AFP/ Southampton, United Kingdom
Rashford sends Man United into top four, Gerrard’s Villa rub salt into Everton wounds
Manchester City’s 12-game winning run in the Premier League came to an end as Aymeric Laporte rescued a 1-1 draw against Southampton yesterday. City were rocked by Kyle Walker-Peters’ first ever top-flight goal in the opening minutes at St Mary’s. After a poor first half by their high standards, Pep Guardiola’s side kicked into gear after the break.
City defender Laporte headed the equaliser, but the runaway leaders could not extend their winning streak in a one-sided finale that saw the visitors lay siege to the Southampton goal. The champions had to settle for a result that left them 12 points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who have two games in hand and face Crystal Palace today.
For the first time since they were beaten 2-0 by Palace on October 30, City finished a league game without all three points. They remain firmly in pole position for a fourth title in five seasons, but their draw on the south coast will give a glimmer of hope to Liverpool and third-placed Chelsea.
Earlier, Marcus Rashford struck with virtually the last kick of the game to take Manchester United into the Premier League top four at West Ham’s expense with what Ralf Rangnick described as a “massive” 1-0 win.
United were insipid as an attacking force for 93 minutes at Old Trafford, but found the breakthrough at the death as all three of Rangnick’s substitutes combined when Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani teed up Rashford for a tap in at the back post.
Victory lifts United a point above the Hammers and sees the Red Devils leapfrog Tottenham and Arsenal in the battle for Champions League football next season. The winner was also a huge moment for Rashford, who has looked devoid of confidence in recent months.
The England international scored for the first time since October in a 3-1 win at Brentford on Wednesday and was in the right place at the right time for what could be a decisive moment in United’s desperation not to miss out on the riches and prestige of Champions League football next season. Rashford was again left out of Rangnick’s starting line-up in favour of 19-year-old Anthony Elanga. However, he was the first of three changes made by the German after the break, who all played a part in the winning goal.
Meanwhile, Jonjo Shelvey’s second-half free-kick clinched third bottom Newcastle’s much-needed 1-0 win over Leeds. Shelvey curled home from 20 yards in the 75th minute, giving Eddie Howe’s side only their second victory of the season. Newcastle were under the pressure for long spells but they held on to climb to within a point of safety with a game in hand on fourth-bottom Norwich. Leeds are now only seven points above the relegation zone after their damaging defeat.
Everton’s change of management did not result in a change of fortunes as Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard enjoyed a winning return to Merseyside with a 1-0 victory at Goodison Park. Emiliano Buendia’s header in first half stoppage time separated the sides to leave the Toffees just four points above the relegation zone in 16th place.
Duncan Ferguson took temporary charge of Everton following the sacking of Rafael Benitez last weekend after a run of just one win in 13 league games. Ferguson was unbeaten in three matches as caretaker boss against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal before Carlo Ancelotti took charge just over two years ago. But he could not replicate that success as former Liverpool captain Gerrard got one over on his old rivals. Wolves won 2-1 at Brentford in a bizarre game delayed after a drone flew over the Community Stadium in west London. Both teams had to leave the pitch after what was announced as an “unofficial drone” hovered above the stadium, with confused Wolves captain Conor Coady asking referee Peter Bankes “what’s happening”.
The players eventually re-emerged and the match resumed after a delay of almost 20 minutes. Joao Moutinho’s curler put Wolves ahead four minutes into the second half before Ivan Toney equalised with a 71st minute volley. Ruben Neves clinched the points for Wolves in the 75th minute.
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