Boxing Day soccer is an English tradition that dates back to the beginnings of the sport itself. The first intersquad match was played between Sheffield F.C. and Hallam F.C. on Boxing Day 1860. In the 1880s, with the advent of the first leagues in England, matches on Boxing Day became an annual affair. While Christmas is reserved for opening gifts and spending time with loved ones, Boxing Day is for soccer.
This year, like every year, there was plenty of fantastic action to behold in the English Premier League. And although eight matches were played instead of the traditional 10, we did not want for goals. Only a single match ended goalless, and every other match featured two or more. In some cases, many more. Here are highlights from all the action, including a comeback from Manchester United, a record-setting performance from Harry Kane and a blitz of goals at Bournemouth.
Manchester United 2-2 Burnley
Burnley is the surprise of the Premier League, as Sean Dyche's men have put forward steady showing after steady showing on their way to place at the top of the table among the elite of the league. The Clarets were on the verge of their best win of the season -- and first win at Old Trafford since 1962 -- when they went up 2-0 on Manchester United, but a brace from super-sub Jesse Lingard helped United salvage a 2-2 draw.
Free kicks were Manchester United's kryptonite Monday, as they led to both Burnley goals. Burnley was on the board just three minutes after the opening whistle off a goal from Ashley Barnes, who finished after a scramble in the box. Burnley's second goal, in the 36th, was a bit classier. Steven Defour whizzed a superb free kick past David de Gea for the early 2-0 lead.
United thoroughly dominated the match, holding 71 percent possession and taking 23 shots, six on goal, but that domination didn't truly set in until halftime. That's thanks in large part to Lingard, who was introduced after the half.
The 25-year-old continued a blistering run of form by scoring his fifth and sixth goals in the last seven matches to bring United back level. The first came in the 53rd minute with a cheeky backheel on the end of an Ashley Young cross. His second was pure instinct and skill, as his half-volley off a deflected ball in the 91st minute salvaged a point for United.
Tottenham 5-2 Southampton
The holiday season has been a happy one for Spurs striker Harry Kane. In a 5-2 win over Southampton, Kane nabbed his second hat-trick in as many matches to give him 39 EPL goals in the 2017, surpassing Alan Shearer's mark from 1995 (36) for most Premier League goals in a calendar year. If that wasn't enough, Kane's 56 goals for club and country make him the first player in almost than a decade to end a year with more total goals than both Lionel Messi (54) and Cristiano Ronaldo (53).
And Kane smashed Shearer's record in smashing fashion. On a free kick from the left of the box, Kane sent a frozen rope past Fraser Forster to open the scoring and give himself 37 Premier League goals in 2017. In addition to Kane's three, Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min scored a goal apiece for Spurs.
The result continues the current runs of form for both sides in the match. Tottenham has won five of its past six matches, while Southampton is winless in its past seven.
Bournemouth 3-3 West Ham
A pair of goals in the final 10 minutes had West Ham on the verge of snatching three points from Bournemouth at Dean Court, but a controversial stoppage-time score from the Cherries left the Hammers with a single point as consolation.
With West Ham trailing 2-1 entering the final 10 minutes, attacker Marko Arnautovic bagged a brace to take the Hammers from a goal down to a goal up. In the 81st, he pounced after keeper Adrian slipped with the ball to score as easy a goal as he's ever scored to level the match at 2-2. In the 89th, he cleaned up a rebound of an Adrian parry to go up 3-2.
In stoppage time, Callum Wilson brought the match level again in controversial fashion. Wilson glanced a cross and directed the ball into the net to even the score at 3-3, but further review showed he might have been a step offside and probably even committed a handball. The head official and linesman conversed but decided to let the goal stand. In retrospect, it look like a bad decision, considering Wilson came out and admitted he handled the ball afterward.
He's literally laughing at how bad a decision it was. Sums it up. pic.twitter.com/3hdUu6XtUQ- West Ham News (@WHUFC_News) December 26, 2017
Liverpool 5-0 Swansea City
Liverpool handled its business against Swansea with a 5-0 victory that was never in doubt. The Reds dominated from whistle to whistle and got goals from Philippe Coutinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and teenager Trent Alexander Arnold, who scored the first Premier League goal of his career, as well as a brace from Roberto Firmino. Coutinho's goal was the highlight of Boxing Day goals. The Brazilian connected cleanly while charging toward goal to open the scoring with a long bomb in the sixth minute.
GO ON Coutinho! What a goal! 😍 pic.twitter.com/gzBYmv6iv8- NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 26, 2017
Chelsea 2-0 Brighton
Chelsea played Everton to a 0-0 draw last time out and appeared to be heading to another goalless showing following a listless first half full of wasted chances against Brighton at Stamford Bridge. But on the other side of the first half, Alvaro Morata -- who didn't play against Everton -- nodded home a cross from his compatriot Cesar Azpilicueta to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead. The Spanish flair continued with Chelsea's second, as Marcos Alonso glanced a header to the far post off a Cesc Fabregas corner to get the second goal of the match.
Another header for Alvaro Morata! pic.twitter.com/RXERd01JLr- NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 26, 2017
Other Premier League results:
Watford 2-1 Leicester City
Huddersfield 1-1 Stoke City
West Brom 0-0 Everton
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Cy Brown writes about football, golf, soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.