Manchester United got their first away victory of the season at Arsenal, Liverpool sunk to their third straight defeat and Newcastle made it five straight wins. Julian Keith has the Matchday 12 EPL wrap.
Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good and it proved the case as Manchester United pulled off a smash and grab 2-1 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates.
A Kieran Gibbs own goal and Wayne Rooney’s 11th Premier League strike against Arsenal were enough to seal the win despite a late effort from the returning Olivier Giroud.
It was a day of firsts as United earned their first away victory of the Louis Van Gaal era and handed Arsenal their first home defeat in the League since the beginning of last season.
Heading into the fixture both sides had been under fire for their defensive frailties and in an attempt to rectify the situation Van Gaal reverted his team back to the 3-4-1-2 formation they had ditched earlier in the season.
Youngsters Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett sat either side of the much maligned Chris Smalling, giving United’s last line of defence an average age of just 22.
The Gunners dominated the game but it was seemingly the same old Arsenal as a large serving of possession ended in a number of squandered chances on the night.
Danny Welbeck missed two good chances in the first 10 minutes before Jack Wilshere broke through on goal five minutes later but saw his effort from close range saved by David De Gea.
De Gea again proved his worth to United by making eight saves over the course of the game and while he wasn’t asked to make any spectacular stops, his ball security and control of the area was impeccable and key to the win behind a raw United defence.
Luke Shaw was forced off due to an ankle injury after 16 minutes, adding to the Manchester outfits defensive woes; his replacement, specialist winger Ashley Young, performed admirably while trying to shut down an on-song Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Wilshere was lucky not to be shown red when he overreacted to a foul call and looked to force his head into the chin of Marouane Fellaini but referee Mike Dean saw fit to ignore the action.
United seemed to warm to the encounter just before the break and Angel Di Maria’s curling effort just past the post sent a warning to the home side that there was still danger from the visiting team.
Things sharply went downhill for Arsenal in the second half; first De Gea again saved from Welbeck before Jack Wilshere was forced off after he went over on his ankle under a strong challenge from McNair.
United then heaped misery on the home fans in the 56th minute when, on one of their rare ventures into the Arsenal box, Antonio Valencia latched onto a loose ball and saw his shot that was heading wide take a big deflection off Kieran Gibbs and into the net.
Worse still for the Gunners was an injury that Szczesny picked up during the goal that saw him replaced by the 22-year-old Damian Martinez.
Frustrated at the goal, Arsenal pushed more men forward in the hunt for an equaliser and it proved to be their undoing.
In the 85th minute, the Gunners were caught with 9 men high inside the United half and a ball out from Fellaini left Di Maria and Rooney 2v1 with Nacho Monreal; Rooney made no mistake by clipping a fine finish over Martinez and in for the 2-0 lead.
Olivier Giroud finally found the back of the net for Arsenal on his return with a powerful strike in the 95th minute but it was too little, too late as the Gunners slipped down to 8th on the ladder with another frustrating performance.
A disciplined and clinical display from United sees them move back into the top four for the first time in a long time much to the delight of their fans.
Elsewhere, Liverpool sunk to their third straight league defeat and are in full on crisis mode after going down 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Liverpool got off to a flyer when Rickie Lambert combined with his old Southampton partner Adam Lallana as he snuck in behind the Palace defence and slotted the ball for his first goal at the club and a lead with just two minutes played. Yannick Bolasie was superb for the home side on the day and in the 17th minute his powerful effort struck the upright and the rebound was turned in by Dwight Gayle to even things up. Things remained locked at 1-1 until the 78th minute when Joe Ledley was left free inside the box to tap in Palace’s second. Three minutes later the game was over for Liverpool when Aussie hero Mile Jedinak sent a beautifully curling free kick into the top corner to seal the 3-1 win.
Chelsea remained undefeated with a comfortable 2-0 win over West Brom and extended their lead at the top to six points. Diego Costa was again the man for Chelsea as he bagged the opener in the 11th minute when he beautifully controlled an Oscar cross with his chest and calmly slotted the ball without it ever touching the ground. West Brom were caught napping in the 25th minute when Cesc Fabregas found a free Eden Hazard inside the area off a corner and the Belgian smacked the ball home for the 2-0 lead. Any slim hope of a comeback was squashed when Claudio Yacob received his marching orders for a two footed lunge on Diego Costa.
Manchester City overcame an early goal to down Swansea 2-1 at the Etihad and ensure they remain in the top four. Wilfried Bony struck in just the ninth minute when he brought down a lovely dink over the defence from Nathan Dyer and passed the ball into the net. Stevan Jovetic brought the sides level just 10 minutes later when he scored his first goal since August by converting on Jesus Navas’ excellent low cross. City hit the lead just past the hour when Yaya Toure got on the end of Fernandinho’s delightful backheel before smashing the ball home for what would be the winning goal.
Danny Ings scored twice in two minutes to give Burnley a nifty 2-1 victory away at Stoke City and their second straight win in the league. Ings bagged his first in the 12th minute when Asmir Begovic spilled a shot straight to the striker’s feet and then again in the 13th minute Ings got in behind the defence and converted Michael Kightly’s cross. Stoke pulled a goal back in the 33rd minute when Jon Walters headed home a well-weighted Bojan cross but Burnley defended superblyfor the rest of the game to earn the victory.
Newcastle earned their fifth consecutive Premier League victory with a 1-0 win over QPR at St James’ Park. Stand-in captain Moussa Sissoko was superb again for Newcastle and was rewarded this week by scoring his side’s winning goal. Newcastle fans had to wait until the 78th minute to hit the lead when Sissoko, who started the move on halfway, combined neatly with Sammy Ameobi on the edge of the area before angling an effort into the far side of the net to give the Magpies the win over a struggling QPR.
Everton bagged their first win in three games with a fiery 2-1 victory over West Ham at Goodison Park. Romelu Lukaku broke the deadlock in the first half when Ross Barkley’s deflected shot fell to him at the back post where he tapped in for the opener. Mauro Zarate came off the West Ham bench to draw things level when his effort in the second half took a wicked deflection off Phil Jagielka and sailed into the net. With just 17 minutes remaining Leon Osman, in his 400th appearance for the club, was on hand to slide in and smash home a Samuel Eto’o cross to the back post and hand Everton all three points.
Tottenham Hotspurs earned a come from behind 2-1 victory over 10-man Hull City at KC Stadium. Former Spurs player Jake Livermore gave the home side the lead in the 8th minute when he drilled a low effort from outside the area across the face of Hugo Lloris’ goal and in. Gaston Ramirez made the task harder for Hull early in the second half when he foolishly kicked out at Jan Vertonghen off the ball and was shown the red card. Harry Kane tied things up in the 61st minute when Christian Eriksen’s freekick struck the upright and landed at the young striker’s feet to tap into an empty net. It took until the 90th minute but Spurs finally made the numbers advantage count when Christian Eriksen got his deserved goal by lashing a shot home from right on the edge of the area.
Aston Villa and Southampton played out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park with the visitors netting a late equaliser to extend their unbeaten run to five games. Gabby Agbonlahor opened the scoring in the 29th minute when Fraser Forster came charging out of his box and missed a clearance, leaving the striker free to slot the ball home for the lead. Villa managed to hold out 2nd placed Southampton until the 81st minute when their impressive young fullback Nathaniel Clyne latched onto a low cross just inside the area to bash the ball home and force the draw.
Leicester City have now failed to score in five consecutive games as they played out a 0-0 draw with Sunderland at King Power Stadium. Both sides showed effort during the game but some lackluster finishing in the final third condemned the game to a goalless draw.