London (AFP) – Manchester United delivered a potentially fatal blow to Manchester City’s Premier League title hopes on Saturday after leaders Liverpool secured the Christmas number one spot with victory against Bournemouth.
City came into the match at the Etihad Stadium knowing they had to win after Jurgen Klopp’s men coasted to a 3-0 victory on England’s south coast but they succumbed to United’s lightning-quick attacks, losing 2-1.
Earlier, Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham blitzed Burnley 5-0, with Son Heung-min scoring a sensational individual goal, while fourth-placed Chelsea went down 3-1 to Everton at Goodison Park.
City’s fourth league defeat of the season leaves them 14 points behind Liverpool, who have won 15 of their 16 league games. No side has ever gone on to win the title after being as many points behind the top side at the end of a day.
Leicester have a chance to cut the gap to eight points tomorrow but the momentum is with Liverpool, who are closing in on their first top-flight title for 30 years.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side started the evening match buoyed by their victory against Spurs in midweek and were immediately on the front foot, pouring forward at frightening pace.
Marcus Rashford opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute and Anthony Martial doubled the visitors’ lead six minutes later.
City came back strongly, dominating possession, but could not force a breakthrough and the visitors continued to look dangerous on the break.
Eventually City’s pressure paid off, with Nicolas Otamendi’s late header sparking a frantic wave of City attacks but they failed to find an equaliser.
“We could have had more goals and really seen the game out. It is a tough win and sometimes they do more for you as a team and will help us going forward,” said Rashford.
“That first 30 minutes was terrific and what we planned to do. The challenge is if we can do that for 80 or 90 minutes.”
– Liverpool stroll –
Klopp’s team earlier widened the gulf at the top of the table to 11 points, with second-placed Leicester not in action until Sunday, meaning Liverpool cannot be caught by December 25.
Klopp, mindful of a fixture pile-up for his side, made seven changes from the 5-2 midweek victory against Everton.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring for the European champions and Liverpool made it 2-0 just before the break when Naby Keita played a fine one-two with Mohamed Salah and finished from close range, with Keita turning provider for Salah in the 54th minute.
It was Liverpool’s first clean sheet in any match since late September.
“Yes, it was (perfect), 100 percent,” said the manager. “We scored wonderful goals, we had more chances and did really well and we were really uncomfortable to play against.
“From 3-0 on we controlled the game absolutely. The players didn’t like it too much, they wanted to be really loud in these moments but I didn’t want to see any unnecessary risk. It was maybe not the most exciting but necessary.”
– Son stunner for Spurs –
Spurs flew out of the blocks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Harry Kane scored twice and there were also goals for Lucas Moura and Moussa Sissoko but it was Son’s goal that caught the eye.
With Spurs already 2-0 up, Son stole the show just after the half hour, running from deep inside his own half past a host of Burnley defenders and capping the astonishing burst with an ice-cool finish.
Everton made it three defeats in four Premier League games for Chelsea thanks to an early strike from Brazil forward Richarlison and two goals from England under-21 international Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Former Everton player Duncan Ferguson, in charge for the first time of the Toffees after the sacking of Marco Silva, refused to talk up his chances of getting the coaching job full-time, telling BT Sport: “I’m sure they’re out there looking for other candidates, and rightly so. We want the best guys in the world managing our football club.”
Watford, who appointed former Leicester boss Nigel Pearson as their new manager on Friday, were unable to force their second win of the season, drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace.