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EPL PIX: Man United close in on Liverpool with Villa win

January 02, 2021 10:40 IST
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IMAGE: Manchester United's players celebrate after Bruno Fernandes scored the second goal against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, in Manchester, on Friday. Photograph: Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

Manchester United closed in on the Premier League's pole position after a 2-1 home win over Aston Villa on Friday put them level on points and games played with champions and leaders Liverpool.

 

United trail their traditional rivals on goal difference with both teams on 33 points from 16 matches. Liverpool travel to Southampton on Monday.

United stretched their unbeaten league run to 10 games as Bruno Fernandes capped another fine individual performance with a penalty after Bertrand Traore had cancelled out Anthony Martial's opener for the home side.

The hosts had the upper hand in the first half and Martial forced an acrobatic save from Emiliano Martinez before he buried a superb diving header past the Villa goalkeeper after Aaron-Wan Bissaka's cross in the 40th minute.

IMAGE: Bruno Fernandes scores the second goal against Aston Villa from the penalty spot. Photograph: Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

The visitors came close through Ollie Watkins before Traore got on the end of a sharp Jack Grealish pass at the far post and beat United keeper David De Gea with a slick shot from close range in the 58th.

But Villa's joy was short-lived as Fernandes drilled his penalty into the bottom right corner three minutes later after Paul Pogba went down under a challenge from Douglas Luiz, with the spot-kick given after a VAR check.

Soucek provides New Year spark as West Ham beat Everton

IMAGE: West Ham United players celebrate after Tomas Soucek scored the goal against Everton at Goodison Park. Photograph: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

A late strike from Tomas Soucek gave West Ham United a 1-0 win at Everton in the first Premier League game of 2021 that had been short on fireworks until the Czech midfielder's well-deserved winner in the 86th minute.

The Hammers lost goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to injury during the warm-up but his replacement Darren Randolph barely had a save to make as Everton struggled to break down their rearguard.

It took until just before halftime for either side to register a shot on target as Everton's Brazilian winger Bernard fired a fizzing drive goalwards, but Randolph was alert to the danger and got down smartly to keep the ball out.

The introduction of Mikhail Antonio as a 59th-minute substitute provided a much-needed shot in the arm for West Ham and they had a flurry of chances in quick succession around the hour mark, but it was Soucek's late strike that sealed it.

His initial effort from the right forced a great save from Jordan Pickford who parried the ball away, but it was only cleared as far as Aaron Cresswell.

The West Ham fullback got plenty of power on his shot, which got a heavy deflection before falling perfectly for Soucek to stab it home from close range.

Soucek's goal gave West Ham boss David Moyes his first victory at Goodison Park since leaving Everton in 2013.

"To come to Goodison Park and get three points and to play as well as we did ... we got the reward for it," a delighted Moyes told BT Sport.

"It was important to get something from this. It was our third game in six days, we asked the players to do it and they did a brilliant job."

The victory leaves West Ham 10th in the standings with 26 points while Everton, who could have gone second with a win, remain in fourth spot on 29 points, and boss Carlo Ancelotti was disappointed not to get more out of the game.

"The game was in the balance. We didn't have a lot of opportunities, they didn't have a lot of opportunities," he told BBC Sport.

"We have to accept the result. It will be important to keep our belief high ... We are in the position we would like to be and hopefully we can be there at the end of the season. That is our target."

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