EPL Wrap-Up: Agüero Saves City

Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City

It’s been a turbulent several weeks at Old Trafford. Louis Van Gaal’s Red Devils haven’t won since November 21st, and rumors of the Dutchman’s imminent exit were swirling around the papers. To open 2016, Van Gaal would take on a team that he has yet to be during his tenure in England: Swansea City. The Swans, who are still in the midst of a managerial transition since releasing Garry Monk, went into Saturday’s match sitting 17th in the table, but were actually undefeated in their last three matches. Could the Swans continue their improved and put the potential nail in Van Gaal’s coffin in Manchester?

The Red Devils actually got off to a very bright start to the match, and showed the attacking form that fans have been waiting for all season. Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera broke into the penalty area within the first two minutes of the match, but his side-footed drive was blocked out of play. Wayne Rooney had the hosts’ best opportunity of the half in the 21st minute, but his close-range effort narrowly missed the near post and flew harmlessly into the side netting. After the bright start, United seemed to revert back to the pedantic style of play that has pushed them out of the top four. Wayne Routledge had Swansea’s first real chance of the match in the 29th minute with a well-hit volley from outside the box. Luckily, for United fans, David De Gea was in perfect position to comfortably control the shot. When the halftime whistle blew, the score remained deadlocked at 0-0, and it looked as if United’s offense was going to stall once again.

The Red Devils got off to a dream start to the second half thanks to their new talismanic striker Anthony Martial. The 20-year-old was able to get his head on the end of an Ashley Young cross in the 47th minute to give his side the lead and provide the Old Trafford faithful with some much needed optimism. It looked as if Andre Ayew was going to level things up for the visitors in the 64th minute, but his flicked header rang off the post and United remained a goal to the good. Swansea would finally get their breakthrough just minutes later through another flicked header, this time it was Gylfi Sigurdsson that knocked the ball just over De Gea to silence Old Trafford. The scores didn’t remain level for long as\ Rooney provided a moment of absolute magic less than ten minutes later. After some great work from Martial to get a cross in from the wing, Rooney found the back of the net with a sublime back-heel flick to seal all three points for the first time in more than a month. The win pushes United up to fifth in the table, while Swansea remain just two points above the relegation zone.

Watford 1-2 Manchester City

Man City's Aguero scores

That other team from Manchester was also in action Saturday as they travelled to take on Watford. The Cityzens were coming off a 0-0 stalemate with an upstart Leicester City side midweek, and anything but a victory would be potentially devastating to their title hopes this season. Watford, on the other hand, have quietly been surpassing fans’ expectations as they sat ninth in the table and a massive 12 points above the relegation zone. Even with their surprising spot in the table, a visit from Man City was never going to be an easy task.

The Hornets showed no signs of fear in the early stages of the match as they attacked the City backline. The squad’s in-form striker, Odion Ighalo, had a magnificent chance to put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute, only for Joe Hart to come up big and break out a magnificent kick save to keep things level. A goalmouth scramble in the 29th minute failed to pay dividends for Manuel Pellegrini’s side with Raheem Sterling hammering his close-range shot high and wide into the stands. The two sides looked fairly even when the halftime whistle blew, and the match was there for the taking going into the second 45 minutes.

The second half started just where the first one had left off as the two clubs continued to press each other for the opening goal. City’s best chance came in the 53rd minute when Fernandinho’s free header in the center of the penalty area sailed just over the crossbar. The breakthrough finally came in the 55th minute when Ben Watson’s corner slightly deflected off Aleksandar Kolarov’s head before flying past Joe Hart into the back of the net. It would eventually be ruled an own goal and Watford took the first lead of the match. The Sky Blues continued to press for an equalizer as the match drew on with Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure both coming close. After a frustrating 80 minutes to open the match, things finally fell City’s way the final ten. Yaya Toure found the equalizer with a wonderful first time volley from a corner, and an injury plagued Sergio Agüero nodded home the winner with a flick header in the 84th minute. The dramatic comeback keeps City firmly in the title discussion sitting just three points off of Arsenal for the top.

Everton 1-1 Tottenham

The most enticing fixture going into the weekend had to be Everton’s matchup against Tottenham. While these teams were split by a somewhat sizable margin in the table, their matches over the last several seasons have always proven to be tight affairs. A visiting Spurs team went into the match sitting comfortably in fourth, four points ahead of Crystal Palace in fifth. Mauricio Pochettino’s men had also gone undefeated in their last three matches. For the hosts, Sunday’s match gave them the opportunity to jump as high as eighth in the table and resurrect their quest for European competition. Who would prevail at Goodison Park?

Seamus Coleman saved the hosts from a nightmare start to the match in the fourth minute. His last ditch sliding challenge did just enough to get the ball out of Dele Alli’s path to keep the sides level. Spurs continued to dominate the chances as Harry Kane’s effort smashed against the inside of Tim Howard’s post just minutes later, but it didn’t hit it quite right as the ball slid across the face of goal and out of play. Completely against the run of play, Everton opened the scoring in the 22nd minute thanks to Aaron Lennon. After a smart play from Romelu Lukaku to knock the ball down into Lennon’s path on the edge of the area, the former Tottenham winger smashed home a volley into the side netting to put the Toffees up by a goal.

After Lennon’s opener, Spurs pushed even harder for an equalizer. Ben Davies nearly scored an absolute thunderbolt on the half hour mark, but his drive cannoned back off the woodwork. The visitors finally got their long awaited equalizer in first half injury time thanks to Dele Alli. The teenager expertly controlled a long ball from Toby Alderweireld and slid home his volley past Tim Howard to give his side a chance going into the second half.

The second half saw both sides exchange chances, but nothing came to fruition. The closest either got was a driven volley from Ramiro Funes Mori that was denied by an acrobatic save from Hugo Lloris in the 79th minute. When the final whistle blew, the clubs shared a point apiece and remained unmoved in the league table.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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