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Fulham 1-2 Aston Villa

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Fulham 1-2 Aston Villa

Fulham 1-2 Aston Villa. Ollie Watkins scored twice as Aston Villa returned to the Premier League’s top four with a narrow victory at Fulham.

Jacob Ramsey pinched the ball off Willian after a poor throw-in from Antonee Robinson and set up Watkins who slotted Villa into a 23rd-minute lead.

And the England forward deservedly doubled his tally when he buried Youri Tielemans’ through-ball just after the restart.

The hosts were gifted a way back into the match as Rodrigo Muniz capitalised on a mix-up between Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez and defender Clement Lenglet.

Martinez was then called into two fine saves in second-half injury time as Unai Emery’s side held on.

They now sit fourth in the table after rivals Tottenham were beaten 2-1 by Wolves on Saturday.

It is no secret that Aston Villa have not had the start to 2024 the club would have wanted.

After missing out on a chance to go top of the Premier League on Boxing Day, Villa have lost four of their past 10 matches in all competitions, and had slipped down to fifth in the league table.

The visitors started brightly with Tielemans, in for the injured Boubacar Kamara, setting up Watkins, only for his goal to be ruled offside in the first two minutes.

After the forward’s opener, Leon Bailey struck the crossbar with a curling effort and Tielemans was denied by Fulham keeper Bernd Leno when through on goal.

Alex Moreno also had a first-half headed finish ruled out for a tight offside, timing his run a fraction too early to meet Watkins’ flick on.

The England striker had a superb game and has now scored 19 goals in all competitions this season. He had come into Saturday’s match with just two goals from his past 10 games.

Villa, now two points clear of Tottenham in fifth, face Nottingham Forest at home in their next match next Saturday.

Fulham were the creators of their own downfall at Craven Cottage, and were unable to follow their fine win over Bournemouth last week.

Robinson’s sloppy throw-in set up Villa’s first, and poor defending enabled their second.

Minutes before the opener, Tim Ream had a goal disallowed for offside when he rounded the keeper after Joao Palhinha’s flick-on.

Muniz, who scored his fourth goal in three games, looked dangerous from crosses into the box and halved the deficit in the 63rd minute after Martinez and Lenglet hesitated following a low Robinson cross.

Buoyed by that strike, Fulham pushed for an equaliser with Harry Wilson volleying wide and Alex Iwobi, back from Africa Cup of Nations action, having a shot saved by the feet of Martinez.

And the Argentine goalkeeper made up for his earlier error, brilliantly racing off his line to deny former Villa forward Adama Traore in injury time.

Fulham, who are away to Manchester United in their next match, will be without Palhinha, who will now serve a two-match ban after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season.

source – BBC

English Premier League

Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest

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Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest

Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest. Everton took a vital step towards Premier League survival with victory over fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest in a scrappy affair at Goodison Park.

Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil scored with long-range efforts in each half to settle the battle between the two clubs who have suffered Premier League points deductions this season – with appeals pending that could still shape their fate as the campaign reaches its climax.

Everton have now moved five points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand on Luton Town but Forest remain deep in trouble, only a point ahead of the Hatters.

Forest, however, were left fuming when referee Anthony Taylor twice ignored penalty appeals, first when Ashley Young handled in the closing moments of the opening half and then when the veteran tangled with Callum Hudson-Odoi as he raced in on goal in the second period.

Everton broke the deadlock after 29 minutes when Gueye fired low past Matz Sels, only his second goal in a century of attempts from outside the area, with McNeil settling the destiny of the points when he drilled home via the post from 25 yards with 14 minutes left.

There were worrying scenes in stoppage time when Everton striker Beto went down after an aerial challenge with Morgan Gibbs-White.

He lay motionless and the game was stopped for eight minutes while he received treatment before he was taken away on a stretcher. He did, however, appear to gesture to the Everton supporters as he was leaving the pitch.

Everton needed an instant response after the humiliation of Monday’s 6-0 loss at Chelsea and while, apart from the two goals, it was not a performance to earn points for artistic merit, it earned points of a far more significant kind as the Toffees once again find themselves embroiled in a fight against relegation.

They were thankful for an outstanding save by England keeper Jordan Pickford from Forest striker Chris Wood with the score 1-0 and those controversial moments when Young escaped conceding penalties.

Everton, however, showed the battling qualities that were absent at Stamford Bridge, took the chances they had and cashed in on the moments of good fortune afforded to them.

It was not a game of any serious quality, which was hardly to be expected between two struggling teams in a tense situation, but this is immaterial at this stage of the season.

Jarrad Branthwaite demonstrated once again why he is so highly regarded as Everton kept Forest at bay, enabling Sean Dyche’s side to make a winning start to a week that could yet define their season, with a Merseyside derby to come against Liverpool at Goodison Park on Wednesday and another home game against Brentford next Saturday evening.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

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Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

Liverpool 2-1 Brighton.Liverpool moved top of the Premier League – for a couple of hours at least – as Mohamed Salah ended Brighton’s resistance to secure a vital victory at Anfield.

With title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal meeting later on Sunday, Liverpool knew the significance of beating the resolute Seagulls in the early kick-off.

But Brighton striker Danny Welbeck stunned the hosts by thumping a strike into the top corner with only 87 seconds on the clock.

Liverpool responded strongly and began to dominate possession, with Luis Diaz poking home the equaliser from close range before the half-hour mark.

Salah, making his first league start since New Year’s Day, had missed a host of chances but eventually made one count when he coolly slotted in from Alexis Mac Allister’s pass in the 65th minute.

The hosts thought they had all but sealed the win when Diaz fired in after 73 minutes but his effort was ruled out by the video assistant referee for a tight offside.

Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk came closest to snatching a draw for the visitors, but saw two headers saved by home keeper Caoimhin Kelleher in quick succession.

Former Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana also fired wide just moments after coming on as a substitute late on.

Ultimately Salah’s strike proved the difference as relieved Reds fans greeted the final whistle with an exuberant celebration.

Liverpool move on to 67 points, three ahead of Arsenal – who have a superior goal difference – and four in front of City before their match at Etihad Stadium.

The title race has developed into a fascinating three-way battle where it feels like every dropped point could be crucial.

And, with Liverpool playing before their two rivals go head-to-head, Easter Sunday has long been circled as a potentially pivotal day in the league campaign.

All the Reds could do was focus on winning their game against a Brighton side with a good record against Jurgen Klopp’s team, and led by a manager in Roberto de Zerbi being touted as a potential successor to the German.

The hosts had to show fight, belief and patience before Salah, not for the first time, ended up being the match-winner in a game of huge magnitude.

For more than an hour it had looked like it was not going to be the Egyptian forward’s day as a host of chances went begging for the Reds talisman.

Salah had seven shots in the first half without really stretching Brighton keeper Bart Verbruggen, while he could not quite reach Diaz’s dinked cross to the far post after half-time.

Another opportunity came when Mac Allister’s slick through ball cut through his former club’s defence and this time Salah found the bottom corner with a composed finish.

Only time will tell – especially with so many twists and turns to come in the remaining nine rounds of games – exactly how important this victory will be.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Luton Town

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Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Luton Town

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Luton Town. Son Heung-min scored a late winner as Tottenham recovered from a goal down to beat Luton and move into the top four of the Premier League.

Son collected half-time substitute Brennan Johnson’s clever pass before beating Hatters goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski with a low shot, which took a deflection off Daiki Hashioka on its way in.

Tahith Chong’s well-worked goal had given the Hatters an early lead, but Spurs responded well and equalised early in the second half when Johnson’s cross was turned into his own net by Issa Kabore.

Spurs laid siege to the Luton goal after restoring parity, but a series of crucial last-ditch challenges kept Ange Postecoglou’s team at bay – and Alfie Doughty somehow prevented Johnson’s close-range effort from rolling over the line.

However, there was nothing Luton could do about Son’s 15th goal of the season, which means Tottenham have come from behind to win four of their past five home Premier League matches.

Aston Villa will reclaim fourth place with a draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers later on Saturday. Luton, meanwhile, drop into the relegation zone.

Tottenham’s 3-0 defeat at Fulham before the international break was described by Son as a “big wake-up call”, but it took Postecoglou’s team a while to hit their stride against Luton.

The opening goal was a sloppy one to concede, with Son dispossessed on the edge of the Luton area and Yves Bissouma beaten far too easily by Andros Townsend in the build-up to Chong’s crisp finish.

But Spurs were left cursing their luck when Son’s shot rattled the inside of the near post, rolled across the goalline, struck the other post and bounced clear – moments after Timo Werner had dragged a shot wide from an excellent position.

In the same move, Werner’s follow-up effort was blocked by Kabore before Teden Mengi blocked Pape Sarr’s goalbound shot on the line.

Tottenham have now failed to score a first-half goal in six consecutive games, but they were level early in the second half when Johnson – who replaced the ineffective Dejan Kulusevski at half-time – drilled a low ball across the face of goal and Kabore slammed it into his own net.

It seemed only a matter of time before Spurs’ relentless pressure would pay off, but when Doughty’s last-gasp intervention denied Johnson, Tottenham fans could have been forgiven for thinking it might not be their day.

When the second goal did arrive there was an element of luck about it, but it was a slice of good fortune Son and his team-mates deserved after going agonisingly close on more than one occasion.

Luton took less than three minutes to extend their club-record scoring run to 18 successive top-flight fixtures, but once again they were unable to retain their advantage.

Rob Edwards’ men are just the third side in Premier League history to lose three successive games in which they have led at half-time, after Aston Villa in May 2021 and Sunderland in April 2003.

The visitors even went close to doubling their advantage in the first half, but the retreating James Maddison produced a crucial block to deny Carlton Morris at the near post.

Luton continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack in the second half, with Ross Barkley and Jordan Clark both testing Guglielmo Vicario with low drives from the edge of the penalty area.

Kabore produced several important blocks after putting through his own net, and Kaminski and Doughty combined to keep out Johnson – but Spurs’ pressure finally told when Son’s shot crept in off the unfortunate Hashioka.

With trips to title-chasing Arsenal and Manchester City still to come before the end of the season, it appears Luton’s home form will be key to their hopes of preserving their Premier League status.

source – BBC

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