Everton netted 3 points against Bournemouth in a thriller on Merseyside while Hammers took the wind out of Southampton’s sails. A resolute Middlesbrough defence could not rescue a point as they succumbed to a penalty against Spurs.
Sunderland routed Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park as Jermain Defoe scored a brace while Tony Pulis once again proved to be the bogeyman for Stoke City as Albion won against the Potters 1-0.
Gabriel Jesus broke Swansea hearts by netting a winner for the Citizens in extra time while Henrikh Mkhitaryan starred for Manchester United in their dismantling of defending champions Leicester City.
In this article, we take a look at the best / worst performances, along with players and moments that proved to be turning points in their games.
#1 Best goal: Eden Hazard
Match: Chelsea vs. Arsenal
Eden Hazard’s form and fitness are certainly crucial to Chelsea as they quelled the threat of London rivals Arsenal in a fairly one-sided encounter at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian capitalised on an aerial duel between Diego Costa and Laurent Koscielny before turning away and shrugging off Francis Coquelin’s attention.
If his solo run across the pitch was a pleasing sight to watch, the forward standing his ground and jinking a wonderful strike past Petr Cech was simply brilliant. The Blues talisman is on a hot streak of form; on this account and most of this season, it certainly appears that the Hazard of their title-winning season is back.
Honourable mentions: Romelu Lukaku (first goal vs. AFC Bournemouth), Lamine Kone (vs. Crystal Palace), M'Baye Niang (vs. Burnley), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (vs. Leicester City)
#2 Defensive bedrock: Lamine Kone
Match: Crystal Palace vs. Sunderland
Sunderland thrashed fellow relegation-battlers Crystal Palace with a stunning display all across the pitch and key to their fortunes was Lamine Kone. The defender opened the scoring by reacting quickest to a rebound after Wayne Hennessey had managed to save his first shot.
And from then, there was no looking back for the Black Cats and they thwarted the Palace attack with ease. Kone was an assured presence in the heart of the defence and neutralised the threat posed by Christian Benteke in and around the box.
The Ivory Coast international set off Sunderland to a flying start and his rock solid performance in the backline ensured that it remained impregnable by the Palace attack.
Honourable mentions: Cesar Azpilicueta and Thibaut Courtois(vs. Arsenal), Andrea Ranocchia (vs. Liverpool), Ben Gibson and Fabio (vs. Tottenham Hotspur)
#3 Standout player: Romelu Lukaku
Match: Everton vs. AFC Bournemouth
Romelu Lukaku plundered four goals against a hapless Bournemouth defence as the Toffees won 6-3 in a thrilling, see-saw encounter at Goodison Park.
The match was a game of two halves – the first thoroughly dominated by Everton who took a 3-0 lead, but the second where the Cherries staged a comeback of sorts scoring twice to make it 3-2. It was once again Lukaku to the rescue; the striker who had already bagged a brace and an assist by this point, scored twice more to ensure Everton take home all 3 points.
While the Belgian’s first was a result of a lovely one-two exchange with James McCarthy, the second came as a consequence of a blundering back pass by Simon Francis. The hattrick was a poacher’s goal and he made it four, courtesy a Ross Barkley through ball.
Lukaku showed tremendous awareness and strength and continually tore apart the Cherries defence as Ronald Koeman’s side finished the weekend at seventh place, just 5 points off a European spot. With 16 goals from 24 games played, Lukaku is now the top scorer in the league.
Honourable mentions: N’golo Kante (vs. Arsenal), Gabriel Jesus (vs. Swansea City), M’baye Niang (vs. Burnley), Jermain Defoe (vs. Crystal Palace). Son Heung-min (vs. Middlesbrough)
#4 Best team performance: Sunderland
When this column started, no one envisaged writing about Sunderland in this particular section of the piece, given how appalling David Moyes’ side has been at times all across the pitch. Apparently, all it needed for the Black Cats to fire on all cylinders was a visit to the site of their former manager’s current team.
Sam Allardyce took over at Crystal Palace from Alan Pardew and on his former club Sunderland’s visit to London, surely would not have expected the thrashing his team received. Both sets of fans at Selhurst Park were in disbelief at the half-time whistle; the travelling supporters especially could not believe what they had just witnessed.
Lamine Kone gave the Black Cats an early lead before Didier N’Dong doubled the tally. It was, however, an enchanting brace from Jermain Defoe that finished off the Londoners’ hopes if there was any remaining.
The striker scored twice in quick succession in first half extra time to make sure the chances of the hosts launching a comeback was next to nil.
Honourable mentions: Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United, Hull City
#5 Worst/most ineffective player(s): Simon Francis
Match: Everton vs. AFC Bournemouth
The Cherries defender had an absolute howler of a game against Everton. He was hooked off by Eddie Howe at half-time and there could not have been a better indicator of how much of a liability the Englishman had been in the first 45 minutes of the game.
Everton were flourishing in attack and on the day Bournemouth needed their captain to step up and perform, he, however, failed them and horrendously at that.
His ridiculous back pass to Artur Boruc gifted Everton a third goal, from which orchestrating a comeback was an uphill task for Howe’s side.
Throughout the course of the time he was on the pitch, he was jittery, slow, lacked a physical and commanding presence all of which contributed to a Bournemouth horror show.
Honourable mentions: Petr Cech and Francis Coquelin (vs. Chelsea), Jeff Hendrick (vs. Watford), Joel Ward and James Tomkins (vs. Sunderland), Philippe Coutinho (vs. Hull City)
#6 Unlucky miss(es)
(a) Ryan Shawcross (vs. West Bromwich Albion)
After a James Morrison goal had given the hosts the lead, Mark Hughes’ side launched several attacks into the opposition box in search of an equaliser.
Ryan Shawcross came close to getting one too. The Potters captain headed in strongly from a Charlie Adam corner but the effort ricocheted off the edge of the post.
A goal would have rejuvenated Stoke and put Tony Pulis’ men under some kind of pressure but it was not to be.
(b) Toby Alderweireld (vs. Middlesbrough)
Aitor Karanka’s men were organised supremely well in defence, not affording the Spurs players any space or opportunity. If at all Pochettino’s men got into the box, the Boro wall stood strong enough to thwart them with stops, blocks and tackles.
In the face of such resolute defence, Toby Alderweireld could have given Spurs the edge in the first half.
A Boro clearance resulted in a corner for the North Londoners and Christian Eriksen’s delivery found his teammate who was unmarked but the defender’s header was thwarted by the outside of the post.
#7 Controversial decisions
(a) Chelsea’s first goal against Arsenal came under controversial circumstances as Marcos Alonso appeared to catch Hector Bellerin in the face. Replays show the Gunners right back being fouled in the box as the Blues defender rose to head the ball into the net.
(b) Sebastian Larsson was already on a yellow for a clumsy challenge on Zaha before he made two more lame attempts to catch the same player late on. He had no intention of getting the ball and there have been instances of players being sent off for similar offences. Given that Sunderland had only scored one goal at this point and Larsson did have a hand in creating one later, did the referee err? We’ll never know.
(c) Victor Valdes maybe staring at a retrospective ban for his stupidly unprofessional behaviour in the box. The Boro keeper got a hold of Dele Alli as the latter was trying to break free from Fabio’s clasp before giving him a nudge in the head and a poke in his face. The Englishman however, refrained from reacting violently to the offence.
(d) Raheem Sterling was booked for diving which we believe is quite harsh, considering Fabianski did catch his foot late on. Another one of referee Mike Dean’s errant calls – nothing new eh?
(e) It is a wonder that Juan Mata escaped a sending off for his late lunge on Jamie Vardy less than half an hour after kick-off. The tackle was studs-up and crucially when the scoreboard was still goalless. Mata grabbed his reprieve and scored United’s third goal of the evening in the second half. Jose Mourinho, who spent the best part of the press conferences at the start of the season complaining about the decisions that went against him and his team, might not have much to say about this.