Premier League Roundup: Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom

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Well, well. That was a lot of fun, wasn’t it?

A pulsating Premier League Saturday saw eight terrific matches play out across England and Wales, as goals rained in during the stormy winter weather.

It was moving day in the PL, as Chelsea went top of the standings thanks to Eden Hazard’s masterclass, Liverpool demolished Arsenal 5-1, Man City slipped up an Norwich, and there were big wins for West Ham, Swansea and Crystal Palace at the bottom.

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In case you missed any of it, (I know, you only have one pair of eyes, right?) don’t worry. This tidy little roundup delivers all the recaps, video highlights and analysis from a scintillating Saturday in the worlds most exciting league.

So, let’s get to it!

Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham United

Villa have been woeful at home all season, and that trend continued as West Ham strolled into Villa Park and bagged a vital three points. The Hammers are now unbeaten in three as two Kevin Nolan goals, two minutes apart and two minutes into the second half, saw off a timid effort from the home side. The Villans are only three points off the drop zone.

Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United

Eden Hazard emerged as the hero at Stamford Bridge, as two superb finishes before the break were capped off by a cool penalty kick for his hat trick, as he sent his side top of the PL standings. Newcastle never really threatened and Chelsea just had too much for them to handle, in a magnificent display from the tricky Belgian winger. Jose Mourinho played it cool once again, but this Chelsea team has the stench of potential champions.

Crystal Palace 3-1 West Bromwich Albion

Palace now have five home wins from seven under Tony Pulis, and it’s wins over relegation foes like this that will keep Palace up. Two early goals from debutant Thomas Ince and Joe Ledely saw the Eagles soar into the lead, but Thievy Bifouma pulled a goal back for West Brom just after the break. However Marouane Chamakh won a penalty, then scored it, as Palace move up to 13th.

Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

Simply stunning from Liverpool, as the Reds were 4-0 up after 19 minutes at Anfield on Saturday. Arsenal didn’t know what hit them, as two Martin Skrtel goals in the opening nine minutes were added to by strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge. After the break Sterling grabbed another to make it 5-0, and Mikel Arteta’s penalty was no more than a consolation. Are Liverpool title contenders?

Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City

The Citizens dropped yet more points, as they slipped up away from home at Carrow Road. Norwich defended superbly for the entire 90 minutes, as City failed to score for the second successive game this week. Manuel Pellegrini’s men ran out of ideas and in truth the Canaries had a few chances to snatch all three points themselves. Still in the title race, but wobbling a little.

Southampton 2-2 Stoke City

A Topsy-turvy game in the win and rain at St. Mary’s as Southampton twice took the lead in the first half, but Stoke twice hit back. Rickie Lambert smashed in a great free kick to make it 1-0 to Saints, then Peter Odemwingie slotted home to make it 1-1. Then Steven Davis saw his cross somehow trickle into the bottom corner to put Saints ahead, but right on half time Peter Crouch bundled home from close range to make it 2-2. That’s how it stayed, despite Saints dominating the second half, as the points were shared at a soggy St. Mary’s Stadium.

Sunderland 0-2 Hull City

Another torrid day for the Black Cats, who had another red card scupper a game for them. Wes Brown was shown a straight-red early on for his third dismissal of the season. Hull City’s new signings Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both scored in each half to seal a big three points for the Tigers, as Sunderland continue to battle away at the bottom.

Swansea City 3-0 Cardiff City

After a week of turmoil in Swansea that saw manager Michael Laudrup sacked, the Swans turned in a terrific performance under rookie manager Garry Monk. The first half was goalless but after the break Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Wilfried Bony all scored to clinch bragging rights in the South Wales derby.

Watford 2-0 West Ham: No dream start for Moyes

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  • Unhappy debut for Moyes
  • Hart, Gomes make wild saves
  • Hughes scores early
  • Richarlison adds insurance

Will Hughes and Richarlison scored on either side of half time to lift Watford to a 2-0 win over visiting West Ham on Sunday at Vicarage Road.

It’s a debut loss for new Irons boss David Moyes, whose club remains in the Premier League’s 18th position.

Watford rises to eighth, with 18 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham looked bright and industrious in the first 10 minutes, yet Watford had a lead in the 11th.

Andre Gray whiffed on a shot, and the ball bobbled to Hughes for an advantageous finish.

Watford was on the back foot for much of the latter stages in the first half. A slick one-touch endeavor ended with Heurelho Gomes getting a piece of Cheikhou Kouyate‘s low shot.

Gomes then twice denied Marko Arnautovic, the first an incredible leg save.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Kouyate and Abdoulaye Doucoure traded chances early in the second half, with neither on frame.

Andre Gray and Doucoure worked a fine 58th minute chance, with Winston Reid‘s slight deflection stopping Gray from curling inside the far post. Joe Hart made a terrific save as Watford then pressed off the ensuing corner kick.

Richarlison put it away, essentially, with a 64th minute goal. Hughes handled the ball in the run-up, but the Brazilian’s finish was electrifying.

It’s Richarlison’s fifth PL goal of the season, matching his half-season total with Fluminese.

Christian Kabasele blocked a Lanzini rip off the line in the 74th minute as the Irons kept battling for an unlikely comeback.

Italian president’s burning remarks provide path for USMNT

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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There’s no question whether the Italian national team job is a different class than the United States men’s national team.

Aside from the fact that both sides failed to qualify for the World Cup, have a vacant manager’s chair, and decent recent results at youth level, the disparity is striking (and not all in negative ways for American fans).

[ MORE: McKennie impresses again ]

Italy has won four World Cups and a EURO, and played in four additional title games. Their domestic league is Top Five, and only six pool players who’ve been called up in the last 12 months come from outside Serie A. Three play in the Premier League, two in La Liga, and one in Ligue 1. It’s qualifying slate meant top Spain or face a home-and-home playoff with another top European team.

On the other hand, the U.S. faces the most forgiving qualifying run this side of Oceania. It’s room for improvement on the international stage is much higher, and its current group is so much further from its potential than the Italian side that it’s hard to find an apt comparison (Consider that, playoff loss aside, Italy has beat the following sides in the last 18 months: Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, and Uruguay).

Differences/similarities aside — and yes, it’s a tad ridiculous to get this deep into what separates Italy from the U.S. in terms of soccer — the USSF could do worse than monitoring how the Italians are handling their World Cup disaster.

1) Accepting responsibility without caveats about their previous successes — Here’s federation president Carlo Tavecchio (who it must be noted has said some reprehensible racist things. We would never gloss over something like that, but we’re talking about the soccer side here). After blasting player selection, he then said, ‘Yeah, but I hired the dude”:

“How can you not play [Lorenzo] Insigne? I told the staff, not him. I can’t intervene [with the coach], there are rules. I have to acknowledge it; I chose the coach. It’s been four days that I haven’t slept. I wake up continuously. We have always played crosses against tall defenders, some almost two meters tall. We had to play around them with the little players, who were on the bench.”

2) Waiting a while to make the correct move — By most accounts, this is very much the plan for the United States (especially with a presidential election looming in February). While most new presidents wouldn’t begrudge the hiring of an highly-qualified name, plenty of prospective bosses would want to wait until the new (or current) man in charge cements his place.

Tavecchio dropped plenty of names, and is especially interested in Chelsea’s Antonio Conte. And he said it’ll be worth the wait.

“We’re looking for the best. They already have commitments until June from a contractual point of view. Then when we get to June, who will be free? The ones are Ancelotti, Conte, Allegri, [Claudio] Ranieri and Mancini. This is the truth of those available.”

Granted the U.S. does not have the wealth of elite experience coaches that Italy does, but the Americans are also not limited to hiring an American.

USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan is a respected soccer name who is not going to light the shop on fire while the right hire is made during this upcoming string of friendlies.

It’s a top-bottom failure. It includes nearly every part of the system, but the man in charge is the most important part considering that the USMNT should qualify for every World Cup and somehow managed to bungle it.

America needs a bungle-free hire.

McKennie impresses again as Schalke goes second

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Schalke will enter the Revierderby in the Bundesliga’s second place after a 2-0 win over Hamburg on Sunday.

Franco Di Santo and Guido Burgstaller scored for Schalke, but those getting their eyes on USMNT teen Weston McKennie following his debut international goal got another promising feast for the eyes.

[ MORE: PST’s McKennie profile ]

Consider:

— McKennie, 19, covered 12.51 kilometers in the match, more than any other player by nearly a half km (Aaron Hunt of Hamburg ran 12.07).

— Only Burgstaller (94) recorded more individual runs than McKennie’s 91.

— His three attempts on goal were also a match-high. One was a flub, but another was barely redirected out for a corner.

— He’s now started five-straight matches when fit.

A win over Christian Pulisic’s Borussia Dortmund on Nov. 25 would put Schalke’s rivals six points in the rear view. And McKennie’s played a far bigger role than even we suspected during our preseason chat.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 12 9 2 1 30 8 22 5-1-0 4-1-1 29
 FC Schalke 04 12 7 2 3 16 10 6 4-2-1 3-0-2 23
 RB Leipzig 12 7 2 3 20 15 5 4-1-0 3-1-3 23
 Mönchengladbach 12 6 3 3 21 21 0 3-1-2 3-2-1 21
 Borussia Dortmund 12 6 2 4 29 16 13 3-0-2 3-2-2 20

Rashford’s childhood hero played for USMNT (Take one guess)

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But can he grow a beard?

Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford is known for his darting runs and clever finishes, but he grew up begging to get between the sticks with a lot of love for an American.

“Howard was my idol. I used to have a little Tim Howard shirt.”

[ MORE: Dempsey still wants USMNT role ]

Rashford said he’d ask his youth coach to allow him to play goal so he could mimic his hero, who at the time was the Manchester United backstop and now USMNT legend.

The 20-year-old was nine when Howard left Old Trafford, but it hasn’t changed his enjoyment for tending goal. Rashford joked that he’s got to be the choice to replace David De Gea in case of a post-sub emergency.