If you thought the most chaotic place in London on 22nd December would be a shopping centre, you’d be mistaken. That honour went to the Emirates Stadium, which staged a 3-3 draw between Arsenal and Liverpool which provided a treat for neutrals but put fans of both clubs through the wringer. Just as they had done at Anfield earlier in the season, Liverpool looked far sharper in the first half especially and were good value for the lead given to them by Philippe Coutinho’s header. However, a succession of misses, particularly in the closing minutes of the first half, left a sense of dissatisfaction despite the interval lead. The Reds really put themselves in the box seat shortly after half-time when Mohamed Salah found the net, but then followed a surreal five-minute period when Arsenal, who had done precious little thus far on the night, scored three times to find themselves 3-2 in front. All three goals were catastrophic from a Liverpool perspective, Joe Gomez caught napping for the first and Simon Mignolet at his feeble worst for the other two. He wasn’t the only goalkeeper to have a shocker on the night, with Petr Cech practically gifting Roberto Firmino an equaliser with 20 minutes to go. Either team could have won it late on, but both came away with regrets over surrendering what had been very promising positions.
Manchester City’s 17-match winning run in the Premier League began with a fortunate victory at Bournemouth four months ago, when they needed a 97th-minute goal to clinch three points. On Saturday, they eased through the gears to put four past the Cherries without reply, taking their points tally to a jaw-dropping 55 out of 57. The visitors didn’t lie down meekly against their all-conquering opponents but they played themselves into trouble to allow Sergio Aguero to open the scoring with a simple header for his 100th Etihad Stadium goal. Raheem Sterling got his obligatory goal against Bournemouth after the interval and Aguero doubled his tally with another headed effort. Danilo rounded off the scoring in the closing minutes as City extended their phenomenal sequence of victories. The Cherries weren’t necessarily poor despite the final score, but they will spend Christmas in the bottom three.
The gap at the top of the table is now 13 points after Manchester United conceded a stoppage-time equaliser at Leicester, the second consecutive match in which Jose Mourinho’s men shipped a decisive last-gasp goal. The Foxes hit United on the counter for their opening goal, a long ball over the top taking out most of the defence and Riyad Mahrez teeing up Jamie Vardy for his 50th Premier League goal. The teams were level shortly before the interval, Juan Mata with United’s equaliser, and the Spaniard later put his team in front with a sumptuous free kick. Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard then spurned glorious opportunities to wrap up the points before Daniel Amartey’s red card. Just as it looked like United were seeing the game out, Marc Albrighton’s pinpoint delivery into the box was met by Harry Maguire, who steered the ball home to earn Leicester an unexpected point.
Everton are now unbeaten in five matches under Sam Allardyce after holding Chelsea to a goalless draw at Goodison Park on Saturday. The Toffees will undoubtedly be happier with the result, having frustrated the champions on several occasions as their defence held firm for another clean sheet. Phil Jagielka bore the brunt of criticism earlier in the season but he produced two heroic goal-line clearances in the first half, while Ashley Williams got in a timely block to a goal-bound Pedro effort after half-time. The Wales defender almost put through his own net inadvertently before, in stoppage time, Everton fluffed their best chance when Michael Keane headed over from a corner. It’s another step in the right direction for the Toffees, though, while Chelsea blew their chance of pulling away from the teams beneath them.
Tottenham took full advantage of all of their top four rivals dropping points by hammering Burnley 3-0 at Turf Moor, lifting them back up to fifth. Harry Kane could well have been suspended for this game had he been sent off for his reckless challenge at the Etihad last week, but here he was back doing what he does best, scoring all three goals to notch his seventh hat-trick of 2017. His first goal came courtesy of a contentious penalty which was awarded when Dele Alli went to ground in the box. After Spurs passed up several opportunities to add to their lead, Kane showed his team-mates how it’s done by beating Burnley’s offside trap for his second of the night. The England international helped himself to one more late on, Tottenham proving far too good for opponents who were above them in the table prior to kick-off.
Newcastle recovered from an early blow to earn just their second away win of the season, beating West Ham 3-2 at London Stadium to climb out of the bottom three and ahead of their opponents. That certainly didn’t seem to be on the cards when an Henri Saivet mistake gave Marko Arnautovic the chance to score a fine solo goal, but the Frenchman soon made amends by curling an exquisite free-kick into the Hammers’ net. The Geordies grew in confidence after that and took the lead early in the second half through Mohamed Diame. Andre Ayew failed with a very contentious penalty before Christian Atsu put Newcastle 3-1 ahead. Ayew stabbed home from close range to set up a tense finish but the visitors had done enough to secure a much-needed win and put the brakes on West Ham’s recent revival.
Stoke also arrested a worrying decline on Saturday, defeating West Brom 3-1 at the bet365 Stadium to ease some of the pressure on Mark Hughes. The Potters struck midway through the first half when Joe Allen slid the ball home from close range and, having survived the scare of a horrendous Salomon Rondon miss, scored again on the stroke of half-time. While Ben Foster’s goalkeeping was poor, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting finished the chance with aplomb. Stoke’s nerves would become frayed when Rondon halved the deficit and the home side had to ensure a tense finish to the game before, in stoppage time, they broke upfield and Ramadan Sobhi had an easy finish to bring some overdue cheer to the Potteries. West Brom, though, remain winless under Alan Pardew and second from bottom.
Brighton picked up their first win in eight with a 1-0 victory over Watford that was far more emphatic than the scoreline might suggest. The Seagulls dominated from start to finish against feeble opposition and, after failing to make the most of their chances against Burnley last week, ensured that they at least put one opportunity away this time. It was Pascal Gross who did the damage, the summer signing finding the net with a powerful drive, albeit one which Heurelho Gomes should really have kept out. Lewis Dunk ought to have doubled Brighton’s lead with a late header, but they got the win that they fully deserved and, on this evidence, they’ll soon not just pass Watford out but leave them trailing in the rearview mirror.
Leon Britton took caretaker charge of Swansea in the wake of Paul Clement’s sacking and while the Welsh side remain bottom of the table, they at least showed some character in coming from behind to draw with in-form Crystal Palace. The Swans looked like a side bereft of confidence in the first half and would have been grateful to go in at the interval on level terms. They were given a raw deal when Palace won a very soft penalty after Ruben Loftus-Cheek went to ground. Luka Milivojevic, unsurprisingly restored to spot-kick duties, made no mistake to put the Eagles ahead, but Swansea dug in to rescue a point through a fine finish from Jordan Ayew. It was a good day for the Ghanaian family, with his brother Andre also netting for West Ham.
Southampton are now without a win in six after being held to a 1-1 draw at home to Huddersfield on Saturday. The Saints took a first-half lead through Charlie Austin, who maintained his excellent scoring form but was lucky not to be sent off for catching Jonas Lossl on the head with a 50-50 challenge. The striker then missed a gilt-edged chance after the interval and limped off with a worrying hamstring injury, a real blow for Southampton. The home fans’ day got worse when Laurent Depoitre rose above a static Saints defence to head in the equaliser and, in stoppage time, Maya Yoshida’s header came back off the post after Huddersfield’s defence went to sleep from a set piece. If Southampton aren’t careful, they could be in for a grim start to 2018.
While Liverpool’s result on Friday night would have to go down as two points dropped given the pattern of the game, the draw at least keeps them in fourth at the midway point of the season. Also, with only Tottenham gaining ground on the Reds, there wasn’t much in the way of collateral damage done from the result at the Emirates, although Jurgen Klopp will know that the team’s position could, and should, be so much better after that horrendous and costly five-minute spell. There’s not much time for regret, though; Liverpool are back in action on Boxing Day.