Day: March 18, 2017

West Ham 2 Leicester City 3: Late onslaught unable to burst Shakespeare’s bubble

18 Mar 2017
Leicester City withstood significant late pressure to beat West Ham 3-2 and continue Craig Shakespeare’s perfect start as manager.

The post-Claudio Ranieri feel-good factor at Leicester City showed no sign of letting up as they beat West Ham 3-2 in a thriller at London Stadium to continue Craig Shakespeare’s 100 per cent start as the Premier League champions’ manager.

Tuesday’s intense 2-0 win over Sevilla that secured passage to the Champions League quarter-finals did appear to impact their laboured second-half performance, but a sprightly start and dogged defending towards the end were ultimately crucial as Leicester clinched their first away league win of the season.

They picked up right where they left off on Tuesday with a remarkable start to go two goals up within seven minutes – Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth stunning the hosts.

West Ham soon got themselves a lifeline through a fine Manuel Lanzini free-kick, though Leicester re-established a two-goal lead late in the first half through Jamie Vardy.

But West Ham responded once more as they pulled another one back just after the hour mark – Andre Ayew nodding in from close range as the home side looked to ensure a tense ending for Leicester.

Kasper Schmeichel was at his very best to make a vital late save, while an awful Ayew miss let Leicester off the hook and saw the match slip away from West Ham.

Any suggestions of Leicester weariness following their Champions League exploits were swiftly put to bed during a ferocious start.

There was a hint of fortune about their fifth-minute opener, as Mahrez cut in from the right and saw his left-footed cross sail all the way into the bottom-left corner.

But there was nothing fortuitous about their second just three minutes later.

Marc Albrighton nudged a short free-kick to Mahrez, before receiving it back courtesy of a disguised pass from the Algerian that took West Ham by surprise, and the former Aston Villa midfielder’s brilliant lofted ball with the outside of his right foot picked out Huth for an easy headed finish.

West Ham’s situation was made even worse by Winston Reid’s forced withdrawal with a suspected thigh problem in the 18th minute.

They pulled one back a few moments later, though, Lanzini finding the top-left corner from an exquisite 20-yard free-kick.

But their joy was short-lived, as Vardy smashed home from close range after Mahrez’s corner fell kindly to him just before the break.

Leicester reverted to the counter-attacking setup that served them so well last season when they came back out for the second half.

And it almost brought about a fourth goal just before the hour – Shinji Okazaki pouncing on a loose ball before feeding Vardy through on goal, only for the England striker to slice wide under pressure from Darren Randolph.

West Ham then made the most of that let-off, as Ayew steered in from close range after Andy Carroll headed a Lanzini cross back into the danger zone.

Carroll was involved again 14 minutes from time, forcing Schmeichel into a marvellous save down to his left after a bullet header.

Ayew was then guilty of a terrible miss as he blazed over when one-on-one with Schmeichel, before Cheikhou Kouyate’s effort from six yards out amid a goalmouth scramble was kept out by a combination of Leicester defenders.

Schmeichel came to the rescue again in stoppage time, rushing out to deny Carroll from point-blank range as the desperate champions just about held on to a hard-fought win to move six points clear of the relegation zone.

Key Opta Stats:

– Craig Shakespeare is the first manager in Premier League history to have his side score three-plus goals in his first three games in the competition.
– West Ham are without a win in four Premier League home games (D1 L3) for the first time since January 2014.
– Riyad Mahrez has scored as many PL goals in three games under Craig Shakespeare, as he had in his final 22 under Claudio Ranieri.
– Marc Albrighton has had a hand in three goals in his last four appearances for Leicester in all competitions, as many as in his previous 27.
– Jamie Vardy scored and assisted in a league game for the first time since March 2015 (v Spurs).
– Andre Ayew has been directly involved in a goal in four consecutive league games for the first time ever in Europe’s big five leagues (3 goals, 1 assist).

West Brom 3 Arsenal 1: Dawson wings in with double to increase Wenger woe

18 Mar 2017
Craig Dawson headed a goal in each half either side of Hal Robson-Kanu’s strike as West Brom ensured Arsenal’s dismal form went on.

West Brom defender Craig Dawson netted a headed brace to pile further pressure on Arsene Wenger as Arsenal slumped to an abject 3-1 defeat at The Hawthorns.

Dawson was left unmarked to head home from in-swinging corners in each half, condemning the Gunners to a fourth defeat in their past five Premier League outings.

Alexis Sanchez fired a 15th-minute equaliser – his 22nd goal in all competitions this season – but Albion substitute Hal Robson-Kanu, released by the Gunners as a schoolboy, restored the lead 10 minutes after half-time and just 75 seconds after coming on, as Arsenal protested in vain for offside against James McClean.

David Ospina, on in goal following a first-half injury to Petr Cech, was to blame irrespective of the visitors’ complaints and it capped a miserable afternoon for Wenger, after the opening was played out amid a bizarre backdrop of light aircraft slogans.

A plane sporting a banner urging Wenger to stand down emerged at kick-off, although another trailing the slogan “In Arsene we trust” appeared overhead around the time Sanchez restored parity.

The afternoon would get no better for Arsenal’s 67-year-old manager, whose prospects of Champions League qualification are in grave danger.

Liverpool are five points better off in fourth, while sixth-placed Manchester United can leapfrog them with victory at Middlesbrough on Sunday.

The expected pattern of Arsenal dominating possession was established early but Tony Pulis’ men hit the front in the 12th minute.

Cech beat a firmly hit shot from McClean behind but Dawson was allowed a free run at Nacer Chadli’s delivery from the left to glance home.

However, the two players involved in the Albion goal were culpable when Arsenal pulled swiftly level.

Right-back Dawson was drawn into the area, leaving space for Granit Xhaka to pick out Sanchez behind Chadli with a lofted pass and the Chile star chested down to smash in via the underside of the crossbar from eight yards.

Salomon Rondon, without a goal since a hat-trick against Swansea City in December, dragged wide as he sought to restore West Brom’s lead, while Ben Foster saved superbly to deny Aaron Ramsey and Allan Nyom did enough to stop Theo Walcott from converting the rebound.

Foster’s opposite number Cech was similarly impressive in thwarting Darren Fletcher in the 34th minute but the veteran goalkeeper limped out of the action before half-time due to an apparent calf problem.

Rondon got above Laurent Koscielny to glance wide from Brunt’s cross in the 51st minute, shortly before he made way for Robson-Kanu to make an instant impact.

McClean looked to get on the end of Chadli’s lofted pass and was beaten to it by Ospina, but the Arsenal keeper inexplicably neglected to use his hands and bundled the ball into Robson-Kanu’s path.

The Wales striker prodded into an unguarded net, with McClean stepping over the ball in an offside position to let it run in.

Danny Welbeck headed a 65th-minute corner against the bar for Arsenal before West Brom broke and Ospina’s inauspicious outing continued.

The Colombia international was hesitant in coming from his line to block Robson-Kanu and fell face first as Chadli gathered the rebound, grateful to look up and see Shkodran Mustafi block on the line.

But Ospina would be dreadfully exposed like Cech before him when McClean sent in a right-wing corner with 15 minutes to play – Dawson nodding in and colliding with the similarly unmarked Jonny Evans before wheeling away in celebration.

“Wenger Out” banners of a more conventional kind then became increasingly visible as an entirely different mood gripped the away end.

Key Opta stats:

– Arsenal have lost four out of five Premier League games for the first time since April 1995.
– West Brom have scored a league-high 14 Premier League goals from corners this season.
– Craig Dawson has scored three goals in his last four Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 55.
– Alexis Sanchez has been involved in 27 PL goals this season (18 goals, nine assists) – more than any other player in the competition.
– Overall, Sanchez has now been involved in 100 goals for the Gunners in all competitions, scoring 64 and assisting 36

Sunderland 0 Burnley 0: Hosts’ goal drought goes on

18 Mar 2017
Sunderland are seven points adrift of safety after failing to break down away-day strugglers Burnley at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland failed to score for the fourth consecutive match as a 0-0 home draw against Burnley moved them a step closer to relegation from the Premier League.

Billy Jones missed the hosts’ best opportunity with a second-half header as David Moyes’ men halted a three-match losing streak, but again failed to find the net.

Bottom-of-the table Sunderland now sit further away from safety – a seven-point gap after Crystal Palace’s win over Watford – and have just 10 games left if they are to launch another great escape.

Burnley themselves are struggling for form and this was their sixth straight match without a victory, but Sean Dyche will see what is just a third away point of the season as a positive.

The visitors had dominated the first half – Ashley Barnes missing from a great opening – before fading after the break.

However, they did have a penalty claim rejected in each half as they remained 12th in the table and increased their cushion over the relegation places to eight points.

Burnley threatened first when Barnes surged clear from Andre Gray’s pass, but was unable to chip Jordan Pickford after the Sunderland goalkeeper made an ill-advised decision to race off his line.

The visitors then had claims for a penalty turned down when George Boyd’s fierce strike was blocked by the arm of Darron Gibson from close range.

Ben Mee had to leave the field for treatment after being struck by the elbow of Adnan Januzaj and Sunderland threatened for the first time shortly after the defender’s return, Gibson curling a 20-yard effort just over.

But Burnley dominated the first half and it was they who came closest to a goal before the break, Barnes somehow failing to hit the target from six yards after Scott Arfield’s strike fell into his path.

Sunderland wasted a good opportunity shortly after the restart, Fabio Borini firing straight at Tom Heaton after Bryan Oviedo’s throughball created the opportunity.

The hosts continued to press when Januzaj’s bouncing volley was impressively saved by a diving Heaton before Sebastian Larsson shot over from Oviedo’s follow-up cross.

Burnley had their second major penalty claim of the match rejected just after the hour-mark when Barnes went down under pressure from Oviedo during a scramble in front of goal.

That should have been a costly moment for the visitors when Sunderland raced down the other end, but Jones wasted a glorious chance, heading wide from inside the six-yard box having been found by a magnificent right-wing cross from Larsson.

Januzaj fired wide as the match continued to hang in the balance, with Sam Vokes brought on for Burnley, while Didier Ndong and Wahbi Khazri entered the fray for the home side.

Burnley came closest to a dramatic late winner, Vokes’ low strike impressively kept out by a one-handed Pickford save as Dyche’s men were denied a first top-flight away win of the season, while Heaton denied Borini at the other end in stoppage time.

Key Opta stats:

– Sunderland failed to score in a Premier League game for the 13th time this season – no side has failed to find the net more often.
– The Clarets kept only their second clean sheet on the road in the Premier League this season, and first in 11 games since a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in October.
– The Black Cats have failed to score in four consecutive home Premier League games for the first time since December 2005.
– Burnley remain the only Premier League side this season yet to win away from home.
– Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford played more passes (48) and had more touches (59) than any other Sunderland player in this game.

Stoke City 1 Chelsea 2: Late Cahill strike sends Blues 13 points clear

18 Mar 2017
A fiery encounter between Stoke City and Chelsea at the bet365 Stadium was settle by Gary Cahill’s strike three minutes from time.

Gary Cahill’s 87th-minute effort sent Chelsea 13 points clear at the Premier League summit with a 2-1 victory over Stoke City in a tempestuous encounter at the bet365 Stadium.

Chelsea looked set to miss the chance to extend their advantage over the chasing pack, but Cahill atoned for giving away a penalty by pouncing after a tactical switch from Antonio Conte to pile more pressure on Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool – all of whom play on Sunday.

With the teams level after 70 minutes, Conte – who was without star forward Eden Hazard due to a reported muscle injury – changed his much-vaunted 3-4-3 formation to a 4-2-3-1 and Chelsea responded by upping the pressure to force a late winner.

The Blues led after 13 minutes when Willian caught Lee Grant out with a near-post free-kick for his first top-flight goal since scoring a double in the reverse of this fixture in December.

After having a goal ruled out for Saido Berahino’s shove on Cesar Azpilicueta, Stoke were awarded a soft penalty when Cahill pushed Johnathan Walters to ground – the forward slamming the spot-kick beyond Thibaut Courtois.

Marcos Alonso rattled the crossbar before Conte made his tactical move and it played out perfectly for the Italian thanks to Cahill’s late intervention, while Stoke’s misery was compounded when Phil Bardsley was sent off for a second bookable offence in second-half stoppage time.

Chelsea led early on after Willian’s free-kick beat Grant, who dived down to his near post and got a hand to the ball but failed to stop it finding the back of the net.

The visitors’ dominance continued unchecked and they should have moved two up in the 30th minute, Victor Moses scooping the ball into the box for Alonso, who drilled his shot straight at Grant.

Stoke thought they had equalised when Bruno Martins Indi headed home, but the goal was ruled out as Berahino – standing in an offside position – pushed Azpilicueta away from the ball.

The hosts did not have to wait long for another chance, though. Cahill sent Walters tumbling and referee Taylor pointed to the spot, the Republic of Ireland international drilling home the penalty himself.

Diego Costa was his usual fiery self and was involved in heated clashes with Ryan Shawcross and Bardsley before half-time, the latter earning a yellow card.

Tempers seemingly cooled during the break and Chelsea would have regained the lead in the 66th minute had the bar not come to Stoke’s rescue by keeping Alonso’s brilliantly struck 20-yard free-kick out.

Conte switched to a four-man defence by replacing Moses with Cesc Fabregas for the final 20 minutes and it was a move that paid dividends.

Chelsea upped the pressure and finally broke through when Erik Pieters followed up a lapse in concentration that gifted the visitors a corner by failing to clear David Luiz’s header and Cahill thumped the loose ball home.

Stoke left gaps at the back as they pushed for an equaliser and Costa hit post before Ruben Loftus-Cheek was denied his first goal of the season in stoppage time.

Frustrations then boiled over for Bardsley, who was given a second booking for a clumsy foul on Fabregas, as Chelsea ground out a huge win in the race for the title.

Key Opta stats:

– Chelsea have lost only one of their last 22 Premier League games, winning 19 (D2).
– Gary Cahill is the first Chelsea player to score a goal and concede a penalty in a single Premier League game since Salomon Kalou against West Ham in April 2009.
– Eight of Willian’s last 19 goals for Chelsea in all comps have been from direct free-kicks.
– Cesar Azpilicueta made his 150th Premier League appearance for Chelsea, becoming the first Spaniard to reach this milestone for the Blues.

Everton 4 Hull City 0: Lukaku dominates headlines again with late double

18 Mar 2017
Amid speculation over his future, Romelu Lukaku’s brace helped Everton move into the Premier League top six with a 4-0 win over Hull City.

Romelu Lukaku proved his worth to Everton as he scored twice and set up another as Ronald Koeman’s side moved up into the top six of the Premier League with a 4-0 victory over 10-man Hull City.

Lukaku publically questioned the club’s ambition in the days preceding Saturday’s contest to cast doubt over his Everton future, but the Belgian added the gloss to a convincing victory as he moved top of the league’s scoring charts with a late double at Goodison Park.

Having already teed-up Enner Valencia’s strike, Lukaku took advantage of slack Hull defending to move two clear of Tottenham’s Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot on 21.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin squandered a terrific chance in the reverse fixture in December, but the youngster made no mistake on this occasion as he nudged in Tom Davies’ cross to give Everton the lead early on.

Marco Silva’s side responded well to going behind, but any hopes of a Hull comeback were all-but ended when Tom Huddlestone was dismissed – harshly so – for a lunge on Idrissa Gueye midway through the second half.

Valencia secured the points just over a minute after coming on, with Lukaku adding a quickfire double. Hull remain planted in the relegation zone, while Everton – who face Liverpool after the international break – move level on points with fifth-placed Arsenal.

Despite Lukaku’s reported refusal to sign a new contract, Everton fans showed no hesitation in getting behind the striker as the teams were announced in the pre-match build-up.

But for all of the attention on the Belgian, it was Lukaku’s strike partner Calvert-Lewin who opened the scoring after nine minutes.

Ross Barkley and Davies combined brilliantly to set-up the 20-year-old, who duly tucked home to open his Premier League account.

Calvert-Lewin went close to a second before Lukaku looked to have responded perfectly to his critics when he found the net, only for a late offside flag to deny the former Chelsea man his 20th league goal of the season.

Gareth Barry replaced the injured Morgan Schneiderlin on the half-hour mark, and the veteran nearly made an immediate impact with a cross into Ashley Williams, who headed straight at Eldin Jakupovic.

Hull looked bright after the restart, with Everton lacking the zip and guile that was present in the opening stages, though Lukaku went close with a rasping strike.

Lukaku, desperate to reinforce his comments with a goal worthy of a world-class talent, forced Jakupovic into a fine save soon after, while Andy Robertson should have done better with a close-range volley at the other end.

But as Hull looked to be building a head of steam, they were reduced to 10 men – Huddlestone receiving a straight red card after diving in on Gueye.

Everton soon made their numerical advantage pay – Lukaku teeing-up Valencia with a delightful flick – the West Ham-loanee proceeding to thump a precise finish into the bottom-left corner.

Valencia returned the favour in the 91st minute, sliding a throughball into Lukaku who confidently despatched past Jakupovic. Lukaku was not finished there, though, doubling his tally in the final minute of stoppage time after latching onto Omar Elabdellaoui’s awful back-pass.

Key Opta stats:

– Everton have won six successive Premier League games at Goodison Park for the first time since April 2014 (7 wins).
– Romelu Lukaku (21) became the first Everton player to reach 20+ league goals in a single season since Gary Lineker in 1985-86 (30 goals).
– Lukaku is the fourth player in Premier League history to score 80+ goals in the competition before turning 24 years old (Also Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney).
– Enner Valencia scored just 69 seconds after coming off the bench for Everton.
– No team has been shown more Premier League red cards this season than Hull City (4) – Man City and West Ham also with four.

Crystal Palace 1 Watford 0: Resurgent Eagles make it three on the bounce thanks to Deeney own goal

18 Mar 2017
An own goal from Troy Deeney helped Crystal Palace to an important 1-0 win over Watford in the battle against Premier League relegation.

Resurgent Crystal Palace chalked up a third consecutive Premier League victory to move four points clear of the relegation zone as a Troy Deeney own goal was enough to beat Watford 1-0 on Saturday.

Back-to-back league wins over Middlesbrough and West Brom had helped move Palace out of the bottom three and Sam Allardyce’s men continued their revival at Selhurst Park, albeit with a little helping hand from Deeney.

Palace had appeared the more dangerous side in a match between two evenly matched teams with Wilfried Zaha looking particularly threatening for the Eagles.

And they got their reward when Deeney, who earned a 1-1 draw for Watford in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, headed past Heurelho Gomes when attempting a clearance in the 68th minute.

The result leaves Palace two places and four points clear of Hull City, who are 18th, with a game in hand, while Watford may still be throwing nervous glances at the bottom three, albeit they have a seven-point buffer with 10 games to go.

Palace made an encouraging start to the game and Zaha felt he should have been awarded a penalty following a challenge from Craig Cathcart, while Mamadou Sakho headed over from a corner shortly after.

Yohan Cabaye was next to threaten for the Eagles after more good work from Zaha down the left, but the Frenchman was unfortunate to see his shot hit the leg of a Watford defender as it bounced wide for a corner.

Watford, meanwhile, struggled to create any chances of note, with M’Baye Niang’s opportunistic long-range strike straight at goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and Valon Behrami’s wayward volley their only attempts before the break.

The visitors improved somewhat after half-time and Etienne Capoue tried his luck early on, blasting a shot over the bar from a dangerous position just outside the box.

Palace remained the more dangerous team, though, and they came close to opening the scoring when Zaha fired just over from a narrow angle after being set up by Andros Townsend.

But Palace did make the breakthrough with just over 20 minutes to play. Cabaye whipped a free-kick in from the left and Deeney’s header beat Gomes at the near post, the ball striking the upright on its way home.

Christian Benteke should perhaps have put the match to bed in the closing stages of the game, but his miss would matter little in the end as Palace saw out the game to take the three points.

Key Opta stats:

– Crystal Palace are only the fourth team since 2003-04 to win a Premier League game without directing a single shot on target.
– Watford have failed to find the back of the net in five of their last seven top-flight games on the road.
– Only Sunderland (22) have failed to score a first-half goal in more Premier League games this season than Crystal Palace (21, level with Hull).

Bournemouth 2 Swansea City 0: Afobe seals big step towards safety

Bournemouth took a huge step towards Premier League safety by recording a vital home win over struggling Swansea City.

Benik Afobe was key as Bournemouth recorded a 2-0 victory over Swansea City at the Vitality Stadium that opened up a nine-point gap on the relegation zone and kept their opponents in the thick of the Premier League survival battle.

Alfie Mawson scored a first-half own goal as he tried to block Afobe’s shot.

And Afobe went on to score Bournemouth’s second 18 minutes from time, his fourth league goal of the season settling a contest largely lacking goalmouth drama.

After a slow start to 2017, Bournemouth have now collected seven points from a possible nine, this win moving them up to 11th with a sizeable cushion over the bottom three.

Swansea, meanwhile, have lost four straight away games and stay 17th, just three points clear of third-bottom Hull City, who beat them last week.

Bournemouth have now recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time in over a year.

Eddie Howe’s side won the reverse fixture on New Year’s Eve 3-0 and two of the scorers from the game came close early on, Marcus Fraser firing wide before Afobe’s header just missed the target.

At the other end, Gylfi Sigurdsson volleyed over before Joshua King was inches away from scoring an own goal as he tried to head clear the Iceland international’s free-kick.

Tom Carroll had a penalty claim denied when his cross struck the raised arm of Marc Pugh from close range, and Swansea’s frustration increased when the hosts took a 31st-minute lead.

Federico Fernandez charged out of defence, leaving space for King and Pugh to combine with Afobe, whose low shot from outside the area took a huge deflection off Mawson to beat Lukasz Fabianski, the Swansea defender credited with an own goal.

After Swansea lost possession early in the second half, Dan Gosling tested Fabianski from 25 yards having been set up by King.

Fabianski was called upon again to deny Fraser as Bournemouth attempted to find a second goal.

Swansea were offering little going forward after the break, Sigurdsson striking a free-kick straight into the wall, prompting Paul Clement to bring on Luciano Narsingh and Wayne Routledge.

But Bournemouth soon made sure of the points, Afobe latching on to a throughball from strike partner King that took Mawson out of the game and beating Fabianski with an impressive low finish in off the far post.

It was almost three when Fabianski got down sharply to save a thumping header from King, but Bournemouth were unconcerned by that as they comfortably held on and took a huge step towards survival.

Key Opta:

– Bournemouth are unbeaten in three Premier League games (W2 D1) for the first time since October (4 games).
– Swansea have kept just one clean sheet in their last 14 games and have shipped a league-high 63 goals overall this season.
– The Cherries have scored two or more goals in seven of their last eight games against Swansea.
– Swansea have netted 10 own-goals in the league over the course of the last two seasons, more than any other side in the Football League in that period.
– Josh King has been directly involved in eight goals in his last six Premier League games (7 goals, 1 assist).