Sunday, August 9, 2015

Football Sunday: Arsenal stumbles, Liverpool stuns Stoke late

Arsenal 0-2 West Ham
This started off like a standard Arsenal game. Olivier Giroud was missing his finishes, they allowed quite a bit of possession to West Ham, and just didn't have control of the game for the first 45 minutes. West Ham successfully punished them in the 43rd minute with a headed free kick goal from Cheikhou Kouyate. Petr Cech had come off his line to try and claim the it, but Kouyate's head got their first for the goal.

The Arsenal-ness of the match continued in the second half. They spend the majority of the first ten minutes in the West Ham end, with Giroud naturally failing to finish a couple times. In the 57th, the Hammers struck again with another shot that Cech should have saved. This time Mauro Zarate was the culprit with a low show from distance that evaded the diving Arsenal keeper.

The rest of the match continued with this theme. Arsenal would hang on to the ball, wait for the right moment, it wouldn't come, and they'd take a harmless shot. There were never any times when the Gunners truly threatened to score. Then there was Petr Cech having a rather bad game in goal, letting in two goals that he should be saving. This isn't a massive step back for Arsenal as they challenge Chelsea for the title, since the defending champs also dropped points at home to a beatable opponent. It is merely a missed opportunity, and one they can't make a habit of missing.

Newcastle 2-2 Southampton
Southampton salvaged a point on the shores of the Tyne River with a late goal from Shane Long. The Saints had the lead in the 24th minute courtesy of Graziano Pelle, but they failed to hold on. In the 42nd, Newcastle's Papiss Demba Cisse tied the score at one. They would take the lead a few minutes after halftime. Georginio Wijnaldum scored his first Newcastle goal to give it to them. Saints battled back however, and were rewarded with Long's tying goal in the 79th minute to make sure each side left with a point.

Stoke City 0-1 Liverpool
Stoke seemed quite happy to let this thing play out to a scoreless draw throughout the first half. They were playing nine men behind the ball and clogging the box up so Liverpool's newly purchased attacking talent was unable to do anything. And the tactic worked. The Reds only took three shots in the first half, none of which would be considered actual scoring chances. Stoke probably had the best chance if the half in the 36th minute. A series of bounces took the ball to the top of the box but the shot sailed high.

The second half started out in much the same way. Stoke defended. Liverpool looked ineffective. After the hour mark things started to open up. Stoke pushed more numbers forward, which opened up chances for both sides. While they never cashed in, it was the Potters taking better advantage of the open field. They earned the set pieces and almost made a couple count.

Liverpool, meanwhile, continued to look frustrated at their inability to penetrate the penalty area and create chances. Philippe Coutinho's 86th minute dagger came seemingly out of nowhere. It was the perfect shot from a non threatening position. It was the amazing feat of athleticism that Liverpool needed to snare all three points in this one.

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