It’s nearly here! The Africa Cup of Nations 2017 kicks off this weekend and it’s a tournament we love and have covered in detail in the past on Just Football. Ahead of this year’s edition in Gabon here are a selection of promising young African talents that have risen to prominence and could play an essential […]
The Premier League‘s Boxing Day schedule may not have had the excitement of 53 years ago, but there was still plenty to hold the attention. So who makes our list of festive Names of the Premier League?
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Chelsea maintained their winning streak with a 3-0 victory at home to Bournemouth. It means Chelsea have now won twelve games in a row. That impressive run has cemented them at the top of the table. Frankly, Conte’s men look on course for the title.
In the absence of Diego Costa, Antonio Conte opted to not use a traditional centre forward. Instead, he used three attacking midfielders in Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro. The tactic clearly paid off as all three ran the Bournemouth defence ragged with their quick counter-attacking play.
The Belgian playmaker was the standout player of the three forwards – with his creativity and skill creating the game’s first two goals. For the first it looked as if Bournemouth had crowded Hazard away from danger but his smart thinking allowed him to work the ball into the feet of Fabregas. He then laid it off to Pedro, who found the top corner.
The next goal came early in the second half. Hazard’s quick feet caused Bournemouth’s Simon Francis to catch him with a sliding challenge inside the box. He coolly slotted the resulting penalty into the bottom right corner.
Chelsea look a formidable prospect in this kind of form but with trips to Spurs, Leicester and Liverpool to come in January, the coming months may define Chelsea’s season.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)
The Swede had a hand in all three goals for the home side. He set up two and finished one himself, although all three goals were helped by some poor play by Sunderland.
The game started evenly with both keepers producing fine saves to keep the scores level. Sunderland looked like they may frustrate Manchester United. United did however manage to break the deadlock five minutes before the end of the first half, Ibrahimovic cutting the ball back to the onrushing Daley Blind, who angled in a low shot from the left side of the box into the opposite corner of the net.
They eventually secured the win on 82 minutes. The impressive Paul Pogba nicked the ball off Didier N’Dong in the Sunderland half, before playing in Ibrahimovic. The Swede calmly slotted the ball into the right corner. The third goal – although offside – was sublime, with Ibra’s right hand cross superbly flicked home by Henrik Mkhitaryan via a back-heel volley.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 29, 2016
Fabio Borini scored a brilliant consolation for the visitors with a fine dipping volley that found the top corner. By then, though, United had secured the points and with Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan all now in form they look like genuine top four challengers once again.
Andy Carroll (West Ham)
West Ham United managed to grab their third consecutive victory with a 4-1 away win against Swansea, ultimately costing Bob Bradley his job at the Liberty Stadium.
The return of Andy Carroll for the Hammers has coincided with their recent run of form. The striker has started the last three matches for Slaven Bilic’s team. Carroll’s return means that West Ham now have a focal point in their team rather than relying on Michail Antonio and Dimitri Payet to be the main forwards.
Against Swansea, Carroll was his usual combative self and caused the defenders problems all game. Although he didn’t score the first it was Carroll’s header that allowed West Ham to take the lead. His header was flicked on by Kouyate and tapped in by Andre Ayew. Carroll eventually got the goal he deserved in the final minutes to round off the victory with a controlled volley from close range.
West Ham have now moved up to 11th in the table and if they can keep Carroll fit then they’ll be confident of causing any side they face problems.
Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
A battling performance saw Manchester City claim three points against Hull City with a 3-0 victory, although for three quarters of the game it was an uncomfortable evening for Pep Guardiola’s men.
It was the veteran Yaya Toure who gave City the lead. From then on there was only going to be one winner. A poor slide tackle from Hull left back Andrew Robertson on Raheem Sterling gave Toure the chance from the spot. As ever, he made no mistake. The Ivorian sent the keeper the wrong way as he struck the ball confidently into the left side of the goal.
10 – Yaya Toure has scored all 10 of his @premierleague penalties, the best 100% record in the competition. Flawless.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 26, 2016
Toure was the key man throughout for City, as evident by the fact he made more passes and more interceptions than any other player on the pitch. It was an all-action performance from the Ivorian, who contributed in both attack and defence.
Kelechi Iheanacho and a Curtis Davies own goal sealed the victory. The three points were vital to keep the Citizens above Arsenal in the league table and prevent Chelsea from extending their lead at the top. Bigger tests come quick and fast however, and it will be interesting to see if Guardiola sticks with Toure against high pressing Liverpool on New Year’s Eve.
James Milner (Liverpool)
Liverpool recovered from a stuttering start to cruise to victory over Stoke City eventually running out 4-1 winners at Anfield.
At the start of the season onlookers may have thought that James Milner at left back was just a temporary solution. But instead Milner has been one of Liverpool’s best players this season and produced another impressive display against Stoke.
Milner was always an option going forward for the Reds. He was helped by the fact that Stoke struggled to keep up the tempo they started with. The former England man often found himself free down Liverpool’s left side. Milner’s attacking impetus was clearly on display for Liverpool’s second goal. He found himself in the box on the left before playing it to Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian then found the bottom corner with a low strike.
That goal put Liverpool in front after an early Jon Walters header had been cancelled out by Adam Lallana. An unfortunate own goal from Gianelli Imbula and a calm finish from Daniel Sturridge put Liverpool back into second place in the table. Now they must go again for that big game against Man City.