Premier League roundup: Chelsea held, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United win

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A busy old Saturday took place in the Premier League, as eight games saw plenty of the top dogs do battle.

Wins for Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United saw them help their top four chances, while QPR and West Ham both secured big wins at home.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Chelsea were stopped by Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, but Jose Mourinho’s men are still unbeaten through 13 games.

For recaps, analysis, reaction and more on all eight matches, look no further than below for your one stop shop of PL goodies.

Manchester United 3-0 Hull CityRECAP

Goals from Chris Smalling, Wayne Rooney and a Robin van Persie saw United cruise to victory but it came at a cost as Angel Di Maria went off with a hamstring injury. Louis van Gaal’s masterplan is coming together, but Hull were very poor.

Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City – RECAP

Glen Johnson’s 85th minute goal was the difference in this one, but Stoke really didn’t deserve to lose. Bojan smashed the post and had a volley superbly saved by Simon Mignolet. Liverpool inched over the line, as Steven Gerrard was dropped to the bench.

West Brom 0-1 ArsenalRECAP

The Gunners ground out a hard-fought win after two-straight defeats in the PL. Danny Welbeck headed home in the second have to seal the win, as Saido Berahino hit the crossbar for the battling Baggies.

Sunderland 0-0 ChelseaRECAP

Willian hit the post in the first half for Chelsea, while Santigao Vergini hit the bar for Sunderland who defender for their lives. Chelsea have 24 efforts on goal but couldn’t break the Black Cats down. Gus Poyet’s side gave the rest of the PL hope that Chelsea can be stopped.

QPR 3-2 Leicester City – RECAP

Great game in west London as Leicester took the lead through Cambiasso, but an own goal from Wes Morgan and then a Leroy Fer strike right on half time put the R’s ahead. After the break Leicester equalized through Jeff Schlupp but Charlie Austin pounced to make it 3-2 and send the Foxes to the bottom of the standings, while the R’s are on the up. Fantastic entertainment.

Burnley 1-1 Aston VillaRECAP

Joe Cole put the Villains up 1-0 in a feisty match, and the Clarets equalized through Danny Ings’ late penalty kick. It is now three games unbeaten for Sean Dyche’s men, who could have won it late on after striking the woodwork, while Villa’s winless streak continues to nine games.

Swansea City 1-1 Crystal PalaceRECAP

The Swans went ahead through Wilfried Bony’s stunner, but Mile Jedinak equalized from the penalty spot after Jonjo Shelvey was adjudged to have taken down Marouane Chamakh. Swansea had the better chances, but Palace dug deep to grab a point in south Wales.

West Ham 1-0 NewcastleRECAP

Aaron Cresswell scored the winner for West Ham who are fifth on 21 points, while Newcastle lost for the first time in seven PL matches. To add insult to injury, Moussa Sissoko was sent off in the second half.

La Liga roundup: Barcelona, Real Madrid remain level on points after wins (video)

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Routine wins from league favorites Barcelona and Real Madrid, highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona 5-2 RCD Mallorca

It was a special night at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

Fresh from winning the Ballon d’Or for a record sixth time, Lionel Messi was greeted by his three children on the field, who handed him a shinny, golden ball – given yearly to the best player in the world – prior to the first whistle.

From that point on, it was evident that it would be all smiles for everyone tied to the defending champions at the stadium (and for those watching remotely) on Saturday.

 

That was the case.

Antoine Griezmann – a topic of conversation due to lack of productivity at Barcelona this season – kicked off the game with a solo run and subsequent goal in the seventh minute, opening the floodgates.

As a celebration of his latest, individual accomplishment, Messi showcased the power and precision of his left foot at the tune of a hat-trick. The Argentine ace scored twice in the first half and another in consolation time, putting his season total mark at a league-best 12 goals.

The moment and goal of the night (possibly of the season) didn’t directly involve Messi, however. With a daring, emphatic and genius back-heel strike, not only did Luis Suarez put the home side up 4-1, but cemented himself in the ballot for best goal of the season.

With 34 and a better goal differential than Real Madrid, Barcelona remain atop of La Liga ahead of their clash with Inter Milan on Tuesday, while Mallorca hope Ante Budimir can score another brace; this time against a struggling Celta Vigo next weekend.

Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

With goals from Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane, Real Madrid comfortably cruised past a struggling Espanyol.

With the majority of Real Madrid in Espanyol’s final third following a recovered free-kick attempt, Benzema charged his way into the box before laying off a ball to Varane, who not a proven goalscorer whatsoever, placed the ball into the back of the net with ease.

It was the 37th minute, and the home side were up 1-0 against a poor Espanyol.

With a notable superior style at hand, Los Blancos continued to surge forward. Opportunities at goal were generated but the ball wouldn’t go past ex-Real Madrid ‘keeper Diego Lopez.

Then, in the 79th minute, Benzema registered his 11th goal of the season, finishing an off-balance pass from Federico Valverde inside the box.

Winners in their last La Liga bouts, Real Madrid now prepare for their Champions League Group Stage finale against Club Brugge midweek. Espanyol, despite being in the drop zone, host CSKA Moscow in their Europa League Group Stage finale. The Catalonian club lead Group H with 11 points after five matches.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 3-0 Alaves

Levante 2-4 Valencia

Ancelotti’s future uncertain after Napoli draws at Udinese

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ROME (AP) Carlo Ancelotti’s future as Napoli coach is uncertain after his team failed to beat Udinese on Saturday in Serie A.

The 1-1 draw extended Napoli’s winless run to nine matches in all competitions. Piotr Zelinski saved Napoli with a late goal that salvaged a point for the visitors.

Amid reports that Ancelotti could soon be fired, Napoli, which had won its last six league matches against Udinese, went a goal down after a counterattack which was finished by Kevin Lasagna in the 32nd minute.

Napoli improved after Fernando Llorente replaced an uninspired Lorenzo Insigne in the second half. It equalized after a good combination between Dries Mertens and Zielinski, who wrongfooted the Udinese ‘keeper with a shot into the bottom corner.

Also, Atalanta twice came from behind after Samuel Di Carmine’s two goals to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 with a late winner from Berat Djimsiti, who volleyed home from close range.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Kyle Walker: City catching up to Liverpool ‘difficult’ after derby loss to United

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After a crushing 2-1 loss to archrival Manchester United at home, 14 is the new magic number for Pep Guardiola and company.

14 is the number of points that Manchester City trail league leaders Liverpool by, an uphill battle that is influencing many people on the outside looking in to think that City’s chances of lifting the league’s silverware for a third straight season are officially done and dusted.

That’s not the narrative that is occupying Kyle Walker‘s train of thought, however. Speaking on behalf of his City teammates and himself, the defender is keen on fighting until they’re mathematically out of contention for the title, regardless if the standings show that Liverpool have yet to suffer a defeat this season after 16 matches.

“Can’t fault the manager,” Walker told Sky Sports following City’s second Premier League loss in five games. “He has won numerous trophies. I can’t put my finger on it. It is going to be difficult, Liverpool are on fire. They [Liverpool] are getting wins and we are not. It is a big gap but we will fight until the end.”

A consolation goal from Nicolas Otamendi in the 85th minutes wasn’t enough for the Cityzens, who endured a fourth league loss this season, matching last season’s number of losses throughout 38 games.

After the dispiriting derby day performance from City, the defending champions stand at 32 points after 16 bouts, the lowest point haul for Guardiola in his 11-year top-flight management career.

No team in league history has overcome a 14-point deficit. Since late October, City are yet to record a clean sheet, an apparent issue that Walker believes he and the rest of the team’s defenders need to address in order to return to old ways.

“Us as defenders need to hold our hands up,” he said. “We need to keep clean sheets and strikers maybe need to put more away. They had a game plan and it worked. They have quick players in quick areas and they are going to hurt you on the counter. Credit where credit is due, they stepped up today. Fair play.”

WATCH: Luis Suarez delivers one-of-a-kind back-heel goal

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At 32 years of age and with a 15-year career behind him, Luis Suarez has scored some emphatic goals.

On Saturday, however, he painted a fine piece of art, a goal that became an instant classic the moment the ball came off of his backheel. With Barcelona already up 3-1 against RCD Mallorca, Ernesto Valverde’s men continued to push forward, comfortably and strategically ping-ponging the ball around the defensive-oriented visitors.

And then Frenkie de Jong found the ball at the top of the box.

The Dutch international smoothly placed a through ball, finding Suarez, who with precision and expertise that only he has, belted the ball into the bottom-right corner of Manolo Reina’s goal.

It’s only December, but the Uruguayan’s goal is an automatic La Liga goal of the season contender: