Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea
Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of José Mourinho’s departure from Chelsea. When he was fired, Chelsea were struggling to even stay above the relegation zone let alone compete for the top four. Oh, how things have changed. Now, Antonio Conte has led the Blues to the top spot in the table, and they even had a 10-game winning streak going into Saturday’s match. Would an injury-riddled Crystal Palace be able to derail the Chelsea hype train?
Surprisingly, Palace actually had a chance to open the scoring in the 20th minute. A quick low cross from Martin Kelly on the right wing found an unmarked Jason Puncheon in the penalty area. Puncheon just couldn’t make the right contact with the ball, however, as his shot rolled harmlessly wide of the far post.
Two minutes later, Chelsea had another problem on their hands. A reckless challenge from Diego Costa on Joe Ledley earned him a yellow card. It was the striker’s fifth yellow of the season meaning that he is now suspended for Chelsea’s Boxing Day match against Bournemouth.
In the 43rd minute, Chelsea’s attack finally woke up. A lofted cross from César Azpilicueta found a leaping Diego Costa in the penalty area. Costa’s header looped into the bottom corner of the net, and it looked like Chelsea were on their way to yet another win.
After Costa’s opener, Chelsea began to control the match and Palace struggled to create any meaningful chances. On two occasions, N’Golo Kante tested Wayne Hennessey, but the keeper came out on top on both occasions. Marcos Alonso even hit the bar with a near perfect free in the final 10 minutes.
Luckily, for Chelsea fans, Costa’s goal was all they needed as the squad won their 11th straight match. Now, the Blues hold a commanding seven-point lead at the top of the table.
Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal
The biggest matchup of the weekend had to be Arsenal’s trip to take on Manchester City at the Etihad. Going into the match, Arsenal held a slim one-point lead over City in the table, but a loss would see the Sky Blues jump to second at least until Monday. It would prove to be a battle of tacticians as Pep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger squared off for the first time in the league, but who would win the chess match?
It was a dream start for the Gunners as they took the lead after just five minutes. Lackluster defending from City allowed Arsenal to break on the counter through Hector Bellerin up the right flank. The Spanish defender found Alexis Sanchez who played an inch-perfect through ball to Theo Walcott. Walcott easily passed his shot past Claudio Bravo to give Arsenal the early advantage.
City nearly responded within moments of Walcott’s strike, but Raheem Sterling missed a wide-open header from eight yards out. The Sky Blues began to dominate proceedings after Walcott’s goal, and it looked like only a matter of time before the found the back of the net. Unfortunately for the home fans, that first goal would have to wait until the second half.
Three minutes into the second half, Leroy Sané gave City a deserved equalizer. David Silva found the 20-year-old with a chipped through ball, and Sané sent Petr Cech the wrong way to score his first goal for the club and to level the scores.
The two sides exchanged chances in the second half, but neither was able to really test the opposition’s keeper.
Then, in the 72nd minute, Sterling broke the deadlock. The former Liverpool winger worked a yard of space past Nacho Monreal on the right flank before unleashing a powerful close-range drive into the back of the net. If you want to feel old, the average age of City’s goal scorers in this match is 21 years old.
Sterling’s goal would prove to be the game-winner as City held on for a 2-1 win. Other than Walcott’s goal, Arsenal’s attack, and in particular Mesut Ozil, looked anonymous on the day, and it’s hard to argue that they deserved a better result from the match.
Tottenham 2-1 Burnley
With City, Chelsea and United all winning this weekend, anything but three points for Tottenham would seriously damage their top four aspirations. A visit from Burnley didn’t appear to pose too much of a threat, but in the Premier League, any team can beat anyone on a given day.
Spurs started the match on the front foot with Dele Alli and Harry Kane both coming close within the opening 10 minutes. Just after the 10-minute mark, however, Hugo Lloris was called into an instinct save to deny Andre Gray’s close-range effort.
An exciting first half came to a head in the 21st minute. After Tottenham failed to clear the ball from the penalty area eventually saw the ball fall to Ashley Barnes just outside the six-yard-box. Barnes’ quick reaction saw him tap the ball past Lloris to give Burnley an unexpected one-goal lead away from home.
The lead lasted just six minutes. A cross from Kyle Walker, who could’ve been held partially responsible for Barnes’ opener, found Dele Alli 12 yards out. The England international side-footed his shot past Tom Heaton and Spurs once again found themselves on level terms.
In the second half, the two sides peppered the opposing keepers with chances, and it looked less and less likely that this match would end in a 1-1 draw. Then, in the 71st minute, Spurs bagged the winner. Moussa Sissoko found Danny Rose wide-open on the left flank, and the defender hit a powerful effort past Heaton at his near post.
Rose’s strike was enough to seal all three points for Spurs as they maintained their three-point lead on Man United for fifth in the table. Now, they sit just a point behind their North London rivals Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.