United hold Liverpool to hand Arsenal EPL lead

Published April 8, 2024
MANCHESTER: Liverpool’s Luis Diaz (L) shoots to score against Manchester United during their Premier League match at Old Trafford on Sunday.—AFP
MANCHESTER: Liverpool’s Luis Diaz (L) shoots to score against Manchester United during their Premier League match at Old Trafford on Sunday.—AFP

MANCHESTER: Liverpool’s Premier League title challenge was dented by spectacular goals from Bruno Fernandes and Kobbie Mainoo, who snatched a 2-2 draw for Manchester United on Sunday.

The visitors dominated the majority of the game but needed a Mohamed Salah penalty six minutes from time to avoid a second defeat at Old Trafford in the space of three weeks.

The draw leaves Liverpool behind Premier League leaders Arsenal on goal difference and just one point ahead of Manchester City with seven games remaining in the tightest of title races.

The home side have the ball in the net after just 90 seconds but Alejandro Garnacho had ran offside well before receiving Fernandes’ pass.

What followed was complete domination by Liverpool, who ended the first half with 15 shots to United’s none.

Andre Onana produced one fine save to deny Dominik Szoboszlai but Liverpool were guilty of consistently letting the hosts off the hook.

Szoboszlai, Salah and Darwin Nunez were all wasteful in front of goal.

Liverpool did lead 1-0 at half-time as Luis Diaz fired in Darwin Nunez’s header from a corner.

The pattern looked set to continue at the start of the second period as Nunez had a goalbound effort blocked.

But Liverpool were stunned as the title race took another twist out of nowhere on 50 minutes.

Jarell Quansah’s slack pass went straight to Fernandes, who spotted Caoimhin Kelleher well off his line and lobbed the Irish goalkeeper from just inside the Liverpool half.

United suddenly had a fresh lease of life as Garnacho’s deflected effort flew just over. Liverpool were still cutting the United defence open at will.

Nunez should have restored the lead when he fired across goal at the end of a lightning counter-attack from a United corner.

Instead, it was United who incredibly went in front 23 minutes from time.

Mainoo has enjoyed a meteoric rise this season and the 18-year-old produced the biggest moment of his career so far by curling into the top corner.

Klopp was incandescent on the touchline at his players for allowing Mainoo to get his shot off and immediately reacted by sending on Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo.

Elliott was the man felled by an Aaron Wan-Bissaka lunge for the penalty and Salah kept his cool to score for the 14th time in 15 games against United.

But Liverpool failed to find a winner to hand Arsenal the advantage in the title race thanks to the Gunners’ nine-goal lead on goal difference.

A point also does little to aid United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Erik ten Hag’s men are 11 points adrift of fourth-placed Aston Villa and eight behind Tottenham in fifth.

Late on Saturday, Arsenal maintained title charge as goals by Bukayo Saka, Kai Havertz and Leandro Trossard secured a masterful 3-0 victory at Brighton and Hove Albion that sent them back to the top of the table.

Brighton started strongly but Arsenal soon settled, and Saka converted a penalty in the 33rd minute after Tariq Lamptey was adjudged to have clipped Gabriel Jesus in the area.

Arsenal were a constant threat going forward and the away fans were in full voice after Kai Havertz scored from close range from Jorginho’s cut back in the 62nd minute.

Former Brighton player Trossard, on as a substitute, wrapped up the points late after being played through on goal.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2024

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