London Soccer Shorts…
Saturday, December 28
Southampton v Crystal Palace – St Mary’s Stadium
Crystal Palace head to Southampton buoyed by their late win over West Ham at Selhurst Park.
Jordan Ayew’s incredible stoppage-time goal clinched the points, much to the delight of boss, Roy Hodgson: “The winning goal was just an incredible winning effort,” the former England chief told www.cpfc.co.uk.
“You just have to take your hat off to Jordan Ayew.
“He worked so hard up until that point and yet still found the energy, still found the strength to produce that pirouette on the edge of the box and find his way through the two defenders coming in to block him and then to show the composure to chip the goalkeeper – I was really happy with that goal. Not as happy as Jordan is, but happy.”
The Saints also impressed over the festive period. Michael Obafemi and Nathan Redmond netted in a notable 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – lifting Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side three points clear of the dropzone.
Watford v Aston Villa – Vicarage Road
Watford and Villa go head-to-head ina huge relegation six-pointer, both buoyed by positive Boxing day results.
The Hornets lifted themselves off the bottom of the table following an impressive draw at Sheffield United, while Villa saw off fellow strugglers, Norwich, to set up what should be an epic encounter.
Speaking to www.watfordfc.com after that resolute display at Bramall Lane, Hornets boss, Nigel Pearson, enthused: “The important thing for me was that we showed some real traits of resilience in what is a difficult place to come to.
“To come away with a positive result is good for us. The mantra is, I suppose, if you can’t win, don’t get beat. We had to dig our heels in and be resilient and sometimes ride our luck but we go away with something for our efforts.”
Norwich City v Tottenham Hotspur – Carrow Road
Jose Mourinho heaped praise on skipper Harry Kane and Dele Alli after the pair netted to secure a 2-1 success over Brighton & Hove Albion on Boxing Day.
Adam Webster had nodded the Seagulls into a first-half lead. But Mourinho’s men dug deep after the interval to turn the contest on its head.
“The captain drives by example, not by words,” he told www.tottenhamhotspur.com.
“He’s not a guy that is speaking a lot every day but then he does it by example. Of course, he’s a Tottenham boy with a Tottenham heart.
“Harry led the team, him and Dele, and the performance of everyone was brave, really brave. It’s difficult for me to believe we’re playing again in 48 hours because what these guys deserve is two or three days off, but we have to play and here we go.”
Host’s Norwich currently prop up the Premier League. The Canaries passed up a series of decent opportunities before falling to a 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa last time out.
West Ham United v Leicester City – London Stadium
Under-pressure Manuel Pellegrini questioned his sides concentration levels after they slipped to defeat at Crystal Palace and ultimately closer to the Premier League relegation zone.
“When you are winning 1-0, of course, you are disappointed after you lose the game 2-1,” the Chilean told www.whufc.com
“It was similar to the game we played with Crystal Palace at home when we had the lead and they didn’t create any chances and finally by the end, they scored from two set-pieces.
“Now, they scored in the last minute of the game. I think that maybe we dropped a little bit too much inside our own box after we scored because we were dominating the game and I don’t remember any saves made by Roberto, but finally we lost.”
The Hammers face a Leicester side that has fallen off the pace of late following damaging defeats to both Manchester City and Liverpool.
Sunday, December 29
Arsenal v Chelsea – The Emirates Stadium
Mikel Arteta focused on the positives after overseeing his first game in the Gunners hot seat.
The Spaniard seemed reasonably satisfied following a hard-fought 1-1 draw with AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cancelling out Dan Gosling’s opener for the Cherries.
“I’m very pleased with some of the things I’ve seen, in terms of attitude, character, the passion we showed, and the fight and spirit the team showed,” the new chief told wwwarsenal.com.
“It was spot on. Probably better than I expected over 90 minutes. A lot of things that happened in the game, we prepared. They understood them and they tried to take them on board. We lacked the final product at the end.”
Meanwhile, Blues boss, Frank Lampard, was brutally honest after witnessing his side slip to their third home defeat in four against Southampton. “It felt the same as recent home games,” the former midfielder told www.chelseafc.com.
“Credit to Southampton, they were organised, they got their goals and got the win but we know we can do much better. We need to be better at breaking teams down. It was the same story as a few of the last home games.
“‘It was flat and Boxing Day can bring that a little but that can’t be an excuse for us on the pitch. Things like shots and crosses get the crowd excited but we didn’t have any clear-cut chances and we need to show more in terms of bravery and quality on the ball.
“We haven’t been clinical in front of goal, that’s something we have to improve on. It’s a busy time for everyone, so tiredness isn’t an excuse, we just have to learn from this and improve quickly.”
Sky Bet Championship
Fulham v Stoke City – Craven Cottage
Fulham slipped to fifth place after they were held to a 3-3 draw at struggling Luton Town on Boxing Day – however, the Cottagers had Bobby Decordova-Reid to thank for earning them a share of the spoils after his equaliser deep into stoppage-time.
Scott Parker’s men will now look to recover lost ground when struggling Stoke City are the visitors to Craven Cottage. The Potters are currently one place above the relegation zone but will be buoyed by a Boxing Day victory over promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday which lifted them off the bottom of the table.
Millwall v Brentford – The Den
Jed Wallace cancelled out Adam Flint’s opener to earn Millwall a hard-fought draw at Cardiff City – a result which will give the Lions plenty of heart ahead of a visit from high-flying Brentford.
Millwall boss, Gary Rowett, was satisfied with his sides toil, telling BBC London: “We have had a tough period in terms of injuries and illnesses which have really stretched the squad.
“I am not expecting any sympathy but I think it stretched us as the game went on.
“We probably go away slightly the happier team because a point away from home is always reasonable.”
Meanwhile, third-placed Bees continue to go from strength to strength. Ollie Watkins netted twice, while Bryan Mbeumo was also on target as Swansea City were brushed aside at Griffin Park, extending their unbeaten sequence to four matches.
Queen’s Park Rangers v Hull City – Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
Wasteful Rangers slipped to a single-goal defeat at Reading, drawing a critical response from manager, Mark Warburton.
John Swift’s stunner clinched it for the Royals, and Warburton insisted his side has to improve in front of goal.
“We were poor and gave the ball away very cheaply in the first half, and we started the second half off very slowly, but eventually we got going and used the ball,” he told www.qpr.co.uk.
“We picked up some energy and added a tempo to our play and I thought from then on, we played well.
“We created numerous chances in the second half and from them, we have to score.
“Annoyingly that is very typical of what we have seen in the last few weeks.
“We are creating chances and getting into good areas, but we need to get the rewards for the good football we are playing.”
Visitors, Hull City, were beaten 2-0 by Nottingham Forest last time out. The Tigers sit one place above the R’s in thirteenth.
Sky Bet League One
AFC Wimbledon v Oxford United – Kingsmeadow Stadium
Dons boss, Glyn Hodges, was thrilled with his side after they eased their relegation concerns with a 2-1 victory at Bristol Rovers.
The former Welsh international waxed lyrical after goals from Marcus Forss and Joe Pigott saw off the Gasheads, setting his side up nicely for a visit from promotion hopefuls, Oxford United.
“It’s fantastic to get the victory and we had to come from behind again to do it,” he told www.afcwimbledon.co.uk.
“Someone told me they were second in the league at half-time, so they are promotion hopefuls, but we upset the applecart and I thought we deserved the three points.
“We have two home games coming up and we have to try and buck the trend of falling behind.”
Sky Bet League Two
Newport County v Leyton Orient – Rodney Parade
Leyton Orient head to South Wales off the back of a 3-1 derby defeat to Colchester United and keen to bounce back against a County side without a win in nine league outings.
Ruel Sotiriou netted the O’s goal on his EFL debut. Former striker, Peter Kitchen, told Yellow Sport: “He went out on loan and knuckled down. He deserved this opportunity – I think he has plenty of goals in him and I expect this one to be the first of many.
“The boy has bags of enthusiasm. I want to see this rubbing off on the rest of the team. He has a great future ahead of him.”
Monday, December 30
Sky Bet Championship
Derby County v Charlton Athletic – Pride Park
‘Addicks Academy graduate, Alfie Doughty, will be hoping to feature at Derby and build on a memorable Boxing Day performance which saw him net the south Londoners late winner against Bristol City at the Valley.
The popular 20-year-old netted eight minutes from time to end Charlton’s recent winless run: “I’m grateful to have this opportunity and I’m just trying to take it with both hands and just do the best I can and today just topped it off, with a win.
“After a few tough weeks, to get a win on Boxing Day, you just can’t beat it really,” he told www.cafc.co.uk.
Host’s Derby snatched a draw at fellow strugglers, Wigan Athletic, on Boxing Day – Martyn Waghorn netting deep into stoppage-time for the Rams.