Premier League | Chelsea move to second position; United’s title hopes take a huge setback

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Premier League | Chelsea move to second position; United’s title hopes take a huge setback

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SportsCafe Desk

12/31/2017

Chelsea moved into second place in the Premier League with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over a much-changed Stoke City side at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United's pursuit of winning the Premier League title has got a massive hit after being held to a goalless draw by Southampton at Old Trafford.

Chelsea 5 - 0 Stoke City

The Premier League champions rested Eden Hazard for the match, but still maintained their quality on the pitch in a scintillating opening half-hour as Antonio Rudiger headed home Willian's free-kick to give them a 1-0 lead within the first three minutes. Chelsea doubled their lead when Danny Drinkwater fired home on the bounce from 25 yards out, and Pedro capitalized on that to add a third from just outside the box with only a quarter of the game gone. 

Stoke had their moments in the game when striker Mame Biram Diouf found the net, but that was ruled a freekick for his usage of his upper arm to control a long ball before smashing home. The result was a foregone conclusion when Chelsea added a fourth through Willian's penalty in the 73rd minute of the game. If that was not enough of a thrashing, then a fine individual effort from Davide Zappacosta decided to add more to Stoke’s misery in the 88th minute of the match. The comprehensive victory rounded off a great 2017 for Antonio Conte’s side as the team moved above United to claim the second position on the league table. 

Manchester United 0 - 0 Southampton

United welcomed Southampton to the “Theatre of Dreams” after failing to pick up a win from their previous two fixtures - drawing 2-2 at Leicester before surviving a scare against Burnley on Boxing Day.  Jose Mourinho decided to leave Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial on the bench and Zlatan Ibrahimovic out entirely, and that made Romelu Lukaku the main striker for the United attack. However, Lukaku's match lasted only eight minutes as a clash of heads with Wesley Hoedt forced the United manager to introduce Rashford. James Ward-Prowse was on target with a 19th-minute free-kick before goalkeeper Alex McCarthy saved it tactically. Calls for a penalty against Maya Yoshida went unrewarded by the referee after the ball made contact with the Southampton defender's arm in the box, and Jesse Lingard sent a glancing header just wide of the target from a Henrikh Mkhitaryan cross as half-time approached. In the second half, the teams also failed to break the deadlock as the game ended with another frustrating draw for the United. 

United had already lost second spot to Chelsea following their 5-0 win over Stoke City earlier in the day, while Southampton are now without a win in eight league matches, although they will be happy to take this point. After three consecutive draws, United could now start 2018, 17 points adrift of City if the latter extend their winning run to 19 matches at Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Liverpool 2 - 1 Leicester City

Mohamed Salah continued his fine run in the Premier League as his brace helped Liverpool claim a 2-1 victory over Leicester City at Anfield despite Jamie Vardy scoring the seventh goal in his past five games. Vardy gave the visitors an early lead when he scampered home from a Riyad Mahrez pass taking the benefit of some abject defending by the hosts. 

However, the visitors' hopes of a possible win were buried when Salah led Liverpool’s fightback and equalised in the second half. If that was not enough, the Egyptian turned Harry Maguire on the edge of the area before firing in his second goal of the day and his 17th Premier League goal of the season to give Liverpool the lead. Leicester failed to score once again in the match and that means Liverpool will finish the year in fourth place, extending their unbeaten run to 15 games. On the other hand, Leicester have stayed in the eighth position but have now gone five games without a victory.

Other Results:

AFC Bournemouth 2 - 1 Everton

Huddersfield Town 0 - 0 Burnley

Newcastle United 0 - 0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Watford 1 - 2 Swansea City

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