Arsenal 1-2 Watford
After a weekend away, the Premier League gave us some amazing mid-week fixtures to enjoy. In my opinion, one of the most enjoyable ones had to be Watford’s trip to the Emirates to take on Arsenal. The Gunners had won their last four matches going into Tuesday’s match, but the Watford were on a mission to throw a spanner into the works.
It took just 10 minutes for Watford to silence the Emirates. The Hornets had a seemingly harmless free kick from 30 yards out. Taking advantage of Arsenal’s inattentiveness, Tom Cleverley tapped a pass to Younes Kaboul whose deflected shot skipped past Petr Cech and into the back of the net. Three minutes later, Troy Deeney doubled the lead. A storming run from Etienne Capoue forced Cech into a close-range save, but he was unable to clear the rebound to safety as Deeney tapped home from six yards.
All of this happened with Arsene Wenger watching helplessly from the stands. The Arsenal manager was in the middle of a four-match ban for pushing a fourth official, and there’s no way that he was satisfied with the Gunners disastrous first half. To be honest, Watford were unlucky not to be further ahead at the intermission.
Theo Walcott had a glorious chance to claw one back for Arsenal just five minutes into the second half, but Heurelho Gomes was there to deny the winger from close-range. The Gunners were able to save some face on the day through Alex Iwobi just before the hour mark. The teenager was waiting on the back post to volley home an inch-perfect cross from Alexis Sanchez. Lucas Perez smacked a shot off the bar late, but it just wasn’t’ meant to be for Arsenal
The 2-1 loss sees Arsenal drop vital points in the title race when even a draw would’ve seen them take sole possession of second place. Up next, is a top-of-the-table clash against Chelsea. Will the Gunners be able to recover?
Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea
The biggest match of Week 23 had to be Liverpool vs. Chelsea at Anfield. At one point, the Reds looked like the only team that would be able to challenge Antonio Conte’s squad for the title, but a recent run of poor form has seen them drop from second all the way down to fourth. Chelsea, on the other hand, sat comfortably at the top of the table with nine-point lead over Tottenham. Would Chelsea be able to build on this lead and grab a rare victory in Merseyside?
Just 12 minutes into the match, Georginio Wjnaldum forced Thibault Courtois into a diving save with a shot from just outside the 18-yard box. Despite Liverpool’s quick start to the match, it was Chelsea that struck first. Similar to Watford’s goal against Arsenal, Chelsea took advantage of Liverpool’s lack of attention as David Luiz unexpectedly struck a free-kick right off the inside of the near post. The picture perfect strike was good enough to give the Blues a one-goal lead, and it was also his first goal for the club since rejoining them in the summer.
Luiz’s highlight reel free-kick was the only goal of the half as Chelsea went into the break with a slim one-goal advantage.
After a disastrous open-net miss from Roberto Firmino at the start of the second half, the Reds eventually found their equalizer in the 57th minute. A cross from James Milner wasn’t cleared by Chelsea’s back line and Wjnaldum was waiting on the edge of the six-yard box to head the ball home. Could either side find a second goal in the final 30 minutes of the match?
It looked like Chelsea were going to steal a winner in the 76th minute after Diego Costa drew a foul from Joel Matip in the penalty area. The Spanish striker, who was rumored to be on his way to China during the January transfer window, stepped up for the penalty kick, but Simon Mignolet guessed the right way and saved a point for Liverpool.
While a draw at Anfield is by no means a poor result, Chelsea will have to feel a little disappointed not taking all three points. Even with the dropped points, the Blues still find themselves nine points clear at the top while Liverpool remain a point behind Spurs and Arsenal in fourth.
West Ham United 0-4 Manchester City
It’s been an odd season for West Ham United supporters. At the start, they must’ve been filled with optimism about their budding romance with Dimitri Payet, and the possibilities before them with Slaven Bilic at the helm. Oh, how times have changed. Bilic is still leading the Hammers, but the club sold Payet after a very public transfer saga. West Ham found themselves firmly mid-table going into Wednesday’s matchup against Pep Guardiola’s City, but they played like a side battling relegation.
It took 17 minutes for City to find the lead. A horrendous pass from Aaron Cresswell sparked City’s counter attack, and Kevin De Bruyne, the man who intercepted Cresswell’s pass, finished it off with a tidy close-range goal. Four minutes later, David Silva doubled the lead with an easy tap-in after a barnstorming run from Leroy Sane. West Ham’s nightmare first half wasn’t over yet, however, as Gabriel Jesus finished off another quick counter attacking move to score his first ever goal for the club.
The final nail in the coffin came in the 66th minute. Some quick footwork from Raheem Sterling drew a foul from Jose Fonte, who was making his debut for West Ham, and City had the chance to add a fourth from the penalty spot. Yaya Toure took a long run-up before slotting his shot into the bottom corner. Final score: Manchester City 4, West Ham United 0.
The result has to instill some confidence back into City’s setup, but it may not do the same for Sergio Aguero and Claudio Bravo who were dropped from the starting lineup. City now sit level on points with Liverpool, but goal differential pushes them down to fifth.