Upon returning from another FIFA induced hiatus, the Premier League got right back into proper form this weekend.
Let us review the action by taking a game-by-game look at the twelfth round of matches. There were plenty of goals, some stirring late drama, and a bit of mind games, as well as the slightest of shifts at the top of the table.
Manchester United 1 Arsenal 1
The Red Devils were left wondering what could have been after Arsenal escaped from Old Trafford with a 1-1 draw on Saturday.
The opening fixture of the weekend saw Juan Mata give United the lead midway through the second half, only for Arsenal substitute Olivier Giroud to put home a header in the 89th minute for a sharing of the spoils.
It was a gut-wrenching squander of two points in the eyes of the United players. The home side put forth one of their better performances of what has been a relatively lackluster campaign thus far, essentially shutting down the potent Arsenal attack all day only to be done in by the late goal from Giroud off an exquisite service from Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain.
United’s Phil Jones, who started in the center of defense and played the game’s entirety, summed up the overall feel of the Red Devils’ camp. Jones said of the 1-1 result, “it felt like we’ve been slapped 6-0”.
Antonio Valencia was outstanding, the United right-back earning man of the match honors for his diverse performance.
Petr Cech was perhaps the most valuable player on the day for the visitors, the Arsenal keeper making four saves including three fine stops in the first 45 minutes.
Giroud’s goal was the first scored by Arsenal against a Jose Mourinho managed team for nine years, going back to the Special One’s two prior reigns at Chelsea.
The draw was United’s third consecutively at home. Their last league win at Old Trafford was a 4-1 trot over Leicester City in late September. Draws against Stoke and Burnley preceded the latest with the Gunners.
The Daily Mirror posed a question this week, asking if the storied United v. Arsenal rivalry has become two bald men fighting over a comb. Arsenal now sit in fourth place, three points back of first place Chelsea. United are now in sixth position, nine points off the top with almost a third of the season in the rear-view. While the rivalry between the two clubs may not appear as fierce as it once was, from the “Five Minute Final” at Wembley in 1979 to Viera and Keane in the Highbury tunnel in 2005 and so many more iconic moments, this Saturday’s Premier League affair gave fans a small taste of nostalgia blended with an up to the second pulse.
The two teams will meet at The Emirates on May 6th. Whether or not that game will have any sort of title implications is anyone’s guess.
Crystal Palace 1 Manchester City 2
Yaya Toure marked his return to the Manchester City lineup with a lovely brace en route to a huge road win for Pep Guardiola’s side. Toure had not featured in a single Premier League contest this season, his selection for this match at Selhurst Park surprising most everybody who had tuned in. It looks as if Guardiola will now have a welcomed problem on his hands, with the Ivorian attacking-midfielder looking primed to find his form of old.
City now sit third behind Chelsea and Liverpool. Palace are just one point above the drop zone in sixteenth.
Everton 1 Swansea 1
Heartbreaking headers in the 89th minute seemed to be a theme this Premier League weekend, along with 1-1 draws.
Bob Bradley was just moments away from picking up his first win as Swansea boss. Gylfi Sigurdsson opened the scoring on a 41st minute penalty. The Welsh side held the lead until agonizingly close to the death, when Seamus Coleman headed home the equalizing goal.
The American gaffer has his work cut out to say the least. Swansea sit rock bottom with just six points. Everton, much to the contrary, stay seventh, even on points with Man United.
Southampton 0 Liverpool 0
After scoring ten goals in their previous two Premier League matches, Liverpool were stymied by a focused Saints team that stuck to their defensive duties on the afternoon.
Nathaniel Clyne had perhaps the best chance for the visitors, the former Southampton man heading just wide in the late stages of the game.
Liverpool drop from top spot to second with the draw, as Southampton sit tenth on fourteen points.
Stoke 0 Burnley 1
Nathan Ake scored the game’s only goal in the 26th minute, not a bad way to mark his first Premier League start for Bournemouth.
Eddie Howe’s side jumped into the top half of the table with the win, the Cherries now in ninth, one point ahead of their South Coast neighbors Southampton. Stoke City are thirteenth, Mark Hughes perhaps feeling a bit hard done by the luck of his side this season.
Sunderland 3 Hull City 0
In a battle of two bottom three sides, it was 19th place Sunderland picking up their second win of the campaign with a 3-0 thumping of the Tigers. The standing of the two teams stays the same, but the win could be a major momentum boost for the Black Cats, who are away to Liverpool next weekend.
Watford 2 Leicester City 1
A Riyad Mahrez penalty was not enough for the visiting Foxes, Watford’s two early goals holding up just enough to hand Leicester their second straight loss in league play.
The hosts jumped out to their two goal lead courtesy of Etienne Capoue and an aesthetically pleasing curler from Roberto Pereyra.
As Claudio Ranieri continues to balance the stress of multiple competitions while also wearing the crown of reigning Premier League Champions, his Leicester side sit in fourteenth place, just two points off the bottom three.
Watford jump to eighth, a point back of Everton and Man United.
Tottenham 3 West Ham 2
In what was surely the most exciting game of the weekend, Spurs embarked on a stirring comeback mission to take all three points from the Hammers, Harry Kane leading the impressive late charge.
With the visitors looking poised to take a major upset victory in this latest London Derby, Kane struck twice in a matter of two minutes to send White Hart Lane into absolute delirium.
The England international put one in from close range in the 89th minute before slotting home a penalty in added time after Son Heung-min was fouled in the area.
The match had already been a roller coaster ride, with West Ham twice holding the lead before Kane’s late blitz.
West Ham are in a troubling seventeenth position, just one point above the bottom three. Spurs are rather quietly continuing their impressive start to the season. Though they are in fifth place, with six wins and six draws from twelve matches, Tottenham remain the only unbeaten side left in the Premier League. Up next for Mauricio Pochettino’s gang? How about another London Derby, away to the league leaders? Yep, it’s Chelsea v. Tottenham next Saturday.
Middlesbrough 0 Chelsea 1
Is he Spanish? Is he Brazilian? Is he human? While we may not have concrete answers to those questions, one thing is for certain: Diego Costa knows how to score goals.
They’re often far from pretty, but Costa’s tallies count just the same, his close range rebounded effort giving Chelsea an important win that sees the Blues back atop the Premier League table, Liverpool’s nil-nil stalemate on the South Coast opening up the door to first place.
In the only Sunday fixture of this round of matches, Boro actually played quite well, contributing greatly to the frenetic pace and energy on display at The Riverside Stadium.
Boro dropped to fifteenth with the loss, while Antonie Conte’s league leaders now await the arrival of Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
(West Bromwich Albion v. Burnley finishes off the twelfth round of Premier League action on Monday at 12 PT.)