EPL Wrap-Up: West Ham Stun City

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

The match of the weekend did not fail to live up to the hype on Saturday as Chelsea defeated Arsenal in a heated affair. Going into Saturday’s clash of the titans, Arsenal sat six points above Chelsea and a surprising 13 spots in front of them in the league table. The less than favorable relationship between the two club’s managers is well documented (e.g. their “fight” in last season’s fixture at Stamford Bridge) and this latest contest will have done little to squelch their rivalry. Going into Saturday’s clash of the titans, Arsenal sat six points above Chelsea and a surprising 13 spots in front of them in the league table.

The opening half-hour in the match was uneventful to say the least. José Mourinho’s squad looked content to let Arsenal control the possession and wait for the counterattack. Despite all of this possession for the visitors, the first real chance of the match fell to Chelsea. The club’s newest addition, Pedro, was the beneficiary of a lofted through ball from former Arsenal icon Cesc Fàbregas, and found himself with the ball on the edge of the six-yard box. Unfortunately for the home supporters, the Spaniard was unable to hold off pressure from Nacho Monreal and Petr Čech was able to squelch the dangerous opportunity. The big incident of the match came just minutes before halftime after Diego Costa appeared to put his hands to Laurent Koscielny’s face battling for the ball before shoving the Arsenal defender to the ground with his chest. In an attempt to defend his teammate, Gabriel Paulista pushed Costa away with a “friendly” hand to the throat. The Chelsea forward was sure to let referee Mike Dean hear his opinion about the incident and Gabriel received an early dismissal from the match.

After the red card drama, both sides went into the second 45 minutes still level at 0-0, but Chelsea were quick to capitalize on their man advantage. Less than ten minutes into the half, it was Kurt Zouma who headed home from a Fàbregas set piece to give the hosts the lead. Arsenal’s comeback attempt was prematurely halted in the closing ten minutes of the half as Santi Carzola received a second yellow card for a rash tackle in the attacking third forcing the visitors to play with just nine men to close out the match. The dagger came in stoppage time after Eden Hazard’s powerful effort took a drastic deflection off of Calum Chambers leaving Čech helpless and securing a 2-0 victory for Chelsea. The three points bumped the Blues up to 15th in the table, but it may give them some invaluable confidence after a disappointing start to the season.

Manchester City 1-2 West Ham United

West Ham top City

After the first five weeks of the season, no one would blame you if you thought Manchester City were already a lock to clinch the league title. The Citizens had won all of the first five fixtures of the season, and looked dominant in the process. The introduction of Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne near the transfer deadline appeared to put City a foot above their nearest rivals. West Ham haven’t looked too bad either in the early stages of the season. The Irons under new manager Slaven Bilić had seemingly recovered from a disastrous Europa League campaign, and had won four of their three of their first five matches of the campaign including historic victories away to Arsenal and Liverpool. A trip to yet another Premier League goliath gave West Ham yet another opportunity to play the role of David.

City’s hopes of claiming yet another three points were boosted at the start of the match as star striker Sergio Agüero returned to the lineup after missing the match against Juventus midweek. Agüero’s return to the pitch didn’t get off to a dream start, however, as Chelsea-loanee Victor Moses hammered home a powerful effort past Joe Hart in just the sixth minute of play. Moses’ driven effort into the bottom corner marked the first time this season that City had conceded in the league, and it was just the second time they had trailed in a match through all competitions. West Ham’s unexpected early opener showed City that the Irons weren’t going to be intimidated this match. The Irons managed to grab a second goal from their hosts just after the 30-minute mark courtesy of some hard work from Diafra Sakho in the box. A Dimitri Payet corner created havoc in the penalty area, and after two near chances for West Ham, Sakho muscled past Yaya Touré and tapped home the club’s second of the match.

With the breath seemingly sucked out of the Etihad going into injury time, it appeared as if City would go into the second half down by two, but the club’s biggest signing of the summer had other plans. Kevin De Bruyne, who moved to Manchester from Wolfsburg for a reported fee of £55 million, notched his first goal for the club with a low driven effort similar to Moses’ past Adrián to give the fans hope. The Citizens continued to press in the second half and it seemed as if it was just a matter of time before they found an equalizer. Their best chance came in the 85th minute when Otamendi nearly headed home his first for the club, Adrián pulled out a reaction save to tip the ball over, and clinch another unexpected three points for West Ham. Despite the loss, City still sit atop the table, but West Ham have managed to join them in the top four just three points behind.

Southampton 2-3 Manchester United

Perhaps the most exciting fixture of the weekend came Sunday afternoon at St. Mary’s Stadium. Southampton, who have struggled to win this season (one from their opening five), played host to a Manchester United team coming off of a demoralizing loss to PSV Eindhoven midweek that saw former Saints’ youngster Luke Shaw suffer a horrendous leg break. Despite their somewhat erratic play, a victory on Sunday would push the Red Devils to second in the table. Last year when these teams met on the Southern Coast, United walked away with a 2-1 victory, but this match was anything but easy for them.

It was the hosts that opened the scoring in the 13th minute. A quick counterattack found James Ward-Prowse on the right wing whose cross fell to Saudio Mané just outside the six-yard-box. David De Gea made a great point blank save to deny Mané’s initial effort, but the rebound fell to an unmarked Graziano Pellé who buried his effort to put the Saints up early. Southampton appeared the dominant team for a large portion of the first half as United struggled to string together meaningful chances while also lacking confidence in defense. The visitors’ first real chance of the match came in the 33rd minute courtesy of new boy Anthony Martial. The move started with a slicing through ball to Juan Mata and after a brilliant tackle from Maya Yoshida to dispossess Mata, Martial collected the loose ball and dispatched Virgil Van Dijk like a seasoned veteran before smashing home the equalizer. The brilliant finish was the 19-year-old’s second in as many league games and it was just the start of his magnificent afternoon.

The start of the second half had both teams deadlocked at one goal apiece, but a lackadaisical back pass from Yoshida provided Martial with an easy breakaway against Maarten Stekelenburg. Martial showed no panic as he once again placed the ball past the Dutch keeper to give United their first lead of the match. De Gea was forced to showcase his magnificent skills ten minutes later when Jose Fonte got his head to a corner kick. The Spanish keeper, who recently signed a new long-term contract at the club, flashed the glove and stopped the ball just inches before it crossed the goal line. Juan Mata provided United with a buffer in the 68th minute after he collected Memphis Depay’s effort against the post before slotting it home past a helpless Stekelenburg to give the Red Devils a two-goal advantage. The Saints pulled one back in the final five minutes of the match when Pellé again found the back of the net to pull the hosts within one. The comeback was nearly completed in stoppage time, but De Gea again made a brilliant save on a powerful effort from Victor Wanyama to secure a much-needed victory for United. The loss dropped Southampton down five spots to 16th, and the top-seven finish from last year seems unobtainable at the moment.

 

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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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