Tuesday 16 January, 2018

EPL: Chelsea held by Leicester; West Ham out of relegation zone

Alvaro Morata in action for Chelsea against Leicester City.

Alvaro Morata in action for Chelsea against Leicester City.

Chelsea missed a chance to go second in the Premier League as they were held to a 0-0 draw by a relentless Leicester City side that finished the match with 10 men.

Leicester put on a masterclass in pressing until Ben Chilwell was shown a second yellow card for a lunge on Victor Moses, but the champions were unable to take advantage and claim the three points that would have moved them above Manchester United.

Claude Puel welcomed Jamie Vardy back after two games out with a groin injury and the England striker, along with Riyad Mahrez, caused Chelsea no end of problems - his chasing of a long ball leading to returning captain Gary Cahill going off with a hamstring injury in the 33rd minute.

The Foxes had the better of the chances and Antonio Conte reacted by replacing Eden Hazard, ineffectual with Leicester's intense closing down robbing him of service, and Cesc Fabregas with Willian and Pedro before the hour mark.

A second booking in the space of five minutes for Chilwell meant Leicester had to play out the final 20 minutes a man light, and the Blues could not make their numerical superiority count.

Chelsea's fourth successive draw in all competitions could see them slip to fourth by the end of the weekend, while Leicester will take heart from a thoroughly deserved point at Stamford Bridge.

Leicester began with great energy and should have gone ahead when Chilwell cut back to Shinji Okazaki inside the six-yard box, only for the Japan international to steer over.

Vardy failed to hit the target from dangerous positions twice in less than a minute, before Wilfred Ndidi's free header following a corner was parried brilliantly by Thibaut Courtois and Antonio Rudiger stopped Aleksandar Dragovic slotting home on the follow-up.

Chelsea responded by launching a counter-attack from which Fabregas warmed the gloves of Kasper Schmeichel with a low drive from an acute angle.

Leicester continued to overrun the hosts, who were forced to replace the injured Cahill with Andreas Christensen just after the half-hour mark.

But Chelsea soon showed signs of getting to grips with the game, Alvaro Morata pulling a save from Schmeichel after charging in along the byline, while the Dane did well to tip a fierce Fabregas drive over three minutes before half-time.

Leicester were soon back on top after the restart. Mahrez was at the heart of the action for Puel's men and, after being refused a penalty having gone down softly as he ran at Christensen, he drove in from the right and saw a 20-yard shot deflect narrowly wide off the centre-back.

Conte had seen enough and replaced the disappointing Hazard with Pedro, while Fabregas got the chop for Willian as Chelsea switched to a 3-4-3.

The hosts were handed a boost when Chilwell was shown a second yellow card for catching Moses, but they found it difficult to create openings as Leicester sat back.

A 25-yard effort from N'Golo Kante was held by Schmeichel, before Tiemoue Bakayoko sent a pair of attempts from outside the box off target.

Morata's frustrations got the better of him as he picked up a yellow card for a petulant foul on Harry Maguire towards the end of another lacklustre showing, while Marcos Alonso had a stoppage-time free-kick pushed around the post by Schmeichel as Leicester kept Chelsea at bay.

OVER AT SELHURST PARK: Bakary Sako's sixth goal of the season gave Crystal Palace a 1-0 win over Burnley and moved Roy Hodgson's side further away from the relegation strife that once threatened to engulf their season.

Former Wolves forward Sako was aghast to see a first-half penalty claim waved away after being brought down by James Tarkowski but channelled his frustrations to secure the points midway through the first half.

Palace's recovery under Hodgson now stands at a solitary defeat in their past 12 Premier League outings – an impressive rehabilitative effort for both the south London club, who are five points clear of the bottom three, and their veteran former England manager.

OVER AT THE JOHN SMITH'S STADIUM:  Marko Arnautovic created three and scored the other as West Ham lifted themselves away from the Premier League relegation zone with a 4-1 victory over Huddersfield Town.

For the third successive away game, Arnautovic found the back of the net for the Hammers, his latest strike coming 11 seconds into the second half.

The Austria international created the opener for Mark Noble midway through the first half, only for Joe Lolley to level things up with his first league goal of the campaign. 

Huddersfield were not level for long, though, as Arnautovic stunned the home crowd with his sixth of the season, a powerful drive beyond Jonas Lossl.

He then turned provider for Manuel Lanzini, his strike partner netting twice in five minutes to take the game away from their hosts.

Victory lifts the Hammers into 11th place in the table, above Huddersfield, while also giving David Moyes his 200th Premier League victory.

OVER AT THE HAWTHORNS: West Brom ended their miserable Premier League run on Saturday, beating Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 to record their first league triumph in 21 games.

Having won their two opening games of the season, the Baggies soon fell apart, leading to the sacking of Tony Pulis.

The appointment of Alan Pardew failed to spark an immediate turnaround, West Brom lurching into a winless run so long that only the miserable 2007-08 Derby County team possess a longer drought in Premier League history.

Pardew secured his first victory in all competitions at Exeter City in the FA Cup last week, and the visit of the Seagulls offered a fine chance to get on a roll - Chris Hughton's men have now failed to score in nine league games on the road this term.

With that in mind, victory will have been in the hosts' thoughts as soon as the in-demand Jonny Evans headed them into a fourth-minute lead - the Northern Ireland defender showing the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City his value at both ends of the pitch.

The Baggies should have been given a first-half penalty for a blatant Glenn Murray handball, but they kept at their task and Craig Dawson gave them a cushion early in the second half.

Pardew's men remain second-bottom in the table, but have closed to within two points of 17th-place Bournemouth, who visit Arsenal on Sunday. Despite the defeat, Brighton are still three points above the drop zone, but their toothless away form will concern Hughton.

Meanwhile, Abdoulaye Doucoure scored a controversial last-minute equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw for Watford as Southampton's Premier League winless run was extended to 10 matches.

A first-half double from James Ward-Prowse had put the Saints in the driving seat, but Andre Gray cut the deficit early in the second half and Doucoure got the leveller at the death, appearing to use his hand to do so.

It added to Mauricio Pellegrino's misery as his side's poor form continued, though Watford themselves have won just once over same period of Saints' top-flight winless streak.

Having opened his account for the season in last weekend's FA Cup win over Fulham – setting up a fourth-round clash with the Hornets – Ward-Prowse picked up where he left off.

The midfielder broke the deadlock after 20 minutes as Southampton sought revenge for September's 2-0 loss to the same opponents at St Mary's Stadium.

Pellegrino's men continued to impose themselves on the game and, after Dusan Tadic and Wesley Hoedt had been thwarted by Heurelho Gomes, Ward-Prowse was on hand again to cap a swift counter-attack with a straightforward finish.

Watford fought back after the break, with Gray nodding in and Doucoure stealing the headlines in more ways than one, leaving the visitors to wish VAR was in use.

AT ST JAMES' PARK: Joselu came off the bench to earn Newcastle United a 1-1 draw in a crucial Premier League relegation battle with bottom club Swansea City 

Carlos Carvalhal has made a decent start to life with the Welsh club since taking over late last month and, despite his side having been on the backfoot for much of Saturday's contest, he appeared on course for a second win in three league games.

Jordan Ayew's header on the hour gave Swansea a surprise lead, punishing Newcastle for not capitalising on a host of opportunities to break the deadlock.

However, Swansea's advantage proved all too brief as Joselu, brought on for the profligate Dwight Gayle, levelled matters with a clever finish.

Rafael Benitez's men finished a largely entertaining encounter the stronger of the two sides but could not complete the turnaround.

Newcastle were left to settle for a point that will likely increase the Spanish manager's exasperation at a lack of transfer activity and delays in completing a long-expected takeover.

His side are just three points clear of the bottom three while Swansea stay at the foot of the table, four points adrift of safety, and now have the daunting proposition of home fixtures with Liverpool and Arsenal to come.