After an exciting and eventful set of fixtures last time out this past weekend’s games held the potential for even more surprises and changes at the top of the table. Unfortunately, excitement was in short supply for a number of the large clubs as well as in some of the less glamorous fixtures with a total of five draws across the ten matches. We’ll have a look at some of the most relevant results, a number of which ended in shared points.
Leicester City 1 – 1 Manchester United
The game of the weekend saw Leicester host Manchester United, with Leicester at the summit and United vying to go two points clear. Somewhat predictably though, the league’s best defence ended up thwarting the league’s best forward. Jamie Vardy had his eye on breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for scoring in consecutive games, and while United’s changed 3-5-2 formation held Leicester at bay for a period it would not hold out forever. From a United set piece at one end Leicester gathered possession and raced up the field and a solid ball from defence bypassed United’s midfield and found Vardy through on goal. Despite the attention of both United full backs the English striker set himself and fired a low strike into the back of the net, breaking the record and giving his side the hope of three points. German captain Bastian Schweinsteiger would save the Red Devils’ blushes though as he drew them level on half time from a good corner. The second half saw no attempts beat either keeper and the points ended up being split, a disappointing result for both teams.
Norwich City 1 – 1 Arsenal
These are the kinds of games Arsenal usually thrive in, dispatching teams lower
down in the league with ease, and at the beginning it seemed like it would be exactly what happened. Arsenal began brightly, piling pressure on Norwich’s goal with fast-paced and intricate passing moves which eventually paid dividends when Alexis Sanchez put Özil through out wide and he put the Gunners ahead with a neat chipped finish on 30 minutes. Instead of putting away several more Arsenal were frustrated and would concede just before half time, Grabban showed good strength to protect the ball from a fizzed pass, shrugging off his marker driving a swiveled shot home. The second half would prove a frustrating affair for Arsenal as two key players; Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez suffered injuries that may keep them out of the team for some time.
Bournemouth 3 – 3 Everton
At 2-0 up, courtesy of a headed corner from defender Funes Mori and a near post strike from Lukaku, Everton probably assumed they had the points in the bag. One could forgive them, since Bournemouth have struggled of late, with injuries to key players stemming any likelihood of goals. Injuries or not though, the newly promoted club would put up a resolute fight, and send a signal that they intend to fight for their place in the Premier League. The game stayed at 2-0 until the 80th minute when Bournemouth pulled one back through a wonderful curling strike, quickly followed up by a tapped in effort from Junior Stanislas to draw the game level in the 87th minute. Far from being over though, Ross Barkley would seemingly hand Everton the win on 95 minutes, causing Evertonians to briefly invade the pitch, only to have their points snatched from them in the 98th minute by a Stanislas header. Everton will rue not taking their defensive duties more seriously, while Bournemouth will be buoyed by their performance against an in form team.
Manchester City 3 – 1 Southampton
With a number of top four teams registering draws Manchester City had a brilliant opportunity to rise above their rivals, which they took eagerly against an injury-plagued Southampton side. Facing one of the best attacks in Europe without key players is tough enough already, but it’s made even tougher when your defence gives away possession to Raheem Sterling, allowing him to surge to the byline and assist Kevin de Bruyne in continuing his superb scoring form. Just ten minutes later the Saints were slow to close down a long range shot from Fabian Delph, which ricocheted through the sea of bodies and found its way into the back of the net putting the score at 2-0 at half time. Shane Long gave the visitors some hope five minutes after the restart with a great close range header, but City’s defence would stand firm and they’d add a third in the 69th minute through Kolarov finishing from a tight angle in the box. A good display from City sees them at the top of the log, level on points with Leicester.
Liverpool 1 – 0 Swansea City
Liverpool are another team that benefitted from other teams dropping points as Klopp’s men continue their focused climb up the table, finding themselves in sixth and just four points shy of a top four berth. Swansea’s fragile defence looked shaken from the first whistle, with Liverpool’s tight passing game and quick pressure drawing mistakes from the visitors, the biggest of which being a mistimed tackle from a Swansea defender that almost ended up in his own net, but fortunately bounced away off the post. Liverpool looked dominant for the whole match, but required a well-converted Milner penalty after a handball in the area to put them on the score sheet. Liverpool looked the more likely of the two teams to score again, but the game ended 1-0 to the Reds. Klopp’s team are still acclimating to his new tactics and set up, so they’ll take points any way they come, with hard fought victories like these likely to add to their growing confidence.
The coming weekend’s games don’t consist of any big fixtures, with Arsenal and United hosting Sunderland and West Ham respectively, while City travel to Stoke and Liverpool to Newcastle. Leicester travel to Swansea, looking to extend their brilliant away run and reclaim the top spot. Vardy seems to be scoring with ease at the moment, but how much longer can Leicester’s fairytale run last?