Leicester City 0-2 Everton
This year’s Boxing Day fixtures left a lot to be desired in terms of matchups, but one that stood out from the start had to be Everton’s trip to Leicester. The Toffees have been hovering around mid-table this season, and have shown signs of potentially breaking into the top six, but inconsistency has plagued them. Leicester City, on the other hand, have apparently focused their attention on the Champions League as they’ve struggled to even break into the top half of the table. Could they give their home fans a belated Christmas present, or would it be Everton’s day to celebrate?
The match started off with seemingly all of the fans wearing cut-out Jamie Vardy masks as the owners protested his red-card suspension. The Foxes started off on the front foot with Daniel Amartey and Demarai Gray, who surprisingly took the spot of Riyad Mahrez, both trying their luck from distance, but neither could find the back of the net.
The first half came and went without Everton having a clear-cut chance at Kasper Schmeichel’s net, but all it took was six minutes in the second half for them to pounce. A long clearance from backup goalkeeper Joel Robles somehow sprung Kevin Mirallas on a breakaway at the other end. The Belgian split two Leicester defenders before sliding his shot past Schmeichel and into the side-netting. 1-0 Everton.
Yannick Bolasie had a chance to finish the game off in the 83rd minute, but he missed a sitter from six yards out. Luckily, for Everton fans, Romelu Lukaku sealed the deal in the first minute of stoppage time. The big Belgian striker sliced and diced his way past Marcin Wasilweski and Wes Morgan before putting the ball in the same spot as Mirallas to secure a 2-0 win for the Toffees.
Manchester United 3-1 Sunderland
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that David Moyes was the boss at Manchester United not too long ago. Monday, two years after his unceremonious departure from Old Trafford, the Scotsman returned as the manager of Sunderland. On paper, this was an easy matchup for the Red Devils, but could their old boss pull one over on them?
Apparently not is the answer to that question. United dominated possession from the start of the match, and it was clear that Sunderland was just waiting for the counter attack. In the 27th minute, Paul Pogba came within inches of giving his side a deserved lead, but his curled shot glanced off the edge of the post. Two minutes later, Victor Anichebe and Fabio Borini both had chances from inside the six-yard-box, but neither could take advantage of them.
In the 39th minute, Sunderland’s bend-don’t-break tactics finally gave way. Good hold up play from Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the edge of the area allowed him to find Daley Blind rushing into the box. The Dutchman, who has found playing time hard to come by as of late, took one touch before burying his shot in the bottom corner to put United a goal to the good.
If it wasn’t for Jordan Pickford between the pipes, this match could have very easily ended five, or even six to nothing. The young English keeper was called into action so many times this match, and for a while it looked like he was going to keep Zlatan off the scoresheet.
That dream came crashing down in the 82nd minute. Paul Pogba did well to intercept a lazy pass from Didier N’Dong in the midfield to spark a counter-attack. He found Ibra running into the penalty area, and the Swedish striker passed the ball into the back of the net for his 12th goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Henrikh Mkhitaryan delivered a goal of the season candidate. Zlatan found the former Borussia Dortmund winger in the box with a cross, and Mkhitaryan delivered an unbelievable piece of improvisation with a scorpion kick past Pickford. Yes, he was offsides, but luckily the officials didn’t see it and United had a three-goal lead.
Sunderland did manage to get one goal from the match, and what a goal it was. Fabio Borini, who had been anonymous for the majority of the 90 minutes, struck an absolute worldy of a volley into the top corner that left David De Gea watching. Sadly, for David Moyes, it was too little, too late as United took all three points.
Swansea City 1-4 West Ham United
Boxing Day turned out to be the death knell for the Premier League’s first American manager. Bob Bradley was only in charge of the Swans for just over two months and fans were already calling for his head. Now Bradley has been sacked by Swansea. A Boxing Day visit from a struggling West Ham United appeared to be the perfect opportunity for him to save some face, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
It took just 13 minutes for West Ham to find the back of the net, and it was a former Swan that applied the finishing touch. Lukasz Fabianksi couldn’t clear the danger from Cheikhou Kouyaté’s headed effort, and Andre Ayew was on the line to knock it home for his first goal of the season. Ayew’s strike was the only one of the first half, but Gylfi Sigurrdson nearly found the back of the net in the 40th minute with a curled free kick, but Darren Randolph made a diving stop to maintain the one-goal advantage.
Five minutes into the second half, West Ham doubled that advantage. A Dimitri Payet corner was nodded home by Winston Reid, and Bradley’s already limited support from the stands shrunk even more.
The nail in the coffin came in the 78th minute courtesy of Michail Antonio. The defender/midfielder was in the right spot at the right time to deflect Havard Nordtveit’s shot in the back of the net. 3-0 West Ham.
Swansea momentarily cut the lead to two goals in the 89th minute when Fernando Llorente finished off a cross form Nathan Dyer, but within minutes it was once again a three-goal deficit. A lofted cross from Sofiane Feghouli found Andy Carroll at the back post. Carroll opted to use his feet instead of his head to finish off the chance, and his strike finished off an emphatic 4-1 victory for the Hammers. Now the question becomes: with Swansea firmly in the relegation zone, who do they bring in as manager to pull them out of the cellar?