Wednesday , December 13 2017

Costa, Chelsea snatch United draw – Ozil, Ox get Arsenal back to winning ways

Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (left), climbs for a header with Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on Feb 7. (AFP)
Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (left), climbs for a header with Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on Feb 7. (AFP)

LONDON, Feb 7, (AFP): Diego Costa snaffled a stoppage-time equaliser to preserve interim manager Guus Hiddink’s unbeaten record as Chelsea snatched a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United on Sunday.

United looked to be closing to within four points of the Premier League’s top four after Jesse Lingard’s 61st-minute goal set Louis van Gaal’s men on course for a third consecutive win in all competitions.

But in the first of six minutes of injury time, added on for a serious-looking knee injury to Chelsea centre-back Kurt Zouma, Costa rounded David de Gea to score, extending Hiddink’s unbeaten run since succeeding the sacked Jose Mourinho to 10 matches.

Chelsea remain 13th, 17 points below the top four, but while their Champions League qualification hopes have long seemed over, Costa’s goal dealt a weighty blow to embattled United manager Van Gaal.

Van Gaal bullishly dismissed speculation linking Mourinho with his job prior to the game, but finishes the weekend with his side six points below the top four.

Buoyed by breezy recent wins over Derby County, in the FA Cup, and Stoke City, in the league, United had made a strong start, with Anthony Martial testing Thibaut Courtois in the 18th minute.

Chelsea rallied, John Terry seeing a penalty appeal waved away after his shot hit Daley Blind on the arm, but after Zouma had been carried off following an awkward fall, United made the breakthrough.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson’s cross was helped on by Wayne Rooney and Lingard took a touch before slamming in his second goal in two games.

But after United goalkeeper De Gea had saved from Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas, Costa equalised in stoppage time when he gathered Fabregas’s pass, rounded De Gea and slotted home.

Arsenal 2, Bournemouth 0

In Bournemouth, Arsenal returned to third place in the Premier League after Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goals ended a four-game winless streak with a 2-0 victory at Bournemouth on Sunday.

Arsenal arrived at Dean Court with their title challenge under threat after a poor run in January capped by a failure to score in their previous three league matches.

But two goals in a minute midway through the first half were enough to move them back level on points with second-place Tottenham Hotspur, five points behind leaders Leicester City, who visit the Emirates Stadium in seven days’ time.

The progress of near neighbours Tottenham has only added to Arsenal’s frustration as they have struggled to rediscover the form that took them to the head of the table.

But manager Arsene Wenger could be satisfied with the way his side showed signs of the form that took them to the league summit at the turn of the year, with Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first league goal of the season a welcome bonus.

Bournemouth’s recent results showed that Wenger’s side could not afford to take anything for granted, with Eddie Howe’s team unbeaten in their previous three league games, including an impressive mid-week victory at Crystal Palace.

The presence of Benik Afobe in the home line-up also gave the Gunners cause for concern, with the 22-year-old anxious to impress against his former club after revealing his frustration at having never been given a first-team chance at the Emirates Stadium.

Afobe left 13 months ago and has already made his mark in the top flight with three goals in four games since completing a £10 million ($14.5 million, 13.3 million euros) move from Wolverhampton Wanderers last month.

A positive start by Howe’s men meant that Arsenal were given little time to settle and the hosts were convinced that Mathieu Flamini — selected ahead of Francis Coquelin, who started on the bench — should have seen red rather than yellow for a studs-up challenge on Dan Gosling.

Referee Kevin Friend thought otherwise and having withstood early pressure, Wenger’s side exposed Bournemouth’s defensive vulnerability twice in quick succession to take control of the game.

Aaron Ramsey was the provider for the first goal, clipping a ball towards the far post for Olivier Giroud, whose headed knock-down enabled Ozil to finish smartly from 10 yards out in the 23rd minute.

Less than a minute later, the visitors added a second, with Ramsey again the architect.

Standings

                        P  W   D   L  GF  GA  Pts

Leicester          25  15    8   2   47   27    53

Tottenham        25  13    9   3   45   19    48

Arsenal             25  14    6   5   39   22    48

Man City          25  14    5   6   47   26    47

Man Utd           25  11    8   6   32   22    41

West Ham        25  10    9   6   38   29    39

Southampton     25  10    7   8   33   24    37

Everton            25    8  11   6   46   34    35

Liverpool           25    9    8   8   32   36    35

Watford            25    9    6 10   27   27    33

Stoke               25    9    6 10   24   31    33

Crystal Palace   25    9    5 11   26   30    32

Chelsea            25    7    9   9   33   35    30

West Brom       25    7    8 10   23   32    29

Bournemouth     25    7    7 11   29   41    28

Swansea          25    6    9 10   24   33    27

Newcastle        25    6    6 13   26   44    24

Norwich            25    6    5 14   28   48    23

Sunderland        25    5    5 15   30   49    20

Aston Villa        25    3    7 15   20   40    16

Note: Standings read as played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against and points.

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