Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Premier League: Arsenal get on track, Manchester City hammers Chelsea

Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal
After a disheartening loss to West Ham on their home turf last week, Arsenal were looking to get back on the right foot with a win in South London. They got off to the start that they wanted as they scored their first goal of the season in the 16th minute. Olivier Giroud was the man with a falling volley into Alex McCarthy's goal. Along with the goal, Arsenal was really playing the type of game they should have had against West Ham. After 20 minutes, they had already taken eight shots to Palace's two and held a 66% possession advantage.

The opening flurry of Arsenal success would soon subside. Joel Ward would bring Crystal Palace level in the 27th minute. He took a long range shot that found its way through the Arsenal defense and past Petr Cech. The rest of the first half was a pretty thrilling back and forth affair, but neither side was able to add another goal.

The second half started with Crystal Palace almost jumping into the lead. Connor Wickham latched himself onto a clever cross from Wilfried Zaha, but the shot nailed the cross bar after beating Cech. It was Arsenal with the go ahead goal in the 55th minute. Alexis Sanchez rose to a cross and headed it down towards goal. The attempt may have been going wide if not for the touch of Damien Delaney's toe to redirect it into the net.

As the second half wore on, Palace came alive with threats to score. Their best chance was less than two minutes before the 90 were up. Joel Ward rose to head a corner downward towards the goal, but it came right to Cech for an easy save. That was the most Palace could muster before the final whistle.

Arsenal earns themselves a needed win after the let down against West Ham in the opener. It would have been quite the setback to open the season with a pair of losses, or even only a point from their first two. Now, it could be reduced to a small hiccup in the grand scheme of the season. 

Crystal Palace has no reason to hang their heads. They came close to finding an equalizer in the end of this one and they only lost because of an unfortunate bounce on an own goal. Overall, they played a strong game, they just succumbed to the fact that Arsenal is a better team. This result is not a shock to anyone, and Palace will be fine going forward as they chase another strong finish.

Manchester City 3-0 Chelsea
City almost got going straight away in this one. Jesus Navas had a golden opportunity just 30 seconds in, but Asmir Begovic was up to the task. City, in general, was having some wonderful chances in the first 20 minutes through their superior attacking play. Chelsea was forced to defend and weather the City storm early on. City's efforts were rewarded in the 32nd minute when Sergio Aguero navigated a cluttered penalty area to slot home the opening goal.

At the end of the first half, Chelsea started to feel the effects of the physical play both sides were throwing around. Gary Cahill had to leave the pitch with a bloody nose. Diego Costa took a blow to the back of the head that drew blood and required a heavy duty wrap to keep him in the game. Thankfully, neither player missed significant time and were able to recover after the halftime whistle that went minutes later.

City came out with more of the same attacking flair that they showed in the first half. They earned a free kick on the edge of the box in the 47th minute that led to a quality chance. Minutes after this, Chelsea was able to counter and appeared to have had a goal from Ramires, but he was ruled offside. The scattered threats from Chelsea were not enough to wrestle control of the match away from Manchester City. Their bus wasn't exactly parked in front of their goal either. Even into the final 15 minutes of the match, the Citizens were putting a press on the Blues' back line, even if it was only with three or four players.

The pressing paid off in the form of a second goal in the 79th minute. Vincent Kompany headed a David Silva corner into the lower 90 to essentially give Manchester City the points and the top spot in the table for the second week running. In case that wasn't enough, Fernandinho took advantage of Chelsea's inability to clear their own penalty area in the 85th minute. He took hold of a loose ball and blasted a shot past a helpless Begovic.

Chelsea now only has a single point from its first two matches, including last week's draw against Swansea City at home. This afternoon, they can take solace in the fact that they were without Thibault Courtois, their starting keeper, due to red card suspension. He may have kept a couple of City's goals out, but he would not have helped the Blues score any of their own. However, they shouldn't be that concerned for their title defense, there is still plenty of time to recover. 

Manchester City can take plenty of pride in this win. They controlled the match against what many people believe is the best team in the Premier League. They lit up a strong defensive side for three goals, all while keeping that strong Chelsea attack off the scoreboard. They used the exact formula necessary to challenge Chelsea over the course of a long season.

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