Manchester City 1-3 Leicester City
The first match of the weekend was also the biggest match of the weekend as Leicester took on Manchester City at the Etihad. The Foxes went into the match with a slim three-point lead over their host for the top spot in the table, and a win would solidify them as title favorites. City, who were playing their second match since the announcement of Pep Guardiola’s impending arrival, were in some of their best form of the season and looked poised to grab a share of the league lead. Unfortunately for the Sky Blues, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Leicester’s master class started less than three minutes into the match. A free kick on the right edge of the penalty area from Riyad Mahrez found the foot of Robert Huth in the middle of the box. The big German defender knocked in a deflected shot off of Martin Demichelis to give his side an invaluable early lead. Jamie Vardy had a glorious chance to double City’s deficit five minutes later, only for Joe Hart to come up with a big save on the breakaway. The Foxes were by far the better team in the opening 45 minutes, while the Cityzens looked a little bit shell-shocked by their opponent’s fast start. It could have easily been 2-0, or 3-0 at the intermission, but somehow City stayed within touching distance.
Just like in the first half, Leicester started the second 45 minutes with a bang. Riyad Mahrez flashed the flair that has made him one of the most wanted wingers in Europe to get past Nicolas Otamendi, and then curled in a peach of an effort that left Hart helpless in net. The dagger finally came on the hour mark as Huth bagged his second of the day with a looped header from a corner kick. Sergio Agüero saved some face for City with a headed goal in the final minutes of the match, but it was too little too late. After this thrashing, it looks as if Leicester are bona fide title contenders, and it will take a special effort to knock them off the top.
Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland
Things haven’t been going too well for Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, as of late. In their last five league fixtures, the Reds have won just a single match (the 5-4 thriller at Norwich) and have lost to the likes of Manchester United (at Anfield) and Leicester. The hopes of finishing in a European qualifying spot are looking dimmer and dimmer by the week, but a visit from relegation-threatened Sunderland looked like the perfect fixture to regain some much-needed momentum. Could the “Normal One” spur his team on to three points?
Alberto Moreno looked to have given Liverpool the lead in the 20th minute, but former Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone delivered a kick save and a beauty. The Reds continued to press Sunderland in the first half, and easily looked the more dangerous of the sides. Roberto Firmino, who had been lively in the opening period of play, narrowly missed a cannoned effort from the outside of the box in the 44th minute, and Moreno wasted a point-blank range header in the final seconds of the half. Despite these missed chances, Klopp would have had to be happy with the attacking prowess his side were showing, and the lack of chances that Sunderland were creating at the other end.
As the second half dragged on, it looked like just a matter of time before Liverpool took the lead as Sunderland looked content to play for the draw. The breakthrough finally came in the 59th minute after Roberto Firmino nodded home a wonderful cross from James Milner to put Liverpool a goal to the good. The Brazilian played provider for Liverpool’s second goal just ten minutes later; slotting the ball to Adam Lallana for an easy tap-in. As the home fans left in the 77th minute in protest to raising ticket prices, Sunderland found life. Adam Johnson pegged one pack with a curled free kick in the 81st minute. The comeback was complete in the 89th minute when the ageless Jermaine Defoe held off his defender and then banged home past Mignolet. The draw keeps Liverpool six points away from Europe, while Sunderland still sit in the bottom three.
Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United
In pretty much any other Premier League season, United’s trip to Stamford Bridge would have been the marquee matchup of the weekend. Nowadays, however, both teams have fallen from grace and both are on the outside looking in when it comes to the top four. Chelsea have found new life under new manager Guus Hiddink, but still sat 13th in the table thanks to their horrendous start to the season. United went into Sunday’s matchup five points behind Arsenal for the fourth spot in the table, and a failure to grab all three points would only pile on more pressure and criticism to Louis Van Gaal. In this battle of fallen giants, who could walk away with a win?
At the start of the match, Van Gaal’s squad dominated proceedings. The Red Devils were playing with the confidence and excitement that once defined their famous red shirt. Anthony Martial had the first real chance of the match in the 17th minute, forcing Thibault Courtois into a great diving save to keep things level. After a slow start to the fixture, Chelsea finally came alive in the 29th minute. David De Gea showed why #DaveSaves has become a hallmark of United fans with an excellent grab from Nemanja Matic’s headed effort. John Terry thought he grabbed the opener in the 46th minute, but an uncalled handball from Daley Blind knocked the effort wide.
United rediscovered their attacking form at the start of the second half, and it finally paid off just after the hour mark. A knockdown from Wayne Rooney fell to the feet of Jesse Lingard, and the winger showed a good piece of control before hitting a thunderous half-volley into the top corner. Lingard’s highlight reel goal left Courtois helpless and gave the Red Devils a narrow one-goal lead. It looked like Lingard’s goal would be good enough to secure all three points, but Diego Costa had other plans. The polarizing Spanish striker knocked home a hard fought goal in the 91st minute to steal a point for the hosts and break United fans’ hearts everywhere. The shared points keep the sides at the same positions in the table.