Results: Norwich City 4-5 Liverpool FC, Crystal Palace 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City 3-0 Stoke City, Manchester United 0-1 Southampton, Sunderland 1-1 AFC Bournemouth, Watford 2-1 Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion 0-0 Aston Villa, West Ham United 2-2 Manchester City, Everton 1-2 Swansea City, Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea
This remarkable 2015-2016 Premier League season was shaping up brilliantly and by the end of this weekend in January 2016, just five points covered the top four teams.
Arsenal went into the weekend top of the table but Arsene Wenger’s side had drawn their last two matches and they were about to take on their bogey side. Despite making a meal of their title defence, Chelsea had already beaten the Gunners in September at Stamford Bridge and interim manager Guus Hiddink was keen for his side to complete another league double over their London counterparts. It turned into another difficult afternoon for Wenger against the Blues.
Their attacking instincts were reduced early on by the red card Mark Clattenburg handed out to Per Mertesacker after just 18 minutes for bringing down Diego Costa in what was seen as a goalscoring opportunity. Five minutes later, Costa did score, turning in Branislav Ivanovic’s swinging cross at the near post. Arsenal managed just one shot on-target in the whole match and the 1-0 defeat meant they ended the weekend back in third position.
Leading the pack were the surprise packages from the East Midlands, Leicester City. 5000-1 title outsiders at the start of the season, the Foxes continue to defy the critics as they cruised to a 3-0 victory over mid-table Stoke City. Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa were the goalscorers to send Claudio Ranieri’s team back to the top of the table.
Pre-season title favourites Manchester City also ended the weekend above Arsenal in the table but their poor form away from The Etihad Stadium was threatening to derail their title bid. They drew 2-2 on their last-ever visit to The Boleyn Ground against West Ham United. They fell behind inside the first minute to an Enner Valencia strike and the Ecuadorian scored twice, a feat that was matched in the contest by Sergio Aguero. City had now recorded just one away victory in eight matches on their travels since a 1-0 success at Crystal Palace in early September.
Tottenham Hotspur stayed in contention after coming from behind to beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park and inflicting a fourth successive defeat on Alan Pardew’s side. The match saw another sensational moment for youngster Dele Alli. Alli, who had impressed greatly since his summer move from Milton Keynes Dons, scored what was later crowned as the BBC Match of the Day Goal of the Season.
That win at Palace gave Spurs a handy five-point cushion over the chasing pack in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification. That was because Manchester United endured another frustrating afternoon at home to Southampton. Louis van Gaal’s team put in another insipid display infront of the Old Trafford faithful and they were beaten 1-0 by the Saints. Ronald Koeman’s side struck in the last five minutes thanks to Charlie Austin’s first goal for the club since his recent move from Championship club Queens Park Rangers.
One of the best matches of the season came in Norfolk where Norwich City and Liverpool FC played out a nine-goal thriller. There was a debut goal in Norwich colours for Steven Naismith following a January move from Everton and Roberto Firmino scored twice for the visitors. It looked like Sebastien Bassong had rescued a point for the Canaries with a dramatic equaliser in stoppage-time, only for Adam Lallana to score the decisive goal in the fifth minute of time added on. In the celebrations, Jurgen Klopp’s glasses were broken by some passionate celebrations in a game which ranks among the finest to have taken place at Carrow Road in the Premier League.
Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton continued to struggle, as they lost 2-1 at home to Swansea City with Francesco Guidolin enjoying victory in his first game as Swansea boss.
What else happened in January 2016?
- Popular television and radio presenter Sir Terry Wogan passes away aged 77 after a short illness.
- Arlene Foster becomes the new leader of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) and the first woman to do so too.
- Tim Peake conducts the first-ever spacewalk by a British astronaut.
- Following a row over pay and working hours with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, junior doctors in England hold a 24-hour strike.
- Germany’s Angelique Kerber defeats Serena Williams in a thrilling women’s singles final at the Australian Open to become the first German Grand Slam winner since Steffi Graf in 1996.
- The UN lift sanctions against Iran after the International Atomic Energy announces that the country has dismantled its nuclear weapons programme.