It was one of those gameweeks where 'Super Sunday' actually lived up to its billing. In two separate top-six tête-à-têtes, Manchester City hosted Arsenal and Manchester United travelled to Chelsea.
City have been in irresistible form, swatting teams aside with ease and flair. Arsenal, who did recover from the Watford defeat with two straight league wins but then only managed an unappetizing goalless draw with Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League two days ago, hardly looked like the team who could stop City. To be fair, no team does at the moment.
City won 3-1 but Arsenal wouldn't be wrong to feel hard done by. Two of City's goals were questionable — a penalty decision and what appeared to be an offside. Kevin De Bruyne put City in the lead with his first-half strike before Raheem Sterling was barged down by Nacho Monreal in the Arsenal 18-yard-box. It did, however, look like Sterling made most of the contact, like he always does. Sergio Aguero converted from the spot and it looked like game over for Arsenal.
However, Alexandre Lacazette, a substitute on the night, had different ideas. His strike made it 2-1 with 25 hopeful minutes to go. But City reacted a bit too well to conceding one and started hunting for their third urgently. Less than 10 minutes later, David Silva made a run and received the ball in an offside position but the linesmen couldn't be bothered less. He squared it in for another substitute on the night, Gabriel Jesus, who tapped it in to put an end to the game.
Arsene Wenger lamented about woeful refereeing standards after the game, but frankly, City were just too good on the night, even if they did find themselves on the right side of the referee's favour. Arsenal also suffered due to their experimental backline where Francis Coquelin was the centre of a back three.
It is becoming a circus affair with City now. It's as if the club is some giant freak and everyone is having a pop at them for a penny. Still undefeated in the league, 38 goals scored and only seven conceded in 11 games, and with strong performances in Champions League, City look like the team to beat in Europe this season. It could be a special year for them.
Things are not looking so special for the Special One, however. Jose Mourinho travelled to Stamford Bridge looking for his first victory with Manchester United at his former stomping ground. It seemed like the perfect time to take on Chelsea. The Blues were humiliated in Rome in the midweek and the chatter about unrest at the club refuses to die down.
But you have got to give to Antonio Conte. No matter the chatter, the man keeps roaring back to life and that is exactly what Chelsea did. In a high-tempo, driving performance, Chelsea completely eclipsed United in a 1-0 win. The scoreline hardly reflected the night accurately as Chelsea dominated the game in all aspects. It was a surprising game and no one expected it to be so open.
United left the proverbial bus back home and started with the intent to score. Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku got two early chances to put United in the lead, but some poor finishing and Thibaut Courtois kept them out. It was all Chelsea after that. The Blues drove forward decisively, defended robustly and created a flurry of chances.
Tiemoue Bakayoko missed a couple of good chances, making his inability to take a decent shot apparent. The referee spared Phil Jones the embarrassment when he ruled that Alvaro Morata had fouled the United centre-half before he put a spectacular volley in the back of his own net. Morata and Eden Hazard were outstanding up front throughout the game and were the most fouled players on the night — six times each.
Chelsea kept knocking and eventually blew down the door in the second half when Cesar Azpilicueta's early cross found Morata, who leapt and sent a thundering header from some distance towards the goal. You don't often see David de Gea rooted to the spot, but it was an unstoppable header. One could only wonder how on earth did United defenders leave one of the best headers of the ball in the league unmarked. Morata 1, Lukaku 0. And soon Mourinho did what he does whenever United are in trouble: he sent Marouane Fellaini and his elbows in.
United did try hard to squeeze an equaliser in the dying minutes of the game, bunting the ball up for Fellaini in the box and hoping for him to do something. But an alert Courtois and some solid defending saw it out for Chelsea.
"United were missing some players," said Mourinho after the game, who only recently had said he doesn't cry about injuries. Speaking of injuries, N'Golo Kante, who had been injured since the last international break, returned and put on a spectacular performance. It only served as proof how his absence leaves Chelsea crippled. Playing with the diminutive and always-smiling Frenchman in the middle of the park makes it seem like the team is playing with 12 players.
One of Kante's most incredible qualities is that his presence seems to elevate the games of those around him. Kante is such a pressure-sponge, he's so industrious that he frees up others to play their natural game. It was no coincidence that Cesc Fabregas had one of his best games in a Chelsea shirt on Sunday night. With the win, Chelsea are now within touching distance of United and Tottenham Hotspur on the table. From all the evidence till now, it is a race for the second spot as City look like clear outliers this time around.
Spurs were in action too on Sunday, but they didn't expect it to be so action packed against a struggling Crystal Palace. They edged out Palace, courtesy a curling Son Heung-min strike, to maintain pressure on United. It was a game that could have swung the other way as Palace produced a surprisingly good performance on the night. But Paulo Gazzaniga had a dream debut between the posts for Spurs and kept multiple Palace attempts at bay and earned a much deserved clean sheet.
But perhaps the best game of Sunday unfolded at Goodison Park, where Everton managed a dramatic 3-2 win against Watford. It was a stupendous comeback that was almost nullified by the end of game, which ran up beyond the 100th minute. From two goals down, Everton rallied back to even things up and took the lead in the 91st minute when Leighton Baines converted from the spot.
But the drama didn't end there. With 12 minutes of added time, Everton struggled to hold off a spirited Watford and gave away a penalty in the 100th minute. Former Everton man Tom Cleverley stepped up for duty and missed from the spot to send the stadium in a frenzy. It was David Unsworth's first win as caretaker manager and he'd be hoping for a long-term contract now. But sadly, that's not how things work in the Premier League.
It was a quiet Saturday in comparison as four games ended 1-0: Bournemouth dug themselves out of the relegation pit after edging past Newcastle United; Brighton grabbed another win away at Swansea, rising to eighth on the table; Burnley continued their stellar away form with a win against Southampton that kept them seventh, level on points with both Arsenal and Liverpool; and Huddersfield took three points against Tony Pulis' West Brom. This continues to be a magical season for Premier League newbies.
Elsewhere, Stoke City and Leicester City played out an engaging 2-2 draw and Liverpool hammered West Ham 4-1 with in-form Mohamed Salah scoring a brace. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored his first league goal on his first league start for Liverpool as well. The former Arsenal man has now got his own Liverpool song too, with lyrics that talk about his much-talked about position. Liverpool have scored 10 and conceded only one in all competitions since the humiliating loss to Spurs at Wembley and are now three points behind Chelsea at fifth.
The top six this season seems closer than ever as City pull away from the pack week after week. Only a catastrophe could stop City at the moment, and although Premier League is not unbeknownst to catastrophes, Pep Guardiola's army of quick passers look ready for any obstacle. There is a match winner anywhere you look at the City squad and that depth, combined with the way they are set up to play, put City as one of the best teams in Europe this season, especially in the context of big clubs like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Atletico faltering.
We head now into the international break and after hosting Crystal Palace, Wembley will now host Germany and Brazil in friendlies. Mauricio Pochettino, like a doting mother, has told England to take care of Harry Kane while he's on international duty. After all, he is the crown jewels at the moment.
Updated Date: Nov 06, 2017 15:53:02 IST