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Bruno Fernandes’ penalty tied Manchester United on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League when they beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Old Trafford.
A Villa team that was looking to advance third in the table always promised to pose a difficult test for United and they showed it in an open game.
The visitors appeared to be on the rise after Bertrand Traore’s effort in the 58th minute canceled Anthony Martial’s opener.
However, United’s lead was restored by Fernandes’ ninth Premier League penalty since early February 2020, his tally at the time two more than any other player’s.
And it was enough for United to further boost their title hopes, with only goal difference to keep Liverpool on top.
– Premier League (@premierleague) January 1, 2021
Goalkeepers Emiliano Martínez and David de Gea were forced to make important early saves from Martial and John McGinn respectively, but the best opportunities came in the way of United, with Fred and Paul Pogba turning down presentable opportunities.
Fernandes doubled up wide, but United’s first goal of the new year came from Martial, who completed a fine play with a crouching header from a cross from the right by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Only De Gea’s tremendous reflexes kept Ollie Watkins from leveling the contest, the Spanish international did heroism to turn Jack Grealish’s Watkins header over the crossbar.
Anwar El Ghazi then launched a volley wide off the first post before Villa scored the goal his efforts deserved in the second half, a quick free kick that ended with a low cross from Grealish that found Traore at the far post to score. to the goal.
But the parity lasted just under four minutes when Fernandes took his penalty in the lower left corner after Douglas Luiz hit Pogba after a throw-in.
Martial stung the palms of Martinez who, after Pogba made an errant shot from close range, overturned a wonderful effort by Fernandes off the crossbar.
Tyrone Mings let a golden opportunity slip in the end, ensuring that United’s inability to double their lead was not punished, although they will have to be more clinical if they want to narrow the eight-goal gap between them and Liverpool.
What does that mean? Point kicks remain key for Solskjaer’s men
Liverpool’s stalemate at Newcastle United gave United a chance to eradicate their lead at the top, but a combination of a squandering spike and some inspired saves from Martinez meant they were once again dependent on a penalty to get the job done.
United’s 27 Premier League penalties since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge are seven more than any other team.
Marcial an everyday scorer
Martial’s goal made him the fifth United player to score a Premier League goal in all seven days a week, joining Ryan Giggs, Andrew Cole, David Beckham and Wayne Rooney in accomplishing that feat.
It also led him to 117 goals in all competitions since his United debut in September 2015 (76 goals, 41 assists), more than any other player at the club at the time.
Douglas Luiz loses his composure
Douglas Luiz covered 10.61 kilometers in the match, more than any other Villa player, but his efforts and those of his teammates were thwarted by an unnecessary foul by the Brazilian, from which Fernandes regained United’s lead.
United will face neighboring Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday before a clash with Watford in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. Villa receives Liverpool in the same competition the day before.