The last round before Christmas took place this weekend in the Premier League. One match was played on Friday, eight encounters happened on Saturday and one on Sunday. Several Nigerian players or players of Nigerian descent had important roles.
In the first match-up on Saturday, Arsenal hosted Burnley at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners were looking to bounce back from two defeats and get back on track. And they were attacking straight away. By the 14th minute, they had already taken the lead after Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang scored. The score remained 1:0 Arsenal at the end of the first half.
After the restart, the Gunners were once again quick out of the gate and Aubemayang scored his second in the 48th minute. But, after some confusion in Arsenal’s defence, Ashley Barnes managed to pull one back for the Clarets. Alex Iwobi, the Nigerian midfielder, came off the bench in the 78th minute and managed to score in stoppage time to confirm the win for the home team. Bukayo Saka, the England U-19 player of Nigerian descent, watched the game from the bench for Arsenal.
In a South England derby, Bournemouth played against Brighton. Leon Balogun was in the starting eleven for the third match running, but he couldn’t stop the Cherries from winning this game with two goals from Davis Brooks, in the 21st and 77th minute. Jordon Ibe came off the bench for Bournemouth to play the last few minutes of the game.
In one of the upsets of Saturday afternoon, Leicester City triumphed over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A single goal from Jamie Vardy soon after the restart was enough for the Foxes. Wilfred Ndidi started the match for Leicester, while Kelechi Iheanacho came in late in the second half to replace the scorer of the only goal of the game, Vardy.
Huddersfield Town and Southampton played out a bottom of the table encounter in which Southampton came out on top, once again winning 3:1. Nathan Redmond opened the scoring in the 15th minute while Danny Ings doubled the lead for the Saints in the 42nd, after he converted a penalty kick.
The Terriers fought back and pulled a goal back in the 58th minute through Philip Billing, but Southampton controlled the match and confirmed the win in the 71st minute through Michael Obafemi.
The London Stadium was the venue for this midtable clash between West Ham and Watford. After recording four wins in a row, the Hammers finally succumbed to defeat from their neighbours. Troy Deeney from a penalty in the 30th minute and Gerard Deulofeu in the 87th minute secured the victory for the Hornets. Isaac Success Ajayi made another appearance for Watford, this time coming off the bench late in the game.
The next round, closing the first half of the season, takes place in midweek, starting with matches on Boxing Day.