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Comical errors doom Arsenal in draw with inspired Watford

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Watford gave Quique Sanchez Flores a fine “re-debut” for the Hornets in thrilling fashion.

Well, maybe it’d be better said that Arsenal gave the manager his moment.

Arsenal made two silly mistakes in their own box, giving Watford a come-from-behind 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford out shot the Gunners 28-7, but needed big help to solve Bernd Leno.

The Gunners led on a pair of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals scored 11 minutes apart in the first half, but Tom Cleverley and Roberto Pereyra had the answers thanks to grave errors from Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz.

Arsenal now sits seventh with eight points, while Watford remains 20th with two.


Three things we learned

1. Fullbacks on parade: Arsenal’s early lead came by their very different attack-minded fullbacks. Sead Kolasinac drove with power down the left to slip a ball to Aubameyang for the opening goal, while flying Ainsley Maitland-Niles found space on the right to cross for Aubameyang’s second. Beautiful stuff.

2. Leno bright early: Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno picked up where he left off in the North London Derby, making a number of key saves or claims as Watford came out the gates with brightness and purpose. He had little chance of stopping either Watford goal, and made a point-salvaging save on Abdoulaye Doucoure in stoppage time.

3. More laughs at the back:  Just when you thought Nicolas Otamendi had the “Worst Giveaway of the Weekend” award on lock down, enter Sokratis Papastathopoulos. The veteran defender couldn’t quite sense the danger in his pass to Guendouzi, could he?

David Luiz’s mistake was nearly as glaring, as he blocked Roberto Pereyra‘s 80th minute dribble into the 18. Pereyra wrong-footed Leno for 2-2.

Man of the Match: Aubameyang.


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The first proper chance of the match was produced by Gerard Deulofeu, whose curling shot gave Bernd Leno a little trouble.

Leno then made a fine save on Tom Cleverley in the 11th minute to led to a corner, and had to stop another shot from the same players off the set piece.

The chances kept coming, with Deulofeu cueing up Jose Holebas for a shot that sailed well over the bar.

Arsenal went ahead 1-0 in the 21st minute through a powerful Sead Kolasinac dribble up field to find Aubameyang for a classy turn and finish.

The second goal was electric, with Ozil playing a role in the build-up to Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ perfect cross for Aubameyang.

A bad giveaway by Matteo Guendouzi opened the door for Watford, but the Hornets couldn’t challenge Leno.

A spicy affair saw a touch line skirmish between Holebas and Arsenal duo Matteo Guendouzi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Watford pulled one back off a terrible giveaway from Sokratis, who gave Cleverley a wide open look at either side of Leno.

Then substitute Ismalia Sarr dragged a shot wide of the frame. Watford was knocking, and David Luiz opened the door with a block on Roberto Pereyra at the top of the 18. Pereyra fooled Leno and got the equalizer.

Watch Live: Leicester City v. Man City

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Manchester City can put Leicester City deep in its rearview mirror when the two sides meet at the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester opens the day four points back of the second-place visitors. The Foxes also saw Chelsea move four points back with a win over Spurs.

[ STREAM: Leicester City v. Man City ]

Aymeric Laporte again pairs with Fernandinho in Man City’s back line, keeping John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench.

Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez start on the bench for Brendan Rodgers‘ Foxes.

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VIDEO: Messi scores first half hat trick for Barcelona

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Lionel Messi scored a first half hat trick for Barcelona against Eibar on Saturday.

Messi, 33, is warming up quite well for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg as he tore Eibar’s defense to shreds to put them 3-0 up at the break.

In a week where Messi and Barcelona have been in the news amid an emergency signing of Martin Braithwaite, a social media spying scandal and plenty of criticism of sporting director Eric Abidal, the Argentine ace got back to doing what he does best.

Barcelona sat in second place in the La Liga table heading into this weekend, one point behind Real Madrid.

Giroud vows “start of a good run” for Chelsea ahead of UCL

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OIivier Giroud knows he’s given Frank Lampard food for thought as Chelsea improved its top four stock with a 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Giroud scored the first goal in making just his third Premier League start and eighth league appearance under Lampard, and now has two goals in 375 minutes this season. The other came against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Frenchman now has 79 Premier League goals, and the ex-Arsenal man will be doubly thrilled to that four of them have now come against Spurs.

“I was lucky the ball came back after hitting the post and I tried to finish,” Giroud said, via the BBC. “It was a good feeling for me, a good moment and I’m so happy for the team to win today. It’s been three months I didn’t start, it’s been a special day for me and all of us.”

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts ]

Giroud said that this was bigger for Chelsea than it was for him, though.

“It was a very important game for us today. I want to talk about the team spirit. We’ve shown great character today. We knew it was maybe a kind of turning point. We lost a bit of confidence. It was nice to bounce back and get this win, a hard win against a rival, so I feel relieved today.

“Tottenham is obviously a rival for the Champions League race, so we are pleased to put them four points behind us. This is the start of a good run, I hope, now we need to focus on the Champions League. This game would be nice for the confidence and for the changing room.”

Chelsea meets Bayern Munich on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge before a trip to Bournemouth on Feb. 29. The breathing room on fifth place is welcome.

Jose Mourinho defends players “trying to do miracles,” explains Dele move

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Tottenham Hotspur boss Jose Mourinho says he can have no complaints with his shorthanded men following a 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho pointed to the absence of strikers Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane as well as a Champions League match in midweek.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“Look at Chelsea they played a World Cup-winning striker up front, England’s second striker on the bench, and Belgium’s second striker in the stands,” he said, via Football.London. “We had no strikers on the pitch, no strikers on the bench and two in the hospital.”

Chelsea were the much better side on the day, with Olivier Giroud making a statement to Frank Lampard about his ability as a center forward.

And Mourinho felt sufficiently shorthanded on the day, especially given the exhausting 1-0 loss to RB Leipzig at midweek.

“Lucas, Lo Celso, Bergwijn,” he said. “These boys that are playing every minute and trying to do miracles in positions that are not their positions. I cannot complain.”

Mourinho also defended keeping Dele Alli on the bench for the first time in his tenure as Spurs boss.

“We had strange game plans but we needed to have them. Like Lamela who played well, people think I’m stupid that I don’t play him, but he’s constantly communicating with me in the warm-up, can I play or not. He was telling me his feelings.”

Spurs will finish the weekend four points back of the top four and as many as two back of fifth. They have eight days until another big match, March 1 versus Wolves.