Premier League round-up: Leicester go eight points clear while Chelsea and West Ham draw in Stamford Bridge thriller
Chelsea 2-2 West Ham
John Terry led Chelsea out of the Stamford Bridge tunnel, returning to the starting line-up after spending the past few weeks struggling with a hamstring injury.
It wasn’t the start the Blues skipper will have been hoping for, as just 17 minutes in Manuel Lanzini fired a beautifully curled effort out of Thibaut Courtois’ reach.
Chelsea’s intensity improved after going a goal down, and, deservedly, on the stroke of half-time Cesc Fàbregas equalised for his side with an exquisite curling free kick from 25 yards.
It was more of the same following the interval, and, again, it was Slaven Bilic’s men that drew first blood.
Goalscorer Lanzini and Dimitri Payet linked up well in the middle of the park before the latter split Chelsea’s defence, sending Andy Carroll, who had been on the pitch only three minutes, through on goal.
The England international comfortably left Branislav Ivanovic behind, and scuffed a shot past Courtois from close range after 61 minutes.
The Hammers dominated proceedings after the goal, but late drama saw Chelsea win a penalty.
Carroll had gone close from the corner, only seconds later, though, Willian surged forward, playing Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the box. The 20-year-old had his heels clipped, and Fabregas stepped up to convert the spot kick in the 89th minute.
It was a thrilling contest at Stamford Bridge, but one that West Ham will feel they should have taken three points from.
The Foxes set out to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table, but they had to do so against an Eagles side still seething following their late defeat to Liverpool in their previous domestic fixture.
After 17 minutes at Selhurst Park, Riyad Mahrez should have opened the scoring for the table-toppers, surging forward to go one-on-one with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey but, uncharacteristically, wasting the chance with his effort brushing Hennessey, consequently allowing the defence to clear their lines.
This chance was soon forgotten, though, as 34 minutes in the Algerian got his name on the scoresheet. Jamie Vardy found himself with space on the left side of the penalty area, delivering a ball eight yards from goal which was latched onto by Mahrez with the easiest of finishes.
Two early chances soon after the break should have seen Leicester double their lead, but, as has been typical of their recent performances, they were wasteful of their chances.
Claudio Ranieri’s side appeared nervous, and with Palace growing in possession towards the 80th minute mark, only a second goal would relax the visitors.
Damien Delaney rattled the woodwork late on, but the Foxes held on to seal the three points and go eight points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur.
Watford 1-2 Stoke City
It was the Potters that drew first blood at Vicarage Road.
Somehow Phil Bardsley’s cross from the left wing evaded every Watford defender, travelling across the face of goal to the unmarked Jonathan Walters at the far post. The experienced Irishman calmly slotted the ball home, making it 1-0 with 18 minutes on the clock.
Just the one goal separated the two sides as the referee blew for the half time whistle, in what had been a poor showing from Quique Sánchez Flores’ men.
And they got the second period off to a terrible start.
Jonathan Walters met Heurelho Gomes’ goal kick, playing a first-time ball over the top of the Watford defence to Joselu. The Uruguayan outpaced defender Miguel Britos and sublimely dinked the ball over a hapless Gomes.
Despite it being one of the Hornets’ mediocre performances of the campaign, captain Troy Deeney managed to pull one back for the home side in the 86th minute, making it a nervy ending for the Potters.
Ikechi Anya played a cross into the box from the left side and Deeney, unmarked on the edge of the six yard area, powerfully headed the ball past Jack Butland.
Watford gave everything to try and grab a late equaliser, but the Potters refused to relinquish their lead, taking home a deserved victory.
West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Norwich City
With the Canaries sitting in 18th and two months of the season remaining, it’s reached that stage where each game has become somewhat of a cup final.
Predictably, the first half provided few chances, with the affair at the Hawthorns largely scrappy as both sides struggled to create chances in the final third.
Both sides were in need of a half time talk, and one team came out of the blocks far quicker.
The Baggies failed to clear what appeared to be a harmless ball into the box, Matt Jarvis took advantage, stealing the ball and playing in Robbie Brady. The winger made no mistake, firing his effort into the left corner to make it 1-0 to the visitors with 50 minutes played.
Despite going a goal up, the Canaries remained nervous – understandable given the importance of the three points – but they held on to move out of the drop zone.