The 2016-2017 Premier League season has been a reliable source of entertainment for fans. Aside from the occasional dull game, there has been no shortage of attacking firepower and individual flair. It was very difficult for me to narrow the list of 250 matches played this season down to just 5, and there were many that were very close but just didn’t make the cut. Here now are my top 5 most entertaining matches this season.
Honorable Mentions: Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool, Everton 6-3 Bournemouth
5. Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City
On the 4th Matchweek of the EPL, fans were treated to a Manchester Derby with no shortage of storylines. It was a battle of 2 teams who hadn’t dropped a point yet. It was the battle of two of the best managers in the world, Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho. It was the battle of some of the most expensive transfers of the summer, including Paul Pogba and John Stones. This matchup came with high expectations, and it did not disappoint.
7 minutes in, the first real chance fell to Paul Pogba on a counterattack, but he slashed his effort just over the bar. Then, in the 15th minute, Kevin De Bruyne put City ahead with what was really the first good chance for the Blues. In the 36th minute, youngster Kehlechi Iheanacho finished after being set up by a beautiful solo run by De Bruyne. Then, right before the half, fans got an early glimpse at the season Claudio Bravo would have. He spilled a cross, which fell right to the feet of Ibrahimovic to volley home. Into stoppage time, United looked to equalize, but Wayne Rooney hit a 46th-minute header straight at Bravo. Less than a minute later, Bravo got caught off his line by a through ball, but Ibrahimovic couldn’t finish.
Bravo’s nightmare got even worse in the second half. He lost control of the ball in his own box and nearly gave away a penalty while barely scraping it clear. With 20 minutes to go, Rashford thought that he had equalized through a thumping finish, only to have his goal called back for offsides. One minute later, Fernandinho forced a fantastic save from De Gea off of a corner. In the 74th minute then, Kevin De Bruyne struck the woodwork from inside the box, and David Silva curled a shot over less than a minute later. Deep in stoppage time, Claudio Bravo got caught in no man’s land twice, but he was bailed out by Ibrahimovic’s miss and John Stone’s clearance and Paul Pogba’s shot. Somehow, City survived this test and handed United their first loss of the campaign.
4. Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool
There were not many storylines heading into this match, and Liverpool was expected to win emphatically. Bournemouth had never beaten Liverpool (ever). Liverpool were on an 11 game unbeaten run, and Bournemouth had won just one of their last four.
The game started out as expected, as Origi missed a golden opportunity ten minutes in, before Sadio Mane put the Reds ahead in the 20th minute. 2 minutes later, Origi made up for his earlier miss with a great counterattacking goal. Bournemouth didn’t put their heads down, and even created a couple great chances, but the first half ended with them trailing 2-0.
After having a penalty shout denied in the first half, Bournemouth finally received one in the 56th minute. Callum Wilson slotted it home, and Bournemouth were right back in the game. But less than 10 minutes later, an Emre Can curler from the top of the box looked to seal the three points for Liverpool. Bournemouth created chances after that, and nicked one back with 15 minutes to go through Ryan Fraser’s finish. Then, stunningly, they equalized within two minutes, as Steve Cook finished off a cross from Fraser. Divock Origi nearly won it in the 90th minute, but his volley just went over the bar. And just when it looked like Bournemouth would be content with a draw, out of nowhere Karius spilled a long-range shot right into the path of Nathan Ake, who poked the rebound home. This was an incredible effort from Bournemouth, who never lost spirit once.
3. Liverpool 6-1 Watford
A couple of weeks before Liverpool lost that match to Bournemouth, they were involved in another 7 goal match, this time at home to Watford. This game was all about attacking power, as the teams combined for 39 shots (25 on target).
Both of these teams had shown their attacking talent in the matches leading up to this one, and continued that momentum at Anfield. Both keepers traded saves in the first ten minutes. 17 minutes in, Liverpool took control, as Lucas missed a sitter right before Coutinho struck the post, and Mane hit side netting. Liverpool launched attack after attack, and fans got tired just watching it. There was a real atmosphere inside the stadium, and the breakthrough finally came 27 minutes in for the Reds. 3 minutes later, they struck again, as Coutinho finally got the goal he deserved. Right before the half, Can made it 3-0, and Milner almost made it 4 from a free kick.
The 4th goal did come, this time from Firmino, off a perfect feed from Adam Lallana. The 5th came moments later, as Firmino laid of Mane for his 2nd of the match. About 65 minutes in, Watford started to regain their stride and began launching some attacking moves. Karius was forced into 3 good saves before Watford was finally rewarded in the 75th minute with a consolation goal. But Liverpool just had to have the last word – they continued to create at least 3 more quality chances before Wijnaldum finally made it 6. This game may not have been the closest, but the pure attacking play from both sides made it one of the most entertaining games of the season. This could’ve easily topped 15 goals total.
2. Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham
This was the most recent of the games, happening on the 22nd matchday of the season. Tottenham came in having won 6 in a row, and City were coming off of a 4-0 loss at the hands of Everton. But when two top teams play each other, form often proves irrelevant, and that was the case in this one.
The first real chance of the game fell to Pablo Zabaleta, 11 minutes in. He was laid off by De Bruyne, but just drifted his shot wide. Moments later, Kevin Wimmer started off a shaky night by being caught out by the press, but fortunately for him, Aguero was unable to capitalize. Spurs continued to try to build out of the back, but they continued to look unsettled. Lloris made a fine save to deny Silva in the 20th minute, before Zabaleta nailed a shot just wide. City’s press continued to win possession in the final third, but once again Aguero couldn’t capitalize. A few minutes later, City had a good chance on the counterattack, but couldn’t pick out the right passes. Then in the 38th minute, Lloris produced one of his best saves of the season to keep out Aguero’s header. A few minutes later, Lloris saved another Aguero shot, but Spurs continued to have their backs against the wall. Right before the half, some great last-ditch defending denied Otamendi and Sterling, and somehow the half finished scoreless.
Lloris’s great performance in the first half just fell apart in the second. First, he whiffed a headed clearance straight into Sane, who pounced on the open goal. Then, just 5 minutes later, he spilled a straightforward cross right into De Bruyne, who doubled the lead. But Spurs proved resilient. Dele Alli stepped up once again and nodded home a header to cut the lead in half. At this point, nobody knew what was going to happen next. Danny Rose made a brilliant tackle in the box on Sterling, but Spurs fans held their breath as Toby Alderweireld was subbed off with an injury in the 65th minute. In the 76th minute, Sterling was in on goal, but Kyle Walker gave him a slight shove to put him off. Amazingly, this wasn’t given as a penalty (and a red card), and less than a minute later Heung-min Son scored an equalizer at the other end. Then, things got even more interesting when super sub Gabriel Jesus made his EPL debut for City. He immediately whizzed a cross across the box, headed a shot narrowly over, and tapped in an offsides goal, but was never able to put City ahead. City felt absolutely robbed when the final whistle saw the game end level. It was amazing that City could’ve easily won 7-1, and yet the only reason they didn’t lose was because of two howlers from Lloris.
1. Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace
This was a match between two of the relegation battlers, as Palace hadn’t won in about two months, and Swansea was still looking for their first win under manager Bob Bradley. Both teams had defensive liabilities, but I don’t think anyone saw this scoreline coming.
It was a fairly ordinary first half, as Benteke squandered a close-range effort over the bar just 6 minutes in. About ten minutes later, Wilfried Zaha latched onto a Benteke flick to slot home a low finish. Wickham very nearly doubled the lead in the 28th minute, when he had his shot miraculously saved by Fabianski. After missing an earlier chance, Gylfi Sigurdsson earned redemption with a gorgeous free kick goal. Moments later, Zaha had a header hit the crossbar for Palace, and the first half ended 1-1.
The second half looked to be just like the first half, until the 66th minute, when Leroy Fer scored a tap-in off a corner kick. This moment provided a real shift in the game, and the floodgates were opened for both teams. 2 minutes later, Fer scored again, and Swansea led 3-1. But Palace pulled one back with 15 minutes to go, and it looked like it would be a real dogfight from here. They were gifted an equalizer from a Jack Cork own goal, and took the lead through Benteke a minute later. But there were still more twists to the tale. Gylfi Sigurdsson saw his shot deflect off his teammate Llorente for the equalizer in the 91st minute. Finally, Llorente pounced on a loose ball and poked home the winner for Swansea in what was probably the most entertaining game of the season so far.
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