Stoke down Everton in thriller; Norwich pile more misery on Villa

December 28, 2015

Marko Arnautovic's late penalty snatched a dramatic 4-3 victory for Stoke at Everton in a match featuring a goal-of-the-season contender from his team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri.

The Swiss opened the scoring in a cracking Premier League game at Goodison Park by finishing off a smart move involving Bojan Krkic and Arnautovic but Romelu Lukaku levelled from James McCarthy's pass.

Shaqiri then scored a peach to restore Stoke's lead on the stroke of half-time with a sublime chip over Tim Howard but again Lukaku struck after converting a wonderful pass from Tom Cleverley for his 11th goal in 10 games.

Gerard Deulofeu's goal pushed Everton in front but Stoke recovered superbly as Howard could only palm a cross into the path of Joselu to score, and Arnautovic snatched the three points with a penalty after he had been fouled in the box by John Stones.

Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0

Norwich strengthened their hopes of Premier League survival with a 2-0 defeat of struggling Aston Villa. Their fifth league victory of the season, following goals from Jonny Howson and Dieumerci Mbokani, leaves them with a total of 20 points from their first 19 games, halfway to the tally usually required to avoid relegation.

Villa remain bottom of the table, with many fearing they are unlikely to leave it before the season concludes. Their only chance of survival appeared to be wasted when Remi Garde failed to inspire an instant improvement in results, and now the question surrounds how quickly their relegation will be confirmed.

It was a fixture which presented the ideal examination of each team. Relegation already looks an inevitability for Villa, but if they are to avoid their season becoming an even greater embarrassment they swiftly need to take points from those also struggling. As they often have since Garde's appointment as manager, Villa, featuring four changes including the return of captain Micah Richards, began encouragingly.

Leandro Bacuna tested Norwich goalkeeper Declan Rudd with a powerful shot from 25 yards in only the third minute, and Rudd saved again from Jordan Ayew's close-range header soon after, but as soon as they went behind the depth of their problems again surfaced.

A failure to win in the Premier League since the opening day of the season has robbed Villa of their confidence, and often of any belief they are capable of victory when they do not take an early lead.

Norwich were the more frustrated in the 24th minute, but when Villa's deep defensive line left Nathan Redmond with little option but to chip an optimistic cross towards Mbokani, Bacuna's header fell to Howson, who impressively struck first time beyond Villa's Brad Guzan and into the back of the net.

Victory could so easily have been secured just 11 minutes into the second half. In space on the left wing, Redmond sent a routine shot at Guzan which the goalkeeper spilled to Howson. Despite space inside the area, the midfielder then placed the rebound just wide of the right post, and in doing so encouraged Villa.

With the energy provided by Ayew and substitute Adama Traore, the visitors began to stretch Norwich who were perhaps only saved by Villa's lack of confidence and a focal point. A superior team would unquestionably have punished Norwich's uncertainty, but despite an abundance of possession in the final third a goal simply looked beyond the visitors.

Norwich similarly did not look like scoring, but they were playing the division's worst team, so that they again did perhaps should not have been a surprise. They were already playing for the final whistle when, in the 87th minute, Wes Hoolahan took possession from Redmond, crossed towards Mbokani, and watched the powerful striker head, under little pressure, beyond Guzan.

It was the minimum Alex Neil would have expected from his team. For Villa, the problem is they never seemed to expect any different.

West Brom 1, Newcastle United 0

Karl Darlow's debut disaster plunged Newcastle into further relegation trouble as West Brom triumphed at The Hawthorns.

The goalkeeper allowed Darren Fletcher's header to squeeze past him on his Barclays Premier League debut to hand Albion a 1-0 win. Darlow was only a late replacement for Rob Elliot after he was taken ill in the build up to the game and dropped to the bench.

Fabricio Coloccini cleared off the line from James Morrison while he and Paul Dummett hit the woodwork for the Magpies and Victor Anichebe struck the bar for the Baggies. Defeat left the Magpies in the bottom three and two points from safety while Albion's first win in six games moved them six points above the drop zone.

Saido Berahino started on the bench for the eighth straight game with Anichebe given his first Premier League start since May. Boss Tony Pulis insisted pre-match Berahino was lucky to be a substitute and hinted at internal problems.

Darlow's tone was set when he had to be rescued inside two minutes of his top flight bow by Coloccini when the skipper hacked Morrison's shot off the line. The former Nottingham Forest custodian then turned Morrison's drive wide before Albion survived a scare.

Moussa Sissoko had stolen the ball inside Newcastle's half and his lung-bursting 60-yard run was only halted by a last-gasp challenge from Gareth McAuley as the midfielder prepared to pull the trigger. Both sides were prepared to press during an entertaining opening and Aleksandar Mitrovic saw a shot deflect over while Dummett blocked Fletcher's drive.

Darlow looked nervy, skewing a punch over his own bar, and Albion noticeably targeted the keeper at set-pieces. But they could not force a first-half opener and almost fell behind 10 minutes after the break.

Newcastle had started well and Dummett's header hit the underside of the bar and Coloccini's follow up was deflected onto the post. Chris Brunt was then forced to clear Mitrovic's effort over his own bar - as the striker called for a penalty - with the Baggies ragged.

Newcastle's plight forced them to up the tempo and sensing the danger Pulis called for Berahino, with the striker replacing Morrison with 20 minutes left. But it was Anichebe, who had faded after a bullish first half, who came closest on 74 minutes.

Darlow's nerves got to him again and he shanked his clearance behind for a corner and from the resulting delivery Anichebe's header bounced onto the bar. But Darlow did not escape a second time when his error gifted Albion the lead 12 minutes from time.

Claudio Yacob's cross was met by the unmarked Fletcher and Darlow should have dealt with his downward header but allowed it to squirm past him and over the line. The keeper made a smart save from Anichebe to prevent Albion doubling their lead and then turned Berahino's drive wide with four minutes left but his gaffe proved costly.

Patrick Bamford wasted a golden chance to score his first Crystal Palace goal as the Eagles played out a frustrating goalless draw with Swansea.

Chelsea loan striker Bamford blasted straight at a grateful Lukasz Fabianski, spurning Palace's finest chance to secure victory at Selhurst Park. Swansea held firm for a draw that could prove vital in their continued Premier League survival fight, a second clean sheet after their 1-0 Boxing Day win over West Brom.

Alan Pardew may well scout around to add a striker to his Palace squad in January, given his side's shortcomings up front in the absence of the injured Conor Wickham. The ineffectual Marouane Chamakh was hauled off after a first half that elicited no chances for either side. Bamford at least worked several openings, but was left to rue the miss of the day.

Yohan Cabaye will also now miss Palace's home clash against Chelsea on Sunday after collecting his fifth league booking. Palace again struggled without Yannick Bolasie, out for some 10 weeks with hip trouble, with Wilfried Zaha shouldering a heavy workload out wide.

No one at Selhurst Park will linger long over a dire first half, neither side able to muster a single goal-scoring chance. Cabaye flashed wildly high and wide twice, while Zaha turned down a fine opening for a shot from 16 yards. Swansea were just as abject and profligate in possession as the hosts, Jonjo Shelvey's stray pass handing Zaha the gift he then inexplicably ignored.

Former Liverpool man Shelvey almost made immediate amends, threading a smart ball through for Marvin Emnes, only for Wayne Hennessey to rush out and claim authoritatively. Palace skipper Mile Jedinak surely has no idea how he lost his bearings to the extent he nodded a free header in the Swansea area away from goal.

And pacey Swansea forward Mo Barrow burst past the lumbering Brede Hangeland, only to have the ball lifted off his toe by Scott Dann just when expecting to unleash an effort on goal. Palace boss Pardew hauled off Chamakh in favour of Bamford at the break. The hosts finally carved out a chance when play resumed, but no thanks to the personnel switch.

Fabianski denied Palace the opener, palming away Hangeland's header after a well-worked free-kick. Jason Puncheon almost carved an opening for Bamford with an ambitious attempted through-ball, but still the deadlock remained.

Barrow blasted Swansea's first shot on target from 20 yards, but Hennessey met his rare task with relative comfort. Bamford then blasted straight at Fabianski as Palace battled again for the ascendancy. The 22-year-old simply had to score with a strike from the penalty spot.

Ashley Williams denied Palace again with a smart block from Pape Souare's cutback as Swansea continued to frustrate the visitors. Zaha turned Kyle Naughton inside-out, only to see his curling effort spin just wide of the statuesque Fabianski.

Hangeland upended Bafetimbi Gomis in another crude challenge in shooting range, allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson to take aim, but Hennessey was able to tip his accurate effort around his left post.

West Ham United 2, Southampton 1

Andy Carroll climbed off the bench to fire West Ham back to winning ways with a 2-1 success over Southampton.

The Hammers looked as though they would have to settle for a sixth successive draw after Michail Antonio's bizarre equalizer cancelled out a Carl Jenkinson own-goal in the first half. But Carroll, just back from yet another injury lay-off, floored Southampton with a trademark header to secure a first win in nine matches for Slaven Bilic's side.

It was a game of two halves for the Hammers, who were dreadful in the first but came to life after Carroll and Manuel Lanzini, also back from a spell out, were introduced at half-time. Southampton, fresh from their 4-0 Boxing Day thumping of Arsenal, took the lead with virtually their first attack of the match after 13 minutes.

A slick move saw Victor Wanyama's header flicked on by Sadio Mane to Steven Davis, who fed Shane Long down the left-hand side of West Ham's penalty area. Long drove in a low cross and Dusan Tadic got in front of Jenkinson to get a toe on to the ball before it went rolled over the goal-line via the Hammers defender's shin.

Saints went on to boss the rest of the first half and Davis was denied by a brave block from James Collins before the midfielder burst forward again and fired narrowly wide. Hammers keeper Adrian then did well to keep out a close-range header from Jose Fonte, with Wanyama blasting the rebound high over the crossbar.

Bilic had seen enough by half-time and made his double change, throwing on Lanzini and Carroll for the ineffective Alex Song and Mauro Zarate. The move almost paid off immediately when Collins met Lanzini's corner, but his header was cleared off the line by Cuco Martina. Carroll should have scored when the ball came back into the area from Mark Noble, but the striker blazed over from eight yards.

Instead it was Antonio, something of a figure of fun at West Ham this season, who grabbed an equaliser in comical style for his first goal for the club. The winger, dubbed the 'missing man' after chairman David Gold inadvertently retweeted a photo of him posted by a prankster looking for information about a missing friend, embarked on a mazy run into the area in the 69th minute.

Antonio over-ran the ball and promptly fell over, but when Wanyama charged in to avert the danger his clearance hit Antonio on the head, looped up over Saints keeper Maarten Stekelenburg and into the net. And Carroll, in front of watching England boss Roy Hodgson, made up for his earlier miss with 11 minutes to go when he nodded in the rebound after Antonio had headed Enner Valencia's cross against a post.