THT brings to you a review of all the action from week 18 of the Premier League as Manchester United travelled to Hull City, Chelsea hosted Swansea, West Ham played Arsenal in the London derby and Liverpool tried to retain the top spot against Manchester City at the Etihad.
While the rest of Europe was taking a break from football, there was top level Premier League action taking place in England. Going into this week’s Boxing Day fixtures 8 points separated the top 8 teams in the division with only 2 points being the difference between Liverpool who were top and Chelsea who were fourth. The action started at the KC Stadium where Hull City played host to champions Manchester United.
Rooney inspires Manchester United to a come from behind win
During the Alex Ferguson era one genuinely feared for the team who took an early lead against Manchester United. That fear factor has been absent so far during the short reign that David Moyes has had. But if events at the KC Stadium are taken into account then this United side are slowly turning the corner and they have one man to thank for helping turn around their fortunes – Wayne Rooney.
As former Red Devil James Chester prodded the Tigers in front and David Meyler doubled the advantage after his weak shot took a heavy deflection to wrong foot David De Gea, many United faithful could be forgiven for wondering whether this match would result in yet another capitulation by their side. They need not have worried as Rooney grabbed the match by the scruff of its neck. He first supplied a pinpoint delivery for Chris Smalling to head home following a free kick on the right. But the best was yet to come. In the 25th minute, following some neat forward play with Danny Welbeck, Rooney hit the sweetest of volleys which had just the right amount of dip and swerve to beat goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
The second half was a lot more sedate as compared to the first. But just as Hull City felt that they had managed to stem the Red tide, United struck again. Tom Cleverley spread the ball out wide to Ashley Young, and he delivered the perfect cross in the danger area, which Chester headed into his own net. Following this goal, Hull cranked up the pressure on United and they were aided in their efforts by the sending off of Antonio Valencia for kicking the ball away in frustration.
Hull should have equalized when Chester found himself clear and fired in a shot which De Gea palmed away. In the end United just managed to cross the finish line in a match which highlighted the importance of Rooney to David Moyes’ side.
Hazard helps Chelsea down Swansea
Jose Mourinho is the master when it comes to one-nil home wins, but even he must surely be getting tired of the profligacy his side seem to be showing in front of goal. He will know that Chelsea might be punished one day for not killing off opponents when they have the chance.
The Portuguese tactician could be seen animatedly raising his arms in frustration as Ivanovic, Ramires and Hazard all had shots blocked in the first fifteen minutes. When the goal finally came it owed a great deal to both Eden Hazard and Swansea centre back Ashley Williams. Receiving the ball on the left following a precise ball from Ashley Cole, the Belgian international cut inside weaving past Jordi Amat before unleashing a right-footed shot which the Swansea goalkeeper could have saved if he were not impeded by an attempted block by Ashley Williams.
The remainder of the first half saw more spurned chances by Chelsea and more frustration for Mourinho. The second half saw an even more animated Mourinho as first Eto’o and then Lampard drew good saves from the Swans keeper.
As the game entered the final period the away side seemed to be in the ascendancy, but Chelsea as usual had done just enough to grab another 3 points and stay within striking distance of the top of the table.
Arsenal establish title credentials
There was always a doubt whether Arsenal could come back from going behind away from home in a feisty derby. Well, the Gunners gave a response which would have sent the message that their title challenge is here to stay.
Arsenal were the better side in the first half but created nothing of note. The second half though saw the Hammers take the lead when Wojciech Szczesny spilled a regulation Kevin Nolan shot right into the path of Carlton Cole and the big No. 9 needed no second invitation to give the home side the lead. West Ham sensed that Arsenal were vulnerable at this stage and Joey O’ Brien and Cole should really have doubled the advantage for the Hammers.
Having gone behind and under pressure the Gunners answered all their detractors emphatically as Theo Walcott fired them level following a feeble attempt by goalkeeper Adrian. The second goal arrived soon after, as an unmarked Walcott headed in following a pinpoint cross from Lukas Podolski. Podolski then made certain the 3 points when he fired in from 18 yards out.
This could be the win that finally confirms that the Gunners will be there or thereabouts come the final stretch of this season’s Premier League. They will also know that they have the mentality to fight back from a desperate situation, and whenever doubts start creeping in they can look back to this day and find inspiration.
Manchester City maintain perfect home record
Not many teams get a lot of joy at the Etihad these days as Manchester City have turned their home ground into a fortress on which not only titles are won but dynasties are built.
Although Liverpool could not become the first side to beat City at their impregnable home, they managed to come out of this match with a lot of credit after a performance which was full of grit and resolve. They could have got something from this game if the linesman had not intervened following a perfectly legitimate Raheem Sterling goal.
Liverpool though persisted and got their reward when Philippe Coutinho slid the ball into an empty net following good work from Sterling and Suarez. Manchester City responded to the goal like champions do and equalized within 7 minutes when captain Vincent Kompany headed in from a corner. This was the Belgian’s second goal in two games.
City then took the lead when Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet palmed an innocuous shot into the goal. Liverpool had chances to equalize but City held on due to fine work from Joe Hart in goal and some woeful finishing from the Anfield-based side.
Liverpool finished this match with their pride intact but must soon start winning these matches if they are to win their first tile in 24 years.
Round up of all the Action
- Hull City 2-3 Manchester United
- Aston Villa 0-1 Crystal Palace
- Cardiff 0-3 Southampton
- Chelsea 1-0 Swansea
- Everton 0-1 Sunderland
- Newcastle 5-1 Stoke City
- Norwich City 1-2 Fulham
- Tottenham 1-1 West Brom
- West Ham 1-3 Arsenal
- Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool