EPL Week 19: Chelsea run continues; Liverpool tops Man City
Chelsea fought off a dogged Stoke for a record-equaling 13th successive Premier League win as Liverpool maintained its pursuit of the leaders with a victory over Manchester City. Full recaps and results from Saturday's EPL action below.
Liverpool helps title push by edging Manchester City
LIVERPOOL, England — Juergen Klopp has turned Liverpool into credible English Premier League title contenders again.
A season that began for Liverpool with a victory over Arsenal reached its midway point on Saturday by edging Manchester City 1-0 through Georginio Wijnaldum's early header.
Klopp has also seen off leader Chelsea and only been beaten twice through the first 19 games. Just six points separate Liverpool from Chelsea despite the London club being on a league-equaling 13-game winning run in a single season
"Can you imagine how annoying it is when you have won 13 games in a row and another team is only six points behind," Klopp said. "It is unbelievably difficult this league but we cannot have a look at Chelsea, they are unbelievably strong and they are on an outstanding run. We have to win our games and see where that takes us."
To a first title since 1990, Liverpool fans hope, in Klopp's first full season in charge. Under the former Borussia Dortmund coach, Liverpool is certainly better placed than Pep Guardiola's third-placed City, which slipped 10 points behind Chelsea.
"We have to wake up and, of course, in two days we have another game (against Burnley on Monday)," Guardiola said. "We have to focus and work because we cannot think about the big goals (the title). It's game by game. Forget about talking about the big things."
In a New Year's Eve game of few scoring chances, Liverpool completed the job after eight minutes as Klopp renewed his former Bundesliga rivalry with Guardiola, the ex-Bayern Munich coach.
Wijnaldum will take the plaudits for providing his second goal of the season, but Adam Lallana's contribution underscored how the midfielder is an essential ingredient in the title bid.
It was Lallana's seventh assist of the season — he has also scored seven — that set up Wijnaldum. The Dutch midfielder climbed above City defender Aleksandar Kolarov to meet Lallana's well-placed cross from the left flank before planting a header beyond goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
While Liverpool was pressing with rhythm, the visitors looked ragged. Even with striker Sergio Aguero back from suspension, the attacking threat was minimal.
There wasn't even a shot on target from City until the 54th minute. Even then Aguero struck centrally and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet easily gathered into his hands.
There was an encouraging moment for City when Silva provided some menace with a run through the Liverpool defense before firing just wide of Mignolet.
The momentum was with City, a team transformed after its disjointed first half but it couldn't penetrate the Liverpool defense.
Neither, though, could Liverpool build on its advantage. Fortunately for Klopp it wasn't necessary.
"Games like this are very, very difficult and it's not that we had a clear plan from the first second to stay deep or be deeper than in other games but you have to learn in the game, you have to adapt to the game," Klopp said. "We were the whole night not cool enough in possession.
"We lost the ball in the wrong moment. But they couldn't create real chances because we defended really well. It was kind of a wild game. It was intense. It's not about having a philosophy, it's about adapting to the quality of the opponent and in this case we needed to defend from a compact formation."
Chelsea wins 13th straight English Premier League game
LONDON — Willian scored twice as leader Chelsea overcame Stoke 4-2 to equal an English Premier League record for 13 straight wins in a single season.
Bruno Martins Indi and Peter Crouch struck for Stoke to cancel out goals by Gary Cahill and Willian. But Willian struck for a second time moments after Crouch's 64th-minute equalizer and Diego Costa netted a fourth.
"After the second goal it wasn't easy to go and have the good reaction, to show the great character, above all after 12 wins in a row," Chelsea manager Antonio Conte said. "When you win a lot, there is a great danger to be satisfied, to be relaxed, to think, 'OK, but we won a lot in the past, now if arrive the draw, if we don't lose, if we don't win, it's not important.' No.
"My players showed me great will, great will to fight, great will to win, great will to take this great achievement for us. I'm pleased for them and they deserved this. I'm their coach, but they deserved this."
Chelsea is six points clear of Liverpool, which beat Manchester City 1-0.
Arsenal was the last team to win 13 matches in a row in a solitary campaign in 2002. The Gunners extended that landmark to 14 the following season and Chelsea can match that streak at Tottenham on Wednesday.
"Now it's not easy after 13 wins in a row you face teams that want to beat you, not only to take three points but for many reasons," Conte said. "It's more difficult. We must know this. (But) when you have these type of players you can go to sleep happy.
"This first half of season was incredible for us. I think it's very difficult to repeat this run, because we played 19 games. To win 16 games, draw one game and lose two games is a great achievement for us."
Chelsea's defense will have to be tighter at White Hart Lane. Saturday's win was the first time Chelsea conceded more than one goal in a game since the Sept. 24 loss at Arsenal.
Chelsea's 34th-minute opener came when Cesc Fabregas' corner was met by Cahill, who rose highest to head into the net.
Stoke leveled a minute into the second half through Martins Indi. Chelsea responded, stepping up the intensity and Stoke goalkeeper Lee Grant was beaten again in the 57th. Victor Moses centered for Eden Hazard, who laid the ball off for Willian to power the ball into the bottom corner.
The lead lasted less than seven minutes, with Mame Diouf crossing for Crouch to tuck in the leveler.
Once again Chelsea retaliated, going ahead for a third time when Fabregas fed Willian to emphatically finish at the near post. And Costa marked his return from suspension by out-muscling Martins Indi before drilling in his 14th goal of the season.
Martial, Pogba score late as Man United beats Middlesbrough
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Jose Mourinho's year looked like ending badly before his Manchester United team scored two goals in the closing minutes to beat Middlesbrough 2-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Anthony Martial struck in the 85th minute at Old Trafford, quickly followed by Paul Pogba in the 86th, after Middlesbrough had taken the lead halfway through the second half through Grant Leadbitter.
United has now won five league games in a row.
It stays sixth with 36 points from 19 rounds, still 13 points behind leaders Chelsea at the halfway point of the season, but maintains its challenge for the Champions League spots.
The game could prove a turning point in a difficult season so far for Martial, who looked a genuine threat and nuisance to Middlesbrough as United dominated the 90 minutes, with 32 efforts on goal. The hosts were denied twice by the post, once by a contentious refereeing decision and on multiple occasions by their former goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
When Leadbitter lashed home his first Premier League goal in almost eight years it looked as though an upset was on the cards, but Martial and Pogba found the net in quick succession during a frantic finale.
Time was running out for United when Zlatan Ibrahimovic nodded down a long ball from the back and Martial cracked home a fine finish.
But United was not done yet, and put Boro away less than two minutes later.
Juan Mata played his part, pushing wide and crossing for Pogba, who placed his header expertly into the top corner.
That left United boasting a six-game winning streak in all competitions heading into 2017, a stark contrast to the eight games without victory that former manager Louis van Gaal brought up in the club's final fixture last year.
Ibrahimovic, who was unfortunate to see his acrobatic finish ruled out for high feet, ends 2016 with 50 goals in all competitions, placing him second behind Lionel Messi among players from Europe's top five leagues. The Swede did not add to his tally against Boro but played his full part in the United comeback.
United can count itself unlucky not to have taken a first-half lead.
First came Pogba's wonderful overhead kick, the Frenchman agonizingly close to adding a finishing touch worthy of Martial's raking cross-pitch delivery and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's delicately cushioned header.
When United hit the post a second time, in the 38th, it was less about the build-up and more about one sensational strike of the ball from Martial, whose 30-yard (meter) effort came back off the post with a thud.
United did breach Boro's back line moments later, Martial playing creator with a floated cross for Ibrahimovic, but the referee blew for dangerous play.
On the sidelines Mourinho recreated the finish as he disputed the decision with the fourth official
Middlesbrough drops a spot to 16th in the standings.
Swansea loses 3-0 in first game after firing Bob Bradley
SWANSEA, Wales (AP) — Swansea's miserable form continued in the first game following Bob Bradley's firing, with Bournemouth beating the English Premier League's bottom club 3-0 on Saturday.
Benik Afobe and Ryan Fraser scored first-half goals and substitute Josh King completed a comfortable win for Bournemouth in the 88th minute.
Under the caretaker command of Alan Curtis, Swansea slumped to a fourth straight defeat and faces a huge task to avoid the drop in 2017.
Swansea hopes to have a new manager in charge for Tuesday's trip to Crystal Palace, with the favorite being former Derby manager and current Bayern Munich assistant Paul Clement.
But it will need some rescue act to prolong the club's top-flight stay.
Having fired its American manager after the 4-1 thrashing on Monday by West Ham, Swansea was looking for an immediate lift — especially after Hull's draw with Everton on Friday night had dropped the Welsh side to the foot of the table.
Swansea has never had it so bad in the Premier League with only 12 points, half the total of midtable Bournemouth, at the halfway point of the season.
On-loan Jack Wilshere's pass to Fraser sparked panic in the 25th minute as Jordi Amat turned the Scot's cross goalward. Lukasz Fabianski produced an excellent point-blank save to prevent an own-goal, but Afobe was the first to react and strike the rebound home.
On the stroke of halftime Swansea looked helpless as Junior Stanislas played a one-two with Wilshere and fed the ball across the six-yard box for Fraser to finish for his second goal in four games.
King ran through in the closing stages to secure the easy win.
Barkley equalizer gives Everton 2-2 draw at Hull in EPL
HULL, England (AP) — Ross Barkley headed a late equalizer to earn Everton a 2-2 draw with struggling Hull in the English Premier League on Friday.
Hull captain Michael Dawson gave his side a sixth-minute lead, only for an own-goal by goalkeeper David Marshall in first-half injury time to make it all square.
Robert Snodgrass restored Hull's lead with a superb free kick in the 65th minute, but Barkley pounced with six minutes left to earn his side a point.
Everton remained seventh in the standings, while Hull swapped the bottom of the table for 19th place ahead of the rest of the weekend matches.
Hull attacked right from the start and was rewarded almost immediately. Curtis Davies rose to meet a corner taken by Snodgrass and flicked the ball on for Dawson to rifle a shot between Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles and the far post.
Everton pushed forward in search of an equalizer and nearly found it in the 15th minute when Seamus Coleman sent a header against the base of the right-hand post.
Though the hosts looked to have done enough to keep their lead until the interval, they conceded in agonizing fashion in the first minute of added time.
Kevin Mirallas sent over a corner and Marshall's botched attempt to punch the ball clear in an aerial melee with teammate Dieumerci Mbokani saw it fly into his own net.
Lifted by the equalizer, Everton showed more attacking intent at the restart and nearly took the lead after just three minutes. Romelu Lukaku shrugged off Hull's defenders and managed to unleash a deflected left-foot shot that was tipped onto the crossbar by Marshall.
Soon after, it was Hull's turn to be denied by the woodwork. Snodgrass drove a free kick over the Everton wall, only for the ball to slam against the post and crossbar with a helpless Robles rooted to the spot.
Ten minutes later, Everton conceded another free kick and this time Snodgrass made the visitors pay. Robles got an outstretched glove to the ball after it curled over the wall, but couldn't keep it out.
Again, Hull just needed to hold on for a precious victory in its battle to avoid relegation.
But watched by England coach Gareth Southgate, Barkley grabbed Everton's equalizer with a downward header - meeting a perfect cross from left back Leighton Barnes, whose earlier foul had led to Snodgrass's goal.
Leicester ends winless streak with 1-0 win v West Ham
LEICESTER, England (AP) — Leicester moved six points clear of the relegation zone on Saturday after the struggling champions beat West Ham 1-0 for their first English Premier League victory in four matches.
Club record signing Islam Slimani headed in the 20th-minute goal at King Power stadium.
Leicester moved up one spot in the standings — from 16th to 15th.
Midtable West Ham lost its first league game after three consecutive victories.
Michail Antonio hit the bar for the Hammers who, despite dominating the second half, failed to find a way through.
With the recalled Riyad Mahrez taking up attention behind Slimani, wingers Demarai Gray and Marc Albrighton were given extra space and it was Albrighton who played a key role in the game's only goal.
A slick one-touch move saw Danny Drinkwater feed Albrighton on the right and his outstanding first-time delivery looped on to Slimani's head and the forward gave West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph no chance from six yards (meters).
If the first half was played at breakneck speed, the second failed to live up to expectations as the Hammers tried to fight back.
But with defenses on top, neither side managed to maintain the excitement.
When the visitors did threaten, Andy Carroll headed wide with five minutes left.
Gray hits hat trick as Burnley beats Sunderland 4-1
BURNLEY, England (AP) — Burnley moved closer to mid-table safety in the English Premier League on Saturday after a hat trick by Andre Gray helped his side to a 4-1 victory at home to Sunderland.
Gray took advantage of a long ball forward to give Burnley a 31st minute lead, and then followed up six minutes after the restart by rounding goalkeeper Vito Mannone to score his second after latching onto another pass upfield.
Ashley Barnes provided the assist for the hat trick, allowing Gray to finish from a dozen meters (yards).
Barnes added Burnley's fourth with a 67th minute penalty, before Jermain Defoe scored a consolation goal for Sunderland, which remains in the relegation zone under manager David Moyes.
Robson-Kanu gives West Brom 2-1 victory at Southampton
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — Wales forward Hal Robson-Kanu struck a second-half winner as West Bromwich Albion came from a goal down to beat Southampton 2-1 in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Shane Long had put Southampton ahead in the 41st minute, only for Matt Phillips to equalize two minutes later in a game between two mid-table sides.
Southampton enjoyed plenty of first-half possession and Ronald Koeman's side made it count shortly before the break, when Long sent a glancing header past goalkeeper Ben Foster from Dusan Tadic's corner.
Phillips replied for West Brom almost immediately, steering home a low shot from the edge of the area.
Robson-Kanu, who scored a memorable goal for Wales against Belgium at the European Championship, completed the turnaround in the 50th minute when he collected a reverse pass from Phillips before smashing a rising shot into the top corner.
Southampton's task became even harder in the 88th minute when center half Virgil van Dijk was sent off for bringing down West Brom striker Salomon Rondon.