Manchester United continued their good form of late but failed to take home 3 points from Leicester City which would have taken them up to 2nd in the Premier League table. In what was a closely fought encounter, both sides will feel they could have won the game given the chances that were created.
It was Marcus Rashford, who could of had 2 or 3 goals by the end of the game, who missed the first chance of the afternoon. His header after about 2 minutes which flew over the bar really should have been converted to give the Reds an early lead. But he did make amends on 23 minutes when he scored his 50th Premier League goal for the club, becoming the 3rd youngest Man Utd player to do so, the other 2 being Rooney and Ronaldo respectively. Rashford found himself in on goal after Daniel James cut inside and played a pass, only for Bruno Fernandes to steer the ball Rashford's path for the striker to fire home to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Less than ten 10 minutes later though, up stepped the impressive Harvey Barnes to score the best goal of the game with a blinding 25 yard effort that De Gea could do nothing about. It was a great finish but came after Fernandes had lost the ball to Wilfred Ndidi in midfield, so Man Utd will be disappointed with how it came about. It was a rare mistake from Bruno who has been an unreal signing since he arrived in Manchester, and despite that mistake, still ended the game with a goal and assist to his name.
And that goal would come in the 79th minute. The Portuguese midfielder latched onto the end of a pass from Edison Cavani to put his side 2-1 up with a short time left to play.
But... as we all know, Leicester have a massive fighting spirit and and are always in the game til the end. Jamie Vardy had been quiet all afternoon by his standards, but he came up trumps in the end. 85 minutes were on the clock when his goal bound effort was diverted by Axel Tuanzebe into the net past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel. That goal would ensure the match ended all square and would also deny the visitors a record equaling 11th consecutive away win in the Premier League.
Both sides remain on course for a top 4 finish, but with Spurs and Man City not far behind they will have to remain consistent and maybe add 1 or 2 new faces during the January window.
LEICESTER 2 MAN UTD 2
Barnes 31 Rashford 23
Tuanzebe OG 85 Fernandes 79
10 man Villa managed to ease past a very poor Crystal Palace side at Villa Park on Boxing day.
It was Palace who nearly made the perfect start though when Wilfried Zaha was played clean through inside the first minute of the game, but keeper Martinez produced a good save to deny the Palace winger.
Villa then went ahead with less than 5 minutes on the clock, Ollie Watkins got on the end of a pass from Traore down the right hand side, he then took a shot which was saved by Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, but ultimately parried into the path of the incoming Traore to finish off the move he had started. It was 1-0 Villa.
VAR controversy was to follow when Patrick Van Aanholt went down under a clumsy challenge from Villa`s Matty Cash. Referee Anthony Taylor was instructed to take a look at the pitch side monitor, but he chose not to overturn his initial decision, and it looked to be correct.
Villa continued to press though and came close to scoring, but El Ghazi and Grealish both had shots blocked in dangerous areas. Their failure to get a 2 goal advantage would have been even more worrying when in the 45 minute, Tyrone Mings saw red after his received a second yellow for a professional foul on Wilfred Zaha. The two had earlier gone head to head, Mings falling for Zaha`s tricks again was stupid and naïve. The fact he has been in and around England squads in the last 12 months just proves how woefully short at CB we are as a nation, but that`s a debate for another day.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Villa continued to enjoy the better of the game in the second half and their second goal arrived in the 66th minute when Palace failed to defend an El Ghazi free-kick which found Oliie Watkins who headed against the crossbar. Luckily Hause was there following up to score his second Premier League goal for the side in claret and blue.
El Ghazi then scored a brilliant goal, his fourth goal in four games. It was a quality, curling effort that went in off the far post. It was another wonderful finish from the former Ajax winger who is on fire lately. Villa were in dreamland, whilst the Palace ultras could only watch on in horror down in Croydon.
Villa are in good form of late, Grealish looking unstoppable. If he can stay away from Big Momma impersonators and keep himself out of the drivers seat of any kind of motor vehicle, 2021 could be a massive year for the Villa starlet.
As for the Eagles, it appears they have a broken set of wings at the moment. Things need to change quickly at Selhurst if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.
VILLA 3 PALACE 0
A fired up Arsenal side recorded a priceless victory over Chelsea at the Emirates to end their 7 game run without a win in the Premier League, in the process it may have stopped the questions about Mikel Arteta for a few days at least.
2 first half goals were enough for the Gunners to get their first win since the beginning of November.
Arsenal started the game better, Chelsea were looking lackluster. And In the 34th minute Alexandre Lacazette sent goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the wrong way from the penalty spot, after Arsenal left back Kieran Tierney had been tripped by Chelsea right back Reece James. Arsenal fans would have been hoping their side could make their dominance count after some dreadful results in recent weeks, and they did just that.
10 minutes after the 1st goal, Xhaka curled in a superb free-kick into the top corner to put Arteta's side in firmly into the driving seat. It was a stunning effort from a player who has had more than a few questions asked about him by Arsenal fans.
Bukayo Saka's cross/shot then put the game beyond any doubt in the 56th minute. The youngster appeared to slice a cross which ended up fooling everyone, including the Chelsea keeper. Saka claimed he meant it when asked about the goal after the game, but i think even his own mother would call him out on that.
Tammy Abraham scored with a clever finish after good work from Hudson-Odoi on the right. There was 5 minutes left at this point and it appeared no more than a consolation.
Then, with the clock on 90, Chelsea had a chance to really put the pressure on the Gunners when they were awarded a penalty. This was Arsenals day though, and Leno was there to save the penalty and seal the crucial 3 points in this London derby.
Arsenal fans can finally smile after watching their side perform hopelessly lately. Whilst Chelsea fans will be concerned at the lack of fight on display, and the fact their new signings don't appear to have adjusted as quickly to the Premier League as they would have liked.
ARSENAL 3 CHELSEA 1
Saka 56 Abraham 85
Manchester City eased to a 2-0 home win over Newcastle United on a windy, cold Boxing day-night at the Etihad Stadium. It meant that for Newcastle boss Steve Bruce, he would be left facing yet more questions about his future after the game, the toon man is not a hit with their fan base at the moment. And that is putting it mildly.
It didn't take long before City scored the 1st goal of the evening to go ahead, in the 14th minute Gundogan calmly finished off Raheem Sterling's pass from close range, after what was a typically patient, passing move from Pep Guardiola's side. It was the kind of goal we have seen them score many, many times in the last few years. Newcastle were helpless and knew themselves it was going to be a case of "how many"?
City were dominating possession and were well in control, so much so, it took until the sixth minute of the second half for Newcastle to register a shot on target. Much to their despair, 4 minutes after that lonely shot, City put themselves even further ahead through Ferran Torres. Torres, who missed a few decent chances on the night scored with a simple finish after a cross from Joao Cancelo was deflected to give the Spanish youngster an easy tap in.
There wasnt much more to really write about. City could perhaps have had 1 or 2 more goals, whilst Newcastle were well beaten. January is massive for the Magpies, who need to recruit wisely if they are to have a decent 2nd half of the season. Bruce is on thin ice you would have to assume, will he be the man trusted to spend whatever money they have in January?
Its been a poor first half of the season for the blue half of Manchester. They have a massive game with Everton up next who are in good form themselves. If City can get 3 points at Goodison Park it will be a massive end to the year, it should give them the confidence to really kick on from here & challenge Liverpool for the title this season.
MAN CITY 2 NEWCASTLE 0
Everton moved up to second in the Premier League after beating Sheffield United on a rainy Boxing day at Bramall Lane, extending their winning run to four matches as they jumped above Leicester and Manchester United in the process.
After a boring start to the game which the Chris Wilder`s side had the better of, former Sheffield United forward, and boyhood supporter of the club, Calvert-Lewin almost scored an absolute screamer. Michael Keane lofted a ball forward, Calvert-Lewin expertly chested and volleyed only to see his shot miss agonisingly. It would have been a contender for goal of the month, maybe even goal of the season.
Sigurdsson nearly opened the scoring not long after, the Iceland star curling a lovely shot that just missed the top corner from 25 yards.
The 2nd half was a tight affair with neither side looking like they had the quality to break the deadlock, it looked destined to be 0-0 so it was a delight for the neutral when on 80 minutes, Gylfi Sigurdsson smashed home a low drive into the bottom corner that beat Ramsdale in the Sheff Utd goal. It was a good strike that beat the 18.5 million pound Blades stopper, (Wilder must have been on drugs when he done that deal), and one that would surely wrap up all 3 points for the Toffees.
However, if 17.5 million pound forward (another player Blades massively over paid for) had done what he was paid to do, Utd could have ended the afternoon with a deserved point that could have given them a massive moral boost going into their next game at fellow strugglers Burnley. In the 96th minute Scotland and Sheffield Utd forward McBurnie had a golden chance from the centre of the penalty area after Enda Stevens did well to find him. But his shot went wide to the left of the goal as his boss and Sheffield United fan Chris Wilder could only look on in despair. They simply cannot buy a point never mind a win right now.
Everton are in great form ahead of their massive game with Manchester City on Monday. Confidence must be high among Ancelotti`s men as the look to make it 5 wins in a row at Goodison Park.
For the Blades it was another case of just not having that bit of quality to get themselves a result. Wilder will be busy in January i feel, and i would not be surprised to see him shake up at least half of the squad if he is allowed. He isn't shy when it comes to a signing, and doesn't mind admitting he got signings wrong. He will move players on with no conscience. It is my opinion they need a miracle to survive from here no matter who comes in the door though.
SHEFF UTD 0 EVERTON 1
In what was ultimately a game of frustration for Southampton against Fulham, they will be at least thankful to leave West London with something after running into a hard working Fulham side at Craven Cottage.
The visitors twice had the ball in the back of the Fulham net but everyone`s favourite new toy, VAR, correctly ruled both goals out, with Shane Long and Theo Walcott being the latest victims of technology.
Fulham`s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Ivan Cavaleiro missed good chances to score for the hosts, and a late siege on the visitors goal also saw Aleksandar Mitrovic go close with a left footed effort.
James Ward-Prowse hit the crossbar with a brilliant 1st half free kick, but the game would go on to end 0-0.
Southampton are looking steady so far this season, they are very much in with a chance of a European place if they can keep it up.
Fulham will just be looking to build on the single points they have been picking up lately, with every little step a positive one none the less. You feel they will do well to stay in the division, but it certainly is not beyond them. Does Scott Parker have the tactical brain to get them to safety? Does he have the players at his disposal? Time will tell, but the situation looks bleak for the inexperienced gaffer and his side.
FULHAM 0 SAINTS 0