The Reds’ victory over Manchester City lived up to its headline billing.
Marcus Rashford yet to lose in a Manchester United shirt.
West Ham United add another title contender to list of victims.
Liverpool, UK- Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dealt Manchester City a major blow to their title chase, avenging Sunday’s loss in the League Cup final. As three of the top four experienced the sour taste of defeat, the chasing pack’s European hopes gathered momentum.
Manchester City’s League Cup celebrations were cut short as Liverpool crashed the party. Adam Lallana licked his penalty wounds by giving his side the lead as the Reds only needed 90 minutes to secure victory.
Jurgen Klopp demanded a response from his players after Sunday’s final and received exactly that. The German’s gegenpressing was seen in full effect, giving the City players little time on the ball, closing quickly. One side went out with a point to prove, the other still feeding off the weekend glory.
Lallana’s opener gave the home side a deserved lead before James Milner stabbed home to double the lead over his former club before half time. Raheem Sterling, also lining up against his former club, endured a tough half on his first return to Anfield as a City player as the winger was replaced at the interval.
The change couldn’t prevent the hosts from extending their lead early in the second half. Roberto Firmino added a third, a comfortable margin for victory as the Citizens fell to a third straight league defeat.
Klopp spoke to BBC sport following his side’s win at Anfield:
“It was the best reaction I can imagine. It was how it should be. I said to the boys that we have to show that we want it more and from the first second on that was exactly the attitude.”
A disappointed Manuel Pellegrini has still not given up on the Premier League title however, also speaking to BBC sport:
“It seems like the Premier League continues being the same from the start and very close. We will continue fighting.”
Defeat for the away side meant Arsenal could push for a six-point gap between the two sides while Liverpool climb to eighth.
Leicester City 2-2 West Bromwich Albion
Leicester City passed up the opportunity to go five points clear at the top of the table as the Foxes were held by Tony Pulis’ Baggies. With Tottenham playing a day later, Claudio Ranieri’s side played the waiting game but remain top as their title rivals were also defeated.
With Saido Berahino’s toys back in the pram, the striker played the whole 90 minutes as his transfer dispute has been put in the past. His strike partner, Salomon Rondon, gave the away side the lead, holding off Roberth Huth before tucking the chance past Kasper Schmeichel.
The league leaders levelled through a deflected Danny Drinkwater effort and went in ahead at half time. A team goal by the Foxes, scored by Andy King would have pleased Ranieri who stated his desire for performance over the title.
Craig Gardner pulled his side level, scoring for a second consecutive game, from a free kick. However, for Leicester it will feel like two points dropped as both Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki were denied by the crossbar. West Brom’s goal was bombarded with 22 efforts, double the amount the Baggies managed at the other end, with only five on target.
The importance of N’Golo Kante was felt as the usually tight Leicester City didn’t have their engine room protecting the back four. While King contributed a goal, many would wonder if Kante’s presence would have prevented the Baggies in attack with his steel.
West Ham United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham’s scribe another piece of history into their last season at the Boleyn Ground. Tottenham become one of many high profile sides to succumb to defeat at the hands of Slaven Bilic’s Hammers.
In a hotly contested Premier League season, it seems to be the battle of the attacking duos. Harry Kane and Dele Alli went up against the magic Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio. Alli came on as a second half substitute finding his side a goal down before his introduction. The Hammers’ duo trumped Spurs’ duo as Alli’s introduction didn’t force an equaliser.
Antonio’s header from Payet’s corner early in proceedings separated the sides as Mauricio Pochettino’s side disappointed with top spot beckoning. The defeat ended a run of six consecutive wins for the North London outfit as Leicester were the only top four side to earn a point.
Swansea shocked the Emirates Stadium with a surprise defeat of a Gunners side appearing to have peaked too early. The Swans came from behind to claim a vital three points in their bid for survival.
A sliding Joel Campbell gave Arsenal an early lead, cancelled out by Wayne Routledge who slotted past Petr Cech. The former Chelsea goalkeeper’s failure to punch a corner led to Swansea’s winner, Ashley Williams punishing the mistake to take all three points back to Wales. Francesco Guidolin was bed bound through illness with his squad giving him a get well soon gift of the tallest order in the interim charge of Alan Curtis.
The Barcelona nightmare has seen Arsene Wenger’s side fall to back to back league defeats for the first time since November 2014. In that month, the Gunners lost to the same to sides in Swansea and Manchester United. While it may be too early to say, déjà vu creeps slowly into the minds of Arsenal fans as their current run opens the deficit to six points from leaders Leicester.
Manchester United 1-0 Watford
Marcus Rashford enjoyed a quieter evening but remains unbeaten in a Manchester United shirt. Juan Mata’s free kick secured a fourth consecutive victory in all competitions as pressure eases over Louis Van Gaal’s position as manager.
Rashford’s rise to stardom has thrust the 18-year-old into the spotlight but played a lesser role in the defeat of Watford. An ineffective first half up front saw the versatile youngster move to his preferred wing position with Anthony Martial going the other way.
Both players found themselves more involved and more comfortable and started to cause problems. Rashford’s confidence and lack of fear shown against Arsenal appeared as he looked more comfortable beating players when receiving the ball in wide positions. Martial’s move to the middle won the eventual free kick that Mata curled past Heurelho Gomes.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Red Devils in an even contest at Old Trafford. The usually clinical Odion Ighalo has failed to set the world alight in 2016 and failed to make the most of chances that fell his way via strike partner Troy Deeney. With 13 shots to United’s 14 and only three shots on target for both sides, the game was slowly decided by a single goal from a set piece.
As the top four failed to claim three points, Van Gaal’s side find themselves level on points with Manchester City. The Citizens do have a game in hand on the Manchester counterparts but have failed to win in their last three games. West Ham also remain hot on United’s heels having only lost one of their last five league games.
AFC Bournemouth 2-0 Southampton
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth win bragging rights on the South Coast with Southampton having no response to the Cherries’ two goals. The game was too much for fourth official Kevin Friend, the referee fainted at half time, banging his head on the dugout in the process. Friend was escorted to hospital and stayed there overnight.
Steve Cook gave the home side the lead, beating Fraser Forster with the rebound after Matt Ritchie’s free kick was pushed away by the Saints’ keeper. Prior to this Charlie Austin squandered a chance to break the deadlock, failing to hit the target.
Benik Afobe gave the home side a two goal cushion, Ritchie again involved, heading in from the Cherries’ set piece. The Saints’ failure to mount a comeback led to a first league defeat to their south coast rivals since 1958. Afobe’s fourth Premier League goal also meant the striker has scored in every other league game since arriving at the Vitality Stadium.
Aston Villa’s hopeless season took another turn in the wrong direction as home fans staged a walk out during their side’s defeat to Everton. A 74th minute walkout, in conjunction with the club’s formation in 1874, with the score at 0-3, signalled a protest at owner Randy Lerner.
While many fans believe relegation has been a long time coming for Villa, they would need a miracle to avoid the drop this time round. Recruitment issues and lack of desire on the field sparked protests as the home fans created a tense atmosphere around Villa Park. Those who departed the stadium missed Rudy Gestede’s header, a mere consolation as Everton eased to victory.
Take nothing away from Everton who professionally dismantled Remi Garde’s side in front of their own fans. Ramiro Funes Mori gave the Toffees an early lead, finishing from Kevin Mirallas’ corner before Aaron Lennon doubled his side’s advantage before half time.
Romelu Lukaku’s second half effort put the game out of sight with Gestede’s goal only counting for the striker’s individual tally. A tricky season for the Blues is slowly improving come the business end of the season with European qualification a possibility.
Three wins in their last five show signs of improvement having only recorded one win in the previous five. The board have given Roberto Martinez their trust and that trust is starting to pay off with victories with a squad that is under achieving given the calibre in the squad.
For Villa, preparation for the Championship should be well underway although survival remains a bleak possibility. Wigan and Wolves have experienced the challenge of the Championship in the worst possible way. Given the TV rights coming into play, the Championship could soon become an abyss if the club aren’t prepared for life in the lower echelons of English football.
Of the other fixtures:
Norwich City 1-2 Chelsea
Sunderland 2-2 Crystal Palace
Stoke City 1-0 Newcastle United
The North London derby kicks off the weekend’s fixture list as Arsenal travel to White Hart Lane. That fixture kicks off at 12:45 GMT on 5th March 2015.
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