Chelsea v Aston Villa - Premier League

Again, it’s Agbonlahor: Aston Villa winger sets up another goal, helps team go into intermission even at Chelsea

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Aston Villa came out with a similar approach to the one that proved successful this weekend. Trying to replicate their Arsenal results, Paul Lambert’s team sat back, absorbed pressure, and set up to play on the counter.

But just like Saturday’s game, Villa gave up a goal within six minutes, Brad Guzan’s block of a Eden Hazard cross going off Antonio Luna and into his own net. With Chelsea exerting a patient, constrained control throughout the half, Villa were rarely given a chance to equalize and were sent into intermission down, 1-0.

As half time approached, it appeared Lambert needed to change it up. Chelsea have enough talent to break down Villa without throwing people forward, which means central defenders John Terry and Gary Cahill are always protected by a fullback (usually Branislav Ivanovic) and at least one central midfielder (Frank Lampard or Ramires). Often, as Chelsea work through the middle third, both central midfielders are behind Christian Benteke, Villa’s most advanced forward. Particularly having scored an early goal, Chelsea were more than willing to trade urgency for control.

Then, with Villa’s first shot on goal, the game was even, and as was the case this weekend, Gabriel Agbonlahor did the work. Breaking down the right side of Chelsea’s defense, the Villa captain played a ball into the middle of the area in the third minute of injury time, the Belgian international having dropped away from Gary Cahill. After a touch to lift the ball and a second to shoot it, Benteke beat Petr Cech to give Villa a surprise equalizer against the run of play.

Chelsea had 70 percent of the half’s possession. They outshot Villa six to three – two to one in shots on goal. Yet as we often see when one team is so committed to counter attacking soccer, those advantages proved irrelevant. Villa are even at halftime.

They are, however, down another defender. Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark was starting for the injured Nathan Baker, but having suffered a cut on his head toward the end of the half, Clark had to be removed. With Jores Okore, Aston Villa are down to their fourth choice center back.

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

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A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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