TOTTENHAM VS. CHELSEA

I’m beginning to hate New Year’s Day because for the second time in three years Chelsea has suffered a major defeat. Two years ago West Ham United beat the Blues 3-1 and this past week Tottenham pounded them 5-3. The game started off well as Chelsea took a 1-0 lead behind Diego Costa’s league leading 14th goal. The goal was scored after Eden Hazard, who may or may not have saved a ball that was out of bounds, crossed one into the box to Oscar who passed to an open Costa for a tap-in right in front of goal. As Chelsea continued their methodical attack the Blues contested for a handball on Jan Vertonghen who appeared to put a hand out in the box while on the ground but the referee said play on. I probably would’ve made the same call but if this game was at Stamford Bridge and not White Hart Lane I think the penalty is awarded. From there it was all downhill for Chelsea.

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Tottenham ferociously fought back equalizing with a brilliant goal from Harry Kane. It was an Eden Hazard-esque goal where Kane took on multiple defenders going from left to right and whipped a ball on his right foot into the lower corner of the net. I said a few weeks ago, and reiterated last week, that Kane was my player to watch in 2015. Life got much worse for Chelsea after that goal. The Spurs connected on the go ahead goal fourteen minutes later when Kane and Nacer Chadli broke down Cahill & Terry on the counter attack. Chadli’s shot bounced off the post and directly to a sprinting Danny Rose who knocked the ball home for a rare goal for the defensive back. On the ensuing possession, with Harry Kane making a run in the box, a clumsy Gary Cahill took a swing at the ball and hit nothing but Kane’s leg. The striker theatrically expanded on that knock and fell to the ground with the referee awarding the penalty much to the dismay of Jose Mourinho. Andros Townsend stepped up to the box and converted the PK. Tottenham was up 3-1 at halftime.

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The second half was marginally better in terms of effort but in terms of result the goal differential wouldn’t change from two. Harry Kane got his brace early in the second half sending White Hart Lane into a frenzy. It was a critical point in the game, if not the season, for Chelsea to show what kind of resolve they have facing adversity on the road. They would answer with an Eden Hazard goal via another assist from Cesc Fabregas. The lead would balloon back to three as Nacer Chadli, who had a fantastic game, finally recorded a goal giving the Spurs 5 on the day. That is the most Jose Mourinho has ever allowed as Chelsea manager. A late John Terry goal made the score slightly more palitable and thanks to multiple Hugo Lloris brilliant saves that could’ve and would’ve been goals (IE: Cesar Azpilicueta shot) Tottenham held on to win and pick up their biggest victory in a long time. In fact Tottenham has only beaten Chelsea 3 times in the last 45 Premier League games.

STOKE CITY VS. MANCHESTER UNITED

Manchester United has found a way to stop the bleeding (losses) but haven’t fully recovered from ongoing wounds. United is unbeaten in their last 10 matches but the majority of those have ended in draws not victories. Racking up one point, one point, one point is not the modus operandi of a title contending team. I think Louis Van Gaal knows that and the players know that yet they go on the road against Stoke City and have to fight from behind to draw 1-1. Stoke City came out strong scoring in the second minute after defender Ryan Shawcross poked home a Peter Crouch header off a corner kick. Thanks to some shoddy Stoke City defense on a corner kick, Radamel Falcao parked in the center of the box was unmarked and knocked home a deflected ball to even the score.

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HULL CITY VS. EVERTON

The holiday season has not been a jolly one for Everton who have now dropped four straight Premier League matches including their recent 2-0 defeat at Hull City. It’s not like Hull City is a powerhouse in the league either, entering into their match Hull had only won once in their previous 12 games. Goals from Ahmed Elmohamady and Nikica Jelavic put Hull ahead and a late red card from Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz squashed any hopes at a New Year’s Day miraculous comeback.  The three points jumps Hull from 17th place to 15th place despite only being two points clear of the drop zone. Everton who are in a catastrophic free fall are still safe in 13th place but far below the expectations bestowed upon this team to start the season.

NEWCASTLE UNITED VS. BURNLEY

Burnley may still be sitting in the relegation zone but its commendable to see them fighting for their Premier League lives. For the second time in a week Burnley’s George Boyd has saved the Claret’s bacon and earned them a point when staring in the face of defeat. Not once, not twice but three times Burnley were facing deficits on the road at Newcastle and all three times Burnley leveled the score. It was a weird vibe in Newcastle as they were without their manager Alan Pardew who was at Villa Park watching his potential new team, Crystal Palace, in action. Yes you heard that right, a manager who is employed with a team missed his team’s game in order to meet with the other team. Welcome to the Premier League.

MANCHESTER CITY VS. SUNDERLAND

With Chelsea losing the door to first place was wide open for Manchester City to walk through. A favorable result could mean that Man City would actually leap frog over Chelsea based on goal differential or goals scored despite the fact they would be level on total points. Stubborn Sunderland kept the score close for a while but Yaya Toure broke the deadlock in the 57th minute with a huge right footed blast from outside the box into the top corner. Ten minutes later striker Stefan Jovetic tapped home a Gael Clichy low driving cross to double the score. Sunderland would not quit and their former Manchester City players were the ones to do the damage. Jack Rodwell scored a header coming off a corner kick and Adam Johnson slotted home a penalty kick after the referee called a foul against a sliding Pablo Zabaletta who took down the approaching Billy Jones. For the second time in as many games City had squandered a 2-0 lead at home. However instead of drawing this time Man City came out on top thanks to substitute Frank Lampard. As he typically is, Frank Lampard was in the right spot at the right time. Gael Clichy picked out an open Lampard in the middle of the box who meticulously headed the ball into the net.

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Based on the results this week Chelsea and Manchester City are tied in an absolute draw for first place. They are tied in terms of points (46), goal differential (+25) and goals scored (44). The only reason Chelsea sits on top of City in the standings is due to the fact that C comes before M in the alphabet. If the season were to end today there would be a one game playoff to determine the winner. The rest of the season should be absolutely stunning and the January 31st clash between the two sides should be incredible.

WEST HAM UNITED VS. WEST BROMWICH

New West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis watched from the stands as his club tied against a superior West Ham United squad. Diafra Sakho scored in the 10th minute giving West Ham the lead as they were looking to snap a two game losing streak entering the new year. But just before halftime West Brom tied the score after Saido Berahino finished off the Baggies break. Pulis will have his work cut out for him, West Bromwich sit in 17th place just one point on top of Crystal Palace. West Ham who were sitting in the Top 5 for a while have fallen to 7th place as a resurgent Tottenham and Arsenal have passed them in the standings. The Hammers would look to rebound this weekend in the FA Cup against Everton before facing off against Swansea City in their next BPL affair.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS VS. SWANSEA CITY

This is definitely a game that QPR is going to want back, this could be one they reflect on at season’s end and rue they let slip away. QPR was at home, they had a 1-0 advantage and they were facing Swansea City who were reduced down to 10 men in the 86th minute. All Queens Park Rangers had to do was play some solid defense, control the ball and waste time. That’s all well and good but this is QPR and there is a reason they are hovering around the bottom three. In the 91st minute, Wilfred Bony who was causing QPR issues all day, received the ball in the center of the box, turned, took a dribble and kicked a toe poke past a diving Robert Green. Bony’s 9th goal of the season earned Swansea a hard fought draw to creep into 9th place. QPR let a golden chance for them to push further clear of the relegation zone slip away. Instead of jumping to 14th place in a deadlock with Sunderland they remain in 16th place very close to the edge of the cliff.

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ASTON VILLA VS. CRYSTAL PALACE

With potentially new manager Alan Pardew watching, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace put on a soccer display that absolutely no one would want to watch. Aston Villa are goal-challenged, they played to a nil-nil draw and continue to have the worst goals scored measures in the league. Through 20 games, Aston Villa (12th place) have just scored 11 goals the next worst is Burnley with 17 and they sit in 19th place. Villa has a (-11) goal differential and the fact that they are sitting ahead of Everton and Sunderland in the table blows my mind. The draw earned Crystal Palace a point but that does not pull them out of the relegation zone. In their past two matches Palace has played to scoreless draws against QPR and Villa and if you’re looking to avoid relegation you need to pick up a win in one of those matches.

LIVERPOOL VS. LEICESTER CITY

It’s hard to focus on what is going on with Liverpool the team when confirmation has come down today that Steven Gerrard will be leaving Liverpool at season’s end. Gerrard stated (and Liverpool confirmed) that the long time captain will be moving on to a new venture after this season. Gerrard said that he will not be playing for a rival or anyone that would potentially face Liverpool (unlike Lampard). That basically means that he’s coming to the MLS. Rumors are that Gerrard has a standing offer from the Los Angeles Galaxy and while nothing is final it should be interesting to see what his next move is.

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Coming back to the game Liverpool jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind two Steven Gerrard penalty kick goals. For a short while it appeared that Liverpool had turned the corner and were going to win for the third straight match. However in the matter of two minutes in the second half everything changed. Leicester City scored twice, once from David Nugent and once from Jefferey Schlupp to erase Liverpool’s lead. The 2-2 score would hold and once again the discussion was around “What’s wrong with Liverpool?” and “Are they are better team without Steven Gerrard in the line up?” Unfortunately the latter is a tough case for Gerrard to win as Liverpool put together their most impressive and complete victory against Swansea 4-1 last week without Stevie G. He’s going to be a Liverpool legend but much like Lampard the time has come to move on and while I think he’s got a lot of soccer left in his legs the every day consistency is gone and the option of taking a lesser role on the team is one he cannot handle.

SOUTHAMPTON VS. ARSENAL

I don’t know what is a more accurate statement: Southampton earned the victory or Arsenal gave this game away. Both Southampton goals came off suspect goalkeeping from Arsenal goalie Wojciech Szczesny. The first saw Szczesny chase down a sprinting Sadio Mane in “no mans land” on the right edge of the box. There was no way Szczesny was going to get to the ball first and with Arsenal defenders (3 or 4 players shown in the picture) already retreating there was no point to leave his six yard area. Mane took advantage of the open goal and chipped home a brilliant left footed shot from a tough angle. It’s almost like one of those Tim Duncan bank shots from the baseline that you wonder how did you have an angle to bank that in? The second saw Szczesny nervously bouncing all over the place and after a weak clearance the ball went right to Southampton’s Dusan Tadic for the easy tap in goal. Southampton end New Year’s Day in 4th place and they sit three points ahead of Arsenal in the 6th place position.

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MAN OF THE MATCH: Harry Kane, Tottenham

SCOREBOARD

Manchester United 1, Stoke City 1

Hull City 2, Everton 0

Manchester City 3, Sunderland 2

Newcastle United 3, Burnley 3

Southampton 2, Arsenal 0

Aston Villa 0, Crystal Palace 0

Liverpool 2, Leicester City 2

West Bromwich 1, West Ham United 1

Swansea City 1, Queens Park Rangers 1

Tottenham 5, Chelsea 3

STANDINGS/TABLE

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