by Evan Sobol
This week’s action included a showdown between two London powerhouses, and a surprising upset by one of the league’s top teams. The defending champions also fell to defeat, continuing their poor form.
Chelsea continued their impressive run and kept their comfortable lead at the top of the table, with their 3-1 victory against Arsenal on Saturday. It was the Gunner’s second straight loss, and the Blues’ third victory in the past four matches.
The home side cut through Arsenal’s defense the entire match. Chelsea got on the board in the 13th minute. A cross into the center of the box found forward Diego Costa. Costa headed the ball towards the goal, but Arsenal goalkeeper Cech rose and blocked it.
Chelsea midfielder Marcos Alonso took advantage of the open space, and headed the deflection into the left side of the net. It was Alonso’s fourth Premier League goal of the season. Belgium international Eden Hazard, scored the most impressive goal of the match in the 53rd minute. Defender David Luiz disrupted a pass intended for the Arsenal offense, and passed up to midfield where Hazard gained possession.
The striker ran alone into the Gunner’s box, where he scored the short-range goal. The superb play was successful thanks to his creative dribbling; he shook at least four defenders on the run. It was Hazard’s 10th goal of the season. He has already surpassed his goal total of four from last season. The Blues’ last score came in the 85th minute thanks to a goalkeeping mistake by Arsenal. Cech gained possession and passed back towards the Arsenal defense. Midfielder Cesc Fabregas, broke up the pass and struck goal with a high strike into the wide-open net. It was the substitute’s second goal of the season.
Arsenal only scored one goal, but had plenty of opportunities. They led Chelsea in possession (58 percent – 42 percent) and took two more corner kicks. Danny Welbeck almost scored off a cross in the 78th minute, but it was saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois. Arsenal’s lone goal came in stoppage time. Forward Olivier Giroud scored on a header into the left side of the box. It was his eight goal of the season.
Chelsea is still in the driver’s seat to win the title. They are currently nine points ahead of second-place Tottenham, and 10 ahead of third-place Manchester City. Their midfield has continued to play well with their strikers, giving them plenty of goal opportunities. Diego Costa is currently tied for second place in league goals with 15. Their next match is on Sunday against Burnley, who currently sits at 12th in the league table.
Following the defeat, Arsenal fell to fourth in the table, two points behind City with 47. They have allowed five goals in the last two matches. They still have slim title chances. Forward Alexis Sanchez has 15 goals on the season. They do not have as tough a test next week as they play 13th-place Southampton.
Arsenal was not the only top club to lose ground in the title race. Liverpool fell 0-2 at Hull City on Saturday. It was the Reds’ second loss in their last five. The result was Hull’s first win since Jan. 14, and helped them with their climb outside of the relegation zone.
Hull was outplayed in every offensive category by Liverpool, including possession and total shots. The Tigers’ first goal came just before halftime in the 44th minute. Loan player Alfred N’Diaye scored a short-range goal, following a block by Liverpool keeper Mignolet. It was the Senegal international’s first career Premier League goal. The midfielder is currently on loan from Spanish club Villarreal CF. Forward Oumar Niasse scored Hull’s second goal in the 84th minute. He ran past two defenders and struck goal with a low strike. It was Niasse’s first career Premier League goal. He is currently on loan from Everton.
Liverpool’s best goal opportunity came in the 56th minute. Forward Sadio Mane met a cross and attempted a header on goal, but it was saved by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. The Reds’ could not score on any of their 15 corner opportunities. Hull only had one corner kick.
If Liverpool would like to make a comeback, they need to play better against lower-half teams. They recently lost to Swansea City, who sits at 17th in the table. If they continue their poor form, it will allow someone like Manchester United to gain spots. The Reds fell to fifth in the table and are just one point ahead of United. They face a tough test on Saturday, when they host second-place Tottenham who have won three of their last five.
Hull is an interesting team to look out for down the stretch. They drew against United last week. Their new loan players N’Diaye and Niasse have gotten off to hot starts. If they can continue this form, they can gain at least a few spots.
The three teams in front of them are only ahead by one point. The Tigers need to act soon, or they will be relegated. They face a tough test on Saturday at the Emirates against Arsenal.