Leicester’s late victory ensures they stay top this weekend
Leicester, Chelsea and West Brom got important wins on Saturday, while Sunderland and Aston Villa’s struggles continued.
Here’s a look at what Saturday’s fixture meant to the respective sides:
Leicester 1-0 Norwich
It was a game that was seen as one that could define Leicester’s season – a meeting with relegation-threatened Norwich City. But whiles the Foxes were favourites going into the match, it was a test of mental character – having lost to an added-time strike from Danny Welbeck as Arsenal won 2-1 at the Emirate’s in Leicester’s last league match.
However, this time it was the Foxes that were striking late, as Norwich managed to keep the home side at bay for much of the match, with Cameron Jerome’s header and Nathan Redmond having the best chances of the match, for the Canaries.
But it was to Leonardo Ulloa who converted Marc Albrighton’s cross, to confirm that the foxes will remain top, regardless of Arsenal and Tottenham’s results on Sunday, with just 11 league games to go.
West Ham v Sunderland
The game was there for the taking as West Ham never really got going on an afternoon where former boss Sam Allardyce brought his struggling Sunderland side to London, in search of second consecutive win – having beaten Manchester United in their last match.
Michail Antonio’s 30th-minute strike was enough to see the Hammers take three points, and move into fifth ahead of United, while Jack Rodwell created some good chances for the visitors, as the Black Cats failed to find the kind of service they are going to need to give Jermaine Defoe, if they are to maintain their Premier League status.
Andy Carroll’s volley thundered onto the crossbar in the second-half, but the Black Cats did little else to look like gaining a point, as Sunderland remain on 23 points and second from bottom in the table. It was not a happy return for Allardyce to his former club.
Stoke v Aston Villa
Again, it was another afternoon to forget for another relegation-threatened side, Aston Villa. A sense of hope was given to the travelling Villa fans on 79 minutes, when Leandro Bacuna fired in past Jack Butland. However, Marko Arnautovic’s double early in the second half – including a penalty – condemned Remi Garde’s men to yet another defeat and bottom of the table.
The Potters were well worth their win and Villa are eight points from safety, despite Norwich’s loss to top-of-the-table Leicester. Bacuna’s goal was met with a sarcastic cheer, but the visitor’s were unable to capitalise for what would have been a very valuable point indeed.
West Brom v Crystal Palace
It was a dramatic afternoon at the Hawthorns where both sides were looking to get on track and move up the table. Saido Berahino started up front for the Baggies, looking to kick start a poor campaign, and did so with a volley on the half-hour mark.
Crystal Palace were looking to end a drastic slump in form, but fell behind to Craig Gardner’s 12th-minute strike, before Craig Dawnson’s header doubled the Baggies lead and Berahino looked to have made it comfortable before half-time.
However, Alan Pardew’s men aimed to make amends for West Brom’s dominance in the first-half, and two goals from Connor Wickham made it a nervy ending for the home side at the Hawthorns. Scott Dann’s header was cleared off the line to ensure the Baggies’ put together back-to-back league victories for the first time in 2016.
West Brom moved ahead of Crystal Palace, into 13th, as Pardew’s men move within eight points of the relegation zone – although the threat of them being sucked into a relegation battle looks unlikely, taking into account their fellow strugglers’ current form.
Southampton v Chelsea
Unfortunately, Southampton weren’t able to inflict Guus Hiddink’s first league defeat as Chelsea manager, in his second spell in charge, when the Blues visited St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.
Although, they did look like they were about to, when Shane Long capitalised on a Baba Rahman defensive error, to put the Saints ahead just before the break. However, Cesc Fabregas’ cross crept in, to put the game level, before late heartbreak saw Branislav Ivanovic head home an 89th-minute winner for Hiddink’s men, as they moved up to 11th.
While one Dutchman left St Mary’s very satisfied, another, Ronald Koeman, would have been bitterly disappointed his Saints side couldn’t hold on, as they slipped to seventh, following West Ham’s win earlier in the day.
Watford v Bournemouth
It was two of last season’s promoted clubs that battled it out at Vicarage Road on Saturday, although neither side could make the most of their chances.
The Hornets’ top scorer, Odion Ighalo, missed two good opportunities to put the home side ahead – with a header from eight yards and a free-kick – while Bournemouth welcomed back long-term absentee Max Gradel, who came close to stealing three points for the visitors.
The Cherries had more of the possession and three shots on target to Watford’s one. So it was a missed opportunity for Eddie Howe’s men, although they remain safe from the threat of relegation, for now.