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English Premier League

Wolves 0 – 2 Brentford



Wolves 0- 2 Brentford

Wolves 0 – 2 Brentford. Diego Costa’s first Premier League goal in almost six years set Wolves on the way to a priceless victory over Brentford that gives them breathing space in their relegation battle.

Costa capped his best performance since coming out of retirement in September by scoring his first Wolves goal, with substitute Hwang Hee-chan adding a second midway through the second half at Molineux.

“He has a big heart. He wants to be here. He is a very competitive player,” said Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui.

“You can’t buy his spirit. You either have it or you don’t. That is why he has had the career he has. We are happy for him but he has to continue.”

It completed successive league victories for the home side for only the second time in 13 months but, tellingly, for the second time since Lopetegui’s arrival in November, which has transformed Wolves’ fortunes.

Bottom of the table when the season stopped for the World Cup, Wolves have picked up 24 points in 16 games under Lopetegui and are now seven clear of the drop zone.

And another clean sheet means another meal out for Lopetegui and his squad, something the former Real Madrid boss committed to as an incentive to improve a squad that looked destined for the Championship.

Matheus Nunes was outstanding for the home side and created Hwang’s goal with a surging run into the box.

Defeat was Brentford’s third in a row, while a run of two points from five games is their worst this season.

This is a different Costa to the one who answered Wolves’ SOS call for a striker in September.

At that point Costa had not played a game for eight months, and it has taken him another seven to get to the fitness levels required for the Premier League.

He may be 34, but the former Chelsea man retains the old competitive spirit. He is now chasing defenders down and Brentford keeper David Raya was fortunate a slight mis-control did not prove costly as Costa bore down on him.

Costa created his first Wolves goal himself as he drove deep into the Brentford half before flicking a pass out for Toti. Costa held his run so he was in space when the return pass came and, after some excellent close control, held off Christian Norgaard to deliver a precise finish into the corner.

The obvious personal feeling at the goal was reciprocated from the stands. The Wolves fans have evidently taken Costa to their hearts despite having to wait so long to see him score, and his industry was rewarded with a standing ovation when he was replaced with 20 minutes left.

“When he came here, he came with the intention to help, sometimes in the team and sometimes out,” said Lopetegui. “I am happy for him. He worked hard to have this chance.

“He has had bad moments. But he is always trying to help on and off the pitch. This is important.”

Brentford emerged from an eight-game run without a victory last season to finish a creditable 13th on their top-flight return.

Manager Thomas Frank needs to stabilise the present situation if what seemed for so long to be a season of improvement does not peter out in disappointing fashion.

Wolves keeper Jose Sa was fortunate Craig Dawson was on hand to clear when he inexplicably dropped the ball in a crowded penalty area, preventing what would have been a Brentford equaliser.

However, Sa made amends with a decent save from Norgaard’s header as Brentford launched an unsuccessful comeback mission once Wolves had doubled their lead.

A largely quiet Ivan Toney was denied a 19th league goal of the season twice in stoppage time, first when Sa turned his angled drive on to the bar, before Wolves skipper Max Kilman tracked the striker’s run into the box and blocked his shot.

Brentford’s usual fluid passing game failed to penetrate the Wolves defence often enough to cause any significant stress until those latter stages, and not even a triple substitution on the hour made any notable difference.

“It is so difficult,” said Frank about the prospect of finishing in a European spot. “It shouldn’t be possible with the resources the top six, and now Newcastle [have], to get into the top seven.

“Brighton have done well, we have done well, Fulham have done well, Villa are in a top position. Those three clubs are bigger than us and have more finances.

“Look at West Ham with [David] Moyes, so many times before, it is fantastic what he has done with the club. It is so tough to keep performing when the difference between the bottom 13 is tiny. One moment can change things around.

“The top six still need to do it and it is football, so a team like Chelsea is struggling and Liverpool are not at their best. But their level is top four, minimum, every year. For us, it is between 17th and seventh.”

source – BBC

English Premier League

Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United



Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United

Luton Town 1-2 Manchester United. Rasmus Hojlund scored for the sixth successive Premier League game as Manchester United survived a Luton Town display of fierce determination to stay in contention for the top four with victory at Kenilworth Road.

United’s £72m summer signing from Atalanta has hit a red-hot streak after early struggles in front of goal and scored twice in the first seven minutes to set up a fourth successive league win for Erik ten Hag’s side.

The 21-year-old pounced on Amari’i Bell’s error after only 37 seconds to round keeper Thomas Kaminski and score, adding a second in the seventh minute, instinctively diverting Alejandro Garnacho’s shot into the net.

Luton Town, in an uproarious atmosphere, responded with defiance and character, Carlton Morris swiftly giving the Hatters hope with a header as United struggled to cope with the intensity of the home side, especially in the opening half.

United lost defender Luke Shaw to injury before the interval, while Harry Maguire and Casemiro also went off at the break, but for all Luton’s second-half endeavour it was the visitors who created the better chances, Kaminski denying Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, and a Hojlund hat-trick.

However, there was one more nervous moment for the visitors in stoppage time when Ross Barkley’s glancing header clipped the top of the crossbar.

The win means United are now only five points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa.

United needed leaders to see them through an encounter that became an ordeal for long spells, especially in the opening half, and they emerged from unlikely sources as another important three points were secured.

While experienced players such as Casemiro, so lucky to avoid a second yellow card, Maguire and Raphael Varane struggled and were exposed by the sheer energy of Luton’s approach, it was match-winner Hojlund and outstanding 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo who stepped up.

Hojlund has really come to the fore in recent weeks, now getting the goals all his hard work – even early in the season when they were in short supply – deserve, his first a composed piece of work and his second quick thinking as United established early control.

The Denmark forward showed commendable hold-up play, a willingness to engage in the physical exchanges with Luton’s defence, and was only denied a treble by Kaminski’s block before he departed to a standing ovation from United’s away support.

Mainoo, meanwhile, rose above the blood and thunder with rare composure for one so young. United have a gem on their hands.

The visitors improved after the break and even though Luton pressed, they were the more dangerous side, Kaminski and Albert Sambi Lokonga denying Rashford before a combination of the goalkeeper and Bell thwarted Garnacho.

In the end, Hojlund’s early goals were enough as United extended their winning run.

Luton lost another home game to one of the Premier League’s big guns but once again more illustrious visitors to Kenilworth Road were made to fight every inch of the way.

United joined Manchester City and Arsenal in chalking up a narrow wins while Liverpool were held to a draw – and it is no surprise when Luton’s approach in this wonderfully hostile environment is taken into account.

The Hatters could have been forgiven for thinking their day was done when they conceded two goals in only seven minutes but, galvanised by the home support, Rob Edwards’ side responded superbly and were right back in it after Morris’ goal.

The reborn Barkley prompted from midfield with confidence while Lokonga was one of the game’s outstanding performers.

Luton faded after the break but showed enough to suggest they can make a real fight of things before the relegation places are decided, the standing ovation at the final whistle merited for their efforts.

Barkley almost snatched a point when his header glanced off the bar in the closing seconds but it was not to be for battling Luton.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton



Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton

Sheffield United 0-5 Brighton. Brighton thrashed 10-man Sheffield United, who stayed bottom of the Premier League and conceded five goals at home for the third consecutive game.

The game swung in the 12th minute when United’s Mason Holgate caught Kaoru Mitoma in midfield with a horrific challenge just below the knee.

The Everton loanee was shown a yellow card, but the decision was upgraded to a red after intervention from the video assistant referee (VAR).

Against 10 men, Brighton attacked at will, taking the lead through Facundo Buonanotte, who bundled in a corner.

Danny Welbeck doubled the advantage, firing in a rebound after keeper Wes Foderingham denied Mitoma.

The hosts thought they had pulled a goal back just before the break through Ben Osborn, but his hooked volley has ruled out for offside.

Brighton got a deserved third midway through the second half when United defender Jack Robinson diverted Mitoma’s cross into his own net.

Simon Adingra added two late goals, burying Pascal Gross’ cutback and benefiting from a looping deflection.

Sunday’s victory was only Brighton’s second in the league in 2024, although they have won twice in the FA Cup, including a 5-2 triumph over United at Bramall Lane in the fourth round.

Even before Holgate’s sending-off Roberto de Zerbi’s side were routinely carving forward.

Adingra, back from winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, had a cross deflected off Anel Ahmedhodzic and narrowly kept out by a diving Foderingham.

At 2-0, Yasser Larouci twice cleared off the line for United, denying Mitoma and Gross from close range. Foderingham also smartly kept out Welbeck and Mitoma either side of half-time.

Brighton’s win is their biggest away from home in the top flight, and they have scored four or more goals seven times in all competitions this season.

Seventh-placed Brighton face teams from the bottom half of the table in their next five games.

They host Everton on Saturday, a game De Zerbi will expect to win.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea



Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea. Rodri dramatically rescued a point with a late leveller for Manchester City to deny Chelsea victory and maintain his side’s long unbeaten home record.

City still lost ground in the title race after seeing Liverpool and Arsenal both post emphatic wins earlier on Saturday, but this has to go down as a point gained given how close they came to defeat.

Raheem Sterling had given Chelsea the lead just before half-time, finishing off a brilliant counter-attack by meeting Nicolas Jackson’s cross, cutting inside Kyle Walker and curling his shot home.

The visitors looked threatening on the break all game, with Jackson earlier spurning an even better chance from Malo Gusto’s cross when a heavy touch allowed Ederson to smother his shot, and City’s keeper also denied Sterling a second from point-blank range.

City were racking up the chances too, but seemed unable to take any of them, or even seriously test Chelsea goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic despite piling on the pressure in the second half.

Erling Haaland was the main culprit, with his worst miss coming when he somehow headed wide from a delicious Kevin de Bruyne cross.

The defending champions were facing their first home league defeat since November 2022, until Rodri struck with seven minutes to go.

After Walker’s shot was deflected into his path on the edge of the box, Rodri fired in a ferocious first-time strike that was going in anyway but took a touch off Chelsea substitute Trevoh Chalobah on its way into the net.

The draw sees City drop to third in the table, four points behind leaders Liverpool but with a game in hand – they can close the gap, and leapfrog second-placed Arsenal, if they beat Brentford here on Tuesday.

Chelsea, who were minutes away from a third successive away win, stay 10th, but head to Wembley for next weekend’s Carabao Cup final on the back of one of their best displays of an erratic campaign.

source – BBC

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