Everton 1-0 Stoke City: Given misfortune hands hosts victory

27 Aug 2016 17:00:30
The veteran saw Leighton Baines’ penalty smash against the post and into the net off his own head, and it was the only goal of the game as Lukaku failed to trouble the scorers

Everton continued their unbeaten start to life under Ronald Koeman with a 1-0 Premier League win over Stoke City at Goodison Park.

Koeman’s men were in the ascendancy for long periods and worthy of the points, even if the decisive goal arrived in controversial and fortuitous circumstances.

Referee Michael Oliver felt Phil Bardsley’s contact with Ashley Williams on a dash towards a near-post corner was enough to merit a penalty, presenting Leighton Baines with a golden opportunity to put Everton ahead.

The left-back has produced better attempts from 12 yards and veteran Stoke goalkeeper Shay Given sprung to his left to tip the ball against the base of his left post, only for it to cannon back into his head and in.

As he did after last weekend’s 4-1 home loss to Manchester City, Stoke boss Mark Hughes is likely to lament the official’s decision, but this was another uninspired showing from his team, who have a solitary point against their name having won just two of their final 10 matches last season

Everton, who handed full Premier League debuts to recent arrivals Williams and Yannick Bolasie, started on the front foot as Kevin Mirallas shimmied in from the right to call Given into action with an early drive.

Ryan Shawcross allowed Romelu Lukaku to dart in behind him on to Williams’ long ball, but the Stoke captain atoned for his lapse by clearing the resulting shot off the line.

Stoke required a more acrobatic clearance in the 24th minute to deny Williams, with Peter Crouch’s long limbs coming in handy to hook a goal-bound header to safety.

Ross Barkley and Mirallas combined to create that chance from a short corner and the duo linked up once more for the Belgium international to engineer space before pivoting to blast a shot that Given pushed over.

Mason Holgate flashed a delivery across the six-yard box five minutes before the break, just beyond the on-rushing Barkley as Everton again missed out on the goal their endeavours deserved.

Lukaku, making a first Premier League start of the season after going 12 matches without scoring for Everton, almost ended his lengthy drought in the 49th minute – combining with Holgate before being denied by a brilliant Shawcross block.

But double misfortune then struck for the visitors, when Bardsley and Williams came together at the resulting corner and the luckless Given failed to keep out Baines’ spot-kick.

Goalkeeper and crossbar proved a more favourable combination for the home faithful in the 58th minute when Marko Arnautovic bundled into space in the Everton box, but Maarten Stekelenburg got enough of a touch for the ball to ricochet to safety.

Given parried to thwart Barkley and Stoke’s designs on an equaliser were leaving them increasingly exposed on the break.

England midfielder Barkey – who will have impressed watching national-team boss Sam Allardyce – then drove against the 40-year-old’s legs, while an errant pass from Arnautovic when substitute Jonathan Walters had the goal at his mercy meant Stoke’s best chance of an equaliser went begging.

English Premier League – Week 3 – Betting Odds and Preditions

English Premier League – Week 3 – Betting Odds and Predictions

Bournemouth v Man City

Bournemouth haven’t had the best of starts to the new season with 2 defeats in a row. Unfortunately for them I can’t see this improving at the weekend. Rumors of an already unhappy Defoe won’t help matters although this is the perfect game for him to get his first start. Bournemouth will be living on scraps and no better man than Defoe to finish one of them.

Although City dropped points in the last game they dominated Everton playing much of the game a man down. In 2 games, they have averaged 73% possession. They have a squad full of talent and with the attacking threat they pose this game is only going one way.



Bournemouth (11.3)       Draw (6.5)           Man City (1.33)








Crystal Palace v Swansea

Palace are still getting to grips with a new style of play under new manager De Boer. Thy looked shaky at the back in the first game of the league but improved against Liverpool and but for an unlucky ricochet could have got something. I expect them to get up and running for the season in this one.

For me I think Swansea are in trouble this season. After selling Sigurdsson I can’t see them scoring enough goals this year. In this league that is crucial. Narrow defeat here for Swansea.



Crystal Palace (2.0)        Draw (3.55)         Swansea (4.5)











Huddersfield v Southampton

What a dream start for Huddersfield with 2 wins from 2. Confidence will be sky high for the Premier League newcomers. Expect this to be a real examination of their credentials though and I think they’ll lose their 100% start to the season.

Southampton will be disappointed with dropping points on the first day of the season but after not having scored at home for so long will be relieved to have got 3 goals and 3 points the next day. They’ll fancy their chances in this one.



Huddersfield (4.05)        Draw (3.4)           Southampton (2.15)









Newcastle v West Ham

Both teams have had poor starts to the season. The worrying thing for Newcastle is that their own manager has come out and said they are not ready for the Premier League. This may be true but it puts pressure on controversial owner Mike Ashley to provide funds before the close of the window. I think that was the main point of that comment. Newcastle will do well to get anything from this game.

West Ham looked slightly better in their last game but some stupid mistakes at the back from very experienced players let them down. If they can sort that out then they have a chance especially with Hernandez up front. This guy scores goals



Newcastle (2.4)                Draw (3.5)           West Ham (3.28)









Watford v Brighton

Watford have started the season well and will certainly fancy their chances of another win here. Although early days the spread of goals is a good sign, 5 goals so far from 5 different players.

On the other hand, Brighton have failed to score in their first 2 games of the season.



Watford (2.05)  Draw (3.5)           Brighton (4.5)










Man United v Leicester

Mourinho looks happy again. Mourinho wins the league in his second season in charge doesn’t he? United look clinical and powerful.  8 goals in 2 games, none conceded. Everything points to another win for United. Anything less than a serious title challenge this year will be deemed a failure.

This is the Premier League though and it won’t be all one way traffic. Leicester will sit deep and look to punish United on the counter. With players like Vardy and Mahrez (if he stays), Leicester will always have a chance.



Man United (1.33)           Draw (5.8)           Leicester (14)











Chelsea v Everton

Don’t believe Chelsea are in crisis. It’s been 2 games! Yes the first was a disastrous start to the season but they bounced back and showed why they are defending champions with that win against Tottenham. They will only get better with Hazard still to come back and one or two from injuries and suspensions.

Everton have captured the imagination of almost everyone with the players they have bought and the romance of Rooney coming back to Goodison. You have to admire the work they have done but I think they will find out here that there is still is still some distance between them and the big boys.



Chelsea (1.47)   Draw (4.7)           Everton (8.75)









West Brom v Stoke

West Brom will be looking for 3 wins in a row. Tony Pulis loves a 1-0 win with both his opening 2 wins coming from the same score line. Don’t back against the same again here. He has not lost to Stoke in any of his previous 5 matches either.

Stoke are one of those teams where we are still not sure what to make of them. If they can play like they did against Arsenal last time out they’ll get a result but usually they only up their game when they play the Gunners though. Maybe new boy Jese Rodriguez can inspire them.



West Brom (2.45)            Draw (3.16)        Stoke (3.5)










Liverpool v Arsenal

The game of the weekend. Going on recent meetings with these two teams I would expect to see goals. Liverpool are so good going forward, pace and creativity galore but on the back foot not so good. The defence and goalkeeper are liable to make mistakes. Fancy Arsenal to score a few.

Looks like same old Arsenal again this season. Sanchez is available for this one but where’s his head at, big risk to throw him in although he is world class. Can’t see this defence keeping out Liverpool’s attack and this could be a cracker of a game.



Liverpool (2.2)  Draw (3.75)         Arsenal (3.5)









Tottenham v Burnley

Tottenham at home against Burnley would normally be bread and butter. Tottenham in Wembley is not such a guarantee. It shouldn’t matter with the quality of player they have on the pitch so I’m going for a home win and also for Harry Kane to break his August goal draught in the Premier League.

Burnley shocked everyone with a sensational away win last time out in London against Chelsea. It won’t happen this time round. Last season their away form was awful but their home form was brilliant. They’ve started this season in the opposite way. Back to reality after this one with an away defeat.



Tottenham (1.33)             Draw (7)               Burnley (15.5)




Stoke 2-0 Middlesbrough: Arnautovic double sinks struggling Teesiders

4 Mar 2017
Aitor Karanka’s men will finish the weekend in the bottom three after a toothless display at the bet365 stadium, thanks to two goals from the Austrian

Marko Arnautovic netted his first home Premier League goals since April 2016 as a first-half double helped Stoke City return to winning ways by despatching struggling Middlesbrough 2-0.

Austria forward Arnautovic had not scored in front of his own fans in the top flight in 11 months prior to Saturday’s clash at the bet365 Stadium, but he provided the rare moments of quality in what was a scrappy encounter.

Having already set up a gilt-edged chance for Ramadan Sobhi, Arnautovic took matters into his own hands after 29 minutes with a sublime turn and finish, before bundling home his second prior to the interval.

Arnautovic’s afternoon came to a premature end through injury midway through the second half, though it mattered little as Aitor Karanka’s visiting side failed to find a way back into the contest, with Ben Gibson seeing a strike ruled out for offside.

The victory sees Stoke extend their unbeaten run at home to eight league matches, while Middlesbrough drop into the relegation zone, with fellow strugglers Crystal Palace and Leicester City both claiming vital points elsewhere.

Middlesbrough were handed a blow early on in a physical contest, Daniel Ayala hobbling off with an apparent hamstring injury just six minutes in.

That change seemed to unsettle the Middlesbrough defence and Stoke should have taken advantage 14 minutes in.

Joe Allen and Arnautovic combined brilliantly to tee-up Sobhi, but the youngster could only rattle the woodwork from point-blank range.

Middlesbrough were exposed again soon after, Victor Valdes reacting instinctively to deny Peter Crouch following sloppy play from Grant Leadbitter.

But the away team’s luck ran out just prior to the half-hour mark, Arnautovic getting the better of both George Friend and Valdes with a series of exquisite touches before thumping home from a tight angle.

And he wasted little time in adding to his tally, with slack Middlesbrough defending allowing the Austrian to smuggle in Stoke’s second three minutes before half-time, moments after Leadbitter had gone close at the other end.

Arnautovic should have turned provider following the restart, but after engineering space with another neat turn, he failed to pick out Sobhi with a disappointing cross.

Gibson thought he had ended Middlesbrough’s three-game goal drought in the league when he slotted home on the hour mark, but it was swiftly disallowed.

While Middlesbrough rallied somewhat – Gaston Ramirez trying his luck from range with a stinging strike – Stoke were forced into a change, Mark Hughes taking no risks with Arnautovic after the winger picked up a knock.

Despite Middlesbrough’s tame attack, Karanka chose not to introduce Alvaro Negredo from the bench as the game wore on, and the visitors created little going forward.

Indeed, it was Stoke who almost added gloss to the victory late on, Valdes on top form to deny both Sobhi and Ibrahim Afellay as Middlesbrough slumped to a 13th successive away league game without a win.


Tottenham 2 Southampton 1: Spurs march on without injured Kane

19 Mar 2017
Despite a nervy second half, Tottenham won without Harry Kane on Sunday as a spirited Southampton side came up short on the road.

Tottenham continued their fine Premier League home run without injured star Harry Kane as they saw off Southampton 2-1 in a tight contest at White Hart Lane.

Kane had hobbled out of Spurs’ FA Cup win over Millwall a week earlier, but, in his absence, Mauricio Pochettino’s side edged to a 10th straight league victory on home turf with goals from Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.

While Southampton were the last visiting team to win a top-flight game at the Lane – in the closing weeks of last season – they lost their own in-form forward, Manolo Gabbiadini, to injury after half an hour of this clash, having earlier fallen behind to Eriksen’s fine strike.

Alli then tucked away a penalty to secure a comfortable half-time lead for Tottenham, but James Ward-Prowse celebrated the week of his first senior England call-up with a 52nd-minute strike to give the visitors hope.

A previously confident Spurs side faced a nervy second half and failed to reassert their dominance as Southampton sought a second goal, but the equaliser did not arrive as Claude Puel’s men failed to turn their momentum into genuine chances.

Another three points consolidated second place in the table for Tottenham, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea, with top-four rivals Manchester City and Liverpool facing off later in the day.

Eriksen’s fine pass created an early opportunity for Son Heung-min to open the scoring, but the forward was denied impressively by Fraser Forster after running clear of the visiting defence.

And, after 14 minutes, Eriksen showed his class again to fire Spurs in front.

Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal, the Denmark international pushed the ball onto his left foot and sent a firm strike arrowing beyond Forster into the bottom-left corner.

Chances continued to come Tottenham’s way, with Alli scuffing straight at Forster, who was then required to make an instinctive, clawing stop to keep out Toby Alderweireld’s header.

Southampton enjoyed some openings of their own, though, as Oriol Romeu and Gabbiadini both fizzed shots wide of the left-hand post, while Dusan Tadic was spared by an erroneous flag from the linesman as he lashed over the top after Ryan Bertrand had kept the ball in at the byline.

But, within seconds of Gabbiadini’s withdrawal, the visitors were hit by a further blow as Alli was tripped in the area by Steven Davis and coolly converted the penalty himself.
Hugo Lloris saved well from Cedric Soares’ drive in first-half stoppage timr, with Ben Davies then fortunate to avoid censure for an apparent foul on Tadic, but Southampton halved the deficit within seven minutes of the restart.

Bertrand’s left-wing cross was missed by Alderweireld in the middle, but arrived at the back post for Ward-Prowse to control and lash a low finish into the net.

Son sliced wide as Tottenham went back on the offensive, while Lloris gathered Shane Long’s rising strike at the other end.

The visitors kept the pressure on, but they could not forge an opening in the remainder of a scrappy half and Spurs instead came closest to another goal as Forster saved from substitute Vincent Janssen in the final minute.

Key Opta Facts:

– Tottenham’s 10-game winning streak at White Hart Lane is their longest run since October 1987 (14 in a row).
– The only previous top-flight season than Spurs have remained unbeaten at home was 1964-65 (21 games, 0 defeats).
– Since he made his Premier League debut in September 2013, Christian Eriksen has scored more goals from outside the box than any other player in the competition (13).
– Dele Alli has scored in three successive league appearances at White Hart Lane for the first time in his career.
– James Ward-Prowse has scored three goals in 21 Premier League appearances this season; the same tally as he had scored in 107 Premier League appearances before 2016-17.

Middlesbrough 1 Manchester United 3: Valencia adds late gloss after Valdes error

19 Mar 2017
Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard helped Manchester United to a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough that lifted them above Arsenal into fifth place.

Manchester United claimed their 600th Premier League victory with a 3-1 win against managerless Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday.

Marouane Fellaini’s first league goal of the season, a thundering strike from Jesse Lingard and an injury-time Antonio Valencia finish secured maximum points for Jose Mourinho’s side and lifted into fifth place in the table, piling the misery on Boro at the end of a week in which Aitor Karanka lost his job.

Mourinho – whose men are now unbeaten in 18 top-flight matches – had claimed that a draw would be a good result for his side, given their exhaustive exploits in the FA Cup and Europa League this week, and Boro certainly started in the ascendancy against a United side shorn of a number of first-team regulars.

But Fellaini’s 30th-minute header gave the visitors a stranglehold that they never looked likely to relinquish and Lingard’s emphatic strike in the second half left the home side on course for a 14th defeat in 28 league games this season.

Rudy Gestede got a goal back in the closing stages – Boro’s first in 509 minutes of league action – but Valencia pounced on a horror moment for ex-United goalkeeper Victor Valdes to ensure United move to within three points of the Champions League places, having played a game fewer than fourth-placed Liverpool, who face Manchester City later on Sunday.

The pressure is growing on second-bottom Boro, however, with five points now separating them from safety, though they do have a game in hand on Hull City and Swansea City above them.

Valdes’ outing started well as he made a fine low stop to deny Marcus Rashford six minutes into the contest after the young striker raced in behind the defence onto Lingard’s pass.

Boro – guided by stand-in boss Steve Agnew – enjoyed by far the better of the opening exchanges, though, and David de Gea produced a smart save to his left to prevent Gaston Ramirez’s fierce strike from breaking the deadlock.

Valdes proved the home side’s saviour again in the 22nd minute, sticking out a leg to deny Rashford from point-blank range after a superb United move before reacting well to keep out Valencia’s rebound.

United were beginning to cause real problems for the home defence and Fellaini took full advantage when the next chance came his way. Ashley Young curled a deep cross towards the far post from the right and the Belgium international escaped Fabio before nodding the ball high into Valdes’ net.

Boro began the second half in much the same fashion as they did the first, enjoying close to 57 per cent of the possession, but without finding a way to cause any trouble for De Gea, with United’s defence staying resolute.

Mourinho’s side continued to look a threat on the break, with Rashford and Valencia twice causing panic in the Boro box with runs down the right, and it was from another counter-attack that Lingard doubled the lead just past the hour mark.

Collecting Juan Mata’s pass, Lingard raced unchallenged through the middle of the home side’s half before blasting a shot from 20 yards that swerved beyond the static Valdes and into the top-right corner.

Agnew threw on Gestede to give Alvaro Negredo some support and the striker gave his side a lifeline when he capitalised on Chris Smalling’s error to slot past De Gea from close range.

Boro laid siege to United’s goal late on, but Valencia made the points safe in the dying seconds when Valdes slipped as he prepared to clear a backpass, allowing the United full-back the simple task of finishing into an empty net – much to the delight of Mourinho as the Portuguese made his way down the tunnel.

Manchester City 1 Liverpool 1: Aguero cancels out Milner penalty in thrilling draw

19 Mar 2017
Manchester City recovered from their Champions League exit by coming from behind to draw 1-1 against Liverpool on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero’s equaliser claimed a vital point for Manchester City, who remain above Liverpool in third in the Premier League after the sides drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

City were looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s surprise Champions League exit at Monaco and they had to come from behind to extend their unbeaten league run to seven games.

James Milner opened the scoring from the spot shortly after half-time, picking out Willy Caballero’s bottom-right corner to score his seventh penalty of the season on his Etihad return.

John Stones should have converted a free header as a substandard City tried to improve a dire head-to-head record against Liverpool that had seen them lose five of the previous six meetings between the sides.

Aguero equalised for City with a close-range finish from Kevin De Bruyne’s right-wing cross and the Belgian hit the post as Pep Guardiola’s side cranked up the pressure in search of a winner.

But it was Adam Lallana who should have scored the decisive goal, the England international somehow mishitting his shot from eight yards after sublime Liverpool build-up play as both teams lost ground on Tottenham in the race for the second – with Manchester United now just four points behind Jurgen Klopp’s fourth-placed side.
Simon Mignolet blocked Leroy Sane’s cross-shot with his left boot after 19 minutes, David Silva slicing the rebound over the crossbar to spurn City’s first real chance of the game.

Penalty appeals were rejected at both ends, with Aguero challenged by Joel Matip as the Argentine tried to connect with Fernandinho’s low cross, before Sadio Mane collided with Nicolas Otamendi as he shaped to shoot.

Matip headed Milner’s deep free-kick wide after 37 minutes and the game finally exploded into life before the interval.

Milner had to make a brilliant challenge to stop Raheem Sterling from tapping home Silva’s cross, with Fernandinho unable to convert at the back post, before Caballero palmed Roberto Firmino’s curled shot over his crossbar.

Caballero elected to punch the resulting corner but he could only pick out Lallana, whose powerful volley was beaten away by the goalkeeper.

Chances continued to flow in the second half, with Mane’s goal-bound effort deflected over by a Stones block, but Liverpool were awarded a penalty when Clichy clumsily bundled over Firmino.

Former City player Milner tucked away the spot-kick, sending Caballero the wrong way to put the visitors in front, extending City’s run without a clean sheet against Liverpool to 13 games.

Stones had a big chance to rapidly respond for City but he headed De Bruyne’s corner wide. Caballero then did well to save from Firmino after a superb Philippe Coutinho reverse pass sent his fellow Brazilian into the box.

But after 68 minutes City levelled the scores when Aguero tucked away De Bruyne’s cross to continue his record of scoring in all five of his home league games against Liverpool.
Aguero’s one-two with Sane freed the striker for a chance to complete the turnaround but he could not find a finish after losing his balance, De Bruyne slamming the loose ball against the woodwork, then Lallana’s opportunity to claim the points arrived.

Emre Can and Firmino combined beautifully to set Lallana up for a golden chance but the midfielder failed to convert and despite a breathless finale – with Aguero unable to turn in Silva’s centre and blazing over De Bruyne’s chipped cross – the points were shared.

Key Opta stats:

– Manchester City have gone seven consecutive games without defeat in the Premier League (W4 D3 L0); their longest streak in the competition under Pep Guardiola.
– Liverpool have now won more points in 10 games against the top six this season (20) than they have in 10 games against the bottom six (19).
– James Milner now holds the record for the most Premier League games scored in without losing (47 Games: W37 D10 L0).
– Only Gylfi Sigurdsson (11) has made more assists than Kevin De Bruyne (10) in the Premier League this season. The Belgian has assisted Aguero more times than any other player this term (3).

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.