Sports

EPL: Man United squeeze past West Brom

*Wins for Spurs, Chelsea, Brighton

Bruno Fernandes’ twice-taken second-half penalty was enough to give Manchester United their first Premier League victory of the season at Old Trafford over a battling West Brom outfit.
Former United keeper Sam Johnstone made a string of superb stops to deny his old club, included a splendid save from Fernandes’ initial kick, reports the BBC.
However, VAR intervened as Johnstone was clearly off his line and Fernandes made no mistake with his second attempt. The effort ended a wait of 324 minutes for a United goal in the Premier League on home soil – and that was also a spot-kick from the Portuguese against Tottenham.
It was harsh on the visitors, who were awarded a penalty themselves a minute after the restart when Fernandes caught Conor Gallagher. But after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor, referee David Coote decided the United man had just touched the ball, much to Baggies boss Slaven Bilic’s frustration.
The result leaves West Brom, who were without captain Jake Livermore and defender Kieran Gibbs because of positive coronavirus tests, still waiting for their first win of the season.
After successive victories, United are in the top half of the table for the first time this season. And, given the pressure he was under before the win at Everton on 7 November, there must be some satisfaction for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in going above Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the table.
It is only the second time Solskjaer has done that, and the previous occasion – after the first game of last season – only lasted a week.
Johnstone outstanding on United return
Johnstone spent nine years at United before leaving them for West Brom in 2018.
He still has links to the area, exchanging text messages with David de Gea as the Baggies made their successful bid to seal promotion from the Championship last season. Johnstone also gave £700 to a Manchester man during lockdown when the van he used to feed homeless people was burned out.
At a ground where he had never previously made a first-team appearance, Johnstone was outstanding.
He denied Anthony Martial with two excellent saves – the first to his right when the Frenchman flicked a header goalwards, the second to his left when Marcus Rashford and Fernandes combined to set the Frenchman up.
It also looked as though the West Brom keeper had the situation covered when Harry Maguire belted a volley straight into the face of Kyle Bartley.
Arguably his point-blank reaction save to turn away Rashford’s goal-bound effort after half-time was the best of the lot.
Given he had already denied Rashford once in the second period – and saved Fernandes’ initial penalty, albeit illegally – no blame for the latest Baggies defeat could be laid at his door and he left the field in deep conversation with De Gea, who must have appreciated his fellow goalkeeper’s efforts.
Battling Baggies have set the standard
Even though they had collected a single point from their previous four away games, West Brom didn’t travel north without hope given they had lost only once in their previous five visits to Old Trafford.
And whilst Johnstone’s heroics was the main reason why the final scoreline was close, Bilic’s men did have chances.
De Gea made a splendid low save to deny Karlan Grant in the first half and substitute Callum Robinson hit the bar just before Fernandes broke the deadlock.
However, Bilic, aside from irritation at the penalty decisions, may reflect on the fact his side needed to show such battling qualities on their previous away trip, at Fulham, when they were awful and deservedly well beaten.
In London, Tottenham moved top of the Premier League as Jose Mourinho’s side claimed a hard-fought victory over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
City dominated in both possession and chances but goals from Son Heung-min and substitute Giovani lo Celso – 35 seconds after his introduction – sealed a fourth successive league win for Spurs.
Captain Harry Kane set up Lo Celso with his ninth assist in as many league matches midway through the second half, after Son had slotted in his ninth goal of the campaign five minutes into the contest from Tanguy Ndombele’s lofted pass.
Both sides had a goal disallowed in the first half, as Kane strayed offside at the end of a sweeping team move and referee Mike Dean retrospectively penalised Gabriel Jesus for handball in the build-up to Aymeric Laporte’s strike.
Spurs are two points above Chelsea and Leicester City, though the Foxes can reclaim top spot with victory over champions Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (19:15 GMT).
Defeat leaves City 10th and eight points off the early pace – but with a game in hand.
And Brighton won at Villa Park for the first time in their history, deservedly edging out Aston Villa in a dramatic and entertaining encounter.
Solly March’s delightful curling finish settled it after Ezri Konsa’s sliding equaliser cancelled out Danny Welbeck’s solo run and chip.
All of that preceded a frantic period of stoppage time that saw Tariq Lamptey sent off for a second yellow card and a decision to award Villa a penalty for a foul by March overturned after referee Michael Oliver consulted the pitchside monitor.
“I don’t know what a penalty is now. We could all hear the contact inside the ground,” said Villa boss Dean Smith.
The defeat is Villa’s third in succession at home in the league and also comes at the cost of a hamstring injury to Ross Barkley, who pulled up inside the first two minutes.
They stay sixth, but at risk of slipping down the table with the majority of the weekend’s fixtures still to be played.
Brighton’s first victory in two months does not improve their position of 16th, but they at least are six points above relegation waters.
In the first game of the day, Chelsea moved to the top of the Premier League table, if only for a few hours, after a solid win at Newcastle United, their fifth straight victory in all competitions.
Federico Fernandez’s own goal set the Blues on their way, the Argentine defender poking the ball over his own line while under pressure from Ben Chilwell.
Chelsea oozed quality, Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow producing excellent saves to deny the excellent Timo Werner as well as a close-range header by Tammy Abraham.
But Abraham made sure of the points with a smart finish following Werner’s pass after Newcastle had threatened through Isaac Hayden and Joelinton. Sean Longstaff hit the bar for the home side towards the end.
RESULTS
Newcastle 0 – 2 Chelsea
Aston Villa 1 – 2 Brighton
Tottenham 2 – 0 Man City
Man United 1 – 0 West Brom

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