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first_img0Shares0000Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed a memorable week © AFP / Oli SCARFFLONDON, United Kingdom, Dec 8 – Liverpool’s relentless march to a first English title since 1990 gathered pace with a comfortable win at Bournemouth, while Manchester City’s defence of the trophy was hit by a painful defeat against rivals Manchester United.Fuelled by Jamie Vardy’s blistering form, Leicester have emerged as the closest challengers to Liverpool. AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Premier League weekend:Solskjaer’s big weekSeven days ago Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fielding questions over whether he is the man to return Manchester United to their former glories after a 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa left the Red Devils in ninth and with just four wins from their opening 14 Premier League games.A week on and Solskjaer has secured the two biggest victories of his time in charge since a famous 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in March helped turn his caretaker spell in charge into a full-time position.United have beaten Tottenham on Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and now Manchester City 2-1 to climb up to fifth and within five points of the top four. On both occasions the scoreline arguably flattered the losing side with Solskjaer’s vision slowly coming to fruition.Marcus Rashford has already matched his previous season’s best for goals with 13,Fred has enjoyed two of his best games since a £50 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk 18 months ago, Aaron Wan-Bissaka was outstanding in nullifying the threat of Raheem Sterling and Harry Maguire marshalled his defence resolutely under a late City bombardment.There is still much to do for Solskjaer to convince the doubters, not least catching Chelsea in fourth to secure a return to the Champions League next season, but this was undoubtedly his best week as permanent United boss.Klopp relishes Liverpool shutoutLiverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold helped secure a clean sheet at Bournemouth © AFP / Adrian DENNISJurgen Klopp admitted Liverpool’s first clean sheet in 14 games was the talk of the dressing room after the leaders’ 3-0 win at Bournemouth.Klopp’s side made it 33 league games unbeaten as they maintained an eight-point lead over second-placed Leicester.Goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah earned the victory, but it was Liverpool’s first shutout since September 28 that pleased Klopp the most.“I forgot actually how it feels, to be honest. It’s great, we should have that more often,” Klopp said.“For the boys, that was the most used word in the dressing room when I came in, ‘clean sheet, clean sheet, clean sheet’.“Obviously everybody was desperate for that and now we have it, so let’s have it more often.”Leicester happy to stay in the shadowsLeicester striker Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring the opening goal at Aston Villa © AFP / Paul ELLISWith Jamie Vardy on the kind of hot streak he last managed when Leicester won their fairytale title in 2016, Brendan Rodgers’ side have become the last hope of a competitive race to be crowned kings of English football.Liverpool have left Manchester City trailing in their wake, but Leicester remain in the hunt after Vardy’s double inspired a 4-1 rout of Aston Villa.Vardy, the Premier League’s leading scorer with 16 goals this term, has netted in eight successive games, recalling his 11-match scoring streak from 2015-16.The Foxes have reeled off a club record eight consecutive top-flight victories, but Rodgers has no intention of talking up his team’s title chances.“I don’t think anyone expects us to be near the top. We respect that, we get on with our work and keep developing as a team,” Rodgers said.“It’s just natural, Man City and Liverpool are both incredible teams. We know we are looking to improve and close the gap. We have finished ninth in the last two seasons but today we looked like a top team.”0Shares0000(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more


first_imgTurf Moor’s first taste of European football in 51 years ended in celebration rather than sour grapes, as goals from Burnley duo Jack Cork and Ashley Barnes ended Aberdeen’s resistance in extra-time.After 90 minutes the sides had gamely replicated last week’s 1-1 draw at Pittodrie but the additional half-hour allowed Sean Dyche’s side to flex their muscles, with Cork’s close-range header and Barnes’ penalty sealing a trip to Istanbul Basaksehir next week. 3 How Chelsea could line up against Southampton – what system will Lampard play? NEW ERA A simpler evening appeared to be in the offing when Chris Wood lashed home a sixth-minute opener but the Dons were worthy opponents – equalising through a sublime bicycle kick from 18-year-old LewisFerguson and staying in the game thanks to goalkeeper Joe Lewis.It looked as though a shootout would be needed to prise the sides apart but England midfielder Cork made the decisive contribution before Barnes finished things from the spot.After an unbecoming selection of long balls and head tennis, Ashley Westwood conjured a moment of quality to barge the fixture open.His first-time clip over the top caught Aberdeen short but Wood was alive to the opportunity. The New Zealander took one touch to bring the ball down, a second to drag it away from Lewis and made no mistake in slamming his shot between two covering defenders. highlights possible standings Burnley celebrate the penalty which sealed the deal smart causal Wood, equal parts hero and villain in the first half, did not emerge for the second as Barnes took his place.He brought an added edge to Burnley’s attack, leading the charge as they upped the tempo.Aberdeen soaked up a period of pressure but only thanks to Lewis, who made a pair of fine saves to keep the game alive.Barnes was first to be denied, a strong wrist allowing Lewis to divert a near-post rocket over the top.His next contribution was slighter but no less important, tipping a Sam Vokes header against the underside of the bar.A winner in normal time seemed likely as both sides began to tire, leaving gaps all over the pitch. A couple of cynical fouls snuffed out dangerous counters while wingers from both sides, Niall McGinn and Aaron Lennon, ran themselves to an early exit.Aberdeen got an adrenaline shot from Scott Wright, while Burnley called on Dwight McNeil for only his second appearance as extra-time beckoned.Ten minutes after the restart, Burnley finally put daylight between the teams. Belatedly attacking with patience and purpose they worked the ball through the midfield and out to replacement left-back Charlie Taylor.His cross was wicked and Cork’s onward run went unchecked, leaving the midfielder to nod in from close-range.Barnes settled it from the spot after Scott McKenna’s handball, leaving Dyche to plot the next chapter of Burnley’s continental journey. How Arsenal could line up in Arteta’s first official game in charge – Ozil return? who plays? Dyche and his men travel to Istanbul for the next round Tottenham v Brighton LIVE: talkSPORT commentary and team news for Boxing Day opener possible xi Wood put Burnley in front on the night How Man United could line up for Newcastle clash – will Pogba start? ALTERED How the Premier League table could change after the Boxing Day fixtures gameday 3 LATEST FOOTBALL NEWS Best clips, calls and talkSPORT moments of 2019, feat Hearn, McCoist and more The goal should have settled Burnley but, despite some tidy touches and plenty of possession, they did not flourish.Things shifted dramatically in the 27th minute following an uncleared corner. The impressive Gary Mackay-Steven beat Matt Lowton and pinged a cross to the far post where Wood produced the worst kind of defensive header, floating the ball back across his own goal.Ferguson sensed his moment and took it brilliantly, swivelling and contorting his body in search of a dream goal. Incredibly the teenager – son of Derek and nephew to Barry – found one.Ferguson’s inspired intervention raised his team-mates, who grew in confidence and might easily have taken the lead just before the interval when Anders Lindegaard tipped Graeme Shinnie’s snap-shot wide.Lindegaard was making his full debut for the club with Tom Heaton and Nick Pope injured, while Adam Legzdins received permission from UEFA to make the bench. 3 Every current Premier League club’s best kit from the past decade Tottenham predicted XI to face Brighton with Mourinho expected to make big changes last_img read more