Chelsea, Man City win big without playing a striker in EPL

Sports

Chelsea’s Mason Mount applauds to fans at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Norwich City at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London, Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Christmas Day
December 25 2021 12:00 am

Chelsea and Manchester City didn’t field a recognized striker between them for their Premier League games on Saturday.

It didn’t stop them combining for 11 goals in ominous displays by the two title contenders.

Missing injured strikers Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, Chelsea still powered to its biggest win of the season — 7-0 against Norwich — with playmaker Mason Mount scoring a hat trick.

City doesn’t have an out-and-out striker in its squad after failing to sign a like-for-like replacement for Sergio Aguero in the offseason but that isn’t stopping the champions scoring freely this season.

A 4-1 victory at Brighton, secured mainly thanks to two goals by Phil Foden, followed a 5-1 win at Club Brugge midweek in the Champions League. It was the sixth time in 14 games in all competitions that City has scored three or more goals.

Chelsea will spend another week leading the league — it is two points ahead of City and four clear of Liverpool, whose game in hand is at Manchester United on Sunday — and the strength in depth in the squad should ensure Thomas Tuchel’s team maintains a title challenge this season.

There have been 16 different scorers for Chelsea in all competitions this season, with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Ben Chilwell also netting against last-place Norwich alongside Mount’s first Premier League hat trick.

That bodes well for the leaders while Lukaku (ankle) and Werner (hamstring) are out of action after sustaining injuries in midweek.

City is in a rich vein of form, too, especially with Foden taking on the scoring and creative mantle while playing in the false-nine role. The 21-year-old England international converted a pass from Jack Grealish at the end of a breakaway, then saw a shot from Gabriel Jesus deflect in off his heel to make it 3-0 at halftime, with Ilkay Gundogan having set City on its way with the opener at fourth-place Brighton.

Foden set up Riyad Mahrez for the fourth goal in second-half stoppage time.

RANIERI’S FIRST WIN

It has been quite the ride for Claudio Ranieri so far at Watford.

Having started with a 5-0 loss at home to Liverpool last weekend, Ranieri — who turned 70 on Wednesday — saw his new team beat Everton 5-2 thanks to a hat trick by Josh King that was completed amid a rush of four goals from the 78th minute for Watford at Goodison Park.

“It was important to show the character, the strength, and to react to the result,” Ranieri said. “We were playing well but suddenly we score in nine minutes three times — it was amazing.”

Joy for Ranieri but despair for Everton manager Rafa Benitez, whose team was jeered off the field after a second straight home loss. It might not be long before supporters turn against Benitez, a contentious appointment for some given his links to local rival Liverpool.

“I understand the frustration of the fans,” he said. “We have to make sure we show something in every game, more character, more personality.”

OVERHEAD KICK

Newcastle is still waiting for a first win under the club’s new Saudi ownership.

A first point arrived, though, thanks to a goal from an overhead kick by Callum Wilson in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace. Christian Benteke had given Palace the lead and had a late goal disallowed for a foul in the build-up.

Newcastle is in next-to-last place and facing a relegation fight this season.

LATE GOAL, BIG INJURY

Leeds was waiting to discover the extent of a concerning-looking left ankle injury to star winger Raphinha that he sustained in a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton.

The Brazil international was already off the field with his injury when Rodrigo earned Leeds a point with a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time. That canceled out Hwang Hee-chan’s 10th-minute opener for Wolves.

Raphinha was hurt in a challenge from Wolves defender Romain Saiss and looked in pain as he was helped down the tunnel at Elland Road, seemingly unable to put full weight on his ankle.

Leeds only has one win in its opening nine games amid injury issues for manager Marcelo Bielsa.

In the day’s other match, Ivory Coast winger Maxwel Cornet scored two goals for Burnley — including the equalizer — in a 2-2 draw at Southampton.

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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