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English Premier League

Southampton 0 – 1 Aston Villa

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Southampton 0 - 1 Aston Villa

Southampton 0 – 1 Aston Villa. Southampton remains rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after Ollie Watkins’ second-half header earned Aston Villa a narrow win at St Mary’s.

Watkins nodded Douglas Luiz’s inswinging free-kick into the bottom corner with 13 minutes remaining as Villa claimed their fifth victory in seven league games under new manager Unai Emery.

The visitors dominated possession but were fortunate not to fall behind midway through the first half when Che Adams’ close-range effort was ruled out for offside.

Saints had the ball in the Villa net again shortly after the hour mark, but James Ward-Prowse’s deflected strike was chalked off following Mohamed Elyounoussi’s foul on Jacob Ramsey in the build-up.

Watkins’ fifth goal of the season ultimately proved decisive, as the Saints’ three-game winning run in all competitions came to an abrupt end.

The game at St Mary’s was suspended five minutes before half-time when a drone was spotted hovering above the Southampton penalty area.

Both teams were taken off the pitch by referee Michael Salisbury before re-emerging 10 minutes later once police had given the all-clear.

Only Arsenal have collected as many Premier League points as Villa since Emery replaced Steven Gerrard in the Villa Park hot seat last October.

The visitors were crisp in possession at St Mary’s but struggled to properly trouble Southampton early on, Emiliano Buendia and full debutant Alex Moreno both firing well wide of Gavin Bazunu’s goal inside 20 minutes.

They survived a let-off when Adams’ first-half goal was disallowed but spurned an excellent opportunity to go in front when Ramsey shot straight at Bazunu from inside the area, with Leon Bailey sending the follow-up over the crossbar

Bazunu almost gifted Villa the opener in the early stages of the second half when his miscued clearance allowed Ramsey to tee up Bailey, but the Saints goalkeeper atoned for his error by smothering the Jamaica international’s low shot.

Villa had another narrow escape when Salisbury disallowed Ward-Prowse’s effort after Elyounoussi clipped Ramsey’s ankle, but Watkins’ late effort secured a third straight-away league win under their new boss.

They had Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to thank for preserving their narrow lead late on, the 30-year-old parrying Moussa Djenepo’s curling effort past the far post before gathering the resulting corner.

Before the game, Jones said escaping the relegation zone was the “first psychological barrier” Southampton needed to overcome as they bid to maintain their top-flight status this season.

It is a hurdle they have yet to clear, but they left the pitch ruing their luck after being denied a fourth successive victory in all competitions by two tight refereeing decisions.

Adams’ disallowed effort was by far their best opportunity of the first half in which they managed just one regular attempt – a Lyanco header after just five minutes.

Manager Nathan Jones’ half-time switch from 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2 appeared to give his players renewed energy, with Ward-Prowse scoring what he thought was his fifth league goal since the World Cup before it was ruled out for Elyounoussi’s challenge on Ramsey.

Djenepo’s fierce strike almost salvaged a point, but Jones must now find a way to lift his players for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at home to high-flying Newcastle.

source – BBC

English Premier League

Arsenal 4 – 1 Newcastle United

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Arsenal 4 - 1 Newcastle United

Arsenal underlined their Premier League title credentials as they recorded their sixth consecutive win with a dominant display against Newcastle.

The result sees Mikel Arteta’s side sit two points behind leaders Liverpool and a point behind second-placed Manchester City at the top of the table.

The outcome of this contest appeared inevitable from the moment visiting defender Sven Botman turned the ball in after Gabriel’s header from a corner had been well saved by Newcastle goalkeeper Loris Karius.

While there was an element of bad luck to that for the Dutch defender, who simply could not get out of the way as his Newcastle team-mate Tino Livramento tried to clear, there was little else about Arsenal’s performance that was owed to good fortune.

The Gunners’ intensity and fluent passing repeatedly carved Eddie Howe’s side apart, particularly down the Magpies’ left flank with Livramento and Botman enduring difficult evenings.

Kai Havertz swept in a deserved second shortly after, with Gabriel Martinelli making the most of indecision in the Newcastle defence to cut the ball back into the German forward’s path.

With Arsenal continuing to press, Bukayo Saka twisted and turned Livramento one way and then another before dispatching a left-foot shot into the bottom left corner add to the hosts’ advantage.

Arteta also enjoyed the luxury of being able to take off his captain Martin Odegaard, Havertz and Saka well before full-time after Jakub Kiwior’s effort deflected past the helpless Karius from another Declan Rice corner.

Newcastle, who remain eighth in the table, managed a late consolation courtesy of Joe Willock’s looping header, but there was little else for the visiting supporters to cheer.

-BBC

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English Premier League

AFC Bournemouth 0 – 1 Manchester City

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AFC Bournemouth 0 - 1 Manchester City

Manchester City moved a point behind Premier League leaders Liverpool with a hard-fought victory over Bournemouth at Vitality Stadium.

City started slowly but took the lead midway through the first half when Phil Foden steered home after Erling Haaland’s shot was saved by Neto.

The visitors dominated the rest of the half but were fortunate not to be pegged back early in the second, Marcus Tavernier scuffing a shot into the ground from Antoine Semenyo’s cross before shooting wide after fine work from Dominic Solanke.

Solanke had a header punched off the line by Ederson as Bournemouth continued to apply pressure, while Haaland had another shot saved by Neto with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Second-half substitute Enes Unal headed agonisingly wide in stoppage time for the hosts, as City held on to consolidate second place ahead of crucial games at home to Manchester United and away to Liverpool in early March.

Bournemouth, now without a win in their last seven league matches, stay eight points above the relegation zone but drop a place to 14th.

Champions get job done

Pep Guardiola’s team were made to work hard for three points against Brentford on Tuesday, and they were perhaps a little fortunate to get the win from a testing encounter at Vitality Stadium.

Haaland got the all-important goal against the Bees and the Norwegian should have given the visitors the lead here, sending a right-footed shot off target after running on to Foden’s exquisite cushioned pass.

Haaland was denied by Neto midway through the first half, but Foden – who has now scored in his past five appearances against the Cherries – was on hand to guide home his 16th goal of the season. That is his joint-most in a single campaign.

John Stones, operating in a more advanced role than usual, was outstanding in the first half in particular, repeatedly marauding upfield and almost setting up Rodri for a second City goal not long after Foden’s opener.

The visitors rode their luck after half-time as Bournemouth pushed for an equaliser, with a combination of wasteful finishing by the hosts and smart goalkeeping from Ederson securing City a hard-earned three points.

City have won all 14 of their Premier League games against the Cherries – the best 100% record by one team against another in top-flight history.

Their next five league matches – all against teams currently in the top seven – will go a long way to defining their campaign.

-BBC

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English Premier League

Manchester United 1 – 2 Fulham

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Manchester United 1 - 2 Fulham

Manchester United were given a harsh reality check at Old Trafford as Alex Iwobi’s injury-time effort gave Fulham only their second Old Trafford victory since 1963.

Four days after new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe spoke of United attempting to knock Manchester City and Liverpool off their perch at the top of the English game, they suffered a major blow to their hopes of Champions League qualification.

Without injured striker Rasmus Hojlund, the hosts were ineffective in attack until the final minute of normal time, when Harry Maguire seemed to have rescued a point for the hosts.

But Iwobi had the final say deep into nine minutes of stoppage time, restoring an advantage initially given to them by Nigeria defender Calvin Bassey, who lashed home the loose ball after his header from a Fulham corner had been blocked by team-mate Timothy Castagne.

The result ended a run of 11 Premier League away games without a win for the west London outfit. Prior to this contest, only Sheffield United had a worse top-flight away record this term.

Neither the defeat nor, more importantly, the performance, will give anyone the belief United will achieve Ratcliffe’s lofty aims any time soon.

A sobering reality
There have been a lot of bold claims out of Old Trafford this week.

Ratcliffe has spoken of challenging for major trophies, while Ten Hag has outlined how he and the new co-ownership are aligned in their thinking and the overall direction is positive.

There is nothing like a miserable grey, cold, wet Manchester day to add a large dollop of reality to the situation United find themselves in.

With injury consigning in-form Hojlund to the directors’ box, Marcus Rashford was forced to plough a lone furrow up front and made little impact. Ten Hag gave 19-year-old Omari Forson his first start rather than bring in underperforming £82m Brazilian Antony, while Victor Lindelof filled in at left-back in the absence of Luke Shaw, who is set to miss the remainder of the campaign with a muscle problem.

The performance did not smack of a side capable of securing Champions League football next season, which Ratcliffe has made a priority, let alone threatening Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, who are a long way ahead on this evidence.

Ineos head of sport – and new United football club director – Sir Dave Brailsford was at Old Trafford to see United roar back from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa on Boxing Day, one of two occasions this season when they had rolled back the years to produce a comeback of thrilling defiance.

When Maguire pounced in the final minute of normal time, it seemed another might be on the cards. United hardly deserved parity. Other than a first-half Diogo Dalot shot that flicked off the outside of a post, Marcus Rashford’s angled effort that Leno saved and a Maguire header that sailed over the bar, they had done little of any effectiveness around the Fulham box.

As it turned out, it was to be Fulham who had the final word. Today, there was no papering over the Old Trafford cracks.

A famous Fulham win
It is almost 12 months since Fulham’s visit to this stadium for an FA Cup tie that ended in chaos as manager Marco Silva and two of his players were sent off, and what was shaping up to be a famous victory turned into a controversial defeat.

While the visitors mercifully avoided any repeat of that discipline breakdown, they were forced to endure more frustration in a first half they dominated without being able to take one of the numerous chances that came their way.

In exploiting the space available in front of the United backline in transition, Fulham were given the freedom to get clear sights of goal.

Iwobi had two opportunities, the second in particular he should have done better with. Andre Onana saved from Rodrigo Muniz and former United midfielder Andreas Pereira. The Cameroon keeper probably earned his luck in the first instance, when the rebound struck Sasa Lukic at close range and the ball bounced inches wide.

Muniz, aiming to become the fourth Fulham player – after Louis Saha, Collins John and Manor Solomon – to score in four successive Premier League games, rolled Lindelof in the penalty area, then fired against the outside of a post with Onana beaten.

At the interval, the fear among the visiting contingent must have been that, after being so flat for so long, their hosts had to improve.

But they didn’t and Bassey lashed home his first Fulham goal with a decisiveness lacking from United’s play.

Even after Maguire’s leveller, Fulham would not be denied as Iwobi finally found the target to give the Cottagers a famous win.

-BBC

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