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Battling United hold Reds, Arsenal go top
Published on: Tuesday, December 19, 2023
By: AFP
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Battling United hold Reds, Arsenal go top
Manchester United’s goalkeeper Andre Onana makes a save in front of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
LONDON: Manchester United ended Liverpool’s perfect record at Anfield on Sunday, holding the Premier League title chasers to a 0-0 draw after wins for Arsenal and Aston Villa.

Jurgen Klopp’s men came into the match widely expected to inflict yet more agony on their bitter rivals and boasting 11 wins from 11 games in all competitions at home this season.

Liverpool dominated, hogging nearly 70 percent of possession and had 34 shots to United’s six but they could not break down their stubborn opponents.

Klopp’s men finish the day second in the table, a point behind Arsenal’s tally of 39 after the Gunners earlier beat Brighton 2-0.

The result was a moral victory for beleaguered United manager Erik ten Hag, whose team last season suffered a 7-0 drubbing at Anfield and came into the match with 12 defeats in 24 games in the current campaign.

United were missing suspended captain Bruno Fernandes while out-of-form Marcus Rashford was once again on the bench.

But they dug deep and stopped their slide after a heavy home defeat against Bournemouth last week and a tame Champions League exit in midweek.

United goalkeeper Andre Onana reacted sharply to keep out a close-range Virgil van Dijk header in the first half and the visitors could even have won the game, but Rasmus Hojlund’s shot was blocked at the near post by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

Van Dijk said Liverpool were frustrated by the result, believing they were “superior in all aspects”.

“If you see how we played the game, we had most of the ball and created some opportunities,” he told Sky Sports. “There was only one team trying to win the game.

“We want to win every game of course and that is why it is frustrating. Sometimes we shot too easy and could have passed on the overlap. The right decision was sometimes lacking.”

Ten Hag said his team defended almost perfectly but added that they needed to show more consistency.

“We play in very high highs and also sometimes in very low lows,” he said. “If you want to achieve something in a season you can’t be below certain limits so we have to get the consistency.

“This was a very good performance. You saw Liverpool’s results at home and we got a clean sheet. In the second half we had some very good chances.”

There was a sour note as Liverpool issued a statement condemning attacks on United’s team bus before the match, vowing to punish those responsible.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, runners-up to Manchester City last season, dominated at the Emirates, wasting a succession of openings but they finally broke through in the 53rd minute.

Brighton defender Jan Paul van Hecke jumped to head a corner away but could only flick it into the path of Gabriel Jesus, who headed the ball into an empty net.

Kai Havertz doubled the lead for the Gunners in the closing minutes, slotting past goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen after being found by Eddie Nketiah.

“Incredible performance,” Arteta told the BBC. “A joy to watch from the start to the end. The way we did it against this very good team.”

Across London, Unai Emery’s Villa fell behind to a Keane Lewis-Potter goal on the stroke of half-time.

However, Brentford’s Ben Mee was sent off in the 71st minute and six minutes later Villa were level when Alex Moreno got on the end of a Leon Bailey cross.

Ollie Watkins completed the turnaround against his former club when he headed in a Boubacar Kamara flick-on from a corner with five minutes to go to make it 2-1. Kamara was sent off in the closing minutes for violent conduct.

Mohammed Kudus scored twice and Lucas Paqueta provided all three assists at the London Stadium as West Ham beat Wolves 3-0.

The weekend’s Premier League action was overshadowed by a shocking incident at Bournemouth, where Luton captain Tom Lockyer suffered a cardiac arrest, forcing Saturday’s game to be abandoned.

Luton confirmed Lockyer was responsive before being taken to hospital and was in a “stable” condition. In an update on Sunday the club said he was undergoing tests and scans.

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