EPL Wrap-up: Leicester Stay Hot

AFC Bournemouth 2-1 Manchester United

It’s been a rough week for Manchester United. The Red Devils struggled to a 0-0 draw against West Ham United last weekend and then crashed out of the Champions League after a dramatic 3-2 loss at Wolfsburg. Some fans have started to grow tired of the defensive tactics the team shows under Louis Van Gaal and a failure to win away at Bournemouth would surely spell disaster for the Dutch manager. On the other hand, Bournemouth were coming off of a historic victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their last league fixture, and another would see them push even further away from the relegation zone. Could the Cherries pull off yet another massive upset?

It was a dream start for the hosts as a rare misjudgment from David De Gea in net saw United fall behind after just two minutes. Junior Stanislas’ corner looped over the Spanish keeper and found the far side netting to give the Cherries the lead, but would they be able to hold on for rest of the match? United’s big Belgian would eventually find the net, however, scoring in the 24th minute. After Boruc did well to deny Memphis Depay from close range, Marouane Fellaini followed up the rebound and essentially willed the ball into the back of the net thanks to his tireless work ethic. As the half ended, the sides were still level, but the Red Devils were forced to add yet another name to their injury list after Jesse Lingard went down with an apparent hamstring problem.

The injury bug has plagued Van Gaal’s club this season with their defensive unit suffering the most. The average age of United’s backline at the start of the match was just over 21 years old and this lack of experience could be seen throughout the match. The hosts found a deserved goal ten minutes into the second half after a perfectly executed training ground routine from the corner saw former United midfielder Joshua King slot home from 12-yards out. King’s goal would prove to be the difference as the Red Devils failed to show the fight and passion that once defined the club. This disappointing defeat sees United remain fourth in the table, but it pushes Bournemouth up three spots to 14th. The Cherries now sit two points out of the relegation zone.

Manchester City 2-1 Swansea City

For the first time in nearly a decade, Swansea City lined up for a match without Garry Monk involved in the squad. Monk, who played for the club between 2004-2014, was sacked as the club’s manager after a poor start to the season that saw them win just three matches out of their first 15. A trip to the Etihad would provide interim manager Alan Curtis with a difficult test to start his temporary reign of the club. The Cityzens were coming off a momentous victory over Borussia Mochengladbach in the Champions League midweek, but their last league fixture saw them fall 2-0 to Stoke City. A victory would put them top of the league for the time being, but the result was anything but guaranteed.

The Swans, surprisingly, had the first real chance of the match in the 15th minute. A great cutback ball from Wayne Routledge on the left wing found Gylfi Sigurdsson on the top of the box, but a smart Joe Hart save denied the Icelandic striker’s. After a less than convincing start to the match, City finally found the opening goal on 25-minute mark. It was a former Swansea player that found the back of the net as Wilfried Bony got his head to a Jesus Navas corner. Bony’s header gave Lukasz Fabianski no chance, and the Sky Blues were ahead by a goal. The Ivorian’s headed effort was the only goal of the opening 45 minutes as the two sides went into the intermission with City up 1-0.

After both sides were unable to break down the opposition’s defensive unit for the majority of the second half, Swansea City found an unlikely equalizer. Sigurdsson thought for a moment that he had scored in the 85th minute, but the play was called back for Bafétimbi Gomis’ foul on Joe Hart. The French striker atoned for his challenge in the 90th minute after Federico Fernández played an absolute beauty of a through ball past the City backline. Gomis got on the end of the pass and smashed his powerful effort past Joe Hart at the near post to seemingly steal a point for the visitors. It just wasn’t to be for the Swans, however, as Yaya Toure’s deflected shot in the 92nd minute looped over Fabianski and secured the victory for City. The Swans are just one spot above the relegation zone now, while Manuel Pellegrini’s men sit in second place after Arsenal’s victory on Sunday.

Leicester City 2–1 Chelsea

Leicester v. Chelsea

The match of the weekend had to be Chelsea’s trip to the King Power Stadium. Leicester City and Chelsea have been the two most surprising teams of the year, but for two very different reasons. The Foxes, after narrowly escaping relegation last season, now find themselves in the heart of the title fight and have the hottest striker in England at their disposal. José Mourinho’s side, on the other hand, have looked thoroughly unconvincing on the year and are slipping closer and closer to the relegation zone week after week. The stage seemed to be set for Leicester to deal another crippling blow to the Blues, but could the reigning champs pull out a much-needed victory?

The opening 30 minutes of the match flew by without a notable chance from either side. Despite the lack of action, it was clear that Leicester were the more attacking of the clubs with Chelsea looking like they were just going through the motions. Mourinho was forced to take out star man Eden Hazard in the opening period of the match after a hard knock from Jamie Vardy sent the Belgian to the floor. To add insult to injury, literally, the man that took out Hazard would be the one that sent the Foxes ahead. A wonderful cross from Riyad Mahrez on the right wing found Vardy’s run, and the English striker, whose 11-game goal streak ended last week against West Brom, made no mistake with his finish as the ball left Thibault Courtois helpless. The Blues nearly found the equalizer just minutes later, but Nemanja Matic’s shot bounced harmlessly off the top of the crossbar.

Things went from bad to worse for Chelsea in the second half as Mahrez doubled Leicester’s lead within minutes of the whistle. The Algerian winger completely bamboozled César Azpilicueta in the penalty area before curling his shot past Courtois to put the Foxes up by two. Diego Costa should have put Chelsea on the board on the hour mark but Kasper Schmeichel denied his close range effort. It was Loic Remy, who hadn’t scored in the league since last season, who finally scored the visitors with a powerful header past the Danish keeper, but it was too little too late. When the final whistle blew, Leicester had claimed all three points and was once again at the top of the table. Chelsea now sits just one point clear of the relegation zone after a second consecutive league defeat.

 

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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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