LONDON: Manager Mikel Arteta was rewarded for drastic team changes as struggling Arsenal beat poor Chelsea 3-1 in their Premier League London derby.
This was the Gunners’ first league win since November 1 and will ease fears of a relegation battle ahead as Alexandre Lacazette, Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Saka gave Artea the perfect Christmas gift despite Tammy Abraham’s late strike.
The Arsenal boss made six changes to the side beaten by Everton, with Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe among those to come in. Gabriel was ruled out after a postive covid test while David Luiz and Willian claimed they felt unwell despite recent negative tests. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was an unused substitute.
Those changes may have lulled Frank Lampard’s men into a false sense of security and they were thoroughly outfought by their fierce London rivals and they managed just one shot on target.
Lacazette fired home a penalty after Reece James felled Kieran Tierney before Xhaka banged in a rocket of a free-kick just before the break.
Man of the match Saka’s beautiful, or fluke, chipped finish 56 minutes in completed the rout and it could, and should, have been more with Edouard Mendy saving from Lacazette and Mohamed Elneny hitting the bar from close range in the final 10 minutes.
Abraham chested in a late consolation after a VAR review before Bernd Leno saved a Jorginho 90th minute penalty, which would have setup a grandstand finish had it gone in, as Chelsea were condemned to a fourth league loss.
A late Axel Tuanzebe own-goal salvaged a point for Leicester in a tight 2-2 draw with Manchester United at the King Power Stadium in a result that will suit Liverpool more than anyone else.
Bruno Fernandes looked to have won the game for the visitors 11-minutes from time as he slotted home after running on to sub Edinson Cavani’s through ball, before Tuanzebe deflected in to his own net from a Jamie Vardy close range effort on 85 minutes.
Marcus Rashford, having put an unmarked header over the bar from six-yards out in the opening minute, did put United ahead in the first-half with a calm one-on-one finish when played through by Fernandes.
The Portuguese was also involved in the home side’s equaliser, being easily dispossessed near his own box, allowing Harvey Barnes the space to fire a spectacular shot passed David de Gea from outside of the area.
The hosts dominated the second period, but always looked vulnerable on the break, with Rashford forcing a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel before Anthony Martial had his goal chalked off for a tight, but correct, offside call by VAR.
The wary tactics hinted that both managers will be happy to have not lost the game, but the result gives Liverpool the chance to move six points clear of Leicester and seven from United should they beat West Brom on Sunday.
Eric Bailly replaced Aaron Wan-Bissaka in Manchester United’s only change for the trip while Leicester were unchanged from their 2-0 win at Spurs.
Rashford missed a sitter in the first minute, putting his header over the bar from six-yards out when connecting with a Fernandes back-post cross. Jamie Vardy blasted over from 12 out with a difficult volley just a minute later.
Despite Leicester’s early dominance, Rashford did eventually put the visitors ahead just after the 20-minute mark, cooling slotting passed Schmeichel after Fernandes’s clever stretched toe-poke pass that fooled the home defence to leave the England man all alone to claim his 50th Premier League goal.
The assist from Fernandes was his 30th direct involvement in a United goal in 28 Premier League matches since arriving in January.
He was shortly involved in the next goal of the game, getting picked-pocketed by James Maddison when too causal in his own half, with the former Norwich man feeding Barnes, who fired home a stunner from the left edge of the box.
Leicester remained the more positive side in the second period, although the game remained cagey with Paul Pogba’s induction stopping the host’s flow in a now packed midfield.
It was United who eventually had the better chances to take all three points. Rashford raced through one-on-one from Fred’s pass, but his shot across goal was palmed away by the Leicester stopper. Moments later United beat the Leicester defence again on the counter only for Martial’s excellent finish to be called back for offside on VAR review.
Then the late drama, with Fernandes smashing passed Schmeichel after running on to Cavani’s excellent through ball, before Vardy’s scuffed finish from sub Ayoze Pérez’s cross deflected off the unlucky Tuanzebe to ensure the points were shared.
Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres struck in each half as Manchester City claimed a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle.
Gundogan put Pep Guardiola’s side ahead after fine work from Raheem Sterling with 14 minutes gone at the Etihad Stadium.
Torres added the second early in the second half and Bernardo Silva hit the post as City, who face a trip to Everton on Monday, eased to victory.
Both sides were without key players following positive Covid-19 tests, with City’s Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Walker following Newcastle pair Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles into self-isolation.
Not surprisingly, it was star-studded City who coped with the absences better.
The Magpies started positively but they failed to catch City cold and a couple of promising early attacks fizzled out.
Joao Cancelo then played Raheem Sterling into the area with a fine ball and the England forward showed great footwork to turn inside and cut back for Gundogan to sweep home from close range.
City doubled their lead on 55 minutes after Almiron gave the ball away just outside his own box.
Cancelo pressed forward and despite a desperate attempt by Fernandez to clear his cross, the ball went straight to Torres and the Spaniard rifled in.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s strike propelled Everton to second place in the Premier League table as a 1-0 win for the Toffees, a 15/8 winner for Tom Carnduff’s Premier League tips, piled more misery on bottom club Sheffield United.
Sigurdsson scored 10 minutes from time to give Carlo Ancelotti’s team a fourth straight Premier League victory, moving them to within two points of Merseyside rivals and reigning champions Liverpool.
For the Blades, it was yet another defeat. Chris Wilder’s side have lost 13 of their 15 Premier League matches and are only the third club in top flight history to be without a win on Boxing Day, after Burnley in 1889-90 and Bolton in 1902-03.
The blustery conditions at Bramall Lane made things tough for both teams and there were few clear-cut chances in the game.
But as it wore on, Everton were knocking on the door more and more. They made the breakthrough with 10 minutes remaining when Sigurdsson scored to give them the lead, beating Aaron Ramsdale with a low shot following some good build-up play involving Abdoulaye Doucoure and Bernard.
It was the only real moment of quality in the match and it was a huge blow for the Blades, who once again had been firmly in the contest but faced the prospect of losing by a single goal margin for the 10th time in the Premier League this season.
Wilder’s side threw all they had at Everton in the closing stages but the visitors seemed confident backing themselves to see out the game with 10 men behind the ball.
Aston Villa continued their fine run of form with a 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace despite playing with 10 men for more than half the match.
The hosts led through Bertrand Traore’s early opener and should have been further ahead when Tyrone Mings was shown two yellow cards in quick succession just before half-time.
Palace were unable to take advantage, though, failing to seriously test Emi Martinez in a second half that saw Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi extend Villa’s lead.
Palace have now conceded 10 goals in two matches after last weekend’s hammering by Liverpool.
It was Villa who took the lead with less than five minutes on the clock. Traore played in Ollie Watkins down the right and was on hand to thump the ball into the net when goalkeeper Vicente Guaita parried Watkins’ shot into the middle of the box.
With 39 minutes on the clock, Mings and Zaha were both shown yellow cards for some argy-bargy following a foul by the Palace man on John McGinn.
The hosts’ failure to add to their lead became a more worrying issue in the 45th minute when Mings stuck out an arm to block Zaha and was shown a second yellow.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, Villa continued to enjoy the better of the game in the early stages of the second half.
And the second goal that arrived in the 66th minute was no more than they deserved. Palace failed to defend an El Ghazi free-kick, Watkins headed against the crossbar and Hause followed up to score his second Premier League goal for Villa.
With Palace forced to commit more men forward, Villa looked even more dangerous, and, after Watkins saw a shot blocked, the impressive winger teed-up El Ghazi for his fourth goal in four games – a fine, curling effort in off the far post.
VAR upsets Saints
Southampton had two goals disallowed by VAR as they were held to a goalless draw at Fulham.