hour. Gradel released King, whose low cross was turned into his own goal by Steven Taylor.
Gradel was a constant menace to the Magpies, and early in the second half he shot wide, before going down in the box, the referee waving away penalty appeals.
Daryl Janmaat was at fault for King doubling the lead on 70 minutes, giving the Cherries star too much space.
Newcastle pulled one back when Jonjo Shelvey found Ayoze Perez, who scored.
But Charlie Daniels sealed the points, and the Toon’s doom, by slotting home in stoppage time.
SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 SUNDERLAND – ST MARY’S STADIUM
Sunderland picked up a useful point in their fight against relegation, but it could have been more as the Saints left it late.
Ronald Koeman made five changes in response to the midweek defeat at Bournemouth. But their only chance of note early on came when Ryan Bertrand floated a free-kick over the bar.
Dame N’Doye then put Fabio Borini clear down the left for the away side, but his shot was deflected wide by Virgil Van Dijk.
Then the keepers took over. Vito Mannone denying Dusan Tadic, while Fraser Forster fought with an over-hit Wahbi Khazri free-kick, eventually deflecting it onto the post.
Borini tested Forster early in the second half, after hitting a volley over minutes earlier.
The Saints suffered a blow when Jose Fonte was sent off on 79 minutes, after bringing down Borini on the edge of the box.
Seb Larsson shot over on 83 minutes, before Jermain Defoe showed him how it should be done two minutes later, from a Lamine Kone centre.
The Saints denied their visitors a precious win in injury-time when Tadic found van Dijk, who finished nicely.
SWANSEA CITY 1-0 NORWICH CITY – LIBERTY STADIUM
Swansea gained another important three points to pull further away from the drop zone, while keeping Norwich on the fringes of it.
Swans manager Francesco Guidolin was still laid up in hospital following a chest infection, so Alan Curtis was once again the main voice in the home dugout. They made six changes from the victorious midweek side, while Norwich recalled Steven Naismith and Gary O’Neill.
The free-kicks of Nathan Redmond caused the home side problems early on, but the home side were able to repel any danger.
The only only goal came when Leroy Fer slipped the ball to Gylfi Sigurdsson on 61 minutes, and the Icelandic star slotted home.
The last 20 or so minutes saw Norwich lay siege to the home goal. Patrick Bamford, Dieumerci Mbokani and Redmond all missed chances to equalise, and Swansea held on.
WATFORD 0-1 LEICESTER CITY – VICARAGE ROAD
Premier League leaders Leicester moved five points clear at the top of the table, their unlikely title bid gathering momentum as their more illustrious rivals just cannot seem to overtake them.
They were made to earn the points here, especially in the first half, but the Hornets lacked any real sting in the final third.
Two players crucial to the Foxes’ success this season, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, combined on 23 minutes, but Vardy could not find the net.
On 56 minutes, a cross from Christian Fuchs was only half cleared, and Mahrez curled a wonderful strike home from 20 yards.
Odion Ighalo had the best chance for Watford, but he could only guide a header straight at Kasper Schmeichel, as the Foxes took another step towards what would be the most remarkable championship in some time.
Two games on Sunday, which see Liverpool travel to Crystal Palace, while West Bromwich Albion welcome Manchester United to the Hawthorns.
By Steve Osborne @BlizzardSteve75