Week 9 of the Premier League continued to show the strength and superiority of the pack-leaders, with some decisive home and away wins for the big-dogs of the league.
Chelsea 4 – 2 Watford
Due to Watford’s ability to punch above their weight in recent weeks, there was a question mark over whether Chelsea may have difficulty in this fixture — and they did. Chelsea didn’t look completely comfortable during the first-half despite taking a 12th minute lead, while Watford were clearly up for the game, with the Hornets equalising right on half-time. In the second half they managed to take the lead after a scramble in the box, but Conte’s substitution choice rescued the game for Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi came on in place of out of sorts Morata and drew the Blues level before Azpilicueta put them ahead, with Batshuayi added the icing on the cake with Chelsea’s fourth in stoppage time. It’s a massive result for them after they succumbed against Palace last week and keeps them in the mix.
Huddersfield Town 2 – 1 Manchester United
For United fans, this game was a flashback to the Louis van Gaal era of quality and playing style. Mourinho’s selected-eleven seemed disinterested from the first whistle while Huddersfield had a clear spring in their step. United played with a lethargic pace all game, and through two defensive errors, Manchester United were put down within the space of five minutes. They came back out in the second half, Mourinho having chosen to bring on Rashford and Mkhitaryan for Mata and Martial, but despite Rashford’s consolation goal in the 78th minute, United never looked like scoring three goals in 45 minutes. This is a warning-sign for the squad and the manager — it’s unusual for a team that was so near the top to display such a clear lack of motivation. It’s back to the drawing board for the Red Devils.
Manchester City 3 – 0 Burnley
The other half of Manchester had the opposite experience though. Guardiola’s City has been clicking into a higher gear over the last month’s fixtures, not only managing to play entertaining, fast-paced football but also maintaining an impressive defensive record to boot. They were fast out of the gate and threatened the Burnley goal a few times before Burnley’s keeper fouled Bernardo Silva in the area, and Aguero stepped up to convert and become the Citizens’ all-time leading goal scorer. Sané assisted from a corner which Otamendi headed in the 73rd minute and almost immediately after in the 75th when Sané was put through on goal by another immaculate Kevin De Bruyne pass to round out the scoring. City have resoundingly become the team to beat and are looking unlikely to be assailed barring a major disaster.
Everton 2 – 5 Arsenal
Arsenal piled more pressure onto Ronald Koeman at Goodison Park despite going behind to a brilliant Wayne Rooney long-range opener in the 12th minute. Arsenal gradually found their way into the game and got an equalizer through Monreal in the 40th, which completely turned the match to the Gunners’ favour. They built more and more pressure in each subsequent attack scoring again in the 53rd through Ozil, the 74th through Lacazette, and then two late goals by Ramsey in the 90th and Sanchez in the 95th. Everton would add another consolation goal in the 93rd, but had Idris Gueye sent off earlier making it a forgettable afternoon for them.
Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 1 Liverpool
Klopp, like his Merseyside colleague Koeman, also had a Sunday to forget. Initially this game was expected to be finely balanced, but Liverpool’s shaky defense immediately put them on the backfoot and they were 1-0 behind by the 4th minute, courtesy of Harry Kane capitalising on disappointing defending from Lovren. Son added a second in the 12th after a rapid Spurs counter attack, which would become a theme throughout the match. Liverpool couldn’t string coherent attacks together and as soon as they lost possession, Spurs would counter mercilessly, and usually manage to register shots on target. Salah gave Liverpool a glimmer of hope with a 24th minute goal from a great assisted through ball by Henderson, but it wasn’t enough to stem the tide and Spurs added another two — Alli in stoppage time in the first half and Kane with the fourth after Liverpool failed to clear a ricocheting ball in their own box.
Fortunes have turned for a couple of clubs, with United suddenly looking a lot less indomitable while Spurs have broken their Wembley curse and now look like potential challengers for the title. United will face Spurs next weekend in a massive match as both teams sit on 20 points, one on the up and one in a slump. Mourinho will need to get a reaction out of his side or he’s going to be on the receiving an uncomfortable amount of scrutiny. Can he get the better of Pochettino or will United’s backslide continue?
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