The Boxing day round of matches was witness to one of the most significant and eventful games of the 2019-20 season when Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolverhampton beat a Manchester City side down to ten men inside the first 12 minutes of play. A 12th-minute red card shown to goalkeeper Ederson for a foul on Wolves striker Diogo Jota saw the reigning champions reduced to ten, but that did not deter Pep Guardiola’s side from going 2-0 ahead through goals from Raheem Sterling in the 25th and 50th minute of play. There was dramatic action enacted out at the Molineux Stadium before the first goal when the video assistant referee (VAR) awarded City a penalty then ruled a retake, both of which Rui Patricio saved before Sterling tapped the rebound from the second kick into an empty net. After Sterling doubled the lead in the second half the Wolves egged on by a passionate crowd, levelled through Adama Traore in the 55th off a powerful long-range drive from the muscular winger. The Wolves equalized late in the 82nd minute when a dreadful loss of possession inside his own area by City defender Benjamin Mendy allowed Traore to cross low for Jimenez to tap in from close range. Matt Doherty provided the climax just 2 minutes before the final whistle by drilling home from the edge of the area to give the Wolves their second win over the reigning champions in 2019, a feat not achieved by any team in a Premier League season.
With this defeat at the Molineux, City have virtually handed over the Premier league title to Liverpool who on the previous night inflicted a defeat on would-be challengers Leicester City with a very unexpected score line of 0-4.
Coming to King Power stadium with a 10-point gap over their nearest challengers, Jurgen Klopp’s Reds produced a masterclass of offence and defence while meting out a brutal reality check to the Foxes. Goals from Roberto Firmino in the 31st and 74th minute, James Milner through a penalty in the 71st and Trent Alexander-Arnold in the 78th completed the rout of the hosts whose utter subjugation was highlighted by the fact that they couldn’t even get a single shot on target during the entire 90 minutes of play. Brendan Rodger’s Foxes have the Wolves to thank for still being a point ahead of Man City’s 38 while the Reds are cruising away at the top with an assailable 52 points with still a game in hand.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea are fortunate to find themselves inside the Top Four with 32 points after their shocking 0-2 loss to bottom-half side Southampton at Stamford Bridge. This was the Blues’ third defeat from 4 games and despite all the dominant on-field possession (66 per cent), it was the rivals who found the net through Michael Obafemi in the 31st minute and Nathan Redmond in the 73rd. Chelsea are now precariously perched at the 4th spot of the EPL table with 32 points, just 2 ahead of 5th placed Wolves. Southampton by virtue of their Stamford Bridge win have dramatically pulled themselves out of relegation territory to a much respectable 14th spot currently. Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham despite their 2-1 Boxing Day win over Brighton & Hove will rue their 0-2 loss to an out-of-form Chelsea during the previous weekend that has left them in the sixth spot with 29 points and one below the Wolves.
First time Premier League entrants Sheffield United who started the season on a sensational note, missed a chance to add three points when they were held 1-1 by bottom scrappers Watford at Bramall Lane on Thursday. Watford have come of the 20th spot for just the second time in the season at the expense of Norwich City who find themselves in that inglorious position after their 0-1 loss to Aston Villa. The win over Norwich was no consolation to Villa as they still remain in relegation territory.
Manchester United shrugged off their previous week’s 0-2 shock home defeat to minions Watford by overcoming a visiting Newcastle 4-1 at Old Trafford. But it was Newcastle’s 19-year old Matty Longstaff who gave the visitors the lead when he shot one into the bottom corner of the United net. But the Magpies’ joy was short-lived as the hosts rained goals on them through Anthony Martial in the 24th and 51st minutes, Mason Greenwood in the 36th and Marcus Rashford in the 36th. For Ole Solskjaer’s Red Devils the victory hasn’t meant much as they remain status quo on the 8th spot but for Steve Bruce’s men the Old Trafford loss has meant slipping a notch below to the 10th spot.
Arsenal are still on the 11th spot despite showing fighting qualities in their first game under their new boss Mikel Arteta. The Gunners seemed to have shrugged off their horror shows in away games by drawing against Everton 0-0 last weekend at Goodison Park and coming back from being 0-1 down to Bournemouth at Dean Court to make it level through a Pierre Aubameyang goal.
Crystal Palace have managed to break into the Top Ten and are now on the 9th after their 2-1 win over West Ham at the Selhurst park on Sunday. Everton, too, have moved rapidly away from the relegation zone during the past weeks to reach the 13th spot post their 1-0 win over Burnley. Beleaguered coach Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham are just a place away from relegation zone with just 17 points scraped up from their 18 games and only a notch above Aston Villa’s 18.
Team standings with points on the Premier League table after 19 games
|17||West Ham||19 *|
* Denotes 18 games played