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Premier League roundup: Giroud powers Arsenal to 3rd, Spurs climb to 4th, Chelsea continue streak

Olivier Giroud scored a stupendous "scorpion kick" volley as Arsenal climbed to third place in the Premier League table with a 2-0 New Year's Day victory over Crystal Palace.

A bashful Giroud told the BBC: "It is not difficult to say it is the best one. I was a bit lucky, but it was the only thing I could do. The ball was behind me and I tried to hit it with a backheel."

Victory left Arsenal nine points below leaders Chelsea and they were joined in the top four by Tottenham Hotspur, who replaced Manchester City in the Champions League places after winning 4-1 at Watford.

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud celebrates his goal. AP

Arsenal's Olivier Giroud celebrates his goal. AP

Arsenal, who were without the ill Mesut Ozil, finish the weekend three points below second-place Liverpool, with north London rivals Spurs a point back, above City on goal difference.

The France striker squandered a golden early chance when he miscued from Nacho Monreal's volleyed cross, but he atoned in memorable fashion in the 17th minute.

He was involved twice in a sweeping move that began when Lucas Perez slid in to cut out a square pass from Palace's ex-Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini.

Hector Bellerin played the ball forward to Giroud and his clever backheel found Granit Xhaka, who helped the ball on to Iwobi, who slipped it to Alexis Sanchez on the left.

Sanchez's cross was behind Giroud, but he adjusted brilliantly to hook the ball forward with his left heel, propelling it over Wayne Hennessey, off the bar and into the net.

Palace goalkeeper Hennessey described it as a "wonder goal" and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger concurred.

"I have been spoilt over the years with all the great strikers -- (Dennis) Bergkamp, (Thierry) Henry," he said.

"You remember them because they are linked with special goals. This will be the Giroud goal forever."

Nigerian forward Iwobi doubled Arsenal's lead in the 56th minute, heading in after Scott Dann's attempt to block Monreal's cross sent the ball spinning into the air.

Palace rallied, Petr Cech saving from Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend, but new manager Sam Allardyce would not be spared from a defeat that kept his side one place above the bottom three.

Watford 1, Tottenham 4

Tottenham beat Watford in their second successive 4-1 win, having prevailed by the same scoreline at Southampton in mid-week, to rack up a fourth consecutive league victory.

Deputising for the suspended Kyle Walker at right-back, Kieran Trippier set up Harry Kane for Spurs' first two goals at Vicarage Road.

His clever pass freed Kane to beat Heurelho Gomes at his near post in the 27th minute and six minutes later the former Burnley player's cross was volleyed home by Kane at the back post.

Dele Alli had earlier hit the bar and he got on the score-sheet either side of half-time.

Alli pounced on Younes Kaboul's mishit clearance to roll a shot into the bottom-right corner and then, after the change of ends, slipped the ball past Gomes from Kane's right-wing cross.

Kaboul reduced the arrears in stoppage time, forcing the ball over the line from a free-kick, but the hosts did not celebrate.

"We played very good, to a very high standard," said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, whose side host leaders Chelsea on Wednesday.

"The first half was one of the best we've played this season. I'm very happy because it was a difficult game and the team responded.

"We know that Chelsea's performance is very high. They are a very good team with high confidence, but we will try to challenge them to take the three points."

Saturday's games 

Meanwhile on Saturday, Chelsea fought off a dogged Stoke for a record-equaling 13th successive Premier League win as Liverpool maintained its pursuit of the leaders with a victory over Manchester City.

Thanks to Saturday's 4-2 win, Chelsea will enter the second half of the season holding a six-point advantage over Liverpool in Antonio Conte's first season in charge of the London club.

Juergen Klopp is also satisfied with Liverpool's progress as he looks to deliver the club's first title since 1990 by chasing down Chelsea over the next 19 games.

"Can you imagine how annoying it is when you have won 13 games in a row and another team is only six points behind," Klopp said after Liverpool's 1-0 win over City. "It is unbelievably difficult this league."

It was Pep Guardiola with little to celebrate on New Year's Eve as City slipped 10 points behind leader Chelsea.

Chelsea 4, Stoke 2

Chelsea's Diego Costa and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrate. Reuters

Chelsea's Diego Costa and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte celebrate. Reuters

Chelsea has emulated Arsenal's 2002 side by reeling off 13 wins in a row in the same season and it's thanks to Willian's double.

Goals from Gary Cahill and Willian were canceled out by Stoke duo Bruno Martins Indi and Peter Crouch. When Willian put Chelsea in front for a third time in the 65th minute, Stoke could find no way back this time and Diego Costa added a fourth.

"When you win a lot there is a great danger to be satisfied, to be relaxed, to think, 'OK, but we won a lot in the past, now if arrive the draw, if we don't lose, if we don't win it's not important,'" Conte said. "No. My players showed me great will, great will to fight, great will to win, great will to take this great achievement for us. I'm pleased for them and they deserved this. I'm their coach, but they deserved this."

Liverpool 1, Manchester City 0

Georginio Wijnaldum's eighth-minute header secured Liverpool's fourth successive league win. Wijnaldum will take the plaudits for providing his second goal of the season, but Adam Lallana's contribution underscored how the midfielder is an essential ingredient in the title bid.

It was Lallana's seventh assist of the season — he has also scored seven — that set up Wijnaldum. The Dutch midfielder climbed above City defender Aleksandar Kolarov to meet Lallana's well-placed cross from the left flank before planting a header beyond goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

"It was kind of a wild game," Klopp said. "It was intense. It's not about having a philosophy, it's about adapting to the quality of the opponent and in this case we needed to defend from a compact formation."

Manchester United 2, Middlesbrough 1

Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba scored late goals in the 85th and 86th minutes to rescue a fifth successive win for Jose Mourinho's United.

Grant Leadbitter had given Middlesbrough the lead but United gave the watching former manager Alex Ferguson the perfect 75th birthday gift.

"If the fans remember this not just for Sir Alex's birthday but for the kind of performance we had, I think it's a great tribute," Mourinho said.

United's in-house television channel received a shock after the game when nine-time Olympic Usain Bolt called in with his analysis.

Leicester 1, West Ham 0

Leicester moved six points clear of the relegation zone on Saturday after the struggling champions ended a three-game winless streak courtesy of Islam Slimani's header. Leicester moved up one spot to 15th.

Swansea 0, Bournemouth 3

Swansea's miserable form continued in the first game following Bob Bradley's firing. Benik Afobe and Ryan Fraser scored first-half goals and substitute Josh King completed a comfortable win for Bournemouth in the 88th minute.

Southampton 1, West Brom 2

In the final five minutes of the first half, Shane Long put Southampton ahead and Matt Phillips equalized. But Hal Robson-Kanu struck a second-half winner for West Bromwich Albion before Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk was sent off in the 88th for bringing down striker Salomon Rondon.

Burnley 4, Sunderland 1

Burnley moved closer to mid-table safety powered by Andre Gray's hat trick against relegation-threatened Sunderland.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Jan 02, 2017 09:53 AM

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