Premier League: Rafael Benitez hands former club Liverpool a boost in title race
Newcastle beat Man City and Man Utd remain unbeaten under Solskjaer
Liverpool can stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points this evening if they beat Leicester City at Anfield after Manchester City lost 2-1 at Newcastle United.
It was a memorable night for the Magpies, a win that takes them five points clear of the relegation zone, but a disaster for City, whose defensive frailties were ruthlessly exploited by their hosts.
Last night’s victory was made all the sweeter for Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez because of the massive favour it did to his old club.
Liverpool fans went on Twitter to thank their old manager with one saying the Spaniard should be given a league winners’ medal at the end of the season - assuming the Reds keep their nerve at the top between now and May.
Newcastle fans could never have imagined they would finish with three points when they went a goal down after just 24 seconds. But Sergio Aguero’s effort was to be the only delight for the travelling City supporters as the Magpies fought back in the second-half.
First Salomon Rondon lashed home an equaliser on 66 minutes and 12 minutes later Matt Ritchie buried a penalty, awarded after Sean Longstaff had been fouled by Fernandinho.
Trio of tough matches
The result was a serious setback for City’s hopes of retaining the title and manager Pep Guardiola knows he must lift his troops with three challenging fixtures ahead.
“Next week will be tough with Arsenal, Everton and Chelsea,” he said. “We are in January and there’s a lot of time. But of course, when you are behind the leader, you don’t have to drop points because you help them and of course, every game is one less.”
Benitez took the win in his stride and expressed his hope that it will give his squad confidence going into the end-of-season relegation dogfight.
“It’s a good example that we can use in the future,” he said. “For the players, they will feel that doing things this way, we can win against anyone because we have been close against the top sides, we have not conceded many goals and everyone has been talking about the goal difference.
“But in this case, it’s not just the goal difference, it’s three points and a lot of confidence for the future.”
Manchester United almost suffered a similar result to City’s but two late goals at home to Burnley salvaged a point in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
The visitors had seemed set for a famous win at Old Trafford after second-half goals from Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. But a Paul Pogba penalty on 87 minutes gave United hope, and two minutes into stoppage time Victor Lindelof bundled an equaliser over the line.
The result brought United’s eight-match winning streak under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to an end, and it leaves the Red Devils two points behind fifth-placed Arsenal, who laboured to a 2-1 win at home to Cardiff.
“I felt the comeback was fantastic,” said Solskjaer. “We disappointed ourselves and we disappointed the crowd today, but the ones who stayed had a typical Old Trafford finish to the game so that was a big plus.”
The Gunners won ugly in dreadful conditions but Cardiff will wonder how they didn’t get at least a point out of the game.
Cardiff dominated the first-half but couldn’t bury the chances that came their way. Second-half goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette secured the three points for Arsenal, although they were given a scare late on when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing pulled one back for Cardiff with a sweet strike.
“We struggled a lot in the match but it’s very important to get the three points,” admitted Arsenal manager Unai Emery, whose side are now level on points with Chelsea. “We know each match is difficult and we are happy - the difference is small details.”
Premier League results, fixtures and TV guide
Tuesday 29 January
- Arsenal 2 Cardiff City 1
- Fulham 4 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
- Huddersfield Town 0 Everton 1
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 West Ham United 0
- Manchester United 2 Burnley 2
- Newcastle United 2 Manchester City 1
Wednesday 30 January (7.45pm unless stated)
- AFC Bournemouth vs. Chelsea
- Southampton vs. Crystal Palace
- Liverpool vs. Leicester City (8pm, live on BT Sport 1)
- Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford (8pm)
Saturday 2 February (3pm unless stated)
- Tottenham Hotspur vs. Newcastle United (12.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Watford
- Burnley vs. Southampton
- Chelsea vs. Huddersfield Town
- Crystal Palace vs. Fulham
- Everton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Cardiff City vs. AFC Bournemouth (5.30pm, live on BT Sport 1)
Sunday 3 February
- Leicester City vs. Manchester United (2.05pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Manchester City vs. Arsenal (4.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
Monday 4 February
- West Ham United vs. Liverpool (8pm, live on Sky Sports)