“The boys done well to grind it out; we showed heart and dug in."
Week 19 of the Premier League, and the New Year starts with a bang as Arsenal go to the top table – two very late goals against Cardiff City sealing victory.
Manchester City and Chelsea keep the pressure on the leaders after wins at Swansea and Southampton respectively.
Tottenham Hotspur beat champions Manchester United, Liverpool bounce back with a victory against Hull whilst Newcastle slip up at West Bromwich Albion.
Swansea City 2 Manchester City 3 12.45pm KO, Wednesday
The first Premier League game of 2014 was a belter as Man City earned a well- deserved victory against Swansea.
Man City struck first on 14 minutes when from a half cleared corner the ball fell to Fernandinho whose stunning low controlled shot found the back of the net.
Wilfried Bony was a constant threat, having the best openings for the home side. And thanks to his persistence, Swansea got back on equal terms in first half injury time when Bony headed home an Angel Rangel cross.
City started to slowly turn the screw in the second with Jesús Nevas, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho beginning to control the game.
City took regained lead as Yaya Toure bullied his way into the box and his cross shot was deflected into the back of the net by Ashley Williams.
On 66 minutes Aleksander Kolarov robbed Wayne Routledge before racing from inside his own half, then cutting inside to smash a right foot shot past the Swansea keeper to make it 3-1.
Bony struck in again in second half injury time, firing past Hart from 20 yards to claim his second of the game but it wasn’t enough as City held on for the three points.
Arsenal 2 Cardiff City 0 3pm KO, Wednesday
Two goals in the last three minutes secured Arsenal’s place at the top of the table and condemned Cardiff City to defeat in the capital.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watched on from the stands, as the Norwegian who is tipped to take over from Malkay Mackay saw encouragement from a Cardiff side that held Arsenal for 88 minutes. The hosts enjoyed plenty of possession but were limited to half chances in a lack lustre first game.
Cardiff defended deep and occasionally threatened with Fraizer Campbell’s pace. Arsenal best chances falling to Theo Walcott without success.
As the game headed into the dying stages, Cardiff’s resilience was finally broken by substitute Nicklas Bendtner, who fired in on 88 minutes – reacting quickest to a David Marshall save from Bacary Sagna’s header.
Theo Walcott secured the points on 90 minutes after calmly chipping Marshall from a Jack Wilshere through ball. Arsène Wenger commented:
“We needed to be patient against a very good Cardiff side. They did work absolutely hard; their new manager was in the stands. They deserve credit and were a bit unfortunate to lose in the end.”
Chelsea 3 Southampton 0 3pm KO, Wednesday
Chelsea stayed two points behind the leaders with a comfortable win against Southampton. Although the game was goalless at the break, it was Chelsea who upped the tempo in the second half.
The introductions of both Oscar and Willian changed the momentum, and on the hour, Oscar’s effort came off the post and fell into the path of Torres who headed in.
Saints substitute Ricky Lambert almost made an immediate impact as confusion in the Chelsea defence led to the ball landing to him but his header went straight to Petr Cech.
Southampton paid the price for the miss as Oscar raced clear and fed Willian fired a low shot into the back of the net from the edge of the box, a brilliant piece of individual skill.
It was proving to be a majestical performance from Oscar and he got his reward on 82 minutes latching onto Eden Hazards pass before easily slotting the ball past Kelvin Davis. The only downside to Oscars’ performance was his booking for a blatant dive after he had easily rounded the keeper before taking a dive instead of scoring.
Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2 5.30pm KO, Wednesday
The current champions started well at home in the last game of the day. But it was Spurs who should have taken the lead when Roberto Soldado pierced the United defence with a brilliant pass only for Aaron Lennon to hit the ball straight at David De Gea.
The visitors didn’t have to wait much longer with Emmanuel Adebayor giving them the lead when he headed home a sublime cross from Christian Eriksen.
The second half was pretty much more pressure from United until the 66th minute when a Lennon cross fell into Eriksen’s path via a Nemanja Vidi? deflection and his low header somehow creeping into the back of the net – sending the travelling Spurs fans delirious.
United responded direct from the restart as Spurs forgot the famous saying: “You’re at your most vulnerable right after you score.”
Adnan Januzaj played a clever through ball for Danny Welbeck who ran onto the ball to flick the ball past Hugo Lloris.
With the crowd now urging on the home side, injecting belief into the United side for the remainder of the game, but they just could not find a way through and it was Spurs who held on to claim three precious points:
“It was a big win, the boys done well to grind it out; we showed heart and dug in,” said Spurs Coach Tim Sherwood.
One Asian Manchester United fan commented on Facebook: “I think were out of the title race it will be a miracle to finish in the top 4 and we definitely need a left-back, defensive and creative mid and winger.”
Elsewhere Liverpool made it two wins in a row after beating Hull City 2-0. Fulham beat West Ham United 2-1 who had Kevin Nolan sent off.
Crystal Palace were held 1-1 by Norwich City, Stoke City drew with Everton 1-1, Sunderland’s misery continued as they lost at home 1-0 to Aston Villa and Newcastle United lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion.
So Arsenal start the New Year from where they left off in 2013 and the battle for the top spot continues – with two points separating the top three.
The transfer window is looming and who will invest to sustain stability? And who will panic buy?