Southampton 1-2 Chelsea

It’s been an up-and-down couple weeks for Chelsea fans, as of late. Guus Hiddink’s side went into Saturday’s trip to Southampton having thrashed Manchester City 5-1 in the FA Cup, but the Blues also lost 2-1 to PSG in the Champions League. Domestically, Chelsea was well outside the top four sitting all the way down in 12th. Their opponents, on the other hand, were in prime position to secure a spot in the Europa League. Southampton sat one point behind Manchester United at sixth in the table and a victory would bring them within four points of Manchester City for the fourth spot. Could the Blues derail Ronald Koeman’s European hopes?

The first chance of the match fell to the hosts. A failed clearance from Courtois on the corner saw the ball eventually find its way to Virgil Van Dijk. The Dutch defender lobbed the ball back into the danger area, but Shane Long’s header flew just over the bar. The Saints continued to be the dominant side through the start of the first half as they peppered a shaky Chelsea backline with crosses. That shakiness finally came back to bite Chelsea in the 42nd minute, when Long pounced on an errant header from Baba Rahman. The Irish striker dinked his one-on-one effort past Courtois to give the Saints a deserved one-goal lead to take in the second half.

Whatever Hiddink said in the dressing room must’ve struck a chord with his side as they opened the second half with a renewed urgency. It was Cesc Fabregas that put the visitors on the board in the 75th minute when his shot/cross froze Fraser Forster to find the back of the net.

Chelsea’s comeback was completed in the 89th minute. With Southampton clinging to a draw, Branislav Ivanovic played the hero heading home a Willian corner. The defender’s header sealed three more points for Chelsea and moves them up to 11th in the table. Southampton now find themselves three points behind West Ham United at seventh in the table.

Tottenham 2-1 Swansea City

With Leicester City narrowly beating Norwich on Saturday, the pressure was on Tottenham to win on Sunday. Spurs have been quietly mounting a title challenge of their own and were just two points behind the Foxes for the top spot in the table. A visit from relegation-threatened Swansea City looked to be an easy three points for Mauricio Pochettino’s squad. The Swans had other plans, however, and gave Tottenham a run for their money.

Hugo Lloris was forced into a point-blank reaction save after just two minutes when Alberto Paloschi picked out Gylfi Sigurdsson in the box. Spurs responded with a chance of their own minutes later when Erik Lamela’s close-range shot flew just inches over the bar. The excitement continued as a masked Harry Kane’s near post effort was denied by Lukasz Fabianski before the Englishman collided with the post.

The Swans took the lead in the 19th minute after Angel Rangel’s shot took a deflection off of Jack Cork. The deflection put the ball right in the path of Paloschi whose shot left Lloris helpless. It looked like Son Heung-Min was going to put Spurs back on level terms after the half-hour mark, but once again Fabianski made a crucial save. The former Arsenal keeper’s best save of the night came in the final seconds of the half as his brilliant reaction stop denied an almost certain goal from Eric Dier at the top of the six-yard box.

Spurs continued to press for the opener in the second half, but wherever they turned Fabianski was there. Christian Eriksen’s free kick five minutes into the half looked destined for the back of the net, but the Polish keeper made a miraculous one-armed stop right on the goal line to keep his side ahead. The list of great saves grew minutes later when Fabianski denied a swerving drive from Harry Kane on its way to the top corner.

There was nothing that the Swansea keeper could do to stop Spurs first goal in the 70th minute. Nacer Chadli did well do redirect Kyla Walker’s drive into the penalty area and Spurs now had hope for a win. They finally found the lead in the 77th minute through Danny Rose. The defender got on the end of a corner kick from Eriksen on the edge of the box and hit a quick shot in the side netting.

The goal from Rose was enough to seal all three points for Tottenham and keep them within touching distance of Leicester for the title hunt. Swansea, despite the loss, are still three points away from the relegation zone in 16th. Fabianski’s heroics made the match seem a lot closer than it was, and the Swans were lucky not get battered by a couple more goals.

Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal

Rashford celebrates with Mata

Image: Reuters

I saved the best match of the weekend for last. I know I had my doubts about the excitement Arsenal’s trip to Old Trafford would offer, but wow, was I wrong. The Red Devils and Gunners provided the thriller that fans had grown accustomed to from the two sides, and they even brought back some of the fiery exchanges that made the rivalry what it is today. In this thrilling fixture, who could steal all three points?

The first chance of the match fell to Arsenal when Mesut Ozil played a skillful through ball to Nacho Monreal, only for the Spaniard to be stonewalled by David De Gea. United grabbed the lead just before the half hour mark thanks to who else but Marcus Rashford. The 18-year-old was coming off of a dream two-goal debut on Thursday in the Europa League and opened up his Premier League career in similar fashion. After Guillermo Varela’s initial cross wasn’t properly cleared, Rashford pounced on the lost ball and placed it past Petr Cech.

The Marcus Rashford show continued three minutes later. This time, it was a Jesse Lingard cross that picked out the teenager who headed past Cech to secure his brace and put United two goals ahead. Another United academy product scores in the first half as Danny Welbeck once again scored against his former club in the 40th minute with a glancing header.

United started the second half off on the front foot and looked the more likely to score. Good hold up play from Rashford opened up space for Ander Herrera on the edge of the area in the 65th minute. Rashford laid an easy ball off to the Spaniard whose deflected effort off of Laurent Koscielny left Cech helpless to stop United’s third goal of the match. Ozil did manage to grab one back for Arsenal less than five minutes later. De Gea did well to stop Welbeck’s initial shot, but Ozil’s bouncing effort into the corner was good enough to pull Arsenal back within a goal.

Perhaps the biggest talking point of the match came on the touchline in the 75th minute. After the Red Devils were called for a foul, Louis Van Gaal had a heated conversation with the fourth official before falling to the ground to mimic the Arsenal players. The Dutch manager may have endeared himself to a few more fans with those theatrics, but what’s more important is the fact that his side managed to hold on for a massive 3-2 victory. The Red Devils now find themselves within three points of Manchester City for the fourth spot, and panic has started swirl around the Arsenal camp as their title hopes have begun to fade.


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