Arsenal hold Liverpool to seal top spot at Christmas, Man Utd misery mounts

Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker #09 Darwin Nunez (front) runs with the ball past Arsenal’s English defender #04 Ben White during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on December 23, 2023. AFP

Arsenal will spend Christmas Day on top of the Premier League after they held title rivals Liverpool to a pulsating 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday, while Manchester United crashed to a dismal 2-0 defeat at West Ham that piled pressure on Erik ten Hag.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal took an early lead through Gabriel Magalhaes, but Mohamed Salah hauled Liverpool level before the interval.

A draw was arguably the right result after both sides flexed their muscles to show why they have emerged as the leading contenders to win the title.

Chasing a first title since 2004, Arsenal sit one point clear of second placed Liverpool heading into the festive period.

The team that has topped the Premier League at Christmas has gone on to win the title in six of the past 10 seasons, but the draw on Merseyside was also a boost to the chasing pack.

Third placed Aston Villa are level on points with Liverpool, fourth placed Tottenham are three points further back, while champions Manchester City are six points adrift of the leaders with a game in hand.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their past 11 games against Arsenal at Anfield.

However, coming a week after their goalless stalemate against Manchester United, this was another frustrating result for Jurgen Klopp’s team.

At the London Stadium, Ten Hag’s United side were blown away by late West Ham strikes from Jarrod Bowen and Mohammed Kudus, condemning the visitors to an eighth Premier League loss already this season.

United, languishing in eighth place, have managed just one win in their last seven games in all competitions.

They have lost three of their last four matches and failed to score in any of them for the first time since 1992.

It has been a wretched second season for Ten Hag, whose team have been eliminated from Europe after finishing bottom of their Champions League group, while also crashing out of the League Cup.

United have lost 13 games in all competitions this season — their most defeats before Christmas since 1930-31 when they finished bottom of the table.

“In this moment we are underperforming,” Ten Hag said. “We have to be calm, stick together, stick to the plan, we have to do it together.”

Welch makes history

At Craven Cottage, Rebecca Welch became the first woman to referee a Premier League match as struggling Burnley won 2-0 at Fulham.

In 2021, Welch became the first woman appointed to referee a match in the English Football League when she took charge of the fourth-tier fixture between Harrogate and Port Vale.

Last month, the 40-year-old became the first woman to act as fourth official in a Premier League game as part of the officiating team for Fulham’s match against Manchester United.

It was an impressive debut for Welch, who ignored boos from the Fulham fans when she booked Calvin Bassey after his arm caught Josh Brownhill.

Wilson Odobert’s 47th minute opener for Burnley needed no intervention from Welch and her assistants, with Sander Berge’s 66th minute goal sealing just the third win this season for the second-bottom Clarets.

Tottenham moved up to fourth, three points behind Arsenal, with a 2-1 win against Everton in north London.

Richarlison put Tottenham ahead against his former club in the ninth minute, slotting home from Brennan Johnson’s low cross to make it three goals in his last four games.

Son Heung-min doubled the lead in the 18th minute and Andre Gomes’s 82nd minute reply was too late for Everton.

Luton bolstered their bid for survival with an impressive 1-0 win against Newcastle at Kenilworth Road.

Paying the perfect tribute to Tom Lockyer as the Hatters captain recovers from his on-pitch cardiac arrest at Bournemouth last Saturday, Andros Townsend clinched the points in the 25th minute with a close-range finish.

Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke ruined Nuno Espirito Santo’s first match in charge of Nottingham Forest as the striker’s hat-trick sealed a 3-2 victory. 

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