Manchester United finally broke the curse of the number six as a nervy 3-1 win against Middlesbrough on Sunday ensured they leapfrogged Arsenal into number five and within touching distance of the top four. It was not the most clinical performance from the Red Devils but manager Jose Mourinho will take three points heading into the international break, especially 48 hours after an exhausting Europa League encounter.
United overtake Arsenal
The match will mostly be remembered for Jesse Lingard’s blinder from 25 yards out to make it 2-0 and a howler from Boro keeper Victor Valdes in the dying minutes that led to Antonio Valencia’s first goal in almost three years and extinguished any hopes of a comeback from the Riverside outfit. Earlier, Rudy Gestede had pulled one back for the home team in the 77th minute after Marouanne Fellaini had opened the scoring for the Red Devils by nodding in Ashley Young’s pinpoint cross from the left wing before Lingard’s memorable strike.
United’s win came after a 3-1 thrashing of Arsenal away to West Brom on Saturday. The Gunners’s top-four hopes suffered a huge blow as the Hawthorns cheered on to a brace from Craig Dawson and a 55th minute strike from Hal Robson-Kanu, for which Alexis Sanchez’s lone strike couldn’t prove enough.
A game of chances not taken
The most heavyweight clash of the weekend left both managers ruing missed opportunities as Manchester City and Liverpool shared the spoils 1-1 at the Etihad on Sunday. Liverpool were the better side in the first half and it eventually paid off in the opening minutes of the second. Gael Clichy fouled Firmino with a high boot inside the area and James Milner stepped up to send the Willy Caballero diving in the wrong direction. The Citizens then rallied back through Sergio Aguero in the 69th minute and it could so easily have been a couple more for the Argentine had it not been for a slew of missed chances.
Elsewhere, both the top teams took home three points each to strengthen their respective ambitions. Gary Cahill’s 87th minute winner ensured that leaders Chelsea firmed their grip over the PL title with a 2-1 win at Stoke while Delle Ali and Christian Eriksen were on target for Tottenham Hotspur who beat Southampton by the same scoreline.
Liga top two unchanged
It was a similar story in Spain too as both leaders Real Madrid and defending champions Barcelona stayed within touching distance of each other over the weekend. Casemiro’s winner fashioned the Los Blancos’ 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao while Lionel Messi led his team’s 4-2 win over Valencia with a brace.
In fourth, Atletico Madrid reduced the deficit to two points with third-placed Sevilla after a critical 3-1 win. Goals from Diego Godín, Antoine Griezmann and Koke sealed the deal for Diego Simeone’s men heading into the international break.
Leaders stay put in Germany, Italy
Both Bayern Munich and Juventus stayed top in their title defences with 1-0 wins. Juan Cuadrado scored again to see off Sampdoria and maintain an eight-point gap with AS Roma whereas Thomas Muller’s 63rd minute strike was the difference between the Bavarians and a gritty Borussia Monchengladbach side.