Chelsea, Kevin De Bruyne and football’s peculiar paradoxes: Premier League results

Results and round-up for the Premier League weekend of December 3-4.
Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City reacts after missing a chance against Chelsea on Saturday. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images / December 3, 2016
Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City reacts after missing a chance against Chelsea on Saturday. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images / December 3, 2016

MONDAY

Middlesbrough v Hull City, midnight, beIN Sports 2HD and 11HD

Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea

MCI: Cahill 45’ (og); CHE: Costa 60’, Willian 70’. Hazard 90’

• Richard Jolly: Conte bests Guardiola, and Chelsea keep their heads as Manchester City lose theirs

• Football, truly, can be a bizarre sport sometimes, a spectacle of impossibly fine margins.

Manchester City, leading Chelsea 1-0 early in the second half on Saturday thanks to a Gary Cahill own goal, looked undeniably stronger, inevitably ascendant.

And as Jesus Navas crossed to Kevin De Bruyne and the ball curled perfectly toward him and the goal stretched out mere feet in front of him like an open, endless horizon, it seemed for a blip of a second like things were decided.

And then De Bruyne actually touched the ball with his left foot, and the ball flew away like a ghost had kicked it out from under him, the kind of exaggerated mishap that would look unrealistic even on a prank show. And yet it was not a prank, at least that we know of. De Bruyne just blasted it the wrong way.

How paradoxical, that on certain strange occasions the world’s best players of football can fail its most basic act. Kick the ball straight. And yet, all it takes is the ball meeting your foot a degree the wrong way and up, wildly, maddeningly it goes. Kevin De Bruyne will surely have this particular oddity of the game keeping him awake tonight.

And that’s all it takes, that oddity, for matches to turn completely.

Almost immediately, Cesc Fabregas played Diego Costa nearly the length of the pitch on a sweetly-placed pass, Costa brushed aside the perpetually overmatched Nicolas Otamendi and finished coolly for the equaliser.

And just ten minutes after that, even as in the interval City still looked the more threatening team, as in the very prior moment they created a dangerous chance, Chelsea suddenly countered, Eden Hazard to Costa to Willian, snap-crackle-pop and a composed finish by the Brazilian for 2-1.

And that was that. Hazard added another, on 90 minutes, springing onto Marcos Alonso’s long ball from the Chelsea third and scoring in a stupefyingly quick counter, again as City searched frantically for the second goal they should have had at multiple points in this match.

To really underscore the gut-punch the second 45 minutes were to Manchester City, Sergio Aguero earned a red for ninja-kicking David Luiz as he rashly, vainly tried to push on in the waning seconds, and with it a four-match ban. Fernandinho for his part took a red too after pushing and grabbing at Fabregas’ neck in the melee that followed.

Officially City had 21 per cent more possession, four more shots, an extra attempt on goal. Nearly 200 more touches and passes each.

And two fewer goals. And, now, four fewer points than Chelsea.

One giant question, too, of how things might have been if De Bruyne could have just tapped that Navas cross into the gaping 24 by 8 feet expanse in front of him.

Everton 0-1 Manchester United

EVE: Baines 89’ (pen); MNU: Ibrahimovic 42’

• Richard Jolly: Fellaini, the gift that keeps on giving for Everton, and that Mourinho must rue using

Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool

BOU: Wilson 56’ (pen), Fraser 76’, Cook 78’, Ake 90+3’; LIV: Mane 20’, Origi 22’, Can 64’

• Greg Lea: Crazy finish owes more to Ryan Fraser and Bournemouth’s spirit than Liverpool’s stumble

SATURDAY

West Ham United 1-5 Arsenal

WHU: Carroll 83’; ARS: Ozil 24’, Sanchez 72’, 80’, 86’, Oxlade-Chamberlain 84’

• Greg Lea: Alexis Sanchez, to the surprise of no one, stars as Arsenal soar

Crystal Palace 3-0 Southampton

CPA: Benteke 33’, 85’, Tomkins 36’

• A double from Belgian international striker Christian Benteke inspired Crystal Palace to a 3-0 win over Southampton and saved manager Alan Pardew’s job in ending a six match Premier League losing streak on Saturday.

Benteke’s double – taking his tally to seven this season – and a goal from James Tompkins gave the hosts a deserved victory against a poor Southampton side, who ended the week with the club embroiled in the sex abuse scandal dating back to the 1970s.

It had been reported in some of the British media that if Palace had lost Pardew – who only months ago was minutes away from delivering Palace the FA Cup before Manchester United came back to rip it from their hands – would have been shown the door.

*AFP

Stoke City v Burnley

STO: Walters 20’, Muniesa 35’

• Jonathan Walters and Marc Muniesa inspired Stoke to a 2-0 win over Burnley on Saturday, lifting Mark Hughes’ side into the top half of the Premier League table.

This win, following last weekend’s 1-0 success at Watford, moved the club up two spots to ninth.

Last year’s Championship winners Burnley, without a victory away from home, slip one place to 14th.

*AFP

Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City

SUN: Huth 64’ (og), Defoe 77’; LEI: Okazaki 80’

• Sunderland climbed off the bottom of the Premier League as Leicester City’s disastrous title defence suffered another blow with a 2-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Robert Huth’s own goal and a Jermain Defoe effort put Sunderland in control in the second half and Shinji Okazaki’s strike came too late to prevent a fifth defeat in nine league games for Leicester.

Claudio Ranieri’s side lie just two points above the bottom three, while Sunderland continued their steady improvement under David Moyes by recording a third victory in four games to move into 18th place.

*AFP

Tottenham Hotspur 5-0 Swansea City

TOT: Kane 39’, 49’, Son 45+1’, Eriksen 70’, 90+2’

• Tottenham claimed only their second win in 11 matches as Harry Kane celebrated signing a new long-term contract with two goals in a 5-0 rout of struggling Swansea on Saturday.

Kane committed his future for the next five and a half years this week and the England striker scored a 39th-minute penalty to open the scoring before Son Heung-min scored a spectacular second just before the break.

Kane then added his second of the game four minutes after the break and Christian Eriksen also got on the scoresheet twice late on as Mauricio Pochettino’s side produced the perfect response to consecutive defeats by Monaco and Chelsea.

*AFP

West Bromwich Albion 3-1 Watford

WBA: Evans 16’, Brunt 34’, Phillips 90+1’; WAT: Kabasele 59’

• Manager Tony Pulis ended a bad week on a high note as West Brom beat Watford 3-1 to move above Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.

Pulis was criticised by a judge this week and ordered to pay back a hefty bonus to ex-club Crystal Palace, but West Brom fans won’t mind the blemish on his reputation with three wins from the last five games.

The victory at The Hawthorns moved West Brom above United, in action on Sunday, into sixth on goal difference.

*AFP

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Published: December 3, 2016 04:00 AM

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