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 knowing they had to win after Jurgen Klopp’s men coasted to a 3-0 victory on England’s south coast but 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, to close to within six points of fourth-placed Chelsea, who went down 3-1 to Everton at Goodison Park.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United side started the evening match at the Etihad buoyed by their victory against Spurs in midweek and were immediately on the front foot, sprinting forward at every opportunity.
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 and are now 14 points behind Liverpool. United are up to fifth.
Klopp’s team took advantage of playing before their closest rivals to widen the gulf at the top of the table to 11 points, with 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, with Sadio Mane dropping to the bench and Alisson Becker back in goal following suspension.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring for the European champions in the 35th minute 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 Heung-min’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 capped the astonishing burst with an ice-cool finish.
Spurs are still six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea but will fancy their chances of closing the gap on their London rivals, who are stumbling after a six-game winning run earlier in the season.
“A perfect day,” Mourinho told the BBC. “No injuries, a clean sheet, goals, perfect football, kids coming on for first Premier League football.”
Everton made it a miserable day for Frank Lampard’s 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.
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