MANCHESTER: Manchester United edged closer to a return to the Champions League next season with a 2-0 win over Wolves as Southampton were relegated from the Premier League on Saturday. Newcastle remain ahead of United on goal difference in third after being held 2-2 in a pulsating game as Sam Allardyce picked up his first point at Leeds manager. Rasmus Kristensen kept Leeds in contention to avoid relegation as his late leveler secured a dramatic 2-2 draw that dented Newcastle’s bid to finish in the top four on Saturday.
United have stumbled towards a top-four finish in recent weeks after an exhausting season that will stretch to 62 games. Erik ten Hag’s men had won just two of their previous eight games from open play in all competitions. But they shrugged off the absence of Marcus Rashford due to injury for a vital three points. Wolves were welcome visitors at Old Trafford as the Premier League’s lowest scorers rarely troubled the under-fire David de Gea.
Scoring goals has also been a problem for the Red Devils of late but Antony squared for Anthony Martial to slam home on 32 minutes. Alejandro Garnacho then came off the bench to secure the points deep into stoppage time. Newcastle and Manchester United are now four points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool with three games to go. There was far more action at Elland Road where Leeds got a point but did not do enough to move out of the relegation zone. Luke Ayling gave Allardyce’s men a flying start, but they shot themselves in the foot three times.
Firstly, Patrick Bamford saw a penalty saved by Nick Pope. Three minutes later, Newcastle did level from the spot through Callum Wilson after Alexander Isak was fouled. Wilson converted a second penalty midway through the second half when Junior Firpo handled inside his own box. Rasmus Kristensen’s deflected effort brought Leeds level again 11 minutes from time. But they were forced to see out stoppage time with 10 men after Firpo was shown his second yellow card. “We missed a penalty, gave two away and drew 2-2,” said Allardyce. “I think we’d be saying what a great three points if we scored that penalty for 2-0.”
Awoniyi fires for Forest
Leeds close to within one point of safety, but that gap could grow if Everton shock leaders Manchester City on Sunday. Nottingham Forest remain three points clear of the relegation zone after their own four-goal thriller at Chelsea ended 2-2. Taiwo Awoniyi’s bullet header opened the scoring for the visitors. Raheem Sterling’s quickfire double turned the game around in seven second-half minutes.
But Awoniyi had the final say as he headed in once more from a long throw for his fourth goal in a week that could prove vital to keeping Forest up on their return to the top flight for the first time in 23 years. Southampton’s 11-year stay in the Premier League, though, is over after a meek 2-0 home defeat by Fulham summed up the Saints’ season. Carlos Vinicius and Aleksandar Mitrovic, on his return from an eight-game ban for pushing a referee, got the goals which moved Fulham up to ninth. Defeat leaves Southampton still eight points adrift of safety with just two games remaining.
In the battle for a place in the Europa League next season, Aston Villa beat Tottenham 2-1 to move level on points with Spurs in sixth. Jacob Ramsey gave Unai Emery’s men an early lead and they were cruising to victory when Douglas Luiz curled home a free-kick 18 minutes from time. Harry Kane’s late penalty halved Tottenham’s arrears, but their hopes of Champions League football next season are now mathematically over. Eberechi Eze scored twice as Crystal Palace continued their revival under Roy Hodgson with a 2-0 win over Bournemouth. — AFP