Results: Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea, Middlesbrough 3-0 Swansea City, Stoke City 2-2 Leicester City, Sunderland 1-0 Watford, West Ham United 1-0 Hull City, West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Manchester United, AFC Bournemouth 1-3 Southampton, Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Burnley, Everton 0-1 Liverpool FC
The final round of Premier League matches before Christmas 2016 saw 23 goals and the first managerial casualty of the season.
In a London derby, Chelsea and Crystal Palace got the weekend underway, with both sides in completely contrasting form. Palace had won just one match since the end of September, whilst Chelsea were chasing a 10th successive league victory. The league leaders were in impressive form and this was one of those matches where they weren’t quite at their fluid best but still did enough to collect all three points. Diego Costa headed home the only goal in the Blues’ 1-0 victory at Selhurst Park. The Spaniard later collected his fifth yellow card of the season, so would miss the Boxing Day encounter with AFC Bournemouth, as would N’Golo Kante. It was the final straw for the Eagles’ hierarchy and five days after this result, Alan Pardew was sacked and replaced by survival specialist, Sam Allardyce.
Chelsea’s closest challengers remained Liverpool FC. Jurgen Klopp’s team protected second spot in the table after they won 1-0 in the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park, which was the final fixture before Christmas. On a chilly Monday evening, the visitors’ struck late on through Sadio Mane to ensure the red side of Merseyside would hold the bragging rights over the festive period.
24 hours earlier, Manchester City made it back-to-back victories with a 2-1 success over Arsenal, who had now suffered successive defeats in the North West. Arsenal came flying out of the blocks and Theo Walcott put them ahead inside the first 10 minutes. However, Leroy Sane’s first Premier League goal and Raheem Sterling’s effort ensured the three points would stay in Manchester.
Tottenham were quietly going about their business. They beat Burnley 2-1 at White Hart Lane and Manchester United made it three wins in six days, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic the pivotal difference in their 2-0 victory at The Hawthorns over West Bromwich Albion.
At the wrong end of the table and West Ham United collected a second win in four days at the London Stadium but there was plenty of fortune about their 1-0 win over fellow relegation strugglers, Hull City. Hull hit the woodwork three times and the Hammers’ fans were so fed up with their team’s performance, they voted for the post as their Man of the Match on social media! Mark Noble’s penalty saw them take three lucky points.
Sunderland claimed a 1-0 triumph at home to inconsistent Watford. Patrick van Aanholt scored the solitary goal. It would be the Dutchman’s last in Sunderland colours. The full-back would move acrimoniously to Crystal Palace in the January transfer window. It would also turn out to be Sunderland’s last home victory in league football in 364 days, before a recent 1-0 win over Fulham in the SkyBet EFL Championship.
Elsewhere, Middlesbrough recorded their biggest win of the season, beating hapless Swansea City 3-0 and despite losing Jamie Vardy to a red card before half-time, defending champions Leicester City came back from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw away to Stoke City. Claudio Ranieri’s side though still hadn’t won away from the King Power Stadium in their title defence season.
What else happened in December 2016?
- Aged 53, George Michael died on Christmas Day. One of the best-selling music artists of all-time, he had sold more than 115 million records worldwide.
- Andy Murray wins BBC Sports Personality of the Year for the third time in four years.
- The remains of Tim Peake’s spacecraft are bought by the UK with the intention of installing it at the Science Museum in London in 2017.
- After 30 years with ITN, Mark Austin presents his final news bulletin with ITV. He will join Sky News as the main correspondent for the USA.
- Among the recipients in the New Years’ Honours List are Ken Dodd who is knighted and actress Helen McCrory, who receives an OBE.
- Gogglebox’s Scarlett Moffatt wins the ITV reality show, “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!”
- Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, is assassinated in Ankara.