Premier League Boxing Day scores
- Manchester City 6, Leicester City 3
- Arsenal 5, Norwich City 0
- Tottenham 3, Crystal Palace 0
- Southampton 3, West Ham 2
- Chelsea 3, Aston Villa 1
- Brighton 2, Brentford 0
Lukaku revives faltering Chelsea
In the Premier League’s evening game Romelu Lukaku rode to Chelsea’s rescue, scoring and winning a penalty in the second half as Thomas Tuchel’s side overcame a stuttering start to earn their first Premier League win in three matches. Their 3-1 defeat must have been wearily familiar for Aston Villa, who had been on the receiving end of the Belgian’s last goals in the top flight before injuries and COVID-19 robbed the Blues of their star striker.
Though there have been games where Chelsea seem to have struggled to integrate Lukaku into their front line they indisputably looked better for having a true No. 9 after 45 minutes in which they were unable to manufacture so much as a touch for Christian Pulisic, who looked rather more at ease at right wing-back than he had through the middle. The visitors did not create much in the first half at Villa Park, had it not been for a clumsy foul by Matty Cash on Callum Hudson-Odoi they would surely have been trailing at the break. Jorginho scored the first of his two penalties as the interval loomed.
Villa would have been entitled to feel hard done by at being level at the break. There was plenty of fortune in their opener — a skiddy Matt Targett cross that flicked off Reece James’ head and looped over Edouard Mendy — but they had looked the most likely of the two sides to score thanks to punchy counter attacks led by Ollie Watkins and Emiliano Buendia. Had it not been for an excellent early intervention of Thiago Silva the hosts might have had a more sizeable advantage.
Lukaku’s introduction brought an immediate spark to Chelsea, who had started the match nine points off Manchester City. He immediately stamped his authority on Tyrone Mings; after 11 minutes he spun across the front of the Villa captain to flick home the goal that gave his side the lead.
Though Villa enjoyed more possession after slipping into arrears Chelsea could and should have scored more, Mason Mount rounding Emiliano Martinez but striking into the side of an empty net. Meanwhile Lukaku’s every touch rippled with menace. When he had the chance to turn and drive forward from halfway, Ezri Konsa was effectively challenged to choose his poison: a penalty or a goal. He picked the former and was perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card. Jorginho wrapped up the three points from the spot and the Blues were back in touch with City. Defeat today might have been critical to their title push, as it is a victory spearheaded by a returning talisman will have Chelsea heading into the new year with rather more of a spring in their step.
City survive thrilling Leicester fightback
At halftime you could have forgiven the visiting contingent at the Etihad Stadium if they had opted to beat a speedy retreat down to the East Midlands. Four goals down to a rampant Manchester City, with the most threadbare of defenses to keep the scoreline down the question was surely how many Leicester were going to lose by.
Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling had both netted penalties with Kevin De Bruyne opening the scoring and Ilkay Gundogan scoring in the manner he has so frequently during 2021, finding space in the box to slot home after Kasper Schmeichel parried a Joao Cancelo shot away. With 25 minutes played City were four to the good, seemingly destined to take a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
They would ultimately do so but not until they had survived the most thrilling of fightbacks by Leicester. Ten minutes into the second half and James Maddison, combining with Kelechi Iheanacho on the counter with devastating end results. Even getting close to City still looked a long shot but when the creators of the Foxes’ first goal repeated the trick to release Ademola Lookman soon after Brendan Rodgers’ depleted side started to believe.
When Iheanacho found the net against his former club in bizarre fashion — Ederson parrying Maddison’s shot onto the bar only for it to drop at the feet of the Nigerian international — you could almost believe the comeback was on the cards. Three minutes later and City eased the pressure somewhat, Aymeric Laporte heading home Mahrez’s corner for the game’s eighth goal. Still Leicester would not give up, Luke Thomas flashing a cross in from the byline that Marc Albrighton ought to have at least got on target, though in reality that fifth goal gave their hosts a degree more composure on their path to victory.
Ultimately Sterling would wrap up the win with his seventh Premier League goal of the season, diverting Ruben Dias’ header beyond Schmeichel. This might have been a far more comfortable afternoon for the defending champions but they emerge from it comfortably ensconced at the top of the table, their goal difference swelled once more. They will take some catching.
Arsenal, Spurs win big in top four race
There was no such drama for north London’s two sides, both of whom would in empathic fashion as they served up eight goals between them. Five of those went to Arsenal, who crushed bottom-of-the-table Norwich at Carrow Road in as one-sided a game as the Premier League will see this season.
Bukayo Saka opened the scoring early on with a fine low drive on his left foot and a brief display of fighting spirit by the hosts was quelled just before the break as Kieran Tierney thumped home Arsenal’s second off a Martin Odegaard pass. Saka’s fifth of the season — he now has one more goal contribution than last season’s eight off 1,158 fewer minutes — wrapped up the three points but there was still time late on for the Gunners to swell their goal difference.
A clumsy challenge by Ozan Kabak on Alexandre Lacazette gave the Frenchman the chance to add a fourth from the penalty spot before substitute Emile Smith Rowe took his Premier League tally to eight for the season, converting Nicolas Pepe’s cross at the far post.
Arsenal remain firmly in fourth position but will be well aware of the spectre of Tottenham in their rearview mirror. Fixture postponements mean Antonio Conte’s side have three yet to be scheduled games to make up six points on their great rivals following a 3-0 home win over Crystal Palace.
Palace had requested the match be postponed after COVID-19 cases in their squad which forced manager Patrick Vieira to miss a disappointing collapse from his side, who had appeared to be firmly in the contest until a two-minute double by Harry Kane and Lucas Moura swung the match in Spurs favor. “A very important three points,” said the latter. “It was a solid performance. Each game we are improving. We just need to keep going this way.”
A second yellow card for Wilfried Zaha soon after left Palace will little hope of fighting back with Spurs closing out the game with ease, Heung-min Son netting in the second half as Spurs moved up into fifth.
West Ham slump continues
Slipping below Tottenham are West Ham, who have just one win from their last seven games in the top flight after a 3-2 defeat to Southampton. Trailing 1-0 at the break after Mohamed Elyounoussi’s eighth-minute opener, the introduction of Michail Antonio at the interval swiftly brought the hosts level at the London Stadium.
In the end the game was decided in a nine-minute spell, James Ward-Prowse restoring Southampton’s lead from the penalty spot before Said Benrahma found space in the penalty area to volley in Jarrod Bowen’s cross. Once more though David Moyes’ side could not retain parity and it would be all the more frustrating for the Hammers boss that his side were undone by a set piece, usually their great strength.
Ward-Prowse’s delivery was customarily excellent, dropping just below Craig Dawson for Jan Bednarek to head home. A first win in the top flight since Nov. 5 takes Southampton up to 14th but West Ham have now slipped to sixth, seven points off Arsenal with a game in hand.
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