LONDON: Aston Villa beat champions Manchester City on Wednesday to extend their remarkable winning run at home as Liverpool closed to within two points of leaders Arsenal with victory at Sheffield United. Elsewhere, Scott McTominay scored twice as Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-1 and Fulham hammered Nottingham Forest 5-0, heaping the pressure on manager Steve Cooper. Villa, who have now won 14 league games in a row at Villa Park, scored the only goal of the game in the 74th minute, when Leon Bailey’s shot took a huge deflection off Ruben Dias.
The win, which lifts Unai Emery’s men into third place, means they equal a club record for consecutive home victories in league competition, previously achieved in 1903 and 1931. “We have to be excited but we need to keep the balance,” Emery told Amazon Prime. “For now we have to be focused on Arsenal on Saturday. I want us to be a team with a winning mentality and be balanced. “We are aware of where we are in the table. But behind us is Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham and it is going to be very difficult.” Pep Guardiola’s off-color team, aiming for an unprecedented fourth consecutive top-flight title, are now winless in four games and six points behind Arsenal.
Last year’s treble winners, missing the suspended Rodri, have now won just three league games in their past nine. They are unbeaten in their past 43 matches in which the Spain midfielder has played but their four defeats in all competitions this season have all come when he has been serving a ban. Guardiola said City must find a way to win without their talisman. “In these years we have found a way to win games but we struggled a bit and we have to find a way. It is my job to find a solution,” he told the BBC. “The dynamic changes by winning games. When a team is better you have to recognize it.”
Liverpool, looking increasingly dangerous, saw off basement club Sheffield United 2-0. Virgil van Dijk opened the scoring at Bramall Lane, turning home a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner in the 37th minute from near the penalty spot. The visitors dominated possession but failed to break through again until midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai made the points safe in time added on.
The victory takes Jurgen Klopp’s team to 34 points - just two behind Arsenal, who beat Luton 4-3 on Tuesday. The Liverpool boss hailed a “very mature and resilient performance” against a side once again under the management of Chris Wilder, who returned to the club on Tuesday following the sacking of Paul Heckingbottom. Manchester United secured a priceless three points, shrugging off a rare penalty miss from Bruno Fernandes in the first half. Chelsea’s Cole Palmer finished an impressive team move on the stroke of half-time to cancel out McTominay’s opener.
But the Scotland international headed home Alejandro Garnacho’s cross for his second with about 20 minutes left to lift United to sixth in the table, just three points behind City. Manager Erik ten Hag, who dropped out-of-form Marcus Rashford, brushed off rumors of dressing room unrest, saying he did not care “about the noise”. “When you are not on top form on the day, you get beaten,” he told the BBC. “You need to be at your best. When you are not, you get killed. We know that and we need the right attitude every game.”
Nottingham Forest, in their second season back in the Premier League, slumped to a fourth straight defeat at Fulham. Alex Iwobi and Raul Jimenez scored two goals apiece and Tom Cairney completed the humiliation in the final minutes. Brighton recorded a 2-1 home win against Brentford courtesy of goals from Pascal Gross and Jack Hinshelwood, while Bournemouth notched their third win in four games, beating Crystal Palace 2-0. — AFP