Stoke City 1-0 Chelsea

Chelsea loses to Stoke

After a crucial 2-1 victory in the Champions League victory midweek, some thought that Chelsea might finally be ready to climb up the table in the Premier League and showcase the form that made them champions last season. Several reports leading up to the match suggested that anything but a win on Saturday could result in the sacking of “the Special One” José Mourinho after Chelsea’s worst start of recent memory. Could Stoke City deliver the final nail to Mourinho’s coffin?

For this potentially career-deciding match, Mourinho would have to watch from his hotel TV because of a stadium ban issued by the FA. The first real chance of the match fell to former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson, but Johnson’s low curling effort was expertly palmed away by former Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. The man who replaced Begovic at Stoke, Jack Butland, was called into action minutes later. In the 21st minute, Ramires lined up a volley from right outside the penalty area, but Butland made a brilliant acrobatic save to tip the Brazilian’s effort over the bar. The 22-year-old keeper was forced into another save in the closing minutes of the first half after Diego Costa muscled his way past the Stoke backline, but Butland managed to kick the Spaniard’s low shot out of danger.

Butland’s key saves in the first 45 minutes kept the scores level, and set the stage for a potentially historic win for the hosts. The opening goal finally came in the 53rd minute, and much to the dismay of Mourinho, it fell to Stoke. Marko Arnautovic, who played for the Chelsea manager at Inter Milan, delivered the crushing blow with an acrobatic bicycle kick into the back of the net. Chelsea’s summer signing Pedro nearly drew the visitors level in the 67th minute, but his curled effort flew past Butland only to cannon off the woodwork. Loic Remy looked set to score in the 86th minute, but after he dribbled past Butland, he was forced to hurdle the diving keeper and couldn’t keep his balance to apply the finishing touch. While Remy’s leap showed integrity by avoiding the dive, it left fans wondering what could have been if the Blues had been awarded a penalty kick late on. When the final whistle blew, the score read 1-0 in favor of Stoke, and sent Chelsea down to 16th in the table. How much longer can Mourinho survive in charge?

Aston Villa 0-0 Manchester City

Few would’ve predicted Aston Villa getting any points from their fixture against Manchester City on Sunday. The Villans sat at the bottom of the table with just four points through 11 matches, and on top of that, the players had to adjust to the system of new manager Rémi Garde who was appointed less than a week ago. City, on the other hand, was top of the table and in the midst of an 8-game unbeaten run. Victory looked to all but a guarantee for the visiting giants.

The Citizens began to pepper Brad Guzan’s early and often in this seemingly mismatched fixture. The American keeper nearly gifted the visitors an opening goal on the 17 minute mark, when he failed to get his hands behind Aleksander Kolarov’s driven shot, but luckily for Villa, Guzan got just enough on it to push the ball onto the post. Raheem Sterling had City’s next big chance in the 37th minute when he found himself on a breakaway, but a challenge from Ciaran Clark saw the former Liverpool winger lose the ball and hit the floor. No foul was called, and replays seemed to show that Sterling went down far too easily in the penalty area. Despite their dominance in the opening period of play, City entered the break still deadlocked at 0-0.

Once the second half began, Manuel Pellegrini’s men got right back to attacking the Villa net. In the 53rd minute, Jesus Navas played a perfect cross into Sterling, but the face of Guzan denied the 20-year-old’s header. Ten minutes later, Kevin De Bruyne should’ve put the visitors ahead, but he was unable to get the ball out from his feet on the edge of the six-yard box and the game remained scoreless. City’s last chance of the match came in stoppage time when Fernando rose above the defense to win a header, but his close-range effort smacked off the woodwork and continued City’s trend of missed opportunities. Despite the disappointing draw, City remained atop the table on goal differential, while Villa are still dead last in the league.

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

The biggest match of the weekend had to be Sunday’s North London Derby. Tottenham traveled to the Emirates on a ten-game unbeaten run, and on the edge of the top four spots. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were level on points with Manchester City for the top spot in the league, but were coming off of a debilitating 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich midweek. In this historical derby, who could find a moment of magic to win?

Arsenal looked the better side in the opening stages of the first half as they pressed Spurs’ backline, but failed to test Hugo Lloris with any meaningful efforts. Joel Campbell had an early break in the fifth minute, but the Costa Rican couldn’t control the pass and the ball rolled harmlessly out-of-bounds. After this early period of Arsenal dominance, Tottenham began to push back. Eric Dier, who just received his first call up to the England senior squad, had a free header in the 25th minute, but couldn’t put it on frame. The opening goal came in the 32nd minute from who else but Harry Kane. The young English striker beat Arsenal’s offside trap and sent Petr Cech the wrong way from a tight angle. Kane’s sixth goal of the season sent Spurs into the break with a slim one-goal lead over their bitter rivals.

Just like in the first half, Arsenal came out guns blazing with Campbell nearly beating Lloris with a curled effort just three minutes in. On the other end, Christian Eriksen’s deflected effort crept inches wide of the Arsenal net. The Gunners’ best chance of the match came in the 54th minute when Olivier Giroud got on the end of Mesut Özil’s set piece, but the Frenchman’s header cannoned back off the woodwork. Giroud’s header just five minutes later, also failed to find the back of the net, as it flew just wide. For awhile, it looked like these spurned chances would be the downfall of the Gunners as Spurs forced Cech into several saves late in the match. Arsenal’s savior came in the form of Kieran Gibbs as the English defender tapped home a cross from Özil to equalize. Gibbs’ goal in the 75th minute saved a point for the Gunners and kept them level with City atop the table and keeps Tottenham fifth in the league.


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