Battles At Both Ends Of The Table Heat Up
Chelsea’s ten-point lead at the top of the Premier League table was reduced during match week 25 after the Blues dropped points away at Burnley. The Clarets’ excellent home form continued as they drew 1-1 with Antonio Conte’s side, as Robbie Brady’s wonderful free-kick, his first goal for the club, cancelled out Pedro’s early strike.
Manchester City’s improved form appears to have come at a good time and Pep Guardiola’s side are now Chelsea’s closest challengers for the title. The Citizens moved within eight points of the West Londoners thanks to a 2-0 victory at struggling AFC Bournemouth. Raheem Sterling and a Tyrone Mings own goal settled the tie but Guardiola will fear that in-form striker Gabriel Jesus could miss the rest of the season after the young Brazilian broke his metatarsal in the opening stages of the game.
City’s ascendance has been helped by the recent plights of both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. The Reds, in particular, have had a poor start to the year although a Sadio Mane double against the Lilywhites earned them their first win in six league games. Jurgen Klopp’s side remain fifth, having dropped from second since the turn of the year, while Spurs are now third.
Meanwhile, Arsenal remain fourth after a controversial 2-0 win at home against Hull City. The first of Alexis Sanchez’s two goals at the Emirates Stadium appeared to strike the Chilean’s arm before trickling over the line, before he then tucked home a penalty in second-half added time after Sam Clucas denied Lucas Perez’s goal-bound effort with his hand.
Goals from Juan Mata and Anthony Martial ensured Manchester United stay within two points of the top four. The Red Devils’ 2-0 win against Watford also secured their 2000th point since the re-formation of the Premier League in 1992. The Hornets are thirteenth and ten points above the relegation zone following their two recent wins against Arsenal and Burnley.
Manolo Gabbiadini continued his impressive start in English football with a brace in Southampton’s 4-0 win against Sunderland. The Black Cats were hoping to embark on a run of good form after their 4-0 victory against Crystal Palace last week but were on the receiving end of the same score line against the Saints. January signing Gabbiadini’s double was followed by a Jason Denayer own goal and a Shane Long strike.
West Ham United’s woes continued as a 94th minute Gareth McAuley goal prevented the Hammers from taking three points against West Bromwich Albion. Nacer Chadli gave the Baggies the lead at the London Stadium before Sofiane Feghouli equalised, only after the Algerian had seen a goal ruled out for offside. Manuel Lanzini’s wonderful 25-yard effort appeared to have won the game for the hosts with four minutes left of normal time, but McAuley had the final say when he was awarded the equaliser after he and defensive partner Jonny Evans contested for the same ball from a corner and headed home. West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was charged following the game for comments made about referee Michael Oliver, who the Croatian claimed had a ‘very bad’ game.
Swansea City’s rejuvenation under Paul Clement continued as they beat reigning champions Leicester City. The Foxes are without an away win all season and are remarkably threatened by relegation just a year after their sensational triumph. Goals from defenders Alfie Mawson and Martin Olsson secured the 2-0 win for the South Wales outfit.
Palace’s poor form since Sam Allardyce’s appointment continued as they lost 1-0 against Stoke City. Joe Allen scored the only goal, leaving the Eagles 19th and two points from safety.
Finally, Middlesbrough earned a much-needed point as they drew 0-0 with Everton at the Riverside Stadium. New signing Rudy Gestede almost won the game for Aitor Karanka’s side but saw his powerful header wonderfully tipped over by Toffees’ goalkeeper Joel Robles.