City blow golden chance to close in on Chelsea

Dec 29 2014

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LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris punches the ball clear during the English Premier League match against Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Sunday.—AFP
LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris punches the ball clear during the English Premier League match against Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Sunday.—AFP

LONDON: Chelsea retained their three-point lead at the midpoint of the Premier League season on Sunday despite a draw at Southampton, thanks to Manchester City collapsing against struggling Burnley.

Chelsea were held 1-1 by fourth-placed Southampton, presenting City with a chance to close to within a point of the summit, but the defending champions squandered a gilt-edged opportunity by blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to second-bottom Burnley with Ashley Barnes lashing in the equaliser nine minutes from time.

Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris inspired his team to a feisty 0-0 draw with third-placed Manchester United who missed an opportunity to make ground on the pacesetters, remaining seven points behind City and Arsenal dislodged West Ham United from fifth place by winning their London derby 2-1.

At the other end of the standings, Leicester City remain bottom but raised their hopes of survival by beating Hull City 1-0 for their first victory since September.

SOUTHAMPTON: Sadio Mane of Southampton shoots to score past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during their English Premier League match at St Mary’s on Sunday.—Reuters
SOUTHAMPTON: Sadio Mane of Southampton shoots to score past Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during their English Premier League match at St Mary’s on Sunday.—Reuters

Chelsea fell behind in the 17th minute at St Mary’s when Dusan Tadic freed Sadio Mane, who coolly headed the ball away from John Terry before lobbing Thibaut Courtois.

The visitors struggled to produce their usual fluent attacking play but equalised just before half-time when Eden Hazard brilliantly controlled a fine pass from Cesc Fabregas, cut inside two defenders before firing home with his right foot.

But despite sending on Willian, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy in the second half, Jose Mourinho’s side were unable to find a winner, two days on from their classy 2-0 win over West Ham.

The closest they came was a shot from Hazard that flashed wide, while Fabregas was contentiously booked for diving when he went down in the Southampton box after apparently being caught by 19-year-old Matthew Targett.

Southampton had to see out the closing stages with 10 men after Morgan Schneiderlin was sent off for two bookable offences, but they held on for a draw that left them three points below United.

“I can believe Southampton defended with everything they have — with organisation, spirit and solidarity of players and the effort they fought to get the point,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.

MANCHESTER: Burnley’s Ashley Barnes (L) vies for an aerial ball with Manchester City’s Fernando during their English Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.—AP
MANCHESTER: Burnley’s Ashley Barnes (L) vies for an aerial ball with Manchester City’s Fernando during their English Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.—AP

“My players tried to win, especially in the second half. A point is a point against a difficult team,” added the Portuguese who complained that his players were being unfairly treated by referees following a recent spate of diving accusations.

“The reality is there are penalties and penalties — this one was a huge one,” he said. “Match after match, coaches are saying Chelsea players are diving. I will go to the referee and wish him a good year and tell him he will be ashamed.”

City, seeking a 10th successive win, eased into a 2-0 lead against Burnley at the Etihad Stadium, David Silva putting them ahead in the 23rd minute and Samir Nasri teed up Fernandinho to crash home a stunning second goal from the edge of the box 10 minutes later.

But the visitors got a lifeline when George Boyd tapped in a cross from Danny Ings just after the interval before Barnes struck with a sweet strike from 12 metres to level for Burnley who hung on for a welcome point in their bid to avoid relegation.

LONDON: Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla scores from the penalty spot during the English Premier League match against West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday.—AP
LONDON: Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla scores from the penalty spot during the English Premier League match against West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday.—AP

LLORIS THWARTS UNITED

Spurs survived a wave of early United pressure but threatened to end the visitors’ eight-match unbeaten run in the closing stages at White Hart Lane.

United, who had won seven of their last eight games, stayed third in the table, 10 points behind Chelsea, and Tottenham are seventh.

“We lost two points. We had the best performance of the season in the first half and could have scored four or five goals,” United manager Louis van Gaal told BT Sport.

“We were fantastic. But when you don’t score goals you cannot win. The second half was a struggle.”

The visitors, who named an unchanged starting line-up for the first time in 85 matches, dominated the first half.

Frenchman Lloris made a fine diving save to tip over Ashley Young’s fierce curling shot and Phil Jones had a close-range effort correctly ruled out for offside.

The influential Juan Mata’s deflected free kick also crashed against the post and Robin van Persie should have scored after running on to a sublime pass from Michael Carrick but Lloris blocked his tame shot.

Spurs nearly sneaked victory eight minutes from time when midfielder Ryan Mason blazed the ball over after good hold-up play from Harry Kane.

With United, Spurs and Southampton dropping points, Arsenal capitalised by leapfrogging West Ham into fifth place with victory at Upton Park.

Santi Cazorla put Arsenal in front with a 41st-minute penalty and three minutes later Danny Welbeck prodded in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross to make it 2-0.

Cheikhou Kouyate headed in for West Ham early in the second half, but Arsene Wenger’s side survived a late onslaught to record a win that took them level on points with Southampton.

Liverpool now trail the top four by eight points ahead of their home game with Swansea City on Monday.

Elsewhere, Crystal Palace began life without sacked manager Neil Warnock by drawing 0-0 at Queens Park Rangers, which kept the Selhurst Park club in the bottom three.

Leicester gave their chances of avoiding relegation a shot in the arm with Riyad Mahrez’s 32nd-minute strike at Hull leaving his side three points from safety, behind Burnley, Palace and Hull.

Late red cards for Leicester’s Paul Konchesky and Hull’s Stephen Quinn meant that both sides finished the game with 10 men.

Senegalese striker Mame Diouf scored twice to lead Stoke City to a 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa overcame the sending-off of Fabian Delph to draw 0-0 with Sunderland.

In the day’s late game, Newcastle United came from a goal down to beat Everton 3-2 at St. James Park and climb up to ninth place.

Arouna Kone’s first goal since 2013 gave Everton hope early, but Newcastle battled back with goals from Ayoze Perez, Jack Colback and Papiss Cisse.

Kevin Mirallas added a goal in the 84th minute, but it wasn’t enough for the visitors to claim a point.

Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2014