A dramatic set of fixtures this past weekend have placed Manchester City firmly in the driving-seat for this year’s Premier League title; while the chasing pack are being dragged into a close battle for the remaining three Champions League spots.
West Ham 1 – 4 Liverpool
Despite creating one or two early half chances, West Ham found themselves going behind to a Mo Salah goal as early as the 21st minute, with Joel Matip adding a second from a set-piece only three minutes later. Lanzini provided the Hammers with a glimpse of a comeback when he pulled one back in the 55th, but less than a minute later, Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 3-1 to bury the game. However, they weren’t done just yet, as Salah added his second from a powerful shot into Joe Hart’s far corner. In hindsight, this was the game that pulled the plug on Slaven Bilic’s time as West Ham manager, with the Hammers board electing to relieve him of his duties immediately.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 0 Crystal Palace
Spurs put in a truly exemplary performance against Real Madrid in their midweek European fixture, and were understandably predicted to absolutely hammer a struggling Palace side. The introduction of Roy Hodgson as their new manager has paid dividends for Palace though, and their performance in this game was surprisingly confident while also being defensively robust. Palace and Spurs traded back and forth attacks for the first 45, with neither team managing to draw blood. Palace valiantly kept Spurs quiet until the 64th minute, but Son then picked up a poorly-cleared ball on the edge of the area and engineered a brilliant curling shot to open Spurs’ scoring, and also get them all three points.
Manchester City 3 – 1 Arsenal
The first Manchester v London battle of the day was contested between City and Arsenal, and true to form, both teams showcased their fast-passing, possession-based systems straight off the bat. City constructed the more promising attacks, getting to within a stone’s throw of Arsenal’s box repeatedly within the first 15 minutes, and getting their opener through Kevin De Bruyne after he dribbled his way into the box and placed a low, accurate shot past Cech. A fortuitous penalty gave City a two goal lead in the 50th minute, after which Lacazette drew a goal back for Arsenal. Unfortunately a narrowly off-side goal was allowed for City, putting them 3-1 up and completely deflating the Arsenal side.
Chelsea 1 – 0 Manchester United
Due to the defensive natures of both Conte and Mourinho, this was never going to be as high-scoring as the previous match. Although United started brightly, it was Chelsea that gradually took control of possession and the rhythm of the match, relegating United to poorly constructed and lazy attacks that inevitably lead nowhere for the Red Devils. The decisive moment arrived in the 55th minute when Azpilicueta swung a pinpoint cross in from the right that Morata met by darting between two defenders, and rifled straight past De Gea for the solitary goal of the match. This puts United level again on points with Spurs and 8 behind City, with their dreary attack and negative tactics drawing criticism from some fans and many pundits.
Everton 3 – 2 Watford
Everton’s sacking of Ronald Koeman seemingly didn’t yield immediate results, but their potential come back might be on the cards after a thrilling match against Watford. The visitors controlled the first half comfortably and appeared to be cruising to an easy 2-0 victory by the 64th minute, courtesy of goals from Richarlison and Kabasele, but a 67th minute goal by Niasse for Everton sparked a reaction from the Toffees that culminated in a Calvert-Lewin equaliser. A nervy end to the game was dramatically capped Leighton Baines converting a 91st minute, stoppage time penalty that gives Everton only their third win of the campaign. The Toffees may have turned an important corner though, and could build some momentum that could carry them up the table and away from the relegation zone; which they’re only two points away from at present.
Another ill-timed international break will inflict an intermission on all Premier League fans. The action will resume with a massive grudge match when Arsenal host high flying neighbours Tottenham at the Emirates on the 18th with November, where city pride will be at stake as one of the most fiercely contested London derbies plays out. It’s an opportunity for Arsenal to get within a single point of Spurs should they manage a victory.
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