Tremendous matches took place all around the league today, with Newcastle’s offensive outpouring and Manchester United’s comeback win only 2 of the highlights from the 10 matches.
The entire Premier League field was in action on this Boxing Day, and hoping that you all have had a happy holiday thus far, on we go to the recaps, beginning in Hull for the early afternoon matchup of Hull vs. Manchester United.
The Red Devils came out sluggishly and with force, opening the door for Hull to take a 2-0, YES, a 2-0 lead inside of 15 minutes courtesy of goals from James Chester and David Meyler, with the former’s goal a source of controversy as the corner it came off of should never have been given, while the latter’s goal took a few deflections before finding its way past David De Gea. United however, showing their poise, made up the difference within 13 minutes as a Chris Smalling header on 19 minutes got them on the board before a stunning yet oddly routine volley (which can be seen below) from Wayne Rooney (his 150th BPL goal) leveled the match on 26 minutes. Rooney’s goal was a true master class, with the ball swerving up, down, and to the left leaving Allan McGregor no hope in the Tiger goal. McGregor himself was 1 of 2 changes at the half for Hull, with the goal scorer Meyler also coming off as both suffered knee injuries before the break, which was entered at 2-2. The match calmed down a tad after the break, and was settled on 66 minutes with James Chester unfortunately scoring on his own goal and effectively canceling out his prior goal at the correct end of the pitch, giving United a 3-2 lead and the eventual win, although they had to sweat it out at the end following a late red card to Antonio Valencia.
To a much less thrilling game now as we head to the Midlands for Aston Villa’s home fixture against Crystal Palace. Paul Lambert’s side continued to struggled for goals and quality chances throughout the match, continuing a disturbing trend for them as they have only scored 1 goal in their last 4 matches. Palace on the other hand have improved since the dismissal of Ian Holloway as manager and continued their push for survival today, snatching a 1-0 win at the death courtesy of a 90+ minute wondergoal from Dwight Gayle, with the Palace forward lumbering up the pitch calmly before uncorking a curling and powerful shot over the left shoulder of Brad Guzan and in, giving the traveling Palace support a late Christmas present as the win lifts Palace out of the drop zone by 3 points while Villa succumbed to a 4th straight loss.
The drama continued in Cardiff on this Boxing Day 2013, with Southampton battering the Bluebirds by 3 goals to none to further cloud the future of Malky Mackay as Cardiff manager. The Saints ruled the day from start to finish, grabbing the lead on 14 minutes through a wide-open Jay Rodriguez goal following some neat passing. Rodriguez nabbed his brace only 6 minutes later via a controlled shot following a beautifully lofted cross by Rickie Lambert. And it was Lambert himself who grabbed the last goal of the game for Southampton, a 27th minute finish past Cardiff keeper David Marshall as the English international was presented with a glorious one-on-one that he took full advantage of. Mackay was desperate for anything to latch onto after the break, throwing on big money signing (flop) Andreas Cornelius in an attempt to grab a goal back. But, like the 5 other times he was put on a football pitch this year, Cornelius didn’t score, perhaps providing some ironic circumstances for Mackay’s dismissal if egomaniacal owner Vincent Tan chooses to fire him.
It was another victorious yet unsatisfying performance from Chelsea on the day as they defeated Swansea City 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, as Jose Mourinho’s men dominated near-on every facet of the game, yet only came away with a goal to show for it. The one goal they did score was actually quite a soft of in nature too, with Edin Hazard’s winding run culminating a shot that Swans keeper Gerhard Tremmel should have dealt with as it was nearly straight at him, but instead it went right through him and in on 29 minutes. Swansea were very disappointing in their own right as well, conjuring up next to nothing throughout the 90 minutes and barely giving Petr Cech anything to deal with on the afternoon. Indeed, Michael Laudrup’s men appear a shadow of what they were last season, more than likely attributed to their enhanced schedule with European play included. Still, their new signings have really failed to fire thus far, with Chelsea holding steady to the end for the 3 points.
The shock of the day occurred on Merseyside at Goodison Park, where Sunderland held strong against a 10-man Everton squad to emerge shock 1-0 winners on the day and potentially begin their resurgence under Gus Poyet. The match’s moment of truth fell early on in the 23rd minute when Tim Howard attempted the shortest goalkick in the history of history and it ended just about as you’d think it would, in total chaos and with Howard receiving a straight red card due to his takedown of Ki Sung-Yong, who had a breakaway for Sunderland as a result of the calamity. The sending off of Howard (his first in his 10-year BPL career) set up the aforementioned Ki Sung-Yong from the spot and the South Korean dispatched the penalty past substitute goalie Joel Robles into the bottom left corner to give Sunderland a priceless win at Goodison, ending Everton’s unbeaten run at home with stout defending and expert keeping by Keiren Westwood paving the way past Roberto Martinez’s reduced side.
Perhaps the wildest game of the day occurred at St. James’ Park where Newcastle United met Stoke City in a clash that had it all, penalties (both made and missed), red cards, manager ejections, and goals, plenty of goals. It all started innocently enough, with the visitors from the potteries taking a lead on 30 minutes through Oussama Assaidi, who continues to impress this season and followed up his sensational winner against Chelsea with a goal of equal skill, placing it far beyond the reach of Tim Krul with a swerving effort. After that, pretty much all Hell broke loose as Stoke somehow managed to accrue 2 red cards before the break as Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson received equal fates for equally stupid challenges that landed Stoke with 9 men for the remaining 45 minutes. Of course, because they’re Stoke, the problem was compounded due to the fact that manager Mark Hughes lost his bollocks and was sent from the touchline after the second red to Wilson, which came as a result of a clear path foul on Newcastle’s Loic Remy, resulting in a penalty, which naturally, Remy missed. Now, all would be somewhat okay for Stoke if they managed to take the 1-0 lead into the break and regroup with what was left of their coaching staff, but of course they didn’t, because Remy came back to score less than a minute later and the match finally went to halftime at 1 apiece. The second half (unsurprisingly) was an absolute slaughter for the Stoke back line, with 4 goals poured in over the course of the 45 minutes from Yoan Gouffran, Remy again to complete his brace, Yohan Cabaye, and finally Papiss Cisse from the spot to polish off Stoke’s miserable night in the northeast. (Double Photo Bonus!)
Norwich City continue to struggle near the foot of the Premier League table as they yet again tasted defeat today, this time by a 2-1 margin to visiting Fulham at Carrow Road. Gary Hooper actually gave the Canaries the lead after just 13 minutes via a deflected effort that evaded Martin Stekelenburg in the Fulham goal, but it proved to be fool’s gold as the Cottagers roared back to level the match before the break, courtesy of a Pajtim Kasami free kick that broke through the Norwich wall and evaded the grasp of John Ruddy. The game lost a bit of steam after that and it seemed destined for a draw, but Scotty Parker had other ideas and it was his last gasp effort that sailed into the Norwich goal on 87 minutes and gave all 3 points to the Londoners.
Meanwhile, Tim Sherwood began his official reign as Tottenham Hotspur manager by welcoming West Bromwich Albion to White Hart Lane. It was all smiles for the former player as well when Christian Eriksen gave Spurs the lead with a thunderous free kick on 36 minutes that crashed off the crossbar and in past a dazed Boaz Myhill. However, it took less than 2 minutes for the Baggies to draw level though, with Jonas Olsson escaping coverage on a set piece to bundle home for WBA past Hugo Lloris for the game’s final real piece of action, as Spurs stumbled to a rather dull 1-1 draw against a resilient West Brom side still searching for a manager.
The last of the 3:00pm London time kickoffs saw Arsenal travel to the Boleyn Ground for an encounter with West Ham and Big Sam. One of the 2 games that was scoreless at the half today, the match roared to life less than a minute after the break when Carlton Cole banged home a rebound to fire the Hammers in front to the surprise of many in attendance in London. The Hammers held out for awhile as well, but over time Arsenal’s class shown through with Theo Walcott picking up a brace and second-half substitute Lukas Podolski slotting home from outside the box on his season debut en route to a score inflated 3-1 Gunner victory on the road.
The last match on Boxing Day was sure to be a real cracking one, and it delivered (sort of….) as Manchester City hosted Liverpool at the Etihad. Just the thought of having the potent City attack of Negredo, Silva, Fernandinho, and Toure on the pitch at the same time as Suarez, Sterling, and Henderson was absolutely mouthwatering to the neutral and the expected goals came right away with Philippe Coutinho putting Liverpool ahead after 24 minutes following some nice lead-in passing by Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez that set up Coutinho with a nearly open goal to finish into. The joy for the traveling Kop was short-lived though as it only lasted 7 minutes until City captain Vincent Kompany powered a header past Simon Mignolet and in to equalize on 31 minutes following some exquisite delivery from David Silva. City continued this good spell all the way into first half stoppage time, when Alvaro Negredo toppled over Mignolet with an incredibly weak shot to give City a bit of an undeserved lead. The Spaniard attempted an unconventional outside of the boot shot that came off rather slow and lofted, yet it still managed to evade the complete grasp of Mignolet and the Belgian was only able to get one of his two massive paws on it and it wasn’t enough to stop the shot, which rolled into the net. The rampant first half appeared to set up a truly tantalizing second 45, but it never truly materialized as it basically consisted of a multitude of missed chances highlighted by Sterling’s inexplicable miss of a wide open goal from inside the box as City survived for a nervy 2-1 home win, maintaining their perfect home record so far.