The last round of fixtures before Christmas was played across the weekend starting on Friday night with the visit of league leaders Liverpool to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In a game played in driving ran throughout Liverpool recorded an excellent 2–0 victory against a determined home side. Liverpool took the lead when Mo Salah steered home a Fabinho cross after a fine cross from Fabinho. Then, in the second-half Salah, who was in fine form throughout the match, turned provider, crossing for Virgil van Dyck to steer home with his first league goal for the Anfield club.
The Saturday lunchtime match saw Arsenal return to winning ways by beating Burnley 3–1 in what turned out to be a bad-tempered affair. Arsenal went ahead when a superb pass from captain for the day Mesut Ozil picked out the run of Sead Kolasinac, and his pull back was steered home by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Gabonese striker then added a second at the start of the second half, smashing home a right-foot shot. Burnley were then presented with a way back into the game when poor defending allowed Ashley Barnes to score, although he was lucky to still be on the pitch after several incidents. However, pressing for an equaliser, they were left exposed at the back and a move between Ozil and substitute Alex Iwobi ended with Owobi scoring, although he was arguably offside.
The afternoon matches were full of surprises and saw four wins for the teams playing away from home.
The biggest shock of the season so far came at The Etihad where the champions Manchester City went down 3 -2 to Crystal Palace, a side that had not beaten them away from home in 28 years. City took the lead through Ilkay Gündogan, before Palace turned the script on its head with two goals in three minutes.
First, Jeffrey Schlupp equalised with a low shot, and then Andros Townsend scored with one of the goals of the season, a stunning volley from nearly 30 yards. Palace further extended their lead when their captain Luka Milivojevic calmly slotted home from the penalty spot. Kevin de Bruyne pulled a goal back but, despite incessant pressure, City could not force an equaliser.
Another big turn-up for the books came at Stamford Bridge where Leicester City beat Chelsea by a single goal, scored by Jamie Vardy. Chelsea had numerous chances and struck the bar through Eden Hazard, but fell behind when Vardy latched on to James Maddison’s through ball to score. Marcos Alonso struck a post in the final minutes but it was not enough as Chelsea lost their home record under Mauricio Sarri.
Watford ended West Ham’s run of wins with victory at the London Stadium, winning 2–0. Watford took the lead from the penalty spot, captain Troy Deeney drilling them ahead after Roberto Peyrera was fouled in the box. Gerard Deulofeu then made the points safe late on, in between terrible missing by West Ham’s Michael Antonio who struck bar and post when it seemed easier to score.
Meanwhile, at the bottom, Southampton’s revival under new manager Ralph Hasenhüttl continued with an impressive 3 -1 win over fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town. The Saints took the lead thanks to a cool finish from Nathan Redmond, and doubled their advantage from the penalty spot, after Danny Ings was brought down, the striker picking himself up to convert the penalty. Phillip Billings’ swerving effort gave the home side hope, but 18 year old Michael Obafemi scored his first Premier League goal to give Southampton back-to-back wins.
A goal in each half from David Brooks saw Bournemouth win the South Coast derby, beating Brighton 2 – 0. Brooks opened the scoring with a fine left-foot shot midway through the first half, and then flicked home the second with thirteen minutes left. A miserable afternoon for Brighton was compounded by the loss of their England defender to a red card after he picked up his second booking of the afternoon.
Elsewhere, bottom-side Fulham picked up a valuable point in a dour, low quality goalless draw at Newcastle United. Newcastle felt they should have had three penalties, whilst Fulham had a strong claim for one of their turned down. However, in the end, both sides had to settle for the draw.
In the evening all eyes were on Wales and Cardiff City who played host to Manchester United under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the dismissal earlier in the week of Jose Mourinho. It could hardly have gone better for the Norwegian as his side won 5 - 1.
They took the lead as early as the 4th minute when a swerving free-kick from Marcus Rashford completely deceived the Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge. Ander Herrera then doubled the lead with a long range shot, but it was helped on its way by a massive deflection. Victor Camarasa pulled a goal back for the home side after Rashford was harshly adjudged to have handled, but Anthony Martial capped off a sweeping move to restore United’s two-goal lead before half-time.
In the second-half, United got a penalty of their own when Jesse Lingard was tugged back in the box, and the England midfielder took the resultant spot kick himself. There was still time for Lingard to get his second of the game in injury time, as thousands of travelling United fans celebrated what they hope will be a new era for the club.
In the one match played on Sunday Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Everton 6 -2. It was actually Everton who took the lead when Theo Walcott turned home Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s cross, only for them to gift Spurs an equaliser when goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and defender Kurt Zouma got in a mix-up, allowing Son Heung-Min to turn the ball into the empty net, albeit from a different angle.
Eight minutes later Pickford could only push out a shot from Son into the path of Dele Alli and he drilled home the second. Then Spurs were awarded a free-kick which Kieran Trippier bent round the wall against the base of the post and the ball bounced into the path of Harry Kane who knocked it home. Spurs went further ahead at the start of the second-half when excellent control from Christian Eriksen enabled him to half volley in a clearance from the edge of the Everton box.
Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled a goal back, but then substitute Erik Lamela played in Son for his second. The South Korean then turned provider, crossing for Kane to supply.