Boxing Day Highlights, Recap: Chelsea, City, United hold strong, Saints make statement, more

IMAGE, CHELSEAFC.COM

The Premier League’s big guns lived up to their positions with a number of Boxing Day beatdowns.

Chelsea had the biggest challenge of all, facing fourth place West Ham at Stamford Bridge.  Sam Allardyce reverted back to his side’s former mid-table mentality, making key personnel decisions to fit an all-out defense against their hosts.

Jose Mourinho would make them pay.  The Blues dominated possession and created a pair of chances from both Oscar and Gary Cahill.  However, it would be stalwart John Terry that put the hosts ahead 31 minutes into the match, slamming home a headed Diego Costa pass to put his side up.  Chelsea managed the second 30 minutes later with Costa netting his 13th of the season.

City kept pace with a dominating performance, scoring three in the opening 34 minutes to route West Brom 3-1, extending their winning streak to nine across all competitions.  Fernando opened the scoring in the eighth minute, with Yaya Toure sinking a penalty five minutes later and David Silva adding the capper.  Snow changed the complexion of the match in the second half, giving West Brom new life.  However, aside from a consolation Brown Ideye goal late in the match, the hosts simply could not find their finish.

Finally, the Red Devil resurgence continues.  Wayne Rooney put on a show, leading Manchester United with a brace on route to a 3-1 win over Newcastle.  Radamel Falcao spotted the English striker with a one-time cross from a Juan Mata ball, allowing Rooney the easy tap in for the go-ahead goal 23 minutes in.  He would double United’s lead 13 minutes later with Van Persie netting the third.

As the dust settled, Chelsea remains atop of the table, three ahead of Manchester City and 10 past Manchester United, keeping the top three spots in tact.

Saints Ascend, Palace Fall: Southampton have answered doubters this week with back to back victories.  This time, it was a 3-1 plundering of Crystal Palace that has once again buoyed the Saints into a top four position — and sunk Palace into the relegation zone.

Sadio Mané was the Saints’ engine this evening, scoring the first just 17 minutes into the match and leading a vibrant attack, particularly in the second half.  Palace answered Mane’s goal with several threatening moments, but the homeside could not break through.

Mane was back at it in the second half, weaving his way through the Palace defenders and finding Ryan Betrand to double their lead in the 48th.  Toby Alderweireld capped off the Saints’ scoring, soaring above his defender on a corner to secure the third goal of the evening.  Scott Dann scored the consolation goal to wrap up the match.

Everton Slide Continues: A controversial penalty shout allowed visiting Stoke City the opportunity to go up in the first half, and Bojan Krkic’s goal turned out to be the decider in a 1-0 Everton loss.

Roberto Martinez’s men played a physical battle, and it cost them some healthy legs.  Captain Phil Jagielka, goalkeeper Tim Howard and winger Kevin Mirallas will likely be missing time during a congested fixture heading into the new year, adding more woe to an already disappointing loss. Steven Naismith will miss Sunday’s game at Newcastle, picking up a fifth booking for a late challenge on Bojan as well.

Everton pick up their second loss in a row.  They have one win in six matches.

Relegation Field Expands: Leicester City continue to own the unenviable 20th spot in the table, losing their eighth straight match, done in at home by Tottenham 2-1.

The rest of the field, however, remains wide open.

Southampton managed their third straight win, dropping Crystal Palace 3-1, keeping hold of their fourth place position.  Palace wasn’t so lucky.  The Eagles now find themselves in the third and final relegation spot following their second straight loss and sixth winless match in a row.

Burnley, meanwhile, put a scare into Liverpool at home, but a magnificent strike from Raheem Sterling did the home side in, dropping them one slot to 19th.  Burnley and Palace now share identical records, tied at 15 points; five ahead of Leicester.

Hull City, meanwhile, escaped the zone with an emphatic win at the Stadium of Light.  Sunderland fell flat against the hungry Tigers 3-1, putting Hull one point out of the zone, and dipping the Black Cats further towards the bottom of the table, just four points from Burnley and Palace.

The result surprised many, particularly after Adam Johnson gave Sunderland a 1-0 lead just thirty seconds into the match.  Gaston Ramirez’s left footed shot beat Costel Pantilimon on the bounce shortly after the 30th minute, tying the match at one.  Nearly 20 minutes later, Ramirez played distributor, pinpointing James Chester on the corner who slammed a header home to take the lead.  Substitute Nikica Jelavic made it three in the 90th minute to seal the road win.

Gus Poyet and his men will rue the result, particularly after being denied a pair of penalty shouts for handball.  Now the Black Cats, pinned in 14th place, cap off the bottom fighters, with a mere nine points separating them from bottom dwelling Leicester and just four from Palace and Burnley.

A 2-1 loss to Arsenal keeps QPR just two points from the zone while Swansea down Villa at home, putting the Villains just a point above Sunderland at 13th.

Here is the current Premier League table: