Monday, December 28, 2015

It Happened in England: Wild win for Stoke, Arsenal go top

Everton 3-4 Stoke City
Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri bagged his first Premier League goal at the end of a supurb passing play in the 16th minute to put Stoke in front. It didn't take long for Romelu Lukaku to find Everton's equalizer. In the 22nd minute the Belgian took a feed from James McCarthy for the easy slip past Jack Butland. However the Swiss star struck again just before the halftime whistle. A splendid run to collect a long ball allowed Shaqiri to score on the half volley to give Stoke a halftime lead. Everton's star was able to retort with his second in the 64th minute. Tom Cleverly fed the long ball into Lukaku's chest and one touch later it was in the back of the net. Not long after the equalizer, the erratic Gerard Deulofeu scored the go ahead goal in the 71st minute after a great pass from Ross Barkley. The lead would last until the 80th minute when this mad match took another turn. Juselu smashed home the Stoke equalizer after Tim Howard failed to reach the cross aimed in his direction. The drama came to a head when Stoke were awarded a penalty at the death of the 90 minutes. Jone Stones brought down Marko Arnautovic in the penalty area and the Stoke forward buried the kick himself to give his club a thrilling win at Goodison Park.

Norwich City 2-0 Aston Villa
Norwich struck first in this battle near the bottom of the table. That first goal came in the 24th minute from Jonathan Howson who was unmarked when a deflection came right to him for the easy shot and goal. A quick transition off a goal kick and some weak defending from Aston Villa allowed Dieumerci Mbokani to head home the insurance goal and give Norwich the three points against the bottom team in the table.

Watford 1-2 Tottenham
A turnover in the middle of the pitch led to a simple break away from Erik Lamela to score with ease against some passive Watford defending. The Hornets got back on level terms in the 41st minute. Odion Ighalo, who is approaching Jamie Vardy levels of heat, snuck through the back line to find the tying goal. Their good fortune took a bit of a downturn just after the hour mark when Nathan Ake was shown straight red for a high and reckless challenge on Lamela. It took a while, but ten man Watford did concede the Spurs' winner. South Korean international Son Heung-Min backheeled home a low cross in the 89th minute. This came less than a minute after the Hornets had a potential go ahead goal cleared off the line. Spurs are in third place with the Leicester-Man City result pending.

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Newcastle United
After a boat load of close calls, mad scrambles, and off the line clearances, West Brom finally found the interior of the goal in the 79th minute. Darren Fletcher's head was the provider after a soft cross was lobbed in his direction. That was all West Brom would need to hold off their Geordie visitors.

Crystal Palace 0-0 Swansea
Crystal Palace continues to struggle with this whole scoring goals thing as they can't find the net against Swansea. Thankfully for them, they were able to keep the Swans out of the goal as well to earn their second straight scoreless draw.

Arsenal 2-0 AFC Bournemouth
Bournemouth actually looked a little threatening in the opening minutes. They controlled the ball and got a couple of half chances in the opening 20 minutes. It wasn't until the Cherries started to concede corner after corner after corner that Arsenal came to life. The Gunners had seven overall in the first half and grabbed their goal out of one of them. Gabriel scored his first goal with Arsenal by getting wide open in the penalty area and connecting his head to Mesut Ozil's inswinger for an easy goal in the 27th minute. Pretty much each of the other six corners produced at least a half chance. The best of the ones that didn't go in was an initial header by Gabriel that clattered off the post and right into the forehead of an oncoming Per Mertesacker, but the tall German didn't have time to react and redirect the ball inside the post.

The second half featured more Bournemouth on the ball, but also another Arsenal goal. The Gunners lead was doubled when Ozil was the final piece of a nice passing play through the middle in the 63rd minute. Arsenal were unlucky not to have scored a couple more times on the counter attack. Theo Walcott missed a golden chance when he tapped the ball wide off a rebounded shot, although h was offside anyway. Bournemouth, despite their superior second half possession,never tested Petr Cech all that much and ended up falling 2-0.

It's a couple days late as far as the Gunners are concerned, but they are now in first place, at least until Leicester City's huge match with Manchester City on Wednesday.

Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
Louis van Gaal's managerial life was on the line as sad Chelsea came in to town to face sad Manchester United. Although neither side connected in the first half, it was the Red Devils hitting aa pair posts and forcing Thibaut Courtois to stay sharp in the net. John Terry had a decent effort parried away by David de Gea that served as the only true Chance for the visitors in the first half. The second half looked a lot like the first, only with fewer chances. it is sort of appropriate that this would end as a scoreless draw. These two disappointing clubs failing to score against each other is sort of a microcosm of both clubs' seasons. The fact that each side only had five shots on target completes the analogy. United remain in sixth place without the full compliment of points. Chelsea are in 14th, still only three points ahead of relegation.

West Ham 2-1 Southampton
A well orchestrated counter attack allowed Dusan Tadic to poke home the opening goal in the 13th minute. West Ham's suspect defending was accompanied by a total lack of firepower up front. Morgan Schneiderlin did not have to make a single save in the first half for Southampton. The Hammers would storm to life in the second half, though. A 69th minute equalizer from Michail Antonio and a 79th minute winner from Andy Carroll allowed West Ham to flip the script and come out with three points at home. 

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