Winners and losers from Premier League week 15 as Riyad Mahrez inspires Man City to victory

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Riyad Mahrez

The festive fixture schedule is underway! Nothing brings more drama and excitement in the Premier League than midweek fixtures and this round of fixtures certainly did not disappoint.

Manchester City and Liverpool continued their winning streaks with victories over Watford and Burnley respectively.

Tottenham moved into third place by comfortably beating Southampton, with Chelsea dropping to fourth after falling to a disappointing defeat against Wolves.

Manchester United, Everton and Bournemouth are all level on 23 points, with the Red Devils playing out an entertaining 2-2 draw with fifth placed Arsenal.

Brighton and West Ham picked up their second successive league victories with wins over Crystal Palace and Cardiff whilst Southampton, Burnley and Fulham all occupy the relegation zone, only separated on goal difference.

With only a few days to prepare for these fixtures, who failed to impress and who stood out? Here are our winners and losers.

Winners:

Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City

Mahrez returned to the City starting line-up in place of Raheem Sterling and the Algerian thoroughly justified Pep Guardiola’s decision.

The skilful winger assisted City’s first and scored their second as the defending champions claimed a 2-1 victory over Watford.

The Hornets struggled to cope with the former Leicester City winger’s pace and with a performance like that, it’ll be hard for Guardiola to drop him to the bench.

Lucas Perez – West Ham United

Perez started the match against Cardiff on the bench, but by full-time, he was a Hammers hero.

The striker replaced the injured Marko Arnautovic and managed to get his name on the scoresheet twice to inspire Manuel Pellegrini’s side to victory at the London Stadium.

The former Arsenal forward’s performance should give the Hammers confidence that he can fill in appropriately for Arnautovic, who is ruled out until the end of the year.

Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

Harry Kane

Spurs had to bounce back from the north London derby defeat to Arsenal and Kane got them going in the best way possible.

His early finish relieved the nerves as Spurs went on to convincingly win 3-1, with Kane adding a brilliant assist to his goal.

With a big few matches coming up for Spurs, Kane has fit form at the perfect time.

Losers:

Shane Duffy – Brighton

Duffy let the emotion of the derby against Crystal Palace get the better of him as he received a straight red card inside 30 minutes.

The defender got into an altercation with Patrick Van Aanholt, before thrusting his head into the full-back, earning him a red card.

Luckily for the centre-back, his teammates played brilliantly to secure the victory for the Seagulls, who will be without him for the next three matches.

Joe Ralls – Cardiff City

The midfielder had an evening to forget after missing a penalty and picking up a yellow card for the struggling Bluebirds.

After wrestling the ball away from Victor Camarasa, Ralls knew he had to convert the spot kick, but it was easily saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

When you’re battling for relegation, opportunities like these simply can’t be missed.

Marcos Rojo – Manchester United

marcos-rojo

The Argentine made his return to the United starting line-up and showed plenty of passion, but ultimately, it was his error which costed the Red Devils.

Rojo’s sloppy pass in his own half saw Alexandre Lacazette pounce on the ball, before the defender’s desperate lunge resulted in the ball going into the back of his own net.

He was also cautioned by the referee, with many fans and pundits believing he was lucky to escape with only a yellow. Not a memorable return to the side for Rojo.

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp calls for protection after Joe Gomez injury

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp felt referee Stuart Attwell could have offered more protection to his players in the 3-1 win at Burnley.

Reds defender Joe Gomez was carried off on a stretcher in the first half and will have a scan on an ankle injury on Thursday with Klopp admitting the problem is “probably not only a little bit”.

Klopp was expecting the Clarets, who have not won since September and are stuck in the bottom three, to be physical but believed his players should have been afforded more care.

“I’m pretty sure I don’t make a lot of friends, but that’s not my job,” said the Reds boss.

“I said after the first challenge, I don’t know who did it, a sliding tackle from six/seven yards, getting the ball, everybody likes it, I said to the ref ‘it’s no foul but please tell them you cannot do that’.

“Nobody can judge that. You get the ball, nice, but it’s like bowling because you get the player as well. It happened four or five times, everybody likes it, but Joe is injured, and probably not only a little bit.

“We don’t know (how bad) at the moment, we sent him home so we have to see, but it’s his ankle yes.”

“They wanted to be aggressive. Aggression is a part of football. You try something and you need someone to say ‘be careful’.

“There were a lot of situations, challenges. There was nothing to say ‘wow, too much’, they were normal challenges. But with six or seven yards and then (slide) these times are over. They are over.

“We all want to win football games, and there are different ways of doing it. Somebody has to tell you to stop doing it, make two more steps and make a normal challenge.

“The boy with the ball is a bit unlucky because what can happen is what happened to Joe Gomez. I think the referee has to make sure that things like this don’t happen constantly.

“It’s not how it should be. Let’s play football.”

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Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri rounds on over-confident players after defeat to Wolves

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Angry Maurizio Sarri rounded on his over-confident Chelsea stars after their title hopes suffered another major blow with a 2-1 defeat at Wolves.

Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota struck in four second half minutes to stun the visitors who now sit 10 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s deflected opener had put the visitors in control before they slipped to a second straight away defeat after gifting Wolves a way back.

Chelsea, who sit fourth, host leaders City on Saturday and Sarri was annoyed at their complacency.

“After this match we are less confident but maybe it’s better because sometimes my players show me that they have too much confidence,” said the boss, who made five changes.

“I am really very worried, not for the result but the fact that after the first goal we conceded we did not react very well. I am really very worried for this, not for the result.

“We played well for 55 minutes. After the goal for 1-1, which was an accident because we were in full control of the match, we were suddenly another team without the right distances and without our football.

“I don’t know why. I don’t think it depended on the changes, it depended on the mentality of the team.

“I saw a team without a reaction. You can lose a match but not without a reaction.”

Sarri also conceded City are out of sight with his side battling for a Champions League spot.

He added: “Manchester City are in another category. We have to play and fight for the top four. It is a very difficult result for the top four.”

Loftus-Cheek struck in the 18th minute when his effort hit Conor Coady and flew in.

Ryan Bennett’s goal-saving tackle denied Willian in the first half and Alvaro Morata missed an excellent chance immediately after the break.

Wolves then turned the game in four second half minutes. Jimenez drilled through Kepa Arrizabalaga after 59 minutes before Jota tapped in at the far post from Matt Doherty’s cross after Andreas Christensen and Willian gave the ball away.

It lifted Wolves up to 12th and was their first win for two months after five defeats in their previous six games.

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