LONDON: Manchester United started the Ralf Rangnick era with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace yesterday as Tottenham crushed Norwich 3-0 to extend their recent revival under Antonio Conte. Leeds struck late to draw 2-2 with Brentford as new Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard prepared to lock horns with his former boss at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers, in the late match against Leicester.
Rangnick, taking the reins for the first time, named an unchanged side at Old Trafford after United beat Arsenal 3-2 in midweek and was rewarded with a high-energy performance in the first half, backed by a vocal crowd. Cristiano Ronaldo had the hosts’ best chances as Palace initially struggled to get a foothold but the game remained goalless at half-time.
United’s performance levels dipped in the second period and Rangnick threw on Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga for Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford to inject fresh energy into his attack. But it was often-maligned Brazil midfielder Fred who broke the deadlock, curling home a superb strike past Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita from outside the box after a pass from Greenwood. The three points lifts United to sixth place in the table, three points behind fourth-placed West Ham.
Spurs are one point ahead of United with a game in hand after cruising to a 3-0 win against bottom side Norwich – their third straight victory in the Premier League. Lucas Moura opened the scoring in the 10th minute. After a nice piece of skill to round a Norwich defender, he played a one-two with Son Heung-min, turned his marker and thundered an unstoppable drive into the top corner from 20 yards.
Tottenham doubled their lead midway through the second half when Davinson Sanchez smashed home a loose ball from a corner. Son made it 3-0 in the 77th minute with a fine goal as Ben Davies and Oliver Skipp combined before the South Korean fired into the bottom corner. Conte took over from the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo early last month, with Spurs languishing in mid-table after a poor run of results and is starting to make an impact.
Brentford were denied a win at Elland Road as Patrick Bamford scored deep into stoppage time to rescue a point for his side. Tyler Roberts gave Leeds a 27th-minute lead, sliding on to Raphinha’s cross from the left to stab the ball home. Shandon Baptiste equalized for Brentford from the edge of the penalty area in the 54th minute and Sergi Canos put the Londoners ahead seven minutes later. But Bamford had the last word, poking home from close range in the 95th minute following a corner.
Man City 3 Watford 1
Bernardo Silva backed up Pep Guardiola’s claim he is the best player in the Premier League right now by scoring twice as Manchester City briefly cruised to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win at Watford. Silva’s sumptuous cushioned volley against Aston Villa in midweek earned Guardiola’s glowing praise and he produced two more fine finishes to take his tally to seven goals in his last 12 Premier League games. “Thanks to Bernardo because he made me not wrong,” said City boss Guardiola. “I know he’s so humble, there are top players in the Premier League and he is doing so well.”
In stark contrast to Manchester United’s 4-1 humbling at Vicarage Road a fortnight ago that ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign, City virtually killed the match as a contest within four minutes. Phil Foden picked out Raheem Sterling at the back post for the simplest of headers to open the scoring. Silva slotted home from a narrow angle to double the visitors’ lead and produced a stunning strike into the top corner after the break.
“The game could have been over after 15 minutes,” added Guardiola, whose side took advantage of Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham to move one point clear of Liverpool at the top of the table. “The most important thing is that we won. We played in a consistent way, controlled, we played a good game again.” Guardiola also has a clean bill of health for his squad heading into the hectic festive period as Foden and record signing Jack Grealish returned to the starting line-up, while Kevin De Bruyne made his comeback from coronavirus as a second-half substitute.
Foden made an immediate impact by picking out Sterling, who was given an incredible amount of space to head in his 99th Premier League goal. A slick City move soon doubled their lead as Silva fed Ilkay Gundogan and when the German’s effort was saved by Daniel Bachmann, the Portuguese international followed up to slot in at the near post. Silva made clear his desire to leave City in the summer, but the 27-year-old is back to playing some of the best football of his career.
Mohamed Salah’s free-scoring form for Liverpool may deny him individual awards come the end of the season, but Silva is also putting together his best goalscoring campaign in the Premier League. His second of the game was a thing of beauty as he turned onto Kyle Walker’s pass and curled the ball high into Bachmann’s right-hand corner. City have now won seven consecutive games with their form looking ominously like the beginning of a similar run to the 21-game winning streak that started last December and saw them streak towards the title. – AFP