Aston Villa, Man City close on Premier League lead, Man Utd beaten again

Aston Villa’s French midfielder #19 Moussa Diaby (L) in action during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Burnley at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on December 30, 2023. AFP

Douglas Luiz’s late penalty took Aston Villa joint top of the Premier League with a 3-2 win over 10-man Burnley on Saturday as Manchester City closed on the leaders by sweeping aside Sheffield United 2-0.

But Manchester United’s thrilling comeback to beat Villa on Boxing Day proved to be a false dawn for Erik ten Hag’s men as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

It looked like a festive season to forget for Villa was set to continue after dropping points at home for the first time this season to Sheffield United and blowing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at United.

However, Luiz’s spot-kick, that crept in off the underside of the bar, sent Unai Emery’s men level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table.

Leon Bailey’s opener for the home side was quickly cancelled out by Zeki Amdouni for Burnley.

Moussa Diaby restored Villa’s lead before half-time and they had a man advantage for the final 35 minutes after Sander Berge saw a second yellow card.

But Villa’s high line is begging to be picked off by opponents and Lyle Foster timed his run to blast past Emi Martinez 19 minutes from time.

There was a final twist, though, as Jhon Duran was upended inside the box and Luiz fired home.

“Everyone is so happy, we need to enjoy the moment,” said Luiz.

“The last three games we don’t play so well. It is halfway through the season, the players are tired, we lost three or four important players to injury. It is difficult, but we need to keep going.”

Man City cruise

Despite missing Erling Haaland for a seventh consecutive game due to a foot injury, City were never troubled by the bottom-of-the-table Blades.

Rodri ended Sheffield United’s resistence after just 14 minutes when the Spanish midfielder surged forward and fired low into the far corner.

Julian Alvarez again ably filled Haaland’s shoes as the Argentine tapped in his fourth goal in three games to make the points safe from Phil Foden’s cross just after the hour mark.

City move alongside Arsenal on 40 points, just two points behind Villa and Liverpool, who are in action at home to Newcastle on Monday.

United, by contrast, are 11 points off the top after losing for the 21st time in 2023.

A second win in three games under Nuno Espirito Santo lifts Forest five points clear of the relegation zone.

Nicolas Dominguez swept the home side in front after a well-worked move on 64 minutes.

Marcus Rashford rolled home only his third goal of the season after Alejandro Garnacho pounced on an error from Forest goalkeeper Matt Turner to level with United’s first away goal in four games.

But the Red Devils were quickly cut open on the counter-attack as Anthony Elanga teed up Morgan Gibbs-White to fire home the winner from outside the box.

Palmer inspires Chelsea

Chelsea snapped a run of four consecutive away defeats thanks to Cole Palmer’s double but had to withstand a nervy finale to beat Luton 3-2.

Powerful strikes from Palmer and Noni Madueke gave the visitors a 2-0 half-time lead.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men appeared to have ridden out a second half storm when Palmer’s classy finish made it 3-0.

But former Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley sparked a Luton revival and Elijah Adebayo bundled home from close range to set up a thrilling finale.

“That is the Premier League. Luton are a team that fight until the end,” said Pochettino.

Luton remain just one point adrift of safety as Everton slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Wolves.

Max Kilman, Matheus Cunha and Craig Dawson were on target for Gary O’Neil’s men, who secured a third win in seven days.

Any fears that Crystal Palace could be dragged into the relegation battle were eased by the Eagles first win in nine games as Brentford were beaten 3-1 at Selhurst Park.

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