London (AFP) – Manchester United roared back to beat West Ham 3-1 on Saturday, while Chelsea moved top of the Premier League by the same scoreline over Leeds as fans returned to the English top-flight for the first time in nine months.
United fell behind at the London Stadium, but for the fifth consecutive away league game came back to win as a three-goal blitz from Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford turned the tables in a 13-minute spell after half-time.
United, who have won nine successive league games on the road, are now fourth in the table, one point ahead of Manchester City, who earlier cruised past Fulham 2-0.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started with Bruno Fernandes and Rashford on the bench in an attempt to keep two of his star men fresh for Tuesday’s crucial Champions League trip to RB Leipzig.
But they were needed to inspire a second-half turnaround after Tomas Soucek’s goal seven minutes before half-time gave West Ham a deserved lead at the break.
Cheered on by 2,000 fans in their cavernous 60,000-seat stadium, the Hammers should have been further ahead but squandered their chances.
Pogba started the fightback in the 65th minute with a superb strike from distance and minutes later United were ahead, Greenwood turning and firing home in the area.
Rashford struck a post as United looked to extend their lead, and it was the England striker who made it 3-1 12 minutes from time.
“When you are 1-0, 2-0 down the boys still believe and that character is important,” said Solskjaer. “At the end of the season you don’t care about the performance.”
– Chelsea go top –
Chelsea also came from a goal down to win 3-1 as fans made a return to Stamford Bridge for the first time since March.
“It was nice to feel their support,” said Chelsea boss Frank Lampard. “2,000 doesn’t sound like a lot, but the noise they can generate was incredible. It’s a tentative step but pleased to have them back.”
Patrick Bamford gave Leeds a shock early lead as he took advantage of hesitation in the Chelsea defence to round Edouard Mendy and slot home his eighth goal of the season.
However, Lampard’s men are now unbeaten in 16 matches in all competitions and showed why they are serious title contenders by storming back to win comfortably.
Timo Werner denied Giroud a quick response by clearing his strike partner’s goalbound header onto the crossbar.
However, Giroud, who earned a rare Premier League start after scoring four against Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday, levelled on 27 minutes from Reece James’s low cross.
Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal ensured Werner continued to have a frustrating night in front of goal, but Chelsea finally made their chances count when Kurt Zouma headed home Mason Mount’s corner.
And in stoppage time, Werner turned provider for Christian Pulisic to secure all three points.
– City cruise –
City, who had won just four of their opening nine matches, are showing ominous signs they are returning to their best form after building on their 5-0 mauling of Burnley last week.
They made a superb start at the Etihad, with Raheem Sterling putting them ahead inside five minutes to end his recent goal drought after a delightfully weighted Kevin De Bruyne through-ball.
De Bruyne, in Guardiola’s 700th game as a manager, doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Sterling was brought down by Joachim Andersen.
Guardiola bemoaned his side’s wastefulness in front of goal but was pleased to notch up a fourth consecutive clean sheet.
“This season looks like there will be a lot of teams in contention,” he told the BBC. “Everyone can beat everyone. In this month it was important to get qualification for the Champions League, now we focus on the Premier League. It will be a long season.”
Earlier, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 11th Premier League goal of the season to rescue a point for Everton in a 1-1 draw against struggling Burnley, who took an early lead through Robbie Brady.
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